Category: Natural Rights

Exploration of our natural rights: what they are and where they come from.

The Trouble With Oaths

The Trouble With Oaths

But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.– Jesus of Nazareth


Is this why you became a police officer?” asked the reporter, “No, sir, I did not. Have a good day,” replied the officer; this was the final scene during Pastor Tim Stephens’ arrest outside his family home. Handcuffed and surrounded by his wife and eight children, three uniformed officers took him into custody. His crime: breaking a provincial health order by holding an outdoor religious service. As I closed the video player, words eluded me – but frustration did not. It seemed unnecessary, excessive, shameful. And deep in their core, I believe all three officers felt the same.

Therein lies the trouble with oaths; despite potential personal discomfort, each officer was merely “doing their job.” Their personal views were of no consequence, superseded by feelings of duty, honour, and loyalty to the state. I could be wrong in my assumptions, and the officers may have felt wholly justified in their actions. However, this is of little consequence when addressing the general and inherent problems with sworn oaths. 

The acronym “ACAB” has long been synonymous with the anarchist movement. It signifies “All Cops Are Bastards.” Some, including myself, prefer substituting the word “Bastards” with “Bad” when presenting the topic before broader audiences, but semantics aside, let us examine this claim. It’s believed the term originated in England during the first half of the twentieth century. The first signs of the acronym appeared during a 1940s worker strike. ACAB eventually found a permanent home with punk music, which effectively carried its message throughout the world.

Most moderates shudder upon hearing the phrase. They find reconciling its assertion with specific displays of police heroism and sacrifice difficult, and may experience cognitive dissonance. Their aversion is understandable. I need only reflect on the officer I’ve met on numerous occasions who now serves in a small northern rural community; the God-fearing husband and father of six, humble and gracious. Privately, I can say he is anything but “bad.” So how can both be true simultaneously?  

ACAB is the idea that donning the uniform and swearing an oath places well-meaning individuals in a precarious position—A position that calls upon enforcing unjust laws, even if it means contradicting personal conscience. It is this reality that prevents some from ever viewing law enforcement favorably. The sworn oath binds the officer to the state, and from its seed, injustice blooms.

To see that oaths are not homogenous, we need only look at the differences between state and association oaths among the police. The International Association of Chiefs of Police, a non-profit organization aimed at advancing leadership and professionalism among police officers, posts the following “Law Enforcement Oath of Honour”:

“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.”

Aside from a brief mention of “agency,” the focus is on the individual officer’s integrity and character, and the importance of maintaining public trust. These statements represent a balanced approach to carrying out police duties. Unfortunately, they do not mirror the required state oaths. The three officers responsible for Pastor Tim Stephens’ apprehension were members of the Calgary Police Service. The following is their pledge to “serve and protect”:

“I, _______ , swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law, in the office of _________ for the _________ of ________ and that I will diligently, faithfully and to the best of my ability execute according to law the office of _________, and will not, except in the discharge of my duties, disclose to any person any matter or evidence that may come to my notice through my tenure in this office, so help me God.”

Canadians will recognize the allegiance to the Queen as a metaphor for the state. But the focus is clear: Loyalty to the state and execution of duties according to law. There is no mention of community, no room for discretion based on circumstance. The officer is an agent of the state and must enforce its statutes.

Anarchy rejects state legitimacy, so there is no room for state-funded police services in their society. Anarchists present alternative solutions to protecting life and property (and the reader is encouraged to delve into those ideas elsewhere), but we don’t have to go that far. The ascending state’s reliance on law enforcement presents tension even for those who don’t consider state police services illegitimate by nature.

Advocates of a night-watchman state would limit government to the provision of military, police, and the courts, but find the majority of modern laws unjust. Referred to as minarchists, they consider anything outside of protecting one’s right to life, liberty, and property to be an infringement on individual natural rights. Police officers who safeguard this trio of rights conduct themselves like good actors, while those enforcing anything else – like bad.

Worldwide, governments have become massive and full of injustice. Swearing oaths to serve such governments contractually binds people to enforce laws that violate individual rights. These rights do not exist as a consequence of the law, but are fundamental to every human life. So how do uniformed individuals manage the mental discomfort at the intersection between their conviction and sworn oath? Through the justification and rationalization of cognitive dissonance. 

Cognitive dissonance is,

“the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort. This inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave motivates people to engage in actions that will help minimize feelings of discomfort. People attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding new information.”

When law enforcement utters, “I’m just doing my job,” one could argue the officer is experiencing some discomfort with the situation at hand; dissonance has set in, and they now feel the need to justify their actions. After apprehending a violent offender, what officer sheepishly states they were only carrying out their orders? I have heard countless reports of officers remorsefully issuing Covid lockdown-related tickets while providing instructions on contesting the ticket and encouraging them to do so – this shows incongruity.

