Skip to content →

Reformed Libertarian Blog Posts

Re: When Liberty Gets Leprosy: The Libertarian Lure

Doug Wilson recently wrote a post warning Christians against being enticed by libertarianism. As with everything Wilson says, the post is big on rhetoric and devoid of logic. As usual, it takes numerous reads to try to figure out what his argument actually is, only to realize there is no argument – just empty rhetoric. That’s common with false teachers.

The problem with libertarianism is 3-fold:

First, libertarianism tends to be ideologically-driven, and not driven by love (read, patriotism).

Wilson relies on an unbiblical head/heart dichotomy to try to make his point. Wilson derides ideology (thinking) in favor of affectionate sentimentality in the chest. Far from a tangential oddity, this criticism of libertarianism flows directly from Wilson’s life philosophy. He rejects abstract propositionalism and insists that truth must be tangible: as in touching and seeing physically. If it’s an “abstraction,” it’s not true. Years ago he wrote an essay titled “The Great Logic Fraud” in which he argued

Because of our realist assumptions in mathematics, we have come to believe that 15 + 20 = 35 is true. But it is evidently not true. 15 unicorns plus 20 unicorns will not get you 35 unicorns, try as you may. Of course, on the other hand, 15 turnips plus 20 turnips will result in 35 turnips, and it will do so every time. The structure of the addition table is sound, and the ‘argument’ is valid. And if unicorns existed, we would wind up with 35 of them. But this means the argument is valid, not true.

This underlies his false gospel of covenant objectivity.

Advocates of the “ethereal Church” need to learn that, according to the Bible, a Christian is one who would be identified as such by a Muslim. Membership in the Christian faith is objective—it can be photographed and fingerprinted. (Reformed is Not Enough, 21)

Being a Christian is not a matter of believing invisible propositions. It’s a matter of being baptized and producing faithful works.

Wilson is an earthy, sensate man; what he describes as“objective” are things he can see. point at, and photograph. Everything else is “ethereal.”… Wilson’s sensualistic epistemology requires him to say that visible things are objective and invisible things are not. Of course, that makes God, truth, justice, righteousness, faith ‐ none of which is visible and photographable -‐ ethereal and non-objective. By imposing an un-Biblical theory of knowledge on Scripture, Wilson is inventing another, Antichristian theology, using Christian terminology. (Not Reformed At All, 32)

Regardless, the question of the moral use of force (political philosophy) is not determined by our feelings. It’s determined by thinking – by our study of Scripture.

Wilson attempts to prove that Christians are commanded in Scripture to love the nation-state they find themselves under (without in any way defining what that means). Since libertarians do not love their overlords the way they love their biological father, libertarianism is unbiblical. WLC 124 and 125 does not actually say anywhere that Christians are commanded to have a sentimental heart feeling of love for the nation-state they find themselves under. The only mention of love is directed towards the ruler. They are to love their inferiors so that their inferiors will willfully and cheerfully perform their duties. But, more importantly, the idea that rulers are our fathers is Aristotelean, not Biblical. Commenting on Romans 13, Peter Martyr Vermigli said

This place of the Apostle partaineth to that commandment of the law, Honor thy father and thy mother. For in the olde time, as Aristotle also wryteth, in his Politiques, fathers gave laws to their famely, and to them were as kings. And amongst the Romanes the Senators were called Patres conscripti, that is, appointed Fathers. For a magistrate is nothing els but the father of the country.

Aristotle’s political philosophy is not Scripture’s. The foundation of Westminster’s false view of rulers is their misinterpretation of Isaiah 49:23, which has nothing at all to do with the proper role of a civil magistrate/ruler. It has everything to do with the reversal of Israel’s status as slaves in captivity to their enemies serving them. Wilson’s analogy of the elderly mother is just bizarre. Who is the elderly mother in the analogy? The rulers? We are supposed to lovingly protect our rulers? What?

Bottom line is that Scripture nowhere commands us to have feelings of love in our heart for the shadow deep state. We are to love justice, not injustice. We are to love our neighbors. We are to seek the peace and prosperity of the land we are sojourners in. And we are to love our enemies and oppressors. Reformed libertarianism doesn’t teach otherwise.

Second, libertarianism is backing away from the “social issues” at just the moment when corruption on those issues has reached our nation’s lymph nodes.

“Slaves to Sin Cannot be a Free People.” Correct, but the law cannot free anyone from slavery to sin.

And third, libertarianism sees the abstraction of “free market forces” as a tree in the orchard, instead of fruit from the orchard. This means that the principles of libertarian argument will tend to trump plain statements of Scripture.

“Good kings, good rulers, are anointed by God.” Uhm, David and Solomon’s annointing had specifically to do with their rule over the typological people of Israel who were uniquely in covenant with God. Their kingship was typological of Christ’s – the Anointed. It has nothing to do with rulers today.

“Good government can be a life-giving instrument, and not a money sucking parasite.” Correct, and we don’t suggest otherwise. See The Civil Magistrate vs. the State as a solution to the problem of social order. 2 Sam 23:3 says “When one rules justly over men.” Wilson is begging the question as to what it means to rule justly over men. And yes, Micah 4 talks about the kingdom of Christ, of which Christ is the king, and of which the kingdom of Israel was a type. What’s your point?

“Isaiah 49:22–23… In other words, kings and queens will nurture and protect the church, and kings and queens will show great honor and deference to the church. What the kings and queens will not be is nonexistent.” Oh, that’s your point? See above. Wilson doesn’t typology much.

“God is not willing that any should perish—slave or free, rich or poor, ruled or ruler. God is willing to save kings, and He does so.” Really? I guess libertarianism must be wrong then, cause we don’t believe God saves kings. Oh wait, that’s not what the NAP says.

“It is a gospel work. It is not something we get from Murray Rothbard.” Checkmate. Here I thought all along the tree of life in the New Jerusalem was planted by Rothbard. I guess libertarianism is wrong.


“So in conclusion. Wise Christians love liberty, but it is not our god.” Correct.

“We receive it as a blessing from hand of the Lord Jesus.” Correct.

“If we serve it as a god, as though liberty were the source of anything, what will happen is that we will lose what we have idolized.” Correct.

“If we worship anything instead of Christ, we lose Christ, and we eventually lose whatever thing we substituted for Him.” Correct.

“If we are libertarians, and worship liberty before Christ, we miss Christ.” Correct.

All of that is irrelevant to the question of the permissible use of force according to Scripture. All of that is irrelevant to the regulative principle of violence established by the 6th commandment. All of Wilson’s post is irrelevant to the question of reformed libertarianism.


Are Civil Rulers Our (Nurse) Fathers?

I’ve been reading through Scripture chronologically. When I read Isaiah 49:23 I was struck by how entirely out of place it is to interpret that text as teaching the civil government’s duty to use the sword to enforce both tables of the law, or even to say anything at all about the nature of civil government. The whole point of the prophecy is about Israel’s enemies becoming their servants. It’s rather amazing that WLC cites the text to prove that obedience to rulers is required under the 5th commandment.

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?

A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents,[649] but all superiors in age[650] and gifts;[651] and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family,[652] church,[653] or commonwealth.[654]

[654] Isaiah 49:23. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

The passage is about how “my servant Israel” (Christ) will bring the remnant back from exile among the nations who captured them and took them away.

49:22 This is what the sovereign Lord says:
“Look I will raise my hand to the nations;
I will raise my signal flag to the peoples.
They will bring your sons in their arms
and carry your daughters on their shoulders.

49:23 Kings will be your children’s guardians;
their princesses will nurse your children.
With their faces to the ground they will bow down to you
and they will lick the dirt on your feet.
Then you will recognize that I am the Lord;
those who wait patiently for me are not put to shame.

49:24 Can spoils be taken from a warrior,
or captives be rescued from a conqueror?

49:25 Indeed,” says the Lord,
“captives will be taken from a warrior;
spoils will be rescued from a conqueror.
I will oppose your adversary
and I will rescue your children.

49:26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh;
they will get drunk on their own blood, as if it were wine.
Then all humankind will recognize that
I am the Lord, your deliverer,
your protector, the powerful ruler of Jacob.”

Israel’s adversaries who oppressed them and took them captive will turn and lick the dirt on their feet. Their conquerers will become their servants. This is in line with the Old Covenant’s blessing for obedience:

Deut 28:13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, 14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

a Brakel notes:

The word “nurse” (for “fathers” is not to be found in the original text) does not imply supremacy, but is indicative of the labors of a servant. The nurse of a royal child—this being applicable to the church—is less than the child who is being nursed… Thus, the idea of dominion is not implied in the word “nurse,” but is expressly excluded.

It is truly bizarre the way the reformed tradition has historically interpreted and employed this passage – influenced in no small part by Aristotle’s political philosophy. The text is not a statement about “civil magistrates.” It is a statement about the enemies of Israel.

Israel was to be the greatest, most prominent nation in the world, if they obeyed the Old Covenant.

Deut 28:7 “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways… 9 The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you…13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.

We see this happen in Solomon’s day, where they possessed all the land God promised them, and then some. Foreign rulers beyond Israel came and brought tribute to Solomon because of his mighty wisdom and the richness of Israel (think Queen of Sheba).

