Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Christians should not be Libertarians

This will outrage many good folks in Arizona, and a lot of Tea Partiers, but if you are a Christian, you should not vote for Rand Paul. You should not be a libertarian. Here's why:

Scratch a libertarian, and you'll see that s/he holds the Modern Liberal Myth of Individualism: "In the beginning was the Individual; who CONTRACTED with other individuals to form society." Libertarians hold that the ultimate good is AUTONOMY (auto, or "self" + nomos, or "law") That is why you see such an emphasis on the INDIVIDUAL in their explanation of their beliefs, at their website.

Government, by its very nature, always involves the limitation of individual autonomy. Thus, government can never be really good; it can only be bad or less bad. “Government's only role is to help individuals defend themselves from force and fraud,” Libertarians say. But that inevitably requires that someone’s freedom and personal responsibility will get stepped on. Their autonomy will be violated by the majority, and the majority is simply the collection of individuals who are able to force the minority to do what they want it to do. Thus, the same group that is supposed  to defend the minority from force is the group that is forcing the minority to do its will.

In fancy philosophical talk, Libertarians are metaphysical NOMINALISTS. Insofar as they talk about being “people-centered,” they mean they support SELF-interest, as their prime value-- so it would be more honest for them to say they are INDIVIDUALLY centered, rather than people-centered. (But that doesn't sound as "nice!") As nominalists, they think the only real things are discrete individuals. This is the philosophy of Ayn Rand is so congenial to libertarianism.

Christians affirm a different narrative: “In the beginning God, (Who is THREE persons in ONE substance—a community, not a collection) created the heavens and the earth, and finally human beings, in HIS IMAGE.” So from the very get go, RELATIONSHIP has been part of what it means to be a Person, and by extension, a human person. Christians don't believe that society/community was “contracted;” rather, they hold that it has been part of the fabric of reality from eternity because the Trinity is a community. Note, though, that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity does not do away with the idea of individuality. Instead, it properly defines it in terms of “personhood,” locating and balancing it IN RELATIONSHIP to community. That community is not an intellectual construct, but a real, existing, living reality.

In fancy philosophical talk, that means Christians are NOT metaphysical nominalists. Insofar as they claim to be, they are inconsistent in their beliefs. The Bible takes a very dim view of autonomy. It is the source of the fall—an individuals thinking they can do what they want, not what God has ordered. As Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Christians are exhorted to be altruistic and other-centered, rather than self-interested. Judges 21:25 gives an acidic estimation of autonomy, and in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, Paul explodes the notion, saying “You are NOT your own; you were bought at a price.” This is why orthodox Christians cannot consistently embrace Ayn Rand’s teachings.

SO: if one is a Christian, libertarianism isn’t an option. Of course, many people are not Christians, so the tenets of libertarianism do not cause them any conflict. ISTM that Christians who embrace libertarianism need to think more deeply about their commitments because they are inconsistent spiritually and politically. Libertarianism espouses centrifugal forces; communism  and facscim espouse centripetal forces; but Christianity preserves and balances both, in a universal Te Deum that circles the One God who is

Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Catawissa Gazetteer said...

Man is made for the state and the state is made for man. They each have their own nature, rights and responsibilities. The Founders were wrong when they said that government is created by man and derives its power from him. Government is created by God and man can either accede to it or not.

Both extremes, Marxist and Capitalist (which is what most Libertarians are) end up at the same place. The means of production are held by the few while the majority end up as slaves.

Government and man are meant to work together to foster the common good. This doesn't mean a nanny state like the Progressives want and it doesn't mean a false "free market" as so many on the right seem to be so enamored of. It means that our human rights, such as liberty, property, worship,. economic and so on are protected by the government but in return we owe the government our protection and service. This is all part of a two way street meant to provide a just living environment for all, government and citizen alike, working within the guidelines of subsidiarity, justice being defined as everyone possessing that which is due him.

Sorry, I've been doing way too much thinking about this lately and got all excited when I found I'm not alone.

Beth B said...

Thanks, Catawissa. I agree with you about it being a two-way street. Keep on thinking! :) And let's keep on praying.

