I’ll try to limit the arguments to their core. If I leave something out that was important, I beg you’ll explain why leaving it out was wrong.
Your position is, unfortunately, a considerable straw man of libertarianism as a general concept – both classically and in its modern incarnation. But, to be fair, I do not speak for all libertarians nor do I hold a monopoly on the idea itself (just as I do not speak for all Christians/Christianity), so I can only address what I think and support. But I will try to concisely address some of your criticisms.
I will show you why reducing libertarianism to “Live and let live” is not a strawman. It is, in fact, the core morality of libertarianism, and in order to believe in it, you must adhere to it.
What awoke me to this fact was the contradiction between what libertarianism encouraged me to do and what Christianity encouraged me to do, both within and without government.
1. “[Libertarianism] holds one thing as morally superior to all other things, that the only good is non-interference. That is, ‘Live and let live.'”
It is not true that this philosophy holds only one thing as “good,” nor does the it prescribe any such broadly rigid rules of logic at all.
Every philosophy which speaks about morality must have a central moral tenet. In Christianity, it is that God is good. If libertarianism has none, then libertarianism cannot speak about good or evil at all, but simply facts of nature.
There is nothing about libertarianism that denies the goodness of helping others, or prohibits people from doing so.
This statement is only (kind of) true when considered in the context of the state/government’s behavior, which is necessarily based on violence, and is only partially true to the extent that the government wields violence on behalf of one person/group in ways that do not directly protect individuals’ rights.
Here is the crux where Christians and libertarians diverge. Christian morality dictates that government *should* be of one form or another. In times past, they argued that there should be kings ordained by the pope. Today, they argue that the government should be structured on Christian morality.
Libertarians, as you are stating here, have as their guiding principle on what government should do as “protecting individuals rights”. All uses of violence outside of this is, apparently, abhorrent to you.
Never do libertarians list the rights that humans have! Nor do they have a resource that people should consult to discern what is a right and what is not. Isn’t that curious?
A common straw man asserts that because libertarians do not support violent government infringements of individuals’ rights that they must therefore endorse those rights too. This is simply untrue; I disagree with drug use, for example, but do not support the criminalization of it because it is victimless beyond the individual (who has an inherent right to self-destruct if they wish) and causes far more problems socially, economically, and with respect to freedom than these policies actually solve. This is where libertarians think government should and must give way to other, non-violent coercive institutions and developments (i.e., churches, communities, social mores, etc.).
And here we are! Is drug use a right? Would the Founding Fathers have said, “People have the right to destroy their brain with harmful drugs?” Of course not. Because they would never consider suicide a right, just like you don’t have a right to pluck out your eye or cut off your arm. See, rights, to a Christian, are those things God tells us to do. And part of that is to treat our body as a temple used to house the spirit of God. We don’t have time as Christians to desensitize our minds and alter them in psychadelic experience, what between our preaching of the gospel and baptizing of the nations.
Drug use can only be considered a “right” (keep in mind that the word “right” has moral connotations) if your morality is based on “let people do what they want (within these bounds we set for ourselves.)” I can’t imagine any other framework where the idea that someone can and *should* self-harm themselves to be a moral good. Only the Libertarian can claim moral victory by watching people kill themselves!
I am a Christian and a libertarian (which is just to say, I do not support Big Government, Big Parties, and the never-ending and inevitable cycle of transgressions they perpetuate). In fact, it is largely because I am a Christian that I am a libertarian. God did not grant me, or the state, or agents of the state, the right or authority to judge or punish others for their sins (that is solely His job, as I recall).
I beg to differ. Read the Old Testament. When God had his chance to establish his government the way he wanted to, he set up all sorts of laws about who we have to punish when they commit certain sins. In fact, after Noah, God put all of mankind under covenant not to murder, and to kill those who do murder. In other words, the Christian God does compel men to execute his justice in certain instances. To deny this is to ignore the Bible.
Also note that the church that Jesus established did inflict punishment on people who violated the rules of that church. There’s a reason why Christian nations have strict laws and there’s a reason why they enforce those laws. We do not leave it all to God and I have a hard time finding that passage in the Bible that says so. Some sins, yes, other sins, absolutely not.
