The difference between an unbelieving libertarian and an unbelieving leftist is quite simple to grasp. The unbelieving libertarian wants to go to Hell, and the unbelieving leftist wants to do the same thing, but wants me to pay for it.
Both need the gospel, and both present a problem for the evangelist. There is a spiritual problem in both instances. But the leftist, in addition to his spiritual problems, is also a public nuisance. He creates political and cultural problems, mostly having to do with various forms of coercion, compulsion, mandatory regulation, and forced labor for the pyramids. All these are covered by his all-purpose favorite euphemistic verb, which is “to ask.” We want to ask the well-off to pay their fair share. We want to ask small companies to provide health coverage they can’t afford. We want to ask the pyramid slaves to get their butts in gear.
They are the dyslexic party. They look at compulsion and read compassion.
Now none of this makes the libertine libertarian a fine fellow. Pot-smokers are not going to build anything, much less the City of God. But while they may not be any help to us in what we are seeking to build, neither are they “asking” us to buy their pot for them. The problem they present — and it is one — can wait for another day.
But in the meantime, the idol of the state has a maw that can gulp down trillions of dollars at one go. It all began with disguised coercion, moved on to corruption and coercion, and it is now ending with open corruption and open coercion. We are rapidly approaching the point where the only reasonable response is open defiance.
The enlistment of the IRS as a partisan organization, designed to run interference against lawful political organization is an example of high wickedness. The president famously said there was “not a smidgen of corruption” with the IRS scandal. That’s right. It was not a smidgen, it was a smoking pile.
When the law shows open contempt for an honest citizenry, it is not long before that honest citizenry — in order to remain such — must show open contempt for what is being called “the law.” And for those Christians who are not well-read in the history of biblical civil disobedience, contempt for Sharkey-law is not the same thing as contempt for the rule of law. Just the reverse, actually.
“All right, all right!” said Sam. “That’s quite enough. I don’t want to hear no more. No welcome, no beer, no smoke, and a lot of rules and orc-talk instead” (The Return of the King, p. 977)
“What’s all this?” said Frodo, feeling inclined to laugh.
“This is what it is, Mr. Baggins,” said the leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit: “You’re arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food.”
And what else?” said Frodo.
“That’ll do to go on with,” said the Shirriff-leader.
“I can add some more, if you’d like it,” said Sam. “Calling your Chief Names, Wishing to punch his Pimply Face, and Thinking you Shirriffs look a lot of Tom-fools” (p. 978).
Doug….where in the world did you come from? I read this post and can’t help but wonder what glorious backwoods rock you came tromping out from under to write such things. Thank you brother.
Suppose the U.S. no longer existed and you had to choose between two countries, Country A and Country B, to live in from now on. Suppose that both countries had a similar standard of living, and that in both countries all of the traditional civil “duties” of government (fire dept., roads, police, defense, courts, etc.) were paid for by service fees, but with one key difference: In Country A, service fees are mandatory in that if you don’t pay for all the services (even the ones you don’t want), you get put in prison, whereas in Country B, the service… Read more »
Thanks for bringing up the term ‘civil disobedience’. We need to develop/recover a biblical theology/philosophy of civil disobedience. And I think that repaying coercion with coercion or violence with violence is not the answer, at least not until quite a ways down the ‘civil disobedience’ road and after 1) real repentance of the fruit bearing nature and 2) exhausting all other avenues to the full. The excerpt from LOTR, while a personal favourite and a good example of bureaucratic over- reach, is not an apples-to-apples comparison to the present state of national affairs. Sharky and his minions were actually not… Read more »
Ben, some fire departments function in situation B
Yes, while living in NE Oregon that’s how fire protection services were paid for. That was one high priority bill I paid!
Fire Departments can sometimes work well that way, and so can road and transportation networks (tolls), and so can health and medical care (pay-per-service) but it is difficult to see how courts, police and defense can work that way.
@Dan Glover: I appreciate the line you’re drawing here. It annoys me, but I appreciate it. Duly elected makes a difference. That’s one of the frustrating aspects. The majority, even though slim, is content. It wasn’t a shotgun wedding. In fact, the reception was lovely. DW has often stated that we have the government we deserve. And I agree.
Police in a voluntary society would work the same way as the fire department. Either you pay for the service, or the cops don’t come to your house when someone’s breaking in. I imagine that most everyone would pay for the service, and even if you had “poor” neighborhoods (hard to imagine in a free society) that couldn’t afford it, charity services could take care of it. The police departments could even offer a variety of protection plans depending on how much you want to pay, from basic services similar to what we have now, to something more like having… Read more »
On a practical note, the voluntary police protection thing doesn’t seem very workable. What if I pay for police protection, but my neighbors don’t? I get a vastly reduced benefit of the police protection I’m paying for because I live in a neighborhood where the majority of people are vulnerable (assuming they aren’t armed themselves and willing to shoot trespassers and petty thieves.)