But what happend? Israel broke the Old Covenant, so God poured out the covenant curses upon Israel, which included being destroyed and taken captive by their enemies.

However, the prophets began to speak of a time when Israel would be restored because of their obedience. Moses himself prophesied the same thing in Deut 30:1

Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, 2 and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. 5 Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Note v7 “Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. 8 And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today.”

In chapter 49, Isaiah is speaking of this time and he explains that it will happen because of the obedience of the Redeemer of Israel. They will be blessed. Their fortunes will be restored. Their children will return from captivity. Not only will Israel’s enemies be destroyed, but Israel’s enemies will actually come as servants of Israel, caring for its children and bowing down at their feet. Thus the roles are reversed.

22 Thus says the Lord God:

“Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations,
And set up My standard for the peoples;
They shall bring your sons in their arms,
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders;
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”

Shall the prey be taken from the mighty,
Or the captives of the righteous be delivered?

25 But thus says the Lord:

“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
And the prey of the terrible be delivered;
For I will contend with him who contends with you,
And I will save your children.”

Thus the highest rulers of God’s enemies will lose their dominion and will become servants of Israel and will return Israel to the land from which they took them.

This verse says absolutely nothing about the institution of civil government. It speaks of the blessings for obedience that Israel would receive in the latter days – which we are to interpret typologically as referring to our eschatological inheritance earned by the only obedient Israelite: Jesus the Christ.

Psalm 72
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

Leave a Comment

Podcast Discussion of Theonomy (According to Christ)

I recently discussed the issue of theonomy on the According to Christ podcast. It’s a complicated topic, so it takes more than an hour to discuss, but hopefully we touched on enough points to lead people into further study. I try to be as detailed as possible in my analysis and criticism because Bahnsen was as detailed as possible in his defense. He listened to critics (not always fully, imo) and gave detailed replies. My argument does not simply rest on a general, vague appeal to typology. Rather, I seek to provide very concrete arguments from typology – more concretely than Bahnsen’s previous critics. However, an adequately thorough presentation of these arguments would require a book, not a podcast.

At one point I misspoke. I stated that Bahnsen could not understand Israel as a type of the church. Bahnsen stated on page 440 of Theonomy in Christian Ethics “With respect to typology it might be suggested that Israel as a nation is a type of the church of Christ. There is certainly scriptural warrant for that comparison.” Bahnsen then proceeded to demonstrate the incompleteness of a general appeal to the typology of Israel, insisting that any argument from typology much be very specific in how Israel’s typology translates into the abrogation of certain penal sanctions. Bahnsen said

[S]ince the argument from typology would appear to contradict the direct assertion of Scripture (cf. Matt. 5:17-19), then much more than a typological connection must be mentioned. It must be demonstrated that Scripture warrants the suggested inference from the typological connection to the argumentative conclusion. The artistic and pedagogical designs inherent in the Scriptures certainly must not be ignored or despised; however, neither must they be abused by trying to make them say something which Scripture itself does not say. The infallible interpreter of Scripture is not an imaginative model brought to bear on the data of the Bible (thus threatening to operate like a Procrustean bed) but is the Scripture itself (Westminster Confession of Faith, I.IX). Without specific biblical moorings and key didactic confirmations, from point to point, typology degenerates either to allegory or a mere projection of the typologists clever or artistic imagination.

I agree and have thus sought to be concrete in my arguments from typology. Lord willing I will be able to put those arguments down in the more concrete form of a book in the future. For now, I hope the brief podcast discussion is helpful.

Leave a Comment

Decentralized Community and the Importance of a Framework of Authority

A realistic look at decentralized libertarian communities can be gained by reading Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community in particular Chapter 5 entitled The State as Revolution.  Nisbet makes the provocative claim that it is the State that is in revolt against intermediate associations such as church, family, and local village and this is further seen as the State is an outgrowth of military endeavor. In Chapter 5, Nisbet highlights the legal particularism of these intermediate associations and the importance of the framework of authority of these associations which has largely been lost today. If any area of libertarian philosophy need be developed, it is my opinion that it should be in the area how libertarian communities develop or regain such decentralized frameworks of authority.  It seems necessary to have more than private legal authorities in a libertarian community but also a variety of competing authorities in family and church and other intermediate associations.  I leave you with this expanded quote from pages 101-103 of The Quest for Community:

“Organism, medieval society may have seemed to the Schoolmen, and Unity it may appear in retrospect to all those who…seek escape from the flux and diversity of the modern world. But in fact, medieval society, from the point of view of formal authority, was one of the most loosely organized societies in history. Despite the occasional pretensions of centralizing popes, emperors, and kings, the authority that stretched theoretically from each of them was constantly hampered by the existence of jealously guarded “liberties” of town, guild, monastery, and village…”Such autocracy as existed in the Middle Ages…was because of the absence of centralization. It was dilute, not because it was distributed in many hands, but because it was derived from many independent sources. There were the liberties of the church, based on law superior to that of the King; there was the law of nature, graven in the hearts of men and not to be erased by royal writs; and there was the prescription of immemorial local and feudal custom stereotyping a variety of jurisdictions and impeding the operation of a single will”…It is the particularism, then, rather that the asserted unity of life of the Middle Ages that stands as the most significant fact in the understanding of its structure of authority. Apart from the legal facts of diversity and decentralization (“anarchy” later legal rationalists were to call them), the preeminence of the medieval social group in unintelligible. This is the point that has so often been overlooked by modern reformers of an orthodox or scholastic set of mind who have endeavored to reestablish some variant of medieval moral or educational practice. The claims of kinship, guild, and university lay then in a framework of authority that has largely disappeared in the modern world. Such terms as corpus morale, corpus mysticum, and their synonyms had deep roots in the legal particularism of the Middle Ages, and it is worthy of notice that the mystic unity of a given group was never so clamantly upheld as when the environing legal conditions were threatened.”

Leave a Comment

Web 3.0 Reading List

I started preparing an essay for RL almost 2 years ago (wow, time flies) about Web 3.0. With the recent banning of Alex Jones from Facebook and other social media platforms, it’s quite relevant.

Web 0.1 was directly dialing into another computer (think movies like Sneakers, War Games, and Hackers).

Web 1.0 was Netscape. You could type in a URL (not numbers) and look at a webpage someone else made – typically not hosted on their own computer.

Web 2.0 was social media. Viewers of the web became creators of the web as everyone began interacting with each other on a third party’s server.

Web 3.0 is decentralization. “Bring Your Own Data.” You own and control your data and allow various apps to access it.

Web 0.1 was very decentralized, but on the way to Web 2.0 things became more and more centralized. To communicate with others, you use a middleman (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You upload a post to Facebook. Your friends down your post from Facebook. That is a convenient way to share information because it provides common ground to find and reach others. Web 3 seeks to retain all the good things of Web 2.0, but with a return to the decentralization of Web 0.1. Rather than Facebook’s servers being the medium to connect people across social media, communication and storage of data can occur anywhere (the cloud or at your house or on your phone). The challenge is creating a common platform where this can take place.

An early attempt at decentralization were federated social media networks like Diaspora or Mastadon (see links below). These were a step away from centralization, but they weren’t fully decentralized. Basically they created a common framework for users to connect and share data (photos, posts, tweets) from any variety of different servers. Think of email. Even though you use Gmail, you can still communicate with someone who uses Yahoo, or someone who has an email account through their school – or even someone who has setup their own email server in their basement (i.e. Hillary Clinton). Email is a common language. It’s not a “walled garden” like Facebook, Twitter, etc. The trouble was you still had to choose to use someone else’s server (unless you had the time and expertise to really run your own), and if you wanted to switch servers it wasn’t readily easy.

That was where things stood 2 years ago when I started researching. I created a Diaspora account and played around a bit. But things have come a long, long ways in the last 2 years. Why? Blockchain. Blockchain technology allows for truly decentralized common ground from which to build from. In short, you can create a web identity from a blockchain key and then build whatever you want on top of that. You choose where to store your web presence/identity (physically: at home on a usb drive, encrypted on Dropbox, or anywhere in-between), you choose who to share any part of your presence (think Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Podcast, Instagram, etc) with, and it all works as seamlessly as using Facebook but without the ability for a central entity to stop communication between your web presence and whomever you want to share it with because they don’t control the data. Through your blockchain ID, you are giving them directions to wherever you are storing your information (blog post, photo, etc). There is no Facebook middleman giving directions or hosting your data.

When I started writing, I thought decentralization/federation was a pretty cool idea that we should be aware of to perhaps start adopting as a safety measure if censorship starts getting really bad. But now it’s more of “Hey, here’s some fascinating technology that is going to radically transform the entire internet, period. You can sit back and wait or be an early adopter, but it’s coming fast either way.”