The fact that a growing number of law enforcement officers find themselves enforcing laws they disapprove of represents a dark cloud on the horizon. A thorough review of history books reveals numerous instances of populaces claiming “that would never happen here,” that were dealt tough lessons in the end. Gaining compliance and disposing of internal discomforts is achieved in two ways:

Policing is a livelihood, and nobody wants to lose their source of income. Income plays a crucial role in securing life, liberty, and property. Following orders to ensure continued employment is a strong motivator. It is not much different than voting for a political party based on the promised financial benefits one hopes to receive. But lurking deep in one’s subconscious, an ace in the hole lies ready to dispel any dissonance—that troublesome oath.

An oath is a promise. As evidenced by the pledge above, every officer makes a promise to uphold the law. Individuals who value solid moral character want to avoid letting others down. For them, breaking a contract is no easy thing. In a “Psychology Today” article, wellness expert Michelle Glelan explains:

“When we don’t keep a promise… [w]e have chosen to put something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. Tiny fissures develop in our relationships marked by broken promises. We are not only communicating all of this to others, we are telling ourselves that we don’t value our own word. We think it is okay to let someone down, to say something we don’t mean, or to fail to follow through on something we said we would do. Not keeping a promise is the same as disrespecting yourself. Ultimately it can harm our self-image, self-esteem, and our life.” 

As officers begin to doubt an order’s moral legitimacy, their sense of duty to upholding their promises acts as a solid motivator in carrying out their orders. Coupled with financial incentives, this makes it extremely difficult for anyone serving to listen to some still small voice. 

Some in law enforcement are indeed worthy of being called “bad.” They lust after power, revel in their authority, act as aggressors, and know nothing of serving their communities—the primary motivators behind all those punk lyrics and ACAB T-shirts. But to those who serve with good intentions, I turn to you now – smelling salts in hand. Like pawns on a chessboard, you have been made expendable and placed in impossible situations to enforce unjust laws that break down social trust. Your badges are the instruments that politicians and technocrats alike use to implement unfair laws and respond whenever neighbour reports neighbour. It’s not too late to revisit your oath and judge for yourself the legitimacy of recent laws and health orders. And to those contemplating joining the profession, consider a different path. A path that doesn’t require pledging allegiance to an oppressive employer.

Towards integrity,

OA


Of Liberty and Property

Of Liberty and Property

“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.” – Thomas Aquinas

Jon McDonald is an energy economist in Texas focusing on the international trade of natural gas and natural gas derivatives. He has a master’s degree in energy economics from Rice University. Follow him on Twitter @jonnymack1010.


Derived from a labor theory, the Lockean theory of private property has received considerable attention. This theory of private property set the stage for what has come to be known as liberty. John Locke’s theory of labor hinges on the idea of self-ownership; that is, no other human being, regardless of status, race, or religion, has the right to own another person. “The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule.”1 This argument was the leading case against slavery and authoritarian governments following the English Civil War in the 1640s and 1650s. 

The theory of private property is simply an extension of this thought. Self-ownership necessarily implies individual ownership of the mind and body. Anything produced from nature will require the labor of the mind and body. The produce is the ownership of the person engaged in the act of production unless a voluntary agreement is struck between a laborer and employer to trade labor for wages. However, this theory has nothing to do with the value of that produce. Value, which depends exclusively on the purchaser’s subjective wants and needs, is determined by the market.2 The act of labor, itself, towards the production of some good or service does not imply value in the marketplace. This fact may come as harsh to some, but it is unavoidable. 

The term ‘Liberalism’ originally belonged to the philosophy of freedom and private property, of which Locke is considered the founder. ‘Liber’ of Latin origin meaning ‘free.’ The word reflects little of its origin in the United States today. The meaning of ‘liberalism’ was changed to mean something altogether different, and it now refers to government intrusion into economic and social affairs and increasing the welfare state. This new definition was given to us when former US Senator, Joseph Clark Jr., stated in 1953 in the Atlantic, “…a liberal is here defined as one who believes in using the full force of government for the advancement of social, political, and economic justice… A liberal believes government is a proper tool to use in the development of a society which attempts to carry Christian principles of conduct into practical effect.”3

No matter the definition, modern-day “Liberalism” reflects more closely that of the anti-Christian, anti-private property doctrine of Karl Marx than the New Testament. Jesus Christ did not ask the Romans to tax the wealthy for their exploitation of the working class, infringe upon the private property rights of Roman citizens, or create money from thin air using a printing press to give to the people as “stimulus.” Today’s “liberal” believes that poverty is an unforgivable iniquity brought about by uncontrollable or materialistic circumstances rather than a matter to be overcome through fortitude and perseverance in a free society. This view has the effect of leading many of the unfortunate into desolation and dependency. The modern-day “liberal” solution to poverty is brought through the force of law and the coercive apparatus of the state. Yet, the law in the US has become egregiously perverted. Rather than protect individual property rights and the right to self-defense as the law is originally intended, the law has been given into the hands of the corrupt and unscrupulous at the request of the collective to dispose of and annihilate the person, property, and liberty of others. As such, a law fraught with iniquity cannot drive out iniquity. 

