Help me understand the libertarian impulse

Folks, one of our regulars said something in a comment in the last day or so that prompted me to ask a question that I would really like to have answered. I think it’s important to understanding a lot of conversations we have here. Anway, Doug Ross was responding to something another commenter said about retirement systems, and he said:

I would agree with you on portable pensions as long as that means I own
every penny of what my employer and I contribute and I am not
responsible for paying the retirement for somebody else.

That prompted this question from me, which I would now like to offer more prominently, in the hope of increasing the chances I can get an answer I understand:

Doug, why do you feel that way — about wanting to make sure that you’re not expected to help anyone else in retirement?

That might sound facetious, or provocative, but I’m sincere about wanting to know. The concern you express seems to be at the heart of the whole libertarian impulse, which I find it so impossible to connect with. And one thing I keep wondering is, how do people develop an attitude of "this is mine; it’s just for me; don’t anybody expect me to share it?"

It might be that it’s a perfectly natural impulse, as many would maintain, and that some of us just have it conditioned out of us — or, we become conditioned to be embarrassed to express such a thought, whether we have the impulse or not. Our mother tells us when we’re young that it’s mean not to share. Or we hear the Bible story in which Cain acts like the Lord is out of line by suggesting that he should in any way be his brother’s keeper.

But I’m not sure I feel that impulse at all. I mean, if somebody came and took all I had so that I was hungry and cast into the cold, I’m pretty sure I’d feel like saying, "Hey, that was mine! You can’t do that." But when I’m able to get by, however hard it might be paying bills from month to month, I just don’t even feel a murmur of protest at the idea of paying into a system that makes sure nobody else starves in old age, or into a system that makes sure no one will be turned away when they need medical care.

It would be one thing to say, "I don’t think the plan would work," or "there are better ways to build a Safety Net," or whatever. But when you say that WHATEVER the system, you want to make sure you’re not paying in to help somebody else — that it’s the INTENT of doing that that bothers you — you leave me bewildered.

So why do you think that way?

58 thoughts on “Help me understand the libertarian impulse

  1. John Warner

    Re: Our mother tells us when we’re young that it’s mean not to share.
    There is a enormous difference between the moral imperative to take care of “the least of these,” and being compelled under threat of imprisonment to provide money to politicians who use it to bribe a majority of voters to stay in office.
    We’ve decided as a society that we are not willing to allow people to be hungry. At least when the government redistributes income to those who are hungry, it allows the poor to get quality food delivered through the same highly efficient grocery stores that we go to.
    The worst situation is when the government forces taxpayers to support inefficient, poor quality, government managed delivery systems, like public schools. That taxpayers are compelled to support clearly broken system like this is obscene.
    All of us who are successful built on the legacy of others, which creates an obligation as citizens to give back. But where the government decides to force that to happen it ought to tread very lightly.
    Forcing taxpayers to support programs rather than allowing philanthropy to occur voluntarily, breaks the bond between the giver and the receiver, creating resentment in the giver and a sense of entitlement in the receiver. Both the giver and the receiver are often worse off as a result.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Thanks, John. But your response, while sincere and meant to be helpful, invokes libertarian arguments about something that’s very different from what I’m asking about here.
    It’s an interesting thing, that I’ll be glad to discuss in another post — the whole thing about how the involvement of something called “government” makes it a whole different thing for libertarians. That strikes me as odd, too, because to me, “government” is just a word to describe the arrangements that we set up in a society to address various issues that come up between human beings, and do so within the framework of the rule of law and (in this country) a republican decision-making process — an essential set of arrangements (whatever they might be in the specific instance) where more than two people are trying to live in the same community. We could call it “Fred” for all I care, but we call it “government.” I understand your point about preferring direct, personal charity rather than having the rest of society act as a middleman. But direct, personal charity is not a subject that needs political discourse to make it happen. When we address things as a community — in other words, where there are more than two parties involved — some sort of more complex set of arrangements will be necessary, and if that thing is intended to be accountable to the general intentions of the community, that set of arrangements will be “government,” whether we call it “Fred” or whatever.
    Anyway, as I said, that’s not what I asked about. Look at my question again. What interested me was NOT that Doug thought there were better ways for him to see to his neighbor, but that he said that however the thing is set up, just make sure that under this set of arrangements, he is not “responsible for paying the retirement for somebody else.”
    There is a very elemental resentment or refusal or principal or something there that is a lot more basic than HOW something is addressed. And I don’t think it’s an accident of words, because the sentiment sounds very familiar, and it’s one that I always wonder about.

  3. Andrew Davis

    What you’re looking to be explained goes beyond just a “libertarian impulse,” as you call it. In fact, the philosophy behind Mr. Ross’ comment goes back to the very founding of this nation. The essence of Ross’ comment is his sense of ownership. Better yet, it is the recognition of his ‘private property.’ Ross felt that the products of his labor, hands and mind were his, and his alone.
    The root of this sentiment is not so obscure. One only has to turn to the political writings of John Locke, specifically his Second Treatise of Civil Government. Locke states: “Thus this law of reason makes the deer that Indian’s who hath killed it; it is allowed to be his goods, who hath bestowed his labour upon it” (Chapter 5, Section 30). It is without question that Locke’s political philosophy was one the guiding philosophies of the American Revolution. After all, the Declaration of Independence almost seems to be taken word for word from Locke.
    Now, we have established that foundation of Ross’ comment; however, the question at hand may be less about private property than the unwillingness to share it with others. Ironically, your own question nearly answers itself. You suggest that you would not have a problem sharing “all [you] had,” meaning you recognize that property as yours. This is not unlike Ross. However, both government programs that take private property from individual without their direct consent—the situation Ross outlines—is not much different from the hypothetical you construct with someone taking things from you.
    But the difference between you and Ross is your reaction to the same action. He feels that he should have a say over how his private property is dispensed; a rational reaction. You feel that you would not mind how your private property is dispensed as long as it is going into a system that you feel is helping people. Well, the latter is a matter of personal opinion.
    Perhaps Ross doesn’t like the idea of just barely making ends meet so that another person can benefit from his private property. Is that not his right to do with his property as he chooses? Why should he be forced to pay into a system that violates this “natural right,” as Locke calls it, for whatever justification? If you so chose to do so, then that is your right. But if it lacks your volition, then you run into the sentiments Ross surely feels.
    How would you react if you were mugged? You would upset, would you not, as that you had your money taken from you by force? This is exactly what Ross feels. So the disconnect from him is because you don’t understand how Ross doesn’t consent to his property being taken from him, even if for a charitable cause. You answer your own question by saying that you wouldn’t mind if it happened to your property whereas Ross would mind if it happened to his.
    There is no such thing as the common good in society, regardless of the construct of the social system. To so say is to say the right of one individual is not as important as the right of another. Ross has the sole right to his private property. Nobody else has a claim or right to that property. Should you want to give your property away, it is yours to do so.
    Is this a “libertarian impulse?” Not necessarily. It is an impulse of anyone that values the sanctity of private property.
    I hope that helps.
    Andrew Davis
    Media Coordinator
    Libertarian National Committee, Inc.

