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Becky Akers on Racism   Leave a comment

Lela: Welcome back! Becky Akers and I are continuing our discussion of how an anarchic world would deal with racism and bigotry since there would be no government to enforce civil rights. Becky, my mother, an American Indian, suffered some segregation issues – difficulty renting apartments, denial of job opportunities — so I’ve always viewed the Civil Rights Act as a necessary government action which means I can be a human and not some sort of subhuman racial minority. Which brings us back to my original statement – government would not be necessary if men were angels. If men and women are bigots, how do the people they want to oppress get justice in a world without government?

 

Becky: Lela, I attended a women’s college that was so heavily Jewish it offered a kosher dining room. We schicksas, as its patrons called us, were forbidden to so much as throw our trash into the kosher garbage cans. Imagine the bigotry when even your wastepaper isn’t good enough!

 

Christian AnarchyLela:  That’s awful, but vaguely understandable given Jewish kosher regulations. I wouldn’t choose to be that cut off from the normal course of society and I couldn’t treat people with such contempt, but I understand it in principle. But that sort of attitude is exactly what scares me.

 

Becky:  Yep. So it’s understandable that you and a great many folks hope the State will force people to show better manners. But let’s remember who codified and enforced the racism that your mother suffered: government.

 

Lela:  Did it come from government or was it people in community who hated/feared Indians and wanted their land and asked government to support their decision to steal and abuse? That’s sort of off topic, but it is interesting to consider which came first — racism growing from the sinful hearts of fallen people or the government codifying and enforcing that racism.

But, back on topic — does anarcho-capitalism offer a better solution than civil rights legislation?

 

Becky:  Anarcho-capitalism offers far better methods of combating racism than that sin’s prime proponent, the State, ever could.

 

For over 75 years after the Constitution’s ratification, the Federal government and many states legislated and enforced chattel slavery. And those governments’ atrocities against American Indians are so heinous and infamous that time, space, and a queasy stomach prevent my rehearsing them here. Does it make sense to look for salvation from racism to the very agency that bolstered—and continues to bolster—it?

 

Lela: From someone who gets to look at it from both sides — whites did some evil things to the Indians, but some of my Indian ancestors admitted to the evil they did to white settlers. There was evil done on both sides and I can’t justify any of it. I can understand the sentiments that created the conflict, but I can’t justify the sins committed.

 

My family came to Alaska about 1946 just after Alaska became the first place in the United States to make Jim Crow-like discrimination illegal. My mom immediately noticed the difference from her experience in Washington State. My dad was with his first wife, a Creole, at the time and he always talked about the “miracle” of anti-discrimination laws. I grew up never really knowing legalized racism and thank God for that.

 

Becky:  But let’s ask another question: why were Jim Crow laws “necessary”?  Why go to the bother of legally banning black people—or, in Alaska’s case, native peoples—from movie theaters, housing, etc., if white people are by and large racists? Because clearly most proprietors of movie theaters, landlords, restaurateurs, etc., disagreed with discrimination. Then as now, these folks wanted as much profit as they could earn. And that means subjugating one’s prejudices against other colors to favor one: green.

 

Lela:  That’s a perspective I had not considered before. It would explain why Alaska’s anti-discrimination law was passed in 1945 and within a year my dad and mom (in separate parts of Alaska) noticed a difference. I always sort of imagined the owners of the Juneau Hotel grinding their teeth as Roy and Katherine Peratrovich celebrated its passage by dancing in their ballroom with their white patrons, but I never met any older white Alaskans who said they were absolutely horrified at its passage either. And it is true that the discrimination laws were written to “protect” white privilege because whites were a minority compared to Natives at the time. So, you think money is an anecdote to bigotry?

 

Becky:  Yes, I do. I think the free market in general is one of God’s greatest blessings to us because it lifts more people out of poverty by far than any other economic system. And specifically, it is bigotry’s most tireless enemy, as the State tacitly admitted every time it passed another law against a commercial transaction or behavior based on race.

