Posted on October 2, 2011 by

From their actual arguments, rather than their self-description, most paleo-libertarians who argue for a highly-devolved government and stronger churches are actually pushing for a theocracy. They acknowledge that someone will have to govern and we can’t just leave everyone to starve, but they are arguing for that power to go to the Church, rather than the State. But then the Church becomes part of the State, at least at a local level. That isn’t really libertarianism, which implies an increase in personal liberty. If your Church can punish you rather than the State, and you depend for your well-being on the Church and the Church community, then you are being ruled by the Church rather than the State. That is not a true increase in personal liberty; it’s more a melding of Church and State.

Excommunication can end up being a very strong punishment, if the churches gain more power. Cutting you off from Church charity would leave you to starve, forbidding to marry you could leave you alone and frustrated, etc.

I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with those views, just that I don’t consider them to be truly libertarian. The idea that the State is dangerous, so we should transfer all power to non-State institutions, which are all warm-and-fuzzy, is a bit naive. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it will corrupt any institution that gains too much power. Like neighborhood associations, townships, churches, businesses, etc. There are benefits to a reorganization of power, but the power will remain with someone.

People forget that townships were once private institutions run with a charter. My mother’s HOA is like that. There are hundreds of people living there, and they have a board of directors that get voted in, a security detail that rides around in a pseudo-cop car, strict rules on what may be done inside their borders, they collect fees, etc. She doesn’t feel much freer living there, outside of city limits, than I do living inside of them.

You don’t need the state to have tyranny. There’s a false dichotomy being made between state/non-state that was not so obvious in the past. The lines are more fluid.