Subject: Libertarianism vs. Christianity Date: 4 Aug 90 17:29:42 GMT [My apologies to Mr.

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From: wdstarr@athena.mit.edu (William December Starr) Newsgroups: misc.legal Subject: Libertarianism vs. Christianity Message-ID: <1990Aug4.172942.27161@athena.mit.edu> Date: 4 Aug 90 17:29:42 GMT [My apologies to Mr. Rosenblatt et al for taking so long to respond to this. Also, I realize that maybe this should go into talk.politics.theory and/or talk.religion.misc, but (a) I don't read those newsgroups (tried 'em once and my eyes glazed over and fell out) and (b) what the heck, this thread started here in misc.legal so let's keep it here for now.] In article <13431@smoke.BRL.MIL>, matt@smoke.BRL.MIL (Matthew Rosenblatt) said: > Mr. Starr has not told us WHY the American people should throw > away their away their Western Christian heritage where that > heritage conflicts with his belief in libertarianism. Are we > "bad people" for keeping the Christian influence on our legal > system, considering that: > > > ...it's impossible to be both a good Christian and a good > > person, since the former requires that one swear allegiance > > and obedience to a deity whose policies are opposed to > > individual freedom and self-determination. [W. D. Starr] > > Only if "individual freedom and self-determination" are the > _summum bonum_, the highest values of all. And indeed, what > Mr. Starr is telling us, in effect, is "Accept individual > freedom and self-determination as the highest values because I > think they are the highest values." Surely he must have more > persuasive arguments than this _ipse dixit_. Let's hear them! Okay, let's try this: Given: All humans<*> are, by their very existence, endowed with equal rights. <*>For the sake of simplicity, let's limit ourselves to competent adult humans here, without going off on the "what is a person?" tangent and getting tangled up in animal rights, children's rights, alien rights, Artificial Intelligence rights, etc. Given: Human pleasure is good, and human anguish is bad.<*> <*>I'm using "pleasure" as a general term that includes happiness and its relatives; please don't confuse this premise with pure hedonism. "Anguish" is, I think, self-explanatory; I use that word rather than "pain" so as not to insult any masochists out there. :-) It follows therefore that that is good which either increases pleasure and/or minimizes anguish, and that that is bad which either increases anguish or minimizes pleasure. And from that it follows that a good policy (be it an individual's policy or a state's) is one that is intended to meet the above goals, is is designed to meet the above goals, and is likely to meet the above goals (where "likely" means "more likely, under reasonable analysis, than a competing policy"). At this point, we examine the two competing proposed policies, libertarianism and adherence to Christian rules. Libertarianism (with a small "l") is generally defined as the idea that anyone is free to do what he wishes provided that by his acts he does not violate or recklessly endanger the rights of others.<*> <*>There's some debate over whether "does not threaten to violate the rights of others" should also be in that list; let's leave that aside for now. This creed is, I think, derived from the idea that each person should, to the largest extent possible, have the right to make all decisions about his own life, and that creed, in turn is, I think, derived from two points: (1) It is overwhelmingly (though not absolutely) the case that a person is far more strongly affected by his own actions than by the actions of others, and it is more fair that the person who is going to have live with the policies and their results be the person with the most control over those policies. (This is the premise of "enlightened self-interest," the idea that the person with the most at stake will be the person with the most motivation to try to do it right, combined with the premise of self- responsibility, the idea that a system should be designed so that when a screwup does occur its negative impact will fall most heavily upon the person responsible for it and least heavily upon innocent bystanders.) (2) It is overwhelmingly (though not absolutely) the case that a person knows far more about himself and his relation with the outside world than does any other person or set of persons, and it is therefore logical that the person with the most data on the topic be the person with the most control over the development and implementation of the policies which directly affect that person. Applying the "all persons have equal rights" principle to the above points leads us directly to libertarianism, a system in which the self-determination of the individual is maximized to the greatest extent possible. (That is, the greatest extent which is also consistent with the idea that the self- determination of all other individuals also be maximized; the "equal rights" premise mandates that everyone get an equal share.) Christianity, as near as I can tell from a lifetime of looking at it from the outside and scratching my head, is founded in the ideas that (1) God (aka "Jehovah") does exist, (2) he either matches exactly or to a high degree matches the parameters laid out in the Old and New Testaments, and (3) he has the best interests of all humans at heart. *If* those three points are indeed true then an adherence to Christian ethics would indeed be a superior policy to adherence to libertarian ethics, since God, by definition, would have a far better idea of what policies would serve to maximize pleasure and minimize anguish in humans (being omniscient will give one that ability, after all). To refuse to follow the advice of an *all-knowing* being who *really wants what's best for you* would be an act of insanity even in the absence of any explicit threats of sanctions imposed for disobedience (e.g., damnation). *However*... At no time in the recorded history of man has there ever been put forth the slightest iota of *proof* that the tenets of Christianity are in any way founded in reality. No one has yet succeeded in even proving that *any* supernatural being exists, let alone that this hypothetical being matches the parameters of the Christian God, let alone proving that the hypothetical Christian God is telling the truth when he says (or implies) that he really loves all humans and has their best interests at heart. Indeed, while point #1 may be demonstrable, I hold that it is *impossible* for anyone, even the hypothetical Jehovah, to prove points #2 and/or 3 -- any being powerful enough to claim to be God would, by definition, be powerful enough to lie seamlessly and perfectly on any topic; he would, paradoxically, be too powerful to be believed. All of this leads me to the conclusion that adherence to the tenets of Christianity for no reason other than that they are (allegedly) divinely inspired is an act of irrationality which borders on (and perhaps crosses into) insanity. Earlier, I stated that: ...a good policy (be it an individual's policy or a state's) is one that is intended to meet the above goals, is is designed to meet the above goals, and is likely to meet the above goals (where "likely" means "more likely, under reasonable analysis, than a competing policy"). where the "goals" were the maximization of human pleasure and the minimization of human anguish. I submit that if the competing policies are (a) those based upon the tenets of libertarianism and (b) those based upon the tenets of Christianity, the former will score much higher on the "reasonable analysis" test than will the latter, because the former is based upon rational observation of humanity and the world as they appear to be, while the latter is based upon a set of untenable superstitious beliefs. [Note: I realize that in this essay I've skirted dangerously close to the Fallacy of the Binary Choice; that in concentrating on libertarianism vs. Christianity I've acted as if those two ideologies were the *only* options available to man. Obviously, there's at least a zillion other ideologies out there which also deserve consideration; although I do feel that libertarianism is generally superior to any other ideology of which I've heard, it is *not* my intention to attempt to prove that, or even to address that issue, here. One thing at a time, folks.] -- William December Starr

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