Friday, February 06, 2009

Waitangi (2) - Governorship

The Maori Version of the Treaty of Waitangi provides a good statement of the basis for limited government in New Zealand, by placing significant limits on the power of the civil government. The first clause of the treaty gave the crown “kawanatanga” (a transliteration of governorship) over New Zealand. This is a lesser authority than sovereignty.

The civil government does not have absolute sovereignty. God created the earth so he has absolute sovereignty over the earth. Civil government has limited authority delegated to it by God. It is just one among a number of spheres which have authority. God has also delegated limited authority to churches, families and business corporations.

The authority of the civil government is limited to defence and punishment of crime (especially theft). The civil government does not have authority to create law, but is required to implement the law of God. If it takes authority that has been delegated to another sphere or that goes beyond what God has assigned, it loses its legitimacy (Psalm 2).

The Maori version of the treaty recognises the limited authority of the state, by limiting its role to governorship. In the third clause, this role is expanded further as “protecting all the ordinary people of New Zealand”. This is the role of the civil government. When it goes beyond protection, it becomes dangerous. Therefore, governorship is a better word than sovereignty for the role of the civil government.

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