Ethics

The Response of the OPC to Brother Earnest

Posted by T on June 01, 2019
Current, Ethics, Judaica / No Comments

A young man named John Earnest is the suspect that allegedly shot up a synagogue on April 27 after allegedly publishing a Manifesto. The suspect is a member of my denomination; so it behooves me to make some remarks. Only a few themes of this event can be explored in a single post. Here, I wish to restrict most of my comments to the published responses of my church. The focus will be on three statements: that of the suspect’s father, his pastor, and self-declared representatives of the denomination as a whole.

In passing, it bears mention that at the time the statements were issued, there was no public finding that the Manifesto was even written by Mr. Earnest. It would behoove them to show a little modesty by using language like, “if the alleged Manifesto was indeed written by him…” until the cognizant authorities publish such a finding. Being careful even in the acceptance of “obvious facts” is important for developing a mind that is oriented to impartial justice. In the ensuing, I too will presume the Manifesto was written by Mr. Earnest, but I do so with cognizance that this is an assumption.

In general, there is a rush to judgement of their son and brother that is unseemly and which the jews for their part must (privately) shake their heads at in astonishment, as exhibiting, not piety, but just the opposite. The spiritual lynching of this young man can be contrasted with the state of affairs following the rape and murder of Mary Phagan by Leo Frank, a jew. The Synagogue’s response to that crime was to orchestrate a national campaign of rhetorical terrorism and every kind of popular, political, and judicial pressure to get Frank off the hook. Meanwhile, the Gentiles bent over backwards to afford him an ample and fair trial. In contrast, the Church’s response in this case seems to forget that a fair trial is even to be demanded. Indeed, some voices are heard suggesting that no trial need even be conducted.

Now our guys might respond, “just so; this is the difference between how Christians behave toward one of their own committing a crime versus how non-Christians like jews do. This is the form of the cross, and this is the ideal of universal justice which is only possible because of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection.”

But they do not say this. They would never say this. It would be anti-Semitic to do so, for it would imply that the people of the Chabad synagogue do not know God, despite their bobbing rituals and long faces. Instead, here is what John Earnest’s father, an elder in the OPC says:

[John] has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day.

Jesus identified the jews that hated him as the children of Satan. But this OPC elder identifies them as faithful, and their superstitions as sacred times and places.

  1. I thought the Old Covenant holy days all pointed to Jesus Christ; so that to continue to celebrate them while denying the One they are all about was superstition or worse.
  2. I thought the word of God identified this place as a synagogue of Satan, not a “sacred place.”
  3. Is it proper to identify as “faithful” those who crucify Christ anew every day in their hearts in their rejection of Jehovah? Is this not a degradation of the notion of faith, which only and always is tied to Jesus Christ, and replacing it with the banality of Mark Twain, who said that faith is believing what you know is not true?

But the father says “[John] has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day.” Suppose the shooting had taken place in the Church of Satan of Los Angeles, which recently obtained religious tax exemption status from our magistrates. Would this OPC elder still identify the victims as “the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day”? (i) If not, why not? (Say it.) (ii) If so, then he admits that Satanism is as much a matter of the faithful as anyone else, a rank absurdity.

Hoping for improvement, let’s look at the statement by the Escondido pastor.

As a congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ, we devote our lives to the love and mercy of the Lord to all of God’s beautiful children, from every nation, language, and tribe.

This statement is only relevant if the synagogue attendees are a referent of the phrase, “all of God’s beautiful children.” But according to our gospel, every man must pass from the wrath of God to a new status of His child, and this is only by receiving Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For St. John says,

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (Jn 1:12-13) [emphasis added]

Moreover, the Son of God accused the jews that rejected him of being children of Satan, not of God, John 8:42-45.

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me… ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do… When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

God says these people are children of Satan whose only hope to escape His wrath is to embrace Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. But OPC Pastor Zach Keele says they are “God’s beautiful children,” without hinting at the need for repentance or faith, or union with Christ.

