Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘socialism’ Category

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.

Consistency please: guy nails it on nationalized health care

(via lewrockwell.com blog.)

U.S. National debt clock : Real time

Unfortunately, self explanatory.

U.S. National Debt Clock : Real Time.

Let My people go

by Michael S. Rozeff

“And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:1)

Today I was sent an e-mail that asked me to click through and examine H.R. 3200, the health care legislation pending in Congress.

But if I read every word of it and write as many words about it as are contained in that bill, what good will that do? None at all, because I will be playing by the Pharaoh’s voting and political rules. Why should I play in a card game with marked cards and a dealer whose hands are quicker than the eye?

I have a different idea, and it will take less than one page to outline.

It is to follow the example of Moses. Exodus from health care laws.

(1) Form a “people,” and this people shall have one objective, which is to be let go by the Pharaoh from any and all legislation relating to health care.

This people shall form by electronically signing a statement to that effect on a web site for that purpose and only that purpose.

This people shall remain where they live. This is their promised land already. Only it has been infected by bad laws and needs cleansing. They need to cleanse their lives of bad health care laws.

(2) Find a Moses who will personally convey the message of this people to the reigning Pharaoh in Washington and be a public spokesperson for letting this people go.

(3) Moses and this people shall NOT attempt to change the course of history by voting on H.R. 3200 or any other such unlawful laws. They shall NOT confirm the procedure by doing that. They shall NOT argue against such laws so as to affect votes in Congress.

There is no need whatsoever to be involved in any legislative process. It is a very great error to go in that direction solely with no other avenue of action.

(4) Instead, appeal publically and directly to the Pharaoh, in the name of God. Place the Pharaoh directly under God’s sanctions for any disobedience of his to the consent of this people who are asking for nothing more than their freedom.

(5) Do not waver in any way from this appeal. It is all or nothing. If God hardens the Pharaoh’s heart against this people for the time being, so be it.

God may bring sanctions against Pharaoh for his unwillingness to let this people go, and if he does, a Moses may have to ask again and again and again and again as did Moses in Exodus.

August 11, 2009

Copyright © 2009 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Ten Commandments and the Christian anarchist 5

The fifth commandment is stated thus:

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20:12).

Before the advent of the welfare state, all aspects of caring for aged parents fell to their children. There is something about caring for someone—washing them, changing their sheets, helping them dress, taking care of their bedpans, feeding them, that is healthy for a care-giver.

Paying for their care, buying someone else’s time to accomplish it, can be done, and doubtless there are situations in which this is the only serious option. But these are likely very, very few. The benefit we derive from serving others is then mostly lost. The same connection and affection is not there. We loose something when we assign caring duties—and others use their time to accomplish it.

Actually, nowhere I can think of in Scripture suggests that we buy the services of others to care for our loved ones. We should do it directly.

But with the introduction of social security, medical, and similar arrangements, many attitudes changed. Realizing that there is always “the state” to fall back upon, people became less responsible. Since the shift to the democratic republican form of government, the rate of having children has fallen significantly in the Western world. You no longer need children to care for you later in old age! The state will do it for you. Or your children will drop you into a nice nursing home somewhere where you can watch television and sit in your pee.

Honoring our fathers and mothers makes us more human. And keeps them more human. Honoring begets honoring. Your children see you taking care of your parents. What an impression this must make! The promise is that as we honor our parents, our days will be long upon the land that God gives to us. Our humanity gives our parents a higher quality of life in their golden years, and in turn our children see and are prepared to do likewise for us when our turn at the wrinkles comes.

In the Bible, the aged person is consistently honored and respected. In the modern world, his main utility is as a consumer of dental adhesive products. The welfare state is dehumanizing and decivilizing in its effect. The anarchist Christian needs to rise above the standard inhumanity. He should honor his parents in many ways, but, in particular, by as much as is feasible, caring for them directly, with his own hands.

