Alexander and I have been talking. So far we’ve agreed on the following:
1. We have agreed that purely voluntary governments may have a right to exist. But this really challenges our definition of government. If it is merely an association for collective action, yet remains voluntary, there is no reason to quibble. What introduces compromise is when government claims a monopoly on the use of force. It is the power-over element which is idolatrous to the core. I have yet to hear of a government which does not make this claim to force.
So I rather use the term “association” for voluntary collectives not compromised by force.
2. “The governments are voluntary, the problem is they become abusive…”
Anthony de Jasay in the epigraph to “Against Politics” quotes Edmond Burke,
“In vain you tell me that artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing, the Thing itself is the Abuse!”
It is safe to assume that government everywhere we find it exists for the purpose of abuse. This might extend even to the framers of the US Constitution. There were several groups, each with a measure of power and multiple interests, vying for control of the monopoly of force, which is the state. Their contentions produced the most inefficient government ever devised, and as such, the best. The Articles of Confederation might have been better.
3. We agree that “equity laws” while seemingly harmless, and actually beneficial, may fall short ethically in that they may hold some accountable to them who were not party to the original agreement which formed them. Especially pernicious are those laws in which one group, say, our grandparents, agree collectively to have another group, say, us, pay for their retirements through social security, etc. Equity laws, to me, sound like the fellow who is faced with a unicef box held by a little kid and replies, “sorry, but I gave at the office.” They enable us to believe that we are off the hook in caring for the least of these because we already gave at the tax office. Not so. ” I pays my taxes I ‘jes doesn’t spect thems to do no good.”
Along these lines, we can safely say that government doesn’t create taxes to pay for new programs. Rather government creates new programs as an excuse to collect new taxes.
4. Participation in earthly governments is obviously permissible from the testimony of scripture. How we are to participate in government is peculiar. I am not sure it is permissible for a Christian to knowingly enter military service. Some very few may receive a special calling to do this, but for most it would require a compromise. I don’t believe sabotaging the military is the kingdom way to confront empire, either.
Administrative positions are fungible. That is, if believers don’t occupy them someone else will. I find these among the most abusive of positions, and at the same time among the most seemingly unimportant. But they consume vast quantities of wealth. If each Christian bureaucrat worked to do the unthinkable among government agencies – that is – to reduce the size of their budgets! they would do well. We must not be fooled into thinking, “Oh, well the agency I am a part of is one of the better ones, they are actually doing some good.” No. The good they are doing is at the expense of someone else. It is tainted by the use of force in acquisition of resources. There is no virtue in it. To be sure, if resources are going to be spent, try to direct them to the best possible uses – this is what Daniel and Joseph did in their positions on influence – but in general we must work to make the space occupied by government smaller.
5. Again, again, and again: we must take up the responsibility for those things which government is doing that belong to the church. Doing this requires that we not be distracted by the cares of the world. It requires that we be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and not drunk on consumption. Our true acts of subversion are those positive mandates which have been given us by Christ – those peculiar commandments accepted by His disciples – being the church is the true act of subversion. It tells the whole world, “You are not the church. You attempts at charity are filth. Your laws of equity result in privilege and abuse. Your wars of peace are never-ending. You are not what you are.”
6. Finally, I maintain my contention that it is not the market which corrupts. The market is that which exists outside the control of governments and associations. A market of sorts always emerges. Even in the most regulatory of climates a market will arise where people will make voluntary exchanges in order to reallocate resources to more highly valued uses. This will not be avoided, no matter how the society is arbitrarily constructed. What we often call the market is a horrendous hybrid between the voluntary and the power-over. It is a monstrosity, as Jane Jacobs calls it in “Systems of Survival.” The current crises is evidence of that monstrosity where banks have extended credit beyond what a normal situation would allow on a mere voluntary basis, because they expected the bailout which is now occurring. Not only has this monstrosity brought instability in the economy, but beforehand it was allocating resources inefficiently to housing and financial markets which might have better been used in other sectors of the economy. This is because prices were no longer communicating the right information about relative scarcities of goods. (But I digress.)
Markets are not constructed entities. They emerge in whatever climate exists. They reflect natural subjective valuations of individuals. This is all that markets are. They are that which occurs outside every influence of force and manipulation. They cannot be evil, they are purely voluntary. The moment an element of force is introduced it becomes a monstrosity. It ceases to be natural. It becomes an idol.
I cannot recommend strongly enough “The Mainspring of Human Progress” by Henry Grady Weaver. It is a relatively short book, and a simple enough read for the inner-city sixth graders I used to teach. My favorite version has an introduction by John Hood, one of the directors of the E.A. Morris Fellowship program I am a part of this year.