I’ve started a movement!

It seems, indeed, I’ve started a movement. Well, sort of. It’s called the Canton Movement, and you can find it here.

It appears to be a libertarian effort. Their concept of ideological cantons is new to me, so I won’t comment further. But as you can see, it’s based, in part, on the eight political perspectives outlined in Eight Ways to Run the Country. They have actually lifted my thumbnail sketch of each perspective straight from the book.

They don’t actually have the legal right to do that, but I’m flattered nonetheless. In fact, I’d rather they use my words than their own. Many times I’ve seen enthusiastic readers put their enthusiasm in their own words, only to give others grounds for objection.

Here’s one, for instance: Eight Ways is “insightful, well written, well documented, and best of all fair to all points of view … extraordinarily enlightening … If you are interested in politics or political theory at all, go out and get this book” — a great review, except when the reviewer writes about Individualists, “Moral relativism is what rules the day in this camp. Examples: Ayn Rand, David Boaz (executive VP of the Cato Institute).”

And sure enough, some anonymous online sharpshooter, who has not read the book, chimes in to say that Ayn Rand is most definitely not a relativist.

Very true, which I why I never wrote such a thing. In fact, I wrote that Individualists are “not quite relativists, for they reserve for themselves the right to reject what they don’t like.” I then go on to explain what Rand doesn’t like, according to her own personal ethic of selfishness, which she labeled “Objectivism.”

Oh, well. As Kipling says, “If you can bear to hear the truths you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” — but the twisting in such cases is only done by fans less careful than they ought to be, and since, as some other sage says, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, I can hardly complain.

The bottom line: It’s a great book. See for yourself.

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20 Responses to I’ve started a movement!

  1. Dwight Johnson says:

    The Canton Movement would more accurately be called an idea which aspires to be a movement. You are correct that it is “a libertarian effort” as I am a libertarian, which is to say that my view of politics is founded on the Non-Aggression Principle, the political version of the Hippocratic “first, do no harm”.

    When I wrote my book, If Not Democracy, a couple of years ago, I was not yet acquainted with yours, but I knew that the cantons I was proposing would need to represent every shade of political ideology in order for all citizens to be represented. What the canton attempts to provide is a means for total representation, rather than the quite inadequate representation provided by elections.

    When I did eventually come across your excellent book, I found a useful means to clarify how the cantons might differ. Thus, I included your snapshots of each in my Eight Ideologies section of the website. I was careful to attribute and provide links to your book and your bio on Wikipedia, so there would be no doubt of the source. I certainly hope some have purchased and read your book as a result.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      I’m flattered and appreciate the citations. I’ll have to give cantons another look. Right now, I’m wondering what total representation would get us. One way or another, some people will be ruled by other people against their will.

      • Dwight Johnson says:

        You are correct that total representation would not be sufficient to prevent the serfdom that is government. But it is a necessary component. More vital to the goal of the end of serfdom is the proposed role of the various cantons in determining how its member’s taxes would be spent.

        That being said, Father Deacon, please help me understand how I can both oppose the serfdom of government and take to heart today’s Mass reading, Ephesians 6: 5-9. You have probably given this some thought at one time or another.

        • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

          The problem with much libertarian thinking is that it starts with the anarchistic assumption that the subjection of one person to another is inherently unjust. The Church has always taught that some subjections are just — indeed, that some are ordained by God for our own good, because man cannot be trusted to live absolutely freely without victimizing others and destroying himself. He had such freedom once and made bad use of it. He must therefore suffer restraint and use his subjection to learn patience, perspective, and humility.

          • Dwight Johnson says:

            Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” — Luke 12: 13-14

            In all of scripture I do find a single instance of anyone being forced into subjugation to another, and many instances to the contrary. Starting with 1 Samuel 8, the references in scripture of the negative value of the subjugation of one human to another are legion. The many warnings of Aquinas regarding the danger of resisting a tyrant do not outweigh the preference for peace, but only represent the prudence of weighing the outcomes regarding the likelihood of success in that resistance. And finally, Austrian economics, the school of economics that dovetails with libertarian political thought, traces back to the Scholastics of Salamanca, theological descendants of Aquinas. Thomas Woods (The Church and the Market) and Gerard Casey (Libertarian Anarchy) have presented this far better than I ever could. So I would have to disagree about what you say the church “has always taught”.

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            On the matter of submission, subjection, and subjugation, you might want to read “The Problem with Hierarchy” on my articles page, where you will find the three clearly distinguished. (My apologies for the poor scan.)

            On the matter of Holy Scripture, have you not read, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16)? How about “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25)? Then, of course, there’s Romans 13:1-7, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers …”

            On what the Church has taught, here’s St. John Chrysostom, writing in the late fourth century, but speaking for all: “And from the beginning He made one sovereignty only, setting the man over the woman. But after that our race ran headlong into extreme disorder, He appointed other sovereignties also, those of Masters, and those of Governors, and this too for love’s sake.” (Homily 34 on First Corinthians, NPNF1, Vol. 12, pp. 204-205; PG 61, 291.)

