Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

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Leapfrog the West

by Michael S. Rozeff

Tunisians, Egyptians, Bahrainians, Omanians, Libyans, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and all the other many peoples of the world who are striving for better forms of government that will lead to real improvements in your lives, I wish you well. You are engaged in a difficult enterprise. Many of you are risking much to achieve it. May God be with you.

If I were to sit down with one of you in your country as your guest, after the exchanges and pleasantries of friendship, the conversation might turn to the ways of life that you wish to bring into being. That is my subject.

Your desire to imagine and create new ways of life, to cause to be where nothing was before, is the central human capacity, one that is given by God and one that is shared by all human beings. This creative power is freedom.

To love God I take to be man’s mission and God’s desire. We are in this together. To love God is to love his creation, which includes other people. To love one’s neighbor implies, at a minimum, tolerance of his freedom and the ways of life that he creates. Be slow in judging him. Be slower still in using force to hinder and dominate him. If, in your eyes, his ways are strange or evil, tolerate them. I am not speaking of the crimes such as murder, theft, arson, and rape of which we all know, but of the myriad of other behaviors on which human beings are prone to disagree.

If you desire a good society, you should not pursue it as an abstract goal, nor should you pursue it as a general goal obtained by the State’s uniform laws or by customs dictated to all or enforced on all by social means as supposed ways to make people good. Focus instead on the person, on each and every person. Each person has the highest value, over society and over state. These are not persons. They are merely organizations and tools to achieve other purposes and they are always seriously flawed. The good society is good when its people are able to be persons, which means they are in possession of the unhampered freedom to create.

My advice to you who are now involved in various revolutions and protests is something like the following, in very brief outline.

Leapfrog the West. Learn from the mistakes of the West. Don’t imitate the West blindly in the heat of the moment of attaining new governments. Opportunities like this do not arise often. Make the most of them.

Do not immediately or quickly fasten upon some more or less standard political agenda. They are all deeply flawed. They reflect the sins and mistakes of the West, which the West has not overcome. Seek instead to understand the fundamentals of human life and the human being as a basic guide to social, ethical, and political life.

If your educated class is promoting grandiose social schemes and promising grand results, don’t believe them and don’t approve their agenda. Such promises have been made in the West for several generations. These social engineering and wealth redistribution schemes all are coming to a bad end here. Don’t be enticed into repeating the Western follies.

My view is that the essence of the human being while on this earth is the free human personality. Our being is tied up with freedom at its very root. Every sacrifice of freedom that arises from the pressures, domination, and coercions of family, friends, business, church, society, and state, or from our own personal sacrifice and enslavement by ourselves, destroys a portion of that being or suppresses it, thereby causing a degree of non-being. As I understand the human condition, God created us as free persons. We are free to choose good or evil. Non-being is evil. Being, which presumes freedom and actualizes freedom, is good. The free human personality, as God’s creation, is good. It is a value that is above family, friends, society, organizations, and states. Its worth is above any of these.

Therefore, nurture freedom of the person. Nurture freedom of conscience. Nurture freedom of creativity. Nurture freedom of thought, expression, speech, and action. Nurture all of these at the level of each single person. Do not nurture domination by society, religion, state, family, business, or any other institutions. That which is good is the free spirit in each person.

Make no attempt whatsoever to create the “good life” or happiness or welfare of citizens (or subjects or individuals or voters) by means of the state or any institution or association that dominates and suppresses the person. That approach is godless and wrong. It invariably leads to a confusion of means and ends. The state uses violence as a means. If you allow the state to use violent means in the hope of achieving the ends of happiness or general welfare, you will destroy the freedom of the person. But freedom of the person is the good. It is what God brought into being.

