Statism’s Worst Enemy: Christianity

“Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” John‬ ‭6:14-15‬ ‭KJV‬‬.

If ever statism had a mortal enemy, it would be Christianity. No other system of thought, no other movement has competed with the authority of the state like Christianity. History is replete, and literature is replete, with examples of this struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.

As Christ told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world and separated himself from those who would make him an earthly king, so too Christians have competing interests between obedience to Christ and the state. As Christ refused to bow to Satan being tempted in the wilderness for the kingdoms of this world, so too Christians refuse to worship the state in place of God. Christ confounded the people, still confounding today with his statement to render unto Cesear what is Ceasar’s and to God what is God’s albeit not defining specifically what belongs to Caesar and giving Christians reason to question state ownership of property. Therefore, Christianity, specifically the words of Christ, presents a conflict of competing realms of the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man that does damage to the state.

Jean Jacques Rousseau famously made the claim in The Social Contract that true Christianity is useless in fostering the spirit of patriotism and social solidarity necessary for a flourishing state. Rousseau had observed in the history of Western Civilization the division Christianity had caused in the political realm. It is a hard point to argue against as we can see the political divide in empire caused by Christianity separating state allegiances of eastern Rome and western Constantinople, the political division caused by the Reformation for example, the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and the Separatist Pilgrims searching for religious freedom in the New World. Christianity has been the root of political divide and an impediment to the flourishing of the state as Rousseau claimed.

Skepticism of the state can also be seen in the writings of the early church Fathers. Augustine famously wrote in City of God, IV, 4: “Without justice what are kingdoms but great bands of robbers? And what is a band of robbers but such a kingdom in miniature? It is a band of men under the rule of a leader, bound together by a pact of friendship, and their booty is divided among them by an agreed rule. Such a blot on society, if it grows, assumes for itself the proud name of kingdom.” Augustine’s contrast of the two kingdoms of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man being a major theme of the Bible is clearly presented and forms a basis for questioning state authority especially that which is unjust and not conducive to peace in City of God.

Therefore, libertarians and all proponents of limited government should therefore give a gracious nod to Christianity and the words of Christ for such limitations to state power and trust.

A Biblical Case For Ending the Fed

“Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭25:13-16‬ ‭KJV.

The U.S. monetary system with the Federal Reserve, its fiat currency, and its fractional reserve banking is a monetary system of unjust weights and measures which is contrary to Scripture.

The aforementioned verses support biblically the use of just weights and measures in society. For, if unjust weights and measures are used in transactions, fraud has taken place.  For example, if someone was trading an ounce of gold for a tool but the merchant selling the tool weighed the ounce of gold with a balance that was gauged to measure an ounce of gold at .9 ounces, the merchant would be defrauding the buyer by .1 ounces since he would be really selling the tool for 1.1 ounces.

How does fractional reserve banking promote unjust weights and balances with respect to currency? Fractional reserve banking is a banking system which allows a bank to loan money to customers on the basis of a certain percentage of reserves which are other customers’ demand deposit accounts. For example if a bank had a policy of loaning out money based on fractional reserves of 20% and the bank had $100,000 in demand deposits, then the bank could loan out $500,000 ($100,000 being 20% of $500,000). $100,000 of the loaned money would be backed by $100,000 of demand deposits but $400,000 would not be backed by deposits. The $400,000 is new money (fiduciary media) created by the fractional reserve bank. If just one bank committed such risky behavior then the market could keep such risk in check. If customers who were loaned money by the fractional reserve bank deposited $150,000 in another bank, once this bank demands a transfer of money from the fractional reserve bank, such bank being insolvent, goes out of business. So too, if the demand deposit customers of the fractional reserve bank demand all of their deposits from the fractional reserve bank, then the bank being insolvent has to close its doors.

A central banking system such as the Federal Reserve, operates as a lender of last resort, whereby a fractional reserve banking system can be continuously bailed out by the central bank in the event of bank runs or demands from banks of other countries not participating in the fractional reserve system. Furthermore, a central bank such as the Federal Reserve can manipulate currency by lowering interest rates and by purchasing assets.

The Federal Reserve sets monetary policy by manipulating interest rates which in recent years has been most always to lower interest rates. Lower interest rates in a pure free market give an indication to capitalists that saving and investment is robust enough to enter into long-term projects which require prolonged capital expenditures. Capitalists will take loans at low rates, investing in these projects with capital or producer goods which otherwise would not take place. These capital projects are malinvestments and distort the market and particularly capital markets with an artificial boom. This boom is followed by a bust in markets and especially the particular capital markets invested in due to the artificial low interest rates. The pure market interest rate is merely based on time preference of present goods compared to future goods. The Federal Reserve distorts the perceived measure of time preference. In this way, the Federal Reserve promotes unjust weights and measures with the interest rate.

The Federal Reserve also promotes unjust weights and measures with asset purchasing. Whether it is treasury bills or other assets, through asset purchasing, the Federal Reserve injects new money into the banking system. Once the Federal Reserve buys an asset, the seller takes the new money given from the Fed out of thin air and puts it into their bank increasing the money supply. It might initially appear superficially a good thing to increase the money supply by fiduciary media or Fed asset purchasing; however, increasing the money supply decreases the purchasing power of money. Therefore, it takes more money to buy the goods than it once used to take. The people that benefit from the increased money supply which is an unjust weight and measure are the people who first have access to the new money whether it be the federal government in Fed asset purchasing, big banks through lower interest rates from the Fed, or crony corporations connected to centralized government. The ones that lose with respect to increased money supply are the poor or those on fixed income like the elderly who see everyday prices increase.

The ultimate unjust weight however is fiat currency. Fiat currency such as the US dollar is currency legally and exclusively ordered for use as a means of exchange by the state and not backed by any commodity. As it is not backed by a commodity, fiat currency is subject to unlimited debasement by the aforementioned means of fractional reserve banking, central bank asset purchasing, and central bank interest rate manipulation. If currency is backed by the gold standard, natural limits are present which restrict currency manipulation or unjust weights and measures. If currency is backed by gold, once money certificates backed by gold are presented to a bank, then such bank will demand payment of the gold. If a bank in one region tries to increase the money supply by some of the aforementioned unjust means, this will cause its gold to flow out of its vault to the banks of a region with a just measure of currency set by market supply and demand. Such currency manipulating banks in the first region will be forced to halt the currency manipulation or else be stripped of all its wealth.

From the above brief analysis, it is therefore laughable to hear a justification for fiat currency, a central bank system, or even a fractional reserve banking system as the only means to have a stable monetary system. As shown above, it is this very system which causes instability in the economy and debases the currency. It is an unbiblical system as it promotes unjust weights and measures of currency which defrauds the people using the currency.

Children’s Rights in a Libertarian Society

One area of libertarian political theory that is seemingly underdeveloped is that of children’s rights.  It is the aim of this blog post to answer questions and clarify issues that typically arise with respect to children’s rights in a libertarian society.

First, it must be said that children like adults have a right of self-ownership and can also have property rights.  The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) applies to children the same as adults.  Therefore, it is criminal behavior to initiate aggression against a child’s person or property.

One question that frequently arises with respect to children involves parental duty to children.  In a libertarian society, nobody has positive rights as the rights of self-ownership and property are negative rights meaning people are obligated not to act in certain ways in relation to others instead of being obligated to act in certain ways in relation to others.  So does this mean parents have no obligation to care for their children?  By no means.

