by Walter Block: Won’t
You Come Back, Alan Greenspan? Won’t You Come Back?
is a response to an over the transom letter I received (you young
people, if you don’t know what that is, look it up). First appears
my response and then the letter that so outraged me.
I'm a devout
atheist. A very devout one. You make some very good points against
To many atheists,
the claim for the existence of God is roughly on a par with the
existence of the Easter Bunny, or witches, ghouls, werewolves, leprechauns,
Santa Claus, whatever.
But, can theists
be libertarians? Of course they can. All they need do is respect
the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). What are religious people guilty
of, precisely, that makes you think they can't be libertarians?
At worst, in the view of most atheists, mumble some silly words
(prayers). They sing some silly songs. They read some silly fairy
tale books (the Bible.) How any of this violates the NAP is totally
beyond me. I don't care if they are devil worshippers; stick pins
in dolls, etc. That still would not violate the NAP. You say "when
God does far, far worse." Come on, give me a break. As you
and I believe, there is no such entity, so how can He be guilty
of this, let alone of anything?
There are many
other present day libertarians, besides Tom Woods and Ron Paul who
you mention, who have also made magnificent contributions to our
cause and are devout believers in religion: William Anderson, Professor
of Economics, Frostburg State University, Doug Bandow of the Cato
Institute, William Barnett II, Professor of Economics at Loyola
University New Orleans; Gerard Casey of University College Dublin,
Fr. Hank Hilton, S.J., Professor of Economics at Loyola University
Maryland; Jeff Herbener, Professor of Economics at Grove City College,
Norman Horn of LibertarianChristians.com, Jacob Hornberger of the
Future of Freedom Foundation, Guido Hulsmann, Professor of Economics
at University of Angers, Jason Jewell of Faulkner University, Peter
Klein, Professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Rabbi Daniel
Lapin, Andrew Napolitano of Fox News, Gary North of the Institute
for Christian Economics, Professor of Economics at Loyola University
Shawn Ritenour, Professor of Economics at Grove City College, Fr.
James Sadowsky, S.J., Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Fordham
University, Joseph Salerno, Professor of Economics at Pace University,
Fr. Robert Sirico, Director of the Acton Institute, Lew Rockwell,
Director of the Mises Institute, Timothy Terrell, Professor of Economics,
Wofford College, David Theroux of the Independent Institute, Jeff
Tucker of Laissez Faire Books, Laurence Vance, Director of the Francis
Wayland Institute.. These names come to me with very little research.
I'm sure there are many, many more (if you qualify, please e mail
me at [email protected], and I’ll add you to this list when I next
revise it). I'm not enough of a historian to give you an equally
impressive list of figures from the past who would also qualify,
but I have no doubt that there are many, many of them, too.
To say that
a religious person can't be a libertarian, I think, has about the
same truth value as the claim that if you like chess, baroque music,
handball, swimming, running, karate, movies, chocolate, Austrian
economics (to mention just a few of my own favorite things) then
you cannot be a libertarian. To repeat, all that is required of
a libertarian is adherence to the NAP, and none of these things
I mention, or religion, should disqualify anyone.
Second to Ron
Paul, Ayn Rand, even though she didn't call herself a libertarian,
even though she explicitly rejected libertarianism and was venomous
toward libertarians, probably created more of us than anyone else.
However, many of them, you included?, come to our movement with
some Randian baggage: very strong views on aesthetics, metaphysics,
epistemology, and an unalterable and abiding hate for religion.
I single out the latter for particular condemnation, not only because
it is inaccurate to conflate this with libertarianism, but for strategic
reasons given below. These perspectives may all be part of Objectivism
– she imposed many of her personal tastes on this philosophy of
hers – but have nothing to do with libertarianism, an entirely different
kettle of fish.
We must as
libertarians accept the best of Ayn Rand – her adherence for laissez
faire capitalism, private property rights and economic freedom,
most important the moral case she made in this regard – but
jettison the rest of the package.
Yes, yes, religion
has done great harm in the past, and even in the present. There
were the Crusades, and the Inquisition. Nowadays, people are murdering
each other quite enthusiastically over religious belief. Horrid.
