The FDA is getting ready to shut down J.C. Newman Cigar Company, a 119 year old family tobacco business. Why? Because they sell premium cigars for less than $10. Oh, and also because they’re not willing to pay a massive “fee” and spend thousands of hours having an inept organization regulate their product. Because, you know, if bad or unsafe products manage to get on the market people will buy them regardless of the poor return they get on their investment. Just like people always do. Does the FDA know what they’re doing in inspecting and regulating cigars? Of course not. Why would you need to actually be good at your job when you can use weapons and imprisonment to force people to subsidize it? The fact that the state thinks they actually need (or have the right to) regulate the sale of tobacco or any other product is silly. The fact that they have no clue how to successfully perform this “necessary” regulation just adds to the insanity of the situation. But hey, at least they’re doing it for the children, and if they don’t like it, well they can just move their business to Somalia.
“We are not attempting to curtail commerce. What we want is if they are going to do business here they have to follow the rules.” After reading this quote and the accompanying story, I fired up my trusty rusty statist translator, and this is what came out:
“We’re not attempting to curtail commerce, but if you don’t give us money and get our permission to freely trade services for currency, we will use force to either imprison or extort more money from you.”
Jokes aside, this is a very real problem. The state, and taxi drivers whose monopoly on this portion of transportation has been maintained by the state are attempting to forcefully stop competition from entering the taxi marketplace. This is not free market enterprise, this is coercive force regulating the market. The city of Memphis (and a number of other municipalities around the country) are attempting to squash the competition that these startups are providing to the market. The existent rules Memphis officials are so desperate to maintain do not exist to promote safety, they exist to ensure the city gets its cut of the pie, and continues to receive the support of taxi drivers who have taken advantage of a system that allows them a legal monopoly on the market.
Uber and Lyft are not doing any wrong or otherwise harming anyone by not having a state license to operate. Funny enough, the controversy with Uber and Lyft is actually a solid analogy for the immigration controversy as well. The problem is not people entering a marketplace without a license. There is no transcendent moral law that requires everyone have a license to do their job (which is what U.S. citizenship ultimately boils down to, a license to seek employment in the country and a requirement to pay taxes on the goods earned from that employment).
The problem in this situation is that the state believes they can require someone to have a license to work, and that they believe they are entitled to a share of the profits of that person’s labor. Get rid of the forceful and unethical state regulations of the marketplace, and allow the best businesses (and best individual workers, wherever they may be from) to freely compete for a share of the available demand. This is the solution to the ongoing controversy surrounding Uber, Lyft, or any similar ride sharing services. Deregulate, decentralize, and stop creating and enforcing laws that artificially slant the market one way or the other. In the absence of state favors to compete for, services will begin to compete for a share of the market by better serving consumers. Everyone (except the state) wins.
A common objection from reformed conservatives against libertarian theory is that it fails to take human nature into account. They claim (since) men are totally depraved that a substantial civil authority is necessary to ensure that society remains morally upright. However, this objection misses one important point: Every man in a position of governmental authority is just as depraved as any other. Frederic Bastiat deftly points this out:
“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
This is an important truth to keep in mind when dealing with the wickedness of men. No wicked man ceases to be wicked when you give him a badge. Bad trees still yield bat fruit even when given authority over others. One can certainly try to limit the damage by only giving power to the most upright of men, but this will still not ensure the just behavior of anyone, be they rulers or subjects. Even David, the “man after God’s own heart”, a king operating in a constitutional minarchy, enslaved and murdered a man through the means of conscription because he had a desire for a woman who was not his to have. Solomon, arguably the wisest king to ever rule the earth, blatantly disobeyed the law regarding kings by having over 700 wives. Even the best of those who are granted in positions of power are still liable to commit gross and heinous sin, just as much as anyone else.
Laws, in and of themselves cannot limit the wickedness of men. The fear of punishment may act as a temporary, imperfect deterrent against immoral behavior, but the only true answer to man’s fallen nature is the gospel. Just as we should not treat the state as God the Father by asking it to provide us with our daily bread, we should not treat it like God the Holy Spirit and expect it to perform regenerating work on the people over which it rules.
