Obligations and The Libertarian and Christian Principles of Ownership

Obligations are those requirements which claim a right to your time, energy, person, life, or property.
The secular libertarian axiom is the “principle of self-ownership.” Since you “own yourself” you have the RIGHT to your life, the actions you do (liberty), and the fruits of these actions (your property.) Because you “own yourself” no one else can legitimately own you. Thus, any obligation applied to you from another detracts from either your life, liberty or property.
On the Christian framework the ownership principle is that “God owns each person.” God is Sovereign. Thus, like secular libertarianism, no person can infringe on your life, liberty, or property because it is not theirs. However, the difference between this Christian ownership principle and that of the secular libertarian is that positive obligations are possible where required byGod. Thus, although an obligation to, say, provide for your family infringes on your personal liberty or property, this is a legitimate infringement because it is a directive from God (who own’s all men), not a burden placed on you from another man (who has no true claim to ownership). On the secular libertarian view, one does not strictly have to support one’s family. A libertarian is completely “at liberty” to ignore the hunger of their children. But the Christian has an obligation to work to feed their children. Libertarianism and Christianity coincide where they both teach to not harm others. But Christianity goes further and puts positive obligations on man. The Christian has obligations to love their neighbor, work to support themselves and their family, and to teach their children the scriptures. Any obligation would conflict with one’s life, liberty, and property if life, liberty, and property were truly in one’s own “self-possession.” But because the real owner is God, He can do as he wishes and obligations from Him, unlike those from man, are legitimate.
The difference between Christian Libertarianism and Secular Libertarianism is in ultimate ownership principles. Whereas the Christian and Libertarian agree that a person has rights to his life/liberty/property above any other person’s claim, these rights, on the Christian view, must always be subservient to God; the ultimate owner. Thus, there are positive obligations on man, despite his self-ownership, because these obligations are from a higher owner, God.
This raises the question, how are these obligations to be enforced? I think the answer is that enforcement is legitimate only when it itself is an obligation given from God. Thus, the enforcement of punishing evil-doers is an obligation of the powers in charge. However, there is no obligation of enforcement associated with the failure of a parent to fulfill there obligation to “teach your children the scriptures.” A parent who fails at this obligation will perhaps be punished by God, but this failure is not associated with any biblical god-given obligation of others to punish the parent.
The liberal Christian, seeing that the “Principle of God-Ownership” allows for obligations mistakenly extends these from God-demanded obligations to other man-demanded obligations. But not all obligations are created equal. It is legitimate for the God to place obligations on us, but it is illegitimate for some men to place obligations on others.
In summary there are 3 possible principles (not just 2 as libertarians would have you believe)
1. Self-ownership
2. Other Person-ownership
3. God-ownership
Christianity is about the third of these, providing liberty where granted by God and obligations where required by God. 

0 thoughts on “Obligations and The Libertarian and Christian Principles of Ownership”

  1. This is excellent. I am going to use this on my site (thanks for that!). Non-Christians often tell me that God in the Old Testament is anti-libertarian, and thus my own stance (Reformed Libertarianism) is inconsistent or flawed. They cite a number of reasons including “murder,” and “theft.” But what is not realized is that (Christian) libertarian principles really shine forth in the Old Testament. For God owns all property and mankind and thus has the right to use it how He wills. Good work Doug.

  2. Having a theonomic discussion at church using the general equity principle for what is legitimate taxation. Is confiscatory taxation or taxation by force in your view a legitimate function of government? Or as some claim is it theft and therefore sin?

    1. I haven’t thought about these questions much for some years. While I was previously more libertarian (or anarcho-capitalist), I came later to accept that the Bible allows for (or even requires) governments to a certain extent. Without writing a treatise on it, I would think that some taxation could be a legitimate function of government.

      1. It seems so to me and the use of force force to collect it? I was discussing this with a friend at church and I claimed there were no instances where God’s government legitimately took its citizens stuff at the point of a sword, but I may have been wrong. The tithe was commanded but there was no priestly IRS kicking down the door of your tent collecting unpaid tithes; it was between the person and God. But I may have stretched my disdain for modern confiscatory taxation to far. Anyhow I was curious to see if you had a developed view. THANKS!

  3. A universal principle or axiom of “self-ownership” (even that which is limited under God’s ultimate ownership) seems to face insuperable problems from a Biblical standpoint. For one example in particular, the tenth commandment explicitly states that we shall not covet our neighbor’s “wife” nor his male or female “slaves” nor the rest of his legitimate property (Exodus 20:17). Since this is part of God’s moral law, binding all people of every age, how can a principle of “self-ownership” be universally applicable to all people?

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