The irony here is that one of the central claims of liberalism, in reaction to which the OPC came to be formed, was the idea of the universal fatherhood of God. Our patriarch, Gresham Machen wrote

God is indeed represented here [Mt. 5:44-45] as caring for all men whether evil or good, but he is certainly not called the Father of all. Indeed it might almost be said that the point of the passage depends on the fact that He is not the Father of all. He cares even for those who are not His children but His enemies…The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God is not be found in the teaching of Jesus. (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 60)

He also adds, “so his children, Jesus’ disciples, ought to imitate Him by loving even those who are not their brethren but their persecutors.” Had this theme been the keynote of Pastor Keele’s note, it would be a point worth exploring. The jews as the persecutors of Christians would then be the foundational fact in terms of which the objection to Mr. Earnest’s alleged act could be framed.

Let’s turn to the words of Moderator Van Meerbeke and Clerk Ross W. Graham of the whole denomination, hoping to find improvement.

Along with our Escondido congregation, we condemn in strongest terms the sentiments of anti-Semitism and racist hatred which apparently motivated the shooter.

We have commented some twelve years ago on the unacceptability of the term anti-Semitism. The word plays on an ambiguity between the judaic religion and the physical tribe known as Semites. (Actually, there is a second layer of ambiguity in that the latter can refer to either a language-group or a branch of DNA blood-descent from, we say, Shem.) So if the church uses this word, it should specify in which sense it means it. Is it the claim that Mr. Earnest wrote negative things about the judaic religion? then why not call it anti-judaism rather than anti-Semitic? (And is not God anti-every false religion?) This is not a quibble: cleaning up the language will change the whole discussion. The word itself, with its nested ambiguities, sets in motion a mental dialectic that makes the clarity of truth inaccessible.

But if the claim is that Mr. Earnest’s remarks were intended for all blood-descendants of Shem, then the claim is completely implausible. Arabic Christians, for example, are such, yet clearly not in view. Yet only in this second, implausible sense could the subsequent epithet of “racist hatred” make sense.

You see, the term “anti-Semitism” pretends to add content to the description of the view itself — as if there is some germ called “anti-Semitism” that one catches that causes such-and-such belief about jews. Upon closer analysis, it is actually just a substitution term for the belief itself, with no additional content. It would be like calling someone an anti-Mexite because he doesn’t want more Mexican immigrants to come. When asked, “what is an anti-Mexite?” the answer comes, “anyone that doesn’t want more Mexican immigrants to come.” The word promised to give an explanation, but proves to be empty.

The Talmud promotes ethical dualism, and despises the goyim. Yet we don’t even have the word anti-Gentilic, even though this would be a good summary of what the judaic pseudo-religion is centrally all about, especially in its more Orthodox forms.

A similar analysis, which I would be happy to give if needed, shows that racist is another meaningless word that rattles by like an empty boxcar. It has been claimed that the word was coined by Leon Trotsky, a jew, for the exact purpose of corrupting the goyish conscience. I will leave it to etymologists to verify whether this is the case, but I do know I have not come across the word in any of the many systematic theologies I have studied. Our larger catechism’s copious exposition of the sins implied by the commandments breathes no word of it.

Finally, calling “hatred” a sin without qualification will need to deal with Scripture such as

Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. (Ps. 139:21-22)

Naturally, this thought must be checked by other considerations. As John Murray said

In God’s hate there is no malice, malignancy, vindictiveness, unholy rancor or bitterness. The kind of hate thus characterized is condemned in Scripture and it would be blasphemy to predicate the same of God. (Comm. ad Rom 9:6-33).

At the end of the day, the hatred that Mr. Earnest self-identifies could arguably be modeled as righteous resentment that has reached a fever pitch. It is often assumed that if, in a moment of weakness, legitimate resentment grows a tumor of sinful malice, then malice must be the root cause of the resentment. But this is an elementary fallacy. To bring Mr. Earnest under discipline for hatred simpliciter would be unjust and unpastoral. Instead, it needs to first be determined whether his resentment is unrighteous in the manner that Murray identifies; next, if so, he should be encouraged to repent of that aspect of his resentment; finally discipline should only be exercised if both he refuses to repent of that aspect, and the objects of discipline cannot be achieved in some other way.

