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The latest ruse of some conservatives to garner the sympathy, support, and votes of libertarians is to declare that they are “constitutionalists.” Although they are sometimes referred to as “libertarians” in the media, sometimes even portray themselves as “libertarian-leaning,” and get ecstatic when real libertarians describe them as “liberty-minded,” these conservative “constitutionalists” are not only not libertarian, they are not even constitutional.
The United States was set up as a federal system of government where the states, through the Constitution, granted a limited number of powers to a central government. As James Madison succinctly explained in Federalist No. 45:
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.
In article I, section 8, of the Constitution, there are eighteen paragraphs that enumerate the limited powers granted to Congress. Everything else is reserved to the states—even without the Tenth Amendment. Four of them concern taxes and money. One concerns commerce. One concerns naturalization and bankruptcies. One concerns post offices and post roads. One concerns copyrights and patents. One concerns federal courts. One concerns maritime crimes. Six concern the military and the militia. Once concerns the governance of the District of Columbia. And the last one gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”
One can search the Constitution morning, noon, and night with an electron microscope, x-ray vision, and night-vision goggles and never see a reference to the national government having the power to identify drugs, regulate drugs, classify drugs, set up a Drug Enforcement Administration, outlaw drugs, pass a single law related to drugs, or have anything whatsoever to do with any drugs.
Any drugs, whether they are stimulants, hallucinogens, or sedatives. Any drugs, whether they are opiates, cocaine, or cannabis. Any drugs, no matter how unhealthy, harmful, or immoral. Any drugs, no matter how addictive, potent, or dangerous. Any drugs, whether they are smoked, snorted, or injected. Any drugs, whether they are used for medical, therapeutic, or recreational purposes.
So why do constitutionalists support the drug war?
The federal government’s war on drugs is a monstrous evil that has ruined more lives than drugs themselves. The drug war has failed to prevent drug abuse, end drug overdoses, reduce drug use, or keep drugs away from teenagers. Instead, it has fostered violence, unnecessarily swelled prison populations, clogged the judicial system, corrupted law enforcement, hindered legitimate pain treatment, destroyed personal and financial privacy, violated civil liberties, and made criminals out of mostly otherwise law-abiding Americans. The war on drugs is truly a war on individual liberty, private property, personal responsibility, and a free society.
For the moral and philosophical case against the drug war, see my book The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom. But aside from this, and aside from every negative thing I mentioned above about the drug war, what is most relevant here is that the war on drugs is a war on the Constitution, limited government, the free market, and federalism—things that constitutionalists claim to hold dear.
This is because the Constitution not only doesn’t mention drugs, it nowhere authorizes the federal government to regulate, monitor, or restrict the consumption, medical, or recreational habits of Americans. This is why when the Progressives a hundred years ago wanted to ban alcohol on the national level, they realized that an amendment to the Constitution was needed.
Constitutionalists claim to revere the Constitution. They say they adhere to the Constitution. They lambaste “activist” judges for not being strict constitutionalists. They criticize those who speak of a “living Constitution.” They talk about following the original intent or original meaning of the Constitution.
But Constitutionalists are hypocrites and enemies of the Constitution if they support the drug war. All of their talk about the Constitution is merely hot air. Just like when Republicans say in their platform that they are “the party of the Constitution.” And just like when conservatives awarded former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the “Defender of the Constitution Award” at one of their Conservative Political Action Conferences.
A real constitutionalist would not support the federal government having an Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Drug Enforcement Administration, or a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A real constitutionalist would not support legislation like the Controlled Substances Act, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, or the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act. A real constitutionalist would not support the federal government having a National Drug Control Strategy, a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, or a Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.
A real constitutionalist would support the Constitution instead of the drug war.
Originally published on LewRockwell.com.
The Internet has no lack of passionate writers opining about the Arizona bill that would have allow businesses to deny service to gay people based on the religious beliefs of the business owner. Though the Arizona governor vetoed the bill, many Christians are still talking about it because similar legislation is brewing (pun intended) in other states. The overwhelming majority of proponents of such laws come from the Religious Right, so below I offer some links that I have found helpful in processing what I believe on such matters. The first three are my favorite.
Keep three things in mind:
- The following articles were written by Christians; some will be more aligned with your flavor of Christianity, and some will challenge your beliefs.
- Not all viewpoints provided agree with one another or with any authors of LCC.