Do away with notions of sovereignty by any person or group or institution. The U.S. Constitution is deeply flawed from the outset in its assumption that We the People are sovereign. Sovereignty is a godless concept. It is entirely at odds with the idea of a free person. God is not sovereign over human beings either. He does not determine what we do with our freedom. Even being sovereign over oneself distorts the idea of a free and creative spirit. In the same vein, the libertarian notion of “owning oneself,” although consistent with and correctly emphasizing the idea of freedom, is essentially a cold and bloodless view of a human being. The human being has a more fiery, passionate, hotter, and loving core in its free and creative spirit. The attempt to justify freedom by beginning with a natural right or self-ownership derives from an agnostic or atheistic view of human life. It doesn’t ground freedom in God and his creation. It treats the human being as matter or as a socially-derived institution of property. It doesn’t make us all brothers and children of God. It isolates the personality and thrusts the human being toward egoistic individualism. This is not an entirely false depiction of fallen human nature, of course. And yet the human spirit naturally reaches out to other similar spirits and to God. It reaches backward to creation and forward to the last days and the Kingdom of God. Purely rationalistic concepts of the human being that were born in the Enlightenment and have carried through in different forms to modern day democratic, social-democratic, socialist, and communist governments are insufficient to understand human nature and insufficient to move firmly away from the many varieties of slavery, overt and covert, and toward freedom. These old Western ideas have resulted in Western governments that suffocate and suppress persons. They culminate in efforts to spread the same kind of governments worldwide and to have one worldwide government.

The U.S. Constitution gets off on the wrong foot by making the general welfare an end. This leads only to the sacrifice of the person. Utilitarianism, which is the philosophy that sets happiness as the ultimate human value, is deeply flawed. It is basically another godless concept and one that leads to the adoption of violent means to create the end of happiness, thereby sacrificing the free person, which is the actual value.

Do not attempt to eliminate the everyday human failings and limitations by using force or the powers of society and state. Human beings must be free to choose between good and evil things. They must be free to make mistakes. Human beings cannot be moral beings without making choices for and by themselves. They cannot share in God’s grace without such freedom. Do not be legislating personal morals. Do not be imposing societal sanctions on beliefs, speech, clothing, art, sexual behavior, and discovery. Do not be attempting with such broad powers to create earthly utopias. This is not only impossible, but attempts to accomplish this go directly against the free and creative human personality, which is God’s creation.

Don’t bother catching up to the flawed Western ideas of politics. Surpass these ideas. They are not rooted in God, despite the rhetoric to that effect that attempts to fuse God, country, nation, and State. As such, the Western ideas lead to godless behavior. This was evident early on in America and is becoming increasingly marked over time.

Do not create theocratic states, however. They too are inimical to human freedom of thought, conscience and action. Power over the human person cannot be turned over to priests, clerics, and ayatollahs any more than to secular politicians. The combination of a powerful church and a powerful state is a recipe for suppression of the person.

Separation of church and state is a good idea. In practice, however, the State makes itself the new God. It tries to surround its immoral activities with an aura of high morality. In the U.S., there are many religious denominations. Somehow, though, the churches either make very little noise about the welfare-warfare State or else support it outright. The State has managed to get organized religion on its side, by and large.

Revolutions usually go about constructing a new State that is in no essential way much different from the old one. Avoid this at all costs. Otherwise, the people are doomed to another 50 or 60 years until the next revolution breaks out.

You simply must understand the nature of the State if you are to leapfrog the Western political structures. If you understand it thoroughly, then you will wish to minimize the State.

The State is the sword, that is, power. Its essence is power: holding power, increasing power, and administering power. This has been evident for several thousand years if one examines the rise and fall of empires throughout the entire world as well as their conquests, wars, and legalities. The state has no central interest in justice, righteousness, rights, or the freedom of people, its own or others. It would just as soon enslave everyone if people did not resist. It would make war continually against others or against its own citizens if it could. It makes war to prevent peaceful secessions. It claims territory through war and dictate, through ruse and stratagem, through conquest, blood and violence. It claims all within its boundaries.