But, compared to that great evil, the state, the number of deaths
from this quarter is relatively small. Did you know that the best
estimate for the number of innocents killed during the Inquisition
was only something like 3,000 – 10,000? In very sharp contrast,
the number of people killed by the government (mainly atheist communists)
is estimated at some 173 million, in the 20th century alone. And
this is just the number of its own citizens murdered by statist
leaders. It ignores all the wars promulgated by government. It also
fails to take into account the number of people killed due to socialized
medicine, and on our government roads. See here
on the latter.
view on all this is that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend."
So who is my main enemy, qua libertarian? The government in general,
of course, and in particular, Stalin, one of the most brutal of
all statists. And what pray tell was Stalin’s outlook on religion?
It was particularly vicious. He attempted to undermine religion
(along with the family by getting children to tattle on their parents
for great rewards). So, I am, somewhat paradoxically, an atheist
who is friendly toward religion. Since virtually every human in
virtually every time has been religious, and since libertarianism
is a political philosophy that says nothing about God, for libertarians
to be offensive about religion is just plain stupid. It is far worse
than linking our philosophy with practically any other adventitious
calling. Are we next going to come out against motherhood and apple
Long live religion,
say I, and on libertarian grounds! Yes, these people believe in
unproven things, but we are in a battle for the hearts and minds
of the people. Ranged on one side is the government; on the other,
religion. The choice between them ought not be too difficult for
those of us intent upon bringing about freedom. The one is diametrically
opposed to liberty. The other is per se entirely orthogonal
to our movement. By "per se" I am including only a belief
in God. The desire to impose this belief on others is of course
antagonistic to libertarianism; it is itself a version of statism.
For more writings
on this subject, all of which I think are quite sensible on this
question, see here,
is a previous publication of mine on this subject.
reconsider your enmity toward religion. It is not per se incompatible
with the freedom philosophy. Some of our very best libertarians
were and are believers in religion. Let us instead focus on our
real enemy, statism.
For some time
now, I've pondered how libertarians (especially anarchists) can
be religious without contradicting their libertarian philosophy.
I've sent a note to Tom Woods about it, too. The reason I ask is
that it seems that quite a few libertarians are very religious,
something that LRC.com makes very evident. And Ron Paul, I think,
is religious to the point of doubting evolution. Considering how
the Christian/Jewish god is described in their own scripture, every
libertarian and certainly anarchist should be a raging anti-theist.
What I mean
by that is that those who do believe in the Christian or Jewish
version of God, and in the Bible, believe in an all powerful and
all controlling deity. They view heaven as paradise, even though
Christopher Hitchens was spot on when he described heaven as a celestial
North Korea. Because that is exactly how it is described; a place
ruled by one person and the purpose of everyone in their (sic) is
to spend eternity praising this person. Isn't that a rather good
approximation of the lives of the North Koreans? Except for the
starvation of course.
It should be
undeniable that if God was a person and did even a fraction of all
the things his followers believe he did and does, and even praise
him for it, he'd be light years worse than all human dictators put
together. Libertarians oppose the state and praise individual freedom,
which is logical for people who oppose the use of violence. But
at the same time religious libertarians believe in and praise a
God, who condemns people to death and damnation for the thought
crime of doubting his existence. If it is wrong for people to use
violence against people, why is it praiseworthy when God does far,
Why, for instance,
isn't the story of Noah appalling to libertarians? God committed
mass genocide just because people weren't worshipping him enough.
Or the story of Job? God killed his family, deprived him of everything,
made him sick and endure unimaginable hardships. Why? To prove a
point to Satan of all things. The whole Old Testament is a litany
of genocide and fantastical violence and atrocities, mostly because
God didn't like what people, his own creations, were doing. How's
that for "free will"?
it doesn't matter if these stories are true or not. I of course
don't think they are, but I can't understand for the life of me
how person can be any sort of libertarian at the same time he not
only believes, but praises, someone (God) like that. That God doesn't
exist actually makes it worse, because that means the believers
at least hope these stories are true. I'm rather interested in understanding
how the same person can abhor human violence and tyranny while praising
godly violence and tyranny.
Block [send him mail] is a
professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior
fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending
the Undefendable, The
Case for Discrimination, Labor
Economics From A Free Market Perspective, Building
Blocks for Liberty, Differing
Worldviews in Higher Education, and The
Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Ron
Paul for President in 2012: Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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