The ‘liberal’ logic is as follows: “Steal from Peter to pay Paul. There, we have now forced you to do your Christian duty.” As if theft and coveting a neighbor’s property in the name of Christian principles were to confuse the Christian observers completely. According to this logic, the only way to absolve the blaspheming poor, who they have never met, is to commit the act of theft. The modern-day conservative is not much more logically advanced with his quasi-fascist corporative schemes and lust for glory on the battlefield in the name and sanctity of democracy. Both sides of the American political spectrum are branches of the same collectivist tree, but we will defer that conversation to a future date.

Freedom is mocked at every corner. The United States government believes all property to be under their ownership to do with as they please, as do the socialists because only the ruling political class knows what is best and morally proper for the entirety of society. Under this doctrine, the natural right to freedom and property is immoral, selfish, or exploitative. The contradictory nature of this logic is difficult to fathom. But it is not the purpose here to discuss the logical and moral fallacies of the socialist order that has flown under the stolen name of liberalism in the US. However, why the socialists must attack the institution of private property will be illuminated.

Life is not a perpetual state of uninterrupted happiness, and the earth is not a utopia. Though this is not the fault of social institutions, people are apt to make them the culprit. The foundation of all civilization, which has given rise to the highest living standards since time began, and during periods of exponential population growth, is the right to private property. Whoever wishes to criticize the problems they witness in society must therefore diagnose the problem beginning at the foundation of private property. Private property is the perpetrator for everything that does not please the critic, especially those that resulted from restrictions placed on private property rights. For instance, slaves were denied the right to private property in respect to keeping and utilizing the product of their labor, the freedom to voluntarily exchange the products of their labor in return for agreed-upon wage rates or prices as well as, and more importantly, the right of self-ownership which forms the cornerstone of private property rights.4 But this fact does not stop the socialists from blaming private property rights and the system which accompanies it, called capitalism, for the abhorrence of slavery. It was the pre-capitalistic era that withheld the natural right to liberty and property for all. Liberty and property were to be owned by the aristocrats and the elites. It was not until the pre-capitalistic era ended that the infant mortality rate, the scorn of all the ages, began its rapid rate of descent. That the infant mortality rate has dropped to its current level is perhaps the greatest achievement ever known to the history of mankind. 

The typical procedure in the socialist line of thinking is to imagine how great everything would be if only they had their way. They fantasize that if all those who object to their ideas for society were non-existent (deceased, enslaved, or brainwashed), everybody would be better off. All those who condone slavery never imagine themselves as slaveholders or slaves. The exhorters who preach democracy to the masses never imagine themselves as dictators, but they often dream of themselves as advisors to an enlightened economic dictator. No socialist crying out against the so-called “capitalistic exploitation” of the working class aims for the position lowest on the ladder, to be under the oppression of another or among the underprivileged. The fantasies and daydreams of life by the socialist critics of private property is the only life of value, and they will strike down those who oppose their delusions of utopia by violent means if necessary. There is no room for private property or self-ownership if the allocation of all of society’s resources, including the direction of labor, are to be determined by the moral codes of the voters that make up the Majority in a system with democratically held means of production and democratically determined resource allocation. When this becomes common practice, we would soon find our moral compass to be shot full of holes.

Regardless of the economic system, there will always be detractors for each end-use and allocation of the scarce resources available. But this does nothing more than to emphasize the importance of recognizing the beneficial functions of profit maximization, competition, private property, and opportunity costs for the efficient allocation of those scarce resources. To work around this fact in promoting their utopia, the socialist will go so far as to say that scarcity does not exist, as if an infinite supply of wheat used in bread production would magically grow itself at no cost in the socialist heaven. What is considered profitable for private individuals versus the community or society will not always coincide in any system, whether the means of production are owned collectively, by the state, or by private individuals. Among economists in the early 20th century, many understood that the socialist system could not operate entirely differently than the capitalistic one without completely crashing. Even if it were indeed true that it could, one cannot simply assume that a socialist society would always do what is right while continually condemning capitalism’s system of privately held means of production and property rights for deviating from accepted moral standards. It is worthless to pay attention to the daydreams of the socialist. In his dream, everybody will obediently submit to his commanding vision immediately and right on time. 

Suppose we work under the assumption that the equal distribution of total output, under some arbitrary standard set by some altruistic group of economic planners, was a sufficient mechanism to increase the livelihood of each member of society. In that case, we must ignore simple mathematics and statistics. This, however, is not the crucial point. The socialist assumes that labor productivity will be equal if not greater in his system and that a socialist system will automatically eliminate unnecessary and unwanted expenses. This erroneous assumption is due to the ignorance of the fact that the quantity and quality of the goods produced are not independent of the way production is carried out in a capitalistic economy. 

Every stage of production in every sector of the economy has not only innumerable antecedents unknown by any one individual and procured through the division of labor but, more importantly, the special interests of those engaged in the production process tied closely with the productivity of the labor performed during the process. On the first point about the antecedents, it is easy to confuse a socialist with something as simple as a pencil.5 To this end, no socialist can confidently quantify, regardless of mathematical prowess, the future number of pencils required in the economy to determine the number of bulldozers necessary for graphite mining. These calculations arrive via the price mechanism and the profit and loss system. To establish prices, one needs a market. For a market, one needs private property rights. For profit and loss, one needs prices. On the second point, each member in a capitalistic economy must exert his best effort since his wages are determined by the subjective value his labor provides to the output, and every entrepreneur must strive to innovate to accurately meet the demand for his products at the lowest cost.6 Such incentives disappear when the collective determines the allocation of resources for the “common good,” and these incentives are why the capitalistic economy based on private property rights produces the wealth it commands. 