The totalitarian states of the twentieth century provide clear examples of the demonic nature of the State. The worst of them under Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot butchered untold millions of persons. They sought meticulous control over economy, press, thought, money, and travel. The Western social democracies are not far behind in these respects, and they are already past masters at making war. Reject them as a model of government. Jesus rejected “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” Follow his example.

If it were not for man’s craving for a universal kingdom, his craving for power, his fears and desire for security, and his susceptibility to the hypnotic temptations that the State generates, this evil institution would not exist. It exists now only to be overcome and bypassed by humanity. Do your part in this endeavor.

The State promises order. Its order is a superficial pastiche of arbitrary laws and measures that typically discriminate unjustly while also imposing uniformity on those affected. The State promises to remedy chaos, but it creates chaos and non-being by suppressing the creative spirit of persons.

The idea of the State as a thing to win is an incentive to warfare and chaos. When a state loses control over the people, warfare often erupts among groups that cannot tolerate one another as all strive to gain control over a new state and impose their agenda on everyone.

One of the worst features of the State is that whatever is immoral for a person is made out to be moral for the State. The State uses its people to kill and maim, to torture and spy, to inform and rat on others, and to assault and destroy, and all of this is approved of and applauded as if nothing were wrong. Brutality becomes something that wins medals and is glorified in motion pictures. The most corrupt and lying politicians gain the most respect.

Putting in place a Western-style democracy is not going to create prosperity. It only introduces a source of friction at the heart of a society. It will be an institution that endangers property rights, seeks greater power, won’t allow secession, won’t tolerate any serious challenge, manipulates the public, caters to special interests, wastes resources, taxes onerously, corrupts the money, and takes every opportunity to control the people.

Taking foreign aid from the West is one of the worst things you can possibly do. You will simply doom yourself to being a satellite of the West and part of its machinations. You may well end up at the mercy of its bankers.

Rather than thinking about a new government, think instead about how to build a vibrant society in which persons can exercise their creative spirits freely, for that is the basis of a good society. Think about generating tolerance. Think about generating trust. Think about well-defined property rights. Think about free markets. Think about incorruptible money. Think about a variety of institutions of justice and defense. Think about justice itself.

The West is strangling in its own debt, its own corruption, its web of lies and deceits, its fearful peoples, and its overly large governments. Why look to the West? Why go backwards when you have a chance to go forwards? In short, leapfrog the West.

March 11, 2011

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Drop weapons

Of course, no one would actually do this. Of course, no soldier or CO would encourage this. Of course…

Support Our Troops?

What happens when you begin to parse, from a biblical Christian context, the bumper-sticker thinking that pleads, “Support our troops”?

Troops

John the Baptist tells soldiers to do no violence to anyone. But that is what troops do. Their very job is to enforce by physical means the will of some person or group of persons that claims for itself the right to coerce others. This may be as a group of soldiers who are engaged in military assault, or, as in Palestine, merely an occupation force. Either way, troops are an agency for coercion. But if God makes compliance with His gospel voluntary during this period of the great conflict between selfishness and unselfishness, then there is no place for coercion of others; there is no place for troops.

There is a built-in feature some use when they argue that we should support our troops; they make a separation between the troops as individual soldiers, and the officers or the state. However, Every army consists of those who command and those who obey the commands. In terms of what the army does, there is no difference between grunts and the West-Pointers. Supporting our troops must mean not only supporting the private first class but also the general; not only those who kill on command but those who command to kill.

Those who support the troops also support the rifles, grenades, bunker-buster and hydrogen bombs of the military. The bullets and the guns and the bombs are the very tools used by the troops to murder and to coerce. Support of the troops must mean also supporting the use of these murderous weapons. The man who pulls the trigger or pushes the button is no less culpable than the one who commands, even from the oval office, that the button be pushed or the trigger pulled. To support our troops is to support the weapons used by the troops, is to support the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that it was known by its planners would murder women, school-children, and aged men–civilians–and only a very few soldiers.

