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A Critical Review of Libertarianism

February 7, 2011

Libertarianism, in short, is the political philosophy that strives for the smallest intrusion on the individual from any authority—including government or religion. The limiting factor for libertarian thought is a moral code that one “should do no harm.” (If you want a more thorough definition, take time to do an internet search.)

Libertarianism is essentially a non-religious political philosophy. But Christians and libertarians are often allies in the public square. American political conservatism has always been a marriage between the very religious and the less religious. For example, among the Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry and Sam Adams were what we would call today evangelical Christians. On the other hand, Thomas Paine was a deist.

Deism is a marginalized philosophy today for good reason. I have never even spoken with a person either personally or through our Faith Facts website who called himself a deist. But libertarianism, which has some similarities, is on the rise. We will explore what this movement is all about. We will see how this philosophy differs from both biblical Christianity, from liberalism, and from our Founding Fathers’ ideas on government.

The primary problem with libertarianism is that it attempts to define morality without God. But as Dostoevsky said, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” While libertarians will resist this conclusion, in the end, a moral system or political system without God is arbitrary, and ultimately whoever has the most political power defines what is moral. This is evident when we notice that some libertarians are pro-life and some are pro-abortion.

Libertarianism would probably not be the force that it is today without Ayn Rand. She is the queen of the movement. While many libertarians are merely agnostics, she was an atheist. She attempted to define a moral system without God by a philosophy that she called Objectivism. If you have time, look over this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism_(Ayn_Rand)

Does this make sense to you? You be the judge. But as I read this I remembered reading L. Ron Hubbard’s book Scientology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology) and thinking, “This is pure nonsense.” While there are definitely differences between Scientology and Objectivism, the question that both must face is:

Says who?

Aren’t Rand’s arguments arbitrary? Feel free to disagree.

One thing—among several things—that Rand completely failed to comprehend is that Christianity is not arbitrary. Our religion website  explains how Christianity is grounded in reason and evidence: http://www.faithfacts.org/.

According to the Wikipedia article on Objectivism, Rand wanted to call her philosophy Existentialism, but the term had already been coined. But there are clear similarities to Existentialism and Objectivism. If you ever took a philosophy class you may remember that Existentialism is a philosophy that was a reaction to Christianity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism).

Existentialism has largely been discredited, I think, because of its important association with nihilism—the absence of meaning and ultimately despair. Without God, it is argued, there can be no objective meaning in life.

So the problem with Objectivism, Existentialism, and Libertarianism (and any non-theistic worldview) is that they bump into the philosophical problem that—“We come from nowhere, we go to nowhere, but somehow life is filled with meaning in between.”

We cannot miss the similarities between libertarianism and liberalism.  It is not accidental that they have the same root word. Both often have certain political goals in common, such as anti-war sentiments and pro gay rights. Something else in common is that both systems are at war with God—as are communism, humanism, and other non-theistic worldviews.

Even some Christians claim to be libertarians without understanding its non-theistic roots. Yes, there are different versions of libertarianism and not all are purely non-theistic. But we argue that any moral attributes that are found in libertarianism are borrowed from Christianity. Remember: history teaches that tyranny begins with eliminating God.

A reader sent me a video explaining libertarianism. You might want to watch at least part of this:

www.isil.org/resources/introduction.swf

Notice that this philosophy is centered on the self. That is to say, it is a selfish philosophy. The only difference between this and liberalism is that libertarians openly admit this selfishness. Liberals do not; they pretend to be compassionate.

This philosophy of self above all else is distinctly different from biblical Christianity. Christianity subjugates the self to God and other people (Matthew 22:34-39). In contrast, libertarians and liberals alike are opposed to a moral authority above themselves.

Just pay attention to what libertarians say. For example, a famous libertarian on Fox News is Judge Andrew Napolitano. When he explains our rights he does so by saying that our rights are “part of our humanity.” With this explanation, he ignores the most important part of what the Declaration of Independence actually says—that our rights are a gift from God.

Not unlike Napolitano, liberal President Obama often leaves God out of his talks. See:

http://townhall.com/columnists/ChuckNorris/2010/11/30/obamas_7_creator_omissions_part_1

and

http://townhall.com/columnists/ChuckNorris/2010/12/07/obamas_7_creator_omissions_part_2/page/full/.  

As Pilate and Herod were allies (Luke 23:12), we should be wary of this coziness, or at least the similarities between libertarianism and liberalism.

