“How Christian is Tea Party Libertarianism?”

by thoughtfulconservative

Jim Wallis, of Sojourners and the author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It which I reviewed awhile back (There is no link anymore, once again thanks to Google), wrote a post simultaneously posted on Huffington Post and God’s Politics on the Tea Party.

I can agree with Jim Wallis on some things, but on most things I would disagree. From this article, it doesn’t appear as though Mr. Wallis knows what the Tea Party is.

This comes out immediately in the title. Mr. Wallis links Tea Parties with libertarianism. My sense is that there are some Tea Partiers that are libertarian there are some who are not libertarian, mostly Republican with a few independents and even Democrats. That’s not to say that libertarianism is not an undercurrent as he points out has been evident in the Republican Party.

I hold some viewpoints in common with libertarianism, but I’m not libertarian.

Painting with a broad brush necessitates making some points that aren’t true for the whole. And instead of looking at the Tea Partiers, Wallis seems to be rebutting libertarianism, or those things that Tea Partiers believe that are the same as what libertarians believe. those points Wallis contends are:

  1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue.
  2. Not so. Although perhaps not a virtue, individual choice is the foundation of Christianity. We come to Christ by our individual choice. We are exhorted to live Christ-like in this world, but are not forced to do so. We are our brother’s keeper, but again that’s a choice we make as the Holy Spirit directs us, not one that the government, or anyone else can coerce us to do.

    Wallis tries to prove his point by going to the Old Testament prophets, but we must remember that Israel was God’s people on earth, something only a Christian dominionist might contend today. God’s People on earth should exemplify these characteristics, but all political parties fall short here.

  3. An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical.
  4. Mr. Wallis erects somewhat of a straw man here, as he says later, “Of course, debating the size and role of government is always a fair and good discussion, and most of us would prefer smart and effective to ‘big’ or ‘small’ government.” I think that’s what the discussion IS about as I believe wanting to get rid of all government is called anarchy. And I think most clear thinking Tea Partiers and Libertarians would concede some taxes are necessary. They just think taxes are too high.

    He then puts on his rose colored glasses and states, “a power-hungry government is clearly an aberration.” Apparently he and I are not examining the same government. Eminent domain, police abuse, bureaucratic malfeasance seems pretty common.

  5. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.
  6. This might be the area I agree with most and it’s not limited to libertarians; many conservatives feel the same way. In a previous post I thought aloud about some things concerning government regulation. Wallis gave me this food for thought:

    Should big oil companies like BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean? And is regulating them really un-American? Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids? Given the reality of sin in all human institutions, doesn’t a political process that provides both accountability and checks and balances make both theological and practical sense? C.S. Lewis once said that we need democracy not because people are essentially good, but because they often are not. Democratic accountability is essential to preventing the market from becoming a beast of corporate totalitarianism…”

    Some would argue we were fine for hundreds or thousands of years without government regulation, but I’m not sure that’s a valid argument. Others have argued that regulation is the cause of some of these problems.

  7. The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian.
  8. He shows his hand with this sentence:

    “[P]rivate charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion.”

    There you have it. Jim Wallis’s position as succinctly as you can get it. Private charity is not enough. We have to redistribute wealth by government decree.

    And here, oddly enough, is where Wallis could possibly come closest to agreeing with conservatives and libertarians.

    “When the system is designed to protect the privileges of the already strong and make the weak even more defenseless and vulnerable, something is wrong with the system.”

    The system could be construed as being the government in some arguments.

  9. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. …would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office?

This is his big finish? To answer the second question first, who knows? McCain was not that popular among conservatives or libertarians, so maybe, maybe not. And it’s hard for me to label a whole movement racist when there are African-Americans at the rallies, although no doubt as Wallis says, there are probably some racists attached to the movement. We even have an African-American writer taking the libertarian side on The Civil Rights Act (though most African-Americans would no doubt dispute that he is a valid speaker for the African-American community)!

It seems as though Mr. Wallis needs to learn some more about the Tea Partiers as part of his “dialogue.”

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060834471?ie=UTF8&tag=musingsofatho-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0060834471″>God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=musingsofatho-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0060834471&#8243; width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

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2 Responses to ““How Christian is Tea Party Libertarianism?””

  1. “3. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.”

    As a Christian who is slowly turning more and more to libertarian thought, I would turn it around. Non-libertarians confidence in the state (the alternative to the market) is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. The state is full of sinful people, endowed with the same flaws of human nature we are, but these people have the authority to make decisions in areas where they have no vested interest, and the laws apply differently to them. It is also not consistent with the (admittedly arguable) principles of non-violence expressed in the Bible. Every action the state takes it does so by violence or by threat of violence (consider, for example, the full implications of not returning your census and refusing to pay the fine).

    “Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean?”

    Do you really think none of these would happen if the government stopped doing them? For the first two, think Underwriters Laboratories and liability insurance requirements. AFAIK there is no regulation that requires that products be UL certified, and yet they still inspect many products to produce their stamp of approval. As for insurance, consider that many smaller businesses invest in it (larger businesses would typically self-insure) and for good reason. A successful lawsuit could wipe out such a business. The insurance companies would in turn make their best effort to ensure that the companies they insure are not lawsuit targets.

    I don’t know how environmental protection would work in a market, but that doesn’t mean we can assume no protection would happen and everyone would go wild dirtying everything. Statistically, owners tend to protect (ie maintain and not pollute) their property better than the state does.

    “Given the reality of sin in all human institutions, doesn’t a political process that provides both accountability and checks and balances make both theological and practical sense?”

    See above. Does either of our political processes really provide accountability or effective checks and balances on the politicians?

    “C.S. Lewis once said that we need democracy not because people are essentially good, but because they often are not. Democratic accountability is essential to preventing the market from becoming a beast of corporate totalitarianism…”

    Interesting that Lewis also said: “Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.” (in “Present Concerns”) By placing our trust in the government, we make it our master.

    That one point, expressed in different ways by many people, has been the moral turning point for me. I don’t know how the complete lack of “masters” would work, but I see no men fit to be masters. All are corruptible, and that for certain includes me.

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