But then, some want to claim that the army is separate from the state, that the soldiers only do what the civilian leadership of the state tells it to do. And yet, what it all amounts to is a group that enjoys power on the basis of coercion; there is no difference between the political leaders and the military ones. Supporting our troops means supporting the dogface, the general, the representative, senator, and the president. The word “troop” traces back to Middle Latin and “troppus” meaning “flock.” Which reminds us to ask the question, What flock do I belong to as a Christian? Am I part of an earthly flock or a heavenly one? How could I identify with a group whose fundamental task is to murder or coerce–do violence–to others?

Our

The troops are said to be “our” troops. Which calls forth the question, what business does a Christian have murdering or coercing others? Or, what business does he who endorses God’s law–“Thou shalt not steal”–have in aggressing against the property rights of others? Even from the standpoint of the Constitutionalist–the one who believes that the United States Constitution is what amounts to a magic formula that if we all embraced it would prevent all these kinds of issues in terms of government–we have a problem here. For the Constitution does not give authority to raise perpetual standing armies. But this is what we have had since the beginning of World War II. Although the Constitution does not permit it, there has been one for a third of the time the USA has existed. Go checks and balances!

Some of those who serve may be our sons and daughters, but they are not “our” troops. They exist anti-constitutionally. And, blood descendancy does not indicate rational or moral agreement with behavior. If they are serving voluntarily as murderers and coercers, aggressors for pay, they are mercenaries, pure and simple. I do not pay mercenaries to aggress against others. And if they were not voluntary in the present sense, but the state commanded them to serve, still they would be–voluntarily–choosing to obey. We can never be forced, but all of our choices ultimately are voluntary. This is the only way that all of our choices, ultimately, can be moral.

Finally, we do not command them. We have no control over them. The United states public has been opposed to many of the wars that have been fought in its name. More recently, the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And yet, troops, bases, military actions continue. They are not ours. These are not our troops.

Support

Finally, we come to the question of support. What does it mean for us to “support” these troops which are not ours? Support boils down to our non-coerced approval of them. If we voluntarily choose to say, I will pay them to aggress against others and I agree with them when they pull the trigger and push the button that kills, we are disagreeing in the most fundamental way with God’s law which says “Thou shalt not kill.” And so, it is human law, ideas, attitude, versus God’s law, ideas, attitude. And I know where I stand.

Conclusion

I do not “support our troops.” They are not ours. I do not have aggressors and I do not support aggressors; it does not matter what emblem they wear or what flag they salute. I cannot serve two masters. The end result of the attempt to serve two masters is always the declaration “We have no King but Caesar.” I have no King but Christ.

“The Federal Government can do almost anything”

She has it almost right: But people like Stark are actually demonstrating that the Constitution is a failed idea. Checks and balances cannot be devised which will limit people to a restriction upon their actions. People will—inevitably—go farther and will use any authority “granted” them to supercede the authority granted them. Therefore, it is better not to grant them authority to begin with.

The American Warmonger’s Bible

by Laurence M. Vance

Two tools of government propaganda used to get young men to kill, maim, and destroy for the state are nationalism and religion. Put both together and you have a deadly combination.

Imperial Christians who equate patriotism with militarism and nationalism now have a book to guide them: The American Patriot’s Bible.

The publisher of this new Bible is Thomas Nelson Publishers. Now, this publisher has recently published some excellent books (e.g., the works of Judge Napolitano), but The American Patriot’s Bible is certainly not one of them.

The general editor of The American Patriot’s Bible is Richard G. Lee, founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in Atlanta and frequent speaker at conferences and on television. Dr. Lee is the author of twelve books, a trustee of Liberty University, and a board member of the National Religious Broadcasters. He was named “Father of the Year” by the Southeastern Father’s Day Council and received the Ronald Reagan Leadership Award for 2007. Lee hosted a “Restoring America” conference in 2009 with assorted Republican Party apologists.

