26 June 2009 – 26 August 2009
My arrival (very recently) at philosophical anarchism has disturbed some of my conservative and Christian friends … My fellow Christians have argued that the state’s authority is divinely given. They cite Christ’s injunction “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and St Paul’s words “The powers that be are ordained of God.” But Christ didn’t say which things – if any – belong to Caesar; his ambiguous words are far from a command to give Caesar whatever he claims. And it’s notable that Christ never told his disciples either to establish a state or to engage in politics. They were to preach the Gospel and, if rejected, to move on. He seems never to have imagined the state as something they could or should enlist on their side.
At first sight, St Paul seems to be more positive in affirming the authority of the state. But he himself, like the other martyrs, died for defying the state, and we honour him for it; to which we may add that he was on one occasion a gaol breaker as well. Evidently the passage in Romans has been misread. It was probably written during the reign of Nero, not the most edifying of rulers; but then Paul also counselled slaves to obey their masters, and nobody construes this as an endorsement of slavery. He may have meant that the state and slavery were here for the foreseeable future, and that Christians must abide them for the sake of peace. Never does he say that either is here forever..
“But what would you replace the state with?” The question reveals an inability to imagine human society without the state. Yet it would seem that an institution that can take 200,000,000 lives within a century hardly needs to be “replaced.”
Christians, and especially Americans, have long been misled about all this by their good fortune. Since the conversion of Rome, most Western rulers have been more or less inhibited by Christian morality (though, often enough, not so’s you’d notice), and even warfare became somewhat civilised for centuries; and this has bred the assumption that the state isn’t necessarily an evil at all. But as that morality loses its cultural grip, as it is rapidly doing, this confusion will dissipate. More and more we can expect the state to show its nature nakedly.
For me this is anything but a happy conclusion. I miss the serenity of believing I lived under a good government, wisely designed and benevolent in its operation. But, as St Paul says, there comes a time to put away childish things.
The Reluctant Anarchist
(From Sobran’s, December 2002)
Have We “Hit Bottom” Yet? I Don’t Think So!
For more than a year, two questions have obsessed investors, finance journalists, media talking heads and others. The Australian form of these questions is:
- Has the All Ordinaries Index (AOI), which reached an all-time high of 6,873 on 1 November 2007 and fell to 3,145 on 6 March 2009, “hit bottom”? And if so, when will it reverse course and recoup its losses?
- What is the AOI’s “fair value”? Are stocks, considered as a whole, presently “undervalued,” such that he who buys them today will (despite some nausea encountered over the short-term) be handsomely rewarded in the next several years? Or do stocks remain “overvalued” and susceptible to further falls? If so, how low might the AOI go?
Answers to these questions appearing in the mainstream media have been nothing short of astonishing. Journalists, “strategists” and pundits have bothered neither to clarify their premises and reasoning, nor to describe the evidence upon which they have based their views. (Perhaps that’s because many of these views are, in the most literal sense of the term, baseless.) Instead, breezy assertion and wishful thinking has ruled the roost. “Five-year Winning Streak Has a Good Shot at a Sixth” (USA Today, 2 January 2008) was typical. “2008 could start out bumpy, but signs point to a sweet finish,” it concluded. According to Brian Westbury (“The Economy Is Fine (Really)),” The Wall Street Journal, 28 January), “it is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.” He continued: “Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm. Warren Buffett [is] buying, and … the bench of potential buyers on the sidelines is deep and strong. Dow 15,000 looks much more likely than Dow 10,000. Keep the faith and stay invested. It’s a wonderful buying opportunity.”
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