My heartburn over my heartburn regarding Romans 13 began when I watched this TED Talk by Gary Haugen about what he calls "the Locust Effect." See also his book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.
Watch the video, even if you've seen it before, and then re-read Romans 13 below.
Ponder what Paul is saying in light of what Gary Haugen is describing.
See, if you have heartburn about Romans 13, if the reality of "the locust effect" affects your perspective on Paul's claim that a nation is a "servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer," and what happens in the world when a nation fails to do this job.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing.