Depressing Discoveries About My Libertarianism, Part 2

In my previous post, I confessed that I am probably not as charitable as I try to say I am, and then insinuated that you probably aren’t, either.[1] The second Depressing Discovery about my libertarianism is that I feel, politically speaking, very lonely at church. Whenever I meet other libertarians, I tend to sense that they aren’t my political kin, and I am not theirs, because the truth is, I find much of the LDS Liberty rhetoric to be kinda crazy and borderline dangerous.[2]

Although I know the text of the Book of Mormon certainly omits scads of details that would give much needed context, given his “join me or die” approach to peace, I don’t understand how a libertarian can see Captain Moroni as a political hero.

Sure, I prefer private education…but I don’t think that support for public education causes a man to lose his priesthood or grieve the heavens.[3]

(I strongly encourage you to follow that link–read the post and comments and just bask in the Cocoa Puffs. You can’t make this stuff up.)

I personally think collective organization is Teh Suck, but I don’t really like the overtly spiritual condemnation of such political/economic preferences that seems to result from poaching copious quotes from Ezra Taft Benson, and I don’t think that a libertarian reading of D&C 134 is the only spiritually valid reading.

Importantly, I don’t believe that “Captain Moroni, Jesus Christ, and every other freedom fighter would vote, and will vote if they are able, for Ron Paul.

In summary, I don’t play well with other LDS libertarians, and the reason is fairly simple: My libertarianism is not spiritual in nature. Despite having used certain of them in the past, I no longer see much value or validity in the religious arguments for LDS libertarianism. The outcome of this is that, while we may agree on a policy option, we do so for dramatically different reasons, and that makes me itchy.

[1] I actually only made the insinuation about other libertarians, but I think it’s likely true for everyone. The difference is that libertarians are particularly prone to couching protestations about government welfare in arguments that private donors would, in lieu of government help, rise to the occasion.
[2] The rhetoric–not the people. Unless we’re talking about that particular strain of gun-loving libertarians.
[3] HT: Cynthia L.


  1. The awesomeness of the artwork accompanying this post almost compensates for the fact that you are a libertarian. Almost.

  2. I don’t see a problem with your points here. Although I do know many LDS libertarians who may. However, they all tend to read the Book of Mormon and Ezra Taft Benson with rose colored – through a glass darkly – tinted lenses.
    I am not a big Capt Moroni fan, as he seems to have been a rather big government type. But then, it WAS war time. And while I like much of what Ron Paul states, he sometimes scares me on some of his beliefs.

    Libertarianism IS a lonely kinda thing, because most libertarians do not agree on how much government there should be: none (anarchic), state level (federalist), etc.

    The one thing libertarians DO tend to agree with is that the federal government needs to be smaller. Giving power back to states, localities and individuals is a good start on providing freedom and a dynamic structure to government that may reduce excesses (or at least keep them from occurring on a national scale).

  3. Yeah, politics and religion don’t mix. I don’t get the weaving in of extreme religious ideas into public policy (a la Benson and the awesomeness of the links in your post). I tend to be unfairly brusk with Libertarian Mormons because I associate it with the crazy. I know that’s unfair to the other brand of libertarianism.

  4. FWIW, all most of my LDS libertarian friends are the same sort as you. That said, I’m more of a progressive and therefore my friends are a group with significant sampling bias.

    Perhaps misery loves company, but I’m glad to count you as a fellow member of the club for people who feel politically lonely at church.

  5. Moriah Jovan says:

    My libertarianism is not spiritual in nature.

    Preach it.

    Actually, I thought I was alone in my LDS libertarianism, so the idea that there are OTHERS is kinda blowing my mind.

  6. “My libertarianism is not spiritual in nature.”

    Good. Why should any political persuasion be spiritual in nature? What any church says is best for you need not necessarily be what is best for the nation. My spiritual views and my political views are entirely separate.

    I find that many of my fellow Church members don’t understand that view, however.