 

Now, does this mean that everyone everywhere will welcome everyone all the time in an anarchic world? No, of course not. Let’s always remember that anarchy does not yield utopia, nor should we want it to: utopians like Hitler or the Khmer Rouge number among the most ruthless murderers in history. Whatever our social or political systems, we will still be fallen sinners living in a fallen world. But anarcho-capitalism offers the most opportunities for peace, prosperity, and freedom from bigotry’s burdens to the most people.

 

Lela: I’m still stuck here, though. I’m not looking for a utopia where everyone gets along and nobody has any evil thoughts. That won’t happen until we’re with Jesus in heaven and I honestly believe there will be some seriously embarrassed Christians when that day comes.

 

Becky: Amen. Seriously embarrassed.

 

Lela: From a statist perspective:  those that society deems “less-than” can perhaps “buy” their way into an accepted status in stateless anarcho-capitalist society. The converse is that “less-thans” are almost always poor in material wealth because of lack of opportunity. So again, don’t we circle back to needing the state to protect civil rights?

 

Becky:  Lela, much of the “lack of opportunity” you lament results from the State! For example: government requires many professionals, such as hair-braiders or morticians, to undergo expensive training totally irrelevant to their needs and to buy a license before they can practice their trade. Poor people almost always lack the time, money and resources to comply with the State’s demands; this isn’t “lack of opportunity,” this is outright tyranny! And it wouldn’t exist in an anarchic world.

 

There are other problems with anointing government Our Protector Of “Civil Rights” (I’ve put that term in quotes because I vehemently disagree with “civil rights,” as I explain here, here and here. “Civil rights” is a recognized political philosophy based on Marxism rather than mere shorthand, as most people assume, for “warm, fuzzy laws against nasty old bigots”). First, let’s remember government s inherent incompetence and corruption. Neither fault goes missing among those writing, passing, and enforcing regulations against discrimination. A Chinese landlord in San Diego, CA, may bribe the bureaucratic bean-counter who finds no Korean tenants in his five apartment buildings, but he’s unlikely to increase his profits in a heavily Asian area if he continues to indulge his racism.

 

Lela:  Okay, that makes sense. In a territory where most people were Alaska Natives who were starting to get educations and incomes (Roy Peratrovich was a lawyer, for example), it didn’t make much sense for businesses to refuse to sell to them.

 

Becky:  Remember, too, that we can’t control the unintended consequences or direction of any legislation, including that of “Civil Rights.” Who would have predicted in 1964 that the State’s ordering hoteliers, airlines, landlords, movie theaters, etc., to accommodate all patrons regardless of ethnicity would lead to the persecution-sorry, prosecution of Christian bakers and florists 50 years later for refusing to supply cakes and flowers to homosexual “weddings”?

 

Lela:  I definitely agree there. A law upholding the Christian principle of anti-discrimination (James 2 comes to mind) has become an excuse to deny religious liberty — to force private individuals to participate in and publicly sanction sinful behavior.

 

Becky: Lela, you’ve articulated a powerful principle there concerning the State. It always twists “well-intentioned,” “Christian” legislation into a horror straight from the pit of Hell. “Compulsory education” is another case in point: Protestants concerned about the huge numbers of Irish Catholic immigrants to mid-nineteenth century America pushed for laws compelling everyone to send his kids to “public” school–which they assumed would always be Protestant. Imagine their horror if they could see the State’s schools today, with pornography and the deliberate destruction of innocence, a.k.a “sex education,” unhealthy drugs and violence rampant, Darwinism not only preached but fanatically believed, and indoctrination in Marxism replacing any actual education.

 

Lela: In effect, the Civil Rights Act now discriminates against Biblically-faithful Christians. So how did that get twisted around?

 

Becky:  The Civil Rights Act arrogated the property owner’s rights to the State; in effect, a restaurateur no longer owns his diner because government now tells him how he may or may not use that property. If you doubt that, let me ask whether you own the bottle of aspirin you bought 2 weeks ago and placed in your medicine chest. If you do own it, can I prohibit you from opening it? Of course not! You can open it or not as you see fit, right?

 

Lela:  Yes.