The pastor’s statement is simply echoing the judaic jargon of our day with words like Anti-Semitism, racist, and hatred. The fact is (and this list should be memorized and repeated three times every morning by every judaized OPC elder):

  • Anti-semitism is not a sin
  • Racism is not a sin
  • Hatred is not necessarily a sin

Of course you can define any of these terms such that so defined, they describe sin, and thus win by definition. But my claim is that no such definition can be given that is both explanatory of the terms’ common usage, and sinful according to the law of God. Continuing to use these terms is a sure mark of dishonesty, and conformity to the spirit of our age.

The statement continues,

Such beliefs are contrary to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and have no place within our system of doctrine or in the teachings and practices of our church.

They condemned them “in strongest terms,” which expression itself is of dubious meaning. I suppose if it means anything, it means that there is nothing remotely that could be said in defense. But here is a summary of the charges against jews published by Mr. Earnest, which our churchmen have declared to be “contrary to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He accuses the jews of

  • lying and deceiving the public through their exorbitant role in news media
  • using usury and banks to enslave nations in debt and control all finances for the purpose of funding evil
  • starting wars on a foundation of lies which have costed millions of lives throughout history
  • cultural Marxism and communism
  • pushing degenerate propaganda in the form of entertainment
  • their role in feminism which has enslaved women in sin
  • causing many to fall into sin with their role in peddling pornography
  • voting for and funding politicians and organizations who use mass immigration to displace the European race
  • every slave trade for the past two-thousand years
  • promoting race mixing
  • cruel and bloody history of genocidal behavior
  • persecution of Christians of old (including the prophets of ancient Israel—Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc.), members of the early church …, Christians of modern-day Syria and Palestine, and Christians in White nations
  • degenerate and abominable practices of sexual perversion and blood libel
  • not speaking about these crimes
  • not attempting to stop the members of their race from committing them
  • the murder of the Son of Man—that is the Christ.

Where is the lie? And which of these charges is eo ipso “contrary to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ”? what could that even mean? Does it mean, coming to the conclusion that these charges are true is already intrinsically contrary to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ? How does that even make sense?

You can’t unsee what you have seen.

Naturally, there is some youthful lack of nuance that would need to be back-filled. Not all jews are guilty. And many goys have set their hands to the plow as well. All of that can be worked out.

Perhaps the response will be, “it doesn’t matter if any or even if all of this list is true; no one has the right to take the law into his own hands and serve as judge, jury and executioner.” (Except apparently they can do this in the case of Mr Earnest himself; but let’s move on.)

Fair point. But then your words should reflect that reality, not the falsehood that you said.

If the verity of Mr. Earnest’s charges does not matter for the judgment you reach, then in conducting your trial, and even in explaining your posture, you should be willing to stipulate that the list of accusations against the jews may be true, and allow Mr. Earnest to mount his defense on that basis, or you must allow him to show it is true and be ready to rebut. You can’t just assume that these charges are unknowable, or prima facie false.

Contrast Mr. Earnest’s case with other shooters such as Columbine, where Christian victims were deliberately sought out. But there, no précis of Christian crimes was in mind, which needed to be avenged. That slaughter was indeed malicious hatred without cause. The Manifesto shows that Mr. Earnest’s alleged homicide is in a different category.

There are many things that can be said on behalf of Mr. Earnest. He is obviously a bright young man, a man also possessing musical talent, that loved Beethoven. He was going to become a nurse — a field that people do not go into unless they have human empathy. Note well: this was not a psychopath. This was man with aesthetic and empathetic impulses that was driven to despair.