  4. Karen McLeod

    Brad, I have a friend who is Libertarian (which I consider to be the Anarchy party). I have asked that same question of him so many times. As closely as I can understand him, he thinks that people will take care of others out of charity. I wish I thought so well of people, but my experience has been that most people (including myself) tend to be selfish, and to find ways to justify their selfishness. Some are way more selfish than others. It seems to me that allowing people to “take responsibility for their own decisions” leaves a social culture in which the biggest bully wins. Mr. Warner expresses dislike for having to pay for the inefficient, poorly managed public schools. Is he planning to pay for those kids whose parents cannot afford private schools? Even with vouchers? How about places in SC where there are no private schools? Or is he planning to ensure that the poor kids don’t even get minimum schooling, thereby creating a permanent underclass, who, within a generation will not even be able to read well enough to figure out what minimum wage is. Furthermore as I understand it, the Libertarians firmly believe that a person should be able to do as he wishes with his property. Does that mean that developers can buy land down at the coast and fill in the tidal marshes? That would kill the sea, and eventually us? Does that mean that a business can pollute so badly that it poisons anyone unfortunate enough to live down wind from it? Apparently so. No, I can’t concur with that kind of politics.

  5. John Warner

    I tried to explain the impulse, and we didn’t connect.
    Doug is not “responsible for paying the retirement for somebody else.” He is obligated under threat of imprisonment to pay for the retirement of many others because politicians have created a system where large numbers of passionate voters are able to extract income from Doug that he has earned, regardless of whether they need or not. That’s not community, that’s extortion. The emotion in Doug’s response is his resentment of the forced redistribution of his income.
    You confuse that negative emotion with a moral obligation Doug may have to support those who can’t support themselves. Ask Doug whether he feels charity to elderly people who live in poverty, and you may get an entirely different reaction from Doug. Get Doug actively involved in a program of combating poverty among the elderly and he may contribute in many ways beyond merely money.
    Government is essential in a civil society, but when it forces people to do things they would otherwise not freely do it becomes a very corrosive force. I went on many Meals on Wheels deliveries with my grandfather “because those old people need me.” My grandfather got more from Meals on Wheels than he gave.
    That’s what heavy handed government destroys when it overrides the charitable impulse by force. The government is reaping what it has sown in the resentment you hear in Doug’s response.

  6. Robbie

    Hi Brad,
    You suggest government is just a middle-man to coordinate the programmes that (supposedly) the majority of people believe are necessary. But the essential difference between governments and other organizations is the voluntary aspect. There are many organizations that are set up to help the less fortunate (charities, church programs, etc) but government is the only one that forces you (under threat of violence) to fund them. And if you disagree with the services they offer, you have little recourse.
    All libertarians that I know have a desire to help less fortunate people in society, but they do not believe that a monopolistic supplier (who you are forced to fund) is the right way to address inequalities.

  7. Jones

    I agree with your bewilderment that someone would not be concerned with helping others to ensure their sustenance during retirement.
    But in answer to your larger question, I think is has to do with the degree of that help.
    Humans are social animals, and human societies have only prospered where we take care of each other, especially our weakest and most vulnerable: children and the elderly. To coldly claim that we will not care for our seniors and keep it all for ourselves is idealistic and naive.
    I think the point the author was trying to make is that fewer and fewer workers are going to be paying more and more to support an increasing population of retirees. And the retirees will be living longer.
    It may be that the modern libertarian impulse derives from the totalitarian prospect of the government’s taxation power taking a greater and greater portion of your earnings to distribute to others.
    This hard earned money – money that would be better spent by the person who earned it, including being set aside for their own retirememt – is often wasted. Or given to a large number of retirees who do not need assistance, but have their hand out anyway, while seniors that do help barely get by on the meager amount paid out by the system.
    Back to my point concerning degrees, most people would be fine with 5% of their earings going to support others; 10% would be more noticeable but not to painful to most; 15%, as the current FICA tax takes (I know, you only see 7.5% come out of the paycheck, but your employer is paying 15%, the other 7.5% is still your money) is getting painful to average wage earners, but is buffered by the clever accounting trick of only showing 7.5% of the contribution;
    20%? Ouch;
    30%? Please stop, that really hurts;
    40%? Noooo, I can’t live on what’s left over;
    All to pay for other people’s retirement!
    As the percentage of your earnings that goes towards other people’s retirement increases, you will see more and more people leaning libertarian and saying that they will just keep whats theirs.
    Screw the rest.
    However cold-hearted that sounds.

  8. Weldon VII

    I would guess, Brad, that Doug doesn’t want to pay someone else’s retirement because he thinks the Protestant work ethic works better than a system where the hard-working stiffs pay for not just the welfare of the unfortunate but also the long lazy life of those who won’t do much because they can get away with it.
    Why should Doug work to pay for someone else not to work? Why would you question such a fundamental sentiment?
    Sure, it’s mean not to share when Mama GIVES you something. But if you sweat for a paycheck under the noon sun, why should you share it with someone who just stood in the shade? Won’t that encourage more people to just stand in the shade? Won’t our system collapse under the weight of endless entitlement?
    We live in a capitalist republic, not a socialist democracy. Capitalism fits human nature. Socialism flies in the face of human drive and begets dictatorship.
    And, after all, it’s one thing for a man to spend all his spare time working in his garden and share all the vegetables he grows because he enjoys doing it. It’s something else for someone to require the man to share those vegetables with anyone and everyone, friend or foe.

  9. Brian

    Mr. Brad,
    I’ve read and re-read your question and John’s answer and I don’t understand what you don’t understand.
    We’re talking retirement I assume, not Social Sec?
    Personally, I believe the government–state and federal–should be responsible to make sure everyone has food and health care. That said, that is unConstitutional. Using our history and Constitution, the US is a “root pig or die” place (thats the best word I can think of at the moment; anyone that thinks we are a nation is delusional.) What makes the US different from Europe is that we decided to take matters into our own hands; we knew what is best for ourselves and to heck with letting those who have been raised and reared to govern have any say over our lives. Again; as a monarchist, I don’t agree with that reasoning, but we’re in America.
    I do believe I have stake in my neighbour’s retirement–or anything about their well-being (can’t remember exactly what number essay of John Donne’s it was–…no man is an island; for whom the bell tolls and all that.)
    But back to Amerika… We have chosen what we have; even more so after the War. Southerners are a benevolent people and were so until the Federal Government intervened. I hear and see all the “human interest” stories on the news and in The State. Many times these are people that do not have the world-view that I do; that may be OK, but charity–whether from the gov’t or private sources–should be conditional. If I choose to donate to whatever cause there might be, I should be convinced that that person or family has the same world-view and owes the same loyalties that I do. If a person has squandered their earnings of a lifetime and now expects me or any taxpayer to pick up the tab, not only are they crazy, but only a fool would finance that deal.
    The US provides anyone an enormous opportunity to acheive anything. With that opportunity comes responsibility. The best thing about the US is the crapshoot; I can achieve anything, or I can be destitute. Its all up to me.
    In my perfect world; everyone would have food, health care and retirement provided by the gov’t (or Fred); but this is “America.” We don’t do things that way here. Remembering the words of AlGore (kinda; I can’t really remember…) there are some that need to be satisfied with the crumbs that are thrown at them.
    Personally, I like a tiered society.

