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Sunday, November 16, 2008

More dialogue with Mount Virtus

Ben Degrow, over at Mt. Virtus, responded to my note (previously published on his blog and copied here): Here is what he said most recently:

I don’t see drug legalization as an issue that’s going to build a governing coalition - that’s one of those “agree to disagree” issues.

“Prohibition on gambling”? I’m not aware of any movement to outlaw Vegas, Atlantic City, etc. This is not some make-or-break issue for the “religious right”.

“Condemnation of consenting adults’ private sexual behavior” - Do you have a problem with this as long as it doesn’t resort to the tools of government?

Government-funded “faith based initiatives” were & are a bad idea, and believe it or not - the non-monolithic “religious right” does not have any sort of principled devotion to this idea.

I admire your devotion to libertarian principles, but many of the issues you raised are red herrings. For example, questioning and speaking against the morality of homosexual behavior is not the same as using government to outlaw it. And I don’t know any serious person who advocates the latter.

The case for limited government won’t be won by equating the church and religious community’s powerful pulpit for free moral suasion with government prohibitions. If abandoning the latter entails abandoning the former, what you have is the Libertarian party that won 0.4% in the recent election.

My response to his response:
Quick followup:  
Above all, Ben, I love you.
Having said that: Drugs - no, the issue is not one that is "going to build a governing coalition." That is not my concern. My concern is freedom and smaller government (they are largely the same thing). Joining a coalition that is opposed to freedom and smaller government is complicity in statism. 
Gambling - yes, there are a places that allow gambling. They are in the minority, and the moral police have succeeded in preventing people from making their own choices throughout most of the country, including the ban on internet poker. That is an illegitimate use of government force, imposed by those in favor of state power over individual freedom.  
Banning gay marriage is far more than questioning the morality of homosexuality. Banning homosexuals from adopting children is far more than the use of a bully pulpit. Both use the force of government to enforce a moral code. As a libertarian, I see no role for the government in marriage between heterosexuals, either, but if the government is going to mandate marriage licenses, discriminating on who gets them is an illegitimate use of power. Marriage is between two people and their god. Where does the state come in? What role does it play? Does the state make a sacred commitment between two people more sacred? I think not. Once God has blessed a union, is the state's blessing needed? Marriage licenses, and thereby state involvement in a private, religious ceremony, came about so the state could keep the races from mixing. The state has no legitimate interest in the recognition of marriage.  
I'm a Southern Baptist, and grew up going to Sunday School, church, and Wednesday night fellowship. In my religious education, I have not been made aware of a single instance when Jesus advocated the use of government power to enforce morals. Jesus spread morality via example, teaching and love. Jesus did not spread morality via force. Indeed, spreading morality via force is an absurd notion, yet one that groups like Focus on the Family insist on pushing.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your kind words. And thanks for the excellent opportunity to participate in this exchange. I have a high regard for your opinions. And I share your belief that we as Christians should be characterized by our love for the brethren.

    You may not be interested in building the best possible governing coalition most favorable to limited government and the original intent of the Founders, but that was my purpose in writing. Since revolution is not something that can or should be entered into lightly or easily, this indeed is a concern for me.

    The debates about specific issues are interesting, and there is definitely a time and place for them. I lived through many of these debates back in my college days.

    Where do you draw the line on ideological libertarian purity before joining a governing coalition in a society that is far less than purely libertarian (& in many ways non-ideological) in its leanings? Are you a half-loaf or whole-loaf guy when it comes to accepting progress in reforms?

    The structure of the U.S. Constitution makes any change - even change in a pro-liberty direction - slow. The other side has used this to its advantage well. One area I think advantage can be gained is to devolve decision-making from the national to local and state governments as appropriate whenever possible. This includes abortion, gambling, drugs, etc.

    We may disagree more on tactic than substance.

    As for marriage, the removal of the state's role would be a terrific outcome. In its absence, allowing the state to redefine marriage is a tragic outcome.

    You write: "Banning gay marriage is far more than questioning the morality of homosexuality. Banning homosexuals from adopting children is far more than the use of a bully pulpit. Both use the force of government to enforce a moral code. As a libertarian, I see no role for the government in marriage between heterosexuals, either, but if the government is going to mandate marriage licenses, discriminating on who gets them is an illegitimate use of power. Marriage is between two people and their god."

    First of all, you have framed the issue in such a way as to make it appear that supporters of traditional marriage are seeking to support the status quo, when the truth is entirely the opposite.

    Second, is there no regulation or limitation government should put on either marriage or adoption? Why must marriage be between "two people"? Why not a three-person plural marriage? Why not allow marriage between two persons of close blood relation? Why not allow polygamy and polyamory?

    If you are going to accept the judicial or legislative redefinition of marriage to include two people of the same sex on a sacred principle of non-discrimination, why aren't these included in the legislation or court rulings?

    Because, as we both know, the attempt to redefine marriage - largely, but not exclusively, done through the judicial process - is essentially an effort to demand public sanction for homosexual behavior. As long as the state is engaged in sanctioning some form of marriage, should the people of a state not have the right to determine how it is defined?

    As Jesus didn't come to earth to establish an earthly kingdom, very little of what He taught had anything to do with the composition and conduct of the state. "Render unto Caesar" is probably the closest you will find. Under the well-defined confines of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the people are the "sovereign" - or "Caesar", as you will - embodied in those elected to represent us and enforce the laws.

    In that light of the citizens' important governing role in these United States, I would consider that the larger teaching of Scripture could be heeded. What of Proverbs 14:34? "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

    As a society and a nation we rightly do not use the tools of government to impose every form of morality. Murder and theft, of course, would be exceptions. But not adultery, and not homosexuality. Is it wrong, though, for the people to expressly retain the right not to sanction a certain form of behavior?

    In the end, I don't think the issue of gay marriage is the be-all and end-all some may proclaim. As long as the free people of this land - religious or no - retain the right of conscience and speech to continue proclaiming what they believe to be God's truth, concerning homosexuality or any other topic.

    And witness the recent reaction to Prop 8 in California vs. the enactment of gay marriage in Connecticut, I see the hate directed at supporters of traditional Judeo-Christian morality much more as the recipients of hatred than distributors of hatred.

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