            On relationships not based on subjection, see the aforementioned article on hierarchy. (Hint: It’s all about archy.)

          • Dwight Johnson says:

            I look forward to reading the Hierarchy article. In the mean time, regarding spouses, no one may be forced into a marriage. Subjection / submission is subsequent to the initial free choice. “Render to Caesar” is about property rights, not the right of anyone to demand tribute (taxes) at the point of a sword or gun. As for Romans 13, if verse 3 was literally true, neither Paul nor Jesus would have had anything to fear from the authorities. A simplistic reading of scripture is hazardous.

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            You can read scripture anyway you want to. I prefer to read it the way it has always been read by those who have delivered the scriptures to us. They don’t limit “render unto Caesar” to property rights, neither do they deny that rulers have a right to use force to keep order. They counsel us to be men of peace, and men of peace must patiently endure many things that are not as they should be.

  2. Dwight Johnson says:

    This pun occurred to me as I was writing the above. Would “hippocratic” be “rule by horse”?

  3. Dwight Johnson says:

    Patrick, I read your article on Hierarchy and enjoyed it very much. You have a wonderful writing style, very clear and easy. Below are the notes I took while reading it.

    En arche, the first words of Genesis, and so of the whole of Scripture. In the beginning.

    En arche ein ho Logos, the first words of the Gospel of John.

    In my readings in theology, I am used to far more PLs sprinkled among the PGs. (Just an observation.)

    The Non-aggression Principle (NAP) includes a recognition of the natural social order. It recognizes that the person who is initially aggressed against has the right to use force against the aggressor. The libertarian does not deny the right to use force, only the proper limit of that right. This is the only natural source of the right to use force.

    We have seen the undoing of the subjugation to Masters, and I do not believe any Christian now wishes the return of slavery. May we also soon see, then, the undoing of the subjugation to Governors? Why one and not the other? Might not the progress of civilization be the eventual undoing of all subjugations, the eventual end of all hierarchies, and the return to archies alone?

    Most devout Catholics I know see feminism as part of the Marxist dialectic, and reject it. I certainly do.

    I have long seen libertarianism as a continuation of the principles of abolitionism (of slavery). Just as I see no remorse in the end of slavery, I do not anticipate there will be any remorse at the end of unnatural subjugation we now refer to in the manifold versions of the state, all of which are based on the use of force without having effective limits to that use. The US Constitution valiantly tried to limit the use of force by the federal government it established, but ultimately failed, because the relationships established were not natural. In particular, elections do not provide sufficient accountability. The elected are able to be captured instead by special interests.

    Father, Priest, King. Most of the people I know respect and love their fathers, for all their faults. Same for their priests. Love is not the word that jumps to mind for the relationship between ruler and subject throughout most of human history, at any level of government. Of all the hierarchies, this seems the most fragile and prone to failure. Celebrities are more loved, and rulers may be loved as far as they are also celebrities, but not as rulers as such.

    Libertarians do not seek disorder, but reject the disorder that exists in the unlimited (and unlimitable) state, and seek rather the natural order of cooperation as found in the marketplace. It is understood that there is a ground beneath the anarchy (no State) that they seek (those who refer to themselves as, for example, anarcho-capitalists). That ground is natural law as found in the NAP, in the free market. It is the invisible hand. It is wonder at the ability of the free market to produce such a general prosperity, hence a wonder at the natural order. A free market, in turn, depends on a legal system that can punish fraud and aggression, enforce contracts, and protect property rights. Legal systems can exist in a free market. Their natural source of authority is the victim.

    The desire of libertarians whose lodestar is the NAP is to live in a world of archy as far as that is possible. The inherent destruction of human society by the State driven by the lust for power is a clear starting point for correction. The hierarchy that the NAP recognizes is the right of the victim of aggression to use force against the aggressor. The libertarian per se is agnostic about the rest, but individual libertarians are often devoutly religious in the full variety that exists today.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Money is power and often, indeed, the dominant power behind the State. A principal challenge of politics has therefore been to prevent evil men from amassing great wealth by encouraging irresponsible indulgences like gambling or by marketing intrinsic evils like prostitution. If such men are not prevented from amassing great wealth in such ways, they will turn the State to their own coercive, immoral, predatory purposes. A first use of force by the State is the only way to prevent that from happening.

      • Dwight Johnson says:

        Patrick, I’m afraid you’ve now made it impossible for me to take you seriously. Gambling, prostitution; these are the great evils? Not endless war, the death of millions of non-combatants, the debasement of all currency, the wanton destruction of innumerable lives? Your presumption that the State alone can deal with the problems of immorality because it is uniquely virtuous is mind-boggling. The State is made of the same evil men, yet it has your blessing to accumulate great wealth because of their ever-rising taxes, epic borrowing on the future, and methodical debasement of money (inflation, now set at 2% as a minimum). And you worry about the few who prosper from gambling (mostly run by or at least taxed by the State) and prostitution?

