Conservatism, Libertarianism and Christianity

Yes I know: we are not supposed to talk about religion and politics in polite society. And trying to get a handle on such complex matters in a short essay is a risky endeavour. But these are important topics, so a few words may be in order here.

Christians of course believe that we live in a fallen world, so no political structure will be perfect. But it is exactly because we live in a fallen world that God instituted the state. It exists to bring a semblance of order and justice in a world of sinful and self-centred individuals.

So government is God’s idea. But what the best form of government is is another matter. Christians can and do disagree on this topic. I have sought to explain my preferences elsewhere, for example:

Christians can be, and are, in various places along the political spectrum. I used to be very much of the hard-core left, but upon becoming a Christian I have moved to the right. No one political ideology can be baptised as the one and only Christian option, but I again have sought elsewhere to argue that conservatism may best reflect the biblical worldview. See for example:

Here I simply wish to contrast conservatism with libertarianism. While both favour limited or small government, libertarianism can be unhelpful – certainly from a biblical point of view – for a number of reasons. As I already mentioned, government is God’s idea, and he is the one who has ordained the state.

Thus the more libertarian one is, the further one can move away from the biblical ideal. That is, some libertarians of the right are so extreme that they differ very little at all from the anarchists of the left. And extreme libertarianism, coupled with ugly atheism, can be a most repellent political philosophy.

Ayn Rand is an example of this, and I have elsewhere discussed why I find her worldview to be incompatible with biblical Christianity:

Libertarians tend to take the opposite view on social, cultural and moral issues than do conservatives. The former are quite happy to see things like pornography, prostitution, drugs and so on be legalised, or decriminalised, and insist that governments have no need to be involved in such issues. The latter strongly disagree.

To flesh this out let me appeal to two recent conservatives. Catholic social thinker Michael Novak has written a number of important volumes seeking to explain what the conservative disposition is all about. For example, in his very important 1982 volume, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, he argues that three vital components are necessary.

“What do I mean by ‘democratic capitalism’? I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.”

He continues, “political democracy is compatible in practice only with a market economy. In turn, both systems nourish and are best nourished by a pluralistic liberal culture. It is important to give attention to all three systems.” He elaborates on these three systems in the rest of his book.

Another famous conservative also made use of a three-part model. Former US President Ronald Reagan had a famous three-part structure, although it is slightly different from Novak’s. His political philosophy and policies were built on three core values: free enterprise, strong defense, and pro-family social policies.

He tried to govern the US by upholding and promoting all three legs. Indeed, he referred to this as a three legged stool. He insisted that all three legs were needed to make America succeed and prosper. Having only one or two of the legs simply would be insufficient.

A recent article which looks at the current US Presidential race also appeals to Reagan’s stool. Matt Barber is discussing one Republican candidate, Ron Paul. Paul is of course a rather radical libertarian who wants to legalise drugs, prostitution and the like; is in favour of special rights for homosexuals’ and in true libertarian fashion, is extremely weak on foreign policy.

He is basically an isolationist who thinks America has no reason to be concerned about what happens elsewhere for the most part. As such, he is highly critical of Israel while being quite naive about militant Islam and the dangers the Islamists pose.

As such, says Barber, “Ron Paul is dangerous”. Says Barber, “Don’t get me wrong. I personally like Ron Paul. He’s that affable – if not a little ‘zany’ – uncle who has the whole family on edge at Thanksgiving. ‘Oh boy; what’s Uncle Ronny gonna say next?’

“Still, you wouldn’t give Uncle Ronny the carving knife for the turkey, much less the keys to the Oval Office. Mr. Paul is many things, but conservative is not one of them. He’s a died-in-the-wool libertarian. That’s one part conservative, two parts anarchist.

“Ronald Reagan often spoke of a ‘three-legged stool’ that undergirds true conservatism. The legs are represented by strong free-market economic principles, a strong national defense and strong social values. For the stool to remain upright, it must be supported by all three legs. If you snap off even one leg, the stool collapses under its own weight. Mr. Paul is relatively conservative from an economic standpoint, but in true libertarian form, has snapped off the legs of national defense and social values.”