Another point of interest in this commandment is that God gives land to the Christian. Private ownership of Property is built in to the Ten Commandments. We will ponder this further when we discuss the eighth commandment. For now, we limit ourselves to the observation that God made earth for man and intended that he should be able to own property.

God is the original Maker. He created the earth ex nihilo. Thus, He homesteaded it from nothingness; it belongs to Him. As His private property, He can give it to whomever He will. He links our care for our parents with His gift of private property to us in the form of land. For the Christian anarchist, these provide several interesting lines of thought, strikingly in support of a libertarian position although written more than three millennia ago.

The main objection to secession?

Kelse Moen, in the April 27, 2009 Emory Wheel, offers a most interesting observation concerning secession:

But there is another objection to secession, and this, I think, is the most important one. It explains the apoplexy we see in modern-day liberals—and even in some statist conservatives—whenever the topic of secession is broached. The Progressive philosophy, the foundation of modern-day liberalism, is built on a belief in the efficacy of central power—that the government possesses the means of curing any social affliction, if only we get the right people in power. Heaven is only an election away!

Secession threatens that view because it is a radical attack on central power as such. How often do we hear of those “backwards Christians” or those “redneck reactionaries” who won’t accept Roe v. Wade, the War on Poverty, or whatever other socially transformative project the Washington establishment is peddling?

Progressivism can only work if those rubes out in the countryside just shut up and go along. It’s always the fault of those obstructionists—they never gave Roosevelt or Johnson or Obama the chance to make the change we needed.

The problem becomes much worse when those rubes out in the countryside can just walk away. The social transformers begin to see that the society they wish to transform is growing ever smaller. The Progressives cry foul. And so they should. They do not value liberty; they value only ideology, and they seek to force the world to conform to their ideology at gunpoint. (Read the whole article here: http://www.emorywheel.com/detail.php?n=27073, accessed 2009-05-01).

Here is the divide: one group believes in totalitarianism; the other believes in liberty.

Jacques Ellul nails it:

It is not true that people want to be free. They want the advantages of independence without the difficulties or duties of freedom. Freedom is hard to live with. It devours and demands . . . . Exodus tells us several times that when the Hebrew people were delivered from bondage in Egypt, when faced with the problems of living in freedom they wanted to go back. They had no provisions. The way was uncertain. The future was unknown. The strange will of their Liberator God was incomprehensible. Better slavery with a guaranteed minimum wage! . . . The more security and guarantees we want against things, the less free we are. Tyrants are not to be feared today,but our own frantic need of security is. Freedom inevitably means insecurity and responsibility. But we moderns above all seek above all to be responsible for nothing. Yet we want an air of freedom, an appearance of liberty. We want to vote. We want a party system . . . we dare to talk of freedom (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 167-169).

I have abbreviated Ellul’s argument. He pierces through our righteous pretensions and helps us understand where we have gone. The state has trained us to dependency; we are afraid to be free. We prefer to hand off our responsibilities to others. This leads to centralized power, and try this: it trains us to trust in man rather than to trust in God.

The state is dangerous. Not so much because its cheerleaders are all malevolent; they are not. But because it is the center of a system of things that subtly trains us to trust in other flesh. People lay their hopes upon the collective and disperse their responsibilities to it. The individual, in contrast, not trusting in the collective, having nothing else to fall back on, learns to combine with God (Philippians 2:12, 13). The result has a positive impact on others (James 1:25, 27; 2:15-17; Matthew 25:37-40).

When the day was wearing out and the vast crowd had nothing to eat, the disciples came to Jesus and reported the problem to Him. He told them to distribute food. As they distributed, the food was multiplied (Luke 9:12-17). Being a Christian strengthens us in acting on personal initiative and trusting in God.

The very opposite happens when we trust in the state. First, it is bureaucratic, impersonal; humanity is less likely to be expressed. Again, whatever aid the state distributes has first been taken by force through taxation. Since it is other people’s money, it is always spent more prodigally. Then there are the many layers of administrative machinery, all employees who are paid to arrive at output. At the end of the day just running the state machine has consumed most of the resources. People learn to gather at the spigot and wait for the machine to spit out its dollops of help. It saps initiative and rewards inaction. It certainly trains no one to trust in God.

