In the last week or so, it has become clear to me that the basic understanding quite a few people have of libertarianism is that of greed and selfishness. This surprises me because I thought most people had us figured for proponents of legalized marijuana and prostitution.
In truth, there are as many factions to libertarianism as there are people who identify as such. Get ten libertarians in a room and you’ll get 11 opinions that span not only a spectrum across an idealogy, but span the spectra of idealogies.
There is one thing that unites us, however, and that is the belief in choice. Sometimes, as in the case of abortion, whose choice is up for debate, but in the end, libertarians want to be able to choose how they live their lives without having their homes raided by overzealous religious bigots in the form of Child Protective Services, without having their businesses regulated to such an extent that they are hamstrung, without having their earnings stolen straight out of their paychecks.
In Abraham 4:1, a plan was presented and a son of God said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be they son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” Then Christ offered his plan and the glory to the Father. The Father goes on to tell Abraham in verse 3, “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down.”
This concept is our gospel. It’s the fulcrum of what we as Latter-day Saints believe and why. Without this, we’d be just another protestant religion albeit with some seriously weird kinks.
I made the point over at Feminist Mormon Housewives that compulsory taxation for the purpose of giving it to other individuals in our society was antithesis to the gospel, the gospel of agency, which is to say, the ability to choose between good and evil. In return, it was brought to my attention that the actual point was not that Lucifer had proposed this plan, but that he wanted the glory. Yet God makes it very clear that Satan’s greater sin was that he “sought to destroy the agency of man.”
Our Creator’s goal is to bring all of us home again…with caveat: That we actually learn something.
And there’s the sticky wicket. One cannot learn the principle of anything by compulsion. One doesn’t learn generosity by having money taken from his paycheck arbitrarily and given to someone else, no matter how much the someone else needs it. The choice to be generous on our own, to provide for our weakest with that money, has been stripped from us.
Obviously, libertarians wouldn’t have a problem with some measure of taxation because things do need to be paid for: roads, bridges, fire, police, water treatment, a military. Oh, you know, those things that establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. There are better ways to collect those funds than via the IRS, but that’s another six posts. However, I will not deny that they are vital to the successful running of a country and everyone needs to share in that cost.
Of course, I know what most of the first jumping off point of this post will be, because it’s used (either disingenuously or ignorantly) as the first point of dissent in the debate: promoting the general welfare, which has been used to justify enormous charitable Congressional expenditures since the New Deal. So let’s get that out of the way right now.
James Madison put this succinctly enough in the third session of Congress in 1794, when an expedition of French refugees had arrived from the Haitian Revolution, and Congress sought $15,000 for their aid. This is the quote from the annals:
“Mr. Madison wished to relieve the sufferers, but was afraid of establishing a dangerous precedent, which might hereafter be perverted to the countenance of purposes very different from those of charity. He acknowledged, for his own part, that he could not undertake to lay his finger on that article in the Federal Constitution which granted a right of Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
Furthermore, Mr. Madison said, “The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” [Italics mine.]
So, yeah, one of the geniuses behind the Constitution didn’t think it was such a good idea.
Whew. Now, with that addressed, I’ll conclude my original point:
If we believe in a gospel of agency, then having our earnings taken from us to be given to someone else is denial of agency. Thus, the redistribution of wealth via compulsory taxation is, by definition of our gospel, evil.
I shall now offer myself up for crucifixion. In fact, please do. I need the publicity.