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Monday, March 23, 2009

A False Dichotomy

Dodgeblogium links this Jared Seefer article that claims that the religious and free-marketer segments of the Republican Party are mutually incompatible.

Since the title of the article explicitly states the situation as a choice between John Galt and Jesus Christ, one must ask two questions. First, who is Jesus Christ? First and foremost, he is responsible for a philosophy neatly summarized by the Four Spiritual Laws tracts. This issue is completely apolitical.

But Jesus has other concerns, and they do touch on the political realm. Recall the Golden Rule, the call to proactively do good for others (Luke 6:31). This command did not come with qualifications - "do good for one set of people, treat this other set with indifference (or worse)." Everyone. Period. No favorites. John 3:16 means that God values all humans equally. A Christian political philosophy must therefore seek to maximize the well-being of the individual.

(Reciprocal punishment through due process to establish payment for a crime or tort. must not be interpreted as a violation of the Golden Rule. Such punishment constitutes payment of debt, not thievery.)

Second question: who - or what - is John Galt? Seefer answers the question in this mangling of the English language: "Capitalism upholds each individual’s right to exist for his own sake, independent from any group." That ideal he describes is John Galt. Capitalism is a subset of that ideal: the philosophy that the means of production and trade, and the decision-making authority over said means, rightfully belong to the private sector.

John Galt is the personification of Objectivism, Ayn Rand's concept of liberty. Seefer's article first appeared in an Objectivist publication (see end of article), so it's a strong hunch that he is writing from that perspective. He also identifies Galt with free-market, small-government Republicans, most of whom aren't Objectivists but many of whom have drawn inspiration from Galt.

So where is the conflict?

Seefer's most glaring error is to conflate the Christian charity ethic with the welfare state. As I stated in comments at Dodgeblogium:

WWJD? He instructed followers to charity - not to forcing people to give their stuff to the needy and to third-party bureaucrats who such [sic] up about three-fourths of the take in overhead. THE WELFARE STATE IS THEFT EVEN BY NON-LIBERTARIAN STANDARDS, AND A LOT OF CHRISTIANS KNOW THIS.

Of course, a lot of Christians do compromise this principle by measures great and small - and they have lots of company from the rest of society. But many Christians do recognize the corruption that is welfare statism, and Seefer is blind to this common ground between religionists and free-marketers.

The author is also critical of the "social agenda." None of the explicitly stated policies is exclusively religious in nature.

Abortion revolves around the question of when life begins. Completing claims say that point is after birth, or some point in gestation, or implantation of the fertilized ovum, or at conception. Biological life is a physical phenomenon and is thus scientific in nature; right-to-life organizations religious and secular cite numerous medical sources to support their claims that life begins well before birth.

Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional no matter which of those groups is right; there is no blanket right to privacy, and the Courts are not empowered to arbitrate science.

The gay marriage issue is really about whether or not the State has the authority to legislate the English language to make a word mean what it never has.

Regarding "greater policing of the airwaves for objectionable content" - I suspect that parenthood is a greater motivator than religion on this issue. It's hard to elaborate on this issue when Seefer doesn't go into specifics about these airwave-policing policies.

Seefer confuses the bearded-Spock universe with ours, as demonstrated by his snark about "the religionist's call to force children to pray in school."

If that doesn't tempt you to suspect that Seefer lives under a rock, maybe this will:

The religionists want to maintain and improve public schools but ensure religion has an influence on the curriculum (such as how evolution is taught), while the capitalists have tended to support things like school vouchers, which some see as a step towards privatizing education.

Religionists are HUGE proponents of privatizing education. They're simultaneously trying to ameliorate the real and perceived ills of the current system they're forced to live under while the ultimate goal of privatization has yet to be achieved.

Seefer's remark about vouchers hits on a principle that irks many libertarians. Weaning the State from theft is often a gradual process, a Nicorette patch rather than going cold turkey. School vouchers represent welfare statism, a rough parallel to food stamps. But it is a lesser statism than the alternative available to the majority of us who aren't rich enough for private schools or lack the time resources (or cannot afford to be single-breadwinner households) to undertake home schooling.

Seefer needs to get out and talk to some actual religious conservatives.


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