That is why Paul would be such a dangerous man to be leading America. He seems to be totally oblivious to contemporary international threats, such as a nuclear-armed Iran. He would rather America live in splendid isolation, and hope such external threats will somehow not be a problem. But he is just kidding himself.

Israel, for all its faults, is the only democracy in the Middle East. If it goes, the whole region will become even more of a nightmare than it already is. Just as naive and immature leaders like Chamberlain basically allowed Hitler, the Holocaust, and World War II to happen, so Paul would also bring us to the brink of disaster.

And he would also destroy America from within with his radical domestic policies. While he claims to be a Christian, there is hardly anything Christian about his reckless and amoral social policies. He should be avoided like the plague by all true Christians and all true conservatives.

Plenty of other things can be said about the dangerous Mr Paul. But this article is meant to be a generic and very brief look at libertarianism, and how it differs markedly from real conservatism and real Christianity. Future articles will have to tease all this out further.

I for one quite like the three legged stool analogy. We certainly need all three. Strong national security is vital to any nation, and a strong moral social order is fundamental for the survival of democratic free market states. It is not a radical social agenda which exalts a nation, but righteousness (Proverbs 14:34). Conservatives can seek to offer this, but libertarians are unable to.

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31 Replies to “Conservatism, Libertarianism and Christianity”

  1. Dear Bill, Cardinal George Pell said Christians have a right and a duty to make their voices heard in a democratic society. We are voters and taxpayers.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  2. “free enterprise, strong defense, and pro-family social policies.”

    At a purely political level as objectives for a government to pursue, I agree and think these are broadly right, and these elements would help to keep any nation strong and to some degree united. I suppose “freedom of religion” need not be stated in the USA because it is already assumed under their Constitution, but it is increasingly under attack from the Left on every side is it not?

    However, one element in USA conservative thinking is that of American “exceptionalism” – i.e. under God, the USA is somehow possesses the exceptional favour of God above other nations and therefore in the centre of God’s purposes and ‘blessing’. Thus the mantra ‘God bless America’ is repeated as if it invoked a special significance.
    I don’t see any justification for this theory and wonder why it still persists within American conservate political thinking – not least amongst the “religious right”?

    Graham Wood

  3. If Jesus be my guide, then as an individual, I fight for Righteousness in a party political system that is corrupt, deceitful, and undemocratic.

    Corrupt as we see former New South Wales ALP parliamentarians continue to face the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] some nine months after being voted out of office but after sixteen years of
    undemocratic government.

    The term “Undemocratic” identifies the deceit by which political parties are elected under fiscal, monetary and welfare mandates, and then proceed to implement social engineering policies for which minorities lobby strongly and for which the party has no general mandate.

    Only policies that are publicly canvassed could be mandated and all else put to a referendum, preferably at the next election.

    The party political platform has a tendency to destroy integrity, weaken the strength of analysis and compromises the will to the highest bidder.

    I come from the City of Innovation – community democracy perhaps, or is that an election too far?

    Ray Robinson

  4. Hi Bill, as someone who has followed Ron Paul’s campaign quite closely I would like to offer a few words in his defense. There are different types and levels of libertarianism, not all are as radical as others. I agree that Randian philosophy is godless and unhelpful but as far as I understand she actually rejected the label of libertarian. There are a number of significant thinkers in the libertarian movement who embrace anarcho-capitalism and I think we are right to be concerned about this ideology. But Ron Paul is not an anarcho-capitalist but rather a strict constitutionalist and does in fact believe that the federal government has a role in national defense. His view on the current US foreign policy is that it has far exceded this role and is too involved in foreign situations in a way that violates the US constitution. He wants a military that strongly protects American borders rather than policing the rest of the world.