  10. Brad Warthen

    OK, let’s work on this:

    To Andrew Davis: John Locke; well, we learned about him in school, didn’t we (mostly public school, in my case). AFTER school I learned that he was the secretary to Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, and helped design for him the system we now call the Legislative State — a totally dysfunctional South Carolina in which the state government is set up to serve a landed gentry that doesn’t exist any more. Whenever I reflect on the grossly unaccountable mess the governmental structure in South Carolina is, I thank John Locke. I’m sure he had his good qualities. Still, his word is far, far from Holy Writ.

    As for your assertion that "both government programs that take private property from individual without their direct consent — the situation Ross outlines — is not much different from the hypothetical you construct with someone taking things from you…" Well, in America the two things are as different as night and day. The mugger violates the laws we came up with through our republican system. The levying of taxes such is the republican system in action. Expecting each individual’s "direct consent" before being taxed — well, that’s anarchy, not a republic. Remember Adam and Eve? Well, Adam might have been able to demand that he be consulted before he had to cough up a contribution, but only so long as he was doing whatever Eve told him to do (you married men will understand). Once there were more people in the world, they pretty much had to go along with whatever the king or the pharoah or, in the case of our republic, the Government (shudder, oh, horror) said. Of course, in a republic, the "government" is the will of our neighbors expressed through their elected representatives, making decisions within the context of a constitution. And no, individuals do not get to opt out if not consulted PERSONALLY. That takes us back to anarchy.

    You say that Doug Ross is different from me because he "feels that he should have a say over how his private property is dispensed." No, that’s backwards. I’m the one who feels he should have a say in it, and I do, each Election Day. I and my fellow citizens (yes, I share the power with them) elect the people who make the particular decisions about taxing and spending. What Doug suggests, and what I hear libertarians in general suggest with their talk about "direct consent" — is that each individual act as an absolute sovereign who does not care for anyone else’s opinion as to how "his" property should be treated. Not a republican view, but that of an anarchist.

    Finally, "the sanctity of private property." Whoa. I think we’re getting closer to that "impulse" thing, but I can’t say I understand it yet. For the record — and I’m speaking as a Catholic convert, and we know all about theology and stuff — there is nothing HOLY about private property. Just FYI. In fact — and this is going to come as a huge shock to some libertarians, so I hope I’m not being too brutal here — there are no property rights in a State of Nature, it being Red in Tooth and Claw and all that. The legal fiction (and a fine legal fiction it is; I’m all for it; but that’s all it is) of property rights simply does not exist without government to recognize it, define it, honor it and prop it up. Ask a lawyer. Or ignore the lawyer and go out and buy yourself a LOT of guns.

    Karen McLeod: I like Karen. We really disagree about the war, but I think she’s very nice — which, of course, is probably why we disagree about the war, so let’s set that aside. I can’t concur with that kind of politics, either (libertarianism). But for me, the acceptable alternative is communitarianism, to the extent that I understand it (it’s not as well discussed or defined as libertarianism, which, in a world with Reality TV, is much more popular). And the reason my hero Tony Blair supports our involvement in Iraq is his communitarianism — the idea that we are responsible for our neighbor, whether our neighbor be someone who lives in West Columbia (or in Tony’s case, Islington or Slough) or Ramadi. We can no more wash our hands of Iraq and its troubles than we can of the poor old pensioner next door.

    That’s enough for tonight.

  11. Doug Ross

    Wow.. I’m flattered by the support for my position. Many people have explained it better than I could. For me, it boils down to the fact that my retirement should be my responsibility. I don’t expect someone else to chip in for my benefit and I don’t want to be forced to do so by the government… especially by a government that has no track record for being an efficient steward of my money. I have a pension from a prior employee that will become available in about 20 years. I have a 401K that my employer and I contribute to. Then there’s the EXTRA 15% that you claim I should be gratified to give in the name of American patriotism or some other nonsense.
    Just last year, I showed my paystub to my parents to show them that my employer and I were basically paying more than half of their monthly Social Security check. My father was embarrassed. He came from an era when Social Security didn’t rape each paycheck for 7.5% and never realized how much I was paying in.
    Are you that naive to think that with all the baby boomers retiring that 7.5% will be enough to keep the system solvent for when you and I retire in 15-20 years? The pool of contributors will not be there to support the broken system. I have said repeatedly that I would give up any claims to money paid into Social Security since I started working at age 17 until now at age 47 if I could drop out of the program for the next 20 years.
    Your fawning over our system of government is remarkable. You admire politicians like some people admire athletes or actors… ascribing all sorts of heroic attributes to a group of people who are mainly interested in power and personal gain. You act as if these people are altruistic financial wizards working solely for the will of the people. Fat chance. I have to ask — what color is the sky in your world????
    And, for the record, I am not a miser. I give approximately the same amount of money I pay in Social Security to my church and charities each year… because I know they are better stewards of the money than the government can or ever will be. I believe in personal positive action, not government control of every aspect of my life.
    Not to reveal too much, but my Social Security taxes were raised this year. How so? Because they raised the maximum income limit from 94.2K to 97.5K… that means my employer and I are both paying an extra $250 bucks into the system. I sure would rather have that $500 in my control… but since it’s not your money, you’re perfectly fine with the government taking it from me.

  12. Doug Ross

    I really didn’t want to add this addendum, but I must. I challenge you, Brad, to come down to the parking lot at First Baptist Church on the 4th Saturday each month to participate in our Feed the Hungry program. There might be a few homeless people there who might recognize me as the one who paid for their prescription, or paid their bus fare to get home to Beufort, or paid for a pair of shoes, or got one of the 200+ winter coats I personally collected at Christmas time… Every one of those people has a story to tell that makes me thankful every day for what I have.
    I guess you consider your contributions to government welfare as acts of kindness. I don’t.
    Does it even give you a moment’s pause to consider that your opinion about government intervention into the lives of Americans is not shared by very many people at all?

  13. Doug Ross

    I think you misunderstand the basic concepts of Libertarianism. It doesn’t mean I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. It means I should be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, as long as it does not impact someone else negatively. It’s about personal responsibility, not personal irresponsibility. It’s about fewer laws, smaller government, privacy, and freedom.
    The government we have now is about the opposite: more laws, more convoluted tax codes (like the one that allows The State to forego collecting sales tax), more government control of our lives. If you’re happy with that, so be it. I’m not.

  14. John Warner

    Brad asks about a libertarian impulse. What completely baffles me is this impulse:
    “Or is he planning to ensure that the poor kids don’t even get minimum schooling, thereby creating a permanent underclass, who, within a generation will not even be able to read well enough to figure out what minimum wage is.”
    THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE TODAY. How is it possible that otherwise intelligent people like you and Brad fail to see that?
    What works in our society is when people pursue their enlightened self-interest, including philanthropy, with a minimum of government regulation. Why is that so hard?

  15. Weldon VII

    However distant John Locke may be “from Holy Writ,” you’re at least one Jim Clyburn bridge farther out, Brad.
    I hate to break it to you, but the government does not own all the real and personal property in the United States. Citizens of this country and others own most of it. And they, not the government, control what happens to it.
    Aa Oscar Wilde said, there is no society, only individuals.
    But you think you have a say, and should, over what happens to Doug’s property (and mine) by how you vote.
    That’s wacky. Way yonder wacky. Childish. Not-worth-the-waste-of-time strange.
    Why don’t we just divide up everything between the illegal immigrants your hero, Sen. Graham, tried so hard to patriate? Wouldn’t that be the communitarian thing to do?
    I’m done talking here, Brad. What you don’t know takes up too much space.