Under the New Covenant through Jesus, God Himself avoids violently imposing His own will on us as He once did, choosing instead to peacefully allow us to follow or reject His way at our own discretion and risk.
That is, until he decides it is time to wipe away all the wicked from the earth.
You seem to subscribe to the lovey-dovey God who is all mercy and no justice. What happened to the Jesus who used a whip to drive out the moneychangers from the temple? What happened to the God who promised eternal damnation to those who did not believe in him?
The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. Jesus did not change the law, he fulfilled it. We confuse ourselves if we think the game is any different now than it was 5,000 years ago. God doesn’t change. Our understanding of him changes, but God is still the same and demands the same thing today he demanded back then.
He certainly did not grant me or anyone else the authority to use violent proxies (the state in this case) to impose my will on others (and you point out that this is not effective at any rate).
Let me clarify: You cannot use the force of government to force someone to believe something. You cannot use the force of government to do certain other things as well. But you can use it to, say, keep thieves out of your cities and keep child molesters from patrolling your neighborhoods. You can also use it to defend your borders and regulate markets. You can use it to rally troops for war or build religious sites.
While it is true that Jesus implored us to follow the Law of Moses, a key difference between the Old and New Covenants is that we are no longer instructed or empowered to violently enforce that Law. We effectively traded old sacrifices for Jesus’ final sacrifice. Where we used to demand an “eye for an eye,” we now are expected to forgive, as we ask for forgiveness from God. Galatians makes it fairly clear that Christ removed the curse of the Old Law from us through His sacrifice, and to adhere to those old ways gives great offense to God.
We’re free to disagree about our interpretation, but from what I see, he did no such thing. Yes, we are supposed to forgive, and agree with our enemies quickly, etc… but at the same time, the law is still in force. I don’t know exactly which passage you are referring to in Galatians, but I do know that Romans 6:15 says that just because we are forgiven for our disobedience it does not excuse us from obedience. How then can adhering to God’s law cause offense to God? It is what he commanded us to do, it is the law Jesus kept, it is the law that we are to keep when we are forgiven by grace.
But to try and not digress too awful far from the specific point, again libertarianism does not condemn helping others. However, one cannot violently rob Person A and give to needy Person B and still be doing the work of God or Jesus, even when Person B legitimately needs help. Indeed, taking from one and “giving” to another does not meet the spirit or intent Jesus’ teachings that urge sacrificial, selfless aiding of others. Just as Jesus could not fulfill God’s will through a proxy sacrificing their life on Christ’s behalf, neither can we truly meet the spirit of sacrifice in helping others if we use proxies to do so. Matthew 22:15-22 is often misconstrued to mean Jesus supported taxation; I posit that the real intent of this exchange was simply to demonstrate to the faithful that earthly quarrels of state and politics mean nothing when considered against the Kingdom of Heaven (similarly to how Jesus dismissed the importance of earthly Judaic royalty in His exchange with Pilate).
So in the last breath, you argued that we are not supposed to keep the law, and now you are arguing that we are? Charity has been clearly delineated in the Old Testament. The method whereby the rich are to help the poor and the poor to petition the rich are laid out in crystal clarity. I disagree with the methods liberals espouse because it is non-Biblical and a violation of the most basic commandments. You disagree because why? Because it conflicts with the central morality of Libertarianism: Don’t interfere.
2. “Thus, when we wrote, as a country, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’, we weren’t allowing any debate.”
In quoting the Declaration, which is (as you allude to) part of the Organic Law of this nation, you approached what libertarianism means to me: “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” This passage defines why the United States, as a national entity, were founded in the first place. And as you say, this is non-disputable. This is the essence of libertarianism. I do not know any libertarians who are demanding we “take God out of the equation of our history” or “take him out of the foundation that is the cornerstone of our country.”
You don’t know any atheist libertarians then? Because it’s all I hear from libertarians who are atheist. They want to get rid of that pesky religion that keeps interfering with their plans to make minimal government.
Note that a plain reading of the Declaration says it is God who tells men to make governments to secure the rights that God gave them.