Wherever private property rights are upheld, liberty reigns and a prosperous society follows. Private property rights constituting the material factors of production are not a restriction of freedom. On the contrary, it ensures that property can be held even by the most common of all men without violation and gives him complete command of all his economic affairs. A wealthy businessman may have a range of economic influence in society but, in a system that upholds private property rights, it is never complete control over the whole life of a person. The liberty found under private property rights is the mechanism that stimulates a nation’s most innovative men and women to exert themselves, free of involuntary coercion, to serve others to the best of their abilities.

JM


1) Locke, J. (1689). 1st and 2nd Treatise of Government. Pantianos Classics.

2) Menger, C. (2007). Principles of Economics. Ludwig von Mises Institute.

3) Clark, Jr, J. S. (1953, July). Can the Liberals Rally? theatlantic.com. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1953/07/can-the-liberals-rally/376242/

4) Mises, L.V., Raico, R., Goddard, A., Spadaro, L. M., & Greaves, B. B. (1985). Liberalism : In the Classical Tradition (3rd ed.). Foundation for Economic Education/ Cobden Press.

5) Read, L. E. (2015, March). I, Pencil. Foundation for Economic Education. https://fee.org/resources/i-pencil/

6) Mises, L.V., Raico, R., Goddard, A., Spadaro, L. M., & Greaves, B. B. (1985). Liberalism : In the Classical Tradition (3rd ed.). Foundation for Economic Education/ Cobden Press.

A Witness to the Fractioning Church

A Witness to the Fractioning Church

“What ever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man.” – Edmund Burke

Walking down the dark tree-lined path, I could see the illuminated porch light and the silhouettes of my wife and three children as they approached the old country home. Before my family could reach the front door, it swung open, and our hosts greeted them with warm embraces. We entered their home, settled in to begin supper, and said grace. Five minutes into the beautiful meal, the conversation turned to the topic of church. I mentioned how grateful I was for our elders’ decision not to enforce the government’s mandates surrounding COVID-19: Choosing instead to empower individuals to determine what was best for them. I was, however, completely unaware that one of our hosts opposed our church’s position. Within minutes, we found ourselves navigating through our opposing views, all the while trying our best to remain gracious. But my apprehension grew tenfold once we were told our church should just simply “obey.”

Many are calling life within the COVID-19 environment unprecedented. The imposed restrictions have aroused new tensions within the population, and naturally, those feelings extend to the church. This quill will explore Christian views regarding the appropriate degree to which the church should practice civil obedience. There will be frequent references to the bible as it contains the teachings committed Christians refer to when shaping their worldview. I will present the better-known passages used to support the Christian requirement for total civil obedience and accompany them with brief counterpoints for reflection. Subsequently, I will present several verses which bring into question the inherent goodness of our governing authorities before concluding with a call for church unity.

The Case For Obedience

To our dear friend’s credit, the call to civil obedience is indeed consistent with several passages of scripture and it would be disingenuous for anyone familiar with the bible to claim the absence of such instructions. One of the best-known passages comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans 13. Only seven verses long, this passage has had a lasting impact on the church’s view of our governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 ESV reads:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

As a stand-alone text, I admit this passage seems to provide clear and concise instructions pertaining to our discussion here. But therein lies the problem. These seven verses do not present a stand-alone text, though they are often treated as such. The books of the bible were not organized by chapter until roughly the 12th century. Let’s imagine no chapter break exists and refer back to Romans 12 to see what Paul has to say, leading up to chapter 13:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12.1-2)

And;

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Rom. 12.9-13)

Do these instructions complement the idea of total submission to worldly authorities or give us reason to consider the degree to which we should submit? It’s worthy of contemplation.

Another passage often employed when addressing this topic is found in 1 Peter 2. However, unlike Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 contains the calls to holiness and submission within the same chapter, providing a backdrop. The passage reads:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Pet. 2.9-17)

The requirement to be set apart from the world (v. 9-11) followed by instructions regarding submission to the authorities (v. 12-17) should stoke in us a curiosity to examine the relationship between them. Verse 12 explains why Christians should be upright participants in this world: To bear witness to the glory of God. If we begin reading at verse 13, we receive the commands without the knowledge of why we are instructed to do so. These reasons are important as they reveal God’s desire for our lives. As we know God, we can apply His character to the entirety of scripture, which further enriches our biblical studies.

The Case For Study

Another critical element to understanding scripture is identifying when there may be a requirement to apply historical or cultural context. To adopt a strictly literal interpretation of all scriptures is a mistake and considerable damage has been caused at the hands of misguided believers throughout history. At present, is the church carrying out Paul’s instructions found in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and forbidding women to speak in church? Mine certainly isn’t – context is important. Numerous studies exist which address Romans 13 and provide additional context and insights not found simply by reading the text. Additionally, both Paul and Peter’s writings fail to mention the degree of submission required when living under corrupt or immoral authorities, and both merely affirm that God has instituted those over us to punish evil and praise the good.