  16. Steve Gordy

    At last, a thread where the debate appears to be civil and issue-directed rather than nasty and personal. Keep it up, folks.

  17. Eric Sundwall

    To suggest that it is an ‘impulse’ to be callous rather than an ethos of logic based on natural law is telling of the epistemological skill set of the author( see Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty for a comprehensive understanding).
    Should one not vote for or choose a collectivism justified by majority rule they are still forced to comply with the charity of the state via gunpoint. This is not an impulse as much as the crux of the matter. If anarchy is a greater moral position, why not accept the guilt of your statist ways ?

  18. Lee Muller

    Let’s clarify some terms:
    Social Security is not a retirement system. It is welfare, according to the Supreme Court, and no one has any legal right to receive one cent. All handouts are at the arbitrary whim of Congress.
    “communitarianism” = communistic impulses without the focus, feelings without any attempt at intellectual justification. That’s why it doesn’t work as a social construct.
    The right to private property and one’s earnings is not created out of thin air by laws, much less a “legal fiction” ( a juriprudential term misused by Brad ). Libertarians believe, like Locke and others, that good secular laws reflect the natural rights of man. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam specfically recognize the concept of private property and the right to create wealth for oneself and family.

  19. Matt

    Doug’s issue isn’t the giving to needy. It is the gun involved. Coercion turns glorious charity into something malignant. You simply cannot justify doing “only a little evil” to 300 million for the sake of doing some good for only a few.
    Then there are all the “market” arguments that you are likely to hear from a libertarian. If you like math, statistics, and high level economic theory they make perfect and practical sense. For those that listen to their heart what they all boil down to is this:
    To allow one point of failure for something as important as social stability, is foolish. To force a single broken system on people with the threat of violence, is just plain bad karma.

  20. Doug Ross

    Lee is correct. Social Security is a welfare system. You have no right to any of the money you pay into the program. In fact, the worst case scenario would be a single person with no kids who works for 50 years who dies at age 67. That person pays tens of thousands of dollars into the system and gets NOTHING back.
    I would be comfortable with some percentage of my paycheck going to a government program for widows, the disabled, and children of deceased parents. Just let me have the rest. I won’t ask you to pay for my retirement. Deal?
    Besides paying for other retiree’s monthly welfare check, my employer and I are also on the hook for the Medicare taxes to pay for other people’s healthcare. This is in addition to the higher premiums I pay on my private insurance to cover the below market rates the government pays for Medicare related health services.

  21. bud

    Brad, this is one of your best posts. I’m fascinated by the two sides in this debate, both hightly partisan. On the one hand we have the super, statist types who support any government program no matter how intrusive. Regardless of the flaws in the program, the failures and the destruction it causes the pro-statists stick with it for all eternity. These programs include the USA-Patriot act and the occupation of Iraq.
    On the other hand we have the doctrinaire libertarians who simply cannot give the government any credit for anything and do all sorts of mental contortions to support a failed “market” program. On the one hand we have social security which has been the salvation for millions during it’s 70 year history. My current wife was saved by the provision that provided a death benefit for her children until they turn 18 when their father died. My mother enjoys a nice monthly check that helps make ends meet.
    On the other hand we have the catastrophic mess known as “free-market” health care. It really isn’t a free-market system of course but because a few companies make huge money the libertarians defend the status quo because it has some elements that mimick lassaiz faire.
    Since I’m in the pragmatist middle, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the rest of discussion.

  22. Karen McLeod

    John, what we have today is a very unbalenced system that results in public schools that are falling down, and a few public schools that have the best of everything. But at least, right now, everyone has the opportunity to get at least some of the basics. When we give up on the concept of public schools what we’ll end up with will be worse than segregated schools ever were (and believe me, most of the black schools were less than competent), and worse than what we have now. What we’ll have are some very, very, fine schools that can refuse to admit anyone they want to, and schools that go steeply down from there, until the lower (not even lowest) tier has no school at all. Consider, a healthy portion of (mostly upper middle class) South Carolinians want to take the money they pay for schools, and have it given to them as a voucher for private schools. That will considerably subsidize their choice with the most ‘choice’ going to those who can afford the most. People with less money get fewer choices. And of course, one finally gets to the point where that subsidy still does not give the family enough to send their child to private school, or possibly to move to some place where there is a private school. Meanwhile there is no more public school because that money came from the public funds that support the public schools. Worse can become worst.
    My heart aches for the Iraqi people; what we have done to them, in the name of doing something for them, is horrible. But so far, I have not seen a shred of evidence to indicate that we can win in Iraq. The best we can do for them is stop making it worse. If you have any data to show that we have the forces, the equipment, the money, or the cultural expertise to win the war in Iraq, please share it. Everything I see indicates that we haven’t.

  23. Easily Forgotten

    Could Brad’s point and question have been deeper than or more complex than the following:
    “The right to private property and one’s earnings is not created out of thin air by laws, much less a “legal fiction” ( a juriprudential term misused by Brad ). Libertarians believe, like Locke and others, that good secular laws reflect the natural rights of man.”
    I don’t dispute Locke on these points, but Locke went on to note that the cost of not having anarchy i.e. where one could appreiciate and enjoy their property without having to know they were stronger enough to beat up their neighbor or whomever might try and steal their goods, was a civil society instituted and protected by a government. All property ownership, except for the strongest of us – and you will get weak one day – are fostered by the government and based in large part on the fact that it works.
    “Taxes are the price of a civilized society” – (Oliver Wendell Holmes I believe) and unfortunately more and more people don’t see that and think government and taxes are “the problem” just look at the difference between Loredo and New Loredo on the Texas boarder – the main difference “The government” yet in this instance “the government” didn’t seem to be the problem, unless you are talking about Mexico’s, but good governance on ourside of the boarder is what made saving for retirement, emegency service, et cetera possible. Please don’t side track onto immigration as that had nothing to do with my point. Property rights can only be well protected through lack of anarchy e.g. properly working government and guess what; it costs money.

  24. Karen McLeod

    But with “fewer laws, more privacy, and greater freedom” what makes you think that people will be responsible? If you shrink the government to the point where it cannot ensure the common good, and limit it to the point where it cannot promote the general well fare then who is to stop those who choose to act in a selfish way? Bullies do not, by definition, pick on someone their own size. They prey on those who cannot adequately fight back. And in arena such as that, everyone is going to be too busy watching their own back to worry about the ones already stabbed. I realize that Libertarians prize “enlightened self interest.” Unfortunately, I think that’s a myth. Human beings in my experience have a rational component, but almost as often they make decisions that are clearly driven by the reptilian brain. Self interest? Yes. Enlightened? Sure. Just like a crocodile. You put down government. But we the people are the ones who elect these people, from the few enlightened statesmen/politicians to the mob of unenlightened selfish bozos that we so often see. If we want better government we need to create it.

  25. Doug Ross

    >> If we want better government we need to
    >> create it.
    I agree. I guess that’s why I try to point out the aspects of the government that need changing. Maybe someday we’ll reach the point where people have had enough. I’m already there.

