With the current political discourse in America dominated by discussion of the pros and cons of the Tea Party movement, libertarian political philosophy has left the wilderness of third-party politics and has entered the realm of serious public discourse.

Libertarianism is generally thought of as a political philosophy of minimal government and maximum feasible personal freedom. However, libertarianism is more than a political philosophy. At its core it is a worldview, rooted in certain assumptions about the nature of reality.

The libertarian worldview is founded on the belief that humans have free will. We can make conscious free choices. These choices are not based on what has happened before us. We might have a tendency to prefer Coke to Sprite, but we can always pick Sprite. We have the freedom to choose. Our future is not determined by our genetics, or outside stimulus factors. Our future is ultimately determined by us.

In turn, a person  is responsible for both the benefits and detriments of their choices. If a person makes choices that lead him to gain property, it is his to keep. If a person makes choices that cause him to lose his property, that is his loss. He is responsible for the outcome, no one else.

This is the basis for libertarian political philosophy. The future is governed by individual choice, so suppressing this individual choice is wrong. It is sometimes necessary, in that we must have a legal framework to protect freedom from becoming anarchy, but it is to be kept to a minimum. Rights are based on our autonomy as individuals, and property rights are the most sacrosanct of all.

This philosophy appears to be consistent, but does it hold up under scrutiny? More importantly, is it, as many libertarians assert, compatible with Christianity?

Assuming the existence of God and God’s omniscience, this means God has foreknowledge of events that will happen in the future. Now, I do not mean to answer the question of how we can have free will while God has divine foreknowledge. That is for another post. What I mean to do is examine libertarian views of free will in the context of divine foreknowledge.

The concept of divine foreknowledge implies that God is in ultimate control of the world. Yet, in libertarianism, man has the ultimate free will to make his decisions. Man is in the ultimate control of his fate, alone in the storm, the “captain of my ship, the master of my soul.” A man stands alone versus the world, destined to rise or fall by his own merits.

This is contrary to the Christian view where man does not have the capability to make it on his own. God is the ultimate sovereign in a man’s life, and while he has free will he must always acknowledge a higher power in control of the universe, whose ways he cannot fully comprehend. Ultimately, a man does not rise or fall by his own merits, for man does not save himself by his own works but is saved through the grace of God.

Likewise, the libertarian focus on property is also misplaced. God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator, and as such made the entire world and everything in it. Despite his protestations and vain appeals to immutable rights, man does not really own anything, for all that he thinks he owns belongs to God. All his worldly possessions are but transient objects in his life, on loan to him from the Almighty. What he has one day he may lose the next. What he has when he dies will not travel with him. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

This is not to say that there should be no such thing as private property in the legal sense, or that humans have no responsibility because we have no free will. Rather, I simply aim to point out that there are higher principles at work than are allowed for within libertarian philosophy.

Libertarianism is at its core a nihilistic system, where man stands facing an uncertain future with only his reasoning ability to guide him. There is no divine moral order, just mankind facing uncertainty and making choices which may lead to his success or his failure. Libertarianism’s close cousin Objectivisim denies this nihilism and worships reason instead. In place of God, the objectivists have made a demi-god of reason personified as Ayn Rand. All of these philosophies ultimately fail because they hold up something as The Ultimate which is not, in fact, the ultimate.

How does this apply to our contemporary political discourse? It means we must beware of all-encompassing philosophies, of ideas of man which promise to solve what is wrong with the world if we just support the right mix of philosophy and policy. It means we must evaluate policy proposals on their impact and their morality, not on their ideological purity. It means, in short, that we must place a higher value on our responsibilities than on our rights, for God is sovereign and owes us nothing, while we have much that is commanded of us by God.

Bibliography:

Chayla Hart, “Notes on the Problem of Divine Foreknowledge.” From the CAC files.

Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism: A Brief Summary.” Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, 2008