In a free society, people protect themselves. They don’t need a standing army of “police” to do it for them.
Regarding police protection, I think your scenario is highly unlikely. Imagine what it would be like to live your life not knowing you’d have police to call during a crime. I think that would be sufficiently scary that almost everyone would pay for it, barring a few gung-ho gunslingers. But it doesn’t hurt to have a few of those around too, does it? :) Suppose there was one oddball neighborhood where the majority of people didn’t want police services. It’s not like you wouldn’t have other neighborhoods to choose from. Or it might turn out that that neighborhood is really… Read more »
Ben, given the Bible says that the state has been given a God-given role in punishing crime, my guess is that a state which refuses to do it’s assigned task would end up as miserable a place to live as a state which takes upon itself tasks that God has not given it to do. That all said, I’m not sure the Bible commands that there be a standing army. I’d imagine very few people would want to try to invade a country where all its citizens held arms, and should the need arise, a free country – with thriving… Read more »
@Dan Sharky and his minions were actually not the lawful government but rather resemble more of a self-appointed mafia or insurgency led gov’t. Sounds rather familiar. But let’s take your fetish for “democratically elected” to its limits. Suppose (or open your eyes and see that) they are mobsters, killers and thugs and where democratically elected . By your ethos–the Constitution is a suicide pact. It is our duty–as the minority–to support them and opposing them must wait until we have done our time in sack-cloth and ashes–even though our founding covenant, has been broken. And with that word, ‘covenant‘ we… Read more »
I think that would be sufficiently scary that almost everyone would pay for it, barring a few gung-ho gunslingers. If they could afford it. Suppose there was one oddball neighborhood where the majority of people didn’t want police services. It’s not like you wouldn’t have other neighborhoods to choose from. Suppose conditions in the neighborhood changed and moving was a near-impossible option. People care far too much about their own safety and possessions for that, don’t you think? People who have options, do. Not everyone has all the options actually available to them. Your system works in a society that… Read more »
Doug, when are you going to come out with your own “What’s Wrong With The World”?
the cops don’t come to your house when someone’s breaking in.
The courts have ruled that they don’t have to do this anyway, despite the taxes you pay for their services.
The only thing they are obligated to do at this point is to take evidence after you’ve been murdered by the persons who broke into your house.
Jane, why wouldn’t charity be able to take care of poor people who couldn’t afford police services? Here’s the fundamental problem with your argument: You’re suggesting that in a voluntary society, people wouldn’t be charitable enough to take care of the poor by providing them with police services, so they’d be left in the cold. But if that’s true, and the state must coerce its citizens into providing the “charity” service, then let’s not pretend we live in some kind of representative democracy, where the state acts based on the will of the people. If, on the other hand, society… Read more »
If most people in a society want to pay for defense, some company (probably more than one) will step in to meet that need. They certainly would, and then when they start fighting each other and looting everything in sight, you’ll look back on the oppressive Obama much more rosily. There are plenty of historical examples where there was no strong central authority, and the result wasn’t anything like Mayberry, or the Shire to continue the post metaphor. Sharkey would start to look pretty good. The free market in general can’t work without an authority willing to enforce the rules.… Read more »
I’m trying to figure out the meaning of the phrase “sharkey law,” but all the Internet is giving me is that Don Rickles sit com.
Jon, I think this should explain it:
Jake: Thanks! I’m a dope. :)
“They certainly would, and then when they start fighting each other and looting everything in sight, you’ll look back on the oppressive Obama much more rosily.” We have competing security agencies now, and have you ever seen anything like this happen? If people got any sense that the police agencies would loot everything in sight, they simply wouldn’t pay for their service, and they’d go out of business. The government’s monopoly on police services is actually far more dangerous, as they have no competitors and therefore are not truly answerable to the public, their supposed “customers.” “The free market in… Read more »
I’m with Josh. This libertarian paradise has already been tried. It’s called Somalia.
Your libertarian society would transform into it’s exact opposite in no time at all. A private subscription police service would very quickly become a mafiaesque protection racket or – not all subscribers possess equal means – someone’s bought and paid for private army. Coercion is going to happen, period. It’s just a matter of how much and how regulated. This is a forum where we know about human depravity. Right?