  26. Lee Muller

    If you think prosperity produced by enlightened self interest is a myth, please explain why the introduction of economic freedom in America produced more progress from 1776 until 1976 than the previous 10,000 years of human society.
    America and Canada were populated by industrious Europeans, with minimal government, and found that the real myths were those told to them by kings.
    Today, bureaucrats use the same mythology of fear and Saviour Government to keep the masses in line. They tax away all surplus so they cannot have the time to contemplate their condition, participate in civic decisions, or start a business. Then they promise to keep them from starvation with a dribble of those taxes returned as welfare.

  27. Herb Brasher

    Karen, I think we agree a lot, though I’m not sure why. The Libertarian ideals are built, as best I can tell, on the idea that man is basically very good and will do what is good if you let him. I’m too much of a Calvinist for that (even though I’m not a really good Calvinist). Sinful man requires restraint, including government restraint. According to holy Scripture, God instituted it for just that purpose.

  28. Lee Muller

    The Founders of America envisioned a very small government which would serve the will of God by providing only restraint on those sinful members of society and its external enemies.
    Surely it is not God’s will to have government subverted into a tool of thieves and moochers. The Jews and Jesus recognized the difference between legitimate government and despotism in the Rome of their day. Educated Americans recognize the difference today.

  29. Doug Ross

    Can you expand upon this statement, please?
    “Sinful man requires restraint, including government restraint.”
    What activities does your sinful side want to do that the government restrains you from doing?
    Would you steal something if you didn’t fear arrest by the government?
    Would you commit an act of violence?
    Would you abuse drugs that are considered illegal by the government?
    My assumption is that most humans would do none of those in the absence of a government… so I guess I do agree with you that I believe man is basically very good.
    On the other hand, our government does sanction acts of violence (killing people in war including innocent civilians, torturing detainees, killing criminals via the death penalty, aborting fetuses, etc.). Our government has a longstanding reputation of taking things from the people (eminent domain land grabs, tax foreclosures, etc.). Our government profits from the sale of harmful drugs like alcohol and nicotine.
    So I guess my question is whether the government is more sinful than the people?

  30. Lee Muller

    The power of rule over other people attracts sinful people, from the lowest bureaucrat to dictators and kings. In government, these sociopaths find a refuge from the secular and spiritual societies where they would be forced to straighten up. They seek to drive out decent employees, administrators and politicians, and generally do.

  31. Karen McLeod

    It’s not what I want government to keep me from doing. What I want is some place to go when some bully decides that his right to do whatever he want with his property (which is right next to mine) is ok. After all, it is his property. He can fill in an entire salt marsh, erect a vulture feeding station in his small back yard, or just put a bunch of junk in his yard, and watch and see what happens when you add natural growth and rain to it. I think that you think that humans are always totally rational. They’re not. Don’t like a particular race? If you consider them subhuman, then what’s the matter with running them into the ground? Don’t like a sexual orientation? Well, if God’s on your side, you don’t have to worry about their rights. What I’m trying to say is that history has demonstrated again and again that human beings are not rational, nor completely good. They can be good certainly; but when they are bad they are awful! And they rationalize their actions to justify them. No, thanks, I want some recourse to the local bully. If the ‘local bully’ is the majority, then the minority is desperately in need of protection. And libertarianism does not provide that protection.

  32. Herb Brasher

    The Jews and Jesus recognized the difference between legitimate government and despotism in the Rome of their day.

    I’m not sure where the above sentence came from; I can’t think of any New Testament reference that would defend it. Jesus was rather disinterested in the whole subject of political freedoms, and pointed his listeners back to spiritual reality. People tried to misuse his message in order to gain political freedoms on the one hand, or political advantage on the other, but He would have none of it. Which, from of a human point of view, was one of the major reasons he was crucified. He angered the whole establishment, both the “libertarians” (Zealots) and the status quo politicians. Jesus’ position on politics is rather close to the Old Testament prophets, which was to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Amos). Generally speaking the prophets, for example, Jeremiah, were opposed to the patriots who tried to establish independence from Assyria and Babylon. They were told to submit to the invading powers as those who were sent by God, not to resist those powers. No matter if they were despots; no matter if they were, in some ways, worse than the government they displaced.
    You will be hard put to even justify the American revolution on Biblical grounds. It just isn’t there. Not that there might have been good reasons for it, but the Bible won’t justify it.

    My assumption is that most humans would do none of those in the absence of a government… so I guess I do agree with you that I believe man is basically very good.

    Evidently you didn’t read my post, Doug, or I was very obtuse. In the event of the latter, I’ll try again. I do not believe that man is basically good. I believe that man has a bent toward evil, because man is separated from God. What the first few chapters of the book of Genesis do is to show that without any outward restraint, man will become very evil, a fact that Karen has underlined for us. And Karen is right. Libertarianism will lead us right back to the J. P. Morgans of history who are determined to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense. Kenneth Lay and Enron are only the up-to-date examples of the same. (I know that Kenneth Lay claimed to be a Christian, and maybe he was, but nothing in what he did in connection with being CEO of his firm shows that he was concerned to “do justly, and love mercy,” so I conclude that he does not seem to have been “walking humbly with God.”)
    Beginning in Genesis 9, we have the institution of government in order to restrain the worst in mankind, including the principle of capital punishment (I do not defend the application of capital punishment in general, only the principle that is established, that government has that right when it is absolutely necessary. Scripture itself puts all kinds of qualifications on capital punishment, but the basic right of human government to exercise it is there.) This application is reiterated in a key passage in the New Testament, Romans 13:1-7. This passage has for me, as an evangelical, authority that comes from Christ’s chosen apostle, Paul, and therefore the authority of Christ himself. In general, we are told not to resist the governmental authorities, and to pay taxes. It does not say that we are to pay taxes if we like it–it says to pay taxes, period. It tells us that the government has the right to use the sword, which indicates capital punishment (again to be qualified by many other passages–this is not a blank check to execute prisoners in general, but it does give “teeth” to governmental authority). We are not told that we have the right to overthrow the government, or even to “reduce it to the size we can drown it in the bathtub.”
    But I don’t really worry about the libertarians accomplishing the latter, quite honestly, because they will not succeed. If God has established governmental authority, then libertarians can try to reduce it all they want, but both Scripture and history are good indications that they will not be able to reduce it much.

    What activities does your sinful side want to do that the government restrains you from doing?

    Karen has answered this very well, so I will not repeat what she said. As I have tried to state above, both unbridled capitalism on the one hand, and communistic coercion on the other, are extremes which we must avoid. And we have in the American experiment a certain amount of balance between the two, partially through our system of checks and balances, partially through a government which, in its conception allows for a great deal of input from the people (we are the government, to a great extent), and partially through the moral basis of our society (which I think is slowly eroding).
    Karen, you are right. We need recourse from the bullies, local, national, and international. Only government can do this job.
    Sorry for going on so long, and not writing more concisely and precisely, but trying to do my best under time constraints.

  33. Herb Brasher

    So I guess my question is whether the government is more sinful than the people?

    This is a theoretical question that ultimately doesn’t get us anywhere. The government’s job, from a biblical standpoint, is to punish those who do wrong, and put restraints on their influence. Those who would rely solely on the free market are basically advocating no restraints, except perhaps economical restraints, but those, by themselves, give the rich a free hand at the expense of the weak and the poor.
    It goes without saying that government is sinful. Nero was emperor when Paul wrote Romans 13:1-7, but he still says that Christians are to obey the governmental authorities, even if the emperor is Nero. The only exception to that in the New Testament is when government demands the worship that should go to God alone, in which case we have to choose civil disobedience, but even that has to be done with respect and restraint.

