Our forms of prohibition are more sins of omission than commission. Rather than trying to take away longstanding rights, they’re instances of conservative laws failing to keep pace with a liberalizing society. But like Prohibition in the ’20s, these restrictions have become indefensible as well as impractical, and as a result are fading fast…. The chief reason these prohibitions are falling away is the evolving definition of the pursuit of happiness.
The writer of this piece chose to first focus specifically on his pet liberties: marijuana smoking, gay marriage, and traveling to Cuba. Then he made a token gesture at bipartisanship:
For similar reasons, there is not likely to be any retreat on the basic legal status—as opposed to tinkering around the margins—of the right to have an abortion or own a gun. Conservatives would be wise to give up on the one, liberals on the other. In each of these cases, popular demand for an individual right is simply too powerful to overcome.
Finally he got down to the nitty gritty by bringing up the Internet:
The Internet has been a crucial amplifier of all such claims. With pornography, and gambling, the Web itself became an irrepressible distribution tool for indulgences that were once perforce local…. More broadly, the freest communications medium the world has ever known has raised expectations of personal liberty. In a world where everyone has his own printing press, restrictions on private behavior become increasingly untenable.
Marshall McLuhan is vindicated now, as it has become apparent that the medium of communication has done more to change society than the content. The content, rather, has resulted from the changes wrought by the medium of communication; although it is undeniable that one’s choice of content will condition one’s character.
The point of this article was to present an optimistic view of the prospects for the future of individual liberties. Yet, the writer is too simplistic. For example, he doesn’t even mention carbon emissions; does he really believe that people will have increasing liberty to exhale carbon dioxide?
I would also suggest that whereas religious liberty is generally increasing, the liberty to talk about Christianity is decreasing. There is more tolerance for discussion about the existence of God and the right of everyone to believe or do whatever they feel is right in the religious sphere; but there is less tolerance for a biblical viewpoint, much less for the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Since 9/11, there is much less tolerance for anything that sounds like non-criminal threats to social stability, AKA “terrorism.” Strangely enough, this paranoia has spread most rapidly among conservative Christians, the people who are supposed to be challenging the culture and destabilizing the moral self-righteousness of secular political leaders. The Christian is supposed to govern his own behavior so that the name of Jesus will be glorified, rather than justifying the evil actions of secular government:
There can be little doubt that while good leaders have done good for their people, evil leaders have done much damage. Open wickedness may be obviously wrong, but excessive control is frequently harmful. Further, if we allow for a large state when we approve of our leaders, the same state can do proportionally more damage when bad men come into power.
Further, even if leaders don’t seem overtly evil, our fallen nature affects our reason. So government that seeks to interfere in the lives of men will frequently do so in the wrong way. Policy that seems kind may lack justice. Provisions that alleviate suffering short term may exacerbate it long term. Laws that give men positive “rights” may severely restrict others’ negative rights. Basically the detrimental effect of the fall on the ability to reason means that men can and do reason wrongly. And even if they reason rightly they may lack the will to do right. By restricting the role of the government to that of justice, and in that to punish wrong rather than to create good, the fallen man is limited in his ability to do evil. Given that probably far more people have died at the hands of government than have died at the hand of bandits throughout history, restricting leaders seems more essential than restricting citizens.
For myself, Christian libertarianism is a more orderly variant of Christian anarchism. That is to say, that the Christian is in the world and thus subject to earthly rulers, while owing them no fealty, for his citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, and Jesus Christ is his only true lord. The Christian is an alien in this world, an ambassador from the Kingdom of God; he is not a subject of the principalities of this dark world who may someday emigrate to heaven, as many conservatives would have it.
The reason so many Christians today despise libertarianism is because of their misreading of the Old Testament. They think that the pattern for government is set out by the Torah, and so they want to replicate the Israelite monarchy in all its legalism and ritualistic glory.
They have missed all the other books of the OT that show what a massive failure the Israelite monarchy was. The Israelite monarchy was born out of the people’s wickedness and rejection of God (1 Samuel 8 and 12) and it ended up in sinfulness, murder, injustice, and exile. (Here I refer to “injustice” according to God’s meaning in the OT, rather than the humanistic contemporary sense.)
Some might argue that the Israelite monarchy was ordained by God, as were its laws. Yet it is clear that just as God anointed a king only because of their wickedness, He gave the laws only because of the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts (Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:5).
Prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy, Israel was ruled by tribal leaders together with military commanders (such as Joshua or the Judges) or prophets (such as Samuel). Although these arrangements are common today throughout the world, they are not really appropriate for a modern republic or democracy. Yet, both ideas would be acceptable to certain conservative Christians in the US, just because it would ensure the maximum outward appearance of order and civility.
That is where I break with a lot of conservatives in the US. They simply have no concept of the difference between living as a Christian and using excessive force to compel everyone within a geographical area to live as if they were Christians. In fact, they think that would be just fine if everyone would pretend to be Christian, because then they could pretend that the culture and the government were perfect; then everyone would be perfectly happy and smiley, like whitewashed tombs. These hypocrites are sickening and I frequently read atheists mocking Jesus Christ by pointing out the worthless political ideals of spiritually dead Christians. It is shocking and humiliating to see how many Christians pervert Christian liberty by claiming that it gives them the obligation to abuse, torture, imprison and kill other people in the name of God.