Virtue Ethics & Broken Windows:
Why I am not a Libertarian (Redux)

Libertarians, Moral Philosophy — By on October 20, 2004 at 12:44 am

[Note: Because of the emphasis on the upcoming election, I haven't taken the opportunity to explore a political issue that has always intrigued me -- Christian libertarianism. The main complaint I have with most libertarians is that they often work backwards from a grievance to the development of their core beliefs. Christians, on the other hand, must start with Biblical principles and work their way to a coherent political philosophy. A number of my bloggers whose intellect and opinions I respect (particularly John Coleman, Josh Claybourn, and Vox Day) subscribe to some version of Christian libertarianism. In the hopes that they (and others) will join me in exploring the foundational issues in more detail, I'm reposting an article I wrote last December explaining why I do not think libertarianism is tenable. I'm open to changing my opinion, though, so I'm interested in hearing critiques of my position and a defense of why libertarianism is compatible with a Biblical worldview.]


Charles Murray almost had me. When I first read Murray’s “What It Means To Be A Libertarian” nearly ten years ago I was compelled by the thrust of his argument. “Freedom is first of all our birthright,” Murray claimed. “An adult making an honest living and minding his own business deserves to be left alone to live his life. He deserves to be free.”
Libertarianism appeared to be an attractive political philosophy yet something was missing. It reminded me of my high school days when after reading The Fountainhead I wanted to become an Objectivist. Doing so, however, required me to deny a concept that I had known was undeniably true: original sin. And then I realized the problem with libertarianism, like objectivism and liberalism, was that it required accepting a romanticized view of human nature.
Like other “ism’s”, libertarianism is difficult to define. Essentially, libertarians believe that each person “owns” his own life and property, and has the right to make his own decisions about how he shall live, providing he respects the rights of others to do the same. Cato Institute vice-president David Boaz adds that the basic political issue of libertarianism is the relationship of the individual to the state. (Since Boaz is one of the intellectual leaders of this philosophy I will use his “Key Concepts of Libertarianism” throughout this critique.)
The primary flaw in libertarianism is that it is rooted in an ethic of utilitarianism rather than virtue ethics. Without a person developing the corresponding moral character necessary for self-restraint, his liberty is bound to result in the harm of others. In fact, freedom without virtue is corrosive and will destroy everything within its range. The Founding Fathers understood this connection between liberty and a virtuous citizenry when they founded our republic. “‘Tis substantially true,” George Washington wrote in his farewell address, “that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”
Libertarians, however, are not hedonists. They do believe that the rule of law is essential to government, though instead of rooting it in natural law theory they rely on “spontaneously developed legal rules.” (I find it rather surprising that a theory that relies on such concepts “natural rights” and “natural harmony” has so little use for “natural law.”) Boaz’s assertion reminds me of the old Calvin and Hobbes game of “Calvinball” where the rules on how to play are made up as you go along.
Boaz also contends that individuals should not be subject to the state’s “arbitrary commands.” (The fact that he doesn’t explain the difference between rules that are spontaneously developed and those that are arbitrary is simply one of numerous problems with his viewpoint.) By placing an overemphasis on individual liberty without an equal accent on individual virtue, the libertarian unwittingly erodes the foundation of order on which his political theory stands.
Order is a necessary precondition of liberty and must be maintained from the lowest level of government (the individual conscience) to the highest (the state). The individual conscience is the most basic level of government and it is regulated by virtues. Liberty, in this view, is not an end unto itself but a means by which eudaimonia (happiness or human flourishing) can most effectively be pursued. Liberty is a necessary component of virtue ethics, but it cannot be a substitute. Since it is based on the utilitarian principle that puts liberty, rather than eudaimonia as the chief end of man, libertarianism undermines order and becomes a self-defeating philosophy.
Contrary to what libertarians might believe, order does not arise spontaneously. It is either cultivated from within, through self-disciple, or is forced upon an individual from forces outside themselves (i.e., by the laws or mores of the community) if they lack the requisite character. Once established, this order has to be maintained to be effective. In the absence of order there is no peace, no justice, and certainly no “natural harmony.” Therefore before we can address the relationship between ‘the individual and the state’ we must first establish the relationship between individual liberty and order maintenance.
Take, for example, the “victimless crimes” of prostitution, vagrancy, or public drunkenness. Theoretically, libertarians should support the “decriminalization” of all these acts since they do not necessarily harm other people or their property. But how long could a community last if such liberty is granted free reign? As the reknowed criminologist James Wilson notes:

This wish to “decriminalize” disreputable behavior that “harms no one”- and thus remove the ultimate sanction the police can employ to maintain neighborhood order–is, we think, a mistake. Arresting a single drunk or a single vagrant who has harmed no identifiable person seems unjust, and in a sense it is. But failing to do anything about a score of drunks or a hundred vagrants may destroy an entire community. A particular rule that seems to make sense in the individual case makes no sense when it is made a universal rule and applied to all cases. It makes no sense because it fails to take into account the connection between one broken window left untended and a thousand broken windows.

This is the heart of Wilson’s “Broken Window theory” of crime:

At the community level, disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones. Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.

In a similar fashion, the breakdown of community standards does not break down all at once. Rather each “broken window” of virtuous behavior (recreational use of drugs, for example) leads to more “window-breaking” until the community lacks the “virtue” necessary to govern itself and requires a higher level (the state) to step in.
Libertarians, of course, are primarily from the middle to upper classes of society. They are not affected by such behavior precisely because the police maintain a level of order and discipline within their communities. If, however, they had to live with such activity on a day-to-day basis, they would likely revise what was considered “arbitrary” and what is considered “spontaneous.”
The Responses:
John Coleman provides a preliminary response by posting an article he wrote for his college newspaper:

On the negative side, Libertarians are crazy. Most became libertarians because they have some social quirk that disallows them from participation in normal society –picture excessive drug use, Dungeons and Dragons play, or fascination with the word “metrosexual” for instance. They are strange. You can’t take them home to your parents, unless, of course, your parents are members of some druid cult. They frighten small children.