 

Becky:  And if I said, “I prohibit you from opening that!”, wouldn’t you laugh at me? Wouldn’t you say, “Look, I have a headache, and anyway, it’s my aspirin! I’ll open it when I dang well please! It’s none of your business!” So with other kinds of property. If the State can tell me the uses I must make of it, I do not own it: the State does. And once we have ceded government the authority to dictate how some property-owners must use their property (restaurants must seat black patrons; landlords must rent to families with little kids though they disturb other tenants), we cannot legitimately, logically protest when it forces other property-owners to use their property as bureaucrats and politicians desire.

 

Lela:  Okay. I can see that. In fact, I’ve had conversations with people on this blog who argued the same thing from the statist position.

 

Becky: Lela, it’s supremely ironic that so many folks believe the State saves us from the consequences of bigotry: it’s among the worst of discriminators, if not the worst! Go to almost bureaucracy’s website and you’ll find a page like this one, listing the ways in which the agency favors some people over others, based solely on sex, race, etc.

 

Lela:  Right. Those pages (in print in those days) were always a conundrum for me because I could legally claim minority status, but I was raised to celebrate all of my heritage, so I didn’t. In high school, I started checking “other” and writing “human” on the line. I hope some bureaucrats were confused by that.

 

Becky: Good for you! The upshot is that government doesn’t prohibit discrimination and bigotry; instead, it promotes both in the varieties that bureaucrats and politicians prefer.

 

Lela: I’m part-American Indian, but I have blue eyes and curly hair, so I have a choice whether to look white or Indian (and have experimented to see if there is a different reaction; there is sometimes with some people). In principle, I can say that private individuals and companies have a right to choose who they associate with, but if I’m honest, as an Indian, that would mean my freedom would be curtailed by their freedom. It’s not as simple as saying “well, just move somewhere and associate with your own kind” because my own kind is as much Americans of Swedish and Irish descent as Americans of Indian descent. To me, freedom is being able to move within all of those groups without having to change my appearance to “pass”. I don’t care what’s kicking around in the private recesses of some rude person’s mind because their thoughts don’t hurt me, but if their actions deny me freedom … then I start to see a need for government to protect my freedom.

 

Becky: We need to return to our definition of  government,  Lela, which I’ll paraphrase as “physical compulsion, up to and including lethal compulsion, and the authority some people (ie, politicians, bureaucrats and their enforcers) claim to initiate that compulsion against others.” Are you saying that if a landlord refuses to rent to you, government should ultimately kill him?

 

Christian AnarchyLela:  No! Rudeness should not carry a death sentence.

 

Becky: Let’s also specify what we mean by “freedom” (which I’ve used throughout our conversation interchangeably with “liberty”), since you fear that bigots’ actions deny you your freedom. The dictionary defines ”liberty” as “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.” As an anarchist, I’d remove “arbitrary or despotic.” And for the purposes of our discussion here, I’d also delete “or control” since we’re dealing with political freedom and there are other sorts of “arbitrary or despotic…control” (my mother-in-law, for example!). Ergo, liberty is “freedom from government.”

 

When we consider both these meanings in the context of your sentence, we see that however despicable or cruel the “rude person’s” treatment of you may be, he is in no way denying your freedom. Unless he is a politician or bureaucrat acting in an official capacity—and in an anarcho-capitalist world, we’d have neither of those sub-species—he is merely insulting, offensive, and inviting the judgment of God. Indeed, his abuse is so egregious that when you tell me about it, Lela, I organize a boycott of his business. I shun him personally, too, as do readers of the articles I write against him. Pretty soon, he either gets the message, or he’s one lonely, broke racist.

 

Lela:  Now we’re getting to the crux of the conversation! Reasoning from a statist position, the lack of a state means there’s no way to influence others, but you’re suggesting there are alternatives to the state that work just as well or better.

 

Becky: Much better!

 

Lela: We’re running out of time today. Would you be willing to return to discuss this further?

 

Becky: I’d be honored to do so!

 

Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian who has written two novels about the American Revolution, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold.

 

 

Abuse of Power with Becky Akers   1 comment

Christian AnarchyBecky Akers and I are continuing our conversation on anarcho-capitalism and how it is or could be compatible with Christianity. Welcome back, Becky.

Becky: Thanks, Lela, it’s good to be here again!

Last week you said in closing, “Christians like the idea of liberty, but we’re afraid of too much liberty. We know human nature is not a lovely thing since the Fall, so we believe that government is necessary to prevent human nature from riding the society off the rails.”