  7. I agree with mmiles that the fusion of religion and politics gets crazy. You can’t then discuss and critique politics or policy with someone who fuses them because any statement that disparages a political idea becomes, by extension, an attack on God (or at least their view of God). Their political views are an extension of their faith, so facts have no sway. I’ve seen it happen across the political spectrum. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it too.

  8. I’m with Ben.

    Have to say, being a libertarian at church has to be better than being a flag-waving liberal. It’s going to be a long election cycle of me skipping Sunday School to avoid getting into a political argument that *should* have no place at church.

  9. I should clarify one thing here:

    I don’t have a problem with Ron Paul (hooray for small government!), the Constitution (inspired document!), or liberty (hooray…liberty!). What makes me itch is the LDS rhetoric linking these things together, and the suggestion that someone who feels differently is in spiritual danger.

  10. Cpt Moroni worked within the law of the judges, with judges of 10s, 50s, 100s, etc. (Exodus 18:21-22; or Mosiah 29 in the Book of Mormon). They kept the law, and had sabbatical and Jubilee years, and canceled debt every 7 years. He acted under Pahoran, and only got a little crazy because it was war…HELLO! What better libertarian idea is there than that? As Uchtdorf told stakes last Conference about welfare, don’t expect us to bail you out every time you need assistance. In other words, figure out your own damn problems…as much as you can. Again, what better libertarian idea is there than that? What makes you think it isn’t spiritual? It’s very spiritual.

  11. There is no evidence of any sort that any social aspect of the Law of Moses was applied in the Book of Mormon. Nor is there evidence that they followed the ritual aspects of the Law of Moses (they use burnt offerings the wrong way and they don’t appear to have any Levites handy). I enjoy speculation about Sukkot and King Benjamin as much as the next guy, but be careful you don’t engage in eisegesis. We know they had the 10 commandments; we don’t know if they had the Shema.

  12. I’m not certain that cadams isn’t a parody.

  13. My libertarianism is not spiritual in nature. Despite having used certain of them in the past, I no longer see much value or validity in the religious arguments for LDS libertarianism.

    I can relate to this, Scott, but only partly. The roots of my communitarianism and socialism are very much grounded in my own spiritual understanding, experiences, and perspectives, and as a consequence the language–and imperatives–of Christian socialism, and the arguments on behalf of such, come pretty easily to me. But I can also see, in looking at my own political arguments, that the religious specifics of those roots–Zion, the law of consecration, the early disciples having all things in common, Jacob condemning the wearing of fine apparel, the rhetoric of social justice–have faded for me in recent years. I can, and will, still argue out the real meaning of D&C 42 with those that are interested, and I do still think there’s some validity there. But in many ways, the whole idea of developing a Mormon communitarianism or Mormon socialism increasingly seems rather quaint to me now.

  14. John C. (#12): Excellent use of the double negative. I’ve been involved in too many political/religious discussions on facebook and I’ve seen many comments such as #10 from people I know and/or friends of friends. I’ve also gotten in trouble assuming people were being sarcastic, when they were dead serious. It’s happened enough times that I now almost default to assuming that every trollish comment is sincere.

  15. Well its clear that some rhetorically abuse the extremely extenuating circumstances surrounding the kingmen. If you use this as some kind of excuse I think we should not abuse an extreme case to justify every day political compulsion. Read the chapter… after killing many thousands of Amalickiah’s people in war they still desired and swore to continue war and drink the blood of Moroni. So you can safely assume in that event all the other Nephites would be dead too. Some seem to suggest the alternative was go fight a war and win and have political chaos at home or have an orderly referendum while a standing army does the dirty work and the people go about their business and fight a war and win. Who knows what kind of army they had but presumably in their farming socoety they relied on conscription in a crisis.

    It seems in this kind of total warfare – drink the blood of your enemy- there was no room for loss. Everyone fights or is murdered/enslaved. It even approached rebellion with the kingmen preferring to fight their neighbors than fight their enemies. So yes, in a critical time such as this force is jusitified especially in a time when mass conscription in times of war is the only way to defend your nation.