Update: John has written a new response: What Libertarianism Means to Me (The Remix)
Josh Claybourn defers to Ben Domenech’s thoughtful analysis on the subject (Ben’s another sharp thinker that I forget to include on the short list of Christian libertarians). Josh adds that unlike some libertarians, he doesn’t believe that all order arises “spontaneously.” He also notes that he is a Christian libertarian precisely because he believes in Natural Law.
Peter Epps provides an astute post that deserves a close reading. He illuminates my confusion over why libertarianism can be found crossing the lines of both sides of the political spectrum:

So the libertarian fails because he fundamentally misunderstands the question. The question is still, “What actions may all claim with justice must be allowed to them?” The answer provided by libertarians does not, even upon a sympathetic reading, answer the question. That’s one reason there are right-libertarian and left-libertarian camps that assert very similar basic principles but arrive at diametrically opposed views on many large-scale political matters.

TZ chimes in with “Will the windows be unbroken, by and by Lord…” (great title, TZ):

What it seems both liberals and conservatives lose is a sense of shame, or more specifically that it could be different than crime. Liberals want to force people to accept shameful things (homogamy), and Conservatives want to criminalize it. “If such liberty is granted free reign”. But it ought not. There ought to be a heavy social cost. But not a criminal one.

Vox isn’t too keen on my argument (though curiously he doesn’t address it from a Christian standpoint):

EO’s argument here is manifestly absurd, as illegal drug usage is arguably as high in the more civilized suburbs as it is in the inner city. The idea that most drug users function quite adequately in society is difficult for some to accept, but it is true nonetheless as a majority of adult Americans have more than a little experience with such illicit activities. Clearly, it is not the law that is maintaining the social order. Such illegal activity may not be virtuous, but it is clearly not socially destructive either; indeed, it is far less socially destructive than the attempts to stamp it out.

By claiming that drug users can “adequately function” Vox is setting the standard rather low. If that is all that libertarianism has to offer it should be no surprise that most people reject it. I also think that he (and many others) are falling for a false dichotomy between libertarianism and statist interventionism. My only contention is that it is precisely because libertarianism doesn’t care if a person is virtuous or not that it is ultimately doomed to fail. According to Christian belief, man is inherently corrupt and will not naturally choose to do good. Society either has to find a way to help develop character (my preference) or it will eventually require a form of government where the state steps in to correct the mess that people make of their lives. Libertarianism prefers not to have either which is why it is untenable. (The comments section on Vox’s post are also worth reading.)
John Quincy Public thinks that we should all be libertarians: “In seems to me that not being Libertarian is a most un-Christian thing indeed.”
BME weighs in with a lengthy fisking:

The cold, hard reality is that the state can only maintain law and order by force with one of two methods. It can either be supported overwhelmingly, by literally almost the entire society, or it can rule by maintaining so much power over society that nothing is beyond its day-to-day ability to control. In any stable country, the former is true, and most unstable countries got that way because the state attempted to control too much of the civilization it ruled over.



  • David Marcoe

    I think the one big concept that is useful in libertarian philosophy is the idea of the “night watchman state,” (only things needed to uphold the law) as applied to Federal and even State governments. Eliminating the vast majority of Federal and State provision and subzidation in welfare and education, going so far as to get rid of public schools, would be a big step toward improving both social justice and education in this country.
    It sounds counter-intituitive, but can any one actually point out a place where a civil authority larger than a city has actually been effective in eithor of those areas, or a myriad of other paternal measure enacted by government? I could point to the dozens of different private certifications and education programs, or to industries that have and continue to do with out a majority of college degree-holders. Or would any one care to wager how government programs would stack up against private charities nad initiatives?
    And Joe, I know this will make you pay attention… How about private military company called Executive Outcomes that did vastly better peacekeeping with $60 million and 300 troops than the UN did with 18,000 troops and billions of dollars.
    The key is that minimalizing needs to stop at the Federal and State levels, because things accomplished better not just by acting individual people, but also by communities of people as well. Here in Minnesota, I sat through an informative lecture by a Wellstone supporter (two term Demo. candidate who died a couple of years ago) from a small town, talking about how the community had funded several multi-million dollar public projects through fundraisers and grassroots initiative and then helped a neighboring town to the do the same.
    Community intitiative, in lieu of government involvement, and the shifting toward a natural law framework, could allow for the creation of a truly Christian libertarian philosophy.

  • David Marcoe

    I think the one big concept that is useful in libertarian philosophy is the idea of the “night watchman state,” (only things needed to uphold the law) as applied to Federal and even State governments. Eliminating the vast majority of Federal and State provision and subzidation in welfare and education, going so far as to get rid of public schools, would be a big step toward improving both social justice and education in this country.
    It sounds counter-intituitive, but can any one actually point out a place where a civil authority larger than a city has actually been effective in eithor of those areas, or a myriad of other paternal measure enacted by government? I could point to the dozens of different private certifications and education programs, or to industries that have and continue to do with out a majority of college degree-holders. Or would any one care to wager how government programs would stack up against private charities nad initiatives?
    And Joe, I know this will make you pay attention… How about private military company called Executive Outcomes that did vastly better peacekeeping with $60 million and 300 troops than the UN did with 18,000 troops and billions of dollars.
    The key is that minimalizing needs to stop at the Federal and State levels, because things accomplished better not just by acting individual people, but also by communities of people as well. Here in Minnesota, I sat through an informative lecture by a Wellstone supporter (two term Demo. candidate who died a couple of years ago) from a small town, talking about how the community had funded several multi-million dollar public projects through fundraisers and grassroots initiative and then helped a neighboring town to the do the same.
    Community intitiative, in lieu of government involvement, and the shifting toward a natural law framework, could allow for the creation of a truly Christian libertarian philosophy.

  • David Marcoe

    Edit: small community = small town

  • David Marcoe

    Edit: small community = small town

  • David Marcoe

    To Add (because I forgot to say this in my first post): I’ve found that when running “thought experiments” about what should and shouldn’t be cut from a mental list of gov’t responsibilities, I was hestitant on some, but in the end, I couldn’t neccesarily think of any practical reason of whay gov’t should continue in a given capacity. I realized that it was a security blanket, to an extent.

  • David Marcoe

    To Add (because I forgot to say this in my first post): I’ve found that when running “thought experiments” about what should and shouldn’t be cut from a mental list of gov’t responsibilities, I was hestitant on some, but in the end, I couldn’t neccesarily think of any practical reason of whay gov’t should continue in a given capacity. I realized that it was a security blanket, to an extent.