- Do not assume that you are absolutely, positively, 100% correct in your view. Be willing to adjust your thinking, even if only in minor ways.
Rachel Held Evans: Walking the Second Mile: Jesus, Discrimination, and ‘Religious Freedom’
ReKnew.org (ministry of Greg Boyd; it is unclear if Boyd wrote this article): In the Aftermath of the AZ Anti-Gay Bill
Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers: Conservative Christians Selectively Apply Biblical Teachings in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate
Merritt and Powers received plenty of criticism, to which they responded here: Does the Bible prohibit providing services for same-sex weddings? Theologians weigh in.
[UPDATE: I also came across this article after posting. Enjoy!]
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
(1 Timothy 2:1)
While driving recently on Maitland Boulevard in central Florida, I came upon a billboard with a simple message: “Pray for Our Troops.”
Although I am often very critical of the actions of U.S. troops, I do believe—in spite of what people may think—in prayer for our troops. This is because, as evidenced above, the Bible exhorts us to pray for all men, which includes U.S. troops.
The problem is not the idea of praying for the troops, but the usual prayers that are offered on their behalf. When the typical church-going, prayer-saying American Christian sees such a billboard or is enjoined in church to pray for our troops, he generally thinks:
- Pray that our troops be kept out of harm’s way.
- Pray that our troops defeat our enemies.
- Pray that our troops defend our freedoms.
- Pray that our troops keep us safe.
- Pray that our troops find terrorists who want to do us harm.
- Pray that our troops eliminate the threat of al Qaeda.
- Pray that our troops rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
- Pray that our troops spread democracy and freedom.
- Pray that our troops avenge 9/11.
Some Christians, if they were honest, would pray that our troops’ bombs, bullets, grenades, missiles, and mortars hit their targets. Or if they were really honest, a war prayer for the twenty-first century.
The problem with these prayers is that no thought is ever given to:
- Where our troops go.
- Why our troops go.
- Whether our troops should go.
- How long our troops should stay.
- What our troops do when they are there.
- How much it costs to keep our troops there.
- How many innocent foreigners die because our troops went.
- What physical and mental condition our troops will be in when they return.
- Whether our troops are really defending our freedom.
- Whether our troops are creating more terrorists because they went.
- Whether our troops are actually a global force for good.
- Whether whatever our troops accomplish is worth one drop of American blood.
None of these things matter. We are continually told to pray for the troops, thank the troops, and support the troops—and to do so unconditionally.
But because I have considered these questions about the activities of our troops, and pay attention to what really goes on in the military, I think we should instead:
- Pray that our troops come home from overseas.
- Pray that our troops stop fighting foreign wars.
- Pray that our troops don’t kill foreign civilians.
- Pray that our troops don’t rape foreign women.
- Pray that our troops stop invading countries.
- Pray that our troops stop occupying countries.
- Pray that our troops get out of the military as soon as they can.
- Pray that our troops don’t fire their weapons.
- Pray that our troops don’t sexually assault military personnel.
- Pray that our troops don’t frequent brothels.
- Pray that our troops don’t commit suicide.
- Pray that our troops don’t get addicted to drugs.
- Pray that our troops stop helping to carry out an evil U.S. foreign policy.
- Pray that our troops stop making drone strikes.
- Pray that our troops stop making widows and orphans.
- Pray that our troops are only used for genuinely defensive purposes.
- Pray that our troops stop intervening in other countries.
- Pray that our troops don’t die for a lie, like those who died fighting in Iraq.
- Pray that our troops don’t die in vain, like those who died fighting in Afghanistan.
- Pray that our troops think about the morality of their “service.”
- Pray that our troops refuse to obey immoral orders.
- Pray that our troops never become troops by saying no to the military recruiter.
One does not have to be religious to see that these prayers are noticeably different from the previous ones. Think about this the next time you see a billboard or church sign that says “Pray for Our Troops.”
Originally published on LewRockwell.com.
Yesterday I wrote about the ISFLC panel on 5 reasons Christianity and libertarianism are compatible. Here are 5 more reasons you can be confident that libertarianism is the most consistent expression of Christian political thought.
1. Christianity affirms the libertarian emphasis on private property. The libertarian theory of private property rights is perhaps its most distinguishing feature. Although you cannot find a single narrative that explains such a theory in full, you can find example after example of how private property and self-ownership are central to the kind of world God intended. Even the classic objection of “holding things in common” in the book of Acts assumes private ownership and a voluntary contribution of that property.
