Freedom and Government

To the list of great political theorists, I would like to add director John Ford. I’d like to raise for your consideration a comment I made on the “Who holds the deed to your house” post:

We watched “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” last night in my film class. The lawless “state of nature” does NOT promote private property or free enterprise. Rather, in that movie, the lawless cattle ranchers, with their power and gunslingers, were taking the property of the small farmers so they could have an “open range.” Only until law came to Shinbone and the people voted for statehood was private property protected.

(What a great movie, by the way! Jimmy Stewart AND John Wayne AND Lee Marvin AND Lee Van Cleef, not to mention great supporting actors such as Andy Devine. And the incomparable direction of John Ford.)

To expand the point: Many conservatives and libertarians believe that government, by its nature, limits human freedom. In a state of minimal government, free enterprise economics would thrive, and human beings would form in other dimensions of life an analogous self-regulating order.

In the thought experiment that is John Ford’s movie, “Liberty” Valence may have liberty, but he is about the only one. There is no private property. When he wants to take someone’s steak, he just takes it. When the cattlemen want their cattle to graze on farms, they just cut the fences. Because the advocates of the “wild west” do not respect anyone’s private property, there is no free enterprise economics. “Shopkeepers” stand with the small farmers to work for a rule of law and statehood for the territory. The community has to stand up against Liberty Valence. Violence (cf. “valence”?) is indeed necessary to create social order. Liberty Valence has to be shot. And those who can stand up against him, like Tom Donophan (John Wayne), ironically, also have no place in the new civilized order.

But, according to Ford, government is necessary for freedom. Not that government cannot also squelch freedom, as in the totalitarian systems of Fascism and Communism, both of which Ford fought. But a democratic government and the rule of law, in his mind, was a prerequisite for both personal freedom and a free economy. Isn’t he right?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Mark Veenman

    This is NOT libertarian liberty. Libertarians, on the contrary, do not seek to overthrow government, but only to curtail severely its power over personal property. In other words, they view personal property, also that of the small farmer, as among his most precious earthly possessions. To protect the farmer’s body and personal property is the government’s raison d’être and the Libertarian only seeks to limit the government’s power above and beyond these basic functions.

  • Mark Veenman

    This is NOT libertarian liberty. Libertarians, on the contrary, do not seek to overthrow government, but only to curtail severely its power over personal property. In other words, they view personal property, also that of the small farmer, as among his most precious earthly possessions. To protect the farmer’s body and personal property is the government’s raison d’être and the Libertarian only seeks to limit the government’s power above and beyond these basic functions.

  • fws

    Dr Veith you are giving Liberty Violence, er Valence a bad wrap! He was merely insisting on upholding tradition and a traditional way of life. To demonstrate this I will present powerful moral arguments that NO christian would dare argue against. Unless of course they were Lutherans and secret Lutheran sympathizers on Cranach maybe. But ignore what they say…

    MORAL SLIPPERY SLOPE:
    Those farmers, with their new technology barbed wire is contrary to nature and her god and besides it can be seen as the start of that slippery moral slope that has brought us to feedlots and such.

    CONSTITUTIONAL PURITY : Such things are self-regulating. Of COURSE as a libertarian I believe that property rights are S.A.C.R.E.D. Not that I suffer from the idolatry of coveteousness mind you by saying that…. But even the founding documents were originally worded as “Life, Liberty and … Property Rights. ” “Pursuit of Happiness” trumping cold hard cash and land? Um. Not so much.

    AMERICAN VIRTUES: I would prefer that list of righteousnesses that all americans know genetically as REAL righteousness: thriftiness, cleanliness, self-reliance, hard work, ingenuity, freedom.

    Please ignore the fact that the Confesssions teach that producing happiness and love, aka “Daily Bread” for others is THE goal of true earthly righteousness

    This is too vague. It is a feel good emotional argument. And we can reject those sorts of arguments out of hand right?

    I favor, instead, “The Golden Rule” which in Libertarian speak: He who has the Gold makes the rules. Why care about the end that God counts as true righteousness, happiness, love and the production of bread when I control the MEANS of that production in the form of my gold?

    Keep the government out of the business of deciding how I use the power of my god, er gold ok? Government enforcement of second table things we should do? Nope. That part is all optional suggestion. Only the negative “thou shalt not” part is the government´s role! It says so in the bible! Somewhere. I forget where….. The the rules for my gold, er … god says that it is natural for things to be so. In my perfect and ever-to-be abstract libertarian world, I get to pretend that gold and those who have it will be on the same level playing field as everyone else. The Parables teach this everywhere right?

    AETHETIC VALUES: Even today everyone knows that free-range beef tastes the best.

    TRADITION: “It has always been that way. It was the proud tradition of the west was to not have fences. What right did the farmers have to insist on those? They hastened the demise of the buffalo. And what about indian rights?

    UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION: Probably besides, these farmers are immigrants. We KNOW they were undocumented since documents weren´t necessary back then to enter the country. Another dollop of slippery slope anyone?! Grace are you with me gal? Don´t give me that emotional crap of “but my ancestors were immigrants…” My 6 word response to YOU “Go back to where you came from!” Ok 7 words…

    OBAMA ACOLYTES: The storekeepers stand for populist politicians who claim to have the farmer´s best interests at heart, but…. follow the money… who are their customers I ask!?? Geez this part is soooo obvious.

    Need I go on? I think not.