The state should not exist to do anything more than to preserve man’s right to not have himself or his property aggressed against. We already have two institutions for teaching and enforcing Christian morality, the church and the covenantal family, and not only do we not need another, but we ought not to add one either. Want to improve the moral structure of a society? Good, then practice pure and undefiled religion. The answer to moral decay in any society is not to use the forceful arm of the state to inculcate children with Christian ideals, to rob our neighbor to support our churches, or to wage aggressive wars in regions dominated by other religions. Christ certainly commanded His apostles to sell their cloaks and buy swords but these swords were not for aggressive fighting. Instead, the apostles were instructed to have the means for their own defense as they continually labored to fulfill all that had been commanded of them. This is made even more clear by Paul, when he states that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh”. The calling of the Christian life is not to aggressive, carnal warfare, but is instead to the building of Christ’s kingdom.
Human nature is totally depraved, that is, it is inherently inclined towards wickedness. However, the fix for this problem is not a baptized Leviathan state, and this solution will never work. The answer is and always has been the gospel of Christ. No state program will fix our moral ineptitude, nor will any state program be able to maintain improved moral behavior. The only means by which the behavior of individual men (and subsequently larger groupings of these same individuals) is for them to be granted new life through the power of the Holy Spirit, and to receive the sanctification promised to all men who receive this new life. There is no other fix for this problem, so perhaps we’d best go start baptizing and making disciples like Jesus said to in the first place, rather than asking the state to do so by force.
Libertarianism is sometimes treated as a complicated moral, political, and economic system. While there may be difficult positive applications of it, libertarianism is a simple system of principles.
The non-aggression principle is the fundamental principle of libertarian theory. This principle holds that aggression (the initiation of physical force against persons or their property) is inherently wrong.
Libertarianism is the idea that anything that would be wrong for one man to do to another man by force is wrong for a group of men to do to a man (or group of men) by force.
For every right, there is an equal and opposite responsibility. For the right to his own life, a man has the responsibility of not infringing upon the right to life of another man. To enjoy the right to his own property, a man must not infringe upon the right of any other man to his own property.
To add to his property morally, he must use the means of voluntary exchange, rather than acquiring goods or services by the use of force. He may improve his own estate by homesteading, that is, adding value to property which he has come upon by enhancing it with his labors.
A libertarian society allows men the opportunity to create prosperity and pursue happiness for themselves peacefully. However, what may be prosperity for one man is not necessarily the same for another. So, each individual man in a libertarian society has the right to dispose of his own person and property in the way(s) in which he sees fit. He is allowed to pursue his own happiness.
In pursuing his own happiness, a man may behave immorally, but there should be no legislation against his immoral behavior(s) unless they forcefully take away from another man’s rights to his own person and property. A man may do something ethically wrong, but he has not committed a crime unless and until his actions have a victim (other than “society”), a victim whose right to either life, liberty, or disposal of property has been violated.
With these basic principles in mind, libertarian theory becomes much easier to understand. There are a wide number of sets and sub-sets of theory that fall within the bounds of these simple ideas, but they all maintain these common themes.
When I go to sporting events, I always avoid the national anthem. I hate the music, the singing is always terrible, and I find it generally distasteful. Aside from that, I desperately want to avoid the awkwardness of being expected to remove my hat and salute the flag, because I won’t.
I won’t salute the flag because of what it represents. It is certainly legitimate to render honor where it is due, but there is no honor due to this flag and what it stands for.
The flag of the United States of America is a piece of cloth representative of an oppressive state, one which has murdered thousands of people in unjust wars. The flag represents a state that actively protects and funds those who murder innocents. It represents a state which regularly prosecutes (persecutes) persons who commit victimless “crimes”.
The flag represents a state which performs massive surveillance that violates personal security, and claims the right to conscript me into any war they wish, making me their slave. The flag represents an empire more murderous than any state in the history of the world.
The flag does not represent some ethereal, platonic ideal of freedom, justice, or opportunity, long since lost in history. It represents the historic and current actions of the state, and all it has done and continues to do to harm, rob, and kill people around the world. Because of all this, I refuse to salute the flag of the United States of America, and I always will.
I did an interview thing.
Campbell Sproul joins us to discuss theology and politics:
02:18 – Present and future plans.
03:54 – The journey of becoming a libertarian.
06:50 – What was it like growing up in the Sproul family?
08:45 – Responding to Al Mohler’s comments about whether a Christian should be a libertarian.
15:32 – Responding to Al Mohler’s comments regarding government legislation of morality
19:34 – The Left/Right Paradigm
22:13 – Romans 13 and submission to authority
26:15 – Critical thinking among Christians
28:59 – Church authority vs government authority
30:30 – Thoughts on education
37:12 – Theological exposure & shifts
38:26 – Is professional sports a distraction & divisive?
42:43 – Thoughts on eschatology & the future