Again, for me, it is precisely because I believe God gifted me with self-reason, individual rights, and equality under Him that I do not subscribe to a human institution that seeks to function outside of this paradigm. Libertarianism is, in my opinion, a basic rejection of supplanting God for the State, a rejection of turning to other fallible humans to overreach their basic rights and privileges under God to violently punish and/or control their fellow man in lieu of an individual, willing subjugation to Him through Christ.
Do you admit that Christ set those bounds for government, or do you think human reason sets those bounds? This is a very important question and shows whether you are a Christian first or something else first.
And honestly, I am not even aware of what “the atheistic libertarian argument” actually is. A beauty of libertarianism, unlike most other philosophies, is that it is so limited in scope (i.e., a rejection of unlimited, unchecked Big Government) that it is attractive to people of all walks of life. I believe it is the most inherently inclusive political philosophy that is in no way incompatible with spirituality in general, or Christianity in particular. One of the chief reasons that it is not more widespread is precisely because it is straw manned so much with disinformation, but the diversity of the movement’s makeup is undeniable relative to other, more common modern philosophies.
It is inclusive, until the pesky morality starts peeking its head in and saying, “Wait a minute. This law would maximize the freedom of the people to do certain things, but are those the *right* things that government should allow people to do?” Minimum government is not the goal of the conservative. It is an effect, true, but not the goal. Small government is better than what we have today, but government can be too small as well.
3. “Show me, praytell, where libertarianism has been implemented?”
This is an overly simplistic rhetorical and partial combination of logical fallacies known as begging the question, the naturalistic fallacy, and the nirvana fallacy. Because it is fallacy, it fails to properly address the substantive merits of the position, and instead asserts (but does not prove) a conclusion within the question itself. We are told to strive to be like Christ. Would it not be equally easy to say “show me, praytell, where anyone has actually been like Christ.” When this challenge fails, as it surely will since no one is truly Christ-like, does that invalidate the propriety of trying to be like Him? Just because something presents an extremely difficult pursuit does not mean that the pursuit itself is unworthy. Indeed, I have long held that that right thing and the easy thing are most often not the same things. What matters is the substance of the message – is Christ’s message worthy of emulation? – not whether it is practically achievable. I will never be like Christ; but I believe I will be the best person I can be by trying to be like Him within my limitations. This is also why I exercise despite knowing I will never be at the level of a professional athlete. Besides, the Constitution can be accurately described as a mostly libertarian framework, original de facto endorsements of slavery notwithstanding.
So you admit my argument is moot because… no one has tried libertarianism? That was my point.
Regarding whether any Christians have tried government by Christian law: Yes, yes they have, and you don’t have to look very hard on the European continent to see it. Which Christian has ever claimed to be like Christ? That is not the point of Christianity. Christianity admits that we are all flawed. We owe Western Civilization to all of the people who tried to rule as a Christian should rule, whether that was Charlemagne, the later emperors of Rome, the various Popes, or the kings and governors of the nations of Europe. I accept their flaws and their victories as contributing factors to my current status. As a people, we were pretty screwed up, but so was everyone else, and in balance, we turned out OK.
So have we tried rule by Christianity? Yes, and it worked exceptionally well. We beat the Middle East, the Far East, and all the islands everywhere else. No culture can compare to ours, and now our culture is infiltrating every corner of the globe.
4. “What inevitably happens when a ‘free’ people, or rather, a people with no government, exist, is evil people with evil intentions take over.”
This is a true statement; it is also a common straw man levied against libertarians. Again, I speak not on a monopoly basis, but neither I, nor any other libertarian I know or exchange ideas with, believe this. There is a marked difference between anarchy and minarchy. Libertarianism, as I embrace it, is recognition of the need for government but for it to do one thing only (as laid down in the Declaration): protect individual rights from those evil people you noted. That is a minarchy. This purpose behind the institution does not include the vast majority of functions that modern American government embraces, including (but not limited to) social engineering, regulating victimless behavior, violently imposing moralistic standards on others that infringe individual rights, etc.