  34. Doug Ross

    How do you explain the fact that only 1/3 of the world’s population practices the religion (Christianity) that establishes what you claim is God’s plan for government restraint? 1.3 billion Islamists, 1.1. billion atheists/agnostics, 900 million Hindus, 400 million Buddhists.
    Are the govenrments of China (communist), Pakistan (federal democratic republic with Islam as the national religion), and Vatican City (Pope/Cardinals) all governments established by God to restrain man’s sinful behavior?
    You seemed to have ignored the inconsistencies that exist in our government in terms of the actions it sanctions. The government has said that abortion is legal. The government says it is justified in taking land from private citizens for public “good”. The government collects taxes on alcohol. The government collects taxes on gambling.
    Are these the actions of restraint?
    And you say that the scripture does not support the right to overthrow the government? I may be dense but then does that make the American Revolution an act of defiance against the Bible? Your argument lacks clarity.
    I’ll take the simple view – Jesus expects us all to fight injustice whenever possible, including governments that overstep their authority for the benefit of sinful behavior (greed).

  35. Karen McLeod

    But the government is ultimately what we say it will be. It can be very unjust, but when that injustice become apparent to a majority of the people, it gets redressed. And it can take only one person to start the process of making injustice clear (for example, Dr. King). As far as I can see Libertarianism does not allow for that kind of redress.

  36. Doug Ross

    Consider the personal retirement account issue that started these discussions. It is my opinion that our current Social Security system is a perfect example of an unjust government program.
    Start with the fact that a person can pay into the system for 50 years and never get a dime back. If you die before retirement age, you get zero. How can that be fair? It’s even worse if the person dies while in a committed (straight or gay) relationship. The partner does not receive any benefits that a spouse would get. Imagine the alternative – where the majority of the retirement taxes were paid into a personal account that the worker could control like a 401K is controlled now. It’s REAL money that can be withdrawn as required and can be transferred to heirs, charity, etc. upon death. I guess I don’t understand why combining a personal retirement account with a much smaller set of taxes to assist widows and orphans would not be more fair to all?
    Second, the current Social Security system is on a path to failure due to the baby boomer generation approaching retirement age unless one (or all) of three things is done in the next two decades:
    1) Cut benefits
    2) Increase taxes on workers
    3) Raise the retirement age
    Again, which of those options is most fair to American people as a whole?
    A pure Libertarian view might be to eliminate all aspects of Social Security. My smaller libertarian view says to allow the government to administer the program by setting up the guidelines and including some general welfare program for widows, orphans, and the disabled while returning the majority of the money to the workers in a 401K style account. There are many economists who would tell you the economic benefit to the country of this style system would be enormous.

  37. Lee Muller

    What the government is supposed to be is what its authors and the legislatures who ratified it said it was to be.
    What is actually has become is mostly illegal activities outside the authority “enumerated” (listed explicity as numbered articles).
    Just passing a law does not make it right or legitimate. That is the ethos of modern logical positivism, though most people have no idea where their notions came from, much less that they are the inventions of philosophers born a century after the American Revolution.
    Logical positivists think that whatever is, is right. If they declare there is global warming, then it is so, and they can pass laws which will mitigate it. How naive. How bogus!

  38. Brad Warthen

    See, now Doug is saying something a lot closer to something I can understand now. I’m not saying I can agree with all of it; I’m just saying it’s not the absolutist sort of statement that confounded me at the start.
    And Lee, well — what can I say? Of course passing a law doesn’t make something right. That’s why legislature’s keep coming back, thank God, so we can debate, and make changes. But I’m sorry if he doesn’t like it, but the Framers sort of thought it was important to HAVE legislatures. They didn’t think they were saying the last word on government. They were just setting up a brilliant structure.

  39. Lee Muller

    The Framers set up more than just a structure. They set specific limits on the very few legitimate functions and activities of government, because they knew if they did not, the demagogues would promise the moon to buy votes from the riff raff, and loot the treasury to do so.
    Liberals insist that they can make government honest just having more transparency. Well, they have not been able to slow the tide of corruption in the last 200 years. In fact, most of the journalists are in the tank with the demagogues.
    Right now, we have the scandal in Charlotte of UNCC profs and so-called public interest groups issuing phony studies to support light rail. Memos leaked by mutinous reporters and employees at the Chamber of Commerce revealed that the editorials in the Charlotte Observer were 90% verbatim from the dictation sent to them in emails from the Chamber and real estate honchos.
    The only solution to crooked government is to make it as small as possible. Limit it to keeping the peace, protecting our borders, and removing fraud from the marketplace. No wealth transfer programs, no building infrastructure for developers.

  40. Herb Brasher

    It’s the principle of the thing, not all the details. Of course a lot that Rome stood for would in no way make it through the Judaeo-Christian ethic grid, but that’s not the point. Government, in general, prohibits the worst, which is anarchy.
    Of course there will be times in which Christians will decide on the basis of conscience that government must be overthrown, but it is always an iffy situation. It was fairly clear for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but many other Germans struggled mightly over the issues. Of course, Bonhoeffer’s family was in the know about the Nazi regime from the beginning, but others were not privileged to have that broad context. By 1936, economic change had hit, the larder was full; jobs were available, and the streets were safe again. Well, safe for most people, at least.
    One thing is interesting, that Bonhoeffer and the resistance never succeeded, but I wouldn’t conclude from that, that they should not have tried. Probably their lack of success was as much to blame on the Allies as anyone else.
    But it does point out the fact that overthrow of government, or the reduction of it to the point that cannot function effectively, is a serious matter.
    But it is difficult to understand how a committed Christian could have condoned the American revolution, but obviously many did. (John Wesley left America because of it; Frances Asbury supported it, I believe.) I wasn’t there, so that’s not my struggle, but I will have to make other decisions. But it might be helpful to remember that George the III was no Adolf Hitler. And I happen to think that it was more the result of a personal vendetta of Benjamin Franklin’s than it was really a well thought out, redeemable enterprise. No matter, it’s done, and now we have other tasks.
    Lee’s history and political science reminds me of very conservative Christians who want to keep the King James as the authoritative version. But translations have to change. A new historical context puts before new decisions and adaptations. Every generation has to struggle with it; there is no easy way out.
    Again, my disjointed thoughts. Not well expressed, so maybe I shouldn’t try, but I never have been able to shut up.

  41. Herb Brasher

    And one last word. I would challenge Doug to prove that Jesus wants us to counter injustice wherever possible. He did no such thing. He taught us basically to choose our battles, and to choose wisely. He refused to get involved in an issue over inheritance, where a man was unjustly shut out of the family inheritance by his brother. He said that, by and large, we should rather suffer injustice than to redress it, especially if we are only working to our own advantage. We are not to overthrow the government, and if a soldier compells us to go a mile, well, we should go two.
    The Jews were all screwed up about achieving political freedom. Jesus refuses to go that line in John 8; he tells them that they need to be free inwardly from bondage to sin and the devil. They threaten to stone him because he doesn’t follow the party line.
    That is not to say that there aren’t times to help people politically, but we need to be very sure of our footing. The American system of government is not Christian, as I’m sure you are aware, but a unique combination of Christian ideas, common-sense philosophy, and other input. It is proof that you don’t want too many Christians in government–some, but not too many, otherwise they try and create a theocracy, which is not a good idea. The main point is that those who claim to be Christians have to live it out.