  • fws

    Dr Veith you are giving Liberty Violence, er Valence a bad wrap! He was merely insisting on upholding tradition and a traditional way of life. To demonstrate this I will present powerful moral arguments that NO christian would dare argue against. Unless of course they were Lutherans and secret Lutheran sympathizers on Cranach maybe. But ignore what they say…

    MORAL SLIPPERY SLOPE:
    Those farmers, with their new technology barbed wire is contrary to nature and her god and besides it can be seen as the start of that slippery moral slope that has brought us to feedlots and such.

    CONSTITUTIONAL PURITY : Such things are self-regulating. Of COURSE as a libertarian I believe that property rights are S.A.C.R.E.D. Not that I suffer from the idolatry of coveteousness mind you by saying that…. But even the founding documents were originally worded as “Life, Liberty and … Property Rights. ” “Pursuit of Happiness” trumping cold hard cash and land? Um. Not so much.

    AMERICAN VIRTUES: I would prefer that list of righteousnesses that all americans know genetically as REAL righteousness: thriftiness, cleanliness, self-reliance, hard work, ingenuity, freedom.

    Please ignore the fact that the Confesssions teach that producing happiness and love, aka “Daily Bread” for others is THE goal of true earthly righteousness

    This is too vague. It is a feel good emotional argument. And we can reject those sorts of arguments out of hand right?

    I favor, instead, “The Golden Rule” which in Libertarian speak: He who has the Gold makes the rules. Why care about the end that God counts as true righteousness, happiness, love and the production of bread when I control the MEANS of that production in the form of my gold?

    Keep the government out of the business of deciding how I use the power of my god, er gold ok? Government enforcement of second table things we should do? Nope. That part is all optional suggestion. Only the negative “thou shalt not” part is the government´s role! It says so in the bible! Somewhere. I forget where….. The the rules for my gold, er … god says that it is natural for things to be so. In my perfect and ever-to-be abstract libertarian world, I get to pretend that gold and those who have it will be on the same level playing field as everyone else. The Parables teach this everywhere right?

    AETHETIC VALUES: Even today everyone knows that free-range beef tastes the best.

    TRADITION: “It has always been that way. It was the proud tradition of the west was to not have fences. What right did the farmers have to insist on those? They hastened the demise of the buffalo. And what about indian rights?

    UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION: Probably besides, these farmers are immigrants. We KNOW they were undocumented since documents weren´t necessary back then to enter the country. Another dollop of slippery slope anyone?! Grace are you with me gal? Don´t give me that emotional crap of “but my ancestors were immigrants…” My 6 word response to YOU “Go back to where you came from!” Ok 7 words…

    OBAMA ACOLYTES: The storekeepers stand for populist politicians who claim to have the farmer´s best interests at heart, but…. follow the money… who are their customers I ask!?? Geez this part is soooo obvious.

    Need I go on? I think not.

  • fws

    ah one more argument….

    what valence was doing was the local population deciding … statehood… slippery slope. big government. government interference in local affairs. The farmers and shopkeepers had exactly the same means at their disposal as liberty valance… and even if they don´t, liberty valance earned his money and position. Who is encroaching on the rights of who I ask? who was there first??!! I say: let the free market and [gold´s or god´s... whatever...] invisible hand rule.

    Ditto for the new campaign finance rules in that other post. let the invisible hand of gold rule!

    Freedom!

  • fws

    ah one more argument….

    what valence was doing was the local population deciding … statehood… slippery slope. big government. government interference in local affairs. The farmers and shopkeepers had exactly the same means at their disposal as liberty valance… and even if they don´t, liberty valance earned his money and position. Who is encroaching on the rights of who I ask? who was there first??!! I say: let the free market and [gold´s or god´s... whatever...] invisible hand rule.

    Ditto for the new campaign finance rules in that other post. let the invisible hand of gold rule!

    Freedom!

  • fws

    Tom… where is that coffee you promised??

  • fws

    Tom… where is that coffee you promised??

  • James Sarver

    Modern political theory at both ends of the spectrum misses the point that the family (via the institution of marriage) is the basic building block of society rather than territorially based sovereign
    entities or individuals. Christians have divine revelation to support this but that is not required for it to be evident. The family is not exactly a democratic institution, nor are “higher level” (meaning delegated) forms of earthly authority required to be so for validity. A benevolent dictator may be preferable to a tyrannical
    majority.

    As long as the idea that the family is foundational to society remains lost, governments of any form will serve less well than they could.

  • James Sarver

    Modern political theory at both ends of the spectrum misses the point that the family (via the institution of marriage) is the basic building block of society rather than territorially based sovereign
    entities or individuals. Christians have divine revelation to support this but that is not required for it to be evident. The family is not exactly a democratic institution, nor are “higher level” (meaning delegated) forms of earthly authority required to be so for validity. A benevolent dictator may be preferable to a tyrannical
    majority.

    As long as the idea that the family is foundational to society remains lost, governments of any form will serve less well than they could.

  • fws

    James Sarver @5

    Family as political theory. And I do agree that the bible reflects a fact: government started with the family, which grew into tribes, they principalities, then feudalism, then kingdoms, then mercantile nations then nation states , then , exactly as Hayak says, back to feudalism in the form of socialist states with the modern colapse of the tribe (aka extended nuclear family). ok. This seems to be true.

    This all seems to reflect natural law, the pattern of biological creati0n and sex etc etc.

    Lutherans reject the idea that this idea of “natural law” ala aquinas and the scholastic roman catholics = “Divine Law” as moral code. (Ap/Ac On Priestly Celebacy). The early Lutherans, fully aware of Aquinas, consciously recategorize and make the point that this all falls into the same moral category as the law of gravity.

    The ‘idea ‘ of family as the foundation of society and marriage etc can be lost as easily as the law of gravity can be lost. So we need to fight a culture war to “defend” the law of gravity, family, or marriage because of why?

