For years I was seduced by the philosophy of modern libertarianism. I found the arguments against so-called victimless crime laws particularly compelling. But I was puzzled by the fact that the Lord’s prophets supported the amendment to the US Constitution establishing Prohibition, and they opposed the amendment repealing it. If God was for freedom and liberty, shouldn’t his prophets have opposed Prohibition and favored its repeal? Why were the Lord’s prophets championing the devil’s cause against freedom of choice? This seeming contradiction bothered me a lot for quite a few years. Do we not revere the Founding Fathers of the United States as wise men raised up by God, and were they not the first libertarians?
I was also puzzled by the fact that the literature of modern libertarianism does not quote much from our nation’s Founders, or spend much time reading their writings and philosophy. In fact, the writings of our Founding Fathers are conspicuous by their absence from libertarian literature. In contrast, our Church leaders from the days of Joseph Smith have taught that we should study the writings of the Founders, and have quoted from them.
So what is the resolution to this contradiction in philosophy between the writings of our Founders and our Church leaders on the one hand, and the philosophy of modern libertarianism on the other? I finally figured it out one day as I was reading The Second Treatise on Government by John Locke who was the philosophical father of our Founders. In Chapter II, Section 6, Locke writes:
Sec. 6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.
Voila! The contradiction is resolved. Our Founding Fathers were true libertarians. Modern libertarians are not. They have made a fundamental error.
On the one hand, modern libertarians teach as a most fundamental principle that each man belongs to himself, and that therefore no man and consequently no government has a right to impose his will on another except to defend himself from another doing so to him. A man’s right to swing his fist extends only as far as the end of another man’s nose. On the other hand, John Locke, true libertarians, the prophets of God, and our national Founding Fathers teach that men do not belong to themselves but to God who created us, and that all our rights originate with Him as stated so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Hence we see that modern libertarian philosophy is false. It is Godless, atheistic, materialist and secularist. And in these qualities it resembles Marxist communism which inevitably results in totalitarianism.
Does an acknowledgement of God as the source of our rights violate the principles of freedom upon which the United States is founded? No it does not. Indeed, all of our Founders were strongly influenced by the philosophy of John Locke. That philosophy is embodied in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. And it is implied throughout the US Constitution which is the supreme law of the land. We can be sure of this because those same men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and in many cases shed their own blood so that Americans can live free of foreign tyranny, were the men who brought forth the Constitution and the new American republic. They were students of John Locke and believed that men belong to their Creator, and not to themselves.
Does this understanding and philosophy violate the separation of Church and state? Not if it doesn’t establish a state church or religion as prohibited by the Bill of Rights. Of this we may be certain because these same students of John Locke, and authors of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, are the men who gave us the Bill of Rights which guarantee us our freedom of religion.
It is astounding how true libertarianism has been corrupted in our own day to obscure this basic truth, that men belong not to themselves but to their Creator from whom all men obtain their rights.