Libertarianism is a powerful movement with great potential. But it, like so many other things, is subject to certain dangers. This post would warn libertarians to avoid falling into the same false concepts and ideas into which relativism, moderation, and neutrality have fallen.
A fallen notion of Relativism says that all things are relative except this one thing, viz. relativity is absolute. The Ancient Greek philosophy said that a person should be “moderate in all things” except by all means “be extremely moderate.” A fallen notion of Neutrality says that all things moral must be limited, except for the new moral of Neutrality. These philosophies are generally blind to the fact that they prohibit to all others that which they allow only for themselves. I call them the “blind hypocrite” philosophies. The False Neutrality philosophy is the best for showing what is really happening within all of these philosophies. Neutrality was originally understood to exist for the purpose of aiding opposing moral views in their progress and development by mediating to find common ground and generally unify diverse understandings. The neutral mediator of course had his own moral point of view (as we all do) but restrained himself from imposing that view in order to become the servant of the two oppositional moralities, because he wanted to see them ultimately succeed in their own way and in their own time. The neutral mediator probably even hoped that the two opposing views would become more unified with his own and other moralities through the experience, and that Truth overall would be strengthened. The reverse is true today. It is as though Neutrality, as a concept (and as the person), became more proud of its “neutrality” than it was of “morality.” In its mind, it would seem, neutrality became the virtue, and morality the vice. And rather than serving morality and seeking a unification of moral ideas and goals, it began to see its role as ensuring that no single morality should become more strong, or more powerful, than any other, and in so doing raised itself in power and importance far above morality. Ironically, in taking on its own independent meaning and existence, Neutrality became a morality itself, although it yet believed, and still took pride in the fact, that it was, as it foolishly believed, still somehow “neutral.” A similar transformation has occurred with the concept of relativity, moderation, and, I fear, if we are not careful, with Libertarianism.
Libertarianism properly advocates for a government that is subject to self-restraint in order to protect liberty. Similarly, Neutrality is supposed to exercise a self-restraint (but not abandonment) of its own moral point of view in order to contribute towards a healthy, voluntary progress towards Truth on its own terms in its own time. But even libertarianism can become the evil that Neutrality has become. The “blind hypocrite” philosophies know no self-restraint. They are all extreme in that one hypocritical point on which they are so blind. For False Relativity, it is extreme in its denial of any absolutes, and therefore acts absolutely in its opposition to absolute propositions. For the Ancient Greeks, they were so extreme in moderation, that a complete devotion to any thing was an offense to the sensitive feelings of Gods and men. For False Neutrality, since I have already elaborated on this concept, I will simply point to the current Establishment Clause jurisprudence, which holds that no religion can become too powerful, because the value of Neutrality is greater than the value of any other morality. (Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden God to which all religious knees must bow.) False Neutrality acts absolutely to prevent the unification of ideas into a powerful moral force, even if by entirely voluntary means, and even before it would never attempt to “establish” itself by altering the laws of the land. False Neutrality, in fact, has already established itself as the ultimate morality of the land, and has already altered the laws of this land to prevent its own ousting. Again, I reiterate these points to emphasize that a government operating on these philosophies cannot and will not restrain itself. It will impose relativity, moderation, and neutrality, or libertarianism with an energy and enthusiasm consistent with the words of C.S. Lewis when he said “Of all the tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” And a bare libertarianism, that is separate from morality, and would remove moral and religious motives for government action or restraint, will also fail to effectively restrain itself, and will bear those same ill fruits as its hypocritical counterparts, because it will become equally blind to its own truly moral nature.
As I consider the above failings of social concepts and institutions, I cannot but help think of the words of Christ, “O ye hypocrite, first pull the beam out of thine own eye, then you will see clearly to pull the mote out of they brother’s eye.” We must ask ourselves, “Why did Christ exercise restraint?” Was it because he was “neutral” or a “libertarian”? What was his primary object? Was it mere non-violence? Was it the mere absence of extremes? Was it “neutrality” among opposing views? No. We know that Christ advocated for one morality, one God, and one Truth. We know that he alone above all other men knew the proper way to accomplish that one Ideal, and he above all others knew how to exercise self-restraint. Apparently, the exercise of self-restraint is a requirement for achieving the morality for which Christ advocated. Indeed, I would submit, that his is the only morality conducive of the kind of restraint necessary for a free society. It was in the womb of such a Christian morality that this nation was born, and only in that same spirit do I think it can live to maturity. If only it would not deny its moral nature and turn a blind eye! We must pull the beam of moral hypocrisy out of our own eye, and see that there is no avoiding our moral nature. Morality is with us always, and it is only a question of which morality we ultimately choose: the one true morality, or the blind and false moralities of the world. Likewise, Government cannot be neutral. Some morality always controls it, and it is only a question of which morality ultimately predominates. We must see that the only true and honest government is the unabashedly moral government. We must see that the only free and limited government is the government that chooses the morality consistent with freedom. And I believe that the only morality powerful enough to withstand the temptation of power is the Christian morality, just as Christ was the only one strong enough to withstand the wiles of the devil. I am not proposing that Christianity is established as a state religion, any more than Christ attempted to forcibly establish a state religion. I am proposing, however, that if we truly understand the power of the Christian morality, our primary efforts will be to ensure and strengthen its place and influence in the public square, because we know its influence will best ensure a self-restraining and righteous government. An amoral Libertarianism is incapable of producing that effect. We must see that amoral government is ultimately hypocritical and immoral government (and incapable of enlightened restraint) — a terrible compromise from the greater ideal for which we ought to be striving.
We must lift our vision higher. Samuel Adams was a radical and visionary man. He was motivated long before, and far more deeply, than the other founding fathers to separate America from Britain. Many historians credit him for nearly single-handedly bringing the colonies to the point of crisis that pushed them off of the fence and into the battlefield. Why was he so dedicated? What was his vision? He believed that America could not achieve its destiny tied to the fallen ways of the old world. He remembered and believed what his Puritan ancestors had told him, namely, that American would become “a city on a hill” and the residing place of a future Zion. He knew that could not happen if 1) the colonies were not freed from the tyrannical influences of the old world, and 2) the colonies did not remain firm in their liberty-enlightened religious convictions. He was called “The Last Puritan” because he, like his ancestors, believed in an openly moral government. He understood, as I am asserting in this post, that the only good government had to be a moral one, and one imbued with a morality that inherently implied restraint over force, viz. a new world Christian morality.
To the degree libertarianism advocates a separation of morality from government (or a separation of all moralities but its own from government), I believe, it will only aid in the corruption of government, and effectually prevent the very ends which it hopes to achieve. Government must be moral, because it must be good. Libertarianism cannot pretend to be an amoral creature any more than Relativity, the Ancient Greeks, or Neutrality, or else, like them, it will become a blind and hypocritical tyrant of an empty and fundamentally immoral doctrine. Libertarianism must see this truth and understand that liberty is to be found in promoting true morality, not in avoiding it. Enlightened restraint only exists as a product of a true morality, not the absence of it.