You’ve raised an essential point, one that not only keeps many folks from embracing anarcho-capitalism but also troubled the Founding Fathers. You reflected the latter’s quandary when you paraphrased James Madison’s “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Some anarcho-capitalists damn the Founders because of such sentiments. I’m not one of them. Recall that Madison lived before the Nazis, Marxism, Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Pentagon and NSA. Recall as well that the philosophy of liberty has grown and developed since the eighteenth century just as our knowledge of nutrition or physics has. The Founders didn’t benefit from the Austrian school of economics; they knew nothing of Bastiat or John Stuart Mill. If they had, Madison would more likely have said, “Because men aren’t angels, government is hellish.”

Lela: Those are all fine examples of government out of control and Waco, Ruby Ridge and the NSA do certainly indict the US government along with the other examples. I’m not sure they are strong enough arguments against all governments everywhere.

Becky: Well, we can also look at “good” Christian governments, such as England’s during Queen Elizabeth’s reign or Spain’s during the Inquisition. Or the United States’ administration in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when it passed and enforced laws condemning many people to chattel slavery. Or Israel’s government under beloved King David, who fought a civil war when the northern tribes preferred a different ruler and later compelled prisoners of another war to lie on the ground while his men slaughtered two out of three. Or… alas, the examples stretch endlessly, given that men aren’t angels, and even more so when the State’s power strengthens their evil.

Which brings us back to your original question and a first, very obvious response; I’ll try not to belabor it though the State offers such an enticing target! It’s best encapsulated in that old Latin proverb, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, i.e., Who watches the guards? We’ve all heard or read endless stories about cops’ brutality, political corruption, bureaucratic sloth, judicial absurdities, etc. And where do these horrific “public servants” come from? Yep: those fallen human beings we so distrust! There’s no difference between them and us except our naive idea that picking up a paycheck from Uncle Sam turns sinners into heroes ready and willing to save us from danger.

Lela: Okay, I can buy that. All human beings are fallen and their essential nature does not change when they are hired to do a job.

Becky: And even if we could magically ensure that the State employs only “good” people, folks who would never accept a bribe, who would work hard and consistently put the public’s good (whatever that means) ahead of their own interests, there’s still government’s innate incompetence. Again, I won’t belabor this despite its being another big, fat bull’s-eye because we’ve all experienced it. But let me emphasize that it is indeed innate, built into the political process, and unalterable regardless of “reforms” or tweaks. Why? Because government’s nature deprives its employees of critical information.

Lela: How so?

Becky:  When an entrepreneur provides a product or service, he gleans enormous amounts of information from the market (and the freer from the State’s regulation that market is, the more accurate its information). We haven’t time to explore this exhaustively; indeed, economists have written whole tomes on the topic. So let me cite just one example: prices. They tell an entrepreneur how much people value his product (does anyone out there want haggis for lunch? Will a haggis restaurant in the business district succeed? Or do most workers choose hamburgers and pizza?), which varieties of it they prefer (do more people order a whole haggis, or do they prefer it sliced?), etc. The entrepreneur must please his customers or suffer bankruptcy—and thanks in part to the information prices give him, he can decipher his patrons’ desires. (Entrepreneurs who fail at figuring out such clues go bust. Behold the market’s built-in regulation to rid us of unsafe or inefficient products and services!)

But taxes replace prices when we’re dealing with government. And taxes continue to support government’s “products” and “services” no matter how much their “customers” loathe them. For example, the TSA never has to worry about pleasing passengers: Congress will continue renewing its budget—and stealing the taxes for that budget from us—no matter how long the lines at checkpoints are, how offensive the TSA’s gropings, or how many iPads its thugs swipe.  The TSA has absolutely no incentive to improve its “service” because its “revenue” doesn’t decline despite its assaulting, harming and inconveniencing “customers.”

LELA: Okay, that makes sense.

BECKY: Ditto for cops, the CIA, the NSA, and all the other “policing” bureaucracies that supposedly protect us from bad guys. Even if all cops and bureaucrats were devout Christians, they would still lack the information they need to function competently. Private investigators who can’t solve a murder or find stolen jewelry won’t attract clients. Christian cops who can’t do either may be righteous and compassionate, but they’ll continue to fail at locating killers and missing diamonds because our taxes keep them and their inefficient methods afloat year after year.