  • BL

    While I personally tend toward libertarian views informed by Christian values this whole debate, while interesting, strikes me as responding to symptons, not causes. Every social construct will ultimately fail because of the sinful natures of its participants.
    Regarding your examples I think you sweep too broadly when you suggest that decriminalization necessarily equates with disorder. For those concerned over broken windows a locality can order the immediate replacement of all broken windows and assign whatever penalty they choose–or they can order a uniform standard in lawn maintenance or refuse to allow people to park their boats in their driveways. At some point order for the sake of order becomes a tool of control.
    Returning to your examples where is the lack of order if prostitution is decriminalized but regulated and kept off public streets and confined to certain areas? Surely this too is order.
    While law can mimmick morality it is no substitute for morality. Order for the sake of order leads only to fascism. In the same way as liberty without responsibility leads to license. Right now we, as a country, seem to be headed down both roads at the same time.

  • BL

    While I personally tend toward libertarian views informed by Christian values this whole debate, while interesting, strikes me as responding to symptons, not causes. Every social construct will ultimately fail because of the sinful natures of its participants.
    Regarding your examples I think you sweep too broadly when you suggest that decriminalization necessarily equates with disorder. For those concerned over broken windows a locality can order the immediate replacement of all broken windows and assign whatever penalty they choose–or they can order a uniform standard in lawn maintenance or refuse to allow people to park their boats in their driveways. At some point order for the sake of order becomes a tool of control.
    Returning to your examples where is the lack of order if prostitution is decriminalized but regulated and kept off public streets and confined to certain areas? Surely this too is order.
    While law can mimmick morality it is no substitute for morality. Order for the sake of order leads only to fascism. In the same way as liberty without responsibility leads to license. Right now we, as a country, seem to be headed down both roads at the same time.

  • http://blog.revmike.us/ Rev. Mike

    Joe, where do you see John Locke’s philosophy in any of this discussion? In the 20th century we may have divorced ourselves culturally from the philosophical underpinnings, but if we go back to Locke as the underlying framework, then the rooting in natural law and freedom derivative of God’s gift of liberty is quite clearly present.

  • http://blog.revmike.us/ Rev. Mike

    Joe, where do you see John Locke’s philosophy in any of this discussion? In the 20th century we may have divorced ourselves culturally from the philosophical underpinnings, but if we go back to Locke as the underlying framework, then the rooting in natural law and freedom derivative of God’s gift of liberty is quite clearly present.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ MikeF

    Joe,
    You seem to be presenting a bit of a strawman here by going with a pure form of libertarianism, rather than the common variety. Most libertarians are not pure in their philosophy. Some are right-leaning, then there are those like myself who are left-leaning libertarians who distrust large corporations for the same reason as we distrust large government organizations. It’s really simple. Libertarianism is built on the idea that you can’t use force except in self-defense which includes property, or in the case of defending another person.
    There is something fatally wrong with your idea that you can draw a consistent principle beyond morality from the Bible. I agree with you, for example, that abortion is murder, but that doesn’t mean that we may at all agree on how to prosecute it or how to even set up the system for controlling it. Why? Because the Bible leaves that up to each nation to decide.
    You also do yourself a severe disservice by bringing in Ayn Rand into a discussion about Christian libertarianism. Not only was she an atheist, but she rejected certain fundamentals of christian morality itself. I moved to the left-wing branch of libertarianism as my involvement in Christianity has grown. To illustrate the difference, you have two extremes that can theoretically come from libertarianism: anarcho-capitalism and social anarchism. Christian libertarians naturally should lean more toward the latter than the former.
    You really ought to distinguish between right-libertarians and left-libertarians because the difference is important. The left wing branch of libertarianism is probably the more viable branch of libertarianism for Christians because we don’t see greed as a virtue, but rather as something that can be reasonably controlled through market forces. And unlike the right-libertarians, we do support antitrust laws and some, like myself, even support in extreme cases the states’ right of the corporate death penalty.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeF

    Joe,
    You seem to be presenting a bit of a strawman here by going with a pure form of libertarianism, rather than the common variety. Most libertarians are not pure in their philosophy. Some are right-leaning, then there are those like myself who are left-leaning libertarians who distrust large corporations for the same reason as we distrust large government organizations. It’s really simple. Libertarianism is built on the idea that you can’t use force except in self-defense which includes property, or in the case of defending another person.
    There is something fatally wrong with your idea that you can draw a consistent principle beyond morality from the Bible. I agree with you, for example, that abortion is murder, but that doesn’t mean that we may at all agree on how to prosecute it or how to even set up the system for controlling it. Why? Because the Bible leaves that up to each nation to decide.
    You also do yourself a severe disservice by bringing in Ayn Rand into a discussion about Christian libertarianism. Not only was she an atheist, but she rejected certain fundamentals of christian morality itself. I moved to the left-wing branch of libertarianism as my involvement in Christianity has grown. To illustrate the difference, you have two extremes that can theoretically come from libertarianism: anarcho-capitalism and social anarchism. Christian libertarians naturally should lean more toward the latter than the former.
    You really ought to distinguish between right-libertarians and left-libertarians because the difference is important. The left wing branch of libertarianism is probably the more viable branch of libertarianism for Christians because we don’t see greed as a virtue, but rather as something that can be reasonably controlled through market forces. And unlike the right-libertarians, we do support antitrust laws and some, like myself, even support in extreme cases the states’ right of the corporate death penalty.

  • Hudson

    I disagree Joe. Windows cannot be broken indefinitely and neither can sin sustain itself. Christian Libertariansism is better than pure Libertarianism because Christians realize that a sinful life is not sustaining.
    Libertarianism is a long term system of government. Any harmful short term effect are short lived, whereas in a state like the one we have. Short term effects are unoticable, but long term effects are devastating.
    Free men will not be bullied by vagrants or criminals because free men will be able to protect themselves.
    Prostitution would not last indefinitely because as more kids are homeschooled and can start their own businesses without government interference the incentive will be less. Plus, the more prostitutes their are would drive down the price, therefore fewer people would enter into it.

  • Hudson

    I disagree Joe. Windows cannot be broken indefinitely and neither can sin sustain itself. Christian Libertariansism is better than pure Libertarianism because Christians realize that a sinful life is not sustaining.
    Libertarianism is a long term system of government. Any harmful short term effect are short lived, whereas in a state like the one we have. Short term effects are unoticable, but long term effects are devastating.
    Free men will not be bullied by vagrants or criminals because free men will be able to protect themselves.
    Prostitution would not last indefinitely because as more kids are homeschooled and can start their own businesses without government interference the incentive will be less. Plus, the more prostitutes their are would drive down the price, therefore fewer people would enter into it.

