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Friday, September 21, 2012

What Libertarians (Like John Stossel) Get Wrong

John Stossel’s recent column, “There Ought Not to Be a Law” reveals many of the shortcomings when it comes to Libertarian orthodoxy. Stossel begins by proposing a false dichotomy. He declares that he is a libertarian because he sees “a false choice offered by the political left and right: government control of the economy -- or government control of our personal lives.”

Denigrating both the right and the left, Stossel declares, “The left thinks government can lessen income inequality. The right thinks government can make Americans more virtuous. I say we’re best off if neither side attempts to advance its agenda via government.”

A common charge leveled against conservatives is that, through our “social agenda” we are “legislating morality,” or attempting to “make Americans more virtuous” as Stossel puts it. While it is true that conservatives are “legislating morality,”—because every law is rooted in some morality—no sound-thinking conservative believes that we can legislate our fellow citizens into a virtuous lifestyle. That has never been the aim of conservatism.

However, what is a part of conservatism is the fact that religion is an indispensible pillar of liberty. Of course, as far as religions go, in the United States of America, the Christian religion has by far been the most influential. It has been this way from our founding.

Touring the young United States to discover why the representative democracy present in America was so successful here while failing in so many other places, French social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville declared that, “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention.”

Noting the direct influence of religion upon politics in America, de Tocqueville concluded that “In the United States the sovereign authority is religious…there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth…The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.”

For most modern conservatives, it is still impossible to “conceive the one without the other.” Most of today’s conservatives also understand well that the influence Christianity has had in America is by no means an accident. America’s “Schoolmaster” Noah Webster bears this out in his 1832 History of the United States when he wrote that “our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.” Webster added, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles…to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government.”

In other words, the liberty that libertarians love in America is implicitly linked to Christianity. Certainly our Constitution would not exist without it. Having legislation that reflects Christian morality is no detriment to liberty.

The true threat to liberty is the godlessness that is pervasive in today’s liberalism, which has, of course, taken over the Democratic Party. With its devotion to killing children in the womb, removing prayer, the Commandments, and the Bible from the public arena, and its support of sexual immorality and the redefinition of marriage, I always knew that the Democratic Party was the party of the godless. The recent Democratic National Convention just confirmed this.

Revealing the true nature of modern liberalism, the DNC removed a reference to God in the party platform, along with a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After conservatives pointed this out to Americans, embarrassed Democrat party leaders were forced to take action. On Wednesday of their convention, an amendment was proposed to reinsert God and Jerusalem into the platform. The ensuing voice vote was an even greater embarrassment.

Amidst boos, jeers, and raised fists, Los Angeles Mayor and convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa had to take three voice votes before he weakly and deceptively declared that the two-thirds majority necessary was achieved. After his pronouncement, the boos grew even louder. Such is the state of today’s Democratic Party.

It is little wonder that a party so hostile to God and His Word has become an anathema to liberty. True liberty only exists in a society where God is revered. Our founding documents made this clear when they Declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Only a culture that operates under the premise that they are to be free because they were created to be free by a God whose wisdom guides good government can enjoy true liberty. Libertarians would do well to remember this as they weigh the “social agenda” of the right against the Big Government agenda of the left.

Copyright 2012, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World