He has been handed the ruins of a civilization that was the envy of the world, created at great cost of blood and sweat by his ancestors, but destroyed during the lifetimes of his father and grandfather. Most young people don’t even know what has hit them. They might be addicted to the pornography that is delivered at the touch of a screen, yet at some subliminal level they have to know that a society that permits this is corrupt. They have been diligently instructed by judaic film makers to utter our Savior’s name, perhaps with the F-word interjected, when they stub their toe, or feel amazement, even though they scarcely have an idea who that is. They are sexualized yet unmarriageable. They amass a mountain of college debt, and can’t find a decent job. (Or, they did not go to college, and their most frequently-heard words are “super-size it?”) Their great-grandfathers out of high school could get a factory job and support a wife and four children in a snug brick home; or if they went to college they were catapulted into the managerial class. Most of today’s young people can’t get such jobs, for the jobs have been sent overseas. Though they can’t find a good job, their cities are being filled up with surly aliens that take half the jobs that are available. If they are so lucky as to get a good job, they still need two incomes to buy a decent house, and their lives become a rat-race, with little time for leisured recreation or fellowship. And how can they have very many children under that condition?

Why do we suffer this deplorable condition? Is this just the free market? (1) No it is not. The capitalists are sucking dry an infrastructure they didn’t pay for, and exploiting an international payment system enforced by the blood of the very same class of men they are busy laying off. (2) Even if it were, why should the youth of this country be sacrificed in free competition with all the nations of the world, even though they should be the inheritors of what their fathers created?

The very fact that a bright and talented boy like John Earnest felt that becoming a male nurse was his best option shows the unacceptability of our situation. How absurd is that?!

I fear many pastors are just glad they themselves are so richly endowed. The plight of the youth is just “their hard Providence, which they must prayerfully learn to submit to.” Even if true at one level, they have not earned the right to give such advice. Let them receive one third of what they making — which is what most of them would be earning anyhow, if they hadn’t been so fortunate as to get a call—, and designate the rest for missions. Then they will have earned the right.

Or, from their own cushy position, many pastors will decry some of the destruction of our civilization, but the blame is pinned on depersonalized Sin — some amorphous blob that bubbles up from the slime of humanity, and which their own trembling sheep are just as much part of as anyone else. No. Mrs. Grundy praying daily that she will bite her gossipy tongue did not bring 30 million aliens into our land, did not hand control of our money to an alien and subversive tribe, did not start wars all around the world that are none of our business, and did not arrange to have slave labor on the other side of the world do the production in order to maximize capitalists’ profit. Nor did she make it so states cannot protect the unborn or that men that like to play with each other’s wee-wees can strut down the aisle and be declared husband and husband. Nor did she corrupt the youth with pornography and blasphemy poured down their throats.

It was not some amorphous blob of Sin that did these things: it was men that can be named.

Luther said that if someone strikes you on account of the gospel, then turn the other cheek, but if someone strikes you just to rob you of your goods, you can fight back.

Pastors, if you disagree with Luther, then declare and explain your position. Be clear.

Mr. Earnest’s resentment is fully understandable. He has been betrayed by his parents’ generation. He is like a baby bird whose mother, instead of putting food into his beak, picked him up by the scruff of the neck and dropped him into a viper’s nest, while tweeting, “good luck baby bird.”

So his parents, elders, and church should find some word of sympathy along with their reflexive condemnation. There is no reason to fret whether retributive justice will be done. It will be swift and merciless, you can bank on it.

Something should be said in sympathy for his parents as well. They may feel the shame and rage of seeming to be helpless as our patrimony is wadded up, pissed on, and thrown on the dungheap of history. Yet the parents and elders, tight-lipped and grim, their spirit withering in despair, cannot muster anything but hastening to condemn their son and throw him to the wolves with no defense or empathy. They should — we that are older all should — apologize for our passive complicity in the destruction of a great civilization not earned by us, that is leading young men to understandable despair.

In God’s mercy, maybe He will show us a way. His will be done.