To the State’s inherent corruption and its incompetence at protecting us, we must add that governments also specialize in rendering their subjects defenseless. Sometimes that’s as obvious as confiscating guns. Other times it’s as subtle as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other evils, forced airlines to seat anyone who bought passage, regardless of how menacing or bizarre he seemed, and thereby exacerbated the skyjackings of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Lela:  This sounds like a topic to pursue more fully. As a Christian, I believe we all stand equal before God, which would say to me that airlines, lunch counters, churches and other public venues shouldn’t be segregated by race.

Becky: You’re right that we all stand equal before God—but not one another. Some older folks who savor peace and quiet don’t enjoy kids; construction companies seldom hire the elderly as employees. The owners of Hooter’s Restaurants don’t appreciate ugly women; neither do the readers of Playboy Magazine. I doubt that Hillary Clinton has ever patronized Hooters or thumbed Bill’s copy of Hustler. Some black people don’t like white people and vice versa.

But this topic cries out for a much longer discussion: may we return to it next time?

Lela:  Yes, that would be fine. I want to give the topic its full due, so we can come back to it.

Becky:  Meanwhile, let’s consider your question’s corollary: who will protect us from predators in an anarcho-capitalist world? Government by its nature cannot provide protection—but freedom affords other, far superior safeguards.

Lela:  Such as?

Becky: First, let’s remember that government creates many of the dangers that frighten us. For example, the Drug War and all other prohibitory laws never rid us of a particular bugaboo; they only drive it underground with all the attendant violence and crime.

LELA:  Prohibition emboldened and increased organized crime because the demand for booze didn’t go away; it just became illegal to supply it. I’m with you so far.

BECKY: Exactly!

I was discussing anarchy with a fellow Christian recently; perhaps because he’s the father of three teens, he’s particularly concerned about heroin’s availability and abuse in a free world. “We need more laws against it,” he moaned, “more cops to stop the traffic in it!” I reminded him, however, that the places under government’s direct control are the ones where “illicit” drugs flourish: public schools, which the State forces kids to attend; prisons; inner cities, which, between subsidized housing and food stamps, are pretty much federal plantations. Abolishing government eradicates the breeding-ground for an overwhelming majority of the perils that now terrify us.

LELA: I don’t buy that yet. I agree that government sets up the conditions in which drug use is most attractive, but without public schools you have the illiterate offspring of people who cannot afford to send their kids to private schools; without prisons, we’d have criminals loose on the streets continuing to commit crimes like theft, rape and murder. It seems to me that illiteracy would actually drive criminality. While I agree with you on subsidized housing and food stamps, I know many people, including Christians, who would say we’d be relegating those people to starvation and homelessness.

BECKY:  Lela, the most literate generations in American history coincided with the decades that enjoyed the lowest amounts of government: only patchy requirements for very basic schooling existed in some areas during colonial days, yet out of that freedom rose the scholars who fought the American Revolution (and I’m not limiting “scholars” to the intellectual giants of the first Continental Congress, either, such as Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin. For a sample of the widespread erudition then, peruse the journals or letters of ordinary soldiers. These “uneducated” men wrote and reasoned far more elegantly than doctoral candidates today). Since “education” became “compulsory” (what an oxymoron!) in the mid-19th century, levels of intellectual attainment have plummeted across the board, year after year.

As for prisons, even with them, we have criminals loose on the streets – until we elect them to political office, that is. Prison is not the only response to crime; in fact, it’s among the worst (which explains the State’s infatuation with it) since it twice victimizes the innocent: first, the thief, rapist, or murderer preys on them, and then the State does, forcing them to pay for their predator’s food, lodging and guards. Freedom offers far better alternatives, ones that make victims whole instead of looting them to “punish” the offender.

Finally, Christians—or anyone else—who insist that it’s OK to steal as long as we use the proceeds to feed and house the poor violate Scripture’s clear command against theft.

