Saturday, 10 November 2012

Libertarian Vacuity

Demons Will Return to the Empty House

What are the building blocks of civilisation?  The libertarian answer is straightforward, if simplistic: civilisation will be built upon free contracts entered into by individuals, once the state is dismantled.  Roll the state back to a minimalist entity and you are left with a free people.  These free people, acting out of self interest, will enter into formal and informal contractual arrangements for their own (and mutual) benefit.

But what if the "free" people were universally enslaved to lusts and self-indulgence?
  Self-interest would be interpreted and applied in a thoroughly destructive manner.  Imagine a society, for example, where the consensus was that sexuality was an animalistic passion to be indulged in at random with multiple partners and that relentless promiscuity and homosexuality were in one's free self-interest.  In principle libertarians would endorse such freedom and license as entirely acceptable and righteous-in-itself.  But upon such a foundation one could not a civilization make. 

The Kingdom of God, as we have often observed, is exceedingly thick.  It covers all human life and experience.  It ultimately governs the goals, motives and standards of all human action in all spheres and aspect of human life.  Every thought is to be brought captive to it.  Only Christ can accomplish such a work and progressively bring it into reality in human history.  Whilst Christians may agree with libertarians on the need to roll back the soft-despotic, ever-expanding, omni-competent state, we disagree entirely on what should fill the vacuum.

Another way to put this is to focus upon how the state ought to be rolled back.  For the libertarian the focus is upon electing a libertarian administration then dismantling the apparatus of intrusive government to make men free.  For the Christian, the focus is upon the growing self-government and responsibility of free men disciplined under the Word of God that leads to the inevitable withering away of the state from within. 

The libertarian argues the necessity of contractual law, of keeping one's contractual obligations.  But what happens if society as a whole does not accept the importance and integrity of contractual obligations?  What if it interprets freedom as maximal license?  Secular libertarians have no answer.  There is no moral grounding in the conscience for contract, for truth-telling, for integrity in the libertarian world-view.  Oaths, for example, are without force or significance, and therefore contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. 
Without a belief in God and the soul, where is the oath?  Without the oath, where is the obligation or pressure to fulfill it?  Where is the law that even kings must obey?  Where is Magna Carta, habeas Corpus, or the Bill of Rights, all of which arose out of attempts to rule by lawless tyranny?  Where is the lifelong fidelity of husband and wife?  Where is the safety of the innocent child growing in the womb?  Where, in the end, is the safety of any of us from those currently bigger and stronger than we are? 
And how striking it is that such oaths wee used to make us better, not worse, and that the higher power, the magnetic north of moral truth, found an invariable answer in the urgings of conscience.  These things are far higher than the mutuality and "human solidarity" on which atheists must rely for morality--because they specifically deny the existence of any other origin for it.  [Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 147.]
Without the growing influence of the Kingdom of God in the lives, consciences and relations of men, civilizations can neither be built nor maintained.  Libertarians may eject the state, but the demons will come back into the empty house seven-fold stronger.

No comments: