The topic of libertarianism popped up twice recently, both items serving as an invaluable even though slightly complex reminder of the causative role that restricted-vision families too often play in the U.S.’s cultural tailspin. As a handy review, libertarianism is a “self-interest-and free-will centered political philosophy maintaining that all persons are the absolute owners of their own lives and should be free to do whatever they wish with their persons and property provided they allow others the same liberty. A Jeffersonian-linked precept is that governments must be severely limited.” Interestingly, there are Christians who feel that many aspects of libertarianism are in harmony with Scripture even while recognizing that libertarian and “libertine” are not necessarily synonyms! The first item, in the Wall Street Journal by Kay Hymowitz on September 12, 2007, was a supportive look at libertarianism, and on September 17 during the “Values Voter” debate in Florida, Christian Congressman (and libertarian) Ron Paul advocated legalizing marijuana; a stance that is an automatic no-no to many Christian families.
Even though wiser minds always warn against it, most Americans want to believe that government’s main duty is to pass laws to discipline us (and our neighbors, too) when we do the “wrong thing,” especially as self-responsibility becomes more and more rare. However, if people refuse to honor the non-negotiable personal need for internal self-government then not even tens of thousands of external laws by legislators can ever hope to create an acceptable replacement ethic that will create felicity in community. Thomas Sowell sums up the importance of self-government this way: “Each new generation born is an invasion of civilization by little barbarians who must be civilized before it’s too late.” If it’s true that the teaching of self-governance is civilizing, then the question, “where is the school?” is answered this way: “in the family setting when the child is young.” But if parents take the lazy way out during those early years we’re not surprised, 15 years later, to hear them threaten a rebellious teenager this way: “If you mess with drugs, you’ll go to jail, and I’m not going to be responsible.” Ron Paul and others among us are aware of the negative impact this modern “failure-in-parenting” has had. Many also know that a lot of principled opposition to laws against drugs stems from lessons learned during Prohibition when the 18th Amendment failed to “free the non-self-governed from the self-inflicted evils of drink.” And, as a sad aside, the unintended consequences of that flawed experiment—intensification of organized crime just for one—remain with us today.
With her final and main point, Hymowitz prods libertarians about the importance of the family, saying that if libertarians hope to attract pro-limited government converts who will be a credit and not a burden on society, they’ll have to be relatively mature individuals up front; already demonstrating responsible behavior that reflects a personal history of self-government. She solidifies her argument with the somewhat counter-libertarian irony that little libertarians-to-be, if they are ever to become upright adults, have no choice but to come face to face, while growing up, with a very oppressive government; namely, home rule by mom and dad and no talking back!
Many more beyond just Paul and Hymowitz would readily instruct us that the right kind of childhood training is essential to good citizenship. But, this admonition often comes minus a key detail while at the same time hinting by implication that there already exists an unspoken national consensus as to the moral and epistemological standard on which early training ought to be based. Sadly, this unexplained implication leaves us theoretically stranded in the dark about whether the missing standard is man-made (with the potential for endless, wicked reversals) or if it is transcendent—a standard based upon permanent tenets arising from a power that is above and outside of man and thus free from the weaknesses that an “enlightened” or “reason”-leaning Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, or John Dewey would ordain, as men, for us. In short, Darwinism won’t do, meaning that 100% of 2007’s evolutionism-believing elites are 100% in error as they do their best to indoctrinate us, just as they were ingrained, to think of mankind as meaningless chemical-electrical accidents with no power or desire to be self-governed and with no purpose other than survival of the fittest plus a big green light for maximum random sex. This caricature of who we really are in His image denies the unavoidable truth that if we don’t appeal to the Creator for all of our standards; to the God of self-government; to the God who is the only possible starting point for anything, … then we possess no rational appeal point at all. Since this fact alone is more important than anything else both for families and for libertarians, it’s important to remember that none of us will ever enjoy the kind of personal freedom we’d all benefit from unless we opt for a “liberating enslavement” to Christ; the one who truly sets us free. “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” is the way St. Paul put it and maybe Ron Paul would too. Libertarians, take note. Christian libertarians, too.