Although nobody has a positive right to demand anything form another person, the actions of people toward others can create certain duties with respect to others.  For example, if I own an airplane and take someone for a ride, then I cannot exercise my property right to remove that person mid-flight since I have placed that person in a vulnerable, dependent state by my actions.  Similarly, parents, in their act of conceiving children, have placed such children in vulnerable, dependent states by their being born in this world.  Parents have a fiduciary duty to preserve the child’s rights of self-ownership and property until which time the child is able to assert and protect their own rights.  Another recent analogy that was very good with respect to children is that of parents as sea captains and children has passengers on a ship.  See this post for the analogy.

In the parents role as fiduciary or trustee over the rights of their children, the parents have an obligation to protect the child’s rights of self-ownership in the best interests of the child.  The parents, pursuant to their own rights of liberty, would have significant liberty in raising their children with respect to care and discipline.  However, in a libertarian society, child abuse and neglect is a violation of the NAP.  (I have previously addressed a lawful role of corporal punishment in a libertarian society.  See this post.  However, corporal punishment would not be mandated as this would be within the realm of the parents right to liberty in rearing their children.)

How would child abuse be prosecuted in a libertarian society?  It is evident in a civilized society that consumer demand would exist to protect the rights of children and capitalists would meet this demand in potentially a variety of ways which are unpredictable.  However, one can theorize how child abuse can be dealt with in libertarian communities operating under private law and defense.  I have written a post about private law and defense wherein I discuss a role for private security/defense insurance companies which can assist in protecting the rights and prosecuting violations of their clients.  These insurance companies could also have a role in protecting the rights of children with respect to abuse and neglect, providing representation upon any evidence presented of abuse.  Also, private organizations might play a role in representing children whose might not be protected by these insurance companies to petition private courts for redress against abuse or neglect.  Another possibility is that each libertarian covenant community provides procedures for prosecuting violations of children’s rights.  Furthermore, the child, once able to assert their rights, would be able to bring suit against any parent or guardian who violated their rights.

How long would parents be obligated to care for children?  As trustees or fiduciaries, parents would be obligated to guard and preserve the rights of their children upon either transferring their responsibility to another party or upon a child being emancipated from the parent’s trust.  Parents could legally transfer their responsibilities to other guardians to ensure the protection and preservation of their children’s rights.  As long as there exists demand for guardians of children, capitalists in the free market will provide these adoption services.  History is replete with private organizations, charities, and religious organizations that have provided such services without need of the state.

In a libertarian community, the age of emancipation or age of majority for children could potentially vary from child to child and a maximum age could potentially be set by each community.  Such an age could also be set by contract with the private defense/security insurance companies.  The maturity level and ability to assert or protect one’s own rights obviously vary from person to person.  Children could petition private courts for emancipation from any parental or guardian fiduciary or trustee obligation.  Parents or guardians could voluntarily emancipate children who are capable of asserting their rights.  Such an age could also determine the age of consent with respect to legally binding contracts and other arrangements such as marriage.

How could exploitation of children such as child pornography be dealt with in a libertarian community?  Exploitation of children is a violation of a child’s right of self-ownership.  A child cannot lawfully consent to such activity because being a legal child is to still be under the fiduciary obligation of a parent or guardian.  Such circumstances could be a crime by a parent or guardian failing to meet their fiduciary obligations in which such parent or guardian could be prosecuted by the child or families private security/defense insurance company or other private organization that represents children when their rights are violated.  Such circumstance could also be by a party not a parent or guardian without the breach of any parental obligation.  In such circumstances, the parent, the insurance company, or other organization can prosecute such exploiter of children in private court.

As a Christian, I believe from Scripture that life begins at conception.  Therefore, any initial aggression against a zygote, a fetus, or any unborn baby would be a criminal act.  Abortion is a crime equivalent to murder.  It is plausible that libertarian covenant communities could differ as to when life begins or when rights apply to children pursuant to moral agency.  However, suffice it to say that I would choose a community wherein abortion is murder.

As you can see, a libertarian society would provide for protection of children’s rights.  Such protection would likely vary somewhat among libertarian communities.  The main benefit of such a society for children is the absence of the state’s violations of the rights of children and parents.  Encroachment into child rearing, education, discipline, and the like would be absent.  Families would no longer be broken up due to parents being charged and imprisoned with victimless crimes.  It is error to imagine a libertarian utopia wherein children are free from all harm.  However, one can imagine that less intrusion by the state into families would improve the lives of families and that of children as well.

Private Law and Defense

A difficult issue for libertarians who are logically committed to the non-aggression principle (NAP) and the Austrian School of Economics is the concept of a private law and private defense society.  It is my aim in this blog post to give a concise explanation of how such a libertarian society could operate and be administered.

First, let me start off by saying that consumer demand for defense of the rights of self ownership and private property and the administration of justice with respect to those rights is a given in any civilization.  In a free market, individuals will rise to meet this consumer demand.  What capitalists/entrepreneurs  create in the free market to meet this demand is unpredictable.  However many scenarios based on the history of the law and defense can be given as examples of how such a system can operate.

In a libertarian society, there must exist a consensus among the arbiters of justice (judges/civil magistrates) that libertarian law (the NAP and the logical inferences therefrom) will be administered.  Therefore, the private judges must pledge to abide by such law.  The judges would be accountable to the consumers (the free market) by the competition of other private judges.  They would also be accountable to any covenant community (a voluntary association of individuals and families agreeing to live in a libertarian community and abide by the NAP) in which they are located.  A libertarian covenant community could rightfully remove any judge administering justice contrary to the principles of the NAP pursuant to their covenant.

In the United States, our public legal system largely developed from English common law.  The common law originally developed in England by local judges administering justice in local communities.  A libertarian private law community would likely take a similar form addressing local issues with inferences from the NAP which might slightly vary between communities.  Similarly in Celtic Ireland, people were governed by tuaths which were voluntary communities wherein Brehon law developed through local judges.  Therefore, in libertarian communities, private local judges or tribunals could decide legal conflicts and administer justice through the presentment of claims regarding violations of the NAP.

Also, in a libertarian community, consumers would demand private defense of their lives and property rights.  We find even in our society markets for home security, private security, and personal weaponry.  Without a public, monopolized police force, capitalist/entrepreneurs would meet the consumer demand of private defense/security potentially numerous ways.

One possible arrangement is by means of private security insurance companies. In the same way we pay for insurance for emergencies with respect to our health, car accidents, home accidents, or the like, so too can insurance companies provide the service of private defense in a libertarian society.  Individuals or families would contract with private security insurance companies paying periodic premiums to guard against external threats to their lives or property and potentially provide legal forums for prosecution and resolution of any breach of their rights.

One argument against a private law/defense society is that such a system could not last as the system would eventually evolve into a monopoly with the best private court/judge/security force rising to the top.  As evidence, one might point to how the English common law was eventually codified by the State, monopolizing such a legal system.  One answer to this argument is that what happened in England and elsewhere, where common law evolved into a public law system, was the result of State fiat.  Another answer to this argument is to look at the competing legal forums that are present in the world today which have not evolved into a one world court or one world government.  Citizens from different nations enter into voluntary transactions regularly wherein conflicts arise.  The injured party must decided which legal system among the two nations to seek remedy.  In the face of such conflict across national boundaries, separate public legal systems have continued.  Likewise, disputes arising between individuals of differing libertarian communities could have such a choice of legal forum.  So too, disputes that arise between neighbors in a libertarian community could have such a choice of legal forum.   A third answer to this argument is that, in a pure libertarian, free-market society, there would be an open market wherein entry of individuals deciding to compete for the administration of justice would not be prevented.  Furthermore, individuals could agree to have disputes decided by the elders of their church or any other third party.  A public legal system/police force is not inevitable and has multiple negative effects as I’ve written about here.

