Selwyn Duke of the New American Thinker claims libertarians misunderstand the nature of law. Here’s Duke’s argument in summary:
Without morality, there can be no law. Therefore part of the function of law must be to enforce morality to make the general rule of law possible.
Of course, this argument is nothing new. It’s the same argument that all Statists, in the end, make: law is a positive concept, that is, the purpose of law “is to cause justice to reign.” Whether Duke realizes it or not, the Fabian Socialist and the Christian moralist are making the same argument.
Frédéric Bastiat’s “The Law” addressed these Statist claims way back in the day. Law is not a “positive” concept, it is a “negative” concept. The purpose of law is not allow justice to reign but to prevent injustice from reigning. The purpose of law is not to promote justice but rather to correct injustice. Bastiat’s famous tract serves as foundation to the radical libertarian conception of law. And it’s a very simple one. There is no other abstract requirement of law outside the absence of plunder. Simple, but remarkably clarifying.
So, to Selwyn Duke I ask a simple question. Are Christians incapable of plunder? If they are, then there is no need of law in a Christian moral society. If they are not, then there is no value in promoting a positive law to enforce such a morality. Duke’s appeals to Christianity as the historical source for laws against such things as murder, theft, etc is laughable, revisionist history. The educated person, even a modestly educated person, knows better. The educated person knows full well, from a examination of history, that Morality + State is often the source of the most putrid, systematic plunder.
Bastiat, himself, was hardly an atheist. But he addressed “Law and Morality” thusly:
You say: “Here are persons who are lacking in morality or religion,” and you turn to the law. But law is force. And need I point out what a violent and futile effort it is to use force in the matters of morality and religion?
It would seem that socialists, however self-complacent, could not avoid seeing this monstrous legal plunder that results from such systems and such efforts. But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others — and even from themselves — under the seductive names of fraternity, unity, organization, and association. Because we ask so little from the law — only justice — the socialists thereby assume that we reject fraternity, unity, organization, and association. The socialists brand us with the name individualist.
But we assure the socialists that we repudiate only forced organization, not natural organization. We repudiate the forms of association that are forced upon us, not free association. We repudiate forced fraternity, not true fraternity. We repudiate the artificial unity that does nothing more than deprive persons of individual responsibility. We do not repudiate the natural unity of mankind under Providence.
The language here is clear. And I would advise Mr. Duke to read it carefully because he suffers from his own misunderstanding, a non-realization of the fact that his advocacy of Christianity under the threat of the gun makes him a collectivist. In short, Mr. Duke, you sir, are a Socialist…