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Renewing the True Patriot Dream

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Texas House Representative David Simpson delivered the following speech on October 8, 2014 at a Students For Liberty Event in Houston. This text was originally published at the SFL website. Rep. Simpson also recently was a keynote speaker for the first Christians for Liberty Conference. You can visit David’s website here.

We are here today to celebrate the next generation of pro-liberty leaders. In so doing I want to link pro-liberty leaders with America’s greatness.

America’s greatness is often depicted in its natural resources and so we sing: “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!” But America’s greatness lies not merely in the blessings of its rich resources of oil and gas, and farmland, but most of all within its people!

A people bound together by an idea, but even more than that, a conviction and recognition that individuals are endowed with certain inalienable rights—rights that cannot be severed from our being without doing violence to their humanity.

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News of the Week

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Recapping the interesting and significant news of this past week.

From the nanny-state department…

The Feds have now mandated that all new cars must be built with rear-view cameras by 2014. It’s for the children, people! We have to do EVERYTHING for the children to keep them “safe” no matter the cost!

The corrupt and insane Austin City Council (where I live) passed a plastic AND paper bag ban this past Friday morning (a 2 a.m. bill, no shame I guess). Here is what one of my friends had to say about it:

Plastic bags are an incredible benefit to society, allowing for a cheap, efficient, and more environmentally-friendly way to transport goods and later be recycled for all sorts of other uses, from acting as lining in a trash receptacle to cleaning up after pets. Furthermore, they are less burdensome for waste management and landfills.

Thank you, City of Austin, for saving humanity from a better tomorrow.

My sentiments exactly.

Ever wondered how much it cost to build the Death Star from Star Wars? Wonder no longer. I’m telling you, statism is EXPENSIVE!

More Star Wars fun… Over at the Young Americans for Liberty blog, Zach Foster has begun a series of articles about Star Wars and Austrian economics. If you are a fan of either, this series will probably be fun for you.

The International Students for Liberty Conference was hosted just a few weekends ago in Washington D.C. (If you have been around LCC for a while, you know that I love SFL and have been quite involved with them over the past few years.) A major highlight of the conference was the Stossel show taping an entire episode with all the students. It was pretty interesting, and there was even a little controversy. You can view the episode in its entirety here:

Did you visit LCC this week? Here’s what you missed if not:

Have some relevant news and links you want to share? Post in the comments below. I read every comment and respond to almost all of them. Let me know what you’re thinking!

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Last fall I gave a talk at the Students for Liberty Texas Conference 2010 during the Student Panel that touched on a variety of topics: leadership, activism, even some tidbits of philosophy. Here’s the Youtube video of the talk(while you’re at it, you should subscribe to the LCC Youtube Channel).

For more of the student panel videos, check out the full playlist.

I love Students for Liberty and look forward to seeing how this organization will change the world in the future.

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I just watched two video clips from the Stossel Show recorded at the Students for Liberty International Conference. Stossel’s guest is David Boaz from the Cato Institute. During the first segment, Stossel and Boaz describe their personal journeys discovering the value of liberty and free markets, and they have pretty interesting stories.

The second segment is on war and society. Boaz’s first statement isn’t terrible; he says war is bad for a variety of reasons. It is costly and does not accomplish anything, and he even blames American occupations as the cause of terrorism. Then Boaz completely refutes Stossel’s suggestion that surge was a good idea. Good for him, that’s correct. But then the Q&A session starts (starts at 3:40) and I just about hit the ceiling.

A students asks, “True or false: slaughtering innocent people is never justified.” Stossel, without missing a beat, says that we “had to kill innocent people to end World War 2.” Really? Regulating aspirin? Oh no! That’s an attack on liberty! Incinerating a city full of civilians whose government is trying to surrender? Fully defensible. Fire-bombing Dresden just because it’s a German city? Fully defensible. But gee whiz, if nuking a city into oblivion isn’t wrong, is there any killing in war that is not justified?

Boaz counters the original question by saying that “slaughter” is a charged term and we need to rephrase the question. Even granting that Boaz’s first counter is true, that the question is loaded, his answer that follows is horrifying. Essentially, he argues that killing innocent people probably is justified if it leads to creating freer countries. “Self-defense and national independence are basically the only reasons” that killing innocents is justified. So he is implicitly affirming exactly what Stossel said. I don’t care that he said it “should not be undertaken lightly,” trying to justify deaths of innocent people is always taking an issue too lightly.

I’m kind of a fan of a certain principle of morality, one stating that you do not get special privileges to do certain immoral things if the “circumstances” are right. Killing innocent people is one thing only: murder. You don’t get a free pass to kill innocents so long as “freedom” is in sight. So, an innocent British traveler dies in the American Revolution because an American soldier became angry? Murder. No special rights because you’re a “freedom fighter.”

And if you concede that innocents die in every war, then you have only one conclusion to draw: War is mass murder. Get it?

I’ll give Stossel some grace considering he has not been very exposed to our philosophy except in limited amounts. He is not being thoughtful toward the issue. Perhaps he would come around just as he did on free markets given a substantive and fair presentation of the information. I met him in Austin about a year ago and I think he is a good fellow, and I truly hope he can figure out this critical principle of libertarianism.

