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Reformed Libertarian Blog Posts

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.”

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/chrysostom/romans/13.htm

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

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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.

https://americanvision.org/15703/quick-notes-on-an-upcoming-theonomy-book-with-answers-to-critics/

I look forward to the ongoing dialogue.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF HANS-HERMANN HOPPE’S A THEORY OF SOCIALISM AND CAPITALISM

I recently had the great fortune and opportunity to re-read and discuss in the setting of a libertarian reading group, 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 the 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: an economic effect and 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, in Chapter 4, Social-Democratic Socialism and in Chapter 5, Conservative Socialism.

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 these 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 asserts three primary ways conservative socialism operates: 1) price controls, 2) regulations, and 3) behavioral controls. He points out the most distinctive of the policy schemes of conservative socialism 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 dismantles socialist engineering.  Hoppe explains the philosophy of empiricism and states that if these empiricists hold that a priori knowledge is not valid then they can ignore all of his prior arguments against socialism. Hoppe points out that the 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 as aggressive violence, corruption through taking from natural owners and giving to non-owners, and 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 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.

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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.

Conclusion

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

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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.

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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.

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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: reformedlibertarian.com/woods 

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.

 

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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.

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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– AustroLibertarian.com. 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: PayPal.me/CJayEngel

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.

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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.
Conclusion
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.
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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:

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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.

Mises:

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.

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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.

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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).

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DACA: Yea or Nay?

Trump has decided to let DACA expire. As far as I understand it, DACA merely protects undocumented individuals who came into the US as minors from being deported and gives them a permit to work here. Among the requirements are that you would have had to enter the US before you were 16 and lived here continuously, and also that you are either in school or else at least completed High School, and also that you have not been convicted of a felony.

Let me get a couple things out of the way before I talk more about whether Trump’s decision was good or bad.

  • First, I don’t take seriously claims of this being an example of Trump’s alleged “racism.” As I have talked about time and again, Trump holds to a sort of protectionist outlook on economic and border related issues; that is, he considers it the governments role to protect jobs, businesses, and industries from foreign competition. This does not per se make him a racist. A racist would more likely actually begin deporting those of the “inferior race” while inviting those of “superior races” to help purify the citizenry. To simply dismiss this action as a racist one doesn’t really get to the bottom of things.
  • Second, on the closed/open border debate, as I have stated many times, I do not believe in an open border policy. I also do not believe in a closed border policy. I believe in a border policy in which the localities have a stronger say about who may come than the Federal Government. In a pure private property libertarian setting, of course, everything would be privatized and therefore up to the judgement of private property owners. For the central government to declare that all immigrants are welcome over against the will of private property owners is a version of forced integration. In light of the fact that we live in a statist world, my first suggestion would be to let the states decide who is allowed over the borders. My recommendation to these states would be to let the counties make the decision. And so on and so forth to the property owners. It is important to remember: there is no God-given right to walk on property that is not your own. Therefore, there is no “right” to immigration. But by the same token, there is no “right” that the Federal Government has to prevent the entrance of an individual who has been invited on the property of its owner. That is the libertarian theory– and pragmatic insight– on the immigration issue.

Now, as for DACA. It seems to me that it makes zero sense for the Federal Government to deport people who have lived here their whole lives, pay taxes here, speak English better than Spanish (or whatever), have no home or relatives in Mexico, Honduras, etc. According to DACA itself, one is required to be studying to working. These are private arrangements, or at least arrangements between the individual and a smaller jurisdiction. As they are contributing to economic productivity and are therefore a net benefit on the economy, they don’t seem to be part of the systematic breach of the non-aggression principle. In fact, if these individuals do have residence here, if they are not breaching the property rights of others (via direct criminal action), or demanding welfare benefits or other government aid, it seems more criminal to remove them. The act of tossing these folks who have done no civil wrong is completely unproductive and wrong.

Some conservatives might argue that there are some of these that are simply living as bums on welfare. I haven’t seen any proof of this– it seems contrary to the demands of DACA itself. If there are, I would urge that they be removed from the dole. But the important point is that this is not the fault per se of DACA. This is a welfare policy that should be addressed. DACA is not inconsistent with eliminating welfare.

Of course, how many native US citizens are net leeches on the system? How many of them don’t contribute to the economy but instead receive redistributed goods?  DACA simply has nothing to do with the welfare problem in America.

Now, I would welcome correction on this for sure as I am usually quite skeptical of efforts by the Federal Government to push integration policy. But does DACA actually cost money? Is there any secret subsidization of the undocumented immigrants I am unaware of? If there is any proof of this thing subsidizing the immigrants or forcing smaller government jurisdictions to provide for their presence, I will immediately update this post. But in the interest of being objective, I seem to be seeing the DACA program as something Trump should not have let expire.