  • Jeff

    Joe,
    Thanks for the post. As a libertarian-leaning Republican (in Western WA, no less!) but also a man with strong Christian beliefs, I have often wondered how to reconcile my faith with my politics. I think I’ll have to do a lot more reading, but this was a great starting place.
    Thanks!

  • Jeff

    Joe,
    Thanks for the post. As a libertarian-leaning Republican (in Western WA, no less!) but also a man with strong Christian beliefs, I have often wondered how to reconcile my faith with my politics. I think I’ll have to do a lot more reading, but this was a great starting place.
    Thanks!

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/ Joe Carter

    David: It sounds counter-intituitive, but can any one actually point out a place where a civil authority larger than a city has actually been effective in eithor of those areas, or a myriad of other paternal measure enacted by government?
    Yes, actually, I think I can. Take, for example OSHA regulations. Libertarians often cite them as a form of unnecessary government interference. To some extent, they are right. We do have too many regulations. But while we may have more than we need we still need the regulations to protect employees and to ensure that companies that would

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    David: It sounds counter-intituitive, but can any one actually point out a place where a civil authority larger than a city has actually been effective in eithor of those areas, or a myriad of other paternal measure enacted by government?
    Yes, actually, I think I can. Take, for example OSHA regulations. Libertarians often cite them as a form of unnecessary government interference. To some extent, they are right. We do have too many regulations. But while we may have more than we need we still need the regulations to protect employees and to ensure that companies that would

  • http://www.infinitemonkeysblog.com/ RobbL Monkey

    Why bother with prostitutes when the government-run schools are kindly producing girls who give it away for free?

  • http://www.infinitemonkeysblog.com RobbL Monkey

    Why bother with prostitutes when the government-run schools are kindly producing girls who give it away for free?

  • Jim S

    I too was attracted by the Libertarian philosophy as a youth. To me the attractive part was its philosophical purity and apparent consistency. But then something began to bother me about it–namely, that I was afraid Libertarianism would fail when it confronted real world problems.
    A few years later I came to Christianity. The whole idea of original sin had been totally repugnant to me in my college days; people were good until proven bad, right? Christianity (and Judaism before it) take the opposite tack, that humans need to be made good, by their creator, not their own efforts.
    As I get older and look at the world, the reality of “Sin” (or whatever other word you choose to describe the awful things people do) has become increasingly apparent. (Also in me, I am ashamed to have discovered.) And so I have changed my philosophy.
    I now think that anything that is philosophically pure, and in particular anything that depends on the perfectability of human beings, is doomed. The best we can hope for on this earth is a dynamic equilibrium. Pure socialism, pure capitalism, pure libertarianism, all will fail in the real world.
    For reasons that are not totally clear to me even yet, I started reading Orthodoxy by Chesterton. Written in 1907, he argues that the doctrine of original sin is our best defense (!) against aristocracy and dictatorship, since if you believe in original sin you can’t fall for the age-old lie that someone else is really so close to perfect that you can trust them with your government, life, livelihood, etc.
    Thanks again for all your thought-provoking posts.

  • Jim S

    I too was attracted by the Libertarian philosophy as a youth. To me the attractive part was its philosophical purity and apparent consistency. But then something began to bother me about it–namely, that I was afraid Libertarianism would fail when it confronted real world problems.
    A few years later I came to Christianity. The whole idea of original sin had been totally repugnant to me in my college days; people were good until proven bad, right? Christianity (and Judaism before it) take the opposite tack, that humans need to be made good, by their creator, not their own efforts.
    As I get older and look at the world, the reality of “Sin” (or whatever other word you choose to describe the awful things people do) has become increasingly apparent. (Also in me, I am ashamed to have discovered.) And so I have changed my philosophy.
    I now think that anything that is philosophically pure, and in particular anything that depends on the perfectability of human beings, is doomed. The best we can hope for on this earth is a dynamic equilibrium. Pure socialism, pure capitalism, pure libertarianism, all will fail in the real world.
    For reasons that are not totally clear to me even yet, I started reading Orthodoxy by Chesterton. Written in 1907, he argues that the doctrine of original sin is our best defense (!) against aristocracy and dictatorship, since if you believe in original sin you can’t fall for the age-old lie that someone else is really so close to perfect that you can trust them with your government, life, livelihood, etc.
    Thanks again for all your thought-provoking posts.

  • David Scott

    In my studies of the Founding, it seems like the Founders were Christian Libertarians-the thing is, though, that most people were Christian, Deist, or Natural-Law believing atheist in that time-nearly all of the Colonialists were-so, they could generally trust the church and morality to handle the more moral issues, a la prostitution. Unfortuantely, with our cultural framework as chaotic as it is these days, Libertarian seems too optimistic, too trusting people to police their own lives, in my opinion.

  • David Scott

    In my studies of the Founding, it seems like the Founders were Christian Libertarians-the thing is, though, that most people were Christian, Deist, or Natural-Law believing atheist in that time-nearly all of the Colonialists were-so, they could generally trust the church and morality to handle the more moral issues, a la prostitution. Unfortuantely, with our cultural framework as chaotic as it is these days, Libertarian seems too optimistic, too trusting people to police their own lives, in my opinion.

  • http://pseudopolymath.blogspot.com/ Mark O

    I think the questions raised in this post echo something I’ve not got my head around: what is the relationship between a societies law and the personal ethics of its citizens.
    In a nation comprised of “good Chritians” few laws would be needed and a libertarian goverment could flourish. In a nation of “devil worshippers” many more laws (and a goverment of checks and balances) would be required to smooth over the “breaking of windows”.
    However, the laws a nation lives by will also feed back into the morality of the people, take for example Lacodaemon (Ancient Sparta). Which came first, the Spartan Peer or the Laws of Lycurgus which molded him. For a second example take America today. Religious freedom was one of the principles upon which our country was founded. But, if you talk to your fellow countrymen, it isn’t just a principle it’s an unquestioned axiom. However, our founders couldn’t have sold it’s citizenry on that principle originally if the germs of that belief was not their before that.
    Does anybody know any sources which discusses questions like that? I’d greatly appreciate it.
    Regarding a Christian theory of government, It would I think be one which tends in it’s laws to support Christian ethics and beliefs. Kind of what the Torah (e.g., Leviticus) did for the ancient hebrews, laws designed to mold them into a priestly people. Perhaps, a Christian theory of goverment would be much like the Torah with “Faith, Hope, and Love”?
    As an American however, I’m not looking for a new theory of goverment. Here we’re trying to implement Mr Madison’s.