How Boaz can hold such contradictory thoughts in his head, though, is downright baffling. I would plead with him to reconsider such positions. Liberty means liberty for all.

Dear Christian reader, I hope we will not make the same mistakes in our own thinking, lest we fall prey to the next justification for mass murder.

UPDATE: This post is getting a lot of traction right now due to it being highlighted in places like and others, so I just want to make absolutely clear that I still think Students for Liberty is a fantastic organization and I am not implicating them at all in this particular breach of libertarian principle. I also hold a lot of respect for the work that Stossel and Boaz have done and I am urging them to become better by talking openly about this.

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Blayne Bennett from Students for Liberty asked me to write a short article describing what it means to be a Christian libertarian, and this piece was the result. It was featured on the SFL blog this past Wednesday. Enjoy, share, and comment!

What do Representative Ron Paul, Doug Bandow from the Cato Institute, Isaac Morehouse from the Institute for Humane Studies, Larry Reed from FEE, Thomas Woods from the Mises Institute, David Thoreaux from the Independent Institute, and Leo Tolstoy all have in common? They all hate statism, and they are all Christians.

Christianity sometimes gets a bad rap in libertarian circles. Certain fundamentalist Christians have a history of using the State to enforce their particular moral values upon others. The so-called “social gospel” proponents wish to dismantle the free market and have the State redistribute wealth the way they think is right. And of course, those significantly influenced by Ayn Rand have a very negative view of religion in general.

Yet, surely it doesn’t have to be this way. Christianity has historically been on the side of liberty. Classical liberalism developed from an understanding of the Christian worldview which placed a high value on man’s freedom to choose. In fact, in my opinion Christians ought to be among the greatest proponents of libertarianism on the planet. But first, we should very briefly discuss some of the misconceptions about Christianity that turn off some libertarians. Then, we need to clarify how exactly Christianity and libertarianism support each other, and describe what “Christian libertarianism” actually is.

Four Misconceptions about Christianity and Politics

Christianity does not advocate socialism. Some scholars think that Jesus essentially taught wealth redistribution, and that the early Christian community in Acts 4 was a form of socialistic organizational structure. Yet, one cannot deny that Jesus emphasized voluntary assistance, not coercion. The early Christians did not force people to be charitable, and in fact did respect private property. That old saying you’ve probably heard, “Money is the root of all evil,” is actually a misquote of the Bible. In reality, it reads, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” and teaches us that greed often leads to sin.

Christianity does not glorify violence and war. It is truly unfortunate that modern American churches have abandoned the peaceful message of the Christian Gospel for the State’s means of “spreading democracy.” Jesus came to bring “peace on earth, good will to men,” and by extension the Christian’s goal ought to be the same.

Christianity does not advocate a theocratic state. While God did give the Israelites in the Old Testament a series of civil laws for their community’s well-being, there is absolutely no mandate in the New Testament for Christians to establish a new kind of state governed by Biblical law. It is not the Christian’s place to lord power over others. God rules within the hearts of his people now, not via a human ruler. As many early American revolutionaries stated, “We have no king but King Jesus.”

Christianity is not a theory to legitimize the state. Governments play a prominent role in the Bible, but in no way can one extend their presence to their rightness in the world. Even Romans 13 and the famous “Render unto Caesar” passages, which many take as the classic proof-texts in Scripture for the necessity of government, are more logically understood as prudential arguments for how to deal with the presence of government than as justifications for government.

Four Connections between Christianity and Libertarianism

Christianity supports a libertarian theory of property rights. Self-ownership with respect to other human beings is assumed in the Bible. Contrary to how many view the Old Testament, forced slavery was a capital offense. While all economic systems of organization have systems of ownership, Christianity in particular agrees with libertarians on the homestead principle, that the first user is the determiner of how a resource may be used. Those who misappropriate others property are considered aggressors and lawbreakers.

Christianity loves the free market and peaceful interaction. The Bible is full of examples showing clearly how voluntary interaction, that is, the free market, is far preferable to coercion. Besides showing the way to salvation, God’s message to men everywhere is that loving your neighbor as you love yourself ultimately results in peace and prosperity. Of course, this principle does not imply that bad things will not happen to us, but it does transcend momentary suffering and we can strive toward it.

Christianity affirms that no one should receive special privileges of position. God does not show favoritism, and therefore we are to do the same. All men are equal under God’s law. No one gets special moral permission to do what others cannot because they wear a uniform or because 51% of a population says they should.

Christianity says that the State is a rebellion against man’s true nature and purpose. Man was not intended to live under the constant threat of aggression from involuntary, arbitrary authority of other men. On the contrary, we are meant to live in peaceful, loving relationships with God and our neighbor. However, when one does not accept the rule of God, the tyranny of men through the evil of statism is likely to develop.  The State invariably sets itself up in opposition to God and pits men against each other.

These explanations are by necessity brief, and of course there are many additional theological topics and Scripture references that could be discussed. Nevertheless, we can clearly see here that Christianity and libertarianism have much in common. More and more Christians around the world are realizing that their previous way of understanding politics neither benefits others nor honors God. Christian libertarians have the answer: stop giving the government special theological and moral status and withdraw your consent. The State is not the Kingdom of God, and it never will be.

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