Friday, December 9, 2011

The Greatest Libertarian Ever

When one considers what it means to believe in liberty we are left with a pretty simple, but powerful, idea that people are born with the right to do anything peaceful. That is to say that as long as our actions do not violate the life, liberty or property rights of another, we are free, or should be free to pursue those acts that we believe will make us happy, prosperous, content, fulfilled, or whatever other word we choose to use.

When Republicans ask me why I am a Libertarian I tell them because Republicans only believe in economic liberty (Goldwater/Reagan/Ron Paul/Paul Ryan Republicans I should say...), but do not seem too thrilled with the idea of social liberty - the rights we have to do things to ourselves, or do things with other consenting adults that do not create negative externalities that are clear and measurable.

Democrats say, "Well, we believe in social liberty, so why not become a Democrat?" That is easy to answer. Democrats, by and large, do not believe in economic liberty. They are mistrustful of mankind's ability to pursue our self interest in a productive manner. They believe in taking from one to provide a living for another. They advocate rules and regulations that prevent people from entering into consensual contracts and on and on and on....

So, as a Libertarian I choose to advocate social and economic liberty - even when people use their liberty to do things of which I disapprove. That is the hard part - and it is why so few people are Libertarians. If I, for example, find it to be morally reprehensible for people to engage in homosexual relationships, I must - if I truly believe in freedom - never support any law restricting the non-violent, consensual acts of homosexuals. In essence, gay people have the same rights I have to marry and have lasting relationships without the tyranny of the majority trampling their rights.

That is why, if we seriously consider which person was the greatest advocate of Libertarian philosophy, we are left with only one true choice....


When you pour through the New Testament you will find multitudinous verses and parables where Jesus supports economic liberty. He never once said government should take away the earnings of one person to give to another. Rather, he clearly said that we have "free will" to give or not give to those in need.

He supported the idea of property, contracts, compensation based on the agreements between labor demanders and labor suppliers, and working for a living.

In the realm of social liberty we are told that "all things are permissible, but not all things are wise." We see in his teachings that people should "pull the plank out of your own eye before you pull a splinter out of a brother's eye" and that people who are without sin should feel free to stone those who do sin.

He never supported homosexuality, drug use or prostitution. He led people by his teachings to repent for our sins and stay away from sin. He warns us about what will happen if we use our free will to keep sinning but he never supports manmade laws to regulate the lives of sinners.

Christians should pray for people who engage in economic greed or moral depravity, but as long as greed and depravity does not involve a forced taking or some other violation of our rights, Christians cannot turn to government to make rich people give or make drug users put down the needle.

Thus, as Christmas approaches, I would like to invite all of you to consider the difference between forced will and free will - and consider what our world would be like if Jesus had never arrived to show us how to use our free will for good.

Merry Christmas.


  1. I read a lot of what you write and completely agree with a lot of what you say. But I see in your views an individualistic slant, how do you pull your beliefs into a more altruistic vein? Is altruism, the greater good, a consideration?

  2. I am having trouble responding to comments on my own blog!!

    Anyway, great to hear from you Kirk!@! Individualism and altruism need not be competing. And, the "greater good" is a part of individualism. First, if we look at which nations give the most to charity, it is rich nations where people are treated as individuals to earn profit and have money. Americans give roughly $300 billion to charity every year - more than any other nation by far. Second, if we look at who does more for the world, people pursuing profit are at the top of the list. Allowed to pursue their individual self-interest allows capitalists to create products and jobs and opportunity that enriches all of us. From that (see Bill Gates) they also give the most money away. The French and other socialist people are treated as just a group, are thus poorer and are less altruistic. Moreover, government agencies tell us that they operate for the greater good and fail (teachers, police, etc.) all the time.

  3. Thank you for this piece. As a Calvinist I'm very glad you put (at least once) free will in quotes. As I'm sure you know, free will has more than one meaning. The 17th century Protestant confession, The Westminster Confession of Faith, defines free will in part:

    God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil.