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Seven things Trump could do that would make it all worthwhile

Posted by T on June 23, 2018
Agrarianism, Ethics / No Comments

The Left has so dominated the reporting of the agenda of the Trump administration, that it is very easy to stop thinking creatively and positively about what he should actually be doing. Of course, stopping the immigration is the most important thing, and that does make it into the news. But much else is needed if we are to be rescued as a people. Here are my top several.

1. Clean up the voter rolls

This is the single most important unreported thing. The furious pushback by the Left at even the most mild efforts in this direction is all the proof you need that voter fraud in fact does occur, and that the Left intends to use it fully to their advantage. The future safety of our nation post-Trump depends on this being accomplished. This needs to be all-out war.

2. Outlaw the metric system

This is seemingly a small matter, but actually vitally important. It is nothing less than a battle of wills between the peasants, the folk, the people on one side, and imperial power. Even the designation of our system as “Imperial Units” is most unfortunate, and almost exactly contrary to the actual state of affairs. It was Napoleon in the wake of the French Revolution that imposed the metric system — thus it, not ours, should be called the Imperial system.

Americans have successfully resisted the imperial metric system, but it keeps creeping back in, with dual-labeling in the grocery store, temperature being given in both units, and science textbooks using metric exclusively. The constitution in Article 1, Section 8 gives the Federal Government the right to fix the standards of weights and measures, and this power should be fully utilitized to rescue us from the encroachment of Enlightenment imperialism. There are a variety of ways this could be done.

3. Ban Kosher

There are two aspects to this: the wanton cruelty to animals entailed by kosher slaughter, and the hidden kosher-tax levied on all Americans in much of the food that is purchased. Steps toward outlawing the cruel kosher torture of animals could be initiated by Trump simply announcing that no more snail-darter-preservation type acts will be taken until the kosher torture is first eliminated. The kosher tax could be flushed into the public view by requiring canneries to put a label on every product indicating how much cost is attributable to kosher — and this must include, not only the fees transferred to the rabbis, but also the implied costs associated with the extra equipment and procedures brought into production for this purpose.

4. Announce solidarity for the African-Europeans being slaughtered in South Africa.

This could be done by threatening sanctions and tariffs if the South African government does not get this situation under control, and also announcing that African-Europeans applying for refuge will be put at the front of the line, ahead of all the “economic refugee” categories enabling people to come for the free gibs. The bully pulpit alone could do wonders here.

5. Ban tipping

No, I do not say tipping could literally be made illegal: that is a free choice. But the situation has gotten out of hand. The bully pulpit could again be used to explain to people how the merchants have manipulated this archaic remnant of the slave period to exploit both the service workers and the customers. It has become an extortion racket. In Europe, tipping is not expected, and the service jobs pay decent wages right up front. Yet I have never found the service to be one iota less diligent there; quite the contrary.

6. Ban blared music in retail establishments

If smoking can be banned, why can’t noise pollution? Again, I do not say a law should be passed, but the bully pulpit could be used to give confidence to the people to begin a long, gradual pushback. This ubiquitous jangling of the auditory channel and numbing of the mind is a significant aspect of how the quality of our lives has been degraded.

7. Abolish the Patriot Act and TSA

The Patriot Act is one of the glaring outrages left from the W’s administration.  The surveillance of citizens’ phone calls and emails must be stopped immediately. It is far-reaching. The sense of privacy and trust in your banking has been been disrupted. Why do you have to produce ID and sign, in order to deposit into an account? How ridiculous is that?

I do not say airport “security” could be abolished all at once, because our people willingly submit to it and advocate for it. But the most egregious absurdities could be ameliorated. As Ann Coulter once pointed out, no Connecticut blond has every been found smuggling bombs onto an airplane. Neither have any grannies. So why are Connecticut blonds and grannies subjected to pat-downs and x-ray scans? It is an outrage, and it is one of the ways the men of our nation are daily cowed and humiliated into helpless submission.

