Quote of Note #113: Legitimacy of Government


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“The [ancient] Jews didn’t, it seems, care very much how rulers became rulers; so much for our modern ideals of ‘legitimacy through voting.’ They cared very much what the rulers did once they were in power. Power itself wasn’t the problem; it was what you did with it that counted. In our eagerness, today, to affirm the ‘legitimacy’ of vox populi, we have allowed a system of voting to hand government the power to do, effectively, what it wants, with the only check on power being the implicit threat that we may vote in a different direction next time–a threat that, with many seats utterly ‘safe’ and with so many issues at stake that a single vote can never relfect them, looks increasingly irrelevant. Most people in the ancient world, in fact, not just Jews, would have supposed that the legitimacy came, ultimately, from what you did in office, not the method by which you got there.”

N. T. Wright, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: Harper Collins Publishing, 2012, page 170.

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