Libertarianism: Blah and Meh-blah

First, just let me say at the outset that I genuinely appreciate Douglas Wilson's concerns over "libertarianism." To say his recent criticisms are a series of straw men though would only be true if, in fact, he knew better, but I honestly don't think he does. "Why?" You ask. Because though some concerns mentioned are true of many libertarians, and those Christians who've taken up the label, they’re easily addressed, and are not true of all libertarians. Therefore, I’m giving Wilson the benefit of doubt.

As such, with many libertarians who loosely identify as "Reformed" and Christian, my take on this is that we should not be combative in response to Wilson; despite whatever personal feelings towards him we have — good or bad. Or whatever personal spat provoked his article.

First we have to admit that he is arguing against an actual vein within libertarianism where many believe this nonsense; Caryn Ann Harlos, a professing Christian, being one such example of the type who disdains borders, or rather “lines on a map” (i.e. Covenant Communities & Enclaves). She's quite open about it; and to my knowledge hasn’t changed her mind. She even holds an official position within the Libertarian Party. I, for one, am sympathetic to Wilson’s concerns over the disregard for borders; or more specifically, the repudiation of freedom of association — a principle to which many libertarians hold. Perhaps Wilson is unaware of this too.

In sifting through the irrelevancies of Wilson’s attack on ideology, I realized he was not actually attacking libertarianism as defined by many within my own circles, and much of his grievances are inapplicable, if not irrelevant. As Walter Block so eloquently put it, “if you get ten libertarians in a room you will get eleven different views as to what libertarianism is.” Unfortunately, this is true.

That said, if Wilson wishes to give an adequate criticism of libertarianism, he’ll have to be more specific. I for one hold to an incredibly razor-thin definition of libertarianism as merely a legal theory concerning the use of violence; a principle Wilson mentions only in passing — the Non-Aggression Principle upon which the most fundamental definition of libertarianism rests.

Furthermore, as a Christian, I fail to see how libertarianism precludes conservative values (e.g. family, community, church, order, morals). Likewise, many of us hold this principle to be a subordinate ethic to God’s Moral Law, and not an “imperious ideology.”

Much of what Wilson addresses is not completely disagreeable, despite coming from a Sacralist position. However, much of what he identifies as libertarian is nothing more than a mere school of thought that, at best, is a caricature of libertarianism as a whole.

Being a Particular Baptist myself, I try to stay true to a Biblical tradition that has always been one of nonconformity, freedom of conscience, and inviolable rights. In this, I am not subject to the standards of secular libertarians and I have far superior grounds upon which to justify the aforementioned legal ethic. Rothbardians and Hoppeans do not; and so it's no wonder libertarianism is such an easy target to ill-informed and disingenuous theologians alike.