Now, three other considerations that should certainly be mentioned:

  1. Its very possible, and I have this at the forefront of my mind, that Soros’ and other forced-integration-internationalists use things like DACA to protect the immigrants from deportation after they have done the dirty work of subsidizing and purposefully bringing in millions of people. Folks like Soros understand that the way to control the future of a democracy is to upend cultures, to create strife via group conflict. In this case, of course, DACA itself is not the problem. It is merely a tool leveraged after the problem has already been implemented.
  2. This may have been a half-hearted attempt by Trump to satisfy his base. After all, just removing a protection does not mean he is going to round ’em all up and ship ’em back (of course, since most of them were born here, they have nowhere to actually return). Trump has to show the voting base that put him in to office that he hasn’t been completely swarmed by the establishment since entering office (he has).
  3. As always, the democratic state is the problem here. The more things are privatized and less under control from Washington, bureaucratically, the more local decisions can be made. By nationalizing society, everything becomes a national controversy and there is incentive to bring in people that will vote a certain way.

Privatize everything! In the meantime, DACA doesn’t seem per se evil. And I say this as a Hoppean on the immigration issue. If anyone has information otherwise, please let me know ASAP.

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On the Arrested Nurse Incident

The trending news over the weekend was the nurse who was arrested for refusing to submit to the cop’s threats and demands that she draw blood from a patient. As she stated in the video that circled the internet, the written law was on her side as medical professionals are only allowed to draw blood under the following conditions:

  1. A warrant
  2. The patient under arrest
  3. Patient consent

The majority of people rightly took the side of the nurse who was unquestionably the victim of the deranged cop’s power trip– he grabbed her, dragged her outside (to her screaming that he stop and her insistence that she had done nothing wrong), and arrested her. Uncalled for.

Since it’s easy to vocalize disapproval at the cop’s behavior in this specific case, I also have two other points to make that are more likely to have been missed by most people weighing in.

First, the nurse’s refusal to draw blood and the cop’s deranged overreaction are not right and wrong respectively on the basis that the written law was on the nurse’s side. That is to say, if the law was that cops have the authority to order medical professionals to do whatever cops tell them to, the nurse still would have been justified in refusing to draw the blood and the cop would still would be acting criminally in aggressing against her. The reason for this is that legal and criminal behavior (a subset of moral and immoral behavior), are not determined by written law but by natural law (law that transcends written laws). For example, murder is not made wrong by virtue of its being declared wrong by a legislative body or bureaucratic agency; rather, if anything, it is already unethical to murder independent of the government and it is up to the government to recognize this ethical stipulation.

Second, and related to the first point, we need to understand that cops so often aggress against people and property (as happened in this case), but there is nary a smidgeon of outrage by the same people who expressed distaste for the current event. Drug laws and their subsequent enforcement protocols are a deep-seeded implementation of criminal assault. The difference, however, is that in the current situation a) the written law was on the victim’s side and b) there has been no desensitization regarding what happened, as opposed to in the case of drug laws. Besides drug laws, of course, there are other sorts of government approved acts of violence against legally innocent (under natural law) people. All forms of eminent domain laws, anti-gun ownership laws, laws outlawing and criminalizing unapproved food production, seatbelt laws, the TSA’s daily airport assaults, and taxation itself.

In fact, every government agency consists of positive laws which control and regulate so many aspects of our lives from food/drink to insurance to education to transportation to clothing to money and banking and beyond. The police are merely the enforcement arm of the state and therefore threaten to initiate violence upon refusal of the private property owner to comply.

Thus, when the headlines say that the nurse was arrested “simply for doing her job,” we should realize that “doing one’s job” is only good if the job-duty itself is good. In this case, for the nurse, it certainly was. If her job required her to do something wrong, we would only praise her if she refused to “do her job.” On the flip side, we aren’t criticizing the cop here because he was acting outside of his job, we are criticizing him because he was acting against the strictures of ethics, of natural law. Thus, even if protocol allowed him to act as he did, he would still be in the wrong.

The news is that this cop has been placed on suspension. Such a bureaucratic response is not enough, however. He didn’t act simply against the will of his superiors– he acted in a criminal manner and should be prosecuted accordingly. Just as cops who steal drugs or give out seatbelt tickets or arrest those selling goods on the market without a business license should, if justice was actually present in our society, be prosecuted for breaching property rights.

People say that the actions of this cop give all cops a bad name. Let me clarify the matter. Any cop that initiates or threatens to initiate violence against the bodies or the external private property of individuals acts wrongly. Whether cops are good or bad adds vagueness and imprecision to the matter. We ought to keep it simple: if you breach the private property rights of individuals, natural law is not on your side. Cops do act rightly when they respond to aggressors of private property, and wrongly when they become the aggressors. This has nothing to do with the state of written law– and it is the goal of the libertarian to bring written law (also known as positive law) into compliance with natural law.

