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LESSONS IN LOGIC: The Libertarian Ideal Is Founded On A Fallacious Assumption

OK, if you have been reading my work for any length of time, you have probably run across at least one of my posts objecting to the Libertarian ideal.  Now, I am under no delusions here; I know that I have little chance of getting a dedicated Libertarian to change their world view.  I don’t write to or for those people; I write against the Libertarian ideal for the benefit of those who I might still be able to convince.  It is not that I think there is anything inherently evil about the people who adhere to the principles of Libertarianism.  Quite the contrary: I believe many of them are sincerely seeking to live their lives freely and in peace with others.  It’s just that I see a flaw in the foundation of Libertarianism.  The whole ideology is based on a fallacious assumption which is, in reality, is the same self-deception at the heart of original sin.  I’m just trying to help others see and understand that this self-deception undermines the rest of the philosophical foundation upon which the Libertarian ideal is built.

Liberty depends on morality.  I doubt I will find many ‘disciplined’ Libertarians who will disagree with this assertion.  For a person to be self-governing there must be some idea as to what is right and what is wrong.  It is this ideal of right and wrong that then allows the individual to be self-governing.  So long as the individual controls his/her own actions according to this ideal, the individual has little use or need of government because they encounter little or no conflict with other individuals.  And, when they do, they can usually resolve that conflict between themselves.  In fact, it was the self-governing Christian that built this nation.  The principles and ideals written into our Declaration of Independence can trace a direct lineage to the example set by the self-governing Christian, as evidenced in the model of the early Pilgrim and Puritan settlements in Colonial America (among others).  In fact, our foundering fathers said exactly this.  So, one of the fundamental principles of liberty is that there must be a sense of morality at the center of any self-governing societies.

Again, I doubt I will find any ‘disciplined’ Libertarian who will offer too much of an objection to my argument so far.  So far as most of the Libertarians I have known have been concerned, so long as you do not harm anyone else in the exercise of your rights and liberty, they would argue that you should not be restrained in those rights and liberty.  In short: if you’re not hurting anyone, you should be left alone – especially by the government.  And, in this sense, the Libertarian might even believe their idea of self-governing is the same as that of the Christian, just without the religious aspects.  But there is the fallacy in the fundamental assumption of the Libertarian ideal.  There can be no morality without ‘religion’ (where ‘religion’ is understood to mean a general belief in a Creator connected to the assumption of judgment by the Creator for our actions in this life).  In this sense, the self-governing Christian is very different from that of the self-governing Libertarian.

The Libertarian would claim that, since religion is a ‘private’ matter, he/she should be free from any outside religious influences – even to the point of Atheism.  In essence, the Libertarian will claim that the Natural Right of conscience imparts a right to not believe in God.  On the surface, this seems reasonable, but there is an inherent fallacy in this assertion.  If the Libertarian ideal is predicated on the individual’s right to be his or her own governor, then the individual asserting the Libertarian ideal is claiming to be his/her own governor.  In other words, the Libertarian claims to be the ruler of himself or herself.  And by logical extension, this then means the Libertarian must decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, as well as what constitutes ‘harm.’  But deciding what is right and what is wrong and what constitutes harm is the work of the Creator, not the creation. For, if the individual claims the right to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, is this not a claim to be God?  It must be, as moral law cannot be established by man; it must be established by the Creator.  This is what Voltaire was getting at when he penned words to the effect of:

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”

The self-governing Christian does not create his or her own idea of right and wrong because the Christian does not claim to be their own Lord.  The self-governing Christian is governed by God, and therefore, by God’s law.  This is what creates an objective standard by which other self-governing Christians can determine what the right action in a given situation is.  This is not to say that every self-governing Christian will always make the correct decision, nor that they will even all agree as to what God’s law demands.  What it means is that there is a known ideal that is known to all and which can be examined and debated so that a common understanding can be reached.  However, under the Libertarian ideal, there can be as many standards as there are Libertarians.  By definition, this also means there can be no fixed ideal for – according to the Libertarian ideal — so long as no one ‘harms’ anyone else, no one can claim the authority to tell another what is right and what is wrong.  The consequence of this is that I can decide certain people are not people.  Thus, I am free to do what I will to them as – again, by definition – I cannot harm a ‘person’ if they are not people and no one else has the authority to tell me my definition of ‘person’ and ‘harm’ is any better than theirs.  Now, before you object to this, do some research: you’ll find several leading ‘ethicists’ have already made the case that parents should be allowed to kill their children up to the age of three because ‘they are not human yet.’  In fact, ‘science’ has been used to justify Eugenics in America, the Holocaust in Germany and abortion, and in every case, the justification rests on the re-defining of who is and is not ‘human.’  So, this is not an absurd example; it has already happened!