  42. Lee Muller

    I actually due prefer the King James Version to most of the less eloquent and less accurate modern vernacular translations, not just because of the beauty of the language, but because of the power contained in single words of phrases among readers with a common culture and shared understanding.
    Less literate readers today usually misinterpret the KJV through the filter of their limited vocabulary.
    That is why it is important to read original Greek and other translations of the Scriptures.
    That is also why it is important to become familiar with the language of the Constitution, rather than spinning it to fit the modern vernacular of unschooled populism.

  43. Brad Warthen

    I’ll agree with you on the beauty of the KJV. The inaccuracy, I’m not so sure. I think the modern translators have had a few more resources at their disposal, but I can’t swear to it, because I’m not an expert on the subject (no Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic beyond a word here and there).
    But “unschooled populism?” Perish the thought! One thing I am not is a populist.

  44. Mark Whittington

    I like the KJV too, but I think it’s a stretch to claim that it’s more accurate than modern translations since it is based on the Received Text. Also, it’s a shame that no extant original Aramaic sources are available (presumably) of the Gospels. Many years ago, when I was translating John, I came to realize that many idioms in Aramaic were translated word for word into Greek (Koine). That’s unfortunate because figures of speech in one language often cause confusion when literally translated into another language. Unlike English, Koine Greek is based more on action than time-so another difficulty arises. I often wonder if Aramaic originals (minus Luke) once existed. I’m convinced that the Sermon on the Mount was originally written in Aramaic, and that Matthew first published it alone. Later, after Mark published his Gospel, I believe that Matthew combined his Sermon on the Mount with Mark’s Gospel (improving Mark’s Greek along the way). Luke was proficient in Greek and I believe that his Gospel was originally written in that language.
    One thing is clear to me: Jesus purposely spoke in the vernacular to reach a wide audience. His parables are full of symbols with which farmers and shepherds could easily identify. Jesus thought that everyone was worth saving-a salient point the well educated Pharisees could never come to grips with. I suppose “The Chosen” are still among us, aren’t they.

  45. Lee Muller

    I don’t want to hijack the thread with examples of how single words in the KJV attempt to convey deep concepts to its readers in the same way that Greek or Latin translators attempted to convey these same concepts to readers and listeners of their era. The point is that too many modern versions, being reduced to the limited vocabulary and lack of shared general culture, convey the entirely wrong message. Worse yet, many versions have been edited to match the political correctness of modern liberalism, which is predominated by atheism and secular humanism as the core theology.

  46. Herb Brasher

    I don’t want to hijack the thread with examples of how single words in the KJV attempt to convey deep concepts to its readers in the same way that Greek or Latin translators attempted to convey these same concepts to readers and listeners of their era.

    I would really question whether you really could hijack the thread with such examples, at least not any that couldn’t be said of any other translation. The whole point of translation work is to “convey deep concepts” to the readers, or as Luther put it, “das Volk aufs Maul schauen” — look at the people in their mouth. How do they talk?
    You’ll have to do better than making accusations like you’ve made, with specifics, before I can take these statements seriously.

  47. Herb Brasher

    Brad, there aren’t very many experts around. I’ve had Greek and Hebrew, and a smattering of Aramaic, like most theology students, but experts are few and far between. Bottom line is that textual criticism is a scientific work, and we’re a lot further along than we were 400 years ago. No major Christian doctrines are affected, but the fact remains that each generation has to translate the Scriptures in the language of the vernacular, or as Luther put it, “das Volk aufs Maul schauen.” The KJV may be “beautiful” (which is open to debate), but it is often misleading. “Keep your conversation good among the Gentiles”? Bad translation, since conversation now refers to speaking, not to general behavior. There are numerous examples of the same–I wouldn’t give the KJV to anyone to read today, not if I want them to understand what is being said. Lee’s statement about “political correctness” is pretty much a groundless generalization, but I’m sure most people would recognize that.
    Mark, you’re pretty much right in your understanding of the development of the NT text, I think (though there are probably as many theories of the development of the Gospels as there are interpreters). Matthew probably did compose the teachings of Jesus in Aramaic, but since he eventually edited them in the Greek text, we shouldn’t make too much todo about the Aramaic originals. F. F. Bruce, former professor of Biblical exegesis at the University of Manchester, does a pretty good job of sorting those issues out in several of his writings, notably his many commentaries on both the Greek and English texts, his book on the Canon of Scripture. I highly recommend him. He critiques C.C. Torrey, for example, for taking too many liberties in trying to second guess the Gospel writers by trying to produce the missing Aramaic originals. At some point we have to admit that these are the documents we have, and perhaps God gave us what we need, not all that we want.

  48. Brad Warthen

    Over my head, Herb. Y’all can carry on the debate, but you will have to do it — what’s the German expression — ohne mich? Is that right?

  49. Lee Muller

    Like Jesus would have done, I will lay a trap for Herb.
    Herb, what do you think the Bible means when it says that a wife should be “subservient” to her husband?

  50. Lee Muller

    Another passage from every translation which is misused by secular socialists is Jesus saying to, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. The statist, who is usually an agnostic or marginal Christian, uses this to justify unlimited taxation, and dismiss wholesome examination of the morality of taxation and the process of collection.

  51. Lee Muller

    In fact Herb, I offer you carte blanche to put forth any examples where you think God, angels, the prophets of the Old Testament, or Jesus Christ are speaking in favor of socialized medicine, high taxes, regulations, welfare, school lunches, or any other exception to the Ten Commandments and Golden Rule which modern secular liberalism worships.
    I will offer the a more Christian, less egocentric interpretation.

  52. Herb Brasher

    At least you are honest, Lee, that you are laying a trap, though I don’t know what you mean when you say that you are being “like Jesus.” Unless you referring to the fact that, in response to the theologians’ and politicians’ attempts to trap Jesus with theological conundrums (“whose wife will she be,” a totally useless question), Jesus asked pointed questions (but did not lay traps–the only trap was their unwillingness to make any commitment). I don’t call that a “trap” when someone is above board in their approach.
    Anyway, I assume you are referring in your question to Eph. 5:21 and following verses. I don’t have the time, space, or the interest of others to go into an exegesis here, though I have lectured on this subject before. But I think it is helpful to note that 1) there is mutual “submission,”–“submit to one another in the fear [or respect] of Christ.” [“Subservient” is a bad translation, by the way, for it implies, in my understanding, that one is of less stature or importance than the other, but that is not what the word means–where did you get this translation, anyway–I can’t find it in any modern translation, and it isn’t KJV, either]. Just as one member of the church “serves” the other, so also in the marriage relationship. I would think that a husband who “serves” his wife by loving her as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it–well, that sort of man shouldn’t be hard to love. Likewise the wife “serves” the husband by helping him to lead the family–it’s called mutual submission.
    2) the word for “submit” here is hypotasso, which is a military term. As we know, officers in the military “submit” to one another so that the purpose of being in the military can be served. Submission in this sense does not imply that one is better than the other, or more intelligent, or more gifted. It just says that one takes the lead, and the other follows. Human relationships won’t work unless we’re prepared to do that. But again, it is mutual submission, as indicated by verse 21.
    There is actually a beautiful word in v. 29 that actually comes from a mother bird resting on her eggs. A husband should take care of and cherish the relationship to his wife like a mother bird watches over and cherishes its young. No sense of domination or “I’m better than you are” in that.
    I don’t know if that is what you were wanting hear, or what, but it is a brief overview of what I believe the passage is saying. Of course there is a lot more on the subject here and in the whole NT, but as Brad has indicated, we are way off topic.
    Yep, Brad, the expression is “ohne mich.” Exactly right. Which is why theological debates often don’t get us anywhere–they only alienate the very people we want to dialog with. Not my intention, even if it looks like it is.