Unfortunately in our time, all cops have voluntarily agreed and sworn to uphold unethical positive laws, whether they are aware of it or not and whether they are nice and respectable people in their private lives.

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The Avenger of Blood in Modern Albania

In The Avenger of Blood I showed how Mosaic law (reflecting Genesis 9:5-6) authorized the next of kin of a murder victim to administer retributive justice – something not reserved for a special class called “rulers”. I noted that this was the common/default practice in ancient cultures. But the practice did not die out there. In fact, it has never died out. The pervasiveness of the role of the next of kin as an avenger of blood in cultures down through history is fascinating. It is found in ancient, medieval, and modern cultures everywhere that central power is weak. It’s almost as if the duty to enforce justice is an innate part of being an image bearer 🙂 (Gen 9:5-6, 4:14; Rom 1:32; Num 35:19).

It became commonplace throughout Europe in the Middle Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire. In Albania “The norms were passed on from generation to generation by an oral tradition and were decreed by the council of elders. It is considered that the Code was rationalised by despot Lek III Dukagjin (1410 – 1481). This code was compiled throughout the centuries chiefly by adding new norms. It was studied by folklorist Shtjefën Gjecov and was published as late as 1933.” [1]  Following the collapse of communism in Albania, the customary law has been revived, largely due to the corruption and injustice of the standing government. “Blood feuds are not unique to Albania. They can be found in other isolated societies of the Mediterranean (such as Corsica) or in the Northern Caucuses. Carver tells us that this Albanian code most closely resembles the pukhtoonwali of Northwestern India.” [3]

There are several parallels between the Kanun and the relevant portions of Mosaic law (see Avenger post).

  • The next of kin is authorized to administer justice
  • Justice must be according to lex talionis (eye for an eye)
  • The manslayer (accidental killing) is innocent and is not to be killed
  • Only the murderer may be killed (not a member of his family)
  • There are sanctuaries (City of refuge vs asylum in a home)
  • Elders may become involved as a third party (originally to investigate/have a trial, now mostly to seek reconciliation) [3]

However, the text of the Kanuni is often contested and with many different interpretations which significantly evolved since 15th century. [2] At about 8:00 in the Aljazeera video an elder, acting as a mediator between two families, explains “The Kanun’s rules have been muddled with myths. You can’t trust anyone. Before, the Kanun was followed to the rule but as time changed so did its interpretation.” At around 2:00 the Journeyman Pictures video explains “The truth is that Kanun has accurate, concise, clear rules. An important rule is ‘the blood goes by the hand of the killer.’ It means only the killer could be killed. That’s how it was, so no other family member could be in danger. Later, the rule was changed and clarify that blood can be taken on family members.”

At first only other adult males in the family could be killed, instead of the killer. Then that was extended to include males of any age. More recently that has changed to include females as well (see the Aljazeera video). “The application of the ancient Kanun has been ousted by a distorted use of a modern Kanun in favour of personal revenge and settling old gangster scores. The range of vengeance killings now covers all members of Albanian society, including women and even children.” [1] The result has been disastrous. Entire families cannot leave their homes – not even to work – for fear of being killed.

Currently, we can notice a distinction between classic and modern vendetta respectively before and after the communist regime. The classic vendettas occur especially in the northern Albania and they follow the procedures of the Kanun more closely including the involvement of the elders of the village and the application of the period of liberty and security that the victim’s family grants to the murderer and his family. The modern type of vendetta reappeared after the end of the communist regime. The appearance of this new phenomenon can be
qualified as pseudo-traditionalism accomplishing a function that we can nominate semantic, since it permits to give a sense to the new political shapes. In this case, the manipulated tradition becomes the instrument to give a sense to new realities or to claim justice. The Kanun and its norms are not recognized anymore. Its application has been ousted by a distorted use of the Kanun in favour of personal revenge. The data-gathering shows how the Kanun applied in the nineties was illegitimate. [3]

Conciliators have emerged to try to help resolve modern problems resulting from this broken system. “What persons can become conciliators? D. Ch. recounted that in Krujë there was a special group consisting of men of senior age, well-familiar with the Kanun. The group’s members
should include influential figures – for example, members of Parliament, ministers, etc. Negotiators are elected among the inhabitants of the region once in 5 years. In the course of reconciliation, an agreement is signed between the two feuding sides, as well as by the warrant group, affirming that no one would break the arrangement.” [1] However, anyone may act as a mediator in individual cases.