But as Matt Lewis points out, there are differences between libertarianism and liberalism (see links below). For liberals, equality is the highest good. For liberatarians, liberty is the highest good. But both equality and liberty can have disastrous results.

As Lewis further points out, the moral order that results from Christianity-based classical conservatism is crucial to society. Or as John Adams insisted, “Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.” Certainly Adams had in mind Christianity. (See the Bible and Government article at our religion website link at the bottom of this article.)

A charge that libertarians and liberals alike make against Christians is that applying the Bible to government leads to theocracy. But we can see that radical libertarianism can lead to its own theocracy, as Gary DeMar points out:

http://americanvision.org/1467/theocracy-inescapable-concept/.   

And we note that anarchism is a branch of libertarianism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism). It can be argued that anarchism is libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion. So on the one hand, libertarianism can lead to theocracy, or it can lead to anarchism. It can lead to liberal tyranny—or it can lead to lawlessness.

Our message to libertarians is this—if what you desire is freedom, consider biblical Christianity. With history as our witness, the more Christianity, the more freedom.

For more study on libertarianism, please see these excellent articles by Selwyn Duke:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/10/libertarianisms_folly_when_liv.html

http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/10/what_libertarians_misunderstan.html

http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/10/yes_folks_we_all_would_legisla.html

These by Matt Lewis:

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/16/the-case-for-conservatism-versus-libertarianism/

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/20/on-conservative-movement-libertarians-and-neo-objectivists/

This article by Marvin Olasky:

http://www.worldmag.com/articles/18283

This article by Thomas E. Woods about the history of natural rights:

http://books.google.com/books?id=zVDR2ZePzvUC&pg=PA187&lpg=PA187&dq=secular+residue+of+religious+attitudes+and+assumptions+which+historically+found+expression+first+in+the+liturgy+and+rituals+and+doctrine+of+the+church+and+therafter+in+the+institutions+and+concepts+and+values+of+the+law.+When+these+historical+roots+are+not+understood,+many+parts+of+the+law+appear+to+lack+any+underlying+source+of+validity.&source=bl&ots=JeLekKpUfO&sig=m_ZxvgKsc5pTuemBlfK9ttuLqzg&hl=en&ei=KsZbTcfYHsGUtweZkeC_Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CCwQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

And this summary from our religion site about the Bible and government:

http://www.faithfacts.org/christ-and-the-culture/the-bible-and-government

2 comments

  1. […] is a link to our article on libertarianism: https://offgridblogger.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/a-critical-review-of-libertarianism/. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]


  2. Lest we be too trigger-happy in saying Christians can’t be totalitarian, totalitarianism comes from eliminating God’s spirit, not His name.

    I’d much rather live under Thomas Paine than the Lord’s Resistance Army. Even if Mr. Paine denied the name of God, his philosophy was infused with the spirit of Christian freedom. And though the LRA affirms the name of God with the loudest chants, their philosophy is infused with the sort of oppression and slaughter that comes only from Satan. “You will know them by their fruits” and all that.

    On the other hand, the rest of your article is quite accurate. My own journey from libertarianism to libertarian conservatism (emphasis on the second) resulted from two major observations. First, on a theoretical level, I couldn’t justify defending property rights without appealing to some form of morality, which I had attempted to separate from lawmaking. Then it was a choice between anarcho-capitalism (which, without an impartial government to protect life and liberty, becomes a warlord state) or rejecting deontological libertarianism. Either way, the result was decidedly un-libertarian.

    Second, and more importantly, I realized the fundamental tension between capitalism and democracy that only a firm reliance on tradition could bridge. People will always attempt to loot the job creators for short term welfare checks unless tradition convinces them that this is simply wrong. And without religion, no matter how much looting the rich hurts the country in the long run, in the long run we’re all dead and rotting, right? Even that libertarian sacred cow, the Constitution, is only a piece of paper unless we internalize social tradition.

    Reading up on Russia was a real eye-opener. That’s how capitalism and democracy work without traditions to back them up – either capitalism kills democracy, or democracy kills capitalism, and the other follows soon after. Living through the Occupy movement, to see how they work when tradition is so severely weakened, probably capped off my transition.

    As oft-maligned as Edmund Burke is, methodological conservatism is the only way to stave off the wasting death of capitalism and freedom. And, as it might have been applied in Russia to gradually transition them into capitalism, it is the only way now to reverse that wasting death and inaugurate a new golden age. Rebuild tradition, and you rebuild capitalism and freedom. Destroy it, and you destroy all our nation once stood for.



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