Saturday, May 19, 2007

Christian Libertarians

This one sounds interesting. From Reason Magazine, a review by W. James Ante of The Choice Principle: The Biblical Case for Legal Toleration, by Andy G. Olree.

Ante is an Associate Editor of The American Spectator.

Olree is arguing (as an evangelical Christian himself) for a libertarian governing philosophy.

One reason he is doing so is the common link among both "big-government" Christian liberals and conservatives. Here's Ante:
God and Caesar do seem to have reconciled. Even prominent evangelical critics of the Christian right, such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, tend to be strong proponents of activist government: Instead of having the government police sexual behavior, they want the state to redistribute income and enact environmental regulations. Some religious conservatives, represented in the 2008 presidential field by Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee, combine both tendencies, touting big government in both bedroom and boardroom.
Ante continues:
But it isn’t that simple. Yes, Christian conservatives have launched many crusades to restrict or prohibit behaviors they consider immoral. But there is another side to evangelical activism: politics as a defensive maneuver. There are Christians who prefer homeschooling to abstinence-only sex education in public schools, who would rather have lower taxes than “faith-based” federal largess.
Enter Olree whose work "attacks both the welfare state and moral laws."

Ante makes a wise point about why this small government Christian "libertarianism" does not have as strong a voice (my emphasis):
The Christians coming down on the small-government side of these arguments are fiscal conservatives but seldom consistent anti-statists. They are also at a disadvantage without a theological tradition robust enough to compete with the Social Gospel on the left or Christian Reconstructionism on the extreme right. Olree’s book is an early step toward furnishing one, exposing evangelicals to the arguments of a nascent Christian libertarian movement.
The theology grows out of St. Paul's admonition to the Christians at Rome that the civil government is appointed by God to hold the sword of vengeance. A government though that was pagan and approved of prostitution among other things traditional Christian morality finds sinful.

And this:
After all, the evangelical faith depends on a choice: the choice to receive salvation by accepting Jesus Christ. The most important thing evangelicals believe God asks of them —in their view, the most important thing of all—is something they must choose freely. For evangelicals, God does not coerce people into being saved and accepts their decision in the matter as final.
I'd definitely like to check out the book. Questions I have (only from reading review):

1. Are we just continuing the trend of politicization---left, right, and now libertarian?

2. The danger of the evangelical tradition returning only to "conversions" and abandoning the public sphere as fallen. Dangers towards anti-intellectualism, rabid apocalypticism.

3.Relative to the specific question things judged immoral (by some/many) yet not illegal. The example offered was prostitution. The de-criminalization of prostitution, from the standpoint of health and well being of the women, only works (if that is the right term) when the women can form unions/sisterhoods, when everything is above board. i.e. Likely would have to be taxed and therefore to some degree or other regulated seems to me. Otherwise de-criminalization of prostitution is a recipe for pimps, mobs, etc. abusing women.

My own political views shape this: at some level I think some regulation is necessary. I'd like as little as possible, but my general disagreement with libertarianism is that by focusing so much on how to get government out it rarely if ever (seems to me) has any sound ideas for how to make what limited government there is actually work. In this sense I'm more a conservative than a libertarian in that I have major questions about human nature and its propensity for evil. I'm not nearly enough of an optimist to believe that if choices are just provided then everyone will act in their own best self-interest which it just so happens will be rebound to the good of all.

I'm not against creating more choice, in fact I think that is the lasting key legacy of this line of political thought but for me it would have to be fit into part of a larger scheme.

I'd like to see how Olree would deal with the question how to decide in what limited cases the government is to intervene (the vengeance issue). Beyond the obvious ones: theft, murder, abuse, fraud....what actions are liable from a legal pov?

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