Arguably, governing authorities seldom function in accordance with God’s desire, which has prompted numerous believers to create additional resources on this topic for anyone who may be interested. The Libertarian Christian Institute, an organization I credit with having introduced me to libertarianism, has an entire resource page devoted to the study of Romans 13. AnarchoChristian, another website that greatly impacted my political reformation, also has numerous articles and podcasts related to this discussion.

The Case Against

Based on their overall reluctance to oppose government mandates, we can assume most modern churches lean on the preceding passages when forming their views on this topic. But do instructions and warnings regarding the authorities exist anywhere else in the remaining thirty-one thousand biblical scriptures? Of course they do. Let us look at a handful:

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146.3)


“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,”
(Isa. 10.1)


“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” (Ps. 2.2-4)


“So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”
(1 Sam. 8.10-17)

The Christian faith claims that scripture is written by man but inspired by God. The preceding verses demonstrate God’s reservations about the governing authorities and his repeated warnings surrounding them. Is it possible when Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 call for Christian submission, it is generally when those authorities act in accordance with God’s will: to praise good and punish evil? My personal views on the matter must by now, be abundantly clear. I am growing increasingly skeptical of modern-day governments. They reject God and illegitimately reach into many areas of our lives. So, in light of everything we have seen, how do we reconcile the church’s differing views considering that both sides draw their conclusions from the same holy text? Simple – we must choose to focus on something of far greater importance: Church unity.

The Call to Unity

The Apostle Paul has this to say about unification:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1.10-13)

Later, while under house arrest in Rome, Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (Eph. 4.1-5)

The church must remain unified. Naturally, that doesn’t mean it will agree on everything, but it must not fail to remember that Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ. Opinions surrounding current COVID-19 mandates have nothing to do with eternal salvation. Disagreements over the required degrees of submission to authorities must not present a stumbling block. Forgiveness and grace should abound when we are unified and fully submitted to Christ. Our hope should be in our eternal home, not in the outcome of some struggle to create heaven here on earth. Politics do play a role. They have direct implications on our existence as well as our ability to share the gospel. But the political sphere is imperfect because flawed human beings wield the instruments of government power. The state does not offer real hope.

Let us now travel back to that memorable evening with our dear friends. Desiring not to let the conversation spoil our time of fellowship, my wife and I surrendered our pride and redirected our energies towards remaining gracious. In the end, we had to agree to disagree. Our hosts witnessed our initial displeasure with being told we should obey. However, they also saw our desire to move away from those negative feelings. We were able to lay our differences to rest and enjoyed what ended up being a lovely evening. The following morning at church, in true humility, our friend approached my wife to assure us they had meant no harm by their comment and hoped they were still in good standing. Of course they were. In closing – searching the scriptures to determine if Christians should obey mask mandates won’t bring conclusiveness, but it will reveal a far greater truth; That Jesus died for us, He rose again, and those who believe in Him will gain everlasting life. Surely the church can unite around that.

Towards eternity,

OA

When a Virus, the State, and Self-Ownership Collide

When a Virus, the State, and Self-Ownership Collide

“When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.” – Ron Paul

There was cause for concern back in August when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated COVID-19 vaccinations would be mandatory. He later changed his tune by saying: “We can’t hold someone down and make them take it,” but added he strongly encouraged everyone to do so. We’ve had similar concerns in Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Normality as it was before will not come back full-on until we get a vaccine for this [corona virus.]” His statement seems to imply the government expects 35M Canadians will voluntarily receive the vaccine. Surely the state must recognize the individual right to self-ownership. Left to wonder if and what future government mandates may look like, it may be prudent for concerned citizens to start preparing.

This quill’s intended purpose is not to weigh in on the benefits versus risks of vaccination programs as much discussion already exists on this topic. Rather, I hope to flesh out possible responses to potential strategies the government may employ in their attempts to broadly administer the COVID-19 vaccine. As an extension of individualism, we at the LQ hold that vaccinations should be voluntary. We base our position on the view that non-consensual medical treatment goes against the fundamental human right to life (or person) and self-ownership. I have covered the topic of natural rights in previous quills and encourage readers to go back and read them to complement the discussion at hand. 

Before exploring potential government approaches, a brief delve into self-ownership will benefit anyone who may be new to the term. One definition of self-ownership is: “The concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life.” It is familiar to proponents of libertarianism, liberalism, and anarchism, and as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, it is consistent with the ideas of individualism. To reject this concept means to accept others can determine what is in the best interest of you and your body. Applying this idea to vaccinations may, upon first glance, seem somewhat overstated. Historically, there has been much trust put in recommendations from health authorities. But what if this trust were to erode (if it hasn’t already?) Who ultimately makes the decisions regarding what happens to our bodies?