    It’s ironic the lesson some would take is more compulsion as routine govt policy rather than only in dire need and in general the lesson of unity when dealing with existential threats (physical or spiritual)

  16. I was hoping you’d weigh in with that, RAF. My gradual swing away from near-libertarianism to embrace a strong social safety net has been entirely spiritual in nature.

  17. RAF (13),
    I like your comment, think the sentiment there is a good clarification of what I meant by this post. I perhaps overstate what I meant in making the “no value” remark; I think there is some validity to them in the sense that I find some of it logically persuasive and in harmony with other values that I think are important in the Gospel. I think that some systems are likely to generate more liberty than others, and that liberty is good. However, I think that, on the whole, God probably sees all of our diverse -isms as (in your words) “rather quaint,” and it’s probably best that I keep my condemnations of every other political idea on medium-low.

  18. chris (15)
    It seems to me that an alternative to a) killing everyone and b) the chaos you describe would be to just ratchet Moroni’s response down one notch: Round them all up and put them in prison (if they are actual criminals).

    The bigger point here is that both you and cadams (#10 above) have relied on the “but it was a crisis!” argument. That doesn’t cut it for libertarianism, yo! For the past [insert a number] years, the politicians of this and every other country on Earth have been saying, “but it’s a crisis!” to justify every piece of legislation they have authored or supported.

  19. chris (#15): It’s always interesting to me to see the different lessons people pull from the scriptures. My favorite ‘friend’ (as Elder Scott insinuated scriptures should be) related to the war chapters throughout Alma is in Helaman. After incredible amounts of bloodshed amounting to little to no success (in terms of their effort to reclaim Nephite lands), the efforts of 2 missionaries is what finally allows the Nephites to get their land back (Helaman 5:52).

    I’m certainly not saying that is THE lesson to take from it, nor that the lesson you mentioned is wrong (I actually quite like it), just that I find it fascinating to see how varied the perceived lessons can be from the same passages.

  20. Ummm…. prison for 5000-10000 people and guards to spare? How big were prisons then? Surely you realize we didnt always have massive federal prisons ;)

    And were it possible to suddenly construct a massive prison and put the people in it and guard them it’s clear by the fact that 4000 of them fought Moroni to the death rather than fight their enemies who want to consume their flesh that they wouldn’t just go peacibly to the non existent prison.

    It was a crisis can be legitimate… that it is illegitimately used by others does not make it Moroni’s fault or allow discerning saints to permit an exception to become rule. The verses make great effort to point out the reasons for this “critical time”. You seem to suggest there are never exceptions or that rather the existence of an exception throws out the rule.

  21. It seems to me that the root of the problem is that many read the Book of Mormon and find therein a society of rugged individualists living self-directed economic lives who rely on a minimal government in only the most extreme situations, and freely trade with one another in a barter or money system. I don’t believe that, anthropologically or historically, such a society has ever existed because of the propensity for social structures (i.e. ones that do not follow individual utility-maximizing models) to take over economic ordering in the absence of strong government or quasi-government checks on such structures. How then, with a substantially weakened government, we can live the standard of living we do now without intrusive social hierarchies impinging on our liberty is to me the great mystery of libertarianism. And I think this has something to do with religion.

  22. It is apparent that Scott B. has been spiritually enlightened, but is unwilling to acknowledge the source from which that enlightenment sprang.

    Seriously, though, saying “politics and religion don’t mix” is disingenuous. A person whose religion does not influence her politics simply isn’t very religious.

  23. Thanks for this, Scott. I love this series in general, and not just because I agree with the holes in libertarianism. I actually wish I could be so open and candid about the problems with my own political outlook–perhaps humility comes with age.