Here is an illustration of the Libertarian problem:

Suppose one man kills an eats another man and when the police arrest him and he goes to trial, he says he has done nothing wrong because the other man wanted to be killed and eaten.  Suppose the man on trial says he even ran an ad explaining what he wanted to do and the man he killed and ate answered that add?  What is the Libertarian to do in this case?  According to the Libertarian ideal, no one was harmed because neither party was forced to do anything against their will.  Both acted voluntarily.  Now, again, before you think this example is absurd, do a little research.  The cannibal’s name was Armin Meiwes.

Now, the Christian answer to the same problem:

After WW II, when the Allies were getting ready to hold the Nuremberg Trials, the Charter of the Tribunal encountered a problem.  They could not try many of the Germans charged with war crimes because they were claiming they were merely following orders and, under the laws of the governing bodies over them at the time, what they did was ‘legal.’  The problem is that – at their heart – all laws represent what a society considers to be right and wrong, so the Allies had to find another standard by which to charge and try the German war criminals.  In the end, the Allies claimed a ‘transcended’ standard; they claimed the “the law beyond the law.”  German war criminals were tried according to the law of God, the God of the Bible. (John Warwick Montgomery, The Law Above the Law (Minneapolis, MN: Dimension Books/Bethany Fellowship, 1975), 24-25)

To end this post, I would refer you to:

Judges 17:6

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

So long as God is your King and you conduct yourself according to your best understanding of His law, there is nothing wrong with doing what is right in your own eyes:

Judges 8:23

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

23 But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.”

But this is not what the Libertarian ideal says.  In fact, the very foundation of Libertarian philosophy is based in the ‘right’ to reject any and all notion of God.  Therefore, the Libertarian model puts the individual in God’s seat, and that is original sin – and the reason why the Libertarian model does not work.  It violates Natural Law; the very law by which individual rights and liberty are claimed.

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10 responses to “LESSONS IN LOGIC: The Libertarian Ideal Is Founded On A Fallacious Assumption

  1. You hit the nail right on the head

    • Thanks. It has taken me far too long to get it together this tightly, but I think I have FINALLY expressed my objection in the strongest argument I think I’ll ever be able to make.

      [BTW: MAN! You must read fast!]

      • About 400 words a minute. You expressed an excellent argument there that I myself also believe and have for a while. Libertarianism can never exist in an amoral society. Even our brand of freedom cannot exist in it

        • I agree (and thanks, again).

          Personally, I think this is why the Articles of Confederation failed. Not because the federal government did not have enough power, because all the power in the world still would not have made the States conform at that point in our history. The Articles failed because the founders wrote a Libertarian (i.e. secular) government that did not hold the people accountable to God. The evidence of this is found in the structure of the Articles. If one compares it to the final Constitution and then compares BOTH to the system of government Moses established under the judges (not to mention what Franklin said about the new Constitution coming from the Bible), we see the current Constitution traces its heritage directly to that first republic.

          But this understanding is all predicated on a person holding a biblical world view. Without that, history seems as the world believes it: a random string of disconnected and unrelated events. Sadly, they can’t seem to grasp that these events all push history in a linear direction. Kind of a contradiction if they are all random and unrelated, don;t you think? 😉

          • I am not a religious man myself , but I do agree on the biblical world view. Without any absolute on the moral compass, where is there any guidance? I believe our nation was once great because of the J.D. principles that it was founded upon.

          • jay,

            It seems you also understand something many who oppose the Judea/Christian faith do not: that they have nothing to fear from it. Any Christian who tries to force their beliefs onto another person is actually violating Christ’s command. In fact, ‘tolerance’ (as our founders understood it, not as ‘acceptance’) is a Christian tenant. It is commanded so that others will see God’s influence by the deeds of His followers and not because they forced others to submit.

            This is also one of the tangible (i.e. NOT theological) differences between Christianity and Islam.

  2. A moral rule is a rule. And a rule is, by definition, something which applies universally. Morality can therefore be determined – and a moral rule’s validity can be tested – simply by applying it universally.