Hopefully, at this point, the possibility of libertarian communities operating with private legal and defense systems has been proven to the satisfaction of the skeptic.  But how specifically would private justice be administered?  A host of questions arise.

How would justice be administered if the Defendant failed to recognize the private court to which he had been summoned by the injured party?  The Defendant’s rights are always protected by the NAP.  Any force leveled against such Defendant by a private judge or private civil magistrate would be subject to counter suit by the Defendant for unjustified aggression.  The Defendant could rightfully choose not to participate in any private court proceeding. The Defendant would have appeal rights to an appellate court of his choosing whereby the lower court can be overturned.  Competing private appellate courts would exist for such scenarios.  What would prevent a never-ending progression of appellate courts?  Such an end point would need to be determined by each covenant community.

Who would enforce the judgment against a Defendant?  Private security/insurance companies providing the service of defense of rights or the private court employees could legally enforce judgments.  As various enforcement mechanisms exist in the legal system today so too would such mechanisms as writ of executions or warrants of arrest exist in the private law system.  The check on such enforcement always being the parties enforcing the judgment being subject themselves to the Non-Aggression Principle and subject to counter suit for any enforcement out of proportion to the crime committed.  The criminal however waives his assertion of rights to the extent he has transgressed against an aggrieved party.

What if a person fails to insure themselves to provide defense of their rights due to ill fortune or poverty?  If such a person’s rights are violated and they aren’t insured, then how do they get justice?  Such a person would have to rely on the private charity of others for protection.  Those individuals who repeatedly fail to insure the defense of their rights would likely find it difficult to transact business with others due to risk.  It is likely such a person would be ostracized from society.  Private charity would be the only option for such people.  It is imaginable that criminals would find it increasingly difficult to provide coverage for themselves with increasing premiums due to their crimes in contracting with private security/defense insurance companies.  It seems that the survival option for these people would be to remove themselves from their present society or rely on the charity of others.

How would private law and defense handle prosecution of serious crimes such as rape and murder?  In a private law and private defense society, victims (or their attorney/representatives or administrators of their estate) would be responsible for prosecuting crimes against their rights either by themselves or by the private security/defense insurance companies with which they contracted.  Such individuals or representatives or insurance companies could initially present claims to private tribunals for an arrest warrant to bring the alleged criminal before the court.  The various private defense/security insurance companies could also agree with each other in regards to the procedures of court appearance and other issues if one of their clients is an alleged criminal.  The tribunal and victims would respect the alleged criminals rights subject to counter suit for false imprisonment or any other violation of rights for the filing of any false allegation.  The alleged criminal would also have the aforementioned appeal rights to challenge any adverse ruling. Otherwise, such a criminal trial in a private court would operate similarly as they do in today’s’ courtrooms. Punishment of crimes would be proportional to the crime committed with the victim having the option to show whatever mercy they wished with respect to the punishment.

In conclusion, it is important to note that in a free society any voluntary transaction or voluntary association would be governed by libertarian contract law, the title-transfer theory of contracts.  As the right of self ownership is non-transferable, people have the right to individually secede from any association.  Covenant communities also have a right to remove those who fail to adhere to the covenant agreement of libertarian law.  Also, contracts in most cases could provide the choice of private legal forum for remedy of any breach of the agreement or violation of rights.

Therefore, a case for a private law and defense libertarian community can be made and can be imagined.  We do not fancy a utopian libertarian society without crime.  Certainly, the main aggressor of our time is the state but even in a libertarian community individuals will commit crimes and such criminals will rightfully under the NAP be responded to with force and justice.

For more information I would recommend reading material such as Robert Murphy’s Chaos Theory; Murray Rothbard’s For A New Liberty Ch. 12; Ethics of Liberty Ch. 13 and 19; and Power and Market Ch. 1; Hans Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed; and Christopher Chase Rachels’ A Spontaneous Order.  These materials provide invaluable information and/or analysis of what a private law and private defense society would look like and most of the analysis aforementioned has been developed by reading this and other material.

Passing Through the Eye of a Needle

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“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:16-26‬ ‭KJV‬‬).

Occasionally, you might run across Matthew 19:16-26 as justification for socialism.  The argument may run something like this:  1) Jesus makes a distinction between rich and poor wherein he is negative toward the rich, even saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for such a rich person to be saved, and wherein he is positive towards the poor, telling the rich young ruler to give away all of what he has to the poor. 2) Socialism is the only political and/or economic theory wherein money is taken from the rich and given to the poor such as Jesus commanded.  3) Therefore, socialism follows the teachings of Jesus as opposed capitalism which does not.

This argument fails for a number of reasons.  It conflates the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of man, ascribing to Jesus teaching that he does not teach.  It also misunderstands the economic and political foundations and ramifications of socialism, and in turn fails to appreciate the virtue of capitalism.

First, it is highly important to understand the context of these verses and what they actually tell us.  Jesus is teaching the rich young ruler and His disciples about how to inherit eternal life, or in other words how to enter the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is not commenting or teaching on political or economic theory which applies to the Kingdom of man.  Jesus is talking about salvation and specifically the salvation of the rich young ruler.

A recurrent theme in the Bible is a theme of two Kingdoms.  We see this theme expressed in a number of ways.  This theme is expressed best in Augustine’s masterpiece City of God.  The Kingdom of God represents the universal church.  The Kingdom of man represents hegemony of man.   Augustine in The City of God writes: “Of these two first parents of the human race, then, Cain was the first-born, and he belonged to the city of men; after him was born Abel, who belonged to the city of God. For as in the individual the truth of the apostle’s statement is discerned, that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual,” 1 Corinthians 15:46 Whence it comes to pass that each man, being derived from a condemned stock, is first of all born of Adam evil and carnal, and becomes good and spiritual only afterwards, when he is grafted into Christ by regeneration: so was it in the human race as a whole. When these two cities began to run their course by a series of deaths and births, the citizen of this world was the first-born, and after him the stranger in this world, the citizen of the city of God, predestined by grace, elected by grace, by grace a stranger below, and by grace a citizen above. By grace—for so far as regards himself he is sprung from the same mass, all of which is condemned in its origin; but God, like a potter (for this comparison is introduced by the apostle judiciously, and not without thought), of the same lump made one vessel to honor, another to dishonor. Romans 9:21 But first the vessel to dishonor was made, and after it another to honor. For in each individual, as I have already said, there is first of all that which is reprobate, that from which we must begin, but in which we need not necessarily remain; afterwards is that which is well-approved, to which we may by advancing attain, and in which, when we have reached it we may abide. Not, indeed, that every wicked man shall be good, but that no one will be good who was not first of all wicked; but the sooner any one becomes a good man, the more speedily does he receive this title, and abolish the old name in the new. Accordingly, it is recorded of Cain that he built a city, Genesis 4:17 but Abel, being a sojourner, built none. For the city of the saints is above, although here below it begets citizens, in whom it sojourns till the time of its reign arrives, when it shall gather together all in the day of the resurrection; and then shall the promised kingdom be given to them, in which they shall reign with their Prince, the King of the ages, time without end.” Book XV, Chapter 1.

