Friday, October 07, 2005

I am a libertarian

"...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."

"...Now to such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."

--St. Paul to the Christians at Thessolonica

In writing to the Christians at Thessolonica, St. Paul succinctly encapsulates a simple form of government: self-government. Christians are to govern themselves by living quietly, minding their own business, working with their own hands in order to earn their own living, setting a proper example for those outside the faith, and to be dependent upon no one. Perhaps St. Paul was a proto-libertarian; someone whose view of liberty tended towards leaving people alone to govern their own affairs.

The image of an ordinary human being making an honest living and minding his own business probably best displays what the vast majority of adults around the world do every day. The question Charles Murray, a noted advocate for political freedom, asks is "What does this person owe the government other than to keep on doing what he is doing?"

I, as a Christian, owe many things to many people and institutions--to family, friends, community, church, workplace. These obligations are always voluntary. I can choose to forsake those obligations and certain consequences will follow, or I can fulfill those obligations--called obedience--and receive benefit and blessings. In fact, when I do so, often times they cease to be "obligations" and become privileges; something I desire and want to do.

However, an obligation to the government is unique. When the government decides you owe something, that decision is backed by law. If you violate a law, a government can compel you by force, at the point of a gun barrel, if necessary, to fulfill your obligation. The right to initiate the use of physical force, usually called the police power, is what makes government different from all other human constructs.

What should people who are living quietly and minding their own affairs owe the government? Not much. This is the substance of what it means to be a libertarian. Notice that I use the word in the lower case. I am less interested in the development of an actual political party--which like most organizations, after a time, seeks to perpetuate itself apart from its purpose--than I am with living a quiet life while minding my own business. Anyone who makes an honest living and minds his own affairs isn't hurting me. He isn't forcing me to do anything. I as an individual don't have the right to force him to do anything. A hundred of his neighbors acting as a mob don't have that right. The government should not have that right either, except for stringently limited functions, imposed under stringently limited conditions. An adult making an honest living and minding his own business deserves to be left alone to live his life. He deserves to be free.

(Adapted from Charles Murray's book, "What it Means to be a Libertarian.")


At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Hey Dude, I read it...Actually, I read them all.


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