Faith and Politics

I used to think I didn’t have any faith.

Raised in a traditional Episcopalian home, my religious affiliation plunged after a college course on the New Testament (ironically taught by an Episcopal Priest) confirmed my suspicion that too many leaps of faith were required to believe that the Bible was strictly the Word of God. I could read how the politics of the day influenced its monkish transcription and if some of the Book was just the word of Man, it brought the entirety into question. (Please don’t write to tell me where I’m wrong in this. My purpose is not to initiate a theological debate.)

This didn’t lead to doctrinaire atheism. I just didn’t think faith was something to be argued over.

I recently realized I was wrong. I realized that I couldn’t fully articulate every factual aspect of my beliefs, i.e. leaps of faith still appear in my exposition. I had a faith after all.

Libertarians often speak of spontaneous organization as a natural process. We see the free market as a natural outgrowth of human behavior and marvel at how it aligns the needs and desires of people with the scarcity of resources in a peaceful process, a wonderful pageant where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

True Believer

You can tell a lot about where a person is on the continuum of libertarianism by how much they trust this spontaneous, natural process.

Minarchists have some faith, but they still see a need for a human organization of final judgment. They must believe that there remain essential areas of human interaction that won’t "properly" be sorted out spontaneously in the free market. These are the folks who argue for the Night Watchman State, a place where only a few "essential services" are tasked to the government which otherwise is prohibited by acclamation and/or written document from expanding beyond this short to-do list. They often retain a certain competing faith in the political process.

I wish to argue that libertarian anarchists (to use but one of many terms for these folks) have embraced the total faith, and I only recently realized how far this faith reaches. I came to libertarianism from traditional politics. Disaffected with the two-party system I became active in the "big L" Libertarian party. When I learned enough to see political activity more clearly, I continued on the path toward full anarchist, or more properly, a believer in the Natural Order.

I came to see an institutionalized monopoly of ultimate decision-making (as Professor Hoppe and others have termed it) as incompatible with that Natural Order of human liberty and the spontaneous cooperation and peace of the free market. To me, this is a logical progression that is freer of obvious contradictions than any belief in the state, including minarchism.

Crisis & Epiphany

Like any faith, mine has crises. One of them was, given the superiority of the Natural Order, why has it not won out? Why are we in the U.S. mired in statism, having backslid mightily for two centuries?

I found one answer to this (on what I’d call the scientific side) in natural human behavior cumulatively referred to by Robert Prechter as Socionomics. Briefly, Prechter has gathered support from advances in neurobiology and behavioral psychology, and has offered many studies of actual social behaviors proving to me that there’s something in our biology that dictates collective behaviors that aren’t rational. This was a good enough explanation on the science side of the equation to keep me going for quite a while.

While on a long drive recently, though, I had an epiphany of major proportions. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but I’ve noticed that the operation of government creates outcomes that are so uniformly evil as to demand an explanation. When you look at the public school system, national defense, judicial proceedings, and the whole panoply of government activity what you find is a continuous arrogation of power and ceaseless attacks on liberty, self-responsibility, and the central, traditional competing social structure of human society — the family.

As society has gained complexity the family has remained the central structure of civilization. I think this is because only the family has bonds of love and trust that transcend strictly self-interested plans and actions. It is the family that puts the first lie to Hobbes’ war of all against all (the spontaneous alignment of interests in the marketplace is the second to crush Hobbes’ view).

Why then could human beings with average levels of intelligence and goodwill staff government that continually saws at the foundations of the family and erodes their own liberty? These people didn’t enter the world from pods or land on spaceships — they have families too, right?

Some examples:

  1. Government’s FEMA, welfare, Social Security and all the rest replacing the family as the source of security in difficult or lean times.
  2. Gun laws that prevent families from establishing a certain level of self-protection and make family members dependent on anonymous outsiders for physical safety.
  3. Abortion laws that insert the central government into reproductive decisions within families.
  4. Divorce and child support laws that make ongoing, stable (marital) relationships with men economically unnecessary for women, especially those who have children.
  5. Child abuse laws that place parental decisions under hostile review from busybodies.
  6. Public Education that centralizes the training of the family’s offspring and simplifies the indoctrination of children into pro-government attitudes and spreads antisocial behaviors.

We see the evil results of these and all other government policies. How can this be so universal without central direction, an evil central plan?

A Lifeline to Understanding

My faith came to my rescue. Just as there is a natural order to human interaction in the absence of force, so too is there a natural order when impersonal force and compulsion underlie human interaction. Government is no more than the sum of the actions of those within it and the attitudes of those being governed. It is people making decisions and accepting those decisions, but that which is spontaneously produced, in the aggregate, is turned upside down by a single change in the arithmetic of the equation. Instead of a plus sign (voluntary association) we have a minus sign (impersonal compulsion) and when you multiply a positive number (peaceful individuals) by a negative (impersonal compulsion) your entire result is negative.

I found my faith provided the answer to why evil (in the form of government compulsion) continues to exist in the world. It’s simply a part of human nature. And I have complete faith in human nature, properly understood.

Like any good faith, this helps me to understand the world and my place in it. For example, I don’t really care who gets appointed to the Supreme Court. The Court will continue in its role as the government’s artillery corps, pounding individual liberty and the role of the family in our lives just as it has since its inception. The most one can say about individual nominees will be that perhaps the shells will be bigger or smaller, or more or less frequent, but in the natural order the role of the Court is to empower those who staff the government, stealing power and freedom of action from all of us (ironically even those who staff Leviathan).

In another area, congressmen will continue to narrow the circle of our freedoms, regardless of who is elected. Today they discuss making us register to purchase OTC remedies for the common cold, just as forty years ago they made people sign at the pharmacy for codeine-containing cough syrup. Today, if you have a nasty cough you need to get a permission slip from a doctor whose index of suspicion of your motives is low enough that he or she will deign to write you a prescription. Tomorrow congressmen may decide that Pseudofed abuse among the few requires restricting all from it, just like codeine before. Individual congressmen may complain about the restrictions on their own families and prerogatives, but here we have spontaneous organization at its best (or worst, since once again the product of the government equation is always negative).

My faith won’t bring Heaven on Earth. Like most faiths, eliminating evil is not on the agenda, and I haven’t figured out why most people accept so much impersonal compulsion in their lives. But perhaps it will help me offer them forgiveness, of a sort, for they can’t help it. They know not what they do.

Spread the Word, Brother.

September 12, 2005

David Calderwood [send him mail] a businessman, artist, and author of the novel Revolutionary Language, selected January 2000 Freedom Book of the Month at