Archive for libertarianism
In 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:
- All interventionism in health care by the state is bad.* The ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. should all be repealed and shut down permanently.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Enjoy this great video from the Foundation for Harmony and Prosperity on the basic social principles of human flourishing. While not explicitly Christian, it is easy to see how it all fits together.
This is a great video to share with friends about why the non-aggression principle is so fundamental to how the world should be.
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 libertarianism’s most distinguishing feature. Although you cannot find an explicit Biblical 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.