So with that, here’s a reading/watching list:

  1. Freedom In the Cloud: Software Freedom, Privacy, and Security for Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing 2010 speech by Eben Moglen. Transcript. Start here to understand the big picture.
    1. Freedom Box: Internet Free of Government Control (CBS) Eben Moglen discusses his Freedom Box device
    2. Daplie a much more developed and consumer-friendly version of a Freedom Box. Note that this product has been in development and crowd-funding since I first looked into all of this a couple years ago. The company appears to be a couple of well funded (note the quality of the marketing videos) Mormons from Utah who have been adept at finding various new ways of drawing in funding (IndieGoGo campaign was 1195% funded in Jan 2017) without producing an actual product. Not sure if they’re just enjoying the ride or if they’re facing some kind of legitimate opposition.
  2. Diaspora What Happened to the Facebook Killer? It’s Complicated 3 young computer scientists who attended Moglen’s speech went on to develop Diaspora, a decentralized/federated social network. They gained a lot of financial support, but PayPal froze their account and their  Zuckerberg-like leader Ilya Zhitomirskiy “committed suicide” at the age of 22, shortly before the public beta version of Diaspora went online. Since then the project has floundered, being picked away at by volunteers.
    1. Planting a Seed: Diaspora’s Story (Part 1)
    2. Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Diaspora Founder, Murdered(?)
    3. Ilya Zhitimirskiy’s Suspicious “Death By ‘Suicide’”
    4. Was “Diaspora” Founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy Murdered
  3. Blockstack the two founders have been quietly working away for many years on a “new internet.” Web 1 and 2 are built upon specific communication protocols including DNS – Domain Name System (so that when you type in your browser knows where to find the server hosting the blog). Blockstack is creating new protocol layers built upon a blockchain to change the way traffic flows (for example, using BNS – Blockchain Name System to direct traffic using the publicly distributed blockchain). They’re not trying to create a Facebook-killer like Diaspora. Rather, they are seeking to fundamentally change the structure of the internet to facilitate countless Facebook-killer, Twitter-killer Distributed Apps (Dapps) to be developed. They have a very long-range perspective and have gone about it in the right way. Unlike other blockchain-based companies, they’re not looking for your monetary investment via crowdfunding tokens. They already secured $50m in traditional venture capital investment. Their token system is designed to pay app developers. The more users an app has, the more profit they earn via a crypto exchange based on mining (since the base layer of the new protocols is the blockchain), thus seeking to solve the open source incentive dilemma.
    1. Blockstack – A New Internet for Decentralized Apps
    2. Blockstack: A New Internet That Brings Privacy & Property Rights to Cyberspace
    3. Blockstack Unveils A Browser For The Decentralized Web
    4. Checking Out Blockstack, The New Decentralized Internet
    5. Postly App Demo | Blockstack Berlin 2018
    6. Ryan Shea “A New Blockstack Internet” | Blockstack Summit 2017
    7. Block Zero #007 – Blockstack – A new internet for decentralized apps w/ Muneeb Ali
    8. Ryan Shea of Blockstack: “Web 3 and Decentralized Apps” | Blockstack Berlin 2018
    9. A Conversation with Naval Ravikant and Ryan Shea | Blockstack Summit 2017 some helpful “big picture” comments
  4. Misc
    1. Decentralising the web: Maintaining the momentum
    2. The punk rock internet – how DIY ​​rebels ​are working to ​replace the tech giants
    3. Understanding Mesh Networking, Part I
Leave a Comment

Chrysostom on Romans 13 as Office

In a previous post I discussed the difference in interpretation between person and office in Romans 13, noting that the distinction went back at least to Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD see this timeline). Here he is:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”

Of this subject he makes much account in other epistles also, setting subjects under their rulers as household servants are under their masters. And this he does to show that it was not for the subversion of the commonwealth that Christ introduced His laws, but for the better ordering of it, and to teach men not to be taking up unnecessary and unprofitable wars. For the plots that are formed against us for the truth’s sake are sufficient and we have no need to be adding temptations superfluous and unprofitable. And observe too how well-timed his entering upon this subject is. For when he had demanded that great spirit of heroism, and made men fit to deal either with friends or foes, and rendered them serviceable alike to the prosperous and those in adversity and need, and in fact to all, and had planted a conversation worthy of angels, and had discharged anger, and taken down recklessness, and had in every way made their mind even, he then introduces his exhortation upon these matters also. For if it be right to requite those that injure us with the opposite, much more is it our duty to obey those that are benefactors to us. But this he states toward the end of his exhortation, and hitherto does not enter on these reasonings which I mention, but those only that enjoin one to do this as a matter of debt. And to show that these regulations are for all, even for priests, and monks, and not for men of secular occupations only, he hath made this plan at the outset, by saying as follows: “let every soul be subject unto the higher powers,” if thou be an Apostle even, or an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or anything whatsoever, inasmuch as this subjection is not subversive of religion. And he does not say merely “obey,” but “be subject.” And the first claim such an enactment has upon us, and the reasoning that suiteth the faithful, is, that all this is of God’s appointment.

“For there is no power,” he says, “but of God.” What say you? it may be said; is every ruler then elected by God? This I do not say, he answers. Nor am I now speaking about individual rulers, but about the thing in itself. For that there should be rulers, and some rule and others be ruled, and that all things should not just be carried on in one confusion, the people swaying like waves in this direction and that; this, I say, is the work of God’s wisdom. Hence he does not say, “for there is no ruler but of God;” but it is the thing he speaks of, and says, “there is no power but of God. And the powers that be, are ordained of God.” Thus when a certain wise man saith, “It is by the Lord that a man is matched with a woman” (Proverbs 19:14, LXX.), he means this, God made marriage, and not that it is He that joineth together every man that cometh to be with a woman. For we see many that come to be with one another for evil, even by the law of marriage, and this we should not ascribe to God. But as He said Himself, “He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4, 5; Genesis 2:24.) And this is what that wise man meant to explain. For since equality of honor does many times lead to fightings, He hath made many governments and forms of subjection; as that, for instance, of man and wife, that of son and father, that of old men and young, that of bond and free, that of ruler and ruled, that of master and disciple. And why are you surprised in the case of mankind, when even in the body He hath done the same thing? For even here He hath not made all parts of equal honor, but He hath made one less and another greater, and some of the limbs hath He made to rule and some to be ruled. And among the unreasoning creatures one may notice this same principle, as amongst bees, amongst cranes, amongst herds of wild cattle. And even the sea itself is not without this goodly subordination; for there too many of the clans are ranged under one among the fishes, and are led thus as an army, and make long expeditions from home. For anarchy, be where it may, is an evil, and a cause of confusion. After having said then whence governments come, he proceeds, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” See what he has led the subject on to, and how fearful he makes it, and how he shows this to be a matter of debt. For lest the believers should say, You are making us very cheap and despicable, when you put us, who are to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven, under subjection to rulers, he shows that it is not to rulers, but to God again that he makes them subject in doing this. For it is to Him, that he who subjects himself to authorities is obedient. Yet he does not say this–for instance that it is God to Whom a man who listens to authorities is obedient–but he uses the opposite case to awe them, and gives it a more precise form by saying, that he who listeneth not thereto is fighting with God, Who framed these laws. And this he is in all cases at pains to show, that it is not by way of favor that we obey them, but by way of debt. For in this way he was more likely to draw the governors who were unbelievers to religion, and the believers to obedience. For there was quite a common report in those days (Tert. Revelation 1, 31, 32), which maligned the Apostles, as guilty of a sedition and revolutionary scheme, and as aiming in all they did and said at the subversion of the received institutions. When then you show our common Master giving this in charge to all His, you will at once stop the mouths of those that malign us as revolutionists, and with great boldness will speak for the doctrines of truth. Be not then ashamed, he says, at such subjection. For God hath laid down this law, and is a strong Avenger of them if they be despised. For it is no common punishment that He will exact of thee, if thou disobey, but the very greatest; and nothing will exempt thee, that thou canst say to the contrary, but both of men thou shalt undergo the most severe vengeance, and there shall be no one to defend thee, and thou wilt also provoke God the more. And all this he intimates when he says, “And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

I argue here that it may actually be better interpreted as referring to specific rulers and not to an office.

Leave a Comment

McDurmon to Respond to RL Review of Bounds of Love

Just a heads up that I saw Joel McDurmon is planning on publishing a new book soon:

In the upcoming couple of months, I will be publishing a follow-up to my book The Bounds of Love, in particular, rebuttals to the criticisms of the cherem principle as I teach it… In addition to Selbrede’s review, I have heard of published criticisms or responses from Brian Schwertley (four sermons collected together here), a roundtable of Joel and Luke Saint and John Bingaman, and Brandon Adams at Reformed Libertarian. There was another from a young man which has been endorsed by Joseph Morecraft, Tim Yarbrough, and Paul Michael Raymond… I will address all of these criticisms together in one place in as thorough and systematic attempt as possible.

I look forward to the ongoing dialogue.

Leave a Comment


I recently had the great pleasure to re-read Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism. For those of you who haven’t read this important libertarian work, I hope to whet your appetite. Hoppe states in his introductory chapter the following thesis which shows the reader from the start the logical precision found throughout this great work:

“At the end of the treatise it should be clear that only by means of a theory, economic or moral, which is not itself derived from experience but rather starts from a logically incontestable statement (which is something very different from an “arbitrarily postulated axiom”) and proceeds in a purely deductive way (perhaps using some explicitly introduced empirical and empirically testable assumption, in addition) to results which are themselves logically unassailable (and thus require no empirical testing whatsoever), will it become possible to organize or interpret an otherwise chaotic, overly complex array of unconnected, isolated facts or opinions about social reality to form a true, coherent economic or moral conceptual system.”

