Such was the question a guy asked me at Mises University (where I spent last week). To be clear, he was also a Christian and (presumably) attracted by libertarianism, but had doubts about how the two fit together.

I realize why atheist libertarians, who argue on Facebook with statist Christians, would walk away thinking that the two frameworks are incompatible. But for me, they are so naturally complementary that it’s hard for me to understand where the confusion comes in. I think the main thing going on is that (in my humble opinion, of course) many loud Christians are being inconsistent with their stated core doctrines, and many loud libertarians are doing the same.

==> If you take the Sermon on the Mount literally, it is quite difficult to see how you could support a violent State institution.

==> Yes, Romans 13 admittedly sounds like it is incompatible with Rothbardian libertarianism. But then again, it sounds like it is incompatible with denouncing Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein. So you could just as easily walk up to any evangelical Republican and ask, “How do you reconcile your political views with Romans 13?” (I’ve given better answers on this thorny question here and here.)

==> The Christian ultimately cares about people’s souls, not their worldly status. I think that’s why Paul did the “shocking” thing of telling slaves to obey their masters, and telling masters to treat their slaves kindly, as opposed to trying to abolish slavery with his pen. His point was to bring the freedom of the gospel to everyone, in all stations in life. Paul himself was filled with joy as he sat in chains.

==> There is a distinction between sin and crime, even in the Old Testament.

==> There was a period when the Israelites were ruled by judges who thought they were leading on their understanding of the Law given by God to Moses, with no political authority above them. Samuel the prophet famously warned what would happen when the fickle Israelites asked for a king to rule over them (and thus ended the period of judges). To be sure, this system wasn’t something out of a David Friedman essay, but it was quite far from a bicameral legislature and a two-party system running a constitutional (sic) republic (sic).

==> Even “extreme” libertarianism recognizes the importance of law enforcement, though I predict that in modern society it would become very peaceful, very quickly. The Bible certainly teaches Christians to aid the poor, orphans, and widows. Most evangelical Christians understand that this does not automatically mean that the State should run all of these initiatives. So, by the same token, if the Bible teaches people to respect property rights, and even (though here I think it gets trickier) says that civil authorities must wield “the sword” to punish criminals, it doesn’t follow that the State should run this initiative. If the Christian objects, “But of course the State has to do it–that’s the only possible way it can happen!” then we are simply having a secular argument about the private provision of judicial and police services. The fact that my critic and I are both Christians has nothing to do with it.

==> Last thing: I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: If I’m at FreedomFest (say) and somebody asks me if I’m an anarchist, I’ll say yes because I know what the person means–he wants to know if I’m a minarchist like Ayn Rand and Mises, or if I believe in full privatization of all useful State functions, like Rothbard.

However, I actually don’t think of myself as an anarchist. Indeed, I am arguably a monarchist, because I serve a King who is master of my life. Do you know Him?


This article was originally published on July 26, 2015 on Free Advice.