The American Patriot’s Bible is not a new translation of the Bible. It uses the New King James Version that was published by Thomas Nelson in 1982, but “joining with the sacred text are stories of American heroes, quotations from many of America’s greatest thinkers, and beautiful illustrations that present the rich heritage and tremendous future of our nation.” This is done via special introductions to each book of the Bible, twelve full-color, four-page sections inserted randomly throughout the Bible, and 254 brief articles on certain virtues and various patriotic and historical themes that appear near specific Bible verses in boxes within the text, on half pages, and sometimes on full pages. None of the articles actually comment on the biblical text. Certain words in the text are merely used as a springboard to launch into the subject of the article, which usually has nationalistic, militaristic, or political overtones. Other features of The American Patriot’s Bible include an introduction, a subject index to the articles, a concordance to the Bible, maps, a list of the U.S. presidents, and a list of the fifty states with their dates of admission to the Union.

Before I even turned to the first book in the Bible, I realized that The American Patriot’s Bible had a militaristic and nationalistic perspective that I was going to choke on. In addition to the usual pages in the front of some Bibles that are used to record births, deaths, and other family records, The American Patriot’s Bible has a page to record “Military and Public Service.” There is also a four-page section on “The Seven Principles of the Judeo-Christian Ethic.” Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with following Judeo-Christian ethics, but under principle one, “The Dignity of Human Life,” the attempt is made to justify U.S. military interventions around the world:

In the Declaration of Independence our nation’s Founding Fathers wrote that everyone has “unalienable rights,” and that among these rights are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We Americans not only believe this for our land, but also we send our brave military men and women around the world to defend the rights of those who are threatened.

Principle four, “The Right to a God-Centered Education,” is also problematic because it accepts the existence of a government school system as legitimate. Any parent can give a child a God-centered education, either at home or at a Christian school. The idea that we should expect the public schools to give children a God-centered education is ludicrous. Government schools don’t need to be “taken back” by Christians, they need to be abandoned.

Another disturbing sign is the prominent place given in The American Patriot’s Bible to Abraham Lincoln – a man who is neither a role model for a Christian nor an example of a president who upheld the Constitution. In addition to the image of the Lincoln Memorial appearing on pages I–2, I–36, and on the front of the dust jacket; Lincoln’s picture appears on pages vi, 488, 832, 1058, 1401, 1456, I–30, and I–32 (twice). Lincoln appears in a montage that includes his Lincoln Memorial statue on pages 236, 266, 296, 302, 339, 371, 407, 442, 475, 516, 531, and 550; Lincoln appears in a montage that includes Mount Rushmore on pages 561, 600, 704, 743, 756, and the rear flap of the dust jacket; Lincoln is quoted on pages I–2, I–32, I–36, 302, 488, 718, 823, 832, 527, 528, 1037, 1058, and 1328; Lincoln is mentioned on pages 78, 808, 1035, 1099, 1114, 1448, 1456, and I–37; Lincoln is discussed on pages I–30, 518, and 1401.

Like most study Bibles, each biblical book in The American Patriot’s Bible is preceded by a brief one-page introduction. But there are two things that are different about these introductions.

First of all, at the top of the page of the introduction and the first page of the biblical book there is a montage that includes images of soldiers and/or naval ships, military aircraft, flags, national monuments, or national symbols. On the introduction page to each of the New Testament Gospels there is an image of soldiers raising a flag underneath the banner of the national motto “In God We Trust.” All of the other books in the New Testament open with a montage containing the Statue of Liberty on the left with troops marching on the right.