So, Libertarian says, “Government is good, except ours.” With that argument, no one can ever implement Libertarianism. It seems also there is a fatal flaw in Libertarianism. There is the paradox that if you accept all freedoms, then you accept the freedom to limit freedom. Obviously, that leads to contradictions, which is my point. The ultimate end goal of minimum interference or securing rights for right’s sake is that exact contradiction. Who gets to define which rights are worth defending and which are not?
5. “This is the crux of my argument: Freedom does not work. Liberty is not an end unto itself. The result of unlimited freedom is captivity. Liberty does not beget liberty. It begets tyranny and slavery.”
Part of this statement is simply untrue, at least when considered in the context of codified law establishing American government (i.e., Organic Law). Liberty is the end unto itself for the institution of the United States as a nation. That end is, as demonstrated, explicitly written and codified via democratic treaty and cannot be legally ignored. The rest of the statement is philosophy that is not proven fact, and cannot be proven. It is what you believe, but I hold to a different belief. Liberty does not beget tyranny and slavery; tyranny in the guise of liberty surely does this I will acknowledge, but liberty does not. I wish to be free from my fellow man, not from God. Libertarianism does not present a conflict with God but with other men who, under God, are equal to me and therefore present no legitimacy in regulating my life beyond protecting their own divine rights. I wish to be free, and I recognize that in order for me to be free I must be willing to allow others the same consideration.
This is where you are wrong: “Liberty is the end unto itself for the institution of the United States as a nation.”
Liberty was not the intended consequence of the American government. It is a means to the end, but it is not the end. Read the preamble. It never says that the point of government is to secure liberty, it says that the point is to secure the *blessings* of liberty. We were not formed as a nation to protect liberty alone, but to ensure that we would be able to enjoy the fruits that liberty brings. Also, note that it is listed as the last of many ends of the formation of the government.
Did our Founding Fathers form the United States because they wanted to make sure people had access to harmful drugs, to prostitution, to homosexual marriages, and to all manner of perversions and filthy behavior? NO! To them, these things were not indications of freedom, but indications of subjection, namely, being subject to the powers of darkness, namely sin. There are no blessings you get from prostitution and other moral vices. They wanted no part in that, and they didn’t want to secure that for their children.
There are blessings in the freedom that comes from Christian salvation, the freedom from sin and the freedom promised by Christ to those who embrace the truth of his mission to save this world.
To this point, libertarianism is not incompatible with people governing themselves, as you mentioned in the subsequent paragraph. Indeed, libertarianism expects people to behave themselves within the constraints of their just rights (i.e., not infringing on others’ rights, person, property, etc.) and expects people to be held responsible for their behaviors when they fail to do so. Freedom is not the same as lack of accountability; freedom and personal responsibility are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Again, I think a large part of this disconnect is the belief that libertarianism equates to anarchy, when in fact it espouses minarchy (i.e., stern limits on the government, which has no inherent right to exist vice stern limits on individuals who do).
Again, who defines the rights people are entitled to and government must protect? What should be the punishment for people who abuse their freedom, when it doesn’t directly infringe on someone else’s? The Bible dictates death to the adulterer, for instance. Why would the Bible say that? Do you trust the Bible’s morality or do you trust the libertarian morality, where sexual relationships outside of marriage are no evil because there is no harm and we should just ignore it if we have a religious objection to it?
6. “Our constitution does not enshrine every liberty.”
It is true our Constitution does not enumerate every liberty. However, the Tenth Amendment fairly clearly points out that it did not set out to, and that an absence of such a list does not preclude unmentioned individual liberties. Indeed, a libertarian argument would be that the federal government was never meant to provide any police authority whatever, let alone to those behaviors you have listed here as ones you disagree with. The Constitution is very clear – however it may be abused, misused, and/or ignored today – that no such power delegated (the use of that specific word is very important after all) to the federal government is not rightfully the federal government’s to assume. Those non-enumerated powers, including law enforcement, belong to the States and the people. It is true that regardless of this point, libertarians endorse decriminalization of behaviors that are arguably victimless as in your example, but this hardly equates to Godlessness or anarchy as is implied. To gay people having consensual sex, while sinful, does not violate anyone’s individual rights and is thusly outside the scope of federal government propriety (the federal republican aspect of this is a slightly different discussion with different implications, though it is fair to say that a libertarian views marriage/consensual sex as being outside the realm of legitimate regulation for state government as well).