2. The God of the Bible consistently sides with those who are oppressed by government. The people of Israel were slaves, called “the least of all peoples”, and yet God specifically chose to rescue them and make them into a blessing for all men. A major narrative of all of Scripture is that it is good news for the least of these, and especially for those oppressed and downtrodden by those in power.
3. The Bible, from beginning to end, depicts the State as an enemy of God and vehicle of evil. The Tower of Babel narrative is our theological origin of the state, Jesus Christ is tempted with power that comes from it, and its final destiny is depicted in Revelation. Nowhere in the Bible is statism and institutionalized aggression given approval.
4. Christianity proclaims that all men are equally bound to the moral law. Everyone is accountable to it in the same way, and no one gets a special pass because they wear a uniform or have the privilege of being called “The Honorable” or “King” or “President” before stating their name. If anything, those with power are judged more strictly, and God does not take “I did evil so I could do good” for an answer.
5. Christianity recognizes that you cannot make people moral through the institutionalization of force. As Ron Paul has said, “The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous… God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.” The Christian way of life is not wielding power over others so they conform, but rather displaying even greater power through service that shows God’s love. We call that wielding power under and we believe this is the way God himself works with us.
In conclusion, consider these words from Jacques Ellul:
But why freedom? If we accept that God is love, and that it is human beings who are to respond to this love, the explanation is simple. Love cannot be forced, ordered, or made obligatory. It is necessarily free. If God liberates, it is because he expects and hopes that we will come to know him and love him. He cannot lead us to do so by terrorizing us.
So, can a Christian be a libertarian? Of course! Libertarianism is, in fact, the best political position a Christian can take. Christian libertarianism is not about voting just the right way or explaining every jot of public policy, but rather about fundamentally changing our view of power and the institutions that wield it.
What is the most compelling reason for you? What would help you to understand the intersection of Christianity and libertarianism even more? Let us know in the comments, and help LCC out by sharing this article wherever you can.
Last week at the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C., Elise Amyx of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (TIFWE) organized a panel on libertarianism and Christianity. Astoundingly, this session was even covered by the Christian Post. The Acton Institute also posted about the event. I had the distinct pleasure of being at the ISFLC and this discussion.
The panelists presented five excellent reasons why libertarianism and Christianity are compatible.
1. Christianity celebrates voluntary action and creating value. Quoting the Christian Post:
Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, a blogger at Values & Capitalism, explained that the Christian worldview also supports libertarianism. ‘The message of the Gospel, the good news, is that salvation from our sins is offered through Christ — this salvation is voluntary and individual, and this is the core message of Christianity, Isaacs declared.
2. Big Government does not solve poverty. The panelists explained that even neglecting that governments must steal resources in order to be “charitable,” free markets are still the best way to solve the problem of poverty.
3. The Biblical role of government is very limited. They cited 1 Samuel 7 as an example of what happens when government gets out of control. Additionally, the Christian Post said:
[Jason] Hughey then pointed to the gospel of Mark, where Christ describes what it means to serve others. ‘I think it’s very interesting that the model of service that Christ points to for the church is stated in direct contrast to the way the political authorities rule and lord it over others,’ the speaker declared.
4. The Welfare State Harms Christian Charity. The Acton Institute noted:
The panelists argued that the Christian model of charity is personal, and when the government steps in, that personal link between people is broken. Government redistribution of goods also enhances the feeling of entitlement, which Christianity downplays.
5. Wealth Is Not Inherently Sinful. Panelist Leah Hughey suggested that there are many commendable wealthy individuals in the Bible, commendable not because of their wealth but because of their character. Even Jesus was not interested in attacking the rich, but delving to the deepest heart issues that every human faces.
Each point they made was excellent, but I think there are quite a few very important reasons that they did not cover. Granted, limited time means limited discussion options, but tomorrow I will post five additional reasons Christianity and libertarianism go hand in hand. In the meantime, what do you think? What reasons do you give to your fellow Christians for why Christianity and libertarianism work together? Let us know in the comments.
Finally, my compliments to Jason and Leah Hughey, Jacqueline Isaacs (of the Values and Capitalism blog), Elise Amyx, and Taylor Barkley for a great panel discussion.