Hoppe does not disappoint in the logical clarity of his analysis dismantling socialism and empiricism and rationally justifying the non-aggression principle and capitalism. We find Hoppe keeps true to his word and leaves the reader with an excellent resource to justify libertarianism and capitalism and to destroy socialist arguments. To give a brief overview of segments of the book, here are a few highlights from each chapter.

In Chapter 2, Hoppe discusses the basic concept of property rights.  Setting his analysis in paradise, Hoppe points out the need for property rights due to the obvious reality of scarcity including one’s own body.  Hoppe presents an interesting hypothesis when he considers what would happen in a socialist paradise where someone had a property claim in someone else’s body.  Hoppe notes two effects of such a system: 1) an economic effect and 2) a social effect. The economic effect regards time preference.  If one’s use of the body is limited by someone else, one is restricted to make choices by the disutility of waiting. Therefore, high time preference prevails and there is less investment in human capital.  The social impact is the increase in aggression in society which changes social structures and also causes disinvestment in human capital.

In Chapter 3, Hoppe describes Russian-style Socialism and gives the motivation behind socialism: egalitarianism.  Socialism is characterized by nobody owning the socialized means of production and nobody engaging in private investment or creating new private means of production.  Hoppe gives two observations of socialism: 1) the problem of differences in ownership is solved only nominally since the real underlying problem is differences in the power to control and 2) socialists try to sell the system based on a superior coordination and efficient capabilities (this is merely illusory as individuals still have their subjective value judgments and the means of production still have to be used in accordance with these different value judgments).  He lists four consequences of socialism: 1) a drop in the rate of investment and capital formation; 2) a wasteful use of the means of production; 3) a drop in the standard of living or increased impoverishment; and 4) a change in the character structure of society.  People shift from developing their productive skills to developing political talent and shift more from work to leisure resulting in decivilization due to the changes with increased consumption. These consequences are further examined in two other types of socialism, Social-Democratic Socialism discussed in Chapter 4 and Conservative Socialism discussed in Chapter 5.

Social-Democratic Socialism is characterized as a system that doesn’t completely outlaw private ownership in the means of production (except for police, courts, education, traffic/communication, and central banking), but where “no owner of means of production rightfully owns all of the income that can be derived from the usage of his means of production and no owner is left to decide how much of the total income from production to allocate to consumption and investment.” Hoppe explains three general types of redistributive means that socialist democrats use: 1) equalizing everyone’s monetary income; 2) guarantee of a minimum income amount; or 3) attempts to achieve equality of opportunity. The effects of these attempts create a disincentive to work. They also increase politicization and development of political skill.

Conservatism Socialism is a socialism attempting to maintain the aristocracy of the old order. Hoppe notes similarities between the social-democratic style socialism and conservative socialism noting the main difference is the class of people to which the wealth is redistributed. Here, Hoppe asserts that in conservative socialism wealth is distributed from the private property owners and producers to non-producers who are of a higher class of the old order. Hoppe relates three primary ways conservative socialism operates: 1) price controls, 2) regulations, and 3) behavioral controls. He points out the most distinctive conservative socialist policy scheme is the behavioral controls or laws that ban non-aggressive behavior such as drug laws.

In Chapter 6, Hoppe dismantles the epistemology of socialism: empiricism; and in the process, he dismantles socialist engineering.  Hoppe explains the philosophy of empiricism and states that if empiricists hold that a priori knowledge is not valid then they can ignore all of his prior arguments against socialism. Hoppe points out that empiricists can ignore variables to try to point to evidence that socialism does work in a sort of ad hoc rescue fallacy. He gives two central tenets of empiricism: 1) the first tenet is that “empirical knowledge, must be verifiable or at least falsifiable by experience; and experience is always of such a type that it could, in principle, have been other than it actually was so that no one could ever know in advance, i.e., before actually having had some particular experience, if the outcome would be one way or another,” and 2) the second tenet “formulates the extension or rather the application of the first tenet to the problem of causality and causal explanation or prediction.” Hoppe points out the self-defeating nature of empiricism as its central tenets cannot be justified by empirical knowledge.  He argues the case against social engineering, defined as the process where social engineers “interfere with the practices of the actual user-owners and determine the uses of these means, thereby restricting their property rights…in order to produce a preferred outcome.” Hoppe notes that the policy is essentially the same as that of social democracy and conservative socialism, taking from producers and giving to non-producers causing impoverishment.  The difference is one of social psychology.

In Chapter 7, Hoppe presents his case for argumentation ethics justifying capitalism over socialism.  Hoppe states that any truth claim must be raised in the course of argumentation and that it is self-contradictory to argue otherwise.  With argumentation, there are certain norms that are presupposed to be valid, are valid a priori, and to argue otherwise is self-contradictory. Hoppe finds that with any norm proposal such proposal must be consistent with these presupposed valid norms for argumentation. Hoppe’s presupposed norms of argumentation are as follows: 1) The universalization principle of ethics (Hoppe grounds this in argumentation as everyone is assumed to be able to be convinced by argumentation due to its force and also notes that this is merely a characteristic of ethics and does not give any positive set of norms); 2) Argumentation is not only a cognitive affair but a practical affair; 3) Argumentation presupposes the scarce resource of one’s own body; and 4) Argumentation is a conflict-free way of interacting. Important to note is that Hoppe grounds the right of self-ownership in argumentation.  He states that in argumentation it is assumed that one has the right of exclusive control of one’s body as an instrument of action and cognition and to argue otherwise of a contradiction. With these presupposed norms seen as valid, Hoppe makes an important conclusion:

“Thus it can be stated that whenever a person claims that some statement can be justified, he at least implicitly assumes the following norm to be justified: “Nobody has the right to uninvitedly aggress against the body of any other person and thus delimit or restrict anyone’s control over his own body.” This rule is implied in the concept of justification as argumentative justification. Justifying means justifying without having to rely on coercion. In fact, if one formulates the opposite of this rule, i.e., “everybody has the right to uninvitedly aggress against other people” (a rule, by the way, that would pass the formal test of the universalization principle!), then it is easy to see that this rule is not, and never could be, defended in argumentation. To do so would in fact have to presuppose the validity of precisely its opposite, i.e., the aforementioned principle of nonaggression.”

Along with this conclusion, any proposed norm that contradicts the principle of nonaggression is also invalid. Hoppe extends this norm to not only one’s person but also goods with which one mixes his labor.  Finally, Hoppe applies these valid ethical norms to socialism and finds socialism contradictory to these norms and thus invalid.

In Chapter 8, Hoppe considers the psychological foundations on which socialism rests.  He lists three psychological foundations of socialism: 1) aggressive violence, 2) corruption through taking from natural owners and giving to non-owners, and 3) corruption by letting the public participate in the expropriation. The state uses the systems of education, law and the courts, control of traffic and communication, and control of money in a strategic role to secure its existence. Democracy helps to facilitate the state’s strategy by seemingly allowing anybody to wield the power of the state. Finally, Hoppe gives an analysis of what it takes to overcome socialism. He talks about two assumptions that are against nature: 1) the state can generate support for its role by providing certain goods and services to favored groups of the people [Hoppe notes that this is realistic since states exist everywhere but that there is no law of nature saying this is always so. He states that “a change in general public opinion must take place: state-supportive action must come to be regarded and branded as immoral because it is support given to an organization of institutionalized crime,”] and 2) “a change in public opinion which would lead people away from using the institutional outlets for policy participation for the satisfaction of power lust, but instead make them suppress any such desire and turn this very organizational weapon of the state against it and push uncompromisingly for an end to taxation and regulation of natural owners wherever and whenever there is a chance of influencing policy.”

In Chapter 9, Hoppe sets out the economic case for capitalism. He sees three structural reasons for capitalism’s superiority: 1) capitalism rationally allocates the mean of production; 2) capitalism ensures the quality of output reaches an optimal level as judged by consumers; and 3) capitalism guarantees the value of production factors is conserved over time.  Hoppe answers the myth of the problem of monopoly in a capitalist market stating four points:

“First, available historical evidence shows that contrary to these critics’ thesis, there is no tendency toward increased monopoly under an unhampered market system. In addition, there are theoretical reasons that would lead one to doubt that such a tendency could ever prevail on a free market. Third, even if such a process of increasing monopolization should come to bear, for whatever reason, it would be harmless from the point of view of consumers provided that free entry into the market were indeed ensured. And fourth, the concept of monopoly prices as distinguished from and contrasted to competitive prices is illusory in a capitalist economy.”

Hoppe then, and quite rightly so, turns the monopoly problem back on to socialism noting how the state produces monopoly and monopoly prices which is distinguishable from market prices and practices and can be objectively determined by comparison to the market.

In Chapter 10, the final chapter of his masterpiece, Hoppe considers the mythical distinction of public and private goods and the private production of security.  Hoppe notes:

“If there is one well established truth in political economy, it is this: That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible need of the consumer, it is in the consumer’s best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price. And this: That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer. Now, in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion: That the production of security should, in the interest of consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition. Whence it follows: That no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it, or require consumers of security to come exclusively to it for this commodity.”