    There is also no other politician who more strongly defends the importance of sound economics than Ron Paul. The article you quoted seems to make Ron Paul sound a bit of old and senile and ignorant but he is actually a highly intelligent intellectual and understands free market economics and what needs to be done about the current economic crisis which is surely one of the most critical political concerns of our times. No one else is defending the market economy as clearly and articulatley, especially to young people, like Ron Paul is. He is probably doing more to discredit socialism than anyone else. I think conservatives should atleast recognise this.

    And lastly on the topic of family values, libertarianism is strictly a political philosophy not a moral philosophy. So just because one may favour individual choice and freedom when it comes to non-coercive moral choices it doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree with those choices at all and in fact may strongly disagree with them. Ron Paul is actually known to have quite conservative moral values, he is strongly pro-life, tends to favour traditional marriage and doesn’t promote drug abuse. As a libertarian he believes that the government does have a legitimate role in defending innocent life as in the case of abortion. In the case of the drug war many conservative people oppose it precisely because they believe that it is doing more harm than good, not because they lack compassion or concern.

    I think also Ron Paul commands a lot of respect because he has proven himself to be a man of strong principles and integrity over many decades. People might not always agree with his principles but he is consistent and will not be bought in favour of his own political career.

    Conor Ryan

  5. Bill,

    I think there can be a case made that you can be Christian and libertarian. This is a video of Judge Andrew Napolitano, the host of Fox Business’ Freedom Watch who is a libertarian commentator and he puts across a very good pro life argument. While I might not agree with everything he says in the interview he is able to merge his faith and his ideology together into what I think is a well thought out position.

    Paul Wakeford

  6. This understates Paul’s position. From what I have heard he is not much better than the loony left on foreign relations. You know US’ fault for 9/11 etc etc. though at least he is pro-life. Make a lousy commander-in-chief, however.
    Damien Spillane

  7. Thanks guys

    As I said, Christians will disagree on these matters, but I cannot vote for Ron Paul. He is a nutter. Just one article of many will suffice here:

    And you are right Damien. On many issues he is a raging lefty. He is not a conservative at all.

    And those wishing to defend libertarianism from a Christian viewpoint need to offer a biblical rational for doing so.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Materialism and capitalism-only tunnelvision is not so much better than Socialist materialism. It is NOT at the heart and soul of what made America special which is the appeal to Divine Providence from the Judeo-Christian perspective.

    Abraham Lincoln, America’s Founders, as well as Ronald Reagan, all make Libertarians cringe with their biblical references and militarily strong defensive and offensive positions – and I am very happy that they prevailed rather than be neutralized by Libertarian equivocation, moral equivalence laden appeals that we should have just played nice with the bad guys of the world who would leave virtuously selfish self-centered peace lovers with little military power alone.

    Perhaps it is a symptom of avoidance from difficulty, judgementalism and unwanted burdens which is reflected in the Libertarian divergence from Christianity and toward misguided pacifistic isolationist notions of morality.

    This is why they cannot take the step forward which it takes to lead America in this world because the biblical perspective is absent in their politically correct philosophy neutralized high-ground WHICH diverges from the American way, as does that of their socialist anarchist cousins who find the practice of subversion and betrayal the most sublime form of progressive duty and obligation.

    Quoting Lincoln on Slavery:

    “If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether’

    With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

    The Libertarian leg is a wobbly, morally unstable and unreliable one. You cannot answer the vile and evil aggressions, threats and corruptions of society and culture of this world and within America with it.

    Free enterprise and moral anarchy alone can’t hold up what is in the best interests of society and of the family. By itself it does not square with the biblical precepts and ethic which America was founded upon and brought to be by in the first place all the way back to the pilgrims and puritans who left Europe to see and build a nation that would be more in accordance with these same precepts of liberty and their faith.