The second thing that is disturbing about the book introductions is their content. Each introduction contains a paragraph that tries to relate the theme of the biblical book to some patriotic or nationalistic theme or an event in American history. For an example in the Old Testament, we can turn to the book of Nehemiah. The theme of the book is said to be “godly leadership.” But who is put forth as an example of a godly leader like Nehemiah? It is the wretched Franklin Roosevelt. In the introduction to 2 Thessalonians in the New Testament, we read about how the Apostle Paul “always moved quickly to deal with heresy before it could damage the churches.” We are told that he used the authority of his apostleship and did not seek anyone’s permission. This is applied to George W. Bush saying that “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” Then we are told that after the 9/11 attacks Bush “immediately announced a Global War on Terrorism, which commenced with the invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban regime and Al-Quada.” It is nothing short of sacrilege to mention George WMD Bush in the same paragraph with the Apostle Paul.

The subjects of the twelve four-page color sections that appear throughout The American Patriot’s Bible are: The Bible and American Presidents, Christianity in Colonial America, Faith of the Founders, The American Revolution, The Great Awakening, The Bible and American Education, Christianity and the American Frontier, The Civil War, Monuments to American Patriotism, World War II, Christianity and Equal Rights, The Bible and Famous Americans.

In the section titled “The Bible and American Presidents” we are given quotes about the Bible from eleven presidents. This is all well and good, but no one should think for a minute that these eleven men put into practice the precepts of the book they spoke so highly of. In “Faith and the Founders” we are told that 93 percent of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention “were members of Christian churches.” If this is true then the fact that the Constitution never mentions the Lord Jesus Christ other than a reference to “the year of our Lord” is even more disturbing. The section on World War II is especially disheartening with its picture of the loathsome FDR, its claim that Japan, Italy, and Germany wanted to rule the world, and its simplistic explanation of the coming of the war. The picture of a smiling President Obama in the section titled “Christianity and Equal Rights” is also disturbing. What is a man doing pictured in a Bible who was the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, who has spent his life in the service of racial preference, who has had the most radical of associations, who practices an aberrant Christianity, who orders and jokes about Predator drone attacks, and who is an economic corporatist that believes in the redistribution of wealth?

The third major feature of The American Patriot’s Bible is its 254 articles on certain virtues and various patriotic and historical themes. The articles are a mixed bag of virtues, principles, patriotism, nationalism, and militarism, with a heavy emphasis on U.S. presidents.

The small articles in boxes near specific biblical verses contain quotes from famous people about God, the Bible, religion in society, or some virtue, tell us where in the Bible a particular president placed his hand when he took the presidential oath of office, and reference certain events and documents in American history. Seeing the first one, which appears on page 44, made me nauseous – it is a quote on freedom from the evil warmonger and torture master Dick Cheney. Even worse is the sight of a quote from Colin Powell on U.S. foreign military interventions that goes with John 3:16. It is implied to the reader that just as “God so loved the world that he gave” so the United States sends its “fine men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders,” asking nothing in return but enough land to bury our dead soldiers.

When these articles take up a page or half a page, it is more of the same, but with longer quotes and the addition of images. Presidential warmongers are prominently featured: FDR on page 217, George W. Bush on page 292, Woodrow Wilson on page 586, Abraham Lincoln on page 1058, and Theodore Roosevelt on page 1071. This is fitting since the focus of the articles is often times related to war. This time, however, it wasn’t until the second one that I became nauseous. Appearing on page 6, it is the story behind and words of the blasphemous “patriotic” song The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The identification of the slave-owning George Washington as the “American Moses” (p. 64) is ludicrous as is the quote from the denier of Christ’s deity and miracles, Thomas Jefferson, on the moral precepts of Jesus (p. 1096).

The last thing I want to read about in the notes of a Bible is something about a U.S. president. Although some of the historical information in The American Patriot’s Bible is interesting and informative, it belongs in a separate book, not in the word of God. And the American history that is presented is highly selective.