The Kingdom of God is a spiritual  kingdom wherein admittance is by God and involves questions of eternal life and salvation.  The Kingdom of man involves the earthly kingdoms started by Cain building the first city and involves questions of economic and political theory.  Clearly, the rich young ruler is asking questions in regard to and Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom of God and not the economic and political theory of the Kingdom of man.

What do we learn about salvation and entering the Kingdom of God?  We learn from the teachings of Jesus that following the law does not give us eternal life.  We learn that salvation is only possible through God alone.  The rich young ruler was specifically lacking in one area of the law, the first commandment.  He placed his wealth above that of God.  However, we all lack rich or poor in following the law as all have sinned and fallen short.  However, what is impossible for us is possible with God.

Furthermore, Jesus’ command to give what you have to the poor is not an implied endorsement of socialism.  Socialism is the economic system wherein the means of production are owned publicly.  A socialist system is not a private property system.  To the extent property is owned privately in a socialistic system, such property is subject to be taken by the force of the state to meet what the state deems to be the public need.  As Rothbard so correctly states in Man, Economy, and State p. 958 “When government ownership or control extends to the entire productive system, then the economic system is called socialism. Socialism, in short, is the violent abolition of the market, the compulsory monopolization of the entire productive sphere by the State. There are two and only two ways that any economy can be organized. One is by freedom and voluntary choice—the way of the market. The other is by force and dictation—the way of the State. To those ignorant of economics, it may seem that the way of the market is only anarchic confusion and chaos, while the way of the State constitutes genuine organization and “central planning.” On the contrary, we have seen in this book [Man, Economy, and State – TS] what an amazing and flexible mechanism the market is for satisfying the wants of all individuals. State operation or intervention is, on the other hand, far less efficient and creates many disruptive and cumulative problems of its own. Moreover, a socialist State, deprived of the real market and its determination of prices for producers’ goods, cannot calculate and can therefore run a productive system only in chaotic fashion. The economics of socialism—a whole branch of economics of its own—can only be touched upon here; suffice it to say that Mises’ demonstration of the impossibility of economic calculation under socialism has never been successfully refuted.”

The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 is presupposed to privately own the wealth Jesus commands to give to the poor.  Jesus makes no statement that such property is at all communal or public.  Neither does Jesus command that the rich young ruler’s property be taken by force to be given to the poor.  After all, Jesus, being a perfect man, lived by all the commandments, including Thou shalt not steal.  In no sense can Jesus’ teaching here be about socialism.  It is rather about the salvation of the rich young ruler.

In the Kingdom of God, the believers’ life is not his own as it was bought with a price.  So too what the believer possesses is not his own as all belongs to God and the believer but a steward.  However, in the Kingdom of man, with respect to man’s relation to man, we have a right of  self ownership and the right to property that we homestead, mix with our labor, or acquire through voluntary transaction.  It violates God’s moral law to initiate aggression against a man’s body (Thou shalt not kill) or a man’s possessions (Thou shalt not steal).

Clearly, socialism by taking the property of others by force violates the law of God. However, does capitalism allow for the giving of possessions to the poor or can it explain anything in relation to Jesus and the rich young ruler? Capitalism is the economic system wherein the means of production are privately owned. Transactions are all voluntary and determined by the subjective value of the actors.  One actor values a good owned by another more so than what he is willing to give for such good and vice versa.  Both people profit in a voluntary transaction.  Profit is not only monetary but psychic.  For the believer, seeing property ultimately owned by God, there is a great potential for psychic profit by giving possessions to the poor.  Therefore, capitalism provides a proper economic analysis of the believer giving their possessions to the poor voluntarily without violating God’s law by the use of force.  The rich young ruler failed to see the psychic profit of giving all he had to the poor.  He subjectively valued his wealth greater than that of eternal life.  His decision to turn away from Jesus shows the subjective value the rich young ruler had of the Kingdom of God.  It was less than that of his wealth thus he turned away from Jesus.

Thankfully, Christ came to save us from ourselves, giving His life as a ransom for many.  He values those who believe enough to pass us through the eye of the needle unto eternal life.

 

An examination of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan by Austin Murray

All of human culture is affected by experience. Whether a person wants to admit it or not, everyone is molded by their cultural environments and their personal experiences. Many people learn valuable lessons from their personal experiences. However, it is intellectually dangerous to make universal truth claims based on individual perspective. In his book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes makes this error. Hobbes uses literary prose and rhetoric, influenced by personal experience and faulty presuppositions, to make universal truth claims in Leviathan, which cannot be substantiated.

Thomas Hobbes was an English Philosopher and writer who lived in the 17th century. Hobbes was born in an era of political turmoil. According to Dr. J.P. Sommerville, Hobbes’ mother was frightened into premature labor after she heard about the impending attack from the Spanish Armada. Hobbes graduated from Oxford in 1608. After his graduation, Hobbes became a tutor for the Cavendish household where he spent most of his lifetime. Hobbes witnessed the English Civil War’s destructive consequences to English infrastructure, mores and societal norms. Dr. Sommerville notes that many in England, including Hobbes, had “little taste for the growth in power of the clergy”. In fact, the English Civil War had birthed “an explosion of religious and political radicalism” that repulsed most of the middle class. (Sommerville: Context)

Disdain and distrust for the religiously-fueled, political zealotry in 17th century England caused many of the intellectual and societal elites to focus on the ideas of “education, science, reason, Erastianism and political order.” (Sommerville: Context) As Katherine Eisaman Maus and Barbara Lewalski note, “the English Civil War and its aftermath raised fundamental questions about the nature and legitimacy of state power. In 1651 Thomas Hobbes attempted to answer those questions in his ambitious masterwork of political philosophy, Leviathan.” (724) As stated earlier, societal and intellectual elites had become enamored with science and reason while also moving away from traditional religious institutions. Hobbes, having been influenced by these social elites, “grounded his political vision upon a comprehensive philosophy of nature and knowledge. Hobbes held that everything in the universe is composed only of matter; spirit does not exist.” (Maus, and Lewalski 724) This change in philosophy was reflected in literature. For example, according to James Reeves, “wit and good sense were indeed the distinguishing marks of the literature of this period…the age was opposed to idealism, enthusiasm, and extravagance.” (107) The literature was influenced by the prevailing philosophy of the day; philosophy was derived from “the self-regarding materialism of Hobbes”. (Reeves 107)

In addition to being a philosophical materialist, Hobbes, among other writers in the 17th century, pioneered the literary style known as discursive prose. James Reeves writes that, “Hobbes…perfected a [discursive] prose which made it unnecessary, and even anachronistic, to use verse for narrative, philosophical and moralistic subjects. (122-123)

Discursive prose became one of the most influential and popular literary techniques. As Cleanth Brooks, John Thibaut Purser, and Robert Penn Warren write in their book, An Approach to Literature:

Our most common form of writing is what may be called discursive prose – the form of logical discourse. Inasmuch as our age prides itself on its recognition of the sanctity of ‘fact’ and its respect for common sense, it is only to be expected that non-fictional prose should ordinarily be thought of as that form of writing that has to do with the presentation of facts and the handling of facts in relation to ideas. (431)

Examples of Hobbes’ prosaic use are abundant in Leviathan. For example, in chapter thirteen Hobbes writes “there is always war of everyone against everyone. Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war.” (Hobbes 728)

Here the presentation of facts that necessitates a conclusion. Hobbes’ argument can be summed up this way: Firstly, that man’s nature is to combat other men, and, without a common power, fighting will continue. Secondly, fighting continues. Therefore, men need a common power. Throughout Leviathan, Hobbes uses discursive prose as a formula for prescriptive measures used to resolve the problems of the descriptive ‘facts’ that he has presented.