    If someone claims the moral right to steal someone else’s cow then they are effectively claiming stealing cows to be a moral activity. Therefore they must accept that it’s OK for someone to steal their cows too. If they object to having their cows stolen then they have invalidated their own moral rule.

    “..So long as the individual controls his/her own actions according to this ideal, the individual has little use or need of government because they encounter little or no conflict with other individuals….”

    Just to be clear, governments are not a group of people who enforce moral rules. Governments are a group of people who enforce their own monopoly on the right to VIOLATE moral rules.

    For example theft is generally regarded as immoral. There is no law in a statist society which outlaws theft. Instead there are only laws which grant government a monopoly on the right to steal. And governments steal half of everyone’s wages by force each week. Anyone who resists this theft is put into a cage at gunpoint. Anyone who tries to defend themselves or escape the cage is shot.

    Naturally, in order to enforce a monopoly on stealing a government must prevent (or at least deter) everyone else from stealing. But that is not the same as actually outlawing theft.

    Most people think the government’s policy on theft is as follows:

    “Theft is immoral. As your rulers, we will outlaw theft. Nobody will be allowed to steal and anybody who does will be put in a cage”

    But in reality it is this:

    “Theft is immoral. As your rulers, we will outlaw theft for everyone else but us. Nobody else except us will be allowed to steal and anybody else who does will be put in a cage”

    The difference is subtle but profound. If the people in a government actually created laws based on the moral rule “Theft is immoral” then they would have to either stop stealing half of everyone’s wages, or arrest themselves for breaking the law.

    In a statist society there are no rules, only rulers. Rulers are people who claim moral and legal exemption from rules. If anybody is allowed to violate a rule, then that rule is no longer a universal rule. And a rule which is no longer universal is no longer a rule. That is why a statist society has no rules. I believe this is what libertarians object to.

    A society which has rules cannot have rulers (people who claim the right to violate rules), therefore the consequence of having rules in society is a shift from hierarchy to anarchy.

    • “Just to be clear, governments are not a group of people who enforce moral rules. Governments are a group of people who enforce their own monopoly on the right to VIOLATE moral rules.”

      This is the definition of tyranny, not ‘good government.’ You are equating the two, or — at the very least — failing to draw a distinction. But you have put you finger on the root of the problem. What you are actually doing here is explaining how things are changed by the inappropriate manipulation (i.e. conceptualizing) of terms. I agree with the implication in your comment: under SOME conditions, taxation IS theft.

      The problem — from a logic point of view — is that MAN cannot state what these rules are. He must anchor them to something above himself and, therefore, a higher authority. Otherwise, the number of sound, valid and rational paradigms we can create is infinite, and the only way to distinguish between them will come down to the use of force.

      Luckily, man can determine what these rules are using the same means that they have done for centuries. Nature and reason guided by conscience. Job did it, Cicero did it and our founders did it and they ALL came up with relatively close approximations of the same conclusions. This is just one of the ways we can know that Natural Law exists and that universal morality is part of that Natural Law. But there is an area of your comment that is not sound:

      “A society which has rules cannot have rulers (people who claim the right to violate rules), therefore the consequence of having rules in society is a shift from hierarchy to anarchy.”

      One cannot have rules without a rule giver. And this is the point. Libertarians are trying to create a system of liberty according to the law without a lawgiver. Now you are correct in asserting that this leads to anarchy, but then, anarchy is NOT liberty. It is the jungle. So, while I may be wrong, you seem to have plowed right through some truth to arrive back at the same fallacious assumption I have identified. You’re just trying to rationalize it in a different way is all.

  3. “In fact, the very foundation of Libertarian philosophy is based in the ‘right’ to reject any and all notion of God. ”

    Yes, and the right to accept God too. Libertarianism mirrors the world god have created. Doesn’t we have a right to reject God, and take the consequences? Do you not believe in the free will?

    • Samuel,

      Yes, I believe in free will, as well as the right to reject God and accept the consequences. However, I think you may be missing the point. Libertarians assert their rights, but rights do not and cannot exist without a Creator. Thus, any claim to ‘reason’ behind the Libertarian model is a contradiction. This is — in part — what I mean by the Libertarian ideal being based on the right to reject God. In essence, the Libertarian ideal is just another argument for replacing God with man. Otherwise, you would have a version of Natural Rights similar tot hat which our founders held.

      I hope this makes sense for you.

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