    The same charge which America’s founders found their duty to make, the same which Lincoln and Reagan carried forward is an ongoing enterprise. You cannot divorce what is preached from what is practiced, as our media and corrupted education falsely teaches and preaches. Indeed, at a certain level, besides on the physical plane -dare we call it spiritual- it IS war. And so it remains a war between those who believe in the liberty, sovereignty and dignity of the individual and those who don’t.

    Libertarianism -at best- sidelines America morally by capturing and making the argument for the anarchy of production as opposed to control by the state, yet it assists LIEberal Socialism and Communism by divorcing America from God and the biblical virtues and precepts which best compliment the free market economy and civilization known as America.

    Christopher Sufle, A Free Market American

  9. At the risk of being accused of presenting an ‘ad hominem’ argument, I think that personal character of incumbents has a huge influence on the execution of their office.

    Consequently, we need to pay much more attention to the personal character qualities (or absence thereof) of our candidates. (The party platforms will give us clear signals of the collective party character.)

    Ray Robinson, you said

    “Only policies that are publicly canvassed could be mandated and all else put to a referendum, preferably at the next election.”

    But some policy positions emerge over a government’s term of office and can’t be dealt with by such cumbersome methods, nor wait for the election cycle.

    They need to be tackled at the time, and this is where the character of individuals and governing parties shows itself in “statesman-like leadership”, “muddling compromise” or “craven power-hunger”.

    These may be positions on a spectrum, but a single crisis polarises us, and crystallises character into some form of action in response.

    Unfortunately, the sheer expense of electioneering means that we will never have enough candidates to select from according to all the qualities and preferences we would like. So we are stuck with usually two choices, both representing dilemmas or ‘Hobson’s choices’.

    In Victoria, we didn’t like the ALP so we replaced them with the Coalition, even though quite a few Coalition members are pro-abortion, or have generally poor records on conservative issues.

    In NSW, the ALP were so bad that almost anything had to be better, but along with the change came some baggage we wouldn’t like.

    In both States, the ALP, despite it’s bad record overall, did some good things anyway.

    To paraphrase the Mikado, “such perfection occurs only in theatrical performances”.

    John Angelico

  10. John Angelico. Thank you for the comments.

    Perhaps it is safe to assume that very few ‘crises’ occur outside the mandated policies. The “cumbersome & expensive” election cycle in the scheme of a four year National or State budget would appear to be simply a small price to pay for democracy, particularly on non mandated social engineering issues.

    The ‘Hobson’ choice of political party or independent could be argued to exist where there is an unequal allocation of resources among candidates to promote themselves. Theoretically a solution presents.

    Given the opportunity of a referendum on social engineering issues would do two important outcomes. First, there would be the opportunity to rationally and widely present the case for all sides. An informed electorate appears to be missing on many issues.

    Secondly, it would matter little if your elected member was conservative or non – the people have had their say based on the arguments put.

    Apparently given the inability for the Christians to gather resources to make a point to the wider electorate, then it would appear that a referendum would assist greatly?

    “ALP did some good things” you say. No doubt. As always Christ Jesus calls us to be on neither side but for the expression of His Love, Wisdom, Knowledge and Counsel.

    Ray Robinson

  11. Thanks Paul

    Yes I saw that article and was not all that impressed with it to be honest. It of course did not offer a scrap of scriptural or theological justification for libertarianism. One could easily dissect the whole piece, but just one point if I may: Paul rather foolishly repeats the furphy, “The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous… God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.” Of course only God can make a person virtuous. But laws are given by God in a fallen world to keep evil in check and punish the wicked person. This is a very important role of the God-ordained institution of the state. Read Romans 13 again if necessary.

    And the real question is not ‘Can a Christian be a libertarian?’ Many of course are. The real question is, ‘Should a Christian be a libertarian?’

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. Yes that Washington Post article sums up the Christian Libertarian position well. I think one of the strengths of the libertarian point of view is it is willing to critique both the left and the right. I find it to be a much more sober and realistic perspective than that of the left. Libertarians aren’t pacifists and tend to believe strongly in self-defence and gun rights and believe that the purpose of the military is to defend a country against a foreign invader. I would think that is a fairly conventional view. They are also skeptical of central planning and big socialistic visions of saving the world or the environment. They are very different to the left in this regard. None of these view points are particulary PC.

