היו מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות
Pray for the welfare of the government. -Pirke Avot 3:2
The verse goes on to say that we should pray for the welfare of the government because if people did not fear government, a person would be swallowed whole. The Rabbis realize that government prevents total anarchy and wanton crime (Artscroll). I'm libertarian and I agree: government plays a role in keeping society in check. As Sir John Acton pointed out, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Government does have a purpose, even if I think that role should be limited. What's more is I think the Rabbis did in the vain of Sir John Acton's quote.
In Pirke Avot 2:3, we are warned to "beware of rulers since they befriend someone only for their benefit." The Rabbis had enough wisdom to realize that taking public office didn't make one immune from morally problematic behavior. If anything, this passage reminds us that politicians "act friendly when it benefits them, but [that they] do not stand by someone in his time of need." If anything, the Rabbis point out that government officials forget all the kindness that individuals perform on their behalf (Meiri). We see this at the beginning of the Exodus story when the new Pharaoh did not even know Joseph (Exodus 1:8)! Jews can recall that prior to the Spanish Inquisition, Jews helped build up Spanish society. The rulers forgot those contributions, and expelled the Jews from Spain. Many governments have oppressed Jews throughout history, not to mention the number of times that government have oppressed and slighted non-Jews. We are to be wary of government because it has its own agenda (Tiferes Yisrael), but at the same time, we are to pray for the government's welfare. This paradox reminds us where to place our ultimate trust. Government can only do so much good. While there are many people who go into government for noble purposes, the power amassed by government has the great potential to corrupt even otherwise good individuals. Government has a role, let's not forget that. But let's also not forget that we should not put our ultimate trust in government, but rather put our ultimate trust in G-d.