    Lutheran Confessions: Vocation (including those within families) is NOT righteousness or godly virtue. Vocations rather are the indespensable factories where the goods called righteousness , aka “daily bread” are produced for our neighbor.

    It is those goods, called love, joy, peace, happiness, good feelings, sense of belonging, faithful friends, works of the law and fruits of the spirit (all the SAME thing by different names) that are the righteousness that God demands and the Vocations are but factories for the production of these goods. Vocations , including families, marriage etc, are means to an end. They are not the God-mandated end or purpose of anything. Without evidence of tangible love for neighbor , they do not please God and are idolatry. They are in that case contrary to God´s Word.

  • fws

    James Sarver @5

    Family as political theory. And I do agree that the bible reflects a fact: government started with the family, which grew into tribes, they principalities, then feudalism, then kingdoms, then mercantile nations then nation states , then , exactly as Hayak says, back to feudalism in the form of socialist states with the modern colapse of the tribe (aka extended nuclear family). ok. This seems to be true.

    This all seems to reflect natural law, the pattern of biological creati0n and sex etc etc.

    Lutherans reject the idea that this idea of “natural law” ala aquinas and the scholastic roman catholics = “Divine Law” as moral code. (Ap/Ac On Priestly Celebacy). The early Lutherans, fully aware of Aquinas, consciously recategorize and make the point that this all falls into the same moral category as the law of gravity.

    The ‘idea ‘ of family as the foundation of society and marriage etc can be lost as easily as the law of gravity can be lost. So we need to fight a culture war to “defend” the law of gravity, family, or marriage because of why?

    Lutheran Confessions: Vocation (including those within families) is NOT righteousness or godly virtue. Vocations rather are the indespensable factories where the goods called righteousness , aka “daily bread” are produced for our neighbor.

    It is those goods, called love, joy, peace, happiness, good feelings, sense of belonging, faithful friends, works of the law and fruits of the spirit (all the SAME thing by different names) that are the righteousness that God demands and the Vocations are but factories for the production of these goods. Vocations , including families, marriage etc, are means to an end. They are not the God-mandated end or purpose of anything. Without evidence of tangible love for neighbor , they do not please God and are idolatry. They are in that case contrary to God´s Word.

  • kerner

    fws:

    That was pretty good. Actually, one of the townsfolf was a naturalized, Swedish, immigrant (he shows up to vote with his naturalization certificate). Being a Swede, he was probably a Lutheran.

    But you missed something. The big ranchers were there first, and Liberty Valence was the instrument of their power over the territory. Accordingly, the small farmers and towns people were rebelling against the “powers that be”, and hence rebelling against God. The fact that the big ranchers were misusing their power was of no consequence. Liberty Valence was God’s chosen ruler…until of course, John Wayne shot him from ambush, at which point Jimmy Stewart became God’s chosen ruler…but until he got shot, the people who just wanted to let Liberty keep right on beating travelers and stealing people’s steaks were obeying God. :)

  • kerner

    fws:

    That was pretty good. Actually, one of the townsfolf was a naturalized, Swedish, immigrant (he shows up to vote with his naturalization certificate). Being a Swede, he was probably a Lutheran.

    But you missed something. The big ranchers were there first, and Liberty Valence was the instrument of their power over the territory. Accordingly, the small farmers and towns people were rebelling against the “powers that be”, and hence rebelling against God. The fact that the big ranchers were misusing their power was of no consequence. Liberty Valence was God’s chosen ruler…until of course, John Wayne shot him from ambush, at which point Jimmy Stewart became God’s chosen ruler…but until he got shot, the people who just wanted to let Liberty keep right on beating travelers and stealing people’s steaks were obeying God. :)

  • Joe

    frank said: “I favor, instead, “The Golden Rule” which in Libertarian speak: He who has the Gold makes the rules.” and by saying this demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea what it means to be a Libertarian.

  • Joe

    frank said: “I favor, instead, “The Golden Rule” which in Libertarian speak: He who has the Gold makes the rules.” and by saying this demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea what it means to be a Libertarian.

  • kerner

    James Sarver:

    I question whether there is any such thing as a “benevolent dictator”. They never stay benevolent for long. Dictators are malignant by nature.

  • kerner

    James Sarver:

    I question whether there is any such thing as a “benevolent dictator”. They never stay benevolent for long. Dictators are malignant by nature.

  • fws

    joe @ 7

    Yeah. I know libertarians idealize that disparity in quantity of gold possessed should never destroy liberty if only government acts perfectly and laws are enforced justly and the rich are given on the the same access to power to make laws in their favor and… and…..

    And i know that Lutheran libertarians shroud this thinking in moralism saying that taxation for the purpose of forcing others to do the positive side of the 2nd table is really just theft and so is immoral.

    Yes. I know these two things.

  • fws

    joe @ 7

    Yeah. I know libertarians idealize that disparity in quantity of gold possessed should never destroy liberty if only government acts perfectly and laws are enforced justly and the rich are given on the the same access to power to make laws in their favor and… and…..

    And i know that Lutheran libertarians shroud this thinking in moralism saying that taxation for the purpose of forcing others to do the positive side of the 2nd table is really just theft and so is immoral.

    Yes. I know these two things.

  • fws

    kerner @ 8

    A friend pointed out to me that even dictators and kings ultimately rule by popular consent. This is why they need to all be demogogues to acheive longevity of office.

    There is no real difference between the dictatorship of the moral or immoral majority and a king or dictatorship.

    small-r republican government stands apart from all of these systems. I like it alot. Rule of Law as opposed to the rule by men.