How about this for a baby step. Have every airport provide a separate line for those not carrying anything on board. They would go through an express line with minimal examination. In the express line, only swarthy young males would have to go through the machine or be patted down.  Of course the Left will scream “profiling!” and “racism!” That is what the Left does. But nothing makes more sense than profiling, in a situation where only a small number of demographics have ever caused any problems.

Conclusion

These  measures will probably inspire additional suggestions in the readers’ minds. We need to realize that our civilization is being eroded and destroyed, and stopping the influx of undesirables, laudatory as that is, will do nothing to restore the land of the free and home of the brave, unless many small but significant changes are made across the board.

Harris’ corollary to Godwin’s Law

Posted by T on May 05, 2018
Ethics / No Comments

Godwin’s Law states that as an on-line discussion grows longer, the probability of Hitler or the Nazis being mentioned approaches 100%.

Actually, the law is valid whether the discussion is on-line or anywhere else.

However, in discussions involving Christians, the phenomenon can be broadened and intensified.

In any discussion between Christians, the probably that either Hitler & the Nazis will be mentioned, or Hellfire & Damnation threatened, very soon approaches 100%.

Usually, both, sometimes in the same breath.

 

Murray Rothbard’s Magnum Defense of Free Markets

Posted by T on September 09, 2016
Economics, Ethics / 1 Comment

I met Rothbard at a von Mises conference in Las Vegas in the early 90’s. During the opening reception, he enthusiastically went around introducing himself to all the attendees — something I have never witnessed from keynote speakers at Christian conferences. He was ebullient, joyful, humorous; it was a pleasure to meet him. This wonderful guy wrote his tome Man, Economy and State (1962, info listed at end) to expound economic theory from the “action principle” of Austrian libertarianism. It is the gold standard for libertarian theory. Although weighing in at almost a thousand pages, most of the foundational ideas are broached in the first 160 pages, plus the last chapter, so it is not as daunting to get a good overview as it seems at first.

In reviewing his book, I pass by a number of quibbles. For example, he invokes the happiness principle: that in pursuance of which all human choices are made (p. 15). Though this notion has a long pedigree in the history of philosophy, it is an empty, purely formal concept, having no explanatory power, for it changes shape just as each individual is diposed to choose, and thus cannot be an explanation of the motive of choice itself.  Its strength is its weakness. Rothbard also asserts as key, the idea of the uncertainty of the future. “If a man knew future events completely, he would never act, since no act of his could change the situation” (p. 5). This seems patently false, for this known future includes his acts as part of its falling out; and those acts (read: choices) are no less real for being known in advance. For example, I could resolve to purchase a particular car at 10 AM tomorrow. That future is certain (so I believe). Yet it does not alter the sense I have of being free, both in making the resolution now, and in carrying it out tomorrow. Both of these ideas could be tightened up logically, I believe, and this is left as an exercise for the reader. But even tightened up, they cannot be foundational, as I will show.

In Chapter 2, “Direct Exchange,” (pp. 67ff.) slavery is rejected because it entails the threat of violence. At this point we can see that libertarianism has the same Achilles’ heel that all ethical systems based on pure reason suffer from, namely: how will the strong man be convinced (for example) not to enslave if he can get away with it? He mentions some pragmatic considerations that might lead the strongman not to enslave others — the threat of a slave revolt, or perpetual warfare. But such considerations have no weight with the man who thinks he could overcome them. It is interesting that Rothbard goes so far as to argue that even slavery voluntarily entered into would be wrong.

The argument that the slave might be an enthusiastic supporter of the system because of the food, etc., provided by his master ignores the fact that, in that case, violence and the threat of violence by the master would not be necessary (p. 69).

But later, Rothbard seems to allow violence in situations where immunity from it has been demerited; for example, he quotes Auberon Herbert favorably who writes

The sovereignty of the individual must remain intact, except where the individual coerced has aggressed upon the sovereignty of another unaggressive individual. (p. 159, italics added by me)

So, if the slave’s voluntary entering into this state entailed giving property rights in his labor to the master, then the latent threat of violence to enforce the ongoing relationship would seem to be naught but an instance of asserting defrauded rights.