    I’m a major hypocrite when it comes to the merging of politics and religion. I always call others out on it and describe it as unsophisticated and problematic. Heck, I even wrote a Patheos article denouncing the extreme of such a merging. Yet much of my own political views are still fundamentally tied to my reading of Mormon scripture and understanding of the LDS gospel. Fortunately, I also have a set of secular reasons that support my positions as well, and those are what I most often use in political discussions, but I’m sure the separation is not as wide as I’d like to think. Perhaps eventually I’ll follow the same transition RAF outlines in #13.

  24. Chris,
    I’m not sure which amuses me more; that you refer to BoM times using ‘we’, or the idea that you think you have any idea of how the prison system was.

  25. 19 – I agree with what you said. No bloodsheed and preaching is preferrable to war. Sometimes people just want to go to war against you and apparently having enemies that want to consume your flesh who keep coming back after killing thousands of them is a crisis that actually warrants drastic measures…. not just calling things a crisis to have an opportunity for compulsion.

  26. I actually wish I could be so open and candid about the problems with my own political outlook–perhaps humility comes with age.

    Dude! I’m 31!

  27. Mixing politics and religion by using religious arguments against your co-religionists is quite different than having religious views that persuade your politics.

  28. chris (25)

    a crisis that actually warrants drastic measures…. not just calling things a crisis to have an opportunity for compulsion

    That works on paper, but in practice, I don’t think it’s very likely that you’ll be able to reach any kind of agreement among decision-makers–all of whom are self-interested–or among the public in general as to which crises are “real” and which are just rhetorical constructs to get gain (or some combination of both).

    This is where my libertarianism really shows up–I don’t have sufficient faith in legislative bodies or voters to make that kind of distinction.

  29. 24.. Scott brought up the crazy prison idea not me. It made me think the verses surrounding the monument had never actually been read or considered in that case… if we needed to imprison 5000 or 10000 extra people tomorrow with our massive resources on the eve of an invasion I am not sure our nation can do it. To just dues ex machina suggest its a way out of their troubles a couple thousand years ago is odd.

  30. mmiles–simmer down now, simmer down…i don’t think that chris is the enemy here.**

    **John C. is the enemy.

  31. chris,
    Building expensive prisons >> mass slaughter.

    (also, I can recall several instances in the Book of Mormon where large numbers of prisoners were taken, so it can be done!)

  32. Chris,
    Scott gave and alternative to killing prisoners in a Book of Mormon scenario. What he didn’t do that you did is say,”Surely you realize we didnt always have massive federal prisons.”

  33. observer fka eric s says:

    “What makes me itch is the LDS rhetoric linking these things together, and the suggestion that someone who feels differently is in spiritual danger.” <–This can be said about any political ideology and/or party. That's why couching politics in momo speak is supernally obnoxious. The Repubs talk of real power, defense, and security. Dems talk of Christ-like love when they wax bleeding heart. Libs use agency. Socialists and communists, the UO and the bishop's storehouse.

  34. chris,
    Let me also clarify one thing here:

    I have not advanced the argument that Captain Moroni did wrong in pursuing the course of action he did. What I am advancing is the idea that the course he pursued is not in harmony with a civil libertarianism, even in times of war. Call him a prophet, call him a hero, call him a pragmatist, call him whatever else you like–just don’t call him a libertarian. The only reason LDS libertarians idolize him is because of his Title of Liberty.

    The fact is, such a title–defense of God, family, & freedom–is hardly libertarian. Find me a Democrat or a Republican who would not support those things. I’d even wager that the Kingmen supported those ideas–they just didn’t like Moroni’s vision of them.

  35. Scott, simple… let the holy spirit guide. And I don’t mean that to be cute. There really is no other way out of life’s conundrums without it. But even at the bare minimum saying forced conscription is permissible on the eve of an invasion by enemies who have not only sworn to kill “us” (wink, mmiles) but invaded just recently and have been recovering their strength for an eminent ad naseum try.

    I am not arguing for extreme libertarianism but arguing aginst usuing this example as some kind of example where it now justifies daily compulsion.

  36. #33
    I don’t follow your Republican argument. How has that been tied to the gospel?