I don’t need to remind you that I trust the constitution over our current government, which has perverted the constitution in every way I can imagine and then some.
There is a reason why the constitution doesn’t list every right. The federal government was not the place to protect those particular rights that weren’t listed. Note that the 10th amendment does not leave everything else to the people. It leaves it to the states or the people. Meaning, there are some things the states could do to limit the behavior of the people, and that the constitution is counting on them to do.
I see you are being more explicit and brave now, putting God’s laws and morality below the libertarian. See, to God, marriage and sexual relationships were something extraordinarily important. Violating his laws in these matters was a capital offense. The reason why government is involved in these matters is because our government is a Christian one, based on the Bible. And the Bible says that these things should be laws. The reason why we are having a debate today is because there are a lot of people who don’t believe that we should be a Christian nation anymore, yourself included. You have decided to substitute God’s morality with your own, or somebody else’s.
I can argue that homosexual acts *do* infringe upon my individual liberties, but that’s not the point of this. I’m not trying to justify God’s morality, I am merely saying that his morality is mine, and so I believe that should be the guiding star in moral discussions.
7. “None of our ancestors believed we had right to commit suicide or to commit adultery or homosexual acts.”
As you pointed out previously, our rights are derived from God, not from our ancestors, so in truth what they believed is irrelevant in this sense. If God granted us free will to stray from His path, as He surely did even if this is wrong, then God granted us the right to behave in sinful ways, including those you mentioned. The only libertarian question here is one regarding the state’s behavior: does the state have the right to violently regulate victimless behavior? I believe philosophically, and the Constitution supports this at least at the federal level, that the answer is “no.” Tying this back to the Christian message: God did not grant us divine authority to violently regulate other people’s sinful behavior under the New Covenant. Repercussions for sin are His and His alone to dole out.
“What they believed is irrelevant.” All of the work and thought they put into trying to form a nation that would have freedom and maintain it through the ages is being thrown away here. Here you stand, acting as if you know more than they knew, or they were somehow beneath you. What gives you the perspective they didn’t have? What makes you a superior theologian or philosopher?
God did grant us the ability to break his laws, true, and he also gave us a commandment to punish certain violations of those laws. Never did he excuse even the smallest violation of the law. All sins will be accounted for. If we do not embrace Christ, then we will be damned by our own sins.
To suppose that you somehow understand the Bible better than your ancestors… that is true pride and audacity. “Pride cometh before the fall.” What an apt description for our generation!
8. “You will let your neighbor’s house burn down. I will put it out.”
This is a purely absurd assertion that bears no reasonable similarity to reality.
It bears everything with reality. As the world reels in sin and error, I am not going to stand idly by and say government should not do things government should do, or government should do things it should not. I am going to use God’s morality as my own. I am going to spend the time and effort it takes to appreciate our ancestors rather than suppose that because I was born in a later century than them I know better.
I am going to forego addressing the multiple ad hominems listed in this post in the interest of limiting this to a civil discourse an intellectual exchange, but needless to say those fallacies do nothing to substantively further one’s position logically.
As we all know, everyone is certainly entitled to their perspectives, interpretations, opinions, and beliefs. I just feel that libertarianism has been inaccurately characterized in your post according to what you think, or maybe wish, it means rather than what it actually means – at least to me. This is not so much meant to “convert” you to my way of thinking, as you have made clear that this cannot be done and I can understand that. This reply is really meant to give the third party viewer a different, and more accurate as it relates to me at least, characterization of libertarianism for them to consider.
I haven’t seen any place where you’ve disagreed with my assertion of the central morality of Libertarianism: Let people do what they want. As long as it doesn’t directly affect me, it’s none of my business. “Live and let live” as they say. You’ve tried to contort Christianity to conform with Libertarianism, I am sure, but you have not rejected the definition I gave of it.