Rothbard suddenly ends this section (p. 80) with the stipulation that while the subsequent analysis will simply assume the free-market (and slave-free) situation, he promises to return to the subject later. The final chapter does indeed take up the topic again, but now restricted to state coercion, not household slavery. So it should be noted that the status of household slavery as such remains an unredeemed debate debt.

A second major topic of interest is that of the origin of land property. Rothbard asserts that nature has no owner until a human arrives and mixes his labor with it for the first time (p. 147); immediately upon that happening, the “first user” has title to that land in perpetuity — even if he (or his “assigns”) subsequently allows the land to fall into disuse.

Suppose that he clears new land and therefore obtains title to it, but then finds that it is no longer useful in production and allows it to remain idle. In a free society, would he lose title? No, for once his labor is mixed with the natural resource, it remains his owned land. (pp. 147f.)

He would even apply this notion to fishing rights in bodies of water! (p. 150) However, he concedes that Columbus can’t just step foot on the New World and claim the entire continent for himself.

Columbus or Crusoe would have to use the land, to “cultivate” it in some way, before he could be asserted to own it. This “cultivation” does not have to involve tilling the soil, although that is one possible form of cultivation. If the natural resource is land, he may clear it for a house or a pasture, or care for some plots of timber, etc. If there is more land than can be used by a limited labor supply, then the unused land must simply remain unowned until a first user arrives on the scene. (p. 147)

The final chapter redeems his promise to take up the topic of violence again. I have already noted that he fails to pay up his lingering debt on the subject of private slavery. But leave that aside for now. A great merit of this chapter is the interesting thesis that the free market creates a situation where the happiness of every single person can but increase. This is because of the radical turn to subjectivity as the only measure of value. Absent coercion, everyone’s choice at each moment is for that which, subjectively defined, it is the best of all possible choices. If this is a form of utilitarianism, it has distinct qualities that should be held up clearly by way of contrast with Bentham and Mills and other historical expounders of utilitarianism:
1. There is no aggregate calculus — no finding the maximum of the happiness curve of the whole society (even in principle)
2. It proposes, not an increase in happiness of a mere majority, nor of an average, nor a weighted average, but literally of everyone. It is a norm where unanimity is insisted upon and achieved!
3. Consequently, any calculus that weighs the loss of (even just) one against the gain of (even all) others is ruled out from the outset.

I don’t know if ethicists have given this form of utilitarianism a name, or if they have even discovered it. I will call it distributed utilitarianism. The argument is not, that the free market maximizes some kind of aggregate sum of happiness, but that it alone grants increasing happiness without exception. People need to pause and acknowledge the genius of this proposal. It is, I think, quite unique in the history of humanistic ethics.

Having paused and acknowledged, however, we must now also add that utilitarianism still can only live on the borrowed capital derived from an ethic with a different foundation. This can be seen both foundationally and as to coherence. Foundationally, utilitarianism cannot provide an answer to the objector’s question, “why should I care about distributed utility in deciding what I should do, if I can gain even more utility violating it?” This is a generalization of the strongman’s question mentioned above.

But if this seems like too facile an objection, there is also a problem of inner coherence. The marginal increases of everyone’s happiness in making free exchanges is only sensible given the ethically legitimate status quo of property-right in the prior situation. The angry worker’s claim to increased happiness by seizing ownership of the factory is supposed to be refuted in distributed utilitarianism by the owner’s decrease in happiness at its loss. But this begs the question. What if the workers answer, “in a deeper sense, the factory actually belongs to us; it is not a loss to you any more than some factory on the other side of the world burning down is a loss to you. Your problem is psychological, not real.” In other words, the settlement of property must first be understood as righteous prior to the invocation of distributed utilitarianism. It in fact needs the prior de jure understanding of property, and needs to secure that the current distribution thereof is appropriate in terms of that de jure system.