Hobbes observed warfare and violence in his homeland and inferred that conflict and violence were the natural state of man. He then used this inference to declare that the only way to keep men from killing each other continuously was to subject them to a strong central authority in the form of an authoritarian government. Hobbes considers this government to be a collective body, which he calls an artificial man. Hobbes writes:

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as in his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition that there be no property, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every mans that he can get; and for so long as he can keep it. And this much for the ill condition, which man by mere nature is actually placed in; though with a possibility to come out of it, consistently then, partly in passions partly in his reasons. (Hobbes 729)

This is the foundational presupposition of Hobbes’ argument. Without an authoritarian society there is no right or wrong, there is no is or ought, there is only death and exploitation.

When evaluating Hobbes’ Leviathan, the reader must use different lenses. Viewing Leviathan through the lens of literary criticism, it is evident that it is a literary classic. Hobbes demonstrates a masterful use of prose. He presents facts, raises objections, draws conclusions and prescribes solutions with fluency and expertise. Unfortunately, despite all of Leviathan’s literary merits, it fails as a political and philosophical treatise. This is due to the data that Hobbes chooses to present as “fact”. At best, much of the data is contested. At worst, it is foundationally flawed.

The central thesis of Hobbes’ work is that without society, men will kill and exploit each other constantly. Hobbes views pre-societal man as a brutal savage. Hobbes’ natural man is nothing more than a ravenous animal, walking upright with opposable thumbs. To Hobbes, opposable thumbs make man a more efficient killer and little more. The problem with this thesis is that it is unsubstantiated. How can Hobbes possibly know what prehistoric man was like? The answer is that he cannot. Hobbes observes man in society and witnesses violence, and he therefore concludes that without society there would be no metric to declare that this violence is bad. Furthermore, in the English Civil War, Hobbes witnesses collective violence within society and concludes that a stronger central authority within society is the solution. However, this prescription is dependent on the above thesis. In his book The Great Fiction: Property, Economy, Society, and the Politics of Decline, Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe points out that there is an entirely different narrative of human nature. Dr. Hoppe writes:

The “modern humans” led a nomadic hunter-gatherer life-style. Societies were composed of small bands of people (10–30), which occasionally met and formed a common genetic pool of about 150 and may be up to 500 people (a size which geneticists have found to be necessary in order to avoid dysgenic effects. The division of labor was limited, with the main partition being that between women—acting mostly as gatherers—and men—acting mostly as hunters. While private property of tools and implements was known and recognized, the nomadic lifestyle only allowed for little possessions and hence made hunter-gatherer societies comparatively egalitarian. Nonetheless, life initially appears to have been good for our forebears. Only a few hours of regular work allowed for a comfortable life, with good (high protein) nourishment and plenty of leisure time. Indeed, fossil findings (skeletons and teeth) seem to indicate that our hunter-gatherer forebears enjoyed a life expectancy of well above 30 years, which was only reached again in the course of the nineteenth century. Contra Hobbes, their life was anything but nasty, brutish, and short. (Hoppe: A short history)

As stated earlier, the savage, murderous and exploitative lives of pre-societal man is the lynchpin of Hobbes argument. However, Hoppe contends that the life of the “savage” was comparatively egalitarian, and that pre-societal men recognized private property. Was there violence? Yes. However, affirming that violence exists and knowing why that violence occurred are not the same thing. Dr. Benjamin Wiker takes his critique of Leviathan a step further, calling Hobbes’ state of nature completely mythical. Dr. Wiker argues that “Neither Hobbes nor anyone else living in the 17th century could have had a clue about what human origins were really like. Archeology wasn’t even in infancy.” (34) Dr. Wiker also argues that in Hobbes’ state of nature, humanity would have self-destructed long before humankind could establish civilization. (34) He asks, “How could families ever have begun and grown into tribes if men were little more than blood-thirsty killers and wandering rapists, and women became cannibals soon after they became mothers?” (Wiker 35) The arguments by Dr. Hoppe and Dr. Wiker make it clear that Hobbes’ natural man is not a priori. However, even if the reader accepts Hobbes’ natural man prima facie, there is still a severe inductive problem with Hobbes’ conclusion.

Hobbes’ concludes that because humanity in its natural state is destructive and violent, humanity must come together and collectively form an artificial human. (Stone 2) Hobbes’ artificial human is known in political theory as a collective voice. The problem with Hobbes’ artificial man is this: if a collective voice exists at all, the collective voice would need to closely mirror the individual voices. But how can Hobbes’ natural human who as individuals, act as violent brutes, come together to form a collective voice? Asked another way, how can violent individuals make up a peaceful collective? Peter Stone writes:

If collective persons exist, then they must somehow be similar to natural persons. For Hobbes, the critical property shared by all persons was rational agency. A person is a being that (normally) decides how to act on the basis of reasons. And so if collective persons exist, one must be able to attribute to them actions of this sort. And they must be rational actions, at least in the typical case; if one believes that an agent normally acts in ways contrary to the reasons available to her, one must question whether those reasons really are available to the agent—or, indeed, whether the agent is really an agent at all. (3)

Hobbes has already argued that natural man’s agent is “force and fraud” (Hobbes 729)

Once examined, the logical fallacy of Leviathan is easily demonstrated. There are only two logical options for Hobbes’ worldview. Either, pre-societal individuals who use agents of force and fraud come together to form a collective body who then, forced to remain consistent with their nature, use force and fraud on a larger scale. Or, Hobbes’ natural man is mythical and does not represent the true nature of humanity. Either the reader is left wondering how through collective action, magnifying the violent nature of individual man can be considered an improvement. Or, Hobbes’ natural man is false, in which case the reader must reject his conclusions and his prescription. Said another way, either Hobbes’ premise is true and his prescription just enhances the problem, or his premise is flawed and therefore, his prescription is equally flawed. Either way, logic dictates that his arguments must be rejected.

Hobbes, like all of humanity, was influenced by his culture and environment. He was an observer of political strife and violence who used the data available to him to draw conclusions about humanity and nature. He was an innovative writer who used reason and observation to write in new and inventive ways. As a literary work, Hobbes’ Leviathan is a classic. However, as has been demonstrated in this paper his philosophical system and truth claims do not stand up to scrutiny and must be rejected. Hobbes’ was an influential and inventive writer, unfortunately, at least in the case of Leviathan, he was a poor philosopher.

Works Cited
Brooks, Cleanth, John Thibaut Purser, and Robert Penn Warren. An Approach to Literature. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964. 431. Print.

Hobbes, Thomas. “Leviathan.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2013. 728. Print.

Hobbes, Thomas. “Leviathan.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2013. 729. Print.

Hobbes, Thomas. “Leviathan.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2013. 729. Print.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. “A Short History of Man: Progress and Decline.” Mises Institute. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <https://mises.org/library/short- history-man-progress-and-decline/html/p/522>.

Maus, Katharine Eisaman., and Lewalski Barbara, eds. Thomas Hobbes. The Norton Anthology English Literature, 9th Ed. 2013. 724. Print.

Maus, Katharine Eisaman., and Lewalski Barbara, eds. Thomas Hobbes. The Norton Anthology English Literature, 9th Ed. 2013. 724. Print.