Careful about “open defiance”–that sounds like what the zealots were doing? Jesus’ relations with Matthew and Zacchaeus amounted to, pay and PARTY!!!–not defiance, and not a dagger, but on the other hand not sacrificing a pinch of incense to the genius of the Roman IRS and the bureaucracies it pays for. Rock the boat the way leaven rocks the dough. Likewise with the temple tax guy: pay from a fish’s mouth and laugh ROTF. Transcend the system (openly) without exactly fighting it.
timothy wrote: “Suppose (or open your eyes and see that) they are mobsters, killers and thugs and where democratically elected.” I think timothy has put his finger on the predicament we’re in. We are experiencing nothing less than the failure of democracy. But this is something our founding fathers already understood. They rejected mob rule and wanted to give us a representative republic. They understood the depravity of man and wanted checks and balances. They knew that the majority could be bribed by political favors and made into willing dependents on the government. They also knew that no words on… Read more »
Ben wrote: You definitely have to have a way to enforce rules and contracts. But my whole point is that the “authority” in charge of this can be voluntary, like an employer/employee relationship. If the default state of mankind is to be evil and selfish, then that’s actually an argument *against* coercive government, since the most evil and selfish people are drawn toward governmental power, as I’m sure you’d agree. We certainly see a good deal that is voluntary within the other God-established spheres of authority, the Church and the family. We naturally prefer things optional rather than obligatory. We… Read more »
“Your libertarian society would transform into it’s exact opposite in no time at all. A private subscription police service would very quickly become a mafiaesque protection racket or – not all subscribers possess equal means – someone’s bought and paid for private army.” How do you know this would happen? There are private security agencies now, for rich people and such, and this has never happened. Without government coercing people into giving up their guns, overall there would be less need for police services, and there would be less temptation for the cops to be corrupt if they knew that… Read more »
“Would family chores become voluntary? Would dinner together at the family table be optional?” It depends on how you would define “voluntary” and “optional.” At the end of the day, if your kid doesn’t want to eat dinner at the table or do his chores, you don’t put a gun to his head and threaten his life, or lock him in a cage, or kick him out of the house to survive on his own, do you? No, a good parent disciplines him with loss of privileges or something to that effect. But the point is that the discipline is… Read more »
How do I know it would happen Ben? Because it has happened. It does happen. Robber barons, cattle barons, war lords, drug lords – i.e. the kinds of things that exist where there is no real government at hand. Mercenaries working for the highest bidder. Plain old really bad, really corrupt, really abusive government of the type you haven’t even close to seen because you don’t live in those places. It is what men do when nothing like legitimate, organized, active government restrains them. Power, closely related to, if not synonymous with, coercion, abhors a vacuum. It will either be… Read more »
Ben, “But the point is that the discipline is not aggressive. But somehow we make an exception for the state, and it really doesn’t make any sense.” I respectfully submit that the state’s duty is not discipline, and so you are conflating two separate functions. The state, in its use of force, acts as “God’s deacon”, an agent of His wrath to terrorize those who do evil. This morning I was going to write something very similar to katecho, just not nearly as eloquent. Since we are the King’s men, we must act according to our King’s principles. Anything less… Read more »
Ben wrote: It depends on how you would define “voluntary” and “optional.” At the end of the day, if your kid doesn’t want to eat dinner at the table or do his chores, you don’t put a gun to his head and threaten his life, or lock him in a cage, or kick him out of the house to survive on his own, do you? No, a good parent disciplines him with loss of privileges or something to that effect. Ben and I may differ on what constitutes good parenting. Ben’s ideas of child discipline seem to preclude not only… Read more »
Ben wrote: You and I never signed a contract with our government to pay them service fees, obey their laws, and then get their “protection” services in return. But I never signed a contract to be born into a believing covenant family either. It wasn’t my individualistic, atomistic, choice that established my identity in that family, or in the Church, or in the nation. Rather these identities were established through representatives, organically. My acceptance of this identity was established by faithful parental discipline and by obligations and duties that I grew up under. To suggest that everyone ought to be… Read more »
Great post, Doug.
I usually get squeamish when I consider ‘civil disobedience’ (been there in the early 90’s with Operation Rescue), because the State will have no other gods before it.
“How do I know it would happen Ben? Because it has happened. It does happen. Robber barons, cattle barons, war lords, drug lords – i.e. the kinds of things that exist where there is no real government at hand. Mercenaries working for the highest bidder.” You’re basically saying that a little violence and coercion is better than a total tyranny, which of course I agree with, but if it’s possible to have a system where there is no violence and coercion at all (barring self defense and punishment of criminals of course), wouldn’t you prefer that? That was my original… Read more »
Ben, first just a suggestion: I know there was a lot to which you wanted to respond, but when you’re responding to more than one person it might be helpful to break it up into more than one post. Nothing wrong, just might be helpful. “You’re basically saying that a little violence and coercion is better than a total tyranny, which of course I agree with, but if it’s possible to have a system where there is no violence and coercion at all (barring self defense and punishment of criminals of course), wouldn’t you prefer that?” Well, what I’m basically… Read more »
What I left out was the very likely scenario where I pay for the police services, but you don’t, maybe can’t, so you better not cross me. Don’t make me call my cops.