Hoppe then notes there is only one way out of this argument for the socialist and that is the production of public goods where such economic reasoning does not apply. Hoppe then dismantles the fallacy of the distinction between private and public goods noting among other things that history has shown that the market can and has provided so-called public goods and that changes in subjective valuation blur the distinction between what may be considered public or private goods.  Hoppe makes an excellent observation with respect to the reasoning of the public good argument:

“For one thing, to come to the conclusion that the state has to provide public goods that otherwise would not be produced, one must smuggle a norm into one’s chain of reasoning. Otherwise, from the statement that because of some special characteristics of theirs certain goods would not be produced, one could never reach the conclusion that these goods should be produced. But with a norm required to justify their conclusion, the public goods theorists clearly have left the bounds of economics as a positive, wertfrei science. Instead they have transgressed into the field of morals or ethics, and hence one would expect to be offered a theory of ethics as a cognitive discipline in order for them to legitimately do what they are doing and to justifiably derive the conclusion that they actually derive. But it can hardly be stressed enough that nowhere in the public goods theory literature can there be found anything that even faintly resembles such a cognitive theory of ethics.”

And so, we find in all forms of socialism, a system that is wasteful, impoverishing, irrational, unethical, immoral, and completely without justification as opposed to capitalism which is justified economically, rationally, and ethically.  Has ever a book been written that sets out these arguments so precisely? This is the only one to my knowledge and thus should be read by all.

One Comment

Odds and Ends

As I offer on occasion, a grab bag.

What’s Up, Trump?

Russiagate, Clinton corruption, FBI and various spooks working to undermine US elections, etc.  Trump has the authority to declassify any and all documents that shed light on any of these.  Yet he hasn’t.

Why?  Is it possible he is ignorant of this power?  I doubt it.  Do the classified documents counter the suspected truth?  No chance of that.  Is it possible Trump has a different plan in mind?  Maybe.

If Trump does have a different plan in mind, I can think of two possibilities: first, with all of his enemies focused on the non-scandal scandals, Trump is able to have a freer hand in other things he wants to get done.  If he did more draining of the swamp in the last year, I would put more credence in this as the reason.

The second possibility: he is waiting for the right time to drop the bomb.  What do I mean?  If there is some real truth to these scandals – and these truths implicate various democrats and other enemies in the spook agencies – when would be a better time to declassify documents, give a speech in front of the nation, etc., than about a week or two before the mid-term election?

What do Open-Borders Libertarians and Neocons Have in Common?

A desire to see western civilization destroyed…oh, and also to refuse to apply their open-borders suicide to Israel.  From an email to Max Boot:

Hello, friend.  We’d like to invite you to join the Open Borders for Israel campaign.

You can imagine the rest of the email.

Max’s reply (I bet you can already guess):

The anti-Semitic emails….

I think it is Max and the open borders libertarians who refuse to advocate for open borders for Israel who are anti-Semitic.  After all, if it is so good for the economy and cultural diversity in the west, why keep these blessings from the Jews in Israel?

I am just asking; I am not advocating.

Civilization and Its Enemies

From a piece by Paul Krause (HT Charles Burris):

Western civilization, for all of its imperfections, is, nevertheless, Christian in its inheritance and still Christian in its current state of composition (needing to be awakened to be sure).

Krause points to one of the gifts of the late Enlightenment, bestowed on us by “everyone from Rousseau to the German romantics—albeit for very different reasons”: the venomous attack on western civilization that is by now quite obvious for an even semi-conscious being to notice.

Rousseau, the “spiritual godfather of the postmodern movement,” wanted to destroy western civilization entirely; as western civilization cannot be separated from its Christian tradition, this meant destroying the Christian tradition as well.

The German Romantics are more specific – being anti-nihilistic, they were only interested in destroying “the materialistic, hedonistic, utilitarianism of Anglo-French liberalism.”  They looked fondly on the civilization of the Middle Ages, albeit without the Christianity.

For the romantics the new dichotomy was one between authentic civilization (pure, free, and fertile) and nihilistic civilization (corrupt, decadent, and oppressive). For the Germans, unlike with Rousseau, they still wanted to defend their version of authentic civilization while Rousseau saw all civilization is bad.

This desire to destroy Christianity explains the alliance of the radical left with Islam – the enemy for both is the same.  Whether consciously or subconsciously on behalf of the voters, it also at least partly explains Trump; their clergy do not agree:

Christian support for Donald Trump has recently been excoriated from clerical leadership of all stripes (Protestant and Catholic).

Because clerical leaders such as these value diversity and equality more than they value civilization.

President Trump may not know what he is doing in all things. But that is not altogether important. On the critical issues, he is, knowingly or unknowingly, acting as a katechon against those who seek to tear down the edifice of what remains of Western Civilization and its Christian inheritance.

Trump, as katechon, is holding back this anti-Christ.

The German Romantic – in looking back to the time of the European Middle Ages for authentic civilization – held part of the answer, but apparently only a part:

The German anti-nihilist brushed aside Christianity as a possible answer to the crisis they saw and concerned themselves with. Nietzsche, in saying yes to life, ultimately said no to life.

I have come to understand that Nietzsche, via his infamous “God is dead,” was not making a joyous announcement, but instead offering a somber warning:

When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands.

In giving up the right to Christian morality; western man gives up the right to his civilization.  Man killed God; Nietzsche was merely warning us of the consequences.  We are living those consequences.

America is an Idea?

Even if one grants this as true, what happens when the people populating America don’t hold the same idea?

This American “idea” came from somewhere – ideas cannot exist absent the people who hold these.  I have written often enough from where this idea comes.  It grew on a specific soil – a specific cultural and civilizational soil.  It hasn’t been demonstrated, to my knowledge, that it can grow on any other soil for any extended period of time.

So what happens when the elite work to replace the soil?  Why is it that open-borders libertarians join the likes of open-borders Soros in this endeavor?

The Aim Around Which a Community Should Congregate

According to Jordan Peterson (and not a direct quote):

There is a rule for belonging to a community – that you have to act in a manner that sustains a community and increases its competence.

Otherwise, quite frankly, what good are you?  You might be a perfectly good libertarian, but otherwise useless to your community.  Which kind of supports the idea of immigration based on certain qualifications and expectations.

You know…what Trump said.


Now if Trump would just stop doing stupid stuff in the Middle East.

Leave a Comment

VanDrunen on Romans 13 & the Noahic Covenant

David VanDrunen has a helpful essay in the 2016 Journal of Law and Religion titled POWER TO THE PEOPLE: REVISITING CIVIL RESISTANCE IN ROMANS 13:1-7 IN LIGHT OF THE NOAHIC COVENANT. The abstract reads:

Romans 13:1–7 has been the most important text in scripture for Christian reflection on political authority, yet what it does not say has left Christian social ethicists and political/legal theorists with many lingering questions, especially about the proper response to unjust magistrates. To what resources should Christian thinkers look to illumine the gaps left by the Pauline silence, and just how absolute or relative did Paul intend his remarks in Romans 13:1–7 to be? This article presents a twofold thesis in response to this twofold question. First, it argues that the Noahic covenant, Genesis 8:21–9:17, is an important, although overlooked, background resource for interpreting Romans 13:1–7. Second, this article illustrates the practical benefit of reading Romans 13 in light of the Noahic covenant by offering a new argument for why Christians should not interpret Paul’s unqualified command to submit to civil authorities as absolutely forbidding resistance to unjust magistrates. Paul’s words about magistrates in Romans 13 have not superseded the obligation to pursue justice that God gave to the human community as a whole in the Noahic covenant. Thus the primal obligation resting in the people implicitly qualifies Paul’s instructions.

As I have shown in previous posts (here as well as these), the reformed tradition has taught that God establishes civil rulers mediately through the consent of the people. They have argued that Romans 13 must be qualified because God does not grant any man authority to act unjustly. Therefore Paul is only commanding obedience to rulers who act justly.

While not referencing the reformed tradition, VanDrunen furthers that interpretation by appeal to the Noahic covenant, wherein God grants authority and duty not to one group of human beings (magistrates) but to all human beings to enforce/administer justice. Thus there is apparent tension between Romans 13’s apparent grant of absolute authority to a subset of humanity and Genesis 9’s grant of specific authority to all of humanity. He argues that Paul’s apparent absolute statements in Romans 13 must be qualified by Genesis 9, such that resistance to tyranny is biblical.

[B]oth Romans 13 and the Noahic covenant portray civil authority as delegated from God for the purpose of enforcing justice, and specifically retributive justice… This expresses the lex talionis, the law of retribution, most famously known through the later biblical phrase, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” (see Ex 21:23-25; Lev 24:18-21; Deut 19:21).


[D]oes the Noahic covenant shed any light on whether Romans 13:1-7 leaves space for disobedience or resistance to unjust magistrates?

If the Noahic covenant simply said all the same things as Romans 13:1-7 it would probably offer little help. But what if we explore how these texts differ? One very noticeable difference, I suggest, may hold the key for our inquiry.