But to return to the subject of how we’ll protect ourselves in a free society: you may have noticed that I’ve frequently specified “political government.” That’s because there are other kinds, and you might choose to submit to one in an anarcho-capitalistic world. Homeowners’ associations are somewhat analogous, except in a free society, the variety of their prohibitions and requirements would expand vastly to satisfy every preference. Scared of teenaged vandals spray-painting graffiti on your garage? Choose an HOA that prohibits children. Hate loud rock blasting from your neighbor’s DVD-player? Rent from a landlord who loves classical music and terminates the lease of anyone disturbing his tenants’ peace.

LELA: Okay, I see where you’re headed with that. We’re running out of time for this week, but I want to come back to the topics I highlighted, particularly the idea of non-state governance. I think Christians ask the state for help with some particularly “good” things … like eliminating institutional racism and arresting people who are legitimately harming others … and I’d like to explore the alternatives.  So we’ll come back to it next week.

 

Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian who has written two novels about the American Revolution, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold.

Authority Properly Understood   Leave a comment

If you are not a Christian, you are welcome to read this, but understand that I am not talking to you. My remarks are addressed to Christians only.

God, through the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, tells us that Christians have authority within the church. We are to judge ourselves and each other and leave the world to its own devices. The apostles set an example of humility in the world. They didn’t fight back. They preached the gospel and ministered without regard for their own safety and they took the consequences of that. In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul wished that the Corinthian believers would follow that example, though his tone suggests that he doubts they will.

He then told the Corinthian believers, in chapter 6, that the church is to judge itself. Christians must call each other to task and adjudicate legal disputes within the church, not outside of the church. Time and time again, Paul pointed to God as the authority in the church. In this, he echoed Jesus Who called for His disciples to pattern themselves after Himself.

Ultimately, God is the sole authority over the Christian. You stand before Him with no one around you. Sometimes, however, God places others in worldly authority over us and He does this either for our discipline or for our own good.

Read the Pastoral letters — Timothy 1 and 2 and Titus and you find that God has placed authorities in the church. We are supposed to submit to one another in the church and in our marriages and family because God speaks through other Christians. We are to listen to our pastors with respect and submit to their guidance.

This does not mean we get the option to deny our own responsibility. A pastor is a human who has been called of God to a certain task in the church, but he is still a human being and human beings may be mistaken in their behavior and attitudes. We sin when we follow the guidance of a sinful man (or woman) simply because they are in a position of authority within the church. If they are outside of the will of God, we must oppose them because we are under God’s authority first and foremost.

Similarly, Romans 13 indicates that human governments can be in authority over us, but again, we are responsible to God for our own behavior and attitudes. When government authorities act outside of God’s will, we must oppose them.

However, in both of these cases, we must be careful to obey God. Resistance of evil is never an excuse for sin.

Some Through the Jail   Leave a comment

Peter preached in the streets of Jerusalem and thousands came to Christ. The authorities had hoped that murdering Jesus in a very public way would stop the gospel, but clearly they hadn’t cowed the believers. Now they were preaching in the temple.

The temple authorities told Peter and John to stop preaching in the temple in Acts 4. Peter and John answered in a quote of the Hebrew Three. “We must obey God rather than you, so we will not stop preaching.” They then violated the order by doing exactly as God commanded. They spent time in jail for it.

Christians rightfully celebrate the stand of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego in Daniel 3 and Peter and John’s defiance in Acts 4. Clearly they were obeying God and clearly God rewarded their civil disobedience with miracles.

What does that tell us?

That there is a place for civil disobedience in the Christian life, but we still can’t ignore Romans 13. It is part of the Bible too. The Christian life is not velvet and satin. To truly live as Christ commands us, we have to make some hard choices, choices that require thought and that might cause conflict both with the world around us and also be our churches and even our own guts.

Christians must stand up for the truth as believers in the Truth, Jesus Christ. On the other hand, we must avoid the temptation to become hypersensitive to every affront to our scruples. I hate some of the things my taxes are used to fund, but not paying my taxes is probably not the best choice of protest. It may well be a violation for the 1st amendment for the local police to force me to move my abortion protest across the street from the abortion “clinic”, but is it appropriate for me to provoke an arrest by ignoring the mandated buffer zone?

Where do we draw the line?

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