  37. Once I came to the conclusion that both abolitionists and slave holders justified their position from the same Bible, the power of religious canon to dictate politics became a lot less real to me. While I still feel like my political leanings derive, at least in part, from my understanding of God and the Gospel, I acknowledge that I engage in selective reading (and prioritizing) to get there. We all engage in eisegesis; respect accrues to those who are both good at it and honest about it (or rather it should).

    You are conflating a lot of history in order to make your statements about kingmen. It seems unlikely, for instance, that the kingmen were interested in total war, as that would give them no one to rule over. For that matter, when Moroni first put folks to death, there wasn’t a war occurring (he suspected, correctly, that one was coming, but it hadn’t begun). Amalikiah, whatever else his desires, appears to have only wanted to drink Moroni’s blood and it is significant that he is the only person to make that vow (not even Ammoron did it, too). While it certainly makes for an exciting narrative, and while it may even be true, I guess, be careful not to confuse your justification regarding how you think it should have gone with what is actually on the page.

  38. couching politics in momo speak is supernally obnoxious.


  39. mmiles (#27): Thank you. Exactly.

    chris (#25):

    Sometimes people just want to go to war against you and apparently having enemies that want to consume your flesh who keep coming back after killing thousands of them is a crisis that actually warrants drastic measures

    Yeah, I can follow your logic. Personally I’m more moved by the story of how the Anti-Nephi-Lehis responded to such a threat. I know many would respond that they had to be saved by the Nephites to survive. Others would respond that this only occurred after a Nephite (Ammon) decided that it needed to happen. Obviously anyone is free to make wild speculation about what could have been, but given that I liked the passage in Helaman, I prefer the possibility (however unlikely) that had they continued their faithful pacifism that a large-scale conversion of the Lamanites (which was later realized by Lehi and Nephi) could have come even sooner.

    Again, I realize that I’m likely wrong (I usually am), but I don’t think that we can say with certainty that any particular crisis poses such an existential threat that we must respond with violence.

  40. chris (35)–

    Read my 34–posted just before yours–and let me know if we still have stuff to talk about. I’m glad to do so if we do–I just want to make sure that we’re not talking past each other here.

  41. “Dude! I’m 31!”

    That part of my comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t know the emoticon for that yet.

    Also, I’m very immature for my age.

  42. wow. I lean libertarian. I don’t really classify myself anymore. I kinda like Ron Paul, but he says some things that make me tilt my head and cock my eyebrows in wonder. Perhaps that is better than the head shaking whatever that most politicians inspire.

    the message I learned from the book of mormon and prisons? it’s easiest to gaurd your prisoners if they are working. I apply it to parenting.

    I can theorize all I want about who we should slaughter but I don’t ever want to kill anyone. Also the more children I have the less I want anyone commanding them to go to war either. I lean gandhi…would a long walk to the beach and a dip in the ocean solve the problem?

  43. “Mixing politics and religion by using religious arguments against your co-religionists is quite different than having religious views that persuade your politics.”

    I have no problem with people using religious arguments to support their points, even against their co-religionists. Fair game, I say. There’s only a foul when they impugn someone’s motives and begin speaking to wound, rather than convince.

  44. StillConfused says:

    In reading this (somehow I missed part one), I felt a kinship. I tend to be libertarian in my political views. That doesn’t square very nicely with LDS teachings. But then again, very few of my viewpoints do.

    My favorite line so far comes from #42: “the message I learned from the book of mormon and prisons? it’s easiest to guard your prisoners if they are working. I apply it to parenting.”

  45. Part of the challenge we face in the church on the issue of politics and religion is that is that politics is being increasingly brought into the religious sphere and religion into the political sphere. The organizations and institutions have begun to melded together more and more tightly, especially at the grassroots level. I am hoping the Prop 8 reminded the powers at be how dangerous going down that road is to the political neutrality and integrity of the church.

