Yesterday I shared, to surprising interest, the following pic from Young Americans for Liberty. It concerns the view of the political Right and Left we have been taught traditionally, and why it is actually propaganda:
If we consider the amount of stealing, killing, and destroying (John 10:10) that takes place at the hands of “statism,” we will come to see this propaganda as dangerous propaganda with blood on its hands and your money in its pockets.
Also, if we are to consider the original American settlement, the Articles of Confederation, we would find it even to the right of the Constitution on that spectrum. That’s also about where I think the biblical worldview of law and government stands, and why I fight for it.
This bit of pictorial evidence reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago in which I leveraged the analysis of the “Left-Right” paradigm by libertarian Murray Rothbard. Aside from using the terms Left and Right in exact reverse (following the old British system), the analysis fits very well. Why is this possible? Because, it’s not about the labels or the parties. It’s about the size and power of the government.
I realized the old article I wrote is too long and largely tied to the current events of 2012. But this section is timeless (with only minor edits), and like the pic above, crucial for Christians to get hold of.
We must break free of the dangerous propaganda, and here is a good place to start:
Getting the Biblical worldview correct on the “Left-Right” political spectrum
Historically, at least in the British tradition which influenced early America, the “left” and “liberals” were the proponents of freedom, voluntarism, contracts, rule of law, and Constitutionalism. The “right” was the Old Regime which believed in strong, centralized government, an established church, government control over money, finance, commerce, cronyism, corporatism, etc. It was the monarchical and mercantilist party dominated by wealthy men who had gotten wealthy by government coercion, favors, subsidies, etc.
It is in this regard that Murray Rothbard is particularly helpful. He explains the divide historically, and then makes reference to the views of the great champion of freedom Lord Acton:
Acton wrote that “Liberalism wishes for what ought to be, irrespective of what is.” In working out this view, incidentally, it was Acton, not Trotsky, who first arrived at the concept of the “permanent revolution.” As Gertrude Himmelfarb [a conservative] wrote in her excellent study of Acton:
. . . his philosophy develop(ed) to the point where the future was seen as the avowed enemy of the past, and where the past was allowed no authority except as it happened to conform to morality. To take seriously this Liberal theory of history, to give precedence to “what ought to be” over “what is,” was, he admitted, virtually to install a “revolution in permanence.”
The “revolution in permanence,” as Acton hinted in the inaugural lecture and admitted frankly in his notes, was the culmination of his philosophy of history and theory of politics. . . . This idea of conscience, that men carry about with them the knowledge of good and evil, is the very root of revolution, for it destroys the sanctity of the past. . . . “Liberalism is essentially revolutionary,” Acton observed. “Facts must yield to ideas. Peaceably and patiently if possible. Violently if not.”
The Liberal, wrote Acton, far surpassed the Whig:
The Whig governed by compromise. The Liberal begins the reign of ideas. . . . One is practical, gradual, ready for compromise. The other works out a principle philosophically. One is a policy aiming at a philosophy. The other is a philosophy seeking a policy.
Nothing suits the more recent history of the GOP better than Acton’s expression of the old Whig tradition here: “ready for compromise.” In practice, this results in stagnation at best, decline more likely. For any compromise with evil is a victory for evil. It is difficult to make a similar argument for any “good” that may be achieved while simultaneously promoting social evil.
But more to the immediate point, the old-school “liberal” (it’s scary today even to try to re-appropriate the term in a positive way!) was a principled champion of freedom who had two things: 1) a political and social goal at which to aim, and 2) an uncompromising commitment to get there eventually.
Rothbard then explains how such a view of the “left” was lost and eventually replaced with the left we know today—the socialist, communistic left. But his reasoning is very revealing. For those who would be queasy to study the thoughts of the Libertarian Rothbard for whatever reason, consider the following two factors to which he points for the wane of the old Liberty movement:
Two philosophical roots of this decay may be discerned. First is the abandonment of natural rights and “higher law” theory for utilitarianism, for only forms of natural or higher law theory can provide a radical base outside the existing system from which to challenge the status quo; and only such theory furnishes a sense of necessary immediacy to the libertarian struggle by focusing on the necessity of bringing existing criminal rulers to the bar of justice. Utilitarians, on the other hand, in abandoning justice for expediency, also abandon immediacy for quiet stagnation and inevitably end up as objective apologists for the existing order.
The second great philosophical influence on the decline of liberalism was evolutionism, or Social Darwinism, which put the finishing touches to liberalism as a radical force in society. For the Social Darwinist erroneously saw history and society through the peaceful, rose-colored glasses of infinitely slow, infinitely gradual social evolution. Ignoring the prime fact that no ruling caste in history has ever voluntarily surrendered its power, and that, therefore, liberalism had to break through by means of a series of revolutions, the Social Darwinists looked forward peacefully and cheerfully to thousands of years of infinitely gradual evolution to the next supposedly inevitable stage of individualism.
Study these closely: they may be summarized in my own way as 1) a departure from God’s law, and 2) the embrace of Social Darwinism.
The first summary is not a stretch because “natural rights” and “higher law” together can only mean God’s law in any consistent worldview. Surely in the context of the eighteenth-century English liberals, there was influence from this perspective. This means that even the agnostic Rothbard recognized the need for a law higher than mere human laws (positive laws, statute laws) if there is to be 1) true liberty, and 2) the prospect for the advance of liberty in society.
What’s even more powerful is what Rothbard’s comments entail: the belief that the state itself must be subject to this “higher law.” Indeed, such a system promotes liberty and brings an urgency toward that end, as freedom would demand us to bring “criminal rulers to the bar of justice.”
As he rightly notes, the two major compromises which destroyed this liberal tradition were utilitarianism and social Darwinism. Both of these should be obvious: the former subjects the freedom and rights of individuals to the “greater happiness” of the greatest number of people—not even a majority, but a plurality! This obviously leads to pragmatism, political gamesmanship, corruption, and suppression.
It also can breed elitism, which is what social Darwinism effectively becomes. This view says that man has evolved to the point that he can be the wise director, planner, caretaker of nature. This mandates that the most intelligent and careful few among us direct, plan, and take care of the rest. The result is, well, the history of leftism as we know it today. Its clearest manifestation is the public school system, of which the godfather of social Darwinism, Lester Frank Ward, was a vigorous proponent.
The antidote to this whole problem begins by adjusting our understanding of Left and Right. We should not understand these as D vs. R. We should understand them as liberty vs. tyranny as judged at the bar of the eternal higher law—God’s law.
From this perspective, and the perspective of history, D and R are both far to the right of this schema—far towards tyranny. Both believe in using statist, oppressive means in order to further agendas, many of which are unbiblical. They are each unbiblical for some similar and some different reasons, but they are both unbiblical and tyrannical nonetheless. We should view them that way, and as the preferred alternative, view the goal of biblical law as the cause of liberty toward which we must aim.
While so much more could—and should—be said in these regards, the basic conclusions are simple. Conservatives fall into hopelessness and despair because they are trained to be pessimistic and reactionary, and from this malady they are provided no escape which is not condemned as “radical.”
These characteristics are expressed and exacerbated most vividly in widespread pessimistic eschatology and a failure to critique the false view of Left and Right foisted upon them. . . .