Why is an alliance between conservatives and libertarians inconceivable? Why, indeed, would such articles of confederation undo whatever gains conservatives have made in this United States? Because genuine libertarians are mad — metaphysically mad. Lunacy repels, and political lunacy especially. I do not mean that they are dangerous; they are repellent merely, like certain unfortunate inmates of ‘mental homes.’
– Russell Kirk, Author of The Conservative Mind
Often there is confusion in the Christian community that Christianity is Libertarian. Now, certainly it is understandable why people might think this, since for the past 150 years in this country, the Church has had to contend against a State that is increasingly intent on becoming god walking on the earth. As such, the Church has had to make arguments insisting that the first commandment should be taken seriously by God’s people, and in doing so it has made some of the same kind of negative arguments against the all-encompassing desired omnipotence of the State that Movement Libertarians make. However, Biblical Christianity has no more in common with Movement Libertarianism then it has with Movement Marxism.
Like the Movement Libertarians, the Church articulates a message that no institution is absolutized in its sovereignty. Unlike the Movement Libertarians, the Church insists that absolute sovereignty belongs to God and not to the individual man. Like the Movement Libertarians, the Church inveighs against a State that has forgotten its place. Unlike the Movement Libertarians, the Church believes that the State has a place in God’s order. That place in God’s order is to bring God’s justice upon those who, because of their sin nature, cannot restrain themselves. Like the Movement Libertarians, the Church articulates a message that insists that the individual as an individual must be respected and that the individual is not merely some kind of cog to fit in a machine crafted by the State. Unlike the Movement Libertarians, the Church articulates a message that insists that men find their identity not in their abstracted individuality, but rather in terms of distinct covenantal corporate relationships — relationships defined by God — that include family, Church, Community, Guilds, and yes, even the Magistrate. Like the Movement Libertarian, the Church articulates a message of liberty for the individual. Unlike the Movement Libertarians, the Church insists that liberty is not absolutized and only finds its meaning in the context of a God-ordained, transcendent moral order. Like the Movement Libertarians, the Church articulates a message of love of self. Unlike the Movement Libertarians, the Church also articulates a message of self-denial for a greater good ordained by God.
Likewise, Christianity teaches, unlike Movement Libertarianism, that man is fallen. Most versions of Movement Libertarianism, like most versions of Marxism, believe in the inherent goodness of man. Christianity teaches that what God’s people on earth are to seek to live out has some connectivity to, and ought to be something of a reflection of, the transcendent moral order that exists independently of man’s existence. Movement Libertarianism, with its atomized and absolutized self, is concerned very little with the idea of a transcendent moral order that has men praying, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Christianity teaches that social order analysis must begin where all other analysis must begin, and that is from above — with God and His scriptural revelation. Libertarianism does its social order analysis from below — from the needs of the sovereign individual, from the concern of the immanent. Christianity teaches the inescapable reality that all social orders are organized theocratically. Even a democratic social order is a social order where “vox populi, vox dei” rules from on high. Movement Libertarianism seems to believe that it is possible to have a social order that is religiously neutral and not shaped by God(s). Christianity teaches that in every social order, one God is preeminent. Libertarianism seems to teach that social orders can be had where all the gods are preeminent or, alternatively, where no gods are preeminent; and they hold this quite without realizing that this view requires a preeminent god to insure that no gods are preeminent.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that, when viewed through Christian lenses, it sometimes seems that some Movement Libertarians are as desirous of putting off Christian morality as Marxists are. How many Libertarians can be counted among the the dopers? How many Libertarians embrace the “non-aggression principle” right up to the point of legalizing prostitution, sodomy, and any number of other perversions? For many Libertarians, morality, not being absolute or transcendent, is person-variable, and as such, social orders should be pursued that allow for morality to be person-variable.
Ironically, what Movement Libertarianism creates is the Totalitarian State, just as what the Totalitarian State creates is the press towards Anarchism. Only Biblical Christianity, with its doctrine of the eternal One and the Many reverberating through the created One and the Many, provides answers that eclipse the “push me, pull you” found in the dysfunctional but real relationship between Marxism and Libertarianism. Christians can learn from Libertarians, and especially so when most Christians seemingly are completely blithe to the first commandment. As such, reading men like Henry Lewis Mencken, Albert J. Nock, Lysander Spooner, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises can be profitable, but those who dine with the devil are always well advised to dine with a long spoon. So, we can dine in order to plunder the Egyptians, but let us dine in such a way that we do not become ensnared by the Egyptians.
At the end of the conversation, Libertarianism as a social order motif can only work as any given people share the propensity of self-government consistent with a common worldview. It is hard to envision how Movement Libertarianism could exist in a genuinely multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-ethnic setting where notions of ethics are as diverse as the balkanized worldviews represented by the varied and sundry multi-meanings that occur as a result of all the multi-dynamics.