The difference I have in mind is that in the Noahic covenant God delegates authority to the human race in general, while in Romans 13:1-7 God delegates authority to civil magistrates in particular… [Gen 9:5-6] might be rendered in this way: ‘Whoever sheds the blood of a human being, by a human being shall his or her blood be shed, for God made the human being in his own image.’ God entered this covenant with the survivors of the great flood, and with their offspring after them (9:9), and thus 9:6 gives a judicial commission to the human community as a whole, without further specification. According to Paul, in contrast, God commissions ‘authorities’ and ‘rulers’ (Romans 13:1, 3). As Paul describes it, only certain members of the human community bear the sword and carry out God’s wrathful vengeance on the wrongdoer (13:4). Sketching out a broad biblical theology of civil authority is a task for another day, but such a project would need to account for this movement from Genesis 9 to Romans 13. Somehow the authority residing in the human race generally comes to vest in particular people who hold civil office. In one way or another, the human community, to which God originally delegated authority, has in turn rightly delegated that authority to civil magistrates. Whatever the details, a theology of authority developed along these lines would have to acknowledge that Romans 13 does not simply supersede the Noahic covenant. The divine delegation of authority to civil magistrates, in other words, does not cancel out the original divine delegation of authority to the human race. This is because God established the Noahic covenant ‘while the earth remains’ (Gen 8:22). Christian thinking about social ethics and political/legal theory ought to recognize the Noahic covenant as still in force, as God’s ongoing means for sustaining the human community and the broader natural order. Thus the general human commission to enforce justice must continue to stand somewhere behind the magistrates’ specific commission to do so. And this general human commission implies that anyone who sheds human blood ought to be held accountable – even magistrates.

If these conclusions are true, then human community as a whole must retain a right – probably better, an obligation – to correct, resist, or remove magistrates who fail to perform their divine commission to enforce justice.

This is a very important point (I argued for it here). However, I have never quite been satisfied that revolution is proper, much less required behavior for Christians. VanDrunen seems to have the same impulse. He notes

[T]he residual authority of the people discussed above lies not in the Christian community, but in the human community. When Paul describes the moral life characterizing the ‘one body in Christ’ (Romans 12:4-5), he prohibits the enforcement of justice (12:17, 19) that he describes as the task of magistrates a few verses later (13:4). Furthermore, when persecuted for the faith, Christians’ great calling is not to secure justice for themselves but to suffer with patience and charity (Matt 5:10-12, 43-48; 1 Pet 2:13-25). The residual authority to enforce justice rooted in the Noahic covenant rests in the human race as a whole; it does not rest in the church as the body of believers.

I think that VanDrunen is on to something important in that statement. He notes “Sketching out a broad biblical theology of civil authority is a task for another day, but such a project would need to account for this movement from Genesis 9 to Romans 13.” I think that the account for this “movement” may be found in God’s command to Judah to subject themselves to Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. The Old Covenant commanded Israel to resist and overthrow any Gentile ruler. But as punishment for breaking the Old Covenant, God told Judah that they would not be destroyed if they submitted to Babylon’s yoke. Thus began life in exile.

Thus the Lord said to me: “Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck… ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: 5 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him…

8 “‘“But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord, until I have consumed it by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11 But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord.”’”…

12 To Zedekiah king of Judah I spoke in like manner: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live. 13 Why will you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?

(Jeremiah 27)

Note that this command to submit to Nebuchadnezzar was special revelation positive law given to Israel. It was not general revelation natural law given to all mankind. Note also how Romans 13 echoes the language of Nebuchadnezzar being established by God. I will have to leave that as a tease for now. Lord willing I will flesh it out more in the future.

One Comment

How Cromwell’s Irish terror made a bloodthirsty preacher teach tolerance

John Owen scholar Crawford Gribben recounts Owen’s change in sentiment.

[I]n August 1649 [Cromwell] achieved, for the first time in hundreds of years of English intervention, the entire subjugation of Ireland. His goal was a massive extension of English power and Protestant religion. Cromwell’s military administrators pursued the pacification of Ireland with ruthless efficiency. Before their departure from England, his soldiers had been encouraged by the preaching of a young puritan to avenge the “blood of almost-expiring Ireland” – to avenge the deaths of Ulster Protestants that had occurred during the rising of 1641. And many soldiers took this encouragement to heart…

Owen’s experience of the conflict forced him to reconsider the language with which he had encouraged the campaign. His question centred on how best to represent the fact that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). So, he wondered, in an address to Westminster MPs, “How is it that Jesus Christ is in Ireland only as a lion staining all his garments with the blood of his enemies, and none to hold him out as a lamb sprinkled with his own blood to his friends?”

Owen’s answer to that question changed his politics. The invasion of Ireland had not really advanced “the sovereignty and interest of England,” he realised. “I could heartily rejoice, that, innocent blood being expiated, the Irish might enjoy Ireland so long as the moon endureth,” if “Jesus Christ might possess the Irish.” Owen would become a key theorist of religious toleration – and his theological convictions were formed during the chaos and trauma of the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland.

Leave a Comment

FINALLY! The History of Economic Thought, part 2

So much of my understanding of economics has come directly from digging into the details of its development over time. It’s amazing what a better grasp of something one can receive by learning the roots of the theory, the context from which is sprung, and the debates our intellectual forefathers had with their opponents. Studying the history of political and economic thought is just as rewarding as studying more modern and systematic works on the subjects themselves.

Gerard Casey is the master of the history of political thought, and his recent book on the matter was based on his series of lectures from Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom.

I was ecstatic to discover yesterday that Bob Murphy’s overview of the history of economic thought was just released this week. The first part of this series has been out for a while and I have profited tremendously from it. The second part I have yet to go through, but from the list of topics, it looks amazing. If you decide that you need this– and in all honesty, you do– it would be awesome if you entered the site to purchase at my link: 

And what better time to do it?? Besides Murphy’s new course, they are also having a sale right now so you can get access at a discounted price. Excellent!

Check out the lecture list for parts 1 and 2.


Leave a Comment

White Supremacy and ERLC Once Again

It never ends. Conflating the gospel with social justice issues, the ERLC is again jumping to vocalize how much they despise white supremacy. And a recent statement on the matter perfectly encapsulates my problem with all this virtue signaling (I know, this phrase is overdone, but it’s precisely what is happening here).

The key problem in the entire anti-white supremacy movement is that they define the phrases so ambiguously that everyone is guilty of the thought-crime!! Critics of the obsession with white supremacy, such as myself, do not hold that white supremacy is a good thing, but we are screaming in desperation for people to stop equating everything with white supremacy. Opposition to government subsidies in ghettos, for example, is not white supremacy. It’s beyond obnoxious.

Back to the ERLC statement. Consider:

This weekend, white nationalists will descend on Tennessee, in both Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, for a “White Lives Matter” rally. As Christian leaders in Tennessee, we declare ourselves in resolute opposition to this expression of racism and white supremacy. We denounce and repudiate white supremacy as a work of the devil, designed to dehumanize and divide.

Yeesh. How do they know that these gatherers are actually in favor of “nationalism?” What is the operating definition of this word? How do they know that the gatherers hate state rights and hate decentralization movements at the state level? Does the phrase “white lives matter” automatically make one a “nationalist?” Does the phrase “white lives matter” indicate allegiance to the theory that the white race is morally superior to blacks/latinos (which would be the definition of white supremacy)? Do they have any proof to back up the implication that these white lives matter folks are actually white supremacists? Or are they going to fall for the media’s focus on a handful of nuts in order to categorize everyone as a white supremacist?

One doesn’t have to be a fan of the White Lives Matter rally to understand why it is happening. Should we not listen to them, understand where they are coming from? When you make bees angry, they sting.

Where’s the ERLC statement against the violence and destruction perpetrated by certain individuals within the Black Lives Matter movements?

Speaking of “dividing!”

Is this really the best way to defend and promote the gospel?

Where’s the outrage against Obama’s murdering of hundreds of innocents? Oh wait, that’s not part of the media narrative. Gotta stay relevant, I guess.

Leave a Comment

TRL Fall Fund Drive

Every fall over the last 4 years I’ve done a little fund raiser to cover costs associated with the site which of course includes the domain renewal, hosting, any outside technical help I have to use, and things like that. Additionally, some of you just like to throw a little money into the pot because that is how you show support for this site. I always appreciate all of you who do this. And even if you don’t contribute financially, all the comments, shares, likes, feedback, emails, are more than enough to tell me to keep it up.

I wasn’t planning on doing it this year. But that was before I had the idea to start my new project– Since starting something from scratch requires additional money (one of the costs, as some of you in the Facebook group know, was especially huge), I decided I would do this again.  Part of the reason for that is, upon hearing that I was starting the new project, I had 4 people specifically ask me how they could support it financially. It really means a lot to see people going out of their way to express their support in this way– seriously. While I love what I do, it’s always a wonderful feeling when people tell me I have made a difference in their thinking.

For those dedicated TRL readers who want to know why I started a project in addition to TRL, read my recent article here.

Since I have a much higher readership than in years past, I wanted to offer people a chance to support my projects on a more consistent basis, if that is something they desire to do. So, I offer the following ways to contribute financially.

  1. Patreon: set up a monthly contribution on my Patreon page.
  2. PayPal: send a one time contribution my way at this link:

More than ever, I’m stoked about the reach and future of my efforts. Essays, books, podcasts, and more. And as always, thank you all for the help, support, and community.

Leave a Comment

Harvey Weinstein: The Back Story

You know the story:
The New York Times last week broke the story of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s long record of sexual harassment.
This had been going on for thirty years or more.  How could no one know the story?
But of course people knew about Harvey Weinstein. Like the New York Times, for instance. Sharon Waxman, a former reporter at the Times, writes in The Wrap how she had the story on Weinstein in 2004—and then he bullied the Times into dropping it. Matt Damon and Russell Crowe even called her directly to get her to back off the story.
See, Weinstein was protected.  Two things brought him down.  First, Weinstein owned significant resources in the journalist community, resources that were looking to stay on good terms with a major producer; through this, he was greatly able to control the story:
It’s because the media industry that once protected him has collapsed. The magazines that used to publish the stories Miramax optioned can’t afford to pay for the kind of reporting and storytelling that translates into screenplays.
It is because the best reporting is coming from bloggers, from the internet.  No one is paying for the privilege of reading so-called “news” put out by the gatekeepers.  So-called “fake news” is winning the day.
But this is nothing.  Second:
Rebecca Traister says the stories are coming out now because “our consciousness has been raised.” Between Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Donald Trump, argues Traister, people are now accustomed to speaking and hearing the truth about famous, sexually abusive men.
This is wrong. It has nothing to do with “raised consciousness”—or else she wouldn’t have left off that list the one name obviously missing.
Yes, this is wrong, and it is wrong because the name left off of the list points to the primary reason that a) Weinstein has remained protected, and b) why he no longer is:
Which brings us, finally, to the other reason the Weinstein story came out now: Because the court over which Bill Clinton once presided, a court in which Weinstein was one part jester, one part exchequer, and one part executioner, no longer exists.
A thought experiment: Would the Weinstein story have been published if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency? No, and not because he is a big Democratic fundraiser. It’s because if the story was published during the course of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it wouldn’t have really been about Harvey Weinstein. Harvey would have been seen as a proxy for the president’s husband and it would have embarrassed the president, the first female president.
Bill Clinton offered get-out-of-jail-free cards to a whole army of sleazeballs, from Jeffrey Epstein to Harvey Weinstein to the foreign donors to the Clinton Global Initiative.
Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that Hollywood is so up in arms about Clinton losing, Trump winning, and Putin.  Sleazeballs, every single one of them; sleazeballs that would see us in a nuclear war before giving up their corrupt and empty lifestyles.
Hillary did not need to look across Middle America to find the deplorables; she needed only to look at the tool next to her…and to look in the mirror.
Leave a Comment

Does “Abolish the Police” = “Abolish Law Enforcement”?

In my recent response to R. Scott Clark, someone replied:

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 5.49.01 PMThis type of response just confirms my complaint that Clark and others are being too simplistic. They just beg the question. What is meant by “there should be no police”? Is it the same thing as “there should be no enforcement of the law” (i.e. “there should be no administration of justice”)? I highly, highly doubt that is what was meant (again, no source is provided to determine for sure). The error is that Clark (and Sanduleac above) are simply equating the police with law enforcement rather than seeing the modern police force as one possible type of law enforcement. The modern police force is modern. It has not always existed. Proponents of “social justice” are commenting on the modern police force in America, not Rome or ancient Israel or 16th century England (just as American colonists were commenting on King George specifically, not all civil government in general).

The idea of a professional, uniformed police force is so firmly ingrained into our concept of society that it’s easy to think of the police as one of the most ancient governmental institutions. It may be surprising, then to learn that the idea of police officers as we know them is an extremely young concept, dating back to only the 19th century. As did most governmental institutions, law enforcement agencies in society evolved slowly over time.

In ancient societies, there was no official law enforcement function and very little, if any, attempts at organization. Instead, individuals, families, and clans took it upon themselves to take revenge against those who may have injured or offended them. The idea of crime prevention was almost nonexistent in the early history of law enforcement and criminology…

After the dissolution of the Roman Empire, the responsibility for maintaining order fell once again to local authorities. In England, society reverted to the ancient notion that individuals were responsible for themselves and their own protection.

English law provided individual subjects with the authority and responsibility to use force in order to maintain control. Neighbors were expected to help each other. This form of social control was referred to as “Kin Policing” by English historian Charles Reith because it relied on the idea that families and clans were responsible for the actions of their own members.

Early History of Policing

God’s revealed law for Israel functioned in that manner (Num. 35:9-34; Deut 19:1-13; Josh 20:1-9). So did Ancient Greece. “No Greek community had a police force in a modern sense of the term.” There have been many different ways in which justice has been enforced throughout history. Law enforcement (the administration of justice) does not require a modern police force, which dates back to the Metropolitan Police Act 1829.

Early law enforcement was reactionary, rather than pre-emptive—the watch usually responded to criminal behavior only when requested by victims or witnesses… A new and improved law enforcement system [was] implemented first by England in 1829: a stronger, more centralized, preventive police force, designed to deter crime from happening, rather than to react once it had occurred.

The Early Days of American Law Enforcement

So when someone says we should get rid of this modern attempt at law enforcement because it’s not working, there is no reason to run screaming for Romans 13.

The concept of a centralized, professional police force was a tough sell initially and was met with a tremendous amount of resistance. The public feared that a police force would essentially behave as another arm of the military. As result, there was an understandable reluctance to agree to be controlled by what many assumed would be an occupying force… Over the next century and beyond, the concept of policing evolved in the U.S.

The History of Modern Policing: How the Modern Police Force Evolved

Note: “agree to be controlled.” That’s the consent basis of government. Some people today no longer consent to this modern version of law enforcement, which has evolved and become more militarized (as initially feared). For example:

For decades before the fateful Simi Valley verdict [the King riots], however, the LAPD had been the nation’s leading model of “professionalized policing.”

When the legendary Bill Parker took over the LAPD in 1950, he immediately began applying his experience as a decorated World War II veteran. Effectively, he made his police force into a kind of domestic military.

Seeing egregious problems with corruption and inefficiency, he slimmed down the force, creating an administrative structure that was meant to insulate his officers from political and public pressures. Parker wanted his department to set its own agenda, and he wanted his officers thinking of themselves as crime-fighting professionals, not on-call neighborhood boy scouts. On his watch, the sleek and imposing squad car replaced the friendly beat cop. His police academy trained recruits in tactics modeled on military peacekeeping efforts. Some credit the legendary chief with coining the term “thin blue line.”

How Expecting Police To Be All Things To All People Can Fuel Violence (The Federalist)

All arguments to “abolish the police” that I have read are arguments to abolish the modern, present day police force – not to abolish the administration of justice and enforcement of law.

We don’t consider the abolition of police a viable position to take because we believe they’re the only thing standing between upstanding citizens and the violence of the deranged… But does this mean we want police, or safety and security? Safety and security are ideas, ones that may never be fully achieved, and the police are an institution that have proved themselves capable of only providing the illusion of safety and security to a select few. The bulk of their jobs has nothing to do with violence prevention… The police are not performing the function we say they are, and there are real ways to achieve a world with less violence that don’t include the police. We simply haven’t tried.

Abolish the Police. Instead, Let’s Have Full Social, Economic, and Political Equality.

“our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new,” Jessica Disu says. “It’s more than a repair. We need something new.”…

The idea of police abolition can’t be understood separately from the wider prison abolition movement [Note Vern Poythress’ recognition that prison is unjust and unbiblical. -BA]…

“For me prison abolition is two things: It’s the complete and utter dismantling of prison and policing and surveillance as they currently exist within our culture. And it’s also the building up of new ways of intersecting and new ways of relating with each other….

That’s because Kaba, who recently moved back to New York after more than 25 years in Chicago, insists that abolition is not about destruction and anarchy—it’s about building alternatives…

“The closer you get to it, and the more you work on it, the more you realize that the system is not fixable the way it is,” says attorney Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center, which has litigated civil rights lawsuits on behalf of Illinois prisoners for years.

Abolish the police? Organizers say it’s less crazy than it sounds.

They want to get rid of this modern system because they see the problem as systemic. There’s nothing unbiblical about that (though it is certainly possible to go about it in an unrighteous manner).

You may be thinking right about now: But what do I do if someone breaks into my house? Or if someone attacks me? How could peace circles possibly solve Chicago’s rampant gun violence problem?

Kaba says these kinds of skeptical questions are normal.

“The options when harm comes to you in this country are what?” she asks. “Call the police and get somebody from the outside involved in your process, or figure it out on your own. Doing nothing is not a good option for a lot of people . . . you shouldn’t have to choose between going to the state or doing nothing.”

Gosh, that sounds almost like the ancient practice mentioned above.

In fact, read this account of the very biblical alternative they are practicing in some instances (Ex. 22:3):

Ucker and other volunteer facilitators also make themselves available to help resolve conflicts for neighbors and friends seeking alternatives to calling the cops.

“There’s another infrastructure here, there’s another system here,” Ucker says, contrasting peace circles to policing. “But it can respond just as effectively to harm.”

Some people call this approach “restorative justice,” where the desires of the people harmed are prioritized alongside accountability for those responsible.

Ucker illustrates the idea with an anecdote:

“There was a robbery at this store in the community. One of the people at the store whose stuff was taken said, ‘Look, I don’t want to call the cops. Is there anything we can do? . . . They found on Facebook that this young person was selling their stuff, and that young person happened to go to a school where we’d done some circles, so I knew a teacher at the school and could say, ‘Hey, this is where we’re at.’ ”

Eventually, he says, robber and robbed were brought back together.

