February 15, 2014
These libertarians should know better
By TONY PIVETTA
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The meme above was making the rounds on the Twittersphere some months back. It features a shot of the Vatican the Whore herself, natch with the "Do as we say or you will go to hell!" caption side-by-side with one of the Yankee Capital and the purportedly analogous admonition, "Do as we say or you will go to jail!" Libertarians of a "grindingly antagonistic" bent gleefully retweeted.
That's right, libertarians. You know their spiel. A gulf separates persuasion and coercion, they say. The differences are in kind, not in degree, they say. Freedom from religion includes freedom of religion, you'd think they say. Then they turn around and conflate the freely embraced moral authority exercised by an institution that sounds (too infrequent!) warnings about Judgment in the hereafter with one wielding the legal authority to toss you into its rape pens in the here-and-now.
Got that? The church has authority over you only if you recognize its authority. The government doesn't give a flying fig whether you recognize its authority or not.
One wonders why the meme's creator didn't extend his analogy to the workplace. Surely his analytical mind saw that nifty little application. After all, employees abide by all kinds of arbitrary managerial decrees, simply to preserve their livelihood. Job loss weighs heavily on their psyche. They don't dare speak their mind on any number of controversial subjects, no matter how tangentially related to work, so as to avoid spurring a pretext for their termination. So why not expand the meme to include a shot of a business executive outside a factory or office building with the caption, "Do as we say or you will get fired!"?
The socialists are right! Free-market capitalism has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with control! Employers seek compliance through intimidation, too!
But wait. Libertarians, whether secular or Christian, know better than to swallow that. The employee voluntarily enters into the employment relationship. He offers his services; the employer offers remuneration in return. If the employee's services do not meet the employer's standards, the employer is free to terminate the relationship. If the employer's remuneration does not meet the employee's standards, the employee is free to terminate the relationship. Exchange is the hallmark of the employment relationship, not coercion. In Ayn Rand's immortal words, an employer is not a stick-up artist.
So how does the relationship between a believer and his church differ? The church extends the promise of salvation; the believer accepts it and offers his allegiance in return. Either party may at any time sever its ties to the other. Churches only very rarely exercise the option these days, but a believer is always free to go. Granted, his children aren't free to go. But that's their parents' doing, not the church's, and the parents certainly have that right, don't they? To raise their children as they see fit?
What do the freethinking jihadists propose, anyway? Are they so hell-bent against the hell-concept, which is to say the heaven-concept, which is to say redemption and reconciliation and religious belief per se, that even the professed libertarians among them are willing to enlist the State to quash it? Ought the State to send out its agents to ensure children aren't "indoctrinated" by Christian parents? Will those agents likewise act to protect children from secular parents' "brainwashing" against the faith? How about the freedom of the clergy to publicize church teachings? Does the Witch Doctor not enjoy free-speech rights? The Dead White Guys' First Amendment is all well and good for pornographers and "gay rights" activists but not the Sky Wizard mystics?!
Positive rights have their place! The masses must not succumb to superstition! Force the people to be free!
All of which suggests another extension to the meme. A SWAT team trains their rifles on a priest preparing to deliver his homily. The caption? "Do as we say! No more talk of hell or we shoot!"
Alas, the Big Questions are part of life. The priest offers answers to them, but you're free to accept or reject them. You retain the locus of control. If an employer isn't a stick-up artist, neither is a priest. "Thrownness," Heidegger called it: man is born into this world having to contend with the inscrutable nature of his existence. Beasts are conscious. Man is conscious of being conscious. He knows that he knows. Aware of his movement through time, he contemplates his own non-existence. Questions of ultimacy confront him. In the broadest sense of the word, man is a religious animal. He may decide God does not exist. He may conclude his destiny lies in worm meat. But even a man drawing an irreligious conclusion takes a religious position.
Conversely, he may decide God does exist and that his destiny lies in the beatific vision. He may conclude God has set forth Commandments to obey. He may come to see one or another of the churches as a depository of truth authorized to interpret those Commandments. If eternal life awaits those who faithfully hew to God's law, eternal separation may well await those who do not. The Christian's premises and conclusions are controversial, to be sure. But leap of faith does not violation of the Non-Aggression Principle make.
At any rate, imagine the coup libertarians would score for themselves and everybody else if they were able to limit the State's means to those of the "coercive" churches. No more IRS to pry into the personal and financial affairs of the citizenry. No more gendarmes to bludgeon recalcitrants who failed to pay their "fair share." No more kidnapping or incarceration of scofflaws and tax evaders. All tossed into the dustbin of history! No resort for our infinitely wise and benevolent Supervisors beyond "pay your taxes or you will go to hell!"
Does anyone seriously entertain the possibility that the plebes would continue to shoulder their share of the tax burden? Would they not opt to take their chances on eternal perdition instead? Even those who believe in hell would scoff. Collecting full paychecks, no longer compelled to fund the petty tyrannies of their state and local governments let alone the interminable world-improvement projects of their federal overlords the long-suffering serfs would surely proceed to their banks and precious-metals dealers, laughing all the way.
"Pay your taxes or you will go to hell!"? You call that intimidation? May the Lord smite me with it. Ω
February 15, 2014
Published in 2014 by WTM Enterprises.
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