Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cramer on "Christian Nation" and Its Implications for Social Policy:

In an article for Pajamas Media, Clayton Cramer argues how the idea that America is a "Christian Nation" has policy implications. In particular, he examines how a "Christian Nation" might deal with welfare.

A taste:

Social conservatives argue that this is a Christian nation and that it is both appropriate and reasonable for the Christian majority to make laws that reflect its moral code. As social conservatives became more successful in gaining office and influence a few years back, liberals began to argue that if this was a Christian nation, didn’t Jesus call us to help the downtrodden and suffering?

Who’s right? They both are, but it seems that many liberals and social conservatives are missing some important history....

William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, the most popular law book in the American colonies when the Revolution started, listed the rights that every Englishman enjoyed because they were a gift from God — including the right to life. And this even applied to “an infant, even before his birth.” This included not simply protection from criminal attack, but also:

The law … furnishes him with every thing necessary for their support. For there is no man so indigent or wretched, but he may demand a supply sufficient for all the necessities of life, from the more opulent part of the community, by means of the several statutes enacted for the relief of the poor.


Libertarians who want the government to not be in the business of caring for the poor are free to promote their beautiful theories all they want. But I would prefer if they emphasized that their position is not necessarily a conservative position. In spite of the best efforts of the ACLU, this is still predominantly a Christian nation. Yes, there are lazy people who take advantage of the welfare state (although it isn’t as easy as it used to be, since the 1995 reforms). But there are an awful lot of people who are dependent on the government because they have no choice in the matter. There are a fair number of single mothers out there trying to raise kids on their own because the father ran off, is sitting in prison, or is otherwise not being responsible.

And yes, some of these single mothers made really bad choices that put them in these situations. This is why whatever system we come up with to help those in need must not incentivize bad behavior. Inevitably, we need a system that has enough discretion to punish destructive behavior and reward improvements in behavior....

As a libertarian who is more secular and less "Christian" than Mr. Cramer, I see, in the ideal, a lesser role for the state in providing welfare. That's one problem with libertarianism; we posit an ideal world, but the real world involves a huge Leviathan state. So the libertarian has to answer the question, in this second best world, what to do? And sometimes the first best libertarian policy can't be properly implemented with big government's existence. For instance, open borders is a first best world libertarian policy. But as Milton Friedman pointed out, it's not a good idea until and unless we abolish the welfare state. Certainly we can't provide socialized medicine with open borders.

Likewise with welfare, ideally the state will tax us a Hell of a lot less (perhaps not at all) and that will permit private charities to play the role of government bureaucrats and social workers. But given our massive government debt, I don't see a libertarian tax world coming any time soon unless the state declares bankruptcy and sells its assets (what Murray Rothbard wanted; he believed debt holders might get paid more than you think by a bankrupt US government once they sell all the valuable real estate they own in Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia).

I don't know how to properly deal with welfare policy in a world where libertarian idealism is not a viable option. I DO believe that private charities, many of them religious and conservative Christians, would do a much better job at implementing a safety net than government bureaucrats and social workers.


J said...

That "Gay Species" freak on positive liberty is a far worse troll than anyone (not to say blasphemous, and scientifically uninformed). I make some rude remarks but generally don't blaspheme or more or less uphold the teachings of Aliester Crowley.

I suggest you block it. And if you check out his bizarre Bay Area leather boy site, you'll find more reasons to block it.

Disgusting (even beyond like ....mormons)

Juris Naturalist said...

So much of the energy spent dealing with whether or not the US is a Christian nation amounts to time wasted instead of time invested into being Christians - regardless of our nation.
The problem is not that the government provides welfare. It is that the church does not. What if the church started providing more welfare, wouldn't that be redundant?
Of course. But it would be peacefully subversive, and it would be a demonstration of the difference between government help and charity. The missing element in receipt from the state is the recognition of the sacrifice involved.
If Christians do not incur a peculiar sacrifice - above and beyond what everyone has to pay in taxes - then they have zero moral ground to stand upon.
Regarding immigration, the believer can participate by advocating open immigration. That is fine. That it would burden taxpayers via welfare (debatable) would be precisely the sort of pressure which might encourage lessening of welfare programs.
strategising is pointless. There is no, "let's do this then we can do that..."
No. On each and every issue believers must be pressuring at the margins in the direction of liberty, but only once they have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice themselves and to force no charity from anyone else.
Whether this will ever come to pass is totally irrelevant to the believer. The call is to obey. Obedience is success. Practice of sacrificial power-under love in response to the Holy Spirit is the goal. God is sovereign over the results.
Nathanael Snow

Jonathan Rowe said...


Very nice. Re Church & Welfare, I think one stumbling block to your proposal is absent getting rid of government welfare, those who fall thru the safety net cracks might choose that over private charity.

It's my sense that one reason why religious charities would make for better social workers than government social workers is that many of them would practice "tough love." That's something government social workers don't do. In other words that means if you fall through the cracks and need a place for you and your family to stay, it will be under the supervision of mean old nuns who will have you up at 5:00am in the morning making your bed. THAT'S the kind of welfare program I think could work and would be very salutary for the individuals involved.

Jonathan Rowe said...


And here I thought you and TGS would hit it off.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

I think he's more your type, Mr Rowe.

You mistake rationalism for decadence, or the left--that seems to be a typical orthodox trait (LDS-bots also do that).

For the calvinist, anyone who is not a member of the Elect is suspect (including the more secular framers--Ben Franklin, subversive).

Juris Naturalist said...

I don't know that anyone who needs tough love actually needs charity.
What I mean is that I think "the least of these" ought to be read more narrowly in terms of financial need.
If "tough love" would work with some, in order to get them back on their feet, etc. then what they need is not charity. It is discipline. Lord knows, I need discipline!
If anyone needs charity it is because they cannot do for themselves. They are destitute. These are the ones most likely to fall through the cracks, because they do not have the resources to even seek government support for themselves.
If we define "the least of these" as those who do not know Jesus, then we say that our responsibility is not to sacrifice financially, but to just preach the word.
Churches falter on both sides.

I see this as a problem (amongst others) with Marvin Olasky's work, etc. The argument is that "tough love" would work better. Probably. But that does not mean it is the same as charity.

I think a good deal of welfare is an attempt of the state to placate those masses more likely to disrupt commerce and state activity rather than become productive. Welfare is a political tool. Of course, if there were no state to be placated against...

Nathanael Snow

J said...

so much for Rowe the "christian". His supervisors at Positive Liberty prefer Bay Area log-cabin-GOP scumbags, Randians and mormons to like Jefferson, Locke, Reason, logic.

When in doubt, stick with zionist-baptists and the LDS, Rowe-ster.

muy triste