  53. Brad Warthen

    Ah, but Lee’s brought us back to our original topic with “render unto Caesar.”
    AND he’s presented us with another one of those cognitive disconnects I keep talking about, exhibiting a characteristic I see a lot in libertarians — although it is by NO means limited to them. You find it in any ideologue or partisan. It is the — to twist another Scripture passage — “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” thing.
    “Render unto Caesar” is about as clear a case of neutrality on the subject of the fairness or justice or advisability of taxes as has ever been spoken. You can no more endorse “statism” with it than you can libertarianism.
    The unequivocal thing he DID say was, “Pay your taxes.” He considered discussion of whether it was right or just to have to pay such a tax an utter waste of time — in fact, a waste of time and energy you should spend on God. Money is Caesar’s game; if he demands it, give it to him. And Give all the more important things to God.
    But libertarians won’t accept that message. They can’t accept that the thing they obsess over — “I, Me, Mine,” my money, my hard work, my property, my rights — was exactly what Jesus said to drop. Behold the lilies of the field. Sufficient unto the day…
    He wasn’t endorsing high taxes. He just didn’t CARE about high taxes, or low taxes, or any kind. And he said we shouldn’t care, either.
    There are so many things that Jesus taught that don’t come easy to me, but that one I’ve always been OK with. I don’t know why; I’m just that way.
    Obviously, libertarians are a very different way, which is sort of where I started — why are they like that?
    Anyway, my point at the start of this comment was this: I’m neutral on the subject of taxes. I look at them pragmatically: What have we, acting through our elected representatives (about as far a cry as one can get from living under Caesar, by the way), decided to pay for? What will that cost, exactly — not a penny more or less? Is it worth that? OK, then, what’s the best way for us to pool our resources to make this happen? Let’s be pragmatic, and make the taxation as fair and balanced and nonharmful to the economy as we can. And personally, I don’t care where we end up — higher tax, lower tax, whatever it takes to do what it is that we’ve decided we need to do.
    People who think a tax is always bad, and that a tax increase is unthinkable, see this as being in favor of high taxes, or “statism.” It isn’t. It’s neutrality. Yeah, I’m probably (but not always) going to be on the higher-taxes side of any argument between us on the subject — but that’s because of YOUR insistent bias, not mine.

  54. Lee Muller

    Critics of freedom have to create straw men, rather than addressing what libertarians and other reformers actually say.
    Libertariand don’t “say that tax is always bad”. Just look at the posts in this thread.
    What we do say is that those who impose taxes have a responsibility to be sure that the taxes are necessary to serve everyone, to do only those things which should not be done by private initiatives, and should be low enough to not stifle individual’s support for their own families, savings, investment and charity.
    A government which is run by people who make a concious effort to rob individuals of their ability make these decisions is too large, and it its motives are evil.
    As George Washington said, government is like fire, an obedient servant when kept small, but a fearful master when allowed rage out of control.

  55. Herb Brasher

    Brad, that was about as good a comment on “Render unto Caesar” as I have ever seen. You summed it all up well. Jesus just doesn’t take sides on political philosophies. Part of the problem I believe we have to deal with in this country is what William Wilberforce called “cultural Christianity,” an idolatrous mixture of American libertarianism and certain Christian values. It is a horrible thing, because it mixes the Gospel message with a certain political viewpoint, whereas the Gospel message is Christ + nothing.
    OK Lee, let’s start with ancient Israel, because you are not going to find any political system advocated in the New Testament, since Jesus’ Kingdom is “not of this world.” (You will find some general principles, such as “bear one another’s burdens,” and “each person should bear his/her own burden,” and “if a person will not work, neither shall he eat” and “that there should be equality—see 2 Corinthians 8—but that is not the same as a political system). The church is supposed to thrive and multiply in just about any political context, and it has. It is multiplying all over the world today (not in the West, but that is another story) in contexts that are hostile.
    But take ancient Israel, which is as close as we can probably get to a political system that God “set up” to portray the ideal. Not the kingship, because that was not God’s intention for Israel (see 1 Samuel 8 on that). Go back to Leviticus 25 and show me how this ideal of the return of all property to its original owners every fifty years fits in with your libertarian ideals.
    Do you know what evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Muslims all have in common as a theological tenet? That one day Jesus Christ will return, literally, bodily, to this earth. Only the biblical testimony is not that he will kill all the pigs (Islam), but rather establish a kingdom theocracy of universal righteousness. It looks like, according to Leviticus 25, and its counterparts in, for example Acts 4:31-38 , and 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 that there will be an exact equality among all those who are privileged to take part in that Kingdom (another reason why the KJV is not a good translation, “mansion” in John 14:1 should be translated “rooms”—the greek word mone is simply a place to dwell, “a room.” No promise of mansions here.).
    So I would say that Christians here should get used to it. We are to get used to sharing our possessions, and even take it with joy when someone steals our stuff. That isn’t to say that we don’t take proper measures to prosecute wrong-doers, or work towards more justice in taxation, etc. But I don’t think you can defend libertarianism as a political system from the Bible. But have at it. I’ll be interested.

  56. Lee Muller

    Taxation is not “sharing our resources”.
    Taxation is those in power sharing someone else’s resources among themselves. They share enough of the loot with the indolent masses to buy their votes against the Productive Minority, and call it “charity”.
    Christians absolutely should not “just get used to” government which operates against the laws of Nature.
    I am disgusted to hear the same secularists who tell us we cannot have morality in government because of “separation of Church and State”, then turn around and tell us that they have the authoriy of God behind their every whim to tax and spend.
    I am appalled every time I see clergy who have lost faith in the charity of themselves and their fellow man, and joined with the State to sell its programs to the citizens who are supposed to be in charge.
    When Jesus said to, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”, literate Jews knew he referred to the graven images on the Roman coins. Good Jews were supposed to avoid being absorbed into this corrupt culture.
    Good Americans are advised to do likewise.

  57. plubius_reborn

    your all missing the point, in a state of absolute anarchy people had the right to life, liberty, property and privacy, however the problem was that liberty part, because people had the liberty to infringe upon the rights of others, so government came into being to stop the infrigement of those rights and they had to tax people to defend those rights, but then the government began to infringe upon those same rights and the people overthrew that government to ELECT the government but they had the same capability to infringe on those rights but now the people can overthrow the government peacefully. the rights to property are being taken away by that government, when people are able to act in their own enlightened intrest they can give their own money to charity as they see fit.

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