In an effort to make this a weekly feature, we’ll take another look at how we can apply this Sunday’s Gospel to libertarianism and just how to be a better person. Jesus presented the story of the man who asked his two sons to work in the vineyard for the day. The first said that he wouldn’t, but ended up changing his mind and going to work. The other told his father that he would but never actually went.
Jesus then asked those around him, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” Of course, they all answered the first.
The point of this story was to show that those who are typically brushed aside as unworthy of God end up being the ones who do His will—at least more often than those who talk a big game.
So how does this apply to us? In today’s world, libertarians are often misunderstood and vilified. When we say, “The government is not the source of the ‘rule of law’ and the determination of right and wrong,” people twist it around and reply, “So you don’t want any rules?” Some people may take it as far as asking if we’re okay with murder (as if that question even warrants a response).
But setting aside explicit views on government, how does a libertarian think people should interact with others? Using the most basic definition, a libertarian is someone who believes that people have the prima facie right to live free from harmful coercion. In other words, it is wrong to commit violence against someone unless you have a very good reason to, such as self-defense. Peaceful solutions are the best solutions and every person is equal regardless of how much money they make, what title they hold, or what physical features they have.
The people who inaccurately depict the ideals of libertarianism are often the same people who hold public servants in very high regard. These are the people who tasked with upholding the law and protecting the citizens of the country—like public officials, police officers, and those in the military. On the surface, these are the people who should be well respected and full of integrity. After all, a lot of them put their own wellbeing on the line as part of their jobs.
However, these people are also almost always paid through taxation, which is theft. Citizens are forced to pay their salaries. Remember, if you don’t pay your taxes, you’ll wind up in prison.
Furthermore, these people are often guilty of other forms of coercion. Your average police officer will not think twice about arresting people for victimless crimes. Their reason is that they are doing their jobs, following the law. If a law were to change tomorrow, most of them would cease to enforce it, essentially allowing someone else—in this case, the state—to act as their conscience. Soldiers, although unwittingly at first and often as they move along in their careers, fight unjust wars and ruin the lives of innocent people overseas. Again, they are just following the orders of their superiors. As a final example, public officials create laws that prevent people from interacting under their own volition. This includes licensing laws and permitting, which requires people to pay for permission slips to do things that only require permission because there is a law requiring it. If you decide that you don’t need permission, you will find yourself fined heavily and ultimately sitting in a jail cell.
It is important to look past the surface and really try to understand what’s really going on in the world. Demonized by many, libertarians are actually the people who work to spread awareness about proper ethics. Those who traditionally enjoy praise are often guilty of committing some very unsavory acts.