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Thursday, April 04, 2002

Christian Libertarianism?- Kevin's already weighed in on Ben's post of this morning
As loyal readers will know, yes that means both of you, I am not a libertarian. I do find myself with libertarian instincts - minimalist government - but I don't find it attractive as a philosophy
I would consider myself a dynamist in the sense that individual activity creates better wealth creation and distribution, and thus a greater commonweal, than centralized government activity. However, I'm not onboard with the word "libertarian". If you allow government to make some moral stands on the unborn and on other sexual issues, it takes some of the more repugnant features of libertarian thought. I'm not on board with Ben's comments on drugs
All those libertarians out there who are in favor of drug legalization get to smoke whatever they want, as long as they don't decide to drive a piece of heavy machinery over someone else's car.
The carnage that many drugs do to people's lives makes me want to keep most drugs illegal, but I'm starting to tire of the War on Drugs. Our sin nature will lead us into trying things that aren't good do ourselves or our communities; laws are still needed to move people away from those behaviors. I'm all for lesser sentences for users and a greater emphasis on rehab rather than prison, but the laws should stay on the books. Beyond the sex and drugs, I also have problem with libertarian's hatred of government. Government does have areas that it, with the proper management and lawmaking, can be a net plus for the common welfare. A little Googling found this Christianity Today critique-
The influence of libertarianism has led many evangelicals to adopt a starkly antagonistic view of the responsibilities of government and the church, the public and the private sectors. Operating from this either/or perspective, some argue that since individual Christians are commanded to care for the poor, it must not be any of the government's business. But such a conclusion requires that we dismiss the large body of biblical teaching that says the government has a responsibility to care for the poor. It also ignores centuries of biblically based Christian thought and teaching on the distinct but complementary roles of state, family, and church (exemplified in the Catholic idea of "subsidiarity" and the Reformed concept of "sphere sovereignty"). Critics of government programs, such as Marvin Olasky, are right to point out the ways in which government has sometimes failed miserably to meet its responsibilities, but it does not follow that the state therefore does not have any such responsibilities. It is also true that some of the best work empowering the poor is being done by faith-based nonprofit agencies, but that does not absolve other actors—governments, neighbors, relatives—from fulfilling their respective, God-given responsibilities as well.
As Christians, we should look to set up our political economy so as to further this part of Jesus' mission; "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." While libertarians and I will agree that we should have a smaller government, I still think a modest amount of redistribution of wealth is beneficial for the society as a whole. I do not have quite the faith in the generosity of individuals to shoulder the burden of helping the poor in the absence of government help. However, improved tax treatment for donations to private endeavors to help to poor might make direct government aid unnecessary. Ben and I most likely will agree on 98% of bills up on Capital Hill, and I don't want to start a food fight with him. However, a hard look at what level of government we want and what type of drug laws would work will go a long way to insuring that that we're still on the same page.

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