Reeves, James. A Short History of English Poetry 1340-1940. London: Heinemann, 1970. 107. Print.

Reeves, James. A Short History of English Poetry 1340-1940. London: Heinemann, 1970. 107. Print.

Reeves, James. A Short History of English Poetry 1340-1940. London: Heinemann, 1970. 122-123. Print.

Sommerville, J. P. “Thomas Hobbes.” Thomas Hobbes. Web. 03 Apr. 2016. <https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/367/367-091.htm>.

Sommerville, J. P. “Thomas Hobbes.” Thomas Hobbes. Web. 03 Apr. 2016. <https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/367/367-091.htm>.

Stone, Peter. “Hobbes’ Problem.” The Good Society 24.1 (2015): 2. Web.

Stone, Peter. “Hobbes’ Problem.” The Good Society 24.1 (2015): 3. Web.

Wiker, Benjamin. 10 Books That Screwed up the World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2008. 34. Print.

Wiker, Benjamin. 10 Books That Screwed up the World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2008. 34. Print.

Wiker, Benjamin. 10 Books That Screwed up the World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2008. 35. Print.

Render Unto Caesar?

Matthew 22:15-22 (KJV) “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

If a Christian libertarian finds himself in an argument with another Christian over the issue of taxation, surely at some point the famous words of Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” will be anxiously used.  This verse is quickly pulled out as a potential trump card to conclude that Jesus gave his full support and sanction for state taxation.  However, it is my contention that this interaction with Jesus and the Pharisee’s disciple is misapplied to the issue of the legitimacy of taxation as Jesus was pointing the Pharisee’s disciple to a greater application of allegiance and devotion.

It is apparent from the text of Scripture that the purpose of the Pharisee’s disciple’s question was to trap Jesus and to trick Him into answering a question that would find dissatisfaction either among the government or in the least, among the crowd.  The Pharisees were looking for a way to have Jesus arrested and how better than to have Him openly sanction civil disobedience.  It is further apparent from the text that Jesus saw through their deceit.  In light of this trickery, we can readily admit that the question posed to Jesus was in regards to the legitimacy and lawfulness of taxation.  The question must be raised whether or not Jesus answered this question to give legitimacy to state taxation.  My thesis is that Jesus did not answer the Pharisee’s disciple’s question to give legitimacy to taxation but used the question for God’s glory.

One interesting observation is that Jesus asks the Pharisee’s disciple a question in response, saying “Why tempt ye me?”  This question makes us ask, how is Jesus being tempted?  Is Jesus being tempted to show allegiance to a pagan?  Is Jesus being tempted to foment revolt?  How is Jesus’ tempted?  It might be best to answer this question on the dialogue which follows.

With the trick question asked “ Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?,” Jesus provides another interesting question back to the Pharisee’s disciple.  He demands to see the coin and asks “Whose is this image and superscription?” for Caesar’s image was on the coin.  The original trick question being one of lawfulness under the law of God, one is reminded that the first three commandments are as follows: from Deut. 5:7-9 (KJV) “Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”  Was Jesus being tempted by the Pharisee’s disciple to serve a graven image, Caesar claiming to be worshiped?  That interpretation seems within the realm of possibility.

However, the point of Caesar’s image on the coin is that such a stamped image on a coin is an indication that Caesar owns the coin or in any way that the coin with the stamped image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.  Thus Jesus’ reply “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”  is a statement giving a validation for the private property rights of Caesar even if such rights are in the form of a privately-owned government.  What is Caesar’s?  If the coin is his, as his image is on it, then give it to him.

In any event, the point of this interaction is not that we should render unto Caesar.  To focus on that partial exchange without including the conclusion is to miss the point of the full gospel message of the encounter.  For Jesus further expounds, “and unto God, the things that are God’s.”  The question remains, what is God’s?  For Haggai 2:8 (KJV) states that “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.”  So, there is an apparent conflict with what may be Caesar’s and what is God’s.  However, I believe the application is on a completely different level.  I do not believe Jesus was wanting us to answer “who owns what?” from this exchange.  The emphasis was on the image of the coin.  Where is God’s image?

The question of God’s image places this exchange in the category of an argumentum a fortiori which Jesus used frequently in His sermons.  Argumentum a fortiori is an argument based on stronger reason. It is when an argument is proposed where the more probable of possibilities are affirmed and a conclusion is arrived at. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater.  Such an argument is used by Jesus in the following places to name a few: Matthew 6:26-28 (KJV) “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:” and also Luke 11:11-13 “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

So the exchange brings forth a message that if we are to give to Caesar that which is stamped with Caesar’s image, how much so are we to give to God that which is stamped with God’s image.  And what is stamped with God’s image but the soul of the believer, for man was made in the image of God.  Genesis 1:27.  Furthermore, the believer is being made into the image of Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18.  Therefore, er are to render unto God our very soul.  We are to render unto God our mind to be renewed and not to be conformed to the world.  Romans 12:2.  The point of this passage is not the validation of taxation.  The point of the passage is rendering ourselves unto God for His glory.  Furthermore, Christ is the image of God. Colossions 1:15.  We are to give Him our allegiance as King of kings and Lord of lords.  The Pharisee’s disciple instead of tricking Jesus with a question of taxation should have recognized Jesus Christ as Messiah, as the image of God.  As the image of Caesar, representing the City of man, was quick to be recognized on a coin, the disciple was completely lost when confronted with the image of God, Jesus Christ.  Let us not make the same mistake here.

So when confronted with “Render unto Caesar..” let us emphasize rendering ourselves unto God for His glory.  And let us not forget that Taxation is theft…

 

 

The State is an Inherent Evil

One belief for many Christians, which forms an incorrect political worldview, is the view that the state is a good gift of God and is thus inherently good.  If the state is inherently good, then to challenge the existence of the state is to challenge the goodness of God.  My thesis of this article is that the state is not inherently good, is not a good gift of God, and is, in actuality, inherently evil.

James Madison in The Federalist Papers famously writes: “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” The Federalist No. 51.  Madison, in defense of the Constitution and the formation of a federal government, makes no appeal to an inherent good of government.  On the contrary, Madison views government as a necessary evil needing to be controlled.  Whether the Constitution provides such control is a question for another time.  However, the father of the Constitution did not deem government inherently good.

Whatever the view of the founders of the U.S. government, the Christian would be well served to look to Scripture to form a basis for the view of earthly government as inherently good or inherently evil.  The Genesis account of Cain and Abel provides a key understanding of the formation of earthly governance in contrast to that of the Kingdom of God.  The explanation of such contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man is best portrayed by Augustine in The City of God.  Augustine in The City of God writes: “Of these two first parents of the human race, then, Cain was the first-born, and he belonged to the city of men; after him was born Abel, who belonged to the city of God. For as in the individual the truth of the apostle’s statement is discerned, that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual,” 1 Corinthians 15:46  Whence it comes to pass that each man, being derived from a condemned stock, is first of all born of Adam evil and carnal, and becomes good and spiritual only afterwards, when he is grafted into Christ by regeneration: so was it in the human race as a whole. When these two cities began to run their course by a series of deaths and births, the citizen of this world was the first-born, and after him the stranger in this world, the citizen of the city of God, predestined by grace, elected by grace, by grace a stranger below, and by grace a citizen above. By grace—for so far as regards himself he is sprung from the same mass, all of which is condemned in its origin; but God, like a potter (for this comparison is introduced by the apostle judiciously, and not without thought), of the same lump made one vessel to honor, another to dishonor. Romans 9:21 But first the vessel to dishonor was made, and after it another to honor. For in each individual, as I have already said, there is first of all that which is reprobate, that from which we must begin, but in which we need not necessarily remain; afterwards is that which is well-approved, to which we may by advancing attain, and in which, when we have reached it we may abide. Not, indeed, that every wicked man shall be good, but that no one will be good who was not first of all wicked; but the sooner any one becomes a good man, the more speedily does he receive this title, and abolish the old name in the new. Accordingly, it is recorded of Cain that he built a city, Genesis 4:17 but Abel, being a sojourner, built none. For the city of the saints is above, although here below it begets citizens, in whom it sojourns till the time of its reign arrives, when it shall gather together all in the day of the resurrection; and then shall the promised kingdom be given to them, in which they shall reign with their Prince, the King of the ages, time without end.” Book XV, Chapter 1.