    Of course the Reformed have historically and rightly denied that the Scriptures teach free will in the sense that men are free from the determinant and sovereign will of God. That said, I was wondering if you are familiar with the the late Dr. John Robbins and his volume, Freedom and Capitalism? Robbins was the former Chief of Staff for Ron Paul (1981-1985) and has probably the best lecture series on economics that I've ever heard (it's just a shame that his lectures never made it into print).

    Anyway, while many professing Christians have forgotten that the Gospel is the basis of not only of eternal freedom but political freedom as well, not all have.

    Sean Gerety

  4. Hi Jack,
    Your post made me think. And I gotta say, I never thought it could be so easy to bring Jesus into economics. Kudos.

    But I disagree with your conclusion that Jesus was the "greatest libertarian ever," at least in the context of what you've posted here.

    If we go with your definition of liberty (" long as our actions do not violate the life, liberty or property rights of another, we are free, or should be free to pursue those acts that we believe will make us happy, prosperous, content, fulfilled..."), then I am certain Jesus would not be a libertarian.

    The liberty that He died for was not for happiness or prosperity or contentment. No, Jesus gave His life to give each of us liberty defined as a freedom from ourselves, not freedom to indulge ourselves more. This self-serving liberty is just an inevitable dead end.

    Instead, Jesus reconciled us to a perfect God, chasing after each of us with an abandon and an unexplained love--right in the midst of our self-consumed pursuits.

    I also disagree with your closing line. It is short-sighted to reduce Jesus' goal to showing us how to "use our free will for good." Rather, He exposed our free will as riddled with ill intentions. Instead, He invites us to give it over to Him--our will, our lives, our pursuits--in complete surrender. When we do, He changes us, loves through us, lives through us.

    He calls us to die to ourselves, for His sake. Commands like that require a new definition of liberty.

    Yet in the transformation that occurs as we give ourselves over to Him, then our goals become redefined, or at very least, they discover new endings. Freedom itself looks different. Bigger, even.

    Free at last.

    I am thankful for the ultimate liberty Jesus brings. I think this post merely politicizes Him (which, by the way, I am certain many Republicans or Democrats have also tried to do).

    Jesus did not merely offer a system for life. Instead, he redefined life. And death.

  5. This is an interesting piece, as are most of the things I've read of yours. My question is somewhat off-topic: I am curious about your own academic background. My children will be choosing colleges relatively soon, and I'm interested to learn where different people went and what they majored in. I haven't seen this information on your site (my apologies if I missed it). Can you tell us what degrees you hold and where you got them? Thanks.

  6. Thank you for your comments. My B.A. is in Economics from The University of Oklahoma. My Masters degree - and the brief PhD work are from North Carolina State University. I hope this helps. By the way, both schools had more of a free market, Chicago-School flavor to them which influenced me greatly.

  7. Nordic-Guy

    Great comments and I agree with you. My point was that in the modern sense of what being a Libertarian means, Jesus fit that billing very well. Of course he was not actually a political figure or supportive of what we call Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians. He was though the one who gave us an idea of the gift of free will, the consequences of using free will negatively and the benefits of using it to serve others in love. Modern Libertarians - the pragmatic ones anyway - understand that using our free will to serve our fellowman in a non-violent manner is the best way for any society to function. That is why he best fits this modern political party rather than the Republicans (who oppose free will in social matters) and Democrats (who oppose free will in economic matters). I think if he answered the question, "Were you a Libertarian in the 2012 meaning of the word?" He would say, "No". Yet, what he taught fits perfectly under what WE humans, imperfect as we are, would call Libertarian.

  8. Jack, I really enjoy your blog entries, thanks for taking the time to write them.

    I wrestle with ideas in social libertarianism. You cite the example that gays should be able to marry because this doesn't "create negative externalities that are clear and measurable." I see these things as a slippery slope. Many states in the US now have changed their laws to allow for homosexual adoption. I see this as akin to child abuse. So to me this is just one measurable negative result of society normalizing gay marriage, e.g. the children that are raised in these environments. Studies have shown that children raised in these environments have sexuality and gender identity issues.
    Your comments?

  9. Great point and I tend to believe that the right to gay marriage, while Constitutionally clear, does NOT mean a right to adopt. Now a third party is being impacted in a manner that does not line up with nature, sociology, anthropology, etc. and thus could do great harm.