Rothbard grounds the de jure principle of ownership in first use, as summarized above. My basic criticism of this view has three levels. First, it is arbitrary: that is, there is no reason to accept this as a de jure origin of land title (and by the way I can think of few examples from history where title was established in this way). But second, intuitively it seems to lead to patent injustices. It assumes a simple binary decision on use of the resource: it is either used or not used. But if one man claims 5 acres in the new world, and cultivates it thoroughly and efficiently, while another grabs 500 acres, scattering seeds helter skelter to “put in into cultivation,” is it fair that the second one ends up with 100 times the land? Rothbard suggests (p. 151) that subsequent economic trades would equalize such imbalances. Yes: but to the economic disadvantage of the responsible first-user of the five acres. Third, the very term title is smuggled in without definition or explanation. But this concept already presupposes a juridical settlement, with (for example) judges, county clerks, and so forth. Where do these come from on Rothbard’s view? In reality, how does it even make sense to assert your right to a plot of land, prior to the existence of an entire social order in terms of which that has meaning? Say you go down to Antarctica, and stake out your “square mile” where you “harvest” ice for a while. Then you go back home. Fifty years later, one of your descendants goes back to build his hut there, only to find someone else is squatting. Is it not laughable to suppose that he has “title” in perpetuity, because his ancestor fifty years ago harvested some ice?

I submit that the foundational holes in Rothbard’s libertarianism, revealed poignantly in the exposition of slavery and property rights, are consequent to the fact that his theory lacks a one-many correlation of the individual property-holders (the many) to the surrounding, upholding membership community (the one). Neither pole of this correlation can exist without the other. He needs to sneak an entire system of deeds, surveyors, boundary markers and magistrates in through the back door for his proposal to make the slightest bit of sense. He tries to defer this issue by claiming, without plausibility,“whether the enforcement is undertaken by each person or by some sort of agency, we assume here that such a condition — the existence of an unhampered market — is maintained in some way” (p. 152). There are little hints here and there that he wants to establish the order by voluntary social contract (e.g. point 3, p. 159, of the Herbert quote), but that theory has been exploded too many times to bear repetition in this already too-long review.

What these problems reveal is that methodological individualism is an impossible foundation. But once a foundation other than methodological individualism is introduced, grounding the one-many correlation, then neither the happiness principle nor the freedom-motif can any longer serve as absolutes.

Now Rothbard might protest here that I have set the bar too high: that the entire history of philosophy can be read from the perspective of a vain effort to find the one-and-many synthesis. Why should he be held to such a high standard? As if sensing his absent foundation, twenty years later Rothbard articulated Natural Law as the normative substrate for his theory. It would be too much of a digression to go into this theory in any depth right here, but here is a basic challenge: let all Natural Law theorists agree on and publish their “Ten Commandments.” It hasn’t been done, and cannot be done. Natural Law is either but a metonymy for law deduced by nude reason — in which case it is subject to the same defects I am highlighting here — or it thinks to deduce its laws empirically from Nature — in which case it has two problems: the naturalistic fallacy, and the fact the Nature herself presents opposites under any rubric of importance. Occasionally, a male mounts another male in the animal kingdom, for example.

In contrast, we do have an answer. The holy Trinity is eternally one-and-many, so that the creaturely structures can have ontological grounding as creaturely representations of the eternal. But, the cornerstone of a foundation being discovered at last, men do not then have the freedom to go off and build whatever system they want to. No, it must be consistent with the revelation of the triune God: including law and covenant. Ironically, the law of God provides (in just the nick of time!) a transcendent securing of property rights, seemingly to the succor of libertarianism, but at a cost: a system of covenantally interlocking authority structures. Slavery is not an absolute evil, according to the Bible. Thus, the freedom principle cannot be foundational. Likewise, happiness is not an absolute good — not for any single creature, and thus, a fortiori, not for the distributed totality.

Murray N. Rothbard. Man, Economy and State: A Treatise on Economic Principles (Los Angeles: Nash, 1970 [1962])

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Protected: Mr. Ham Introduces Miss Egenation

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