Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just Wondering: Too Much Government? Can Christians be Libertarians?

Just Wondering....
  • Libertarians often can be heard exclaiming, "our government is too big." The motto of the Libertarian Party is "smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom." But just how small should government be? We never seem to get an answer to that.
  • Hmmm. Why is it that that motto reminds me of adolescence?
  • Take the World's Smallest Political Quiz" to see if you're a Libertarian. (Surprise, surprise: I'm not. )
  • Like Warnock below, I've always been struck by the inconsistency of individuals simultaneously crying "Our government is too big!" and "Keep government out of my Medicare!"
  • How can thinking Christians be Libertarians? Not only do Libertarians have an unrealistic idea about what individuals can accomplish on their own, they tend to totally ignore the reality of sin. This is understandable, given that many of them share Ayn Rand's metaphysical presuppositions; but I have never understood how Christians--who believe Christ became incarnate, suffered and died to redeem us from sin--could be Libertarians.
  • Moreover, the whole notion of "church" and "body of Christ" mitigates against the individualism and autonomy that Libertarians crave. 1 Cor. 6:19-20 tells us that We are not our own. We have been bought for a price.
  • How do Christian Libertarians account for Isaiah 9:6-7 or Romans 13:3-5 or Romans 12:4-6 ?

    via Brad: Chuck Warnock's excellent blog entry, "For Those Who Think We Have Too Much Government."

    We've heard the mantra over and over --"our government is too big!" Never mind that those who are the quickest to shout it out at a rally are also the quickest to claim their Social Security and Medicare benefits. As one healthcare protestor said during a healthcare town hall meeting, "Keep government out of my Medicare!" Of course, someone pointed out later that Medicare is a government program. But despite the pesky facts that continue to get in the way of the "government is too big" protests, the idea persists that less government would be a good thing.

    To all of those who think we have too much government:

    Tomorrow when you pull out of your driveway onto a paved road that leads to a multi-lane interstate highway system, thank the government.

    When you stop at a stoplight, placed in the intersection to regulate the flow of traffic and prevent chaos, thank either your local, county, or state government who probably got the funds to install that traffic light from the federal government.

    When you drop your kids off at a school that they attend for free, staffed by highly-qualified, college graduates most of whom have master's degrees or higher, take note that education is primarily a government-funded and administered perk of living in the United States of America.

    As you pull into the daycare center that will keep your youngest until they are ready for free public pre-kindergarten, you might remember the line item deduction on your IRS form 1040 that gives you credit for childcare so that you can work to support your family. That's your government at work, subsidizing your income with a tax credit to enable you to be a productive American.

    Arriving at your company's headquarters where you work, you might not know that the industry you work for gets special treatment in government tax credits so that your company can invest in the equipment necessary to expand manufacturing, increase production, and hire more workers.

    As you settle into your desk for the workday, government is there, insuring that the workplace, from the factory floor to the cafeteria, is a safe place for all to work.

    Down the hall in Human Resources, government has assured that your company cannot discriminate in its hiring practices, and that all Americans have an opportunity to apply for and be hired for the jobs of their dreams. Fifty years ago, discrimination was the rule of the day and minority workers had little hope of getting a good job, or of advancing with the company that did hire them. One hundred years ago, my ancestors from Ireland were also denied jobs because of their ethnicity. Today's minorities, while still not operating on a level playing field, at least have a better chance than they did in the past. All because government has guaranteed that institutionalized discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated.

    When you go out for lunch, government inspectors have assured that the meal you eat, the restaurant in which you eat it, and the workers who prepare it meet minimum standards for health and safe food handling.

    After work, you might stop to visit your mother in the assisted-living center where she has moved since your father died. Government is there with assurances that the elderly are not abused, that proper medical care is provided, and that the enormous costs of living with assistance and medical attention are born by Medicare and Medicaid.

    Street lights come on at dusk as you make your way back home. They're part of a crime reduction program that includes better public lighting, more police on the streets, and gang prevention programs in schools and community centers, all funded by the government to keep us safe and secure in our homes and neighborhoods.

    As you turn on the evening news, you catch video of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, winning the peace there, taking the fight to the extremist elements that would destroy our freedoms. The United States has the only global ocean-going navy in the world; better trained and equipped soldiers than any country in the world, and more advanced defense technology than the world has ever seen. All of that is provided, funded, and deployed by the government of the United States to insure that you have the right to protest that our government is too big.

    The evening news itself, available 24-hours a day from over a dozen or more independent news operations is also a testimony to the power and influence of government. Freedom of the press is a constitutional guarantee that tyrants have sought to quash in every dictatorial power grab attempted. It is the government through the U.S. Justice Department, that enforces the law of the land insuring that the news you get will be unhindered by government interference. And, in the United States, if you dont like the spin one network puts on the news, you can find another to match your own political preferences. Try that in Venezuela or Cuba or China, if you think we have too much government in the United States.

    Tomorrow on payday when you deposit your check, the bank into which you place your money is guaranteed to be solvent by the government of the United States. When it appeared that some of our largest financial institutions were near collapse, the federal government was the only entity in the world with the resources and jurisdiction to step in and save them, and the depositors who had trusted them.

    This summer when you travel to a state or national park on vacation, see the bald eagles brought back from extinction, or look into the depths of the Grand Canyon, you have government to thank for saving those areas from commercial exploitation, and preserving species of wildlife threatened by manmade calamity.

    The list could go on to include the safety of the toys your child plays with; the purity of the pharmaceuticals we depend upon for curing our diseases and sustaining our lives; and, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink --all exist because government inspects and monitors each of these areas and more.

    The next time you're tempted to say, "our government is too big" think about what your life would be like without the power of government at the local, county, state, and federal levels.

    Does government fail too often? Absolutely, because just like your company, or your church, or your school government is not some machine; government is people. Does government waste our tax dollars too frequently? Of course, it does, but far more good is done than harm in the administration of government programs. Can government operate more effectively, responsively, and efficiently? Improvement can always take place, but the idea of government itself is not the problem.

    About 225 years ago, "we the people" cast off one form of government called monarchy for another form called democracy. Government is the organized expression of the will of the people of the United States. If all the government services that I have mentioned in this brief article were to disappear tomorrow, those who are demanding smaller government today would demand that these essential services be restored immediately. For those who think we have too much government, let me suggest a trip to an ungovernable place like Somalia. Not much government there, and the sea pirates are "free" to do as they please, but that's not the kind of state most of us want to live in. You might disagree, but I'm happy with the size of our government.

    Sunday I'll go to church and exercise one of the freedoms guaranteed by my government: I'll pray for our leaders, our soldiers, and those working to make this world a better place. If all of those criticizing our government would do the same, the size of government might become just about right for all of us.

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