    That article is right that libertarians are most passionate about economic issues. I think this is their particular strength. In a time when most Christian young people take socialistic ideas about poverty for granted an intellectual defense of capitalism is a breath of fresh air.

    Conor Ryan

  13. This needs strong qualification IMO. Conservatives do not, ideally, want such things prohibited in law. Rather, they would like to see the culture and traditional moral authorities mobilised against these things. If enough of a stigma is created then these things will go away on their own. I don’t believe most conservatives want moral issues legislated from Washington or Canberra or whatever.

    Tim Andrews makes some good points on this in “The Importance of Social Conservatism”

    As such, libertarians ought not endorse drugs, ought not endorse families out of wedlock, ought not endorse rampant hedonism. Rather, they must do the opposite. They must join forces with their traditional foes – the social conservatives – and recognise that the only way to achieve their policy aims is to ensure our civil society is based on a strong social conservative ethos. Because otherwise, the Sodom and Gomorrah society that shall emerge shall quickly fail and burn.

    Damien Spillane

  14. On that point, yes, I think they should. Libertarians, at least those that are economically competent, have no interest in taking drugs or using prostitutes, they only maintain that policing those things causes much more harm than good and that it is not in the mandate of the state to police those things.

    The Bible, in fact, has no mandate for the state but to preserve law and order and to provide defence. That is what many libertarians want out of it, including me. Law and order was typically dealt with as a local matter with defence within the purview of the King. The King could not create law as parliament now creates it, he could only lawfully work within the framework of Law provided by God. This check on state influence is sadly lacking in all legislative process today. That’s why we have wealth redistribution programs when the Bible specifically states not to show partiality to rich or poor. It is also why the state feels that it has legislative authority over marriage when in fact, it has none. The Victorian government can declare forever that two homosexuals are married and execute anyone who dares say otherwise, but that wouldn’t make it so.

    When it comes to defence, both national and personal, libertarians are as keen on it as others are. It’s true there are anarchist libertarians who would have a stateless society with defence provided by private entities, but even they both recognise the need for defence and think about the best ways to provide it. One of their major bugbears is that the state says, “we’ll protect you” and promptly confiscates all arms, thus preventing any man from defending himself against a gun-wielding assailant. There is no Biblical precedent for this disarmament of a state’s citizens. Another is that instead of defending its citizens America often puts them in harm’s way in some far-flung corner of the world where it has no business interfering. Defending by perpetually invading other countries has been their de facto foreign policy and has not made them very popular.

    Both the political left and right assume that a legislative assembly should be able to make any law and that every citizen must obey it. Libertarians don’t advocate disobedience of the law per se, but they start with the sound basis of you being the sole master of your body and the labour you do with it and the property you own as a result. No one, not even the King, may confiscate your property, freedom or life for any reason unless you yourself have done the same to another. The Bible’s views on this are absolutely parallel. Do not murder, steal, lie. These are the basis for all law among men and all libertarians acknowledge those principles. They are also the basis for Common Law on which our whole legislature is based, and that was based in turn on the Bible.

    This idea that the state should be the solution to all our social problems is nothing less than idolatry. It’s placing the state’s creation of law above God’s own eternal Law that all men must obey. It is giving the state de jure authority over all property within its borders and quite a lot without. American foreign policy even assumes de facto authority over other nations as well. Isn’t that enough?

    In Romans 13 Paul makes no apology for rulers that murder and steal from their own subjects, he only advocates obeying earthly rulers as far as we can since that provides the best law and order for everyone, even if some laws are draconian and pervert justice. As Christians we must be known as law keepers, not tax fraud-endorsing, drug-cooking loonies. Keeping unjust laws that nevertheless do not prevent us from obeying God is important because it shows that we honour law on principle. That’s as far as it goes, as far as I am concerned. We are well within our rights to seek change for laws that are draconian and do pervert justice. I doubt many libertarians would disagree with me on those points.