Gregory Boyd, the author of the highly-recommended book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church (Zondervan, 2006), has written several times about The American Patriot’s Bible. Because the conclusions he has reached are also my own, I will simply list some of them here:

* It unashamedly glorifies nationalistic violence
* Selective retelling of American history
* Overt celebration of America’s violent victories over our national enemies
* The text of the Bible is used merely as an excuse to further the patriotic agenda of the commentators
* The glory of nationalistic violence permeates this Bible
* The commentators attempt to give their idealized version of American history divine authority by weaving it into the biblical narrative
* The biblical text has been reduced to nothing more than an artificial pretext to further a particular nationalistic and political agenda
* Saturated with this nationalistic, “fight-for-God-and-country,” mindset
* A very high percentage of the commentaries sprinkled throughout this Bible exalt American wars and their heroes
* Offers no commentary on any passages related to our instruction to love and do good to our enemies
* A version of the Bible whose sole purpose is to reinforce the nationalism and celebrate the military victories of a particular country
* Virtually incarnates the nationalistic idolatry that has afflicted the Church for centuries
* It excludes from consideration almost every aspect of American history that could blemish the image of America or its heroes
* Especially in the Old Testament, an explicit parallel is drawn between Israel and America
* This intense glorification of national violence constitutes a central theme of this ill-conceived Bible

You can read Boyd’s blog posts about The American Patriot’s Bible here and here and his review here.

“If you love America and the Scriptures, you will treasure this Bible,” says the introduction to The American Patriot’s Bible. I think it would be more accurate to say that if you love American exceptionalism, American nationalism, American imperialism, and American militarism, you will treasure this Bible. Many Christians who love America and the Scriptures know better than to equate patriotism with any of these things.

July 15, 2010

Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State and The Revolution that Wasn’t. His newest book is Rethinking the Good War. Visit his website.

Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Libertarians, Marxists, and Christianity

by William L. Anderson

In an earlier article, I looked at two of Jim Wallis’ criticisms of libertarianism, and also compared his own historical “Christian Marxism” to the libertarian point of view. What I found was something akin to Jesus’ admonition that people with beams in their own eyes should focus first on their own condition rather than to be criticizing others.

This time, I examine the following two attacks that Wallis makes on libertarian thinking:

* “The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin”;
* “The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian”;

We read the following from Wallis:

The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. The exclusive focus on government as the central problem ignores the problems of other social sectors, and in particular, the market. When government regulation is the enemy, the market is set free to pursue its own self-interest without regard for public safety, the common good, and the protection of the environment ― which Christians regard as God’s creation. Libertarians seem to believe in the myth of the sinless market and that the self-interest of business owners or corporations will serve the interests of society; and if they don’t, it’s not government’s role to correct it.

Wallis then adds:

But such theorizing ignores the practical issues that the public sector has to solve. Should big oil companies like BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean? And is regulating them really un-American? Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids?

Now, I cannot say that I have read anything on any libertarian website or any publication or book espousing a libertarian point of view, and that includes Walter Block’s “plumb line libertarian” book, Defending the Undefendable, in which someone claims that markets are “sinless.” For example, a Christian who believes that adultery is a sin will not endorse prostitution, even if that same person believes that prostitution should not be a crime.

The reason that Christian libertarians might be against criminalization of prostitution is not because they believe market processes are “sinless,” but rather because we believe that crimes should be limited to those acts in which one person intends to harm another, and in which the participants in the action are not acting in a mutually-agreeable fashion. Again, to say that an act in which the participants are engaging in mutually-agreeable behavior does not mean the act is good or even Godly. Rather, our view is based upon recognition of the limitations of where we believe the law should go.

As for the environmental issues, I know of NO libertarian who believes that “BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean.” That is not even a caricature of the libertarian position; it is a false representation of our point of view, and I would contend that Wallis knows it is false.

Indeed, the “plumb-line libertarian” position on BP and other firms that cause oil spills and the like probably is more environmentally sound than anything Wallis and his fellow Marxists might believe. Wallis forgets that pollution is not a “capitalist” endeavor, given that communist countries have much worse pollution records than any nation where at least some free markets exist.

For example, in recent edition of Sojourners Magazine, blames poverty, pollution, and mine safety problems in West Virginia on capitalism and coal companies. Yet, the death toll and pollution that comes from state-owned coal mining operations in countries like China and the old U.S.S.R. dwarf problems that exist here.

