I Won’t Take Your Stuff, Here’s Some of Mine

I know who the Christian Libertarians are. I’ve been to their luncheons. I’ve read their books. They have paid for bits and pieces of my education. And Elizabeth Bruenig is right. There is a logic problem.

Bruenig says most Christian Libertarians would support these two Propositions:

  1. Property rights are pre-political.
  2. It is the role of the state to recognize and protect rights.

But how can property exist pre-politically apart from mechanisms of allocating property that can only exist within the context of political institutions?

This set of Christian Libertarians, whom Bruenig identifies as being among the Rothbard, Hoppe, and Von Mises league (a bit unfairly, I’d say, but not so far as the public conscience is concerned), are certainly more likely to say “I should suffer no interference with my property, either by state or individual” than to say “They can live with me.”

Bruenig’s main line of attack is that Christian Libertarians are not consistent with Christian tradition, and as a Christian Ethicist she is much more familiar with that than I am.

That tradition does say, “They can live with me.”

Bruenig’s argument then says that Christian Libertarians are not really Christian. Agreed.

Complement her argument with this: Christian Libertarians desire a minimalist state that enforces property, but provide no redress for those who have suffered loss of property prior to a given particular institutional iteration. That is, they conveniently ignore the transitional gains trap, and the need to address historical injustices.

That’s a problem with Libertarianism, writ large.

The solution is to be really Libertarian and really Christian.

That is, advocate rules that protect property generally, but then unilaterally work to correct injustice. I won’t take your property, but you can have mine. That’s a better Christian Libertarianism.

It starts from the anarchist premise that the system itself is irredeemable. It also assumes that exchange is pre-political. The best folks can do is catallaxy. But if anyone were to want to do better they have to resist the urge to make a general rule out of it. Instead, unilateral sacrificial altruism sees itself as always subverting whatever system it happens to find itself within, illuminating the illegitimacy of that system, and providing the catalyst for peace.

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