        Matthew 20: 25-27 But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

        IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. This is a command. What are you doing to make sure the rulers of the Gentiles do not lord it over us?

        When Paul prayed for the State, it was that it would leave us to lead our lives in peace. It is the mission of the church to deal with vices, not the State.

        • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

          Dwight, in your enthusiasm, you are not reading me or Holy Scripture very carefully. I did not call gambling “evil”; I called it irresponsible. I did call prostitution evil, and it is. Don’t you think so? Anyway, you have completely missed my point about them, which is not that gambling and prostitution are “great evils” and only the State can keep us from them, but that suppressing such vices keeps really bad men from rising to power and taking over the State.

          As for Holy Scripture, the Holy Apostle Paul doesn’t just pray that rulers will leave us alone, as you allege; he plainly says that rulers, even Roman emperors, “beareth not the sword in vain, for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil, wherefore ye must needs be subject, no only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” (Rom. 13:4-5) So rulers are meant by God to punish evil doers, and evil is nowhere in Holy Scripture limited to a “first use of force” or what you call “aggression.” It includes the supposedly “victimless” crimes called vices.

          So your NAP is not biblical, not scriptural, not really even Christian as regards the State.

          • Dwight Johnson says:

            You seem to be unaware that both Augustine and Aquinas agree that, though a great evil, prostitution should not be illegal or dealt with by force alone, since vice can only be remedied by grace, and a greater harm may occur.

            “Human government is derived from the Divine government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue. Accordingly in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augustine says (De Ordine ii, 4): “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”” Summa Theologica II-II Q10, A11.

            I’ve already expressed my concerns with your reading of Romans 13.

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            Aquinas and Augustine are merely expressing the pragmatic approach to policymaking characteristic of Christian rulers, which allows considerations of “humanity, commonsense, and public utility,” in the words of sixth-century emperor St. Justinian the Great, with the understanding that some evils are not easily outlawed. They are not asserting an inviolable principle, applicable at all times, that certain evils must always be legal, which is what you have done with your NAP.

            I have two thousand years of Christian tradition, and almost all Christians past and present, behind my reading of Romans 13. You have whom behind yours?

          • Dwight Johnson says:

            You say ‘pragmatic’. Aquinas says ‘imitating Divine government’. Are we really talking about the same pericope?

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            Pragmatic means practical, based on actual conditions, desired results, and actions likely to produce them. The word comes from the Latin word pragmaticus, which means “skilled in business.”

            God Himself takes different approaches with us at different times, suited to our needs. He is therefore Himself pragmatic, being not bound by rigid rules of justice without mercy.

            Statesmenship requires the same skillful flexibility. It is not about simply applying rules according to some abstract ideological ideal of how things ought to be. When it becomes a matter of such ideological rules, the results are quite often disastrous.

  4. isaac says:

    Why aren’t you writing more books, Father? You’ve tossed so-called “biblical libertarianism” out by the ear in a couple of sentences, and masterfully so!

    I want to know more about how we as Orthodox Christians understand governments and specifically the God-anointed Orthodox rulers (most recently in history, the Tsars). Revolutionary sloganeering would have us believe that monarchy is a terrible thing, but as far as I can see most republics are oligarchic, and history is replete with great Kings who helped the common people against being exploited by the wealthy (which is why the nobility or landowning classes always murdered them, not ‘the people’).

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Thank you, Isaac. Very kind of you. I am, in fact, writing more books, but it takes time to get them published. Please pray that it take less time in the future.

      As for governments, ALL are oligarchic (Pareto’s Rule). Some just change chiefs more often than others.

      I agree that monarchies (actual historical monarchies) have not gotten a fair shake in the modern West, but that’s because modern Westerners are prone to political idealism, demanding that governments conform to republican political ideals.

      Some Christians, however, are also political idealists and err in the opposite direction in making an ideal of monarchy. In truth, monarchy is an aspect of every government, as is democracy, and for Christians, no political organization can be ideal because coercion is a phenomenon of the Fall. Perfection cannot require coercion, ergo no system of coercion can be ideal.

      Coincidentally, I have an article going to press this week in The American Conservative on Byzantine politics, contrasting Western political idealism with Byzantine political pragmatism.

      In Christ,
      Pdn Patrick

      • Isaac Crabtree says:

        This makes so much sense, Father. I’ve recently looked into some contemporary historical works that would seem to imply just that– one was about how the American Revolution was not against the excesses of monarchy but of parliament, and so it gave its own Executive powers the Stewart kings hadn’t possessed for a century. The other, Byzantine Republic, argues that the emperor was a lot more accountable to the demos than had been previously thought. The whole field, the author argues, is choking on its own incense.

        I’m definitely adding both of your texts to my library in short order. Again thank you.

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