In fact, state-owned firms are more likely to engage in pollution and have bad safety records precisely because they answer only to themselves, and the state is the ultimate “owner” of property. (Wallis falsely contends that private property is the source of pollution and oppression, but has no explanation for socialist pollution, except to ignore it altogether.) Libertarians, on the other hand, believe that private property is at the heart of production and exchange, and that if one violates another’s property, there must either be compensation or the violator of the property must cease and desist.

One of the real problems regarding the BP oil spill is that BP essentially was able to drill in “common property,” as opposed to operating in private property in which the owner could make environmental demands. Instead, we have companies operating according to politically-based government permits which provide a poor substitute for private-property rights.

Wallis then declares:

Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids?

First, he makes some heroic assumptions, the first being that private producers really don’t care about pleasing their customers. (In fact, elsewhere, he decries “consumerism,” although I must admit that I don’t know what “consumerism” really is, given that people don’t go to Wal-Mart to satisfy some ideological itch.) My experience with purchasing services from both people in private markets and from the government has told me that government agents are much less concerned about “pleasing” “customers.” If anything, government agents engage in a master-servant relationship, and regulators are no exception.

Second, he forgets that racial segregation did not begin with private businesses, but rather was enforced by the state. The Jim Crow laws (emphasis on “laws”) came about because politicians forced their views on everyone else. Furthermore, it was that great “Progressive” Woodrow Wilson who made the federal government into a racist institution, not J.P. Morgan.

Here is his next line of attack:

The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian. “Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money” is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage. And those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy. “As you have done to the least of these,” says Jesus, “You have done to me.” And “Blessed are those who are just left alone” has still not made the list of Beatitudes. To anticipate the Libertarian response, let me just say that private charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion. When the system is designed to protect the privileges of the already strong and make the weak even more defenseless and vulnerable, something is wrong with the system.

What is Wallis saying? First, he is saying that if someone wishes to be left alone and not be harassed by state authorities, then that person is engaging in a “preference for the strong over the weak….” Say what? Is this guy really telling me that whenever SWAT teams invade private homes or government agents harass people in airports or elsewhere, that the government is “weak” and individuals are “strong”?

This is ludicrous. Second, his view that if the so-called weak can harness the power of the state to take property away from the “strong,” then who is weak and who is strong here? Wallis is claiming that there is a class of “strong” people who always have been strong and a permanent class of the “weak” who need to be able to plunder the “strong.”

At this point, we are not dealing with economics or even a political/religious philosophy. Wallis is claiming that unless the state is free to plunder whomever the Left determines is “too wealthy” or “too strong,” then the state is not strong enough.

Don’t ever forget that this man endorsed some of the most murderous and bloody regimes in history because the leaders of those regimes claimed they were engaging in their acts in the name of “helping the poor.” As Lew Rockwell wrote a few years ago about the death camp that was Mao’s China, the “poor” were encouraged to murder landowners and anyone else deemed to be a “capitalist” or worse. Thus, if the “poor” were able to plunder and murder the “rich,” then just who was weak and who was strong?

Wallis, you see, believes that “justice” is served only when those who are “weak” are able to access the violent power of the state to become “strong,” and when that occurs, then and only then can real “justice” exist. This is a curious philosophy, for Wallis seems to believe that when the “poor” are in charge, then they cannot be oppressive – by definition.

Libertarians believe that private property gives people the right of exclusion. Indeed, at some level, we exclude people, and that includes Wallis and his friends. For that matter, I have found libertarians and people who own private property to be much more generous with their possessions than anyone representing the state.

Is the White House the “People’s House”? Fine. Try walking into the “People’s House” without an invitation and permission from the authorities. Try dealing with the Internal Revenue Service on your own terms. You will find out quickly who is “weak” and who is “strong.”

June 7, 2010

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.

Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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