What can we derive from the fact that Cain built the first earthly city?  Cain had to establish civil governance by building the first city as the governance of this city was not by God, as is the case with the City of God or Kingdom of Heaven.  Civil governance was instituted after the Fall of Man.  Civil governance was not an institution that God created and declared good in the 6-day creation.  Cain, not being a citizen of the City of God, instituted earthly civil governance as a result of his evil nature opposed to the City God and God’s perfect governance.  The facts that civil governance occurred after the Fall of Man, in opposition to God’s governance, and was established by Cain gives clear Scriptural authority to conclude that the earthly state is not inherently good but inherently evil and is an antithesis to the City of God.

Further support of the inherent evil of government is given by the Christian philosopher Gordon Clark.  In A Christian View of Men and Things, Gordon Clark writes the following: “In thus avoiding the disjunction between Aristotle’s natural government and Rousseau’s conventional government, the Christian theory of politics is consistent with its view of human nature as it now actually is. All the non-theistic systems assume that the present condition of man is moral; the Christian system views actual humanity as abnormal.  This answers a question which is occasionally raised in political discussion as to whether the state is a positive good or essentially an evil.  The Christian answer is that the state is not a positive or unconditional good, but rather a necessary evil.  To do justice to the Christian view, one must insist on both adjective and noun.  The state is an evil not only because of the abuse of power by the magistrates, but also because it interferes with freedom and introduces an unnatural superiority among men.”  Man’s total depravity, his sinful nature, his lack of goodness, contributes to the proof that the state is not inherently good, but a necessary evil.

I am completely unaware of any Scripture that explicitly states or from which one can derive the premise that the state is a good gift from God or inherently good.  The most likely verse or group of verses for such a premise must be the oft-cited Romans 13:1-7.  Romans 13:1-7 (KJV) “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”  Now the key phrase in this passage would seem to be “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.”  However, this verse does not say the role of the minister is good, or the minister is good, of civil governance is good.  The verse states that the minister’s role is used by God for good.  The role of minister is a means God uses for our good.  This verse is consistent with that of Romans 8:28 (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Certainly, these same people would not argue that “all things” are God’s good gifts or that “all things” are inherently good.  Clearly, Romans 13 does not provide a basis to claim the state or the institution of civil governance is inherently good but merely portrays a civil magistrate as being a means for God’s good gifts such as justice.

Therefore, the institution of earthly government is not a good gift from God and is not inherently good. Good governance is by God’s moral law alone in the City of God alone.  In the earthly kingdom of man, earthly government was initially institute by Cain as a result of fratricide which in turn was a result of the sinful nature of man from the fall of man. The earthly kingdom was instituted by the fall of man and through sin. Earthly governance is necessary but that does not make it inherently good. This dichotomy further provides part of the understanding of the importance of the separation of church and state. Governance of the church by God’s moral law where Christ is the head is inherently good. Governance by the state is inherently evil. God uses the earthly state as a means to our good. This doesn’t mean the state is good, it means the result is good whether it be justice which is good or peace which is good.

If we agree that God’s peace is a good gift, then it makes sense that civil governance be based on a political ethic of peace.  The Non-Aggression Principle is such a political ethic of peace on which to base necessary earthly governance.  I have written about such a Biblical political ethic here.

A Libertarian Case for Corporal Punishment from a Biblical Perspective

Ephesians 6:1-4 (KJV) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is defined by the Ludwig von Mises Institute as “an ethical stance which asserts that “aggression” is inherently illegitimate. “Aggression” is defined as the “initiation” of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property.”

At first glance, the Non-Aggression Principle seems to contradict Biblical parenting in the use of force or corporal punishment in disciplining children.  My thesis in this article is that the use of corporal punishment is consistent with the Non-Aggression Principle as a just means to defend the child’s right to life and to punish aggressive acts.

The Non-Aggression Principle is based on the right of self-ownership.  The right of self-ownership implies the inalienable right to life and the inalienable right to liberty.  The right to life is a negative right defined as the legal claim that no one has the right to aggress against the legitimate and just right of self-ownership.  The right of self-ownership implies apart from the right to life, the right to liberty of the freedom to choose ends or to adopt ideas that otherwise do not aggress against the legitimate and just self-ownership or property rights of others.  Rothbard argues that life is an objective, ultimate value.  It is axiomatic for the basis of political ethics since to argue against life would be to commit self-contradiction in the argument. See Ethics of Liberty, pages 32-33.

The parent-child relationship is a unique relationship in regards to political ethics.  Parents in exercising their right to liberty exercise their freedom to choose means and in their exercise of these rights at times produce children.  The child from conception is endowed with the inalienable right to life and no one has the right to aggress against the child’s legitimate and just right of self-ownership.  Since the parents have their inalienable right to liberty and the child has an inalienable right to life, conflict invariably arises between parental rights to liberty and the child’s right to life as the child’s life is dependent on the parents, especially from the mother during pregnancy.  Children further lack the capacity at early ages to defend their right of self-ownership and their property rights.  Since life is the ultimate value and axiomatic to political ethics, conflict between the parental inalienable right to liberty or the freedom to choose the means to their ends and the child’s right to life must be decided by the libertarian legal theorist or arbitrator by giving priority to the child’s right to life.

Priority given to the child’s right to life is further necessary due to the the child’s defenseless life being the product of the parents’ exercise of their inalienable right to liberty.  If an actor’s actions place another person in a situation of foreseeable harm or imminent danger, such actor has a duty to take action to mitigate the harm done to such other person or else face potential legal action for aggression.  For example, if walking along a pier, I accidentally bump into to a person who then falls into the ocean, I have a duty to mitigate the harm done to such person by calling for help or rescuing the person myself lest I open myself to the potential consequence of the person drowning and being charged with killing said person.  Likewise, if I invite someone on a ride in an airplane I own, I cannot legitimately decide mid-flight to exercise my property right to exclude said person from my plane which would be to place said person in a position of foreseeable harm and imminent danger most certainly which would end said person’s life.  A child’s position in life at a young age is comparable to such scenarios.  The actions of parents have placed children in a vulnerable state wherein the parent must take action to defend the right of self-ownership and the property rights of children until they are capable of providing the defense of such rights on their own.  Such capability would vary on a case-by-case basis according to the mental and physical capabilities of the child.  Now, Rothbard in his masterpiece, Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 14 in regards to the relationship of parents and children rejects as fallacious an argument that parents have any positive obligation to their children due to the fact that such a positive obligation would aggress against the parent’s right of self-ownership.  However, as described in the above scenarios and examples, such parent waives such rights of self-ownership being estopped to make a legal claim for such negative right, due to the reliance of the child on the parent for its own right of self-ownership or property rights.

