The key to self‑governance is for individuals, families, churches, businesses, other organizations, and other lesser magistrates to take action to limit our governments.
September 23, 2022
“We will resist any attempt by a Federal, state or local official to restrict or prohibit the free exercise of our Religion …”
— The Acts 5:29 Statement 
The Acts 5:29 Statement is a pledge to resist future lockdowns, mandated masking, and social distancing. It has so far been signed by at least 3,051 pastors, elders, and church leaders. These lesser magistrates are acting in an infrequent but crucial tradition.
Lesser magistrates have interposed themselves against tyrants many times in history:
Other than the American Revolution, all of these interpositions are highlighted in The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates, a very-helpful primer written from the perspective of a Christian pastor .
In each of these interpositions, the risks were grave:
Interpositions show that tyrannies can be resisted, and that resistance can succeed. Through these actions, freedom builds up.
In self-governance, interpositions are the key to high reliability.
High reliability requires preventing most failures. High reliability critically also requires recovering from failures .
Figure. Organization characteristics for high reliability . Bold type identifies features required by the Constitution’s rules.
High-reliability organizations operate such complex modern systems as power grids, chemical plants, air-traffic-control systems, aircraft carriers, and nuclear plants. But, impressively, when organizations operate the specific complex modern systems that are the most like governments, the types of organizations that deliver high reliability turn out to be those that have the same tailored features that were put in place for USA governments centuries earlier using the Constitution.
Governments’ fundamental units are policy entrepreneurs , who can operate largely autonomously in their own local domains. Because of this, recovering from failures requires localized action.
Analysis of what recovery action to take can be performed by focusing locally on the failing parts of the system. Analysis can also be performed by focusing system-wide, identifying local action that can be taken outside of the failing part of the system to relieve the failing part of the system.
Local analysis is facilitated by arranging the system to be decomposed into atomistic components. Sure enough, USA governments helpfully are decomposed into local, state, and national governments, each of which is further decomposed into branches and departments, most of which are further decomposed into smaller subdivisions that are tasked with independent scopes.
System-wide analysis to find localized relief outside of the failing part of the system to relieve the failing part of the system is facilitated by focusing on actions. Here, USA governments helpfully are subject to the rule that legislators, executive officers, and judicial officers each must take and uphold oaths of office. Each individual’s oath empowers and requires him to interpret the Constitution himself and to use his constitutional powers accordingly to take action .
The Constitution’s rules largely function to limit governments, making individuals’ rights more secure from abuses by governments . The individual oaths to support or protect the Constitution should lead each individual to limit others in government. These individual actions would, in the aggregate, greatly limit governments in all jurisdictions.
USA governments have in place the necessary high-reliability rules. What stops USA governments from performing with high reliability the function for which governments are instituted—to secure individuals’ natural rights —is that these rules aren’t followed.
There are numerous failures of the multiple seemingly-independent protections :
Individuals who have the required knowledge and emotional intelligence certainly are still out there, and are gaining in strength, possibly sustainably. Towards the end of Trump’s time in office, Conservative Review Liberty Scores of at least 80% pro-liberty  were earned by only 8% of that past house and 6% of the past senate. Now, such Liberty Scores ae earned by 13% of today’s house and 12% of today’s senate .
Executives who have the required knowledge and emotional intelligence have been more difficult to elect. Progressive executives benefit substantially from the Progressive parties’ candidate-selection processes being substantially front-end loaded , .
One measure of executives’ knowledge and emotional intelligence is the Liberty Scores of the legislators who are the swing votes on the bills that a given president will sign. By this measure, presidents from both parties have been highly Progressive .
Here too, though, there are hopeful signs. Current executive and potential presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been using his powers quite well against others in other jurisdictions . Going even further, potential presidential candidates Representative Thomas Massie and Senator Rand Paul have also been using their powers stridently against others in their own jurisdiction .
Strong personal faith has undergirded strong individual action in the past and could in the future. Strong personal faith has also undergirded strong aggregate action in the past, for example the development of the Dutch Republic, England’s parliamentary government, the USA’s freedom from England , and the USA’s abolition of slavery .
The interpositions listed earlier involved individuals and also substantial groups. Now, such individuals and groups mostly seem to be absent. As noted, most individuals elected or appointed to USA governments now aren’t following the Constitution’s rules.
Systemically, failures to follow the Constitution’s rules aren’t being remedied by sufficiently-effective sanctions. Government people who defy the Constitution aren’t being laid off , fired, summarily impeached and punished , criminally punished , or replaced by better people through elections .
Sanctioning by government people using their powers against others in government hasn’t been happening at sufficient frequencies. Sanctioning by voters replacing Constitution-defiers with better people hasn’t been happening at sufficient frequencies.
A Progressive Party System
These shortfalls both result from the single systemic fault mentioned earlier that both major parties’ politicians are majority Progressive . Because of this, the parties’ leaders, rules & practices, and cronies have been preventing voters from having the options, on most offices on general-election ballots, to choose major-party candidates who are pro-liberty; that is, constitutionalist.
Parties are legal. But the individual actions that the Progressive major parties make possible are unconstitutional.
The sanctions provided in the Constitution would be sufficient for broken-windows policing if most everyone would follow the Constitution . And these sanctions have been sufficient to sometimes provide temporary, modest pauses in the most-dramatic abuses. But these sanctions have not proven sufficient to disrupt the longstanding systemic multiparty Constitution defiance .
Visualizing the overall system of government as if it is an electrical circuit with components that are designed to provide multiple independent protections, the Progressive parties are operating like water shorting out this bare circuit’s conductors. The Progressive parties short the components of enough power that the protections don’t work—at exactly the time when we the people most need these protections to work.
In the terminology of layer of protection analysis, which is used to increase the safety of highly-hazardous processes, here the individual components each have a high probability of failure on demand . The problem is that we don’t have at least one major party in which most of the politicians use their constitutional powers against others in government.
Personal Faith and Widespread Interposition
Solutions are possible, and can emerge quickly. A good executive  can get elected and from there can create a good major party [29}.
Or local activists can secede as county regions from state governments and begin instituting state-level governments  that provide the nominally-guaranteed republican form of government. Such county-regions governments’ politicians would in turn start using their constitutional powers to also limit people in the national government .
Most likely, many of the pastors, elders, and church leaders who are signing the Acts 5:29 Statement haven’t fully appreciated the crucial role they are playing through this action. Clearly they know that they can undergird helpful moral personal behavior. But most likely many of them haven’t fully appreciated how consequential such action has been in producing freedom from tyranny, and, further, in also going on to bring us our modern comforts in life .
Like them, most likely many of us also don’t fully appreciate all of the actions that together constitute what works here. The key to self-governance is our own actions—as individuals, in families, in churches, in businesses, in other organizations, and in governments—in our roles of being our own governments’ lesser magistrates.
James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers, publishes rConstitution.us, and has written in The Federalist, American Thinker, American Greatness, Mises Institute, and Foundation for Economic Education. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.