A document issued by the United Nations and the World Health Organization entitled “The Right to Health” acknowledges the individual’s right to be free from non-consensual medical treatment. Many federal and local governments protect similar patient rights. Not surprisingly, these “rights” fail to protect citizens when governments deem mandatory vaccinations to be in the public’s best interest. Herein lies the problem. Clearly, from government responses to COVID-19, the vaccine will undoubtedly be viewed as a requirement to get us back to any semblance of normalcy. In Canada, the National Immunization Strategy objectives for vaccination rates range between 80-95%. Assuming similar targets are applied to the COVID-19 vaccine, governments will likely have a near-impossible chance of achieving the target rate through voluntary vaccination campaigns. A WebMD reader poll from this past summer revealed:

“Fewer than half of people plan to get a coronavirus vaccine in the first year it’s available, and an even smaller group — fewer than a third — say they’ll get it in the first 90 days… The poll of 1,000 readers finds many of them reluctant to take a potential COVID vaccine, even though public health experts have said it’s the best way to move past the pandemic. Just over 40% said they planned to get a vaccine, while 28% said they did not. Another 30% were unsure.”

Speaking to these results, John Whyte, the chief medical officer at WebMD, stated:

“If immunization rates are low, then we’re not going to achieve the level of herd immunity needed to protect us from this virus. How are we going to reopen if people aren’t getting the vaccine? We need a ‘Plan B,…”

Could “Plan B” involve mandated vaccines, and if so, how would that be implemented? The reader should remain open-minded as we explore the possibilities of two different coercive approaches.  

The first, likening itself to a doomsday account, could see governments deploy armed medical enforcement. State agents would be responsible for administering the vaccine as a matter of national interest. Willing recipients would report to designated sites, receive the vaccine, and be issued documentation proving they had complied. Non-compliant citizens would be deemed a threat to the state, rounded-up, and incarcerated to separate them from the rest of society. As a father, an additional fear would see the separation of minors from their parents in order to immunize children within non-compliant families. All of this may seem a step too far, but there have been several developments in recent months, which would have seemed inconceivable only one year ago. I don’t consider myself overly conspiracist, but I find it increasingly difficult to rule anything out these days. However, the state would be taking substantial risks enforcing vaccinations in this manner and would likely only succeed by marginalizing small numbers of non-compliers. At this point, authorities in the U.S. and Canada would be hard-pressed to attempt this approach while avoiding massive domestic instability as a result. 

The second and more plausible approach would be to incentivize those willing to receive the vaccinations voluntarily. Incentives would not increase existing benefits but rather keep our current freedom of movement intact. Documents issued upon vaccination would grant an individual access to restricted locations and services. Examples include air travel, public buildings, private businesses, government services, etc. Undecided individuals facing such a decision would be highly motivated to accept immunization and return to the comforts of their day to day lives. I have previously written about the barriers humans run into when living out their contrarian beliefs and referring back may again complement the current topic at hand. Monitored activities could remain accessible by substituting existing methods or as the result of innovations. Circumventing restricted access to grocery stores could be achieved by roadside pick-up or delivery, which is already in existence. Air travel, although highly impractical over long distances, could be replaced by automotive travel. Certain services could be offered remotely versus existing requirements to conduct them in-person. The lockdowns have already resulted in innovations within different sectors. There is reason to be hopeful that refusing the vaccine wouldn’t necessarily cut people off from our current way of life. The most significant area of concern is how non-compliance could play itself out in the workplace.

I’ve mentioned before that as a public servant, I rely on the state for my income. Ideally, this wouldn’t be the case, but it’s the situation I find myself in for the time being. I’m aware of what refusing a mandatory vaccination could cost my family and me. If the state implements mandatory vaccinations for government employees, logic follows that my refusal could terminate my employment with them, which is not an easy barrel to be looking down. On the other hand, private sector employers requiring their employees get vaccinated could offer alternatives such as working from home or wearing masks as a suitable compromise. I doubt the state would afford public sector employees such flexibility given that non-compliance threatens state authority.     

So how should we prepare? That’s an individual decision, but I believe people should be thinking about all of the potential scenarios and readying their mindsets accordingly. If you believe the vaccine will be safe and plan on receiving it, you likely won’t have experienced much apprehension while reading this quill. But if you want no part in a mandated vaccine, start considering the consequences of refusing it. Perhaps that means holding off from making any large financial decisions in the event non-compliance terminates your employment. Maybe those fearing the first scenario might begin drafting up off-grid plans and developing like-minded communities to navigate that outcome. One thing I’ve decided to do is make it as difficult as possible on vaccine administrators. Freedomtaker is a website (for our American readers) that contains links to several useful forms which can help deter administrators from quickly attaining their objectives. Many thanks go to our friend Don Wilson for developing a non-consent form which fits within the Canadian context, and is available for download under the “resources” tab of our website. I don’t presume these documents to be legally binding, but they can be useful tools when asserting your non-compliant position. Additionally, knowing your rights can go a long way, and Canadian readers can find more information on patient rights here

As 2020 draws to an end, the future remains unclear, and 2021 will likely present many of the same challenges. The best we can do is to prepare for potential eventualities. Preparation will require some imagination, prayer (or reflection), and planning. The world is changing, and we must determine what kind of existence we hope to achieve during the years we are given. One of our past “weekly tokens” depicted several rolling hills with this simple caption, “it may be time to consider which one you’re willing to die on.” My sincerest prayer is that it never comes to this, knowing many have paid dearly while standing for their convictions. In closing, let me say, a world devoid of self-ownership is a world devoid of human dignity, and that, is a position I won’t be coming down from. 