    This is really the contrast in the film. Veith´s point about john wayne becoming the law is spot on…

  • fws

    kerner @ 8

    A friend pointed out to me that even dictators and kings ultimately rule by popular consent. This is why they need to all be demogogues to acheive longevity of office.

    There is no real difference between the dictatorship of the moral or immoral majority and a king or dictatorship.

    small-r republican government stands apart from all of these systems. I like it alot. Rule of Law as opposed to the rule by men.

    This is really the contrast in the film. Veith´s point about john wayne becoming the law is spot on…

  • fws

    sarver @7

    The ‘idea ‘ of family as the foundation of society and marriage etc can be lost as easily as the law of gravity can be lost. So we need to fight a culture war to “defend” the law of gravity, family, or marriage because of why?
    Lutheran Confessions: Vocation (including those within families) is NOT righteousness or godly virtue. Vocations rather are the indespensable factories where the goods called righteousness , aka “daily bread” are produced for our neighbor.
    It is those goods, called love, joy, peace, happiness, good feelings, sense of belonging, faithful friends, works of the law and fruits of the spirit (all the SAME thing by different names) that are the righteousness that God demands and the Vocations are but factories for the production of these goods. Vocations , including families, marriage etc, are means to an end. They are not the God-mandated end or purpose of anything. Without evidence of tangible love for neighbor , they do not please God and are idolatry. They are in that case contrary to God´s Word because they are idolatry.

  • fws

    sarver @7

    The ‘idea ‘ of family as the foundation of society and marriage etc can be lost as easily as the law of gravity can be lost. So we need to fight a culture war to “defend” the law of gravity, family, or marriage because of why?
    Lutheran Confessions: Vocation (including those within families) is NOT righteousness or godly virtue. Vocations rather are the indespensable factories where the goods called righteousness , aka “daily bread” are produced for our neighbor.
    It is those goods, called love, joy, peace, happiness, good feelings, sense of belonging, faithful friends, works of the law and fruits of the spirit (all the SAME thing by different names) that are the righteousness that God demands and the Vocations are but factories for the production of these goods. Vocations , including families, marriage etc, are means to an end. They are not the God-mandated end or purpose of anything. Without evidence of tangible love for neighbor , they do not please God and are idolatry. They are in that case contrary to God´s Word because they are idolatry.

  • fws

    sarver @ 5

    Lutherans reject the idea that this idea of “natural law” ala aquinas and the scholastic roman catholics = “Divine Law” as moral code. (Ap/Ac On Priestly Celebacy). The early Lutherans, fully aware of Aquinas, consciously recategorize and make the point that this all falls into the same moral category as the law of gravity.

  • fws

    sarver @ 5

    Lutherans reject the idea that this idea of “natural law” ala aquinas and the scholastic roman catholics = “Divine Law” as moral code. (Ap/Ac On Priestly Celebacy). The early Lutherans, fully aware of Aquinas, consciously recategorize and make the point that this all falls into the same moral category as the law of gravity.

  • Tom Hering

    “Tom… where is that coffee you promised??”

    Go ahead and take it away from me you lawless snark-meister.

  • Tom Hering

    “Tom… where is that coffee you promised??”

    Go ahead and take it away from me you lawless snark-meister.

  • kerner

    Pretty close, Frank.

    Actually, the principles are that laws purporting to force the people to do the positive side of the 2nd table of the law are themselves a shroud created for the sole purpose of protecting the wealth of the already wealthy. They don’t “soak the rich”; they protect the rich by preventing anyone else from getting rich.

    As soon as “benevolent” regulations intended to help the poor become enacted. they are written and manipulated by the already wealthy to preserve their wealth and position and prevent the small business/middle class from ever rising and competing with the rich. The poor stay poor and dependent. The middle class usually actually get poorer, and in any event can’t break out of their class structure. And the benevolent rich, who always are the people who come up with all this, are preserved as too big to fail.

  • kerner

    Pretty close, Frank.

    Actually, the principles are that laws purporting to force the people to do the positive side of the 2nd table of the law are themselves a shroud created for the sole purpose of protecting the wealth of the already wealthy. They don’t “soak the rich”; they protect the rich by preventing anyone else from getting rich.

    As soon as “benevolent” regulations intended to help the poor become enacted. they are written and manipulated by the already wealthy to preserve their wealth and position and prevent the small business/middle class from ever rising and competing with the rich. The poor stay poor and dependent. The middle class usually actually get poorer, and in any event can’t break out of their class structure. And the benevolent rich, who always are the people who come up with all this, are preserved as too big to fail.

  • mark†

    When you use the term ‘rule of law,’ what does that mean?

    The term rule of law used to mean natural law, a higher law which men could discover and follow. It derives from the Bible. Pick any OT prophet telling the king he is subject to and violating God’s law. It under girds the American Constitution. See Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex.

    Today, the term rule of law means something entirely different. We have adopted the idea that law originates with men. It means that there is some sort of legal process, 5 out of 9 votes on the Supreme Court to accept some newly discovered ‘international legal norm.’ There is process in other countries

    There is a higher law or law originates with man. Legal process or an attempt to discover and be bound by a higher law. One leads to freedom, one does not.

  • mark†

    When you use the term ‘rule of law,’ what does that mean?

    The term rule of law used to mean natural law, a higher law which men could discover and follow. It derives from the Bible. Pick any OT prophet telling the king he is subject to and violating God’s law. It under girds the American Constitution. See Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex.