    Also, I don’t know where you all live but I live in the bluest of states and I would estimate 30% of the EQ would self-identify as libertarians. Are you really that lonely? I thought it was us progressive left leaning mormon’s that were supposed to ostracized ones, retreating the glowing lights of the internet to scratch out a community from the comment sections of BCC or abandoning family to move to a few small pockets on the east coast to find a ward where it just wasn’t assumed that you were either voting for Romney or against him to protest his wickedly liberal ways. :)

  46. Ron Paul gets as little respect in most LDS wardhouses as Harry Reid does. So I’m not surprised that the libertarians among us feel alone.

  47. Scott, I just want to go on the record as admiring you for your candidness and frankness in these posts. I don’t know (or care) much about politics, but I find myself agreeing and nodding as I read. Thanks for being so open and allowing others to learn from you.

  48. As long as we don’t turn the comments threads into a swirling cesspool of irrational anger and paranoia (Hi M*!), libertarianism is a-okay, we’ll all be okay, and BCC will continue to be my favorite bookmark to visit.

  49. Bringing it back to what’s important (BCC rulz). Thanks Cognito!

  50. John C,
    Unless you’re in Idaho. It’s all the love there.

  51. Speaking of M*, I found that losing your priesthood because of government-funded education link in their sidebar. So it should really be HT: M*.

  52. Steve Evans says:

    #48, no promises!

  53. You know the art reminds me a bit of the War Prayer.

  54. “My libertarianism is not spiritual in nature.”

    I guess there are many flavors of libertarians. The rugged individualists who want everybody to pull their weight. The free will freaks who think free agency is a person’s birthright. The rebels who hate being told what to do. Libertarianism is a catch-all for non-conformists without long beards and Harleys. Of course, Christ was the ultimate non-conformist. He did have the beard.

  55. This seems more like a depressing discovery about other people’s libertarianism.

  56. After reading that over the top link about Public Education, I have to ask: How far do you want to carry libertarianism? Is it against that idea to require any immunizations? Disinfecting public drinking water? Building sidewalks? Public roads? Public libraries? Requiring electricity providers to meet standards so the electric grid is stable?

    I know there were some some dismayed libertarians & conservatives, when they heard about the 2 failures on the same crude oil pipeline in Salt Lake City, a few months apart. 8 people killed were in a gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno CA, and 5 dead in of gas main explosion in Allentown PA. There’s pipelines around the US over a century old that have never had a proper mechanical inspection. Senator Rand Paul, Ron’s son, is holding up legislation in the Senate, on getting rid of loopholes in pipeline safety, giving flip flopping reasons. A good example, or not, of Libertarianism philosophy? Yet, there’s required inspections of bridges & airplanes. Get rid of those inspections, as well, to reduce the size of Government, and ignore the resulting body count that would follow?

    There’s also people who full endorse agricultural subsidies by the government, yet claim to be libertarians or conservatives, something that runs counter to those ideologies. Go figure.

  57. Madhousewife–fair enough. I guess I did mostly just gripe about others in this post. The idea was to explain that I don’t seem to find many political pals in my faith, which is sad. One faith, one baptism, one political party–you know the scripture.

  58. Mommie Dearest says:

    I’ve been reading this series without having much in the way of opinion that’s worth contributing, but reading this gave me a little epiphany.
    I am actually registered to vote as a libertarian, mainly because I believe in the basic principles, but also perhaps because it keeps me away from both of the other parties and their shenanigans. I realized about 3 presidential elections ago that I would be very nervous if any of the libertarian candidates actually got elected to office. Reading Scott’s assessment of libertarianism however has made me realize that I’m not much of a true blue believer, rather I am more of a small-c communitarian. Not that I prefer to live the United Order or anything, but I think everybody’s multi-political opinions should exist together, alongside each other in (relative) harmony. Which is also a very lonely spot indeed.

  59. rah (#45),

    Part of the challenge we face in the church on the issue of politics and religion is that is that politics is being increasingly brought into the religious sphere and religion into the political sphere….I am hoping the Prop 8 reminded the powers at be how dangerous going down that road is to the political neutrality and integrity of the church.