Towards liberty,

OA

Social Isolation Is Damaging an Entire Generation of Kids

Social Isolation Is Damaging an Entire Generation of Kids

By keeping healthy children under quarantine, we are cruelly depriving them of the in-person free play and social interaction that are critical to their development and emotional well-being.

Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). She is also an adjunct scholar at The Cato Institute and a regular Forbes contributor. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

I read an advice article at Slate recently where a mom of a nearly five-year-old daughter wrote in to express concern that her child hasn’t seen any friends in five months, since COVID-19 lockdowns began. She said:

Because of COVID, my husband and I have decided to skip [pre-K] altogether and teach her everything she needs to know before kindergarten ourselves. This doesn’t worry me academically, but I am concerned about her development and the loss of the social interaction she was going to experience.

The advice columnist responded that the mom shouldn’t worry about her child’s social isolation, saying:

She is part of a whole generation of quarantined 5-year-olds. It’ll take her a while to catch up once she reenters society, sure—but it’s going to take everyone a while.

This resignation to ongoing government lockdowns, endless social distancing, mandatory mask orders, and travel restrictions—even as the virus wanes in the US—is damaging to our social and economic health, and may be particularly problematic for children who are separated from their peers.

While some evidence suggests that young people are faring well outside of forced schooling, with less school-induced stress and anxiety, the same research indicates that children and teens are missing their friends dearly. Social isolation seems to be taking a toll. With most large, urban school districts planning remote-learning only this fall, the isolation is likely to continue for many children—unless parents step in to alleviate this loneliness.

An article in The Wall Street Journal exposed the impact of pandemic-related social isolation on children and adolescents: “‘Of all age groups, this virus is probably more socially devastating to teens than any other group. They are bored and they are lonely,’ says Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.”

Another recent Journal article reinforced these unintended consequences of the lockdowns and social distancing on adolescents, and particularly girls: “Adolescent girls already were experiencing record-high levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression before the pandemic, according to Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist and author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls ‘All of the things that a year ago were increasing girls’ depression have been exacerbated by the pandemic,’ [said] Dr. Pipher.”

Regardless of whether or not you think schools should reopen for in-person learning this fall, the reality is that kids need to be around other kids to play, socialize, and learn.

They don’t need this play, socializing, and learning to happen in schools.

In fact, they may find much more authentic, satisfying social play and learning outside of a conventional classroom. Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College, has written extensively on the importance of unstructured childhood social play for children’s health and well-being. In a June interview with NPR, Gray said:

Play is crucial to children’s development. And much of my research shows that over the last few decades, our children have been very play deprived. They spend so much time in school, so much time that homework after school, so much time in adult-directed activities which are not fully play — play is activity that children develop themselves — that children take control of themselves and their children learn to be independent and solve their own problems.

(To learn more about this, see Gray’s book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.)

If they were play-deprived prior to the pandemic, then many children may be more play-deprived now, as they have been cut-off from peers for nearly six months. Gray has documented the correlation between the decline in play and the rise in childhood and adolescent mental health disorders. This is something that is deeply concerning now as children, and especially adolescents, are even more distanced from their peers.

While technology has been a lifesaver for all of us during the pandemic, it has also consumed a much larger portion of children’s lives. A new report released this month by the Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that 63 percent of teens are using social media more than they did pre-pandemic, and more than half of their parents indicate that social media use is having a negative impact on their kids.

Perhaps more startling, the survey found that 68 percent of parents say that social media is interfering with their teen’s ability to have normal social interactions. Concerns about social media use and its impact on teen mental and social health were widespread before the pandemic, but it could be particularly troubling now as social media use soars while many teens remain separated from their friends.

The continued quarantining of healthy children and adolescents is misguided and deprives them of the childhood play and in-person social interaction that are critical to their growth and development. FEE’s Jon Miltimore wrote a great article recently saying this very thing, and providing international data on the low risks of COVID-19 on children. The health risks to children of the virus may be small, but the risks to children’s mental and emotional health from forced separation from peers is not. Miltimore writes:

The best scientific evidence we have shows that children have the least to fear from COVID-19. As the CDC points out, the common flu is far more dangerous for children than the coronavirus. A society that deprives children of the basic freedom to gather to play, learn, explore, and socialize does them a grave injustice, one that will result in far more harm than good. Fortunately, we have ample evidence and real-life examples that show the costs of quarantining healthy children far outweigh the benefits.

The OECD recently issued a report detailing the global harm the pandemic response is inflicting on children’s social and economic health and well-being, especially poor children. Its recommendation to combat these detrimental effects is to add more government interventions and mandates, particularly in social services, healthcare, and education.

But adding more layers of government involvement to fix the problems created by government lockdown policies puts expensive Band-Aids on injuries that could be alleviated by loosening the lockdowns.