    Today, the term rule of law means something entirely different. We have adopted the idea that law originates with men. It means that there is some sort of legal process, 5 out of 9 votes on the Supreme Court to accept some newly discovered ‘international legal norm.’ There is process in other countries

    There is a higher law or law originates with man. Legal process or an attempt to discover and be bound by a higher law. One leads to freedom, one does not.

  • Tom Hering

    Dethroning local bullies and tyrants seems to have been a common theme in mid-20th century film and television. The hero in these stories discovers the oppression wrought by some small town official or businessman (who is usually supported by the normalcy-loving populace) and it all ends with the state police or the feds moving in to set things straight. I just watched an example from Kraft Suspense Theater (early 1960s) in which surfer dude James Caan discovers the moneymaking prisoner-abuse scheme of local sheriff Mickey Rooney. Was this sort of story popular back then because people still knew what local life was really like – before state and federal laws and regulations were enforced the way they are today? Have today’s less-government advocates forgotten – or have they never had the chance to experience – the realities dramatized by these tales of the big and small screens? It would be interesting to read a study of this theme in old films and television. (Has anyone ever written one?)

  • Tom Hering

    Dethroning local bullies and tyrants seems to have been a common theme in mid-20th century film and television. The hero in these stories discovers the oppression wrought by some small town official or businessman (who is usually supported by the normalcy-loving populace) and it all ends with the state police or the feds moving in to set things straight. I just watched an example from Kraft Suspense Theater (early 1960s) in which surfer dude James Caan discovers the moneymaking prisoner-abuse scheme of local sheriff Mickey Rooney. Was this sort of story popular back then because people still knew what local life was really like – before state and federal laws and regulations were enforced the way they are today? Have today’s less-government advocates forgotten – or have they never had the chance to experience – the realities dramatized by these tales of the big and small screens? It would be interesting to read a study of this theme in old films and television. (Has anyone ever written one?)

  • Carl Vehse

    Violence (cf. “valence”?) is indeed necessary to create social order.

    It is the use of force that is indeed necessary to create social order. Violence is the unjust use of force, against which force is used.

  • Carl Vehse

    Violence (cf. “valence”?) is indeed necessary to create social order.

    It is the use of force that is indeed necessary to create social order. Violence is the unjust use of force, against which force is used.

  • fws

    mark @ 16

    “When you use the term ‘rule of law,’ what does that mean?”

    It means simply God´s ordering of his creation. This all falls into the same ‘moral ‘ category as the Law of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics. The true earthly morality that God demands of all is the production of “daily bread” for one another that makes human life pleasurable. This includes everything needed for the “Pursuit of Happiness” (the most biblical passage in the entire founding documents!) including especially those intangible things like romantic love that make life feel toe-curlingly, giddy-good. God provides these good things “even to all the wicked” and “indeed without…our prayers… or asking”.

    St James says that earthly righteousness is about deeds, alone. It is not about faith or creeds. Lutherans agree fully with this assessment in James 2:24 “see, you are justified by what you do and not by faith.” This is absolutely true in any courtroom or forum of earthly righteousness.

    ” It derives from the Bible. Pick any OT prophet telling the king he is subject to and violating God’s law.”

    Scripture:
    Luke 18:1-8 No divine law is necessary for the rule of law to happen. The judge was lawless. He did not follow the first or second table of the law. Yet God made justice happen. The widow was not about faith either. She sought justice and sacrifice rather than mercy which IS the stuff of true earthly righeousness. But it is devoid of faith.

    The law “does us”. we don´t do it. Not understanding this fact is the mistake the pharisees and all moralists make. Christians have had this veil of Moses removed.

    Lutheran Confessions:
    Augustana/Apology art XVIII: [fallen, ie pagan] reason and free will is able to know and do EVERY righteousness except one kind.
    Augustana/Apology on Free Will: “There is NOTHING that can be added to the ethical system of [pagan] Aristotle.”

    Conclusion: Faith in God or knowledge of a Divine moral code is unnecessary.

    “There is a higher law or law originates with man”

    False choice. God always works through means. In this case the Law-written-on-conscience, which Lutherans call “natural Law” or “God´s ordi-nance”, deliberately recategorizing aquinas’ schema and that of the scholastics, is the blunt instrument God applies to man to use us all in vocation as factories to produce righteousness or “daily bread”. Righteousness = daily bread. Righteousness is not conformity to a codified or law embedded in nature. Law is merely the means to that righteous end. This would be what Roman Catholism teaches. They are wrong.

    “One leads to freedom, one does not.”

    The law NEVER leads to freedom. The law in ANY form binds us, subdues us, kills us, makes us submit, because only then can sinful man produce love for others in the form of the production of “daily bread’.

    In the earthly kingdom the law leads to order for the purpose of producing creaturely, non-spiritual goodness.

    This is precisely how God is the author of all the good gifts he delivers in the 1st article and 4th petition. He does this, using the law, in , with and under the godless Old Adam within each of us.

  • fws

    mark @ 16

    “When you use the term ‘rule of law,’ what does that mean?”

    It means simply God´s ordering of his creation. This all falls into the same ‘moral ‘ category as the Law of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics. The true earthly morality that God demands of all is the production of “daily bread” for one another that makes human life pleasurable. This includes everything needed for the “Pursuit of Happiness” (the most biblical passage in the entire founding documents!) including especially those intangible things like romantic love that make life feel toe-curlingly, giddy-good. God provides these good things “even to all the wicked” and “indeed without…our prayers… or asking”.

    St James says that earthly righteousness is about deeds, alone. It is not about faith or creeds. Lutherans agree fully with this assessment in James 2:24 “see, you are justified by what you do and not by faith.” This is absolutely true in any courtroom or forum of earthly righteousness.