  • http://pseudopolymath.blogspot.com Mark O

    I think the questions raised in this post echo something I’ve not got my head around: what is the relationship between a societies law and the personal ethics of its citizens.
    In a nation comprised of “good Chritians” few laws would be needed and a libertarian goverment could flourish. In a nation of “devil worshippers” many more laws (and a goverment of checks and balances) would be required to smooth over the “breaking of windows”.
    However, the laws a nation lives by will also feed back into the morality of the people, take for example Lacodaemon (Ancient Sparta). Which came first, the Spartan Peer or the Laws of Lycurgus which molded him. For a second example take America today. Religious freedom was one of the principles upon which our country was founded. But, if you talk to your fellow countrymen, it isn’t just a principle it’s an unquestioned axiom. However, our founders couldn’t have sold it’s citizenry on that principle originally if the germs of that belief was not their before that.
    Does anybody know any sources which discusses questions like that? I’d greatly appreciate it.
    Regarding a Christian theory of government, It would I think be one which tends in it’s laws to support Christian ethics and beliefs. Kind of what the Torah (e.g., Leviticus) did for the ancient hebrews, laws designed to mold them into a priestly people. Perhaps, a Christian theory of goverment would be much like the Torah with “Faith, Hope, and Love”?
    As an American however, I’m not looking for a new theory of goverment. Here we’re trying to implement Mr Madison’s.

  • Terry

    Joe Wrote: “My question, though, is where does Christian libertarianism get its Biblical foundation?”
    I don’t think it has a specifically Biblical foundation in Gospel. For that matter I don’t think the Gospels endorse ANY particular form of government. There does, however, seem to be an undercurrent of distrust in allowing the state to address spiritual issues. I’m not well versed enough in Acts, the Apostolic letters, or Revelations to know what they say about the proper conduct of the state. If what I remember is accurate they are more about Church gov’t and Christian conduct than public policy. There are a number of Psalms that endorse the idea of a “good judge” who can deliver justice and speak for the weak and poor. these might be considered to support the idea that God prefers a redistributionist government but it seems a stretch to me.
    The biggest problem I see with libertarianism as a guiding philosophy is that it fetishizes freedom of choice at the expense of the results of that choice. Is choosing to spend one’s life caring for the sick really no more virtuous than choosing to become a junkie and enticing others to become junkies? I know I’ll be accused of setting up a straw man argument with that sentence, but I think my words are justified.
    Ayn Rand has said “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” This seems a rather stunted and narrow idea of Man’s purpose when compared to the Christian view.

  • Terry

    Joe Wrote: “My question, though, is where does Christian libertarianism get its Biblical foundation?”
    I don’t think it has a specifically Biblical foundation in Gospel. For that matter I don’t think the Gospels endorse ANY particular form of government. There does, however, seem to be an undercurrent of distrust in allowing the state to address spiritual issues. I’m not well versed enough in Acts, the Apostolic letters, or Revelations to know what they say about the proper conduct of the state. If what I remember is accurate they are more about Church gov’t and Christian conduct than public policy. There are a number of Psalms that endorse the idea of a “good judge” who can deliver justice and speak for the weak and poor. these might be considered to support the idea that God prefers a redistributionist government but it seems a stretch to me.
    The biggest problem I see with libertarianism as a guiding philosophy is that it fetishizes freedom of choice at the expense of the results of that choice. Is choosing to spend one’s life caring for the sick really no more virtuous than choosing to become a junkie and enticing others to become junkies? I know I’ll be accused of setting up a straw man argument with that sentence, but I think my words are justified.
    Ayn Rand has said “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” This seems a rather stunted and narrow idea of Man’s purpose when compared to the Christian view.

  • David Marcoe

    Yes, actually, I think I can. Take, for example OSHA regulations. Libertarians often cite them as a form of unnecessary government interference. To some extent, they are right. We do have too many regulations. But while we may have more than we need we still need the regulations to protect employees and to ensure that companies that would

  • David Marcoe

    Yes, actually, I think I can. Take, for example OSHA regulations. Libertarians often cite them as a form of unnecessary government interference. To some extent, they are right. We do have too many regulations. But while we may have more than we need we still need the regulations to protect employees and to ensure that companies that would

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com/ Mark S.

    Joe,
    One problem I see with libertarianism, and even with modern liberal (small “l”) thought in general, is the unquestioned and myopic focus on the individual as the level on which political discussion should focus. One of the reasons that liberty is turning into license is that we have radically glorified the individual at the expense of any thought of the community. Libertarianism has this problem in spades. That, I think, is the problem with libertarianism, even “Christian” libertarianism.
    It’s interesting to note that in the post, and all of the comments (with the exception of the first to a small degree) there is no discussion of the claim that the community has on the individual. This is true whether the framework is libertarian or liberal.
    As always, a too concentrated focus on the claims that the community has on the individual can tend towards totalitarianism, but it should not be a simplistic pendulum shift to the other side (as Bork says just because there is a slippery slope does not mean we have to ski all the way to the bottom). There is a happy medium in Burkean conservatism.
    Mark S.

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com Mark S.

    Joe,
    One problem I see with libertarianism, and even with modern liberal (small “l”) thought in general, is the unquestioned and myopic focus on the individual as the level on which political discussion should focus. One of the reasons that liberty is turning into license is that we have radically glorified the individual at the expense of any thought of the community. Libertarianism has this problem in spades. That, I think, is the problem with libertarianism, even “Christian” libertarianism.
    It’s interesting to note that in the post, and all of the comments (with the exception of the first to a small degree) there is no discussion of the claim that the community has on the individual. This is true whether the framework is libertarian or liberal.
    As always, a too concentrated focus on the claims that the community has on the individual can tend towards totalitarianism, but it should not be a simplistic pendulum shift to the other side (as Bork says just because there is a slippery slope does not mean we have to ski all the way to the bottom). There is a happy medium in Burkean conservatism.
    Mark S.