At 20:45 in the “Prisoners of Kanun” video, a man involved in a blood feud since his grandfather was killed in the 1920’s says “If justice was applied correctly, both would work – the Kanun and government laws.”


This 2001 video from ABC Australia provides a helpful overview of the post-communist situation (16min).

This 2015 video from Journeyman Pictures provides a helpful synopsis of the role of Kanun and the current situation with blood feuds (7min).

Here is a longer, much more observational study of the people involved blood feuds (30min – same producer/footage as above, but more detailed).

Here is a 2017 Aljazeera piece (25min).

Here is a 2015 doc from VICE on the blood feuds (35min).

Finally, a 2012 Sundance Select feature film Forgiveness in the Blood tells the story of a blood feud in Albania.

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The Fed Works Against the Trend of the Free Market

Bloomberg notes:

Amazon’s plans to cut prices at Whole Foods is great news for shoppers, but not so much for Federal Reserve officials wondering whether they’ll ever hit their 2 percent inflation target.

The Fed should not be in the business of targeting price inflation. Prices adjust in accordance with consumer demand and producer’s supply. In order to increase profits, Amazon/Whole Foods anticipates that it should encourage more consumption of its goods by lowering prices. And shoppers respond to this by either buying more food at Whole Foods or buying the same amount of food and then having a surplus leftover. This surplus will allow them to consume more elsewhere or else save and invest.

There is nothing at all wrong with this, in fact, it is the natural machinations of the market at work.

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Redefining Libertarianism: Insufferable Steve Edition

Insufferable Steve Horowitz is at it again. Last time, he smeared Jeff Deist as a literal Nazi.

Now, he’s redefining libertarianism, though this is hardly the first time. He’s a thick libertarian– a libertarian who wants to add to the definition of our beloved theory, in order to add in his own preferences and passions.

This time, he claims that libertarianism rejects anti-semitism.

Part of the problem is that too many libertarians think that claiming to believe in the Non-Aggression Principle is sufficient to establish someone’s libertarian bona fides.  If this summer should teach us anything, it’s that the NAP, while a good rule of thumb and summary of an aspect of ethical teaching, is not enough. Libertarians have apologized far too often and far too long for those who claimed that their anti-Semitism or racism is compatible with their libertarianism because it’s just a “private view” and they don’t wish to enforce it with political power. That excuse making needs to end.

We’ve been over this. Many times. Libertarianism addresses the proper role of coercion, in light of our formulation of property rights, throughout society. Libertarianism seeks to answer the problem of what actions should be criminal, and which should be legal. Anything that is exterior to this specific problem is outside the realms of what the libertarian can say qua libertarianism.

But Insufferable Steve simply asserts that libertarianism ought to be more than this– it ought to, well, we aren’t sure. He offers no boundaries of what the doctrine ought to address.

Obviously, “anti-semitism,” to the extent that it does exist in the west, isn’t agreeable or endorsable. It’s intellectually flawed and without philosophical defense. But so are a lot of things. But this in and of itself require us to expand the definition of libertarianism into other fields of study. As a Christian, as a decent human being, as an individual that attempts to be as intellectually accurate as possible, I assent to the proposition that “anti-semitism” (provided it is defined properly) “is wrong.”

But this does not mean that libertarianism, a doctrine of coercion, qua libertarianism rejects it.

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I’m Not the First to Use Clark in a Dissent from Mises on the Temporariness of Logic

Recently I wrote on Mises’ odd mistake of claiming that logic and the mind were not eternal:

Thankfully, the Christian, or more precisely the Augustinian/(Gordon) Clarkian, framework does better. By saving the eternality of reason and the mind, they save the Misesian system. If Misesian economics truly proceeds in deductive fashion from its axioms, then a robust defense of deductive reason will adequately and tremendously support deductive economics even from its most able historical theorist.

Interestingly, another individual used a citation Gordon Clark in dissenting from Mises’ mistake in the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics (2005). Steven Yates writes:

There is a sixth thing Austrian scholars should know about logic, and it is this: given our results so far, there is one and only one correct logic—despite Mises’s own occasional demurrals. Occasionally he suggest the possibility of beings possessing different sets of logical categories—subhuman or superhuman—or that reason is transitory.15 It is now both possible and necessary to lay this ambiguity to rest—returning to the Mises who wrote the above paragraph about the “immutability” of reason. The propositions at the foundations of logic are immutable (although a people’s capacity to grasp them may indeed be transitory!). Can anyone seriously suppose that the principles of identity and contradiction are “true for us” but not “true for God” (for example)? Or that it is possible that for God there can both be and not be houses on Elm Street at the same time and place, or that God could will that seven and five add up to some number other than twelve? (Clark 1985, pp. 117–31)

The book he references is Clark’s textbook on Logic, which can be found here.

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