The threat of secession, if it exists, is actually a help for the state; it would it avoid exposing the secret realities of its theft, inefficiency, and inhumanity. That threat has not existed in the United State since 1865. It is probably returning too late to make a difference; the state is already doomed by its excesses. Moen and Ellul combine to show that personal responsibility-taking and Christian character growth are more likely apart from centralized human power. The financial burdens created by the state guarantee secession. We will be better Christians and social afflictions will more likely be cured under small, or better yet, no government.

All the artificiality and redistribution and privilege created by centralized power—and all the trust in human solutions—needs to be stripped away. And so we come full circle: one group believes in totalitarianism; the other believes in liberty. Most totalitarians probably don’t realize that that is what they are. The question of secessionism can be a door to open the way to clarification and reassessment. Here is the point: Those who trust in the state do not need God. When they discover that the wizard is only a bankrupt man behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz reference), they may see new possibilities in liberty, and in our Liberator.

Socialism wars

By Michael S. Rozeff

America’s socialism wars began in full force with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president.

By the time I was born, 1941, the socialists occupied virtually all the enemy territory: the Supreme Court had endorsed the New Deal. It had killed the U.S. Constitution by re-interpretation.

The commerce clause justified any Congressional act. Substantive due process was dead. The contracts clause was dead. The general welfare clause became, not a restraint, but a justification for any and all legislative enactments. The Bill of Rights was on its way to emasculation.

Legislation triumphed over rights, militarism over peace, foreign entanglements over neutrality, war over peace, slavery over freedom, the State over the family, coercive collectivism over private property, and Keynes over Hayek.

Socialism was victorious over liberty, laissez-faire, private property, freedom of association, and free markets. Socialism cleared the ideological battlefield.

From then until now, the soldiers of socialism have deepened and widened their victories. The American eagle is now socialist. Socialism has its talons in every part of a person’s life and every major institution in America.

But wars go on for surprisingly long periods of time. Justice, truth, and right cannot be extinguished, no matter how severely they are suppressed. The socialism wars have not ended. They will go on until socialism is completely defeated, which it will be, eventually.

The ideological poles of the battling sides are evident to those who look into the wars. But who are the persons fighting in the socialism wars? Everyone. Every person on earth. Every person chooses up sides.

Where are the battlefields? Ultimately, they are in the hearts and minds of every person on earth. While the ideological battle lines are clearly drawn, the physical battle lines are not. The same person may be on either side at various times and with varying degrees of strength and commitment.

This is not a classic military battle. As a society, the enemy is within us, around us, and over us. The enemy pervades our every action. The enemy is entrenched in the system and in our minds. We are now deeply dependent on the enemy. Our every plan involves its survival. We count on it. We fear its demise. We are trapped in it by ourselves. We are trapped in it by powers beyond our apparent control. But the trap is of our own making. We have recruited ourselves into the socialist wars on the side of socialism.

Someone asked me “what makes a healthy economy?” A simple but profound question, if by “healthy” is meant “good.” Ethics are of supreme importance. But whose ethics? Where shall they come from? To the libertarian, an economy without aggression is a good economy. To the socialist, only an economy with aggression can be good. To some libertarians, non-aggression is an element of natural law. To others, natural law is untenable. To some, praxeology is a hope: non-aggression has to be rooted in an as yet unelaborated science of ethics. Yet others look to the Greeks and eudaemonic ethics. I am in none of these schools of thought, all of which are looking within man or to man for ethical guidance. I believe in revealed (biblical) ethics. It is sometimes the case that the recommended ethics of the various schools of thought overlap, even if their foundations and rationales do not.

As a society, we have made the satanic enemy our God. To vanquish that enemy, throw down that idol in one’s heart and mind. Hate its evil. Hate its wickedness. Do not tolerate its deceits and lies. “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10.)

April 24, 2009

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

Copyright © 2009 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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