The duty of the parents toward their child is equivalent to that of a fiduciary relationship.  The parents would have a duty to look after the best interests of the child with respect to their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property.  In essence, parents are trustees or agents or guardian ad litems with respect to the life, liberty, and property of their children.  See Ethics of Liberty, page 139.  Parents must defend these rights in accordance with the best interest of the child according to the parents inalienable right of liberty to choose those ends as long as they do not conflict with the child’s right to life.

Having established the duty of parents to defend the child’s right of self-ownership and property, we must turn to the question of parents actions towards children to determine whether they are acts of aggression and acts of defense.  Murray Rothbard states that “in concrete cases, we [the libertarian legal theorist or legal arbitrator] must decide whether any single act is aggressive or defensive.” Ethics of Liberty, pg 52.  An analysis of this question provides an answer to the issues of the legality of abortion, vaccination, health care, and parental discipline.

If we have established the premise that a child’s right of life takes priority over the parent’s right of liberty due to life being an objective, ultimate value in political ethics and parental actions causing the child’s vulnerability in their inability to defend their inalienable right to life and thus if we have established the fiduciary relationship between parents and children, then it becomes fairly easy to determine that abortion is a criminal act equivalent of murder.  Parental duty to vaccinate or provide health care for a child would require evaluation on a case by case basis.  Parents subject themselves to criminal liability if a private court would find that their actions not to vaccinate or not to provide health care to their child violated their duty to defend their child’s right to life.  It must be emphasized that no one has a positive right to vaccination or a right to health care.  However, parents have a duty with respect to a child’s sickness or potential sickness to take action to preserve the child’s right to life.  What actions being required to preserve the child’s right to life being dependent on the facts of each concrete case.

Similarly, parental acts of discipline would require analysis on a case-by-case basis.  Such parental acts of discipline are either aggressive or defensive.  Here also we find the seemingly contradiction between Biblical parenting,which would allow for corporal punishment, and the Non-Aggression Principle.  However, corporal punishment is an act of parental discipline that is either aggressive or defensive.  This premise requires explanation as it is controversial to those who would promote peaceful parenting or state that child corporal punishment violates the NAP.  A defense of corporal punishment as an act of defending the child’s rights is therefore required.

P1 From Ephesians 6:1-4 and Proverbs 13:24, the premise can be deduced that some corporal punishment [from a parent to a child] is a just means for a child to live a long life.

P2 [Pursuant to the NAP as founded on the right of self-ownership and as explained in the aforementioned argument], parents [as defenders of their child’s right to life] are users of just means [according to their freedom to choose just means to ends] for a child to live a long life.

Conclusion: Parents [as defenders of their child’s right to life] are users of some corporal punishment as a just means for their child to live a long life.

The conclusion has the effect of making some use of corporal punishment by parents in disciplining their children consistent with the NAP in regards to defending the child’s right to life.  Therefore, the use of corporal punishment in such instances is justified pursuant to the political ethic of the NAP.

The first premise is likely to receive the greatest challenge (especially from those who reject the truth of God’s Word) and needs the most explanation as it is not clear how corporal punishment defends a child’s right to life.  Examples of corporal punishment in this regards would be those that discipline a child from putting their life in harms way.  A child must learn obedience to instruction of parents to keep themselves out of harm’s way.  Children, on their own, do not appreciate the danger of running into traffic or playing with fire.  Foreseeable bodily harm or death is likely in such instances.  Corporal punishment is a just means to defend the child’s right to life, using it as an indication and appreciation of pain as an alternative to the pain from the child’s lack of obedience and disregard for their right to life which the parents have a duty to defend.     Furthermore, children do not appreciate their rights of liberty or property or the respective rights of others.  Children committing aggressive acts on others are also justly punished by corporal punishment as long as it is proportional to the aggressive act they have committed.  Pursuant to the Bible and the NAP, parental acts of discipline with respect to corporal punishment can become aggressive acts if not proportional to acts the child has committed or if not proportional to the defense of the child’s right to life as Scripture states “provoke not your children to wrath.”

 

Political Implications of the Cost of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-33 (KJV) ” And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,  If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

Scripture is clear that as a disciple of Christ Jesus, our life is not our own.  The cost of discipleship is our very lives.  My thesis is that this cost of discipleship has political implications which require a political ethic based on the right of self ownership.  The only political ethic which is based on the right of self-ownership is libertarianism.

Libertarianism is founded on the political ethic of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) which I have previously written about here as a Christian Political Ethic of Peace and which I conclude is based on Scripture.  The basis of the NAP from Scripture is evidenced from verses upholding the right of self-ownership and the implications of the right of self-ownership which are private property rights from original appropriation and transfer of title.

To deny libertarianism is to deny the right of self-ownership.  The denial of libertarianism in the very least is to make exception to such right vis-a-vis the state or other individuals.  So the question remains, does Scripture allow exception to the right of self-ownership?  Does the state or other individuals at any time make a valid claim for our lives?  My answer to these questions is a resounding no.  In support of this assertion, I look at Luke 14:25-33 to show that to answer in the affirmative is to deny the cost of discipleship and to deny that which God Almighty lays claim to His chosen people.

If any potential group of people have a claim over one’s right of self-ownership, then it would be one’s family.  Yet the Lord, laying His claim over the life of a disciple, makes it clear in Luke 14:26 that family relations have no such claim.  The disciple is to foresake family relations when in conflict with the Lord.  Note that the Lord makes no plea to the family to foresake their claims to that of a family member when seeking the life of a disciple.  There is no need.  The disciple is giving up his claim to the right and potential duty of those relationships.  There is no exception to the right of self-ownership for family.

The Lord gives two examples of wise men weighing costs with respect to two situations.  The first man is the master builder who weighs the cost of building a tower.  Prudence tells the man to make sure he has enough material to finish the project.  The master builder must make sure he can bear the cost or else be subject to mockery.  The second man is the king who weighs the cost of battle.  Prudence tells the king to make sure his army has enough men to win the battle or else he must make peace.  So too, the disciple must weigh the cost of following Christ which is his very life.

If the disciple views claims on his life as not solely his own, then his life is clearly divided.  The disciple cannot give his life away if it is partly owned by the state, partly owned by his neighbors, or partly owned by his family.  If such is the case, then permission must be had from the state, from the community, from the family to follow Christ.  Surely this madness cannot stand.  In fact, such thinking is a great barrier of devoting one’s self to Christ as seen in Scripture.  Luke 9:57-62 (KJV) “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

A simple generalization of current politics is that leftists seek to denigrate private property in favor of wealth distribution enforced by the state yet seek to uphold personal liberty and that rightists seek to denigrate personal liberty in favor of morality enforced by the state yet seek to uphold private property.  Both positions fundamentally erode the right of self ownership in that both positions seek to use initial aggression and coercion against people acting without aggression towards others.  Both positions seek a just claim by the state against one’s right to self ownership.

An interesting query would be to those on the religious right, whether one should ask for permission from them to give up their life, their right to self-ownership, to follow Christ since they stake a just claim on said right?  One must surely recognize the competing claim to the citizen’s life the state makes in contrast to that of God and the idolatry that is sure to result.  Unless, the goal of the religious right is to have us render unto Caesar and the expense of rendering unto God.

No.  The right of self ownership has no exception other than being bought by God. 1 Corinthians 6:20 (KJV)For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”