Why I am Not a Libertarian

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Libertarianism is a political philosophy that has been with us for a while. It is deceptively similar to conservatism, or even liberalism.

My understanding is that it holds one thing as morally superior to all other things, that the only good is non-interference. That is, “Live and let live.” In other words, the principle of non-interference.

This is a philosophy that is foreign to Christians. Jesus taught us to help those who don’t deserve help. The Good Samaritan is an allegory where we are taught by the Master to show love and take on the responsibility of care of other for ourselves.

Jesus also spent his time warning everyone of the error of their ways. He didn’t hold back his warning from the Pharisees, Sadducees, the Romans, the Jews, or Gentiles. All of them he encourage to receive himself a the Savior of the World, and to trust in him. He encouraged all of them to keep the Law of Moses, but to keep it in your heart as well as in deed. The two great commandments he summarized as loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Well, I love myself. I feed myself, I shelter myself, I clothe myself. And so as  a Christian, I believe the Law of God says I should love others, feed others, clothe and shelter them. “Live and let live” is not part of my religion or belief system. In fact, it is a doctrine and teaching we find Cain muttering to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is, simply put, a doctrine of the devil, contrary to God’s law.

This is why I am not a libertarian from a philosophical and religion basis. There is a more practical reason why I am not a libertarian. First, some history.

Our country was founded as religious colonies by a religious country. The country we separated from had a state religion, and the king of that country was its head under God himself. The laws were all religious in nature. The freedoms we cherished before we separated from our mother country were all granted by God himself, according to our collective belief. We were a Christian country, in reality, and as far as I know, we never stopped being a Christian country. And not just any plain old Christian country, but a particular flavor of Christianity that isn’t hard to identify.

Thus, when we wrote, as a country, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, we weren’t allowing any debate. We said, “These things are true, and they are so obviously true, we will accept no challenges to them from any grounds.” And what were those truths? That God, the Creator of the earth and mankind, gave us rights. And those rights allowed us the freedom to live, the freedom to do what we thought best, the freedom to pursue happiness (earlier versions had “property”.) Thus, our freedoms to life, our freedoms to liberty, our freedom to property were enshrined as inviolable. Not because we believed “Live and let live”, but because we believed God said so. Taking God out of the equation of our history, taking him out of the foundation that is the cornerstone of our country, is killing the country. It is one and the same. You take away the Creator, you take away the argument that we have rights He gave us that no one can dispute, then we lose those rights. The atheistic libertarian argument is thus not only historically inaccurate, our Founding Fathers would have found it contemptible and even dangerous.

Our country thus not only is formed by these Christian ideals, but in fact, depends on them. Our very existence as a country that resembles that country our ancestors gave us depend on us holding on to this tradition and religion and conveying it to immigrants and descendants.

Finally, I will argue from practicality. I will ignore history, ignore philosophy and religion, and rely on arguments that rely only on the materialistic view of the universe as everything being composed of matter and not form. The argument is rather simple.

Show me, praytell, where libertarianism has been implemented?

And, after giving me the example, show me what effect it has had on the people it governed?

The truth is the following.

One, libertarianism may have been tried, but it does not exist today anywhere. The philosophy “live and let live” has never been successful. See, what inevitably happens when a “free” people, or rather, a people with no government, exist, is evil people with evil intentions take over. They work and wheedle their way into power, and where there is no power to seize, they create it. Go through the history books, and you will see this is the case every time. Take any society that once approached the libertarian ideal, and tell me if it can maintain it so today. And tell me why not. The answer is really simple: Human nature.

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. Sure, you may bask in the sunlight of freedom for a season, but it will never last. I’m not talking about hundreds of years, I’m talking about tens of years, or even less. As in, during your lifetime. Right now.

Our Founding Fathers knew this, and so they rejected freedom as libertarians interpret it wholesale. They did not and never did intend for our people to be free in the way libertarians advocate. No, they instead demanded that the churches and religions do their duty and ensure that virtue, that is, self-constraint, reign supreme. Should the people be incapable of governing themselves, they warned, we will soon have someone to govern us against our wills. That is the message of history. Either we submit ourselves to our natures, and end up repressed, oppressed, and subjugated, or we submit ourselves to the Laws of God and embrace the freedom that only Christ can give when we do so.

Our constitution does not enshrine every liberty. None of our ancestors believed we had right to commit suicide or to commit adultery or homosexual acts. We know this because they wrote their laws. They wrote our laws to protect good and moral action, and forbid bad and immoral action. They knew that people needed government, they needed something to dictate what is right and wrong to those who refused to govern themselves, and they needed its fearful power to hurt those who would govern us as they govern themselves. The constitution was written in such a way that government could have more power, not less. It replaced the Articles of Confederation which were much more like what a libertarian advocates than what our Founding Fathers settled upon. The beauty of the constitution is that it limits government, yes, but the idea of limited government was not new. The beauty is how it limits government, how it ensures that it will fight itself rather than the people when the people’s God-given rights are at stake.

Yes, our country is sick. We are sick because we have all gone astray and worship false gods and embrace moralities that cannot give us happiness or peace. Among these are the false gods of the atheists and the corrupt morality of the libertarian. The way to restore health is not to kill the dying creature, but to bring back its life and vitality: a belief in a living God who loves his people and commands them to love him and each other, for their own good and not out of selfishness or vanity. We know we were once alive and vibrant, and now we are not, and so we should be returning to the principles that made us free, not inventing new ones.

“Oh, you are trying to impose your morality on us!” they shriek. What they don’t realize is that this is not the case. Instead, look deep inside yourself, and ask if your efforts to enshrine “live and let live” as the ultimate morality is not imposing your morality on me. See, I do not believe for one second that government force can coerce one to believe in God and worship him the way He intends. So I do not believe for one second that government should try. But you do believe that you can force people to “live and let live” if you were to get control of the government. Instead, you should be sending missionaries door-to-door to explain one-on-one why your moral system is superior to mine. It bothers you that your morality cannot inspire 18 and 19 year old kids to give up 2 years of their life in sharing it with others. Perhaps you should understand that is why your morality is dead and fruitless.

I appreciate what libertarians have done in helping to convince people in freedom in economic matters. But I am wholeheartedly in disagreement about what they are trying to do in moral matters. That is why we don’t get along. We never will. Our beliefs are fundamentally opposed to each other. You will let your neighbor’s house burn down. I will put it out. Even if they don’t know their house is on fire.

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2 Responses to “Why I am Not a Libertarian”

  1. An Observer Says:

    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.

    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. 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. 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.).

    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). 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. 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). 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.

    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).

    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.” 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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).

    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).

    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.

    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. 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.

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