The Church of Kharma Futures

The Rev's views on politics, events,faith, and the world. All content copyright Church of Kharma Future 2007-2015 All rights Reserved

Atlas: My Views on Libertarianism and Society

Posted by revkharma on January 25, 2009

During a recent conversation with a friend, I asked what was kind of a throw away question, designed to stir discussion as much as get any specific answer. I said ” What will happen when Atlas shrugs?”  The conversation I was looking for was about politics and economics. Instead, I got a very thought provoking question.

Forgive my prodding (for my understand only, please) but when I read “What will happen when Atlas shrugs?” my mind went to the humanistic philosophy of Ayn Rand and her ideas of society.  Was that an intentional, or were you thinking pure imagery?

Now, James is one of those people who never misses a chance to ask a question which will expose your thoughts and motivations instantly and make you feel like a fish being jacklighted unless you are prepared.  If you want a test of your thinking, engage him in a discussion, and you will have a mental workout of the first order. In this case, he caused me to look at what was a throw away line and delve into my thoughts on politics, philosophy, faith, the whole ball of wax. I am by no means a trained philosopher. In areas of philosophy, as in politics, I am essentially self taught. I have a basis, and have honed my views with discussion and debate with those much more educated than I, supplemented with reading when I can find the time.

 For me, the  current political philosophy which I feel closest to would be Libertarianism. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, seems to me to be an offspring of it, but has significant differences. I am by no means a “humanist”, if by that, you mean one who rejects faith and morals and substitutes the individual as the only reference point anyone can use. This is, to me, amoral, and untenable. Socialism does much the same, merely substituting  government for the individual conscience.  Most of the various ‘isms’ of the last century have done much the same, plugging in various substitutes for God and trying to make the world perfect. Well, the world will never be perfect, nor will Man. We have to live in the universe as it exists, and do the best we can.

By allowing individuals to retain their God given rights, (or existential human rights if you wish to craft a politics without faith) and using the force of government only as a guarantor of those rights, we can allow individuals to work toward their own destiny without restricting others’ rights to do so.  This seems to me as the designed objectives of the Founders when writing the Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights.  One of the conflicts faced in proposing such a libertarian system comes with the conflict of morality and individual rights. After quite a bit of thinking ( and perhaps some mental gymnastics) I have achieved some personal thoughts which allow me to reconcile some significant moral dilemmas. Most libertarians will advocate for unrestricted access to drug use by individuals, for abortion rights, for rights to suicide, prostitution, and a host of other ‘individual choices’ which they argue can be exercised without impacting on another individual’s rights to object to such activities.  How, the argument goes, can a religious person permit a society which permits such behavior. The problem, it seems to me, is that as currently constructed, there is no political framework in which a truly Libertarian society can function. The State has no obligation, nor even a right to command individual behavior as moral which does not interfere with the rights of another. The State similarly has neither right, nor obligation to protect any religious viewpoint over any other, or none at all.  If we can start with exactly that framework we are at a point of individual freedom,guaranteed by a constitution, which permits liberty, and restricts behavior on behalf of one person which damages or infringes the liberty of another. This mirrors the freedom of conscience and free will which believers contend is given to all by God.

Now, here are some additional supports which I feel are essential.  First, any government must be minimal. No social programs, no community activism, no encroachment into the individual rights sphere. Second, any infringement of the rights of one by another must be dealt with judicially and criminal. That is the proper role of a government. Third, some form of collective protection or national defense should be provided. Individual freedom  cannot be guaranteed if the integrity of the state is not protected.

Let’s look at a couple of specific examples, comparing various scenarios to perhaps clarify my views here.

Under current laws in the USA prostitution is criminalized. I will not argue the merits or damages of the current state. Under this regime, an adult who is fully cognizant of the risks and rewards of such activity is not able to undertake such behavior in a private setting without committing a crime in virtually all jurisdictions. The situation breeds shame, violence and disease. In a truly libertarian setting, there is no moral or religious component to the law. As long as individuals can freely choose such behavior, and no force or threat is used, there can not be an objection. Anyone who does use such force, deception or compels someone to participate against his or her will is clearly violating the rights of another, and then can be prosecuted by the state for THAT crime.

Similarly, drug use can be looked at as a neutral legal matter. If society permits unrestricted access to narcotics, an individual can avail himself of whatever substances he  chooses. Should someone, while influenced by such substances, engage in destructive, or criminal behavior then that act should be prosecuted by society. 

There is still an underlying moral component here. What of the moral impact on the individual who engages in such activity. The woman or man who sells their body for sexual favors may eventually become degraded and suffer psychological or medical consequences. The chronic user of drugs may eventually end up  the classic image of the junkie, passed out in an alley, eventually to die dirty and alone. Should someone not step in and aid them?  If your personal morality deems that essential, then you are within your rights to do so. The difference in a Libertarian society is that the state has no right to coerce the assistance of one individual to aid another. Social ‘safety net’ programs which are certainly well intentioned, merely confiscate the rights of society in order to aid one who is seeing the result of individual choices. If the state can not preempt such behavior as drug use or prostitution, neither can it compel other individuals to pay for the consequences of such behavior freely chosen by another.

Any moral or religious organization is thus free to engage in creating a private ‘safety net’ to assist those in such need, without encumbrance or coercion of the force of the state to do so. There will always be those of faith, and even those who profess no religion, who will seek to provide help to others who may need it. This is one of the foundational goods of any society. Where the state steps in and provides such services, any such aid is corrupted. First, in order to provide it, the state must compel by force the contribution of the efforts individuals who may or may not wish to do so. This is a fundamental infringement of individual rights.  Further, by standing in the place of private citizens, either singly or in groups, the state effectively interferes with, and often prohibits the freely given contributions that would otherwise be made. The state, in effect substitutes it’s judgement and morality for that of the individual person. This is a use of  state  force, and I would go so far as to say it is an immoral use. If you were to give aid, whether financial or social or physical effort of some kind to a cause or person in need, that is generally deemed to be a social good. It is the good and right thing to do. For many there is an actual listing of such essential goods, The Works of Mercy.  In some traditions, not only are such deeds good, they are essential to one’s faith and salvation. A person who aids the poor, or comforts the afflicted is achieving a spiritual and moral success. The same simply is not true of one who has his money taken by force of the State (taxation) and given to someone deemed to need assistance. This is not a work of charity. Essentially it is the theft of one’s property. The recipient similarly is not morally enriched by the transaction. The common political term of ” entitlements” belies a deeper truth here. Those on the receiving end of such assistance feel no moral obligation to repay the debt. They eventually feel ‘entitled’ to such state sanctioned theft, and mobilize vast political armies to prevent the cutoff or even reduction of the stream of property to which they have no real moral claim. This system corrupts rather than redeems.

In the end here, I suppose I am trying to say that a truly free, libertarian society, one which is neutral toward any religion ( or to none) , which permits true individual rights unfettered by infringement, can actually become a moral society. By not substituting coercive state mandates for individual conscience and morality, we can permit freedom. Only by permitting liberty can we permit the fulfillment of the rights of the individual to develop a true sense of morality and justice.  Instituting government mandated moral codes does violence to the concept of free will which is essential to full humanity, and to being fully able to search for, and perhaps to find God. If I may, I would even say that God gave man Free Will. Any society which attempts to supersede that is Godless.
Any system which permits that, permits God.

As Always,

Keep the Faith

The Rev

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