    ” It derives from the Bible. Pick any OT prophet telling the king he is subject to and violating God’s law.”

    Scripture:
    Luke 18:1-8 No divine law is necessary for the rule of law to happen. The judge was lawless. He did not follow the first or second table of the law. Yet God made justice happen. The widow was not about faith either. She sought justice and sacrifice rather than mercy which IS the stuff of true earthly righeousness. But it is devoid of faith.

    The law “does us”. we don´t do it. Not understanding this fact is the mistake the pharisees and all moralists make. Christians have had this veil of Moses removed.

    Lutheran Confessions:
    Augustana/Apology art XVIII: [fallen, ie pagan] reason and free will is able to know and do EVERY righteousness except one kind.
    Augustana/Apology on Free Will: “There is NOTHING that can be added to the ethical system of [pagan] Aristotle.”

    Conclusion: Faith in God or knowledge of a Divine moral code is unnecessary.

    “There is a higher law or law originates with man”

    False choice. God always works through means. In this case the Law-written-on-conscience, which Lutherans call “natural Law” or “God´s ordi-nance”, deliberately recategorizing aquinas’ schema and that of the scholastics, is the blunt instrument God applies to man to use us all in vocation as factories to produce righteousness or “daily bread”. Righteousness = daily bread. Righteousness is not conformity to a codified or law embedded in nature. Law is merely the means to that righteous end. This would be what Roman Catholism teaches. They are wrong.

    “One leads to freedom, one does not.”

    The law NEVER leads to freedom. The law in ANY form binds us, subdues us, kills us, makes us submit, because only then can sinful man produce love for others in the form of the production of “daily bread’.

    In the earthly kingdom the law leads to order for the purpose of producing creaturely, non-spiritual goodness.

    This is precisely how God is the author of all the good gifts he delivers in the 1st article and 4th petition. He does this, using the law, in , with and under the godless Old Adam within each of us.

  • fws

    Kerner @ 15

    Milton Freedman makes a compelling case that you are right.

    He suggests that monopolies can only exist with government aid and support.

    The example he gives is the interstate commerce commission. This was created because short haul rates , say between cincinnati and cleaveland were up to 10 times higher than the long haul rates between say chigago and new york city. Why? Lack of competition on the short hauls. So the ICC was created to bring this into line. And then what happened?

    When the public furor died down, the railroads persuaded congress and the regulators to equalize rates one more time” They raised the long haul rates to match better with the short haul ones.

    But still Kerner, this is not an argument against government laws such as this. Abuse of Welfare and other such positive social laws are a given perhaps precisely because they more directly attack coveteousness rather than pretend that it is a virtue under the sacred american names “industry, self reliance, hard work, thrift”.

    Scripture tells us that none of the things on that list are virtues or righteousness.

    Earthly righteousness is soley when the fruit of those things result in the provision of “daily bread” for one´s neighbor.

    God demands that this daily bread be produced. It is not enough to merely keep the negative part of the law. The positive part is not merely a suggestion. And I don´t really think that we can biblically limit the govt only to doing this . This is my problem with Libertarianism. They say govt “redistribution of wealth” is immoral theft. It can be. That is not proof that it always is. Fact: If we do not “redistribute our wealth ” voluntarily and willingly as God demands, then God WILL send those who will force us to do it. Those God usually sends are called “government”.

    By this I am not saying I think socialism in even our “the-name-that-shall-not-be-spoken” american form is a good way to deliver daily bread. Nor is capitalism, that creation of Karl Marx, nor free market ideas, nor whatever…. Actually I like the tribal , nuclear family economic model the best. But that one is gone probably for good. My point is that we should avoid tinging our view of which system is best by saying one is fundamentally immoral. This is wrong.

    Ok. so you give the shirt off your back to the homeless Kerner, and it is unjust for the govt to penalize you by redistributing part of your income, because of those who dont. it is also unjust for the govt to forbid you to take your dog to the beach because others abuse their freedom and let their dogs poop there withhout cleaning it up. The law often has that sort of injustice. ok.

  • fws

    Kerner @ 15

    Milton Freedman makes a compelling case that you are right.

    He suggests that monopolies can only exist with government aid and support.

    The example he gives is the interstate commerce commission. This was created because short haul rates , say between cincinnati and cleaveland were up to 10 times higher than the long haul rates between say chigago and new york city. Why? Lack of competition on the short hauls. So the ICC was created to bring this into line. And then what happened?

    When the public furor died down, the railroads persuaded congress and the regulators to equalize rates one more time” They raised the long haul rates to match better with the short haul ones.

    But still Kerner, this is not an argument against government laws such as this. Abuse of Welfare and other such positive social laws are a given perhaps precisely because they more directly attack coveteousness rather than pretend that it is a virtue under the sacred american names “industry, self reliance, hard work, thrift”.

    Scripture tells us that none of the things on that list are virtues or righteousness.

    Earthly righteousness is soley when the fruit of those things result in the provision of “daily bread” for one´s neighbor.

    God demands that this daily bread be produced. It is not enough to merely keep the negative part of the law. The positive part is not merely a suggestion. And I don´t really think that we can biblically limit the govt only to doing this . This is my problem with Libertarianism. They say govt “redistribution of wealth” is immoral theft. It can be. That is not proof that it always is. Fact: If we do not “redistribute our wealth ” voluntarily and willingly as God demands, then God WILL send those who will force us to do it. Those God usually sends are called “government”.