    I actually struggle intellectually with this notion a fair amount. I really don’t think it is possible, or wise, to attempt to extricate “religion” from “politics” or vice versa; I strongly suspect that any claim to doing so is really (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps unconsciously) just sneaking politics into religion, or religion into politics, through the back door. Another way of saying this is to argue that we can’t get away from some kind of “civil religion” or “establishment”–even “disestablishment” is a form of such. So I think the best way to be honest about all that, and therefore come to an honest recognition of what I called up above the relative “quaintness” of trying to articulate a whole political philosophy or ideology from entirely religious roots, is to be up front and unapologetic about what is happening. In my ideal world in which the church adhered to this kind of practice, there would have been, in the case of Proposition 8, no apologies or rhetorical shifts to shy away from an openly religious attempt to shape California’s marriage laws–there would have been plenty of contention along the way in the pews and the wards, but no denials. This would also mean there wouldn’t have been any whining or playing the victim card when those who disagreed with the church legitimately targeted it with boycotts, attack ads, and brought peer pressure down on individual members. (Vandalism would be over the line, but really, how much of that was there anyway?)

    Of course, this ideal set of practices would be enormously painful for probably the great majority of saints who, rightly, just want to take the sacrament, renew their promises to Jesus, and serve their fellow members. I so I totally feel the point of people like my wife who absolutely do not want a “political” church. And I also accept the point of friends of mine who observe that, in our current (rather authoritarian) church structure, being more open and accepting of the interplay between religion and politics will almost certainly mean not a more honest and fruitfully contentious church environment, but rather one where folks on the left myself feel even more marginalized and (quietly) shouted down by the conservative majority. Temperamentally I can handle that, but others might not, and Paul’s warning about not being a stumbling block to others of the faith comes to mind. And so, even though I think my ideal preference is intellectually defensible and probably would be, in the long run, healthy for the development of Mormon political thought, I mostly shut up about it, and go along with the notion that arguing about global warming should have no place is Sunday school.

  60. MD (#58),

    Reading Scott’s assessment of libertarianism however has made me realize that I’m not much of a true blue believer, rather I am more of a small-c communitarian. Not that I prefer to live the United Order or anything, but I think everybody’s multi-political opinions should exist together, alongside each other in (relative) harmony. Which is also a very lonely spot indeed.

    On my reading, what you’re expressing here actually involves not so much communitarianism as pluralism: you want peaceable and tolerable relations to exist amongst the faithful between individuals and groups with their distinct political views. I’m not sure that’s a lonely view; on the contrary, as I suggested in the comment right above this one, in my experience plenty of people are very much in favor of a quietly pluralist church, that basically sets aside as many contentious political issues as possible in favor of allowing everyone to feel equally comfortable, and equally part of the full body of Christ, when taking the sacrament and commenting in Sunday school. Now many a lot of folks seem to feel that way because they are comfortable being in the conservative majority, and so they can be “gracious” that way, just setting things aside because they’re certain everyone, or at least all the relevant prophets and scriptural passages, agree with them. But that’s exactly my concern with such a putatively harmonious approach.

    Pluralism is usually associated with liberal ideas like individualism, because it begins with acknowledging a certain level of foundational respect for the liberty of individuals. I’m not much of a philosophical liberal myself, because I think, whether we realize it or not, we’re all always trying to construct or fortify one or another of the various community attachments we are a part of. I think human beings can’t help but be, and shouldn’t pretend not to be, communitarian, whether small-c or large-c. The problem in my vision of things comes with negotiating the always shifting boundaries between these various communities and sense of solidarity, agreement, and obligation, both large and small. Which brings us back to one of the points I made above: our present, quite authoritarian and top-down church culture, really isn’t very good at, and really wasn’t built for, much contentious “negotiating of boundaries.” (Roman Catholicism, with its many decentralized and overlapping parishes and monastic orders and governing bodies, is actually much better at handling all that, despite its equally authoritarian reputation.) So as long as the Mormon church is what it is, perhaps a liberal pluralist quietism in politics has to be the default option.