So what can parents do? While they may not be able to lift government orders, parents can lift some of their self-imposed social distancing practices to help their children and teens avoid continued isolation and the damaging consequences that can arise from being disconnected from their peers.

Take the steps to connect your children with other children for play dates and social interactions, and encourage older children and teens to reach out to their friends to organize in-person get-togethers.

If schools aren’t open for in-person learning, consider creating a “pandemic pod” this fall for consistent group play and learning, and encourage teens to gather for small, in-person study groups and co-learning. Push back against the creeping government control of family life, and question the politicians and pundits who keep telling you, and especially your kids, to stay home.

The Ascendant State

The Ascendant State

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary describes the word “ascendant” as “supreme or dominating, rising, gaining power or authority.” Is it fair to use this word to describe today’s governing authorities? I think so. In our last quill “Our Natural Rights: Unpacked” we touched on the relationship between our natural rights and the need to protect them. Beyond the legitimacy of each individual to defend their rights lies the role of collective groups of individuals. In Libertarianism, the non-aggression principle (NAP) states the use of force is only permitted to defend one’s rights to life, liberty and property. If these are the only circumstances in which an individual’s use of force is legitimate, a collective group of individuals should be bound by the same laws. Acting as a collective, how is the state doing in this regard? In this quill, we will demonstrate how the state’s use of force neglects its actual mandate, instead infringing upon our rights to life, liberty and property.

Every individual has the right to defend themselves from bodily harm. We see this throughout the modern free world, often reading media accounts of would-be victims fighting off, sometimes even killing their attackers, with little to no legal consequences. This demonstrates the state’s recognition of our right to defend our own well-being. Moving from the individual to the collective, we would hope to see the same reasoning. Instead, we see countless laws which negatively impact and jeopardize the individual’s right to life. One example of this is found under section 19(1) of The Canada Health Act which impedes service providers from charging patients for any service deemed insurable. This policy has contributed to longer waiting periods as patients willing to pay for services are not given that option. In some circumstances, longer wait times can mean the difference between life and death. Another example is the way in which the state employs its police force. There are many resources on the current state of policing and the problems that exist. Police brutality obviously comes to mind. When a collective group of armed individuals enforce unjust laws (as they pertain to the NAP) to the point of bodily harm, they are no longer protecting the individual’s right to life. Policing is no longer about protecting the security of the person but rather the enforcement of laws. Our right to safeguard our physical well-being is eroding before us; and it will most likely get worse unless ideologies change. 

Now what about that right to personal liberty? Personal liberties normally found within a liberal democracy are freedom of speech, religion, assembly, freedom to exchange goods and services on the open market, freedom of movement from one territory to another within a nation, just to name a few. Referring back to the NAP, we see why one should really question the state’s legitimacy when interfering in these areas. There are elements of hate speech which can arouse violent actions; so we can concede that action in this area is sometimes required. 

We have seen emerging policies with regards to the usage of gender pronouns. An unclassified Canadian Armed Forces message recently revealed that the use of gender specific pronouns will no longer be acceptable when writing employee performance reviews. Caution needs to be exercised when dealing with this issue, as it leaves no room for consenting individuals to determine which pronouns they prefer. Breaking this new rule would most likely result in legal consequences. Ask yourself: Does mandating the use of certain pronouns on consenting individuals amount to protecting their rights or infringing upon them? Would the state be justified in removing our ability to call strawberries “red” to avoid alienating people living with colour blindness? We could go into greater detail but if you see the over-reaching effect the state can cause in areas such as compelled speech, the point has been made. Now onto the question of property – our stuff.

On the surface, many feel the state adequately protects our right to property. When anything belonging to us is criminally taken or destroyed we call the police to investigate, hopefully bringing the person(s) to justice. This, however, does nothing to return our property.  Our reliance on insurance policies to compensate us gives us a false sense of justice. When we look at the direct relationship between our property and the state, we see a different reality. In Canada, as a property owner, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect our property rights. The state has the ability to expropriate (eminent domain in the U.S.) your property when deemed to be in the best interest of the public. In addition, a landowner can never achieve complete ownership of their land, as a yearly property tax is due in order to maintain ownership. I don’t want to head too far down the road of taxation; but it deserves mentioning. Regardless of taxation’s outcome, whether an individual nets benefits from the services, forcible taxation with a penalty of imprisonment for not paying is a violation of property rights. I’m not claiming taxation never brings good initiatives, only that involuntary taxation could be viewed as a form of theft. Referring back to the NAP, if the collective group is legitimate only when mirroring individual action, how does taxation fit into this? When was the last time you cleared the snow from your neighbour’s driveway without asking and then sent them a bill? Hopefully never.

In conclusion, I hope many come to understand that collective right is based on individual right; and state action is only justified when upholding individual rights. On this very point, Frédéric Bastiat, French economist, writer and a prominent member of the French Liberal School wrote, “If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, non-oppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable…” We urgently need to re-examine our relationship with the state, as well as our measure of personal freedoms, and work towards rejection of ascendant governance to uphold individual liberties.  

Towards liberty

OA