Don’t Tread On Who?

Critics of libertarianism often charge that it is a “selfish ideology,” or that any explanation of self-interest is just a warmed-over excuse for selfish behavior. While it is indeed possible that the libertarian impulse attracts the selfish, careless, wanna-be hermit, the worldview of most libertarians should not be reduced to “leave us alone.”

The Gadsden flag proudly displays the message “Don’t tread on me.” At first glance, this is understandably interpreted as selfish. Deeper reflection, however, conveys a more important meaning: “Don’t tread on others.” Deeper yet, the mantra applies equally to everyone. Properly understood, the image announces to everyone, “Don’t tread on anyone.”

While libertarians are far from advocating a “do anything you want” way of life, Christian critics claim that this mentality contradicts both the demands Jesus makes of his followers and the expectations God has for societies. To be sure, the Bible presents serious consequences for those who do not care for others in need (see Matthew 25). In the Old Testament, God displays much dismay, even anger, when the poor are being mistreated or ignored. And Jesus announced liberation to those oppressed by evil regimes, enslaved by social norms, and dehumanized by others. It isn’t that libertarians can’t still agree with and pursue these elements. It’s just that we believe that whatever form “treading” takes, it must be abolished (hence the anarchist impulse to denounce the State).

In order to be clear about what being a libertarian is, we must be clear what it is not. It is not absolution of responsibility to those in need. It is not license to excuse inaction. It is, essentially, declaring a plethora of “thou shalt nots.” How one chooses to live purposefully is another matter.

“Don’t Tread On Anyone” is an important message, but it is simply the starting point, a reminder to society that Bastiat’s “everybody plunders everybody” isn’t a viable option for a just society. While we should be clear that liberty isn’t just about what we can’t do, we must also be clear that ending oppression in all forms is a worthy start.

LCI posts articles representing a broad range of views from authors who identify as both Christian and libertarian. Of course, not everyone will agree with every article, and not every article represents an official position from LCI. Please direct any inquiries regarding the specifics of the article to the author. 

Interested in Contributing? 

LCI accepts guest submissions by high-quality writers. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, click here to send us mail.

Did you like Don’t Tread On Who?
You may also like These Posts:

Don't Miss an Article about Christian Libertarianism!
Sign up Today!

Whenever there’s a new article, you’ll get an email once a day! 

*by signing up, you also agree to get weekly updates to our newsletter

The Pandemic Bites

Libertarian Christian Answers to Questions about the Pandemic

Sign up for our new email series, and we’ll  share some bite-sized writings with you that discuss various aspects of the pandemic. We will address economics, science, politics, and ethics in accessible chunks with helpful references to learn more.

You’ll away having learned something new and useful as we continue to work past these difficult times together.*

*by signing up, you also agree to get weekly updates to our newsletter


Never Miss A Story

Get our Weekly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.