    By this I am not saying I think socialism in even our “the-name-that-shall-not-be-spoken” american form is a good way to deliver daily bread. Nor is capitalism, that creation of Karl Marx, nor free market ideas, nor whatever…. Actually I like the tribal , nuclear family economic model the best. But that one is gone probably for good. My point is that we should avoid tinging our view of which system is best by saying one is fundamentally immoral. This is wrong.

    Ok. so you give the shirt off your back to the homeless Kerner, and it is unjust for the govt to penalize you by redistributing part of your income, because of those who dont. it is also unjust for the govt to forbid you to take your dog to the beach because others abuse their freedom and let their dogs poop there withhout cleaning it up. The law often has that sort of injustice. ok.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I just watched this movie last night and I’m really enjoying following the discussion. Great movie!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I just watched this movie last night and I’m really enjoying following the discussion. Great movie!

  • kerner

    It IS a great movie, and what it is really about is the tension between the qualities necessary to subdue the “wild west”, and those necessary to civilize it.

    Vera Miles character was a metaphor for the west. In the beginning, she loved John Wayne, the warrior, who could defend her from the dangerous predators roaming her world. But she also loved Jimmy Stewart, the civilizer, who gave her education and respect for law and order.

    Ultimately, John Wayne lost out because he made himself obsolete. By killing the last bad guy, he made himself obsolete. Vera, and the west, didn’t need John Wayne anymore. They needed Jimmy Stewart. So Vera marries Jimmy and Jimmy becomes a great leader. But Jimmy’s conscience bothered him because he thought he had violated his own principles by resorting to violence. John Wayne set him straight. Jimmy violated his principles alright, but he wasn’t capable of killing the bad guy. A warrior was necessary for that. But people want to believe that civilized principles alone can overcome evil, so they wanted to believe it was Jimmy who killed the bad guy, and Jimmy, who now had two big problems on his conscience, let them think so.

    And this is really the main point of the movie. We like to think that our ideals overcome evil all by themselves, but they don’t. It takes a willingness to fight to overcome evil, and good fighters are often people who don’t live up to our ideals in a lot of ways. So the people to whom we owe our way of life don’t fit into our way of life. Like John Wayne in the movie, they often die alone and unappreciated.

  • kerner

    It IS a great movie, and what it is really about is the tension between the qualities necessary to subdue the “wild west”, and those necessary to civilize it.

    Vera Miles character was a metaphor for the west. In the beginning, she loved John Wayne, the warrior, who could defend her from the dangerous predators roaming her world. But she also loved Jimmy Stewart, the civilizer, who gave her education and respect for law and order.

    Ultimately, John Wayne lost out because he made himself obsolete. By killing the last bad guy, he made himself obsolete. Vera, and the west, didn’t need John Wayne anymore. They needed Jimmy Stewart. So Vera marries Jimmy and Jimmy becomes a great leader. But Jimmy’s conscience bothered him because he thought he had violated his own principles by resorting to violence. John Wayne set him straight. Jimmy violated his principles alright, but he wasn’t capable of killing the bad guy. A warrior was necessary for that. But people want to believe that civilized principles alone can overcome evil, so they wanted to believe it was Jimmy who killed the bad guy, and Jimmy, who now had two big problems on his conscience, let them think so.

    And this is really the main point of the movie. We like to think that our ideals overcome evil all by themselves, but they don’t. It takes a willingness to fight to overcome evil, and good fighters are often people who don’t live up to our ideals in a lot of ways. So the people to whom we owe our way of life don’t fit into our way of life. Like John Wayne in the movie, they often die alone and unappreciated.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I think your commentary is right on, Kerner.

    Much like how we forget to give thanks to the Lord for oh so many things…

    Much like the Rock of offense and the stumbling Block.

    Freedom or Government?
    Law or Gospel?

    2 very different irreconcilable messages – what leaves you or I with a guilty conscience or death, God alone can go ahead and reconcile them in Himself – incredible! Law and Gospel now.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I think your commentary is right on, Kerner.

    Much like how we forget to give thanks to the Lord for oh so many things…

    Much like the Rock of offense and the stumbling Block.

    Freedom or Government?
    Law or Gospel?

    2 very different irreconcilable messages – what leaves you or I with a guilty conscience or death, God alone can go ahead and reconcile them in Himself – incredible! Law and Gospel now.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Great analysis of the movie, Kerner! You make a good movie critic.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Great analysis of the movie, Kerner! You make a good movie critic.

  • DonS

    Yes, indeed, a good discussion of the movie and its message. To turn it back to the original question a bit, it is true that some libertarians are a bit anarchical in their philosophy, which is antithetical to the message of Liberty Valance. However, conservatives with a libertarian bent are more focused in their opposition to an oppressive federal government, and wish to return it to its Constitutional limits. They are not opposed to local government, laws designed to protect the rights of citizens to their life, liberty, and property, and to government officials empowered to enforce those criminal laws.

  • DonS

    Yes, indeed, a good discussion of the movie and its message. To turn it back to the original question a bit, it is true that some libertarians are a bit anarchical in their philosophy, which is antithetical to the message of Liberty Valance. However, conservatives with a libertarian bent are more focused in their opposition to an oppressive federal government, and wish to return it to its Constitutional limits. They are not opposed to local government, laws designed to protect the rights of citizens to their life, liberty, and property, and to government officials empowered to enforce those criminal laws.

  • fws

    Don S @ 25

    1) I think that libertarians make the same error that communists and other make in many ways: They assume too much goodness in human nature. The premise (a faulty one), is that the government should only rightly be responsible for police activities, or peacekeeping, which would limit them then to police and military. It seems to assume that this would mean that somehow magically, the problem of money translating into more influence and power would simply not exist or would somehow be vanquished by our constitutional system, or would be diminished to the point of not being a very great issue.