    Libertarians do have some ignorance issues when it comes to family life and sexuality, however they say that the state has no right to insist one way or another on those issues and you have to admit, they do have a point. The Bible doesn’t give the state any authority over any family matters, sexuality, business, in fact anything at all. Homosexuality is not an exception – it was down to the community to administer punishment for those unspeakable practices. Same applies to all the sexual boundaries. Not legislated or administered by the King but by the local community. To think that the federal government outlawing something and a community recognising that God has outlawed the same thing are identical circumstances is to make a grave error.

    In sum, I do not know a lot about Ron Paul the man or about his politics, but I do know that libertarianism is highly compatible with the Bible, because at its heart it recognises the universal law of God among men. It is not amoral, it recognises the eternal morality of life, liberty and property. I can think of no political school that is more closely aligned with the Bible in matters of government.

    Reinhard Dekter

  15. A fine article, Mr. Muehlenberg. Many thanks for posting it and may it obtain the wide readershp it deserves.

    If I may offer a counter to Mr. Wood’s comment regarding the definition of American exceptionalism. It is not that America enjoys a special relationship with God, but that America has a unique foundation–the first country founded upon an idea rather than geography or ethnicity. That idea is best expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” No other country to that point had been so established. The subsequent history of the United States–at least up to the last generation or so–has testified to the wisdom and rightness of these ideas. If perhaps the country has experienced the favor of divine Providence it was because for quite a while its people sought to honor God implicitly if not explicitly. And yet, to quote Mr. Jefferson again, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

    Ken Abbott,
    Maryland, USA

  16. Many thanks Ken

    Yes I was meaning to reply to that topic, but you did it very nicely for me. Thanks again.

    And I note that the Christian defenders of libertarianism here have still failed to make a solid biblical case for it. If freedom were the greatest good, then prison would be the greatest evil. Both propositions are clearly silly, as well as unbiblical. Ordered liberty, or liberty under law, is always the biblical ideal, and the state has a role – if even a minimal role – to play in all this. So I still wait for someone to lay out the Scriptural case for libertarianism. Even the pagan classical Greek thinkers knew that our highest end was the cultivation of virtue, both private and public. That squares better with the biblical ideal than does the moral anarchy of most libertarians.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  17. Thanks Damien

    While Gingrich is not my preferred candidate, I like what Sowell says about Ron Paul: “But does anyone seriously want to put the fate of this nation in the hands of a man who can casually brush aside the danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism?”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  18. I’m confused as to why you think that libertarianism is embrace of moral anarchy. Every libertarian philosopher and economist (frequently both) takes great pains to stress the importance of virtue and universal morality. Examples are Stefan Moleneux, Ludwig Von Mises, Murrey Rothbard, Jorg Guido Hulzman, Hans Herman Hoppe. It’s not a post-modern moral relativism utopia but a system of philosophy where morality is clearly defined and universal. Libertarian anarchism springs from the application of the universal morality to the state, not the other way around.

    Libertarians do not attempt to dictate personal choice morality, which my be regarded as religion, family, vocation, etc. but only those rules that govern interactions between people, so libertarian law is a subset of Biblical Law. They do, however, talk about the virtues of temperence, industry, generosity, fidelity and so on. In other words, they say, “A man is free to destroy himself, but we will give him the tools not to. A man is not free to destroy another and we will use force to prevent it.”

    Again, I can think of no more Biblical perspective of the state.

