Rushdoony Exposes The Faults Of Movement Libertarianism

“I am a strong opponent of the free market idea because it is a utopian idea that presupposes a world without sin. It presupposes a world without borders. After all, if we are a free market and other countries are protectionist,… There is going to be a disadvantage.”

R. J. Rushdoony
Easy Chair talk

Here we have another proof that RJR was NOT a movement libertarian. I believe what RJR was doing by calling himself “Libertarian” at times was attempting to co-opt the movement in his direction by subtly redefining the word.

Another problem with movement Libertarianism is that it absolutizes property rights, extending those property rights as even being over the self. The problem is that property rights are not absolute but have to be relativized in relation to the true property owner — the God of the Bible. If we absolutize our individual property rights then we make ourselves to be gods, suggesting that there is not a higher ownership beyond ourselves. It is true that we have ownership privileges but only as stewards of God, most high.

When we absolutize property rights as our property rights, we get this kind of mindset as expressed by movement Libertarians,

“The proper groundwork for analysis of abortion is in every man’s absolute right of self-ownership. This implies immediately that every woman has the absolute right to her own body, that she has absolute dominion over her body and everything within it. This includes the fetus…Abortion should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body. Any laws restricting or prohibiting abortion are therefore invasions of the rights of mothers.”

Murray Rothbard
“Ethics of Liberty”

“Regardless of his age, we must grant to every child the absolute right to runaway and to find new foster parents who will voluntarily adopt him, or to try to exist on his own. Parents may try to persuade the runaway child to return, but it is totally impermissible enslavement and an aggression upon his right of self-ownership for them to use force to compel him to return. The absolute right to run away is the child’s ultimate expression of his right of self-ownership, regardless of age.”

~~Murray Rothbard
“The Ethics of Liberty”

Rushdoony warned against this kind of Libertarianism,

“Modern libertarianism rests on a radical relativism: no law or standard exists apart from man himself. Some libertarian professors state in classes and in conversation that any position is valid as long as it does not claim to be the truth, and that therefore Biblical religion is the essence of evil to them. There must be, according to these libertarians, a total free market of ideas and practices.

If all men are angels, then a total free market of ideas and practices will produce only an angelic community. But if all men are sinners in need of Christ’s redemption, then a free market of ideas and practices will produce only a chaos of evil and anarchy. Both the libertarian and the Biblical positions rest on faith, the one on faith in the natural goodness of man, the other on God’s revelation concerning man’s sinful state and glorious potential in Christ. Clearly the so-called rational faith of such irrationalism as Hess and Rothbard represent has no support in the history of man nor in any formulation of reason. It is a faith, and a particularly blind faith in man, which they represent.”

R. J. Rushdoony
~~Institutes of Biblical Law — pp. 289-290

The Dangers Of Unharnessed Libertarianism

There is a sense among some Christians that movement Libertarianism provides a Christian response to various strands of the Marxism we currently face. (Cultural Marxism, Fabianism, Corporatism, Fascism, etc..) R. J. Rushdoony was under no illusion to that end. While Rushdoony advocated a form of Libertarianism it was always Libertarianism in a decidedly Christian and Theonomic social order. In other words, RJR despoiled the Libertarian Egyptians but he despoiled them while making the Libertarians serve the Christian worldview vision.

Repeatedly Rushdoony reminded us of Max Stirner who was one of the greatest foils to Karl Marx. Stirner was a kind of extreme prototypical Libertarian. He was Ayn Rand before Ayn Rand was Ayn Rand. Stirner was an Egoist, which means that he considered self-interest to be the root cause of an individual’s every action, even when he or she is apparently doing “altruistic” actions. This principle is the radii of all movement Libertarianism.

The centrality of the sovereign individual is seen throughout Stirner’s writing. A few examples will suffice,

“I am everything to myself and I do everything on my account.” [The Ego and Its Own, p. 162].

Even love is an example of selfishness, “because love makes me happy, I love because loving is natural to me, because it pleases me.” [Ibid., p. 291]

He urges others to follow him and “take courage now to really make yourselves the central point and the main thing altogether.”

As for other people, he sees them purely as a means for self-enjoyment, a self-enjoyment which is mutual: “For me you are nothing but my food, even as I am fed upon and turned to use by you. We have only one relation to each other, that of usableness, of utility, of use.” [Ibid., pp. 296-7]

Obviously this hyper individualism of Stirner — this emphasis of the many (individual by individual) over the one (collective) — was not something that Marx could countenance. Rushdoony notes of the collision of Stirner and Marx,

“The most vehement book written by Karl Marx was against Max Stirner; because Max Stirner pushed this idea to its logical conclusion, the meaninglessness of all things and therefore the legitimacy of all acts. He is the man who accused the atheists of his day of being closet Christians because they didn’t practice incest and other perversions, and Marx recognized that Stirner was right. But if Stirner were allowed to establish his thinking and successfully convert men to his position, there could be no socialist order. So he wrote a two-volume diatribe against Stirner.”

and elsewhere,

“Max Stirner was a logical, a consistent, atheist and an anarchist. And Max Stirner said in his book The Ego and His Own, that atheism required one to disbelieve in the validity of any law, because since there is no God there is no truth, no right, no wrong, no good, no evil, no sovereignty in the world, except man doing what he pleases. And in his book he turned on the atheists and the liberals of his day. He accused them of being closet Christians and he said ‘how many of you are ready to practice incest with your daughter, sister, or mother? Until you are, and if what I say horrifies you, you are simply manifesting the fact that you are a closet Christian. You are talking about not believing in God but you are believing in all his rules, you are still under theology rather than autonomy, And if you are still obeying your civil magistrate, your civil government, you’re still believing there is some validity to any law other than the biology of your own being.’”

Stirner absolutized Marx but he absolutized Marx in the indivdiualistic Libertarian direction.

Because of this Rushdoony saw that movement Libertarianism was but the opposite side of the coin to movement Marxism. Rushdoony saw that Libertarianism gone to seed was merely Marxism come into its own for the individual. Consistent Libertarianism was merely Marxism for the individual.

Now some will try to save movement Libertarianism by appealing to the “Non aggression principle.” They would contend we Christians can support Libertarianism as long as we apply the “non aggression principle.” The problem here though is that we must have some standard for what counts for “aggression.” And if we take what the Scripture, as God’s Law Word, teaches as God’s standard for aggression then we will find ourselves, as Christians, advocating for penalties that the movement Libertarians would insist fall under the rubric of the Non aggression principle.

This explains why the Christian dance with libertarianism needs to be thought through. Yes, there are aspects of Lbertarianism that Biblical Christians whole-heartedly embrace but those aspects are only embraced in the context of a bible informed Christian social order.