You have some false presuppositions about pot smokers. I once smoked. I think that I’m ok. lol.
Anyhow, there are many doctors, attorneys, small business owners, fitness types, and people that you would never guess smoked pot everyday or do occasionally.
It’s kind of like how I know people who drink that are bums. I know people who drink and are good people. Doubt all of the good people who drink would be as good at moderation under prohibition.
I agree that not all violence and coercion is evil, like to defend yourself or someone else against an aggressor, or to take someone to prison who has been found guilty of a violent crime. In these cases violence is a moral necessity. I’m assuming these situations are what you’re referring to, or are there others on top of that? Did you see my prior example about the guy who refuses to pay the fire department service fee? Do you REALLY think coercion is the only acceptable response to someone like that? Is putting that guy in prison a moral… Read more »
Ben, one difference is the police are motivated to obey the directions of the courts and other civic authorities because they all derive their authority from the same source, they’re on the same team so to speak. If court authority is diminished police authority is diminished. They are also funded from the same source. No, none of them are altruists , but they do more or less see themselves as having a common obligation to the general public and to rule of law. You see I do give the police some credit (without being naïve about it) but I give… Read more »
How about this: Let me give you some yes or no questions to see if I can get you on the path of seeing this issue as I do. 1) Do you think it would be feasible to privatize only the police force, while leaving every other public service (courts, roads, etc.) with the government? This way you still have the public courts to hold the police accountable if somehow they get out of control and start extracting resources from their customers involuntarily. If you say yes to this, then you acknowledge that privatizing police services in and of itself… Read more »
1. “Do you think it would be feasible to privatize only the police force, while leaving every other public service (courts, roads, etc.) with the government?” No. In fact the police along with the courts – i.e. the administration of justice establishment – would be the last of the public sector I would privatize, not the first. This is because administration of justice is the most basic, most inherently governmental, of all roles fulfilled by government. Government is to do that if it does nothing else. Perhaps this, as much as anything, illustrates how I fundamentally look at the issue… Read more »
“No. In fact the police along with the courts – i.e. the administration of justice establishment – would be the last of the public sector I would privatize, not the first.” But the police don’t administer justice, they protect people and property and enforce the law. It’s the courts that make the laws and administer justice to those who break them. Obviously the court uses cops to handcuff the lawbreakers and take them to jail, but it was the court, not the cop, who ultimately made the decision of “guilty” or “innocent.” The cop is just the enforcer. What does… Read more »
“But the police don’t administer justice, they protect people and property and enforce the law.” I simply will disagree with your definition. Enforcing the law is part of the administration, or put another way, administering, of justice. Regardless of how you define it the courts and the police are complimentary spheres and the courts are powerless to do their job without the police doing their job. What difference does it make if we farm it out? As in the government contracting it out, the way it already does some services? Make the police government contractor’s? Well, in the first place… Read more »
How do we separate church and state? What issues can a Christian protest in civil disobedience? What can a Christian not protest in civil disobedience. How do we regain local control? Is separation of church and state a double-edged sword? Should we only support the rights of states’ to decide on social issues when it’s beneficial to promoting our individual viewpoints? Obviously, we would support ending abortion. But would we support the rights of states’ to allow gay marriage or to end the prohibition of marijuana? Of course…I’m not for gay marriage. None of us are for that. But shouldn’t… Read more »
Hi Katecho So I think what Dan may be getting at is the need for something other than the “every man for himself” alternative. I don’t think that Dan objects to resistance, but I think he is looking for something principled to shape it, so that we don’t just look like isolated malcontents. Empires aren’t overthrown by individuals. Something must be in place to fill the vacuum when the empire collapses. I think what Dan is calling for is something that is organized, and possesses a covenantal character/ethos. As modern Christians, we have allowed ourselves to become quite disorganized and… Read more »
One final query.
I wonder if pre-millinialism induces the “sack-cloth-and-ashes, woe is me, we are doomed, I hope I just hang on and don’t blow it” mind-set that is so prevalent among Christian’s .
The post-millenialist view, really does engender optimism and a sense of contributing to the Kingdom He has given us.
I am thinking this doctrine has profound implications for how we act and behave.
John, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the role of police in administering justice. But there’s still one fundamental question that you haven’t answered. Suppose someone doesn’t want to pay the service fee for police services, should he be put in a cage with rapists, or should he just not receive the service?
katecho, you are pretty much correct when you say that I am advocating an organized response, but it is one that is staged, and the first stage has to be church-wide public repentance, not of the things the state and public opinion thinks the church is guilty of but the things that God’s word says we are guilty of. I don’t think the church currently has the moral authority to act en mass to point out the sins of our wayward society and invoke them to change. I think before the church carries out a program of public and full-scale… Read more »
What “millenialism” are you? Pre? Post?