You might also like What Chuck Warnock had to say:

Catawissa Gazetteer said...

Hey Beth.

I WOULD say we have too much government, especially at the national level. While I understand the absolute need for government and I'm striving to understand its God given nature and role I do believe in subsidiarity, the idea that all solutions should come from the lowest practical and efficient level. Most of the things that the federal government involves itself in should be handled by local or state government, to the extent that government apart from family government is involved at all.

As an example from the article you linked to:

"Arriving at your company's headquarters, 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."

I would suggest that the tax system as it stands is immoral. It allows the government to pick winners and losers by manipulating the system. Why not just have a sales and excise tax and let the companies and individuals make choices regarding their finances based on actual financial need, not distorted by tax consideration?

Taxes are all turned around. It seems that the bulk of my taxes should be paid at the local and state level, not to Washington. It's only because Washington has exceeded its place that things are becoming a bit dicey. I'd rather the money, thus the power, stay close to home.

I'm opposed to Medicare and Social Security, not in principle but in implementation. These are functions that should be handled at a lower level, starting probably at the county level. I'd rather see my taxes go to local groups to help the poor than federal because I've got a much better chance of not only seeing the direct result of how my money is used but also of controlling how it's used. I think that to the extent the fed is involved it should only be used to offset funding in communities that absolutely can't go it on their own, after the state has done everything it can, and even then the money should flow to the areas with few strings attached, managed by local charities such as churches unless they've proven themselves incompetent, at which point management should move up the chain a notch until the problem is solved.

We have to reach a balance between the people and the state. As the system stands the state has exceeded its powers and this is causing the people to turn against it. Bring government back home, where it can be part of the community acting as an ally, not apart from the community, as it is in Washington, where it becomes an adversary.

Catawissa Gazetteer said...

I'm curious, Beth. What do you believe the natural form of government is? Example; republic, democracy, monarchy, communist, dictatorship and on and on. I have an opinion and I'd like to talk about it, if you have the time. I'm a carpenter with a geek streak a mile wide with very few people around me that ever have these sorts of questions come to mind. It's helpful to work through them with others, especially if there's a bit of FRIENDLY disagreement. But it's vital that the others have an opinion or I might as well talk to my cat.


By the way, my name is Tom. Nice to meet you.

Beth B said...

Hi Tom!

Nice to meet YOU! You have asked some really great questions and I'm mulling them over. Please don't take my tardiness in responding as a sign that I want the discussion to end. No way! It's just that you've posed doozie here which demands more than cursory response. SO much depends on how one defines "natural." Does it mean "the way God meant things to be" or "the way man made them, after the Fall?" If you could tell me a bit more how you are defining "nature," It would be a big help.



Catawissa Gazetteer said...


Thanks for responding. It really helps to work through some of this stuff with others.

By natural I mean as God intends. We live, because of the fall, a distorted and unnatural existence.

The reason that this question came to my mind is that I believe in living the truth. It seems to me that this is the simplest way to get through life. I try to bend my will to the truth, not the truth to my will. I'm not always successful.

Of course, the real trick is figuring out what's true. Up front, I'm Roman Catholic. I was born so but left the Church and religion all together for years. I came back because I started searching for truth. Reading through only a part of two thousand years of thought (I have to go to work sometime!) from some of history's greatest minds on just about everything has altered my perception greatly.

Funny how God works sometimes. He let me go to tear myself down to make me ready to hear what He had to say.

Until we learn to govern ourselves as God demands, not as we want, we'll never be truly happy, thus I believe it's vital that we understand government through God's eyes.

As I said, I have a strong opinion on this subject which I'll reveal after I hear what you think. I'd rather not muddy the waters quite yet because I could (as usual) be wrong.

I will say this: on one vital point (though I believe there are others as well) the American Founders got it wrong and everything, every problem we face today is the result (I think).

I'm looking forward to bouncing this around with you. I know from reading your blog that we don't agree on every point but that's a good thing. Unlike most that I read your points are well thought out and not based on emotion, two attributes that seem totally foreign to most thinking today.

Have fun with this and no rush at all.

Talk to you in a while.