Although a great number of libertarians are also secularists, there is still a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned for our cause in the pages of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Beyond religious content, the Bible provides a timeless perspective on human nature and the human condition, which is unchanging.
Therefore, it seems fitting that, during this Easter and Passover season, we take a fresh look at what the ancient texts have to offer to us friends of limited government and private property.
The first lesson, which is often tough for libertarians to swallow, is that liberty is not necessarily a popular idea. From time immemorial, a great many people have been willing to trade essential liberty for the illusion of a strong ruler who is both a powerful protector and a benevolent caretaker.
Here is the story. Once the Hebrews settled into the Promised Land there was no central authority. The people were informally governed by local leaders known as the Judges. These Judges governed according to the written law of Mosses (think Constitution) not upon individual whimsy or fiat.
However, the people wanted more the rule of law. They wanted a King, a strong man that they could believe in. One who would be their protector. They asked the prophet Samuel to find a king for them. Samuel resisted, warning the people:
"The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot.
He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers.
He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials.
He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work.
He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.”
Still the people insisted: "Not so! There must be a king over us. We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles." (1 Samuel Ch 8)
Within three generations, Samuel’s words proved true. At the expense of his people, Solomon, the third Hebrew king wealth beyond measure let alone a thousand wives and concubines. When Solomon passed, the people said to his heir, Prince Rehoboam: "Your father put on us a heavy yoke. If you now lighten the harsh service and the heavy yoke your father imposed on us, we will serve you."
Rehoboam consulted his advisers and thought it over for a few days. They he issued his policy agenda. He told them in no uncertain terms: "My father put on you a heavy yoke, but I will make it heavier. My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions." (1 Kings Ch 12)
To make a long story short, because the Kings that the people demanded became oppressive, civil war broke out, the Hebrew kingdom split in two and the new weaker Kingdoms, Israel on the north and Judah in the south, were conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively.
Thus Benjamin Franklin’s observation that, “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither” proved true. The Hebrews traded their liberty for a dynasty of oppressors to protect them. In the end, there was no nation left to protect.
Now let’s fast forward to the New Testament to get some insight into the nature of redistributors.
The scene is this. Jesus, the itinerant prophet is road weary after years of foot travel, preaching, dealing with needy favor seekers and fighting with the authorities. A female admirer approaches him to offer a relaxing massage with some costly rubbing oil. Judas, who serves as the treasurer for Jesus’ movement, feigns outrage:
“Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, ‘Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?’ “
We know that Judas’ rage and compassion is contrived as the very next passage tells us:
“He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.” (John 12)
So as you observe this holiday season in whatever way you choose, take some time to reflect. People are often fearful of liberty. They lack confidence in their own abilities to self govern and provide for themselves. Therefore, they readily concede their freedoms and their hard earned money to demagogues who sell false hope and unworkable promises.
Our challenge as always must be to educate ourselves so as to be able confront corrupt authority and to teach our neighbors. We confront authority with a stern and uncompromising face. On the other hand, we must learn to lead our friends, families and neighbors with patience and with love. They too want peace and prosperity but they are human, fearful and fallible as were the Hebrews of long ago.