  61. I’d like to suggest a few blogs/resources for anyone who might want to know more about mainstream libertarian thought (I’m hoping this actually makes it through the filters). I think some, especially any liberals, who are unfamiliar with libertarian thinking would be shocked at how much they agree, especially on social issues (I’m talking about actual libertarians, not just tea party types who want to ignore social issues for the time being): (legal) (public policy)
    and (economics – there are probably better examples than this, but one of the blog authors does the Econ Talk podcast, which is also good)

  62. Using religious arguments to back any political theory(socialism, libertarianism, whatever) is always a bad idea; if for no other reason than that people like Moroni and Christ are not 20th century Americans. Applying our modern view on to their teachings is anachronistic in the extreme.

  63. *Projecting our modern views on to their teachings is anachronistic in the extreme.

  64. I don’t seem to find many political pals in my faith

    In that case, I’m surprised it took you this long to become depressed!

  65. Pure awesome, Scott. I hope this isn’t a series of two.

  66. If your ideology can’t take Captain Moroni, so much the worse for your ideology.

  67. Ed Firmage wrote some time ago something along these lines:

    The gospel of Jesus Christ has existed under and outlasted many different kinds of political institutions, including monarchies, democracies, and communist dictatorships. When we link the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ with any political system or ideology, we link it to an institution of men that has within it the seeds of its own temporal end.

    That’s not exact, but how I remember it. If I can find the exact quote, I’ll forward it.

  68. Just personal preference, but I always liked Gidgiddoni in 3 Nephi 3 better than Captain Moroni. If only all men could be like Gidgiddoni!

  69. Scott B. I think you and I should do lunch. I feel the exact same way in my libertarianism, and also enjoyed your previous confession.

  70. Glass Ceiling says:


    As a communitarian, are you embracing States’ rights? (meaning, if California wants to be communist, let them…and if Maine wants to be libertarian, let them? ) If so, don’t feel so lonely. :) It’d be a great experiment.

  71. Glass Ceiling says:

    I believe that all drugs should be legalized. That is one aspect of libertarianism that I fully embrace. Ken Burma’s recent PBS special “Prohibition ” more than reaffirmed this stance to me. In fact, I don’t know how anyone could see that and not come to the same conclusion.

  72. Glass Ceiling says:

    Ken Burns’ latest … not Ken Burma’s, whoever that is. (Only my phone knows.)

  73. I used to think I was libertarian. But I no longer think so.

    Mainly because Libertarianism is atheistic and amoral. And I believe that such standards are inimicable to good government.

    I have other issues with it, but that’s the big problem.

  74. Glass Ceiling says:

    I used to be as well. Now I have no party. America’s smorgasbord of party choices is just over the top: Two. Maybe.

  75. Glass Ceiling says:

    George Washington said that parties would be the death of the United States of America. I still believe him, now more than ever.

  76. Its not just parties Its the hook-ups, the booty calls, the whole scene.

  77. Glass Ceiling says:

    Amen, Adam. And novelly put. I may steal that from you. :)

  78. I just finished a six-year stint in Utah and I echo your feelings of alienation from other Libertarians. There are many self-professed Libertarians out there, but when I dig more I see that they’re usually tea partiers who adopt the moniker because it’s cool, but in reality they are far-right conservatives with apocalyptic tendencies. They read Skousen, may or may not affiliate with the John Birch Society, stockpile food storage, and watch Glenn Beck religiously.

    I get frustrated with many in the Tea Party movement — they brandish the Constitution fervently, but endorse political candidates (Sharron Angle, Michelle Bachmann) who don’t seem to have read it; they’re dead set against any kind of wealth redistribution, but don’t you dare touch their Social Security checks; and they believe in Bush-style aggressive foreign policy and defense spending. They’re poisoning the well for true constitutionalists.

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