    2) This says rather baldly that the government can morally only police the negative part of the 10 commandments and never enforce the positive side. I would be interested to hear the basis for this theory.

    It says that the part that says “you should not kill” is proper govt interest, but the part ‘you should help and befriend your neighbor in every bodily need” must be left to the free will of individuals to do this, or not.

    why? This seems rather arbitrary.

    3) The thing that disturbs me the most about libertarian utopianism is this:

    No government action in many areas could be taken until a crime or damage was committed. Then the damaged party could only seek remedy in court. No food safety or industrial safety or environmental laws, or medical or other mandatory professional certifications would be allowed for example. Imagine such a world for a second. The courts would be clogged , bend over, and break.

    4) It is a romantic idea. The Uniform Commercial Code could not exist for example. It would be overreaching for the Government. The government could not regulate things like how checks must be endorsed and in what form. It could not dictate legal forms for contracts. Imagine. It would be the wild west economically. “Children, do not try this at home” is the phrase that comes to mind….

    This is much like those who think the church must return to looking like the Book of Acts or liturgy is only as good as it looks 1st century, or St Pauls ordering of the church with rules about hair lengths etc have to be done today, and are prescriptive rather than merely descriptive.

  • fws

    Don S @ 25

    1) I think that libertarians make the same error that communists and other make in many ways: They assume too much goodness in human nature. The premise (a faulty one), is that the government should only rightly be responsible for police activities, or peacekeeping, which would limit them then to police and military. It seems to assume that this would mean that somehow magically, the problem of money translating into more influence and power would simply not exist or would somehow be vanquished by our constitutional system, or would be diminished to the point of not being a very great issue.

    2) This says rather baldly that the government can morally only police the negative part of the 10 commandments and never enforce the positive side. I would be interested to hear the basis for this theory.

    It says that the part that says “you should not kill” is proper govt interest, but the part ‘you should help and befriend your neighbor in every bodily need” must be left to the free will of individuals to do this, or not.

    why? This seems rather arbitrary.

    3) The thing that disturbs me the most about libertarian utopianism is this:

    No government action in many areas could be taken until a crime or damage was committed. Then the damaged party could only seek remedy in court. No food safety or industrial safety or environmental laws, or medical or other mandatory professional certifications would be allowed for example. Imagine such a world for a second. The courts would be clogged , bend over, and break.

    4) It is a romantic idea. The Uniform Commercial Code could not exist for example. It would be overreaching for the Government. The government could not regulate things like how checks must be endorsed and in what form. It could not dictate legal forms for contracts. Imagine. It would be the wild west economically. “Children, do not try this at home” is the phrase that comes to mind….

    This is much like those who think the church must return to looking like the Book of Acts or liturgy is only as good as it looks 1st century, or St Pauls ordering of the church with rules about hair lengths etc have to be done today, and are prescriptive rather than merely descriptive.

  • James Sarver

    fws @ #6,

    Righteousness (at least with regard to God, not neighbor) has nothing to do with it. Natural Law is the point. That Aquinas and the Scholastics got it wrong is irrelevant.

    Natural Law (including gravity and thermodynamics) can in fact be lost, at least in theory (which is what I was discussing), but only at great peril. The error of modern political theory is to attempt to pretend that Natural Law does not apply where human thought or artifice is able to temporarily make it appear so. I get your point that something like gravity cannot be truly lost. Attempts to deny it though, can be made, however short lived and badly ended those attempts might be. That is my point about political theory. Where that sort of theory is applied government serves poorly.

  • James Sarver

    fws @ #6,

    Righteousness (at least with regard to God, not neighbor) has nothing to do with it. Natural Law is the point. That Aquinas and the Scholastics got it wrong is irrelevant.

    Natural Law (including gravity and thermodynamics) can in fact be lost, at least in theory (which is what I was discussing), but only at great peril. The error of modern political theory is to attempt to pretend that Natural Law does not apply where human thought or artifice is able to temporarily make it appear so. I get your point that something like gravity cannot be truly lost. Attempts to deny it though, can be made, however short lived and badly ended those attempts might be. That is my point about political theory. Where that sort of theory is applied government serves poorly.

  • fws

    James sarver @ 27

    “Righteousness (at least with regard to God, not neighbor)…”

    You are making a distinction between righteousness with regard to God versus righeousness with regard to neighbor. I am not following your distinction here. Could you explain please in our context here how that matters? Why this distinction matters and how?

    nothing to do with it. ”

    What is the ‘it’ in your statement. You lost me.

    ” get your point that something like gravity cannot be truly lost. Attempts to deny it though, can be made, however short lived and badly ended those attempts might be. ”

    Can you give me an example of this in (not recent) modern history please where 1) natural law was denied and by whom, and 2) ended badly, and 3) these bad effects were short lived meaning that they shortly disappeared even with natural law being ‘lost’?

    Thanks!

  • fws

    James sarver @ 27

    “Righteousness (at least with regard to God, not neighbor)…”

    You are making a distinction between righteousness with regard to God versus righeousness with regard to neighbor. I am not following your distinction here. Could you explain please in our context here how that matters? Why this distinction matters and how?

    nothing to do with it. ”

    What is the ‘it’ in your statement. You lost me.

    ” get your point that something like gravity cannot be truly lost. Attempts to deny it though, can be made, however short lived and badly ended those attempts might be. ”

    Can you give me an example of this in (not recent) modern history please where 1) natural law was denied and by whom, and 2) ended badly, and 3) these bad effects were short lived meaning that they shortly disappeared even with natural law being ‘lost’?

    Thanks!


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