  • David Marcoe

    Mark, I totally agree with that. In fact, you took the words out of my motuh.

  • David Marcoe

    Mark, I totally agree with that. In fact, you took the words out of my motuh.

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com/ Mark S.

    David M.,
    A minor point, but the US never joined the League of Nations. Wilson did give it his personal support, but he could never get Congress to go along.
    A question for you. In your example of the radio frequency spectrum: How does your owner know, and prove, that he has the rights to that piece of the spectrum so that he can go into court to enforce those rights? Who gave the rights to him?
    Mark S.

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com Mark S.

    David M.,
    A minor point, but the US never joined the League of Nations. Wilson did give it his personal support, but he could never get Congress to go along.
    A question for you. In your example of the radio frequency spectrum: How does your owner know, and prove, that he has the rights to that piece of the spectrum so that he can go into court to enforce those rights? Who gave the rights to him?
    Mark S.

  • David Marcoe

    Your right about the League of Nations, but my point is that it originated in America, though it is to our credit that the majority of us didn’t share his enthusiasm.
    A question for you. In your example of the radio frequency spectrum: How does your owner know, and prove, that he has the rights to that piece of the spectrum so that he can go into court to enforce those rights? Who gave the rights to him?
    Who gave him the rights to the land his house sits on? In the early days, it would fall under the “first come, first serve” tradition in common law, the same it is with land. But of course it is harder to prove. Then again, so are oral agreements, which are also recognized by the courts.
    In this case, it can reasonably argue that radio falls under Federal jurisdiction, as radio waves due tend to cross State lines. But let it be a conventional police matter, following the well-established channels of law, instead of plopping it in the hands of an agency that acts as a microcosm of all three branches of government and plays fast and loose with constitutionality.

  • David Marcoe

    Your right about the League of Nations, but my point is that it originated in America, though it is to our credit that the majority of us didn’t share his enthusiasm.
    A question for you. In your example of the radio frequency spectrum: How does your owner know, and prove, that he has the rights to that piece of the spectrum so that he can go into court to enforce those rights? Who gave the rights to him?
    Who gave him the rights to the land his house sits on? In the early days, it would fall under the “first come, first serve” tradition in common law, the same it is with land. But of course it is harder to prove. Then again, so are oral agreements, which are also recognized by the courts.
    In this case, it can reasonably argue that radio falls under Federal jurisdiction, as radio waves due tend to cross State lines. But let it be a conventional police matter, following the well-established channels of law, instead of plopping it in the hands of an agency that acts as a microcosm of all three branches of government and plays fast and loose with constitutionality.

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com/ Mark S.

    David,
    I’m usually the last one to defend the bureaucracy. However, without that “fourth branch of government,” I’m not sure how you administrate the granting of the licenses. It’s all well to go back to the Hobbesian state of nature and argue first come first served. However, that ain’t where we are. If you just look at the non-agency offices of the Executive (the Cabinet level positions), I don’t see any contender that can really adminstrate such a thing.
    I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to dump the lot of them (and heck, I’m a securities lawyer, the existence of the SEC pays my mortgage), but the practicality of this escapes me.
    (Nice to see another Minnesotan here.)
    Mark S.

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com Mark S.

    David,
    I’m usually the last one to defend the bureaucracy. However, without that “fourth branch of government,” I’m not sure how you administrate the granting of the licenses. It’s all well to go back to the Hobbesian state of nature and argue first come first served. However, that ain’t where we are. If you just look at the non-agency offices of the Executive (the Cabinet level positions), I don’t see any contender that can really adminstrate such a thing.
    I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to dump the lot of them (and heck, I’m a securities lawyer, the existence of the SEC pays my mortgage), but the practicality of this escapes me.
    (Nice to see another Minnesotan here.)
    Mark S.

  • http://pseudopolymath.blogspot.com/ Mark O

    How does Libertarianism feel about the the Federal Banking system? That seems like one of services our government uses (and abuses), but ultimately benefits us all.

  • http://pseudopolymath.blogspot.com Mark O

    How does Libertarianism feel about the the Federal Banking system? That seems like one of services our government uses (and abuses), but ultimately benefits us all.

  • David Marcoe

    Same here, Mark. There are actually quite a few Minnesotans that lurk here.
    You have to realize that first come first serve common law method of property, which was summarily documented by what ever governing authority was in the area, served us for about century as we expanded in to the West.
    The problem now isn’t having agencies that enforce the law, but granting agencies the ability to essentially create new laws. Many of the mandates that come down from agencies like OSHA and the EPA have no basis in anything that sits on the books. Congress has given them a blank check over policy.
    Arguably, we should have only two or three major Federal police agencies; The FBI to investigate crimes that cross State lines, against Federal property, against Federal officials, and to enforce general Federal law. Federal Marshals to carry out orders of the courts. And maybe a third agency for domestic intelligence, counter-intel, and counter-terrorism. Something like the Secret Service could be handled by a Delta Force-type unit formed from Marine Corps (probably Marine MPs), since we already have them stationed in places like the White House and US Embassies, which makes for more infrastructural simplicity.
    Instead, we have sixty plus regulatory agencies, many of whom have their own individual police forces. In all truth, it would be more useful to model the structure of a large municipality (some of whom have greater populations than small nations): One police force with separate inspection and information-gathering agencies. A building inspector makes sure a building adheres to building codes passed by a city council. He doesn’t arbitrarily decide what the code should be.
    However, the States, and in many cases local and county governments, already have laws and agencies to oversee what the Federal government encroaches on. And they are prefectly capable of doing the job. Sixteen of our States were completely sovereign or autonomous nations before they became States; the thirteen colonies, the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Republic of California, and the Republic of Texas. Even with our watered-down version of federalism, the States continue to operate like sovereign nations.
    But let’s say for the sake of argument we needed regulatory agencies. Why do we continue to violate the Constitution? We have a process to amend the document and keep it with in the bounds of clearly established legal channels. Instead, we create dangerous trend of trampling constitutional law.
    What I am trying to lay down is four maxims for better government: Keep it local. Keep separation of powers. Keep it constitutional. Keep the laws to end states, not implementations. That is all that I am saying.