“That young person ended up returning what he had that hadn’t been sold, and then working at the shop in restitution for everything else,” Ucker says. “Then it turned out he really liked working there, and after this agreement was over, he continued to go there and volunteer. There was a relationship built there.”

As Poythress explains, this approach is much more biblical than the modern prison system that punishes people for crimes against “the state” rather than requiring restitution to the actual victim.

So enough with the knee-jerk superficial responses to this issue. Let’s roll up our sleeves a bit more.

(Just to be clear, as I said in the previous post, I do not necessarily agree with “social justice” assessments of current problems, and I definitely disagree with many of their proposed alternatives. This post is specifically about demonstrating “abolish the police” is not an unbiblical proposal).


For Further Reading:

One Comment

Keynes as Convenient Justifier of State Power

Mises makes a great point on the role John Keynes’ works played with respect to justifying state power. Rothbard (and Hoppe) later extrapolated on this theme, and I think it is important to remember. In sum, “academics” like Keynes merely offer to the politicians exactly what they wanted to hear: that the accumulation of increased state power and subsequent interventionism into the economy is, conveniently, good for society. Politicians love power and bureaucrats think they can design a social plan to bring forth utopia. Thus, the thoughts of Keynes gave them everything they wanted on a silver platter: justification for their actions.


There are people who believe that the two books of Keynes that became best sellers The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1920), and The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) decisively influenced the course of British policies and of world affairs. It is said that the first of these books inaugurated the anti-French and pro-German tendencies of Great Britain’s “appeasement” policy which virtually encouraged the rise of Nazism, permitted Hitler to defy the essential clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and finally resulted in the outbreak of the Second World War. It is furthermore asserted that the second book generated the “Keynesian revolution” of economic policies. The abandonment of the gold standard and the adoption of outright inflationary or “expansionist” fiscal methods, the New Deal and the Fair Deal, the full-employment policy, the intensification of anti-importation measures and many other kindred ventures are ascribed to the “unorthodox” ideas propagated by Keynes. If these assertions are correct, Keynes appears as the most influential personality of our age, whether the effects of these policies are to be considered as beneficial or disastrous.

It is often simply thought that the governments of the west were unsure of what actions they wanted to employ, whether laissez faire or a state-controlled economy. And Keynes humbly came to the scene with scholarly and scientific solutions for the world.

In actuality, Mises explains:

Keynes was definitely not the inaugurator of a new economic policy. The governments did not have to wait for his advice in order to learn that inflation is a handy means to fill the empty vaults of the treasury. The Keynesian policies were practiced by governments and powerful political parties long before they were advocated by Keynes. Keynes’ writings were enthusiastically received by people who found in them an apparently scientific justification for what they had already done for a long time in defying the teachings of economics.

They hated the theory according to which there was but one means toward the general improvement of people’s material well-being, viz., to increase the per head quota of capital invested. They longed for short cuts to an earthly paradise; a protective tariff, a cheap money policy, the closed shop, doles, and social security. They did not want to be told by the economists that it is the policy of the unions that creates unemployment as a lasting mass phenomenon and that the periodical recurrence of crises is the inevitable outcome of the easy money policy. They knew better; all evils were caused by capitalism.

To such people the Keynesian slogans appealed strongly. Here they found what they were looking for. If demand lags, create “effective” demand by expanding credit! If there is unemployment, print more money! If you want to increase “the real national dividend of useful goods and service,” then “dig holes in the ground paid for out of savings!” And, first of all, do not save, spend!

The triumph of Lord Keynes’ last book, the General Theory, was instantaneous. Although reasonable economists refuted his doctrines, it has become the gospel of the self-styled Progressives all over the world. Today many universities simply teach Keynesianism. It is really paradoxical. Nobody can any longer fail to realize that what is needed most is more saving and capital accumulation and that the inflationary and expansionist policies are on the verge of complete breakdown. But the students are still taught the dangers of saving and the blessings of expansionism.

Leave a Comment

Is vigilantism forbidden in the Word of God?

After my post yesterday on Rothbard’s agreement with Scripture’s teaching on “private” vengeance, I read A Romans 13 Exposition on Church and State for Such a Time as This by Michael A. Milton, Ph.D. (President and Professor of Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina). The exposition represents the typical gloss of the passage. One statement in particular jumped out, in light the above.

In Genesis, Noah receives a directive from God (Genesis 9.3-6), and this of course pre-dates the Mosaic Law:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gen 9.6).

Now of course this is interpreted with other Scriptures. When we take this into account with the principles of Leviticus and with this teaching in Romans 13; one sees the justification for the use of the sword against evil-doers who plot and commit murder, which is murder in the first degree. But vigilantism is forbidden in the Word of God. For a single man does not have the moral authority from God to carry the mantle of civil government, with its various laws, punishments and penalties. This is the role alone of human government, with its derived authority and its derived power.

Really? Scripture actually teaches precisely the opposite: a single man does have the moral authority from God to carry the mantle of civil government, with its various laws, punishments and penalties. That is precisely what the avenger of blood is: a single man executing punishment according to Genesis 9:5-6. Time to go back to the drawing board in interpreting Romans 13. Milton is correct that Romans 13 refers to the authority established in Genesis 9, but he is incorrect to think this authority is not equally given by God to all image bearers, but rather to a special class of humanity. The authority of Romans 13 is the authority given to all image bearers to execute justice. Precisely because this authority is given to all image bearers is why a pagan emperor can legitimately exercise it, even over Christians.

Leave a Comment

Rothbard on the Death Penalty

In 1978, Rothbard wrote a brief piece in the Libertarian Review titled The Plumb Line: The Capital Punishment Question. “Libertarians can no longer afford to wait to come to grips with capital punishment. It has become too pressing a problem.” He concluded that it is just. His perspective is quite interesting in that he

  1. References mankind’s instinct
  2. Argues from proportionate retributive justice as the definition of justice (what one is due) and rights
  3. Argues for private administration of retributive justice by the victim’s legal representative

I believe that the instincts of the public are correct on this issue: namely, that the punishment should fit the crime; i.e., that punishment should be proportional to the crime involved. The theoretical justification for this is that an aggressor loses his rights to the extent that he has violated the rights of another human being. If A steals $10,000 from B, he should be forced, not only to return the $10,000 (the “restitutionist” position, with which most libertarians would agree), but he also loses his rights to his own $10,000; that is, he should be forced to pay the victim $10,000 for his aggression…

It is relatively easy to allot monetary penalties in the case of theft. But what about such a crime as murder? Here, in my view, the murderer loses precisely the right of which he has deprived another human being: the right to have one’s life preserved from the violence of another person. The murderer therefore deserves to be killed in return. Or, to put it more precisely, the victim — in this case his surrogate, in the form of his heir or the executor of his estate should have the right to kill the murderer in return…

But in any case, note that I did not couch my argument in utilitarian terms of deterrence of future crime; my argument was based on basic rights and the requirements of justice. The libertarian takes his stand for individual rights not merely on the basis of social consequences, but more emphatically on the justice that is due to every individual.

This is interesting because of how closely it aligns with Scripture (particularly the Old Testament).

  1. All image bearers have an innate sense of justice (Rom 1:32)
  2. Justice is defined as lex talionis (proportionate retributive; Ex. 21:22-25)
  3. The next of kin had the authority and duty to administer justice (Num 35:9-34)

Rothbard’s comments stand in stark contrast to many of the arguments heard from libertarians who oppose the death penalty. It is not unlikely that Rothbard’s firm commitment to this stance is related to his exposure to the Old Testament. Note not only his foundation of retributive justice, but also his understanding of restorative justice (___). I think it would be a mistake to assume that special revelation played no role in the development of his thought. This short essay stems from a longer 1977 essay “Punishment and Proportionality,” in Assessing the Criminal: Restitution, Retribution, and the Legal Process.

One aspect where Rothbard could be very slightly sharpened by Scripture, however, is his articulation of the interplay between the individual victim and society in the case of murder.

So far we have gone all the way with the proponents of the death penalty, ranging ourselves with the instincts of the general public and against the sophistries of the liberal intellectual elite. But there is an important difference. For I have been stressing throughout the right of the victim, not that of “society” or the state. In all cases, it should be the victim — not “society” or “its” district attorney — who should bring charges and decide on whether or not to exact punishment. “Society” has no right and therefore no say in the matter. The state now monopolizes the provision of defense, judicial, and punishment service. So long as it continues to do so, it should act as nothing more and nothing less than an agent for guarding and enforcing the rights of each person — in this case, of the victim.

If, then, a crime is committed, it should be up to the victim to press charges or to decide whether the restitution or punishment due him should be exacted by the state. The victim should be able to order the state not to press charges or not to punish the victim to the full extent that he has the right to do so.

While I think he is right that the murder victim’s legal representative has the primary duty and authority to administer justice, he does not have the exclusive authority. Genesis 9:5-6 was a command given to all mankind. We all have a responsibility to see that justice is done and the murderer is put to death. In the case that there is no legal heir or the legal heir is negligent, the community is obligated to act. In Mosaic law governing the execution of murderers, both the individual and the community play an important role. Neither has exclusive (monopolistic) authority. (Also, Mosaic law forbids levying a fine instead of execution in the case of murder).

One Comment