Prohibitionist Pharisees, not “Quasi-Puritans”

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With respect to the influence of Yankee paternalism on the growth of the welfare-warfare-prohibitionist state, reader CJ politely — and quite properly — rebukes me for failing “to draw a line between the Pharisees – of which there is no shortage – and the historical church movement of Puritans.”

To call prohibitionist Pharisees “quasi-Puritanical,” he continues, “is to fail to recognize the nature of the problem in the religious spirit of man when it is self directed instead of God directed.”

“A hundred years or so before the war on drugs the Puritans, like most [religious] groups, had succumbed to secular and humanist influences,” CJ contends, which would explain why they came to see the political State as the instrument not only of temporal progress, but spiritual purification.

“Having lived in Taxachusetts for several years, I agree that the area is filled with busybodies,” adds reader RB, another individualist of the Reformed Faith who understandably fled to Dixie. “I just wouldn’t blame the Puritans for it.”

The Puritans, RB continues, were predominantly the English cousins “to us Scots-Irish Presbyterians. Everybody knows that Scots-Irish Presbyterians have no objections to the consumption of mood enhancing substances (as long as it’s fermented or distilled). The original Puritans weren’t that much different. Perhaps it was the New England weather or water which messed up New Englanders in general.”

I think his theory has a certain elegance and is worthy of further study.

On the subject of the contributions to liberty made by authentic Puritans, I gratefully acknowledge the indispensable anti-absolutist tract Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants) by the pseudonymous author Junius Brutus.

2:23 pm on February 23, 2009