  • David Marcoe

    Same here, Mark. There are actually quite a few Minnesotans that lurk here.
    You have to realize that first come first serve common law method of property, which was summarily documented by what ever governing authority was in the area, served us for about century as we expanded in to the West.
    The problem now isn’t having agencies that enforce the law, but granting agencies the ability to essentially create new laws. Many of the mandates that come down from agencies like OSHA and the EPA have no basis in anything that sits on the books. Congress has given them a blank check over policy.
    Arguably, we should have only two or three major Federal police agencies; The FBI to investigate crimes that cross State lines, against Federal property, against Federal officials, and to enforce general Federal law. Federal Marshals to carry out orders of the courts. And maybe a third agency for domestic intelligence, counter-intel, and counter-terrorism. Something like the Secret Service could be handled by a Delta Force-type unit formed from Marine Corps (probably Marine MPs), since we already have them stationed in places like the White House and US Embassies, which makes for more infrastructural simplicity.
    Instead, we have sixty plus regulatory agencies, many of whom have their own individual police forces. In all truth, it would be more useful to model the structure of a large municipality (some of whom have greater populations than small nations): One police force with separate inspection and information-gathering agencies. A building inspector makes sure a building adheres to building codes passed by a city council. He doesn’t arbitrarily decide what the code should be.
    However, the States, and in many cases local and county governments, already have laws and agencies to oversee what the Federal government encroaches on. And they are prefectly capable of doing the job. Sixteen of our States were completely sovereign or autonomous nations before they became States; the thirteen colonies, the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Republic of California, and the Republic of Texas. Even with our watered-down version of federalism, the States continue to operate like sovereign nations.
    But let’s say for the sake of argument we needed regulatory agencies. Why do we continue to violate the Constitution? We have a process to amend the document and keep it with in the bounds of clearly established legal channels. Instead, we create dangerous trend of trampling constitutional law.
    What I am trying to lay down is four maxims for better government: Keep it local. Keep separation of powers. Keep it constitutional. Keep the laws to end states, not implementations. That is all that I am saying.

  • David Marcoe

    How does Libertarianism feel about the the Federal Banking system? That seems like one of services our government uses (and abuses), but ultimately benefits us all.
    I think it is a misnomer that it benefits people. If you look at an economy, one of the things you realize is that it is a large network of information; prices, stock indexes, quarterly earnings, etc. All of that is information that informs individual people in an economy and allows them to make various economic choices. When the Fed manipulates the interest rate, it fluctuates currency artificially, effecting all the other information in the economy that uses that currency as medium for the expression of information about real conditions in the economy. The information is then corrupted to an extent, creating a higher possiblity for poorer economic choices. In addition, the interest rate doesn’t alter any true economic conditions, like the financial health of the Fortune 500 or the amount of homes built ina given month.
    Personally, I weighed the possiblity of going with privately issued currencies from banks. Now, you could argue that we had that early in our history and we went over to a standard currency because of the head aches of having multiple currencies circulating. But, then again, market forces will tend toward the best currencies. We already have private quasi-currencies like airline points and coupons.
    The private market has produced numerous standards. The ATX form factor of PCs. DVD discs. VHS tapes. 10 digit unique MAC addresses for routers and network cards. The famous UL stamp of Underwriter Laboratories, which is arguably more trusted than any government standard.
    It is something to consider…

  • David Marcoe

    How does Libertarianism feel about the the Federal Banking system? That seems like one of services our government uses (and abuses), but ultimately benefits us all.
    I think it is a misnomer that it benefits people. If you look at an economy, one of the things you realize is that it is a large network of information; prices, stock indexes, quarterly earnings, etc. All of that is information that informs individual people in an economy and allows them to make various economic choices. When the Fed manipulates the interest rate, it fluctuates currency artificially, effecting all the other information in the economy that uses that currency as medium for the expression of information about real conditions in the economy. The information is then corrupted to an extent, creating a higher possiblity for poorer economic choices. In addition, the interest rate doesn’t alter any true economic conditions, like the financial health of the Fortune 500 or the amount of homes built ina given month.
    Personally, I weighed the possiblity of going with privately issued currencies from banks. Now, you could argue that we had that early in our history and we went over to a standard currency because of the head aches of having multiple currencies circulating. But, then again, market forces will tend toward the best currencies. We already have private quasi-currencies like airline points and coupons.
    The private market has produced numerous standards. The ATX form factor of PCs. DVD discs. VHS tapes. 10 digit unique MAC addresses for routers and network cards. The famous UL stamp of Underwriter Laboratories, which is arguably more trusted than any government standard.
    It is something to consider…

  • Chad Wayne

    I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read through this discussion as thoroughly as I should have before I posted, but as a person who use to proclaim to be a libertarian and who now finds himself governed by a higher power, I wanted to weigh in a bit.
    The failure in libertarian arguments today is the disregard for the frame of reference from which Hobbes, Locke, et al. described libertarian ideals. Implicit in their discussions is the acceptance of the Rule of Law, e.g. that two persons can agree to a set of rules that govern over them… whether they be natural laws or not.
    Today’s libertarians don’t believe in the Rule of Law. Period. Thus while the idea of limited government entrusted by the governed was the basic idea behind libertarian thought, today, the libertarian sees that any imposition or law that limits them whether in theory or in reality is an anathema.
    Central to original libertarian thought is the idea that reasonable people can agree to a framework that governs them with as little interference as possible (but not complete lack thereof) and also agreeing to live under that framework. My suspicion is that modern libertarianism is closer to anarchy than anything else. But that’s just my 2

  • Chad Wayne

    I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read through this discussion as thoroughly as I should have before I posted, but as a person who use to proclaim to be a libertarian and who now finds himself governed by a higher power, I wanted to weigh in a bit.
    The failure in libertarian arguments today is the disregard for the frame of reference from which Hobbes, Locke, et al. described libertarian ideals. Implicit in their discussions is the acceptance of the Rule of Law, e.g. that two persons can agree to a set of rules that govern over them… whether they be natural laws or not.
    Today’s libertarians don’t believe in the Rule of Law. Period. Thus while the idea of limited government entrusted by the governed was the basic idea behind libertarian thought, today, the libertarian sees that any imposition or law that limits them whether in theory or in reality is an anathema.
    Central to original libertarian thought is the idea that reasonable people can agree to a framework that governs them with as little interference as possible (but not complete lack thereof) and also agreeing to live under that framework. My suspicion is that modern libertarianism is closer to anarchy than anything else. But that’s just my 2

  • Terry

    I’m Minnesota born & raised, but I’ve lived in Hawaii for 15 years. Someone has to make the sacrifice & help populate this island chain:)

  • Terry

    I’m Minnesota born & raised, but I’ve lived in Hawaii for 15 years. Someone has to make the sacrifice & help populate this island chain:)

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com/ Mark S.

