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LI-07-Hobby-LobbyIn September 2012, the privately held retail store Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the US federal government regarding new regulations in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring that employer insurance cover emergency contraceptives. They argue that they have a First Amendment right not to follow such a regulation.

While this is indeed case with respect to the US Constitution, the libertarian case against such mandates covers more fundamental ground than just religious expression. It is also more comprehensive because it addresses the core of the issue: government intervention in business and in personal lives.

You can read article after article about the whole issue, and I do not want to rehash everything because it would be a waste of your time. Still, what can a Christian libertarian say about this issue? To break through the confusion and state the case quickly and succinctly, this is the plumbline libertarian position on Hobby Lobby and these health care mandates:

  1. All interventionism in health care by the state is bad.* The ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. should all be repealed and shut down permanently.
  2. All interventionism in business by the state is bad.* The government’s job, if it ought to have a job at all, is not “consumer protection” or “ensuring fair play” but rather protecting individual rights. The regulatory, bureaucratic state is a monstrous evil.
  3. Hobby Lobby is within its rights to put forward terms of employment however they wish. Employment by an employer is voluntary, and employees can choose voluntarily to accept the terms or not.
  4. Hobby Lobby ought to win their lawsuit against the US federal government. The government is the aggressor here, and should get out of the way.

* Note: A rights violation committed by a health care provider or other business is still a rights violation and is treated as such. Clearly, suggesting interventionism is bad does not mean that rights violations are ignored.

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Lawmakers in the House and Senate in my state of Florida have proposed two bills (HB 717 & SB 774) that would amend the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) to prohibit pregnancy discrimination. Penalties would include back pay and punitive damages up to $100,000.

“Some (of the pregnant women) are terminated from their jobs or they go into a hostile work environment because of their pregnancy so we want to make sure we eliminate those kinds of things,” said State Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando). “Let’s not allow employers to prevent women from doing their jobs,” added State Rep. Lori Berman (D-Lantana).

There are three major problems with this political grandstanding.

One, pregnancy discrimination is already illegal in Florida. Two, if there is any form of discrimination that should not be prohibited, it is pregnancy discrimination. And three, no discrimination should be prohibited in the first place.

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Mar
01

Pray for Our Troops

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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.

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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.

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Feb
12

War, Empire, and the Military

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vance_war_empire_militaryIntroduction to Laurence M. Vance, War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy (Vance Publications, 2014), 528 pgs.

These essays, although organized under seven headings, have one underlying theme: opposition to the warfare state that robs us of our liberty, our money, and in some cases our life. Conservatives who decry the welfare state while supporting the warfare state are terribly inconsistent. The two are inseparable. Libertarians who are opposed to war on principle, but support the state’s bogus “war on terrorism,” even as they remain silent about the U.S. global empire, are likewise contradictory.

Most of these 127 essays were published on the premier anti‑state, anti‑war, pro-market website, LewRockwell.com, during the period from January 2, 2004, to June 1, 2013. The vast majority of them first appeared on and were written exclusively for that website. LewRockwell.com is the brainchild of Lew Rockwell, the founder and chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., and a leading opponent of the central state, its wars, and its socialism. Most of the rest of the essays were originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation, whose founder and president is the equally courageous Jacob Hornberger. Read More→

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