If you’ve followed this blog for longer than two posts, you’ll probably recognize a familiar theme obsession: liberty. For about the past year I’ve spent much of my studies researching basic economics, philosophy of liberty, and the nature of human action and interaction, all the while thinking about politics in the United States during a notable election season.
Libertarians often get a bad reputation for being selfish, uncaring, and cold-hearted toward those without means. Ranting about personal liberties and freedom from government coercion tend to give the impression that justice is not important to them. Their fight for liberty is seen as a “leave me alone and stop taking my money” agenda. For those whose passion in life is fighting for justice, and for Christians especially who want everyone to be compassionate, merciful, and generous to those in need, this approach seems unbiblical, or without compassion.
I will develop a more theologically-based reason why libertarian philosophy is more biblical than any other philosophy, but recently I realized why I’m so obsessed with this topic. It’s not because I want to be left alone, or because I want to hoard all my money, or because I believe every politician is bad. It’s not because I want an “every man for himself” policy. There are many reasons why I’m passionate about liberty, and just about every one of them has to do with everyone else. My liberties are important, but I’m not poor, I have zero debt, and I have talent and capabilities and other benefits available to me that I had nothing to do with (white, middle-class, etc.). And even though the State forces me to give up nearly 20% of my hard-earned income each year, I still have the means to do fairly well for me and my family. I’m not entirely worried about me right now.
So it all comes down to fighting for the liberties of everyone else. I can’t educate the poor in inner-city Philadelphia. I can’t feed the poor in downtown L.A. I can’t clothe the homeless in New York City. And if I wanted to, I can only do so much. So that leaves me with only a few options:
- Use as much of my 0wn resources to feed, clothe, and educate as many as I can
- Rally support of others to use their own resources and pool together to feed, clothe, and educate as many as we can
- Use the force of the State to make others give up their resources to use them for my own good will toward those in need
With my limited resources, Option #1 only gets me so far. With my limited charisma, Option #2 only gets me so far. Within ethical boundaries, Option #3 is a power-play over the rest of society. How on earth can I believe that to do good I have to enroll the organization (the State) with the most amount of weaponry to enforce upon others my sense of good will? So much “public good” and “common good” actions are justified under the unethical proposition of Option #3. The State is a power-play over others, whether it be by forcing one to give up his resources, or if it means forcing another to adhere to a friendly tyranny (“common good”). For me to avoid Option #3 at all costs is to consider my neighbor as better than myself. It is to respect the property of those around me. It is to honor God’s giving to them resources to steward, and not take those stewarded properties as my own. Options 1 & 2 are the best efforts I have at my disposal.
I care so much about this because it is the only consistent way for me to live as a Christian and not violate the rights of one group while fighting for the rights of another. It is the only consistent way to treat people as equals. It is the only way to fight for the rights of people I do not know.
There are a lot of people that I don’t know and will never know. But I still care about them.