    Terry,
    Hawaii is overpopulated and expensive. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Please don’t try to disabuse me of this, the end of Summer is hard enough to take without thinking of paradise.
    Mark

  • http://www.sidesspot.blogspot.com Mark S.

    Terry,
    Hawaii is overpopulated and expensive. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Please don’t try to disabuse me of this, the end of Summer is hard enough to take without thinking of paradise.
    Mark

  • http://mt.ektopos.com/parablemania Jeremy Pierce

    The average yokel in the South is conservative, and maybe libertarians there are all upper middle class, but in NH and VT you have lots of average yokels who are libertarians.

  • http://mt.ektopos.com/parablemania Jeremy Pierce

    The average yokel in the South is conservative, and maybe libertarians there are all upper middle class, but in NH and VT you have lots of average yokels who are libertarians.

  • http://inkan.blogspot.com/ pgepps

    Joe,
    I’m going to blog this article over at my blog, and I’ll add some thoughts as we go. You’ve hit on something that has interested me for a long time.
    I’m a very conservative Christian, but my heading when I first became politically conscious would be much better described as libertarian than social conservative. It was Locke (among others–Bastiat, the whole rundown) who persuaded me into that POV, though of course I now know that there are richer contexts/traditions that Locke is interacting with. His Biblical takedown of absolutism in the First Treatise is much underrated, BTW.
    I have noticed two interesting trends in my political thought over the past decade or so. First, I have become more conservative and less libertarian in my views. That is to say, I am more concerned with a melioristic militance against actions based in faulty, romantic, or utopian visions of humanity than I am with radical revision of the political order. OTOH, I have also noticed that my increasing conservatism has tended to *revise* or *defer* my libertarian ideals, rather than to *eliminate* them.
    An example: as I have taken a deeper view of the tradition of ideas that leads to the founding of our Republic and its current state, I find that I am increasingly critical of *both* capitalism and communism; they are forms of a faulty view of civil society, namely economic determinism. The most obvious symptom of this is the completely illogical linking of Presidential success for incumbents to current business cycles in our national news media and in voter habits. The subtle problem is the role which corporate charters play in immunizing individuals against the consequences of their behavior. That is prototypical capitalism, and it is both immoral and unproductive of a just state.
    So, does that make me a left-libertarian or a right-libertarian? I’m certainly not in favor of dealing with the evils of government-pumped-up “big business” by pumping up “big government”; this is ineffective in reducing the net harm in our governance. I guess I’m in favor of reducing government tampering, and in pushing for the withdrawal of government from such tampering wherever possible. Sometimes that will sound leftish, but the principles are essentially conservative.
    I’m going to disagree with your construction of the issue as “order” versus “liberty,” though. But I’ll do that over on my own space, as I’ve already used too much of yours.
    Thanks,
    PGE

  • http://inkan.blogspot.com pgepps

    Joe,
    I’m going to blog this article over at my blog, and I’ll add some thoughts as we go. You’ve hit on something that has interested me for a long time.
    I’m a very conservative Christian, but my heading when I first became politically conscious would be much better described as libertarian than social conservative. It was Locke (among others–Bastiat, the whole rundown) who persuaded me into that POV, though of course I now know that there are richer contexts/traditions that Locke is interacting with. His Biblical takedown of absolutism in the First Treatise is much underrated, BTW.
    I have noticed two interesting trends in my political thought over the past decade or so. First, I have become more conservative and less libertarian in my views. That is to say, I am more concerned with a melioristic militance against actions based in faulty, romantic, or utopian visions of humanity than I am with radical revision of the political order. OTOH, I have also noticed that my increasing conservatism has tended to *revise* or *defer* my libertarian ideals, rather than to *eliminate* them.
    An example: as I have taken a deeper view of the tradition of ideas that leads to the founding of our Republic and its current state, I find that I am increasingly critical of *both* capitalism and communism; they are forms of a faulty view of civil society, namely economic determinism. The most obvious symptom of this is the completely illogical linking of Presidential success for incumbents to current business cycles in our national news media and in voter habits. The subtle problem is the role which corporate charters play in immunizing individuals against the consequences of their behavior. That is prototypical capitalism, and it is both immoral and unproductive of a just state.
    So, does that make me a left-libertarian or a right-libertarian? I’m certainly not in favor of dealing with the evils of government-pumped-up “big business” by pumping up “big government”; this is ineffective in reducing the net harm in our governance. I guess I’m in favor of reducing government tampering, and in pushing for the withdrawal of government from such tampering wherever possible. Sometimes that will sound leftish, but the principles are essentially conservative.
    I’m going to disagree with your construction of the issue as “order” versus “liberty,” though. But I’ll do that over on my own space, as I’ve already used too much of yours.
    Thanks,
    PGE

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ MikeF

    Well, that

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeF

    Well, that

  • http://inkan.blogspot.com/ pgepps

    @MikeF–
    I agree with your point about law enforcement, but I don’t think you’ve hit Joe squarely yet. There’s something in his argument that *just* maximizing liberty isn’t going to achieve the ends for which we made maximizing liberty a goal. Conservatives tend to be less sanguine than either liberals or libertarians about the likelihood that people will ever be “enlightened” or “self-interested” in ways that are either noble enough or fully-informed enough to achieve the good. Christians flatly believe that, barring transformation by Christ’s work, none ever will be.
    The state can’t do it; that’s true. Neither can mere liberty. The question can’t be resolved in those terms–or, I think, in terms of civil society at all.

  • http://inkan.blogspot.com pgepps

    @MikeF–
    I agree with your point about law enforcement, but I don’t think you’ve hit Joe squarely yet. There’s something in his argument that *just* maximizing liberty isn’t going to achieve the ends for which we made maximizing liberty a goal. Conservatives tend to be less sanguine than either liberals or libertarians about the likelihood that people will ever be “enlightened” or “self-interested” in ways that are either noble enough or fully-informed enough to achieve the good. Christians flatly believe that, barring transformation by Christ’s work, none ever will be.
    The state can’t do it; that’s true. Neither can mere liberty. The question can’t be resolved in those terms–or, I think, in terms of civil society at all.