Posted by: John Vandivier | September 2, 2013

Religious Arguments for Minarchism

One peculiar argument for minarchism is the religious argument. Usually this argument is discounted because religion is thought to have no place in academia. Of course as students of caeconomics we disagree, and therefore this argument becomes much more relevant.

Specifically we care about the Christian argument for minarchism. All other religious arguments we may properly address through the use of apologetics. Interpretations of Christianity vary, and some are fine with pure anarchism. Those who oppose anarchism in favor of some amount of government are largely sustained by two arguments:

1) The Bible says “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” “obey the law of the land” and similar things implying that God has given authority to government. Because God gave government some degree of authority, government must or should exist.

2) God’s perfect government, the government of heaven in New Jerusalem, includes God as monarch. Because God’s society is the ideal one and it involves a government, we either must or should have a government.

The tribute penny mentioned in the Bible is co...

The tribute penny mentioned in the Bible is commonly believed to be a Roman denarius depicting Tiberius. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can easily get rid of the idea that we must have government based on the fact that some societies already exist as anarchies. The question of should is a bit more difficult. I do agree that God’s perfect government should exist, but I don’t agree that such a government is possible until after the return of Christ. So while it is true that God’s perfect government is like a benevolent dictatorship, given that Christ hasn’t returned yet to take his place as governor, the question becomes whether or not in his temporary absence a benevolent dictatorship is still the best choice.

I would argue no. I would say a benevolent dictatorship is, in fact, not a choice at all for regular human beings. Regular morally fallible humans, I think, are not capable of maintaining a benevolent dictatorship for very much time at all. So what kind of government should we use? I say “test all things, hold on to the good” and “you will know them by their fruit.” In other words, in practice, put the government models on a market and let the government types compete. Then choose the best performer.

That free market of governance is the same as anarchy in my book.

It should also be noted that “Render unto Caesar” is not violated if there is no Caesar! We are still giving him what is his – nothing. I think this is actually related to the point Jesus was making. It may seem like Caesar ran the world back then, but Jesus knew that one day he would be nothing and God would take his rightful place as ruler. Will Caesar be receiving taxes even while we live in the New Jerusalem? I don’t think so. Clearly, therefore, this was a temporary commandment on what we ought to do while Caesar or other governments were around, not a recommendation or command that Caesar or other governments should be around.

In conclusion, I think that God’s government will and should exist, but that is neither possible nor practical until after the return of Christ. I also find strong backing for the idea of comparative government in the Bible. There is one other religious argument for minarchism based on the idea of the Man of Lawlessness or the so-called Antichrist, but I will have to go over that one separately as it is kind of complicated. For now I will just say that anarchy does not necessarily imply lawlessness and, furthermore, preventing anarchy will not prevent the Man of Lawlessness.

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