Elections always fascinate and disgust me. It’s not the voting—countless people have fought and died for the right to vote. It’s not the campaigning—everyone ought to have the right to advocate or advertise for their point of view, and I reserve the right to turn off my radio or television or web browser and utterly ignore those message.
What fascinates and disgusts me is the rabid enthusiasm and hero-worship people have for their desired political leaders. And the venomous hatred each side feels for the others’ points of view.
Apparently many people are referring to Obama as the Messiah, both positively and negatively. People believe Obama is absolutely wonderful and some sort of saviour. Louis Farrakhan speaks of the transforming character of Obama’s very words (start at 4:00). He says Obama is “the hope of the entire world” (start at 9:50). In this clip, Farrakhan explicitly refers to Obama as the Messiah.
Others claim that because some people love Obama so much, he must be some sort of cultic leader or antichrist. The current election seems less about Obama versus McCain and more about pro-Obama or anti-Obama.
People, he is a man. A human. With all the glory and wonder and majesty and faults and failings and evil of all humans. He may have done many good things. He may do very good things in future. He may not. He’s human.
Historically, We Always Want a King
For most of human history, we’ve believed that political leaders are to be our saviours, our protectors. The one to make the decisions for us (so we don’t have to) and fight our battles for us (so we don’t have to). Even the tiny (in size, not in influence) nation of Israel demanded a political leader rather than the incorporeal God they had previously followed:
…All the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “…Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”
When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.
God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”
Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”
I Samuel 8:4-22 MSG (emphasis mine)
Naturally, God’s predictions came true. Israel was subjected to countless evil, dominating kings that got them into all kinds of trouble. Even the wisest king, Solomon, taxed them punitively and used forced labour to pay for the temple and his many other projects.
Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the LORD’s temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.
I Kings 9:15 NIV
Solomon’s son Rehoboam increased the taxes even more (II Chronicles 10 MSG). And still, hundreds of years later when Yeshua was teaching in Israel, many expected him to be a violent political leader rather than the overcoming spiritual leader he intended. They still wanted a political king. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, it took only four centuries for religious leaders to start usurping political power.
A Radical View: Law Defending Personhood, Freedom, and Posessions
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) proposed the unpopular view that Law (enforced by government and politicians) should only do one thing: protect the personhood, freedom, and possessions of people.
The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each.
Bastiat: The Law
Bastiat goes on to demonstrate that anything else is a complete perversion of law:
If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable — whatever its political form might be.
Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.
It can be further stated that, thanks to the non-intervention of the state in private affairs, our wants and their satisfactions would develop themselves in a logical manner. We would not see poor families seeking literary instruction before they have bread. We would not see cities populated at the expense of rural districts, nor rural districts at the expense of cities. We would not see the great displacements of capital, labor, and population that are caused by legislative decisions.
The sources of our existence are made uncertain and precarious by these state-created displacements. And, furthermore, these acts burden the government with increased responsibilities.
Bastiat: The Law
The reverse, says Bastiat, is to allow the Law to enact legislation the deprive someone of their life, liberty, or property. For example, the law could allow slavery (a huge issue in Bastiat’s day), monopoly, or other forms of oppression. The results of allowing legal “plunder” (depriving someone of life, liberty or property) can only result in violent opposition—which we see in the nature and tone of each upcoming election.
One side wants to enact laws that take freedoms or property (money) away from a targetted group and gives it to another. Another side wants to undo what the first side did and target some other group. In a multi-party system like Canada, we have multiple groups fighting to take the reins of government and enact, with the full force of law, their viewpoint on everybody else. Fail to comply, each group seethes, and we will tax you and fine you and if necessary, send armed police or soldiers to your house to take you away by force.
It doesn’t matter whether those that seek power want to enact punitive taxes, or force their viewpoint via public education, or decide whom the Government will sanction with the special legal benefits of marriage. The means and ends are the same: to take power, and to use that power to benefit some at the expense of others. In Bastiat’s terms, to plunder someone (or everyone) and give the benefits to someone else.
how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.
Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Bastiat: The Law
The Result of Plunder: Violence
No wonder each side is so venomous, virulent, and violent. Read nearly any popular message board on the internet and see the rage and hatred towards those deemed “in the wrong”. Why are we so angry? Because we are afraid of each other. Those casting ballots a couple of weeks ago in Canada, or in America today, are deciding who is allowed to marry whom, or what freedoms we can retain, or for how long the American people will continue pouring billions of dollars into fighting whackjobs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and over 120 other countries. Issues that, if we actually limited government according to the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, would be completely and utterly moot.
Where would the impassioned debates go, if the Law was limited to defending everyone’s life, liberty and property? Gay marriage? Exactly the same as straight marriage: not the government’s business. Declare your relationship, ratify it with your social or religious community of choice, perhaps create a legal contract that identifies beneficiaries and rights and responsibilities. I can’t oppose your choice by manipulating the Law in my favour, and you can’t force me to accept or acknowledge your desired status. We would actually have to, wonder of wonders, agree to disagree and respect one another’s rights to their life and freedom.
Who would seek political power? Who would spend countless dollars continually lobbying government? Who would write virulent diatribes on internet forums, when no-one has the possibility to gain the violent power of Government to enact their preferences into law and force it on anyone else?
Disagree with someone’s religion? It’s all right—they can neither enact Evangelical nor Catholic nor Islamic fundamentalism into law. (Under our current system, each can—and continually attempt to do so.) Disagree with someone’s philosophy or worldview? That’s all right—no-one can usurp public education to enforce their mentality on someone else.
“But then we’d have such a diverse population, with all sorts of people thinking and believing radically different things, and behaving in radically different ways! We wouldn’t be the same anymore!”
Good. What makes you think homogeneity is a good thing? We need radical ideas. We need bizarre viewpoints. Once upon a time Copernicus’ heliocentric solar system model was considered radical. Luther’s 95 theses were considered outrageous in his day. Anabaptists’ idea of separating church and state was preposterous. And these wild, “fringe” ideas changed our world.
We need our world to be changed.
Go ahead and vote, if you must. But if you vote for either of the main candidates/parties, you are buying into a perverse, corrupt, violent system. You are perpetuating an evil that will not change until we actually consider becoming tolerant people, instead of constantly supporting those who seek to oppress those that disagree with them, whether left or right, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim or Jew or atheist/agnostic, or any other viewpoint or perspective that the infinitely diverse humanity can imagine.
Consider rejecting an inherently intolerant system.
Think about it.