    Reinhard Dekter

  19. Ken. Thanks for explaining more fully the concept of American ‘exceptionalism’, and its origins in the Constitution.
    It is an excellent document, including the clause “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government”.
    I think the idea of ‘government by consent may have been drawn from the English debates post Civil War, held openly by Cromwell and representatives of the ‘Army’ including his opponents the ‘Levellers’.
    It was mooted, probably as a new and fairly revolutionary idea that: “every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government, and I do not think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound to that government which he hath not had a voice to put himself under”

    Thus is expressed the “consent of the governed” you refer to. Thanks!
    Graham Wood

  20. Bill,

    While I might call myself a Christian Libertarian there is still parts of the ideology that I would struggle with, such as the permissiveness of people like Ron Paul to things such as drugs, porn, etc. I struggle with however having the state regulate against all these areas.
    I believe that as Christians we should show the world what is wrong with their sin but not force them into doing what is right, our example should be enough. You then have the problem of evil laws being regulated by the State (eg: the abortion laws in VIC) A Christian should stand against that regulation as that is obviously not of God
    I do like the three legged argument of Reagan that you bring up but I do think that Libertarianism can also use that same stool.
    You have asked for a Biblical case for Libertarianism and I think these two articles make a better explanation then I might be able to of how a libertarian view of the state can be Biblical.
    Paul Wakeford

  21. Thanks Paul

    But you muddle things up here just like Ron Paul: what do you mean by “force them into doing what is right”? As I already said, the state has a divine mandate to keep evil in check. This has nothing to do with coercing people to be righteous. But it does have to do with using law to restrain evil. Indeed, is a law against murder or theft about ‘forcing them into doing what is right’? If you understand it that way, then we all would (or should) agree that it is a good thing to force people to do right (not murdering, running red lights, etc). Law without consequence is mere advice. But life is busy just now so have not looked at your links yet.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  22. Dear Bill
    Thank you for another thoughtful article. As an Australian, my thoughts on the US presidential race are marginal at best. However, I try to keep up with the positions of the various candidates. On this I have to disagree with you, not because I support Mr Paul, but because I have so little faith in all the opposition frontrunners. The West has a history of fielding ‘moderate’ candidates to liberal-radical opponents. We have seen where this has led us. Mr Paul is strongly pro-life. He is also against subsidising ‘friendly’ governments that pursue anti-American policies – and this is labelled as isolationist! Also, compared to his likely RINO opponents I think Mr Paul is the only candidate who can drag the US back from the brink of ruinous debt, rather than just whittle for another four years. Perhaps it is time that the US’ allies started spending money defending their own freedoms. And Christian communities in the Middle East have suffered massively since 2001 under ‘friendly’ governments. Mr Paul is posibly the only candidate who can drag US foreign policy back to the sane and relatively moral era of c.1960. Foreign policy is important, but it is also irrelevent unless the US economy is able to sustain it. Otherwise we are all in thrall to the vagaries of the North Korea sustaining atheists in Peking.
    Dennis Ryan

  23. Thanks Dennis

    That many of the other Republican candidates are far from ideal does not mitigate against showing up the very real deficiencies of Ron Paul. And if he is unable or unwilling to defend the US, then it does not really matter a hill of beans how much he claims to be prolife or interested in fixing the economy. And what is the point of having a healthier economy if he is more to the left than Obama in letting the country go down a moral black hole?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  24. Reinhart, you say the Bible has “no mandate for the state but to preserve law and order and to provide defence”. But the Bible does indeed mandate for the state to restrain or punish evil. This being the case, it is entirely appropriate for the state to regulate human sexuality via marriage law, laws prohibiting prostitution and homosexuality, etc. Additionally, if the mandate of the state includes the promotion of liberty, then such regulation is necessary to achieve the maximum liberty for the maximum number of its citizens. Social libertarianism does not produce maximum liberty for the maximum number of individuals – rather, it allows many to fall into bondage and total liberty is reduced.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  25. But Denis, not all the other candidates are RINOs. For example, Michele Bachmann is at least as good as Ron Paul on the US domestic economy and debt, but doesn’t have the libertarian baggage of Paul. Also, she and Santorum appear to have better pro-life credentials than Ron Paul.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

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