Arnold Kling  

If a Libertarian Gave a Sermon for Passover

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As we approach Passover in 2010, many people are unemployed. But in a free society, government does not create jobs.

Pharoah created jobs for us. Moses led us away from those jobs. Even though those jobs helped to complete public infrastructure. Even though they were green jobs, where we used our muscles and our backs instead of fossil fuels.

Moses could have been part of the ruling class in Egypt. He chose freedom instead. Those of us who followed Moses also chose freedom. Freedom brings risks. But we preferred the risks of freedom to the security of bondage.

Do not confuse government with G-d. Government cannot miraculously provide us with manna--or health care. When we look at government, we should not see G-d. We should see Pharoah. Government-worship is Pharoah-worship.

Passover is known as the festival of freedom. To live in the Jerusalem of a free society, we have to leave the Egypt of the reach of government.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (44 to date)
pj writes:

Excellent! Bravo.

anonymous writes:

that's quite insulting to use a large number of people's religious heritage to promote an ideological message. pharoah didn't create jobs - he made slaves. "jobs" are generally understood to be wage contracts freely engaged in and freely broken. we can argue about the wisdom of government "creating jobs", or even the ability of government to "create jobs", but don't compare it to slavery and don't try to score a cheap point by contrasting a faith shared by billions with fiscal policy. no, we shouldn't see God in government. who does? you could have and should have just left it at that.

The_Orlonater writes:

anonymous,

Many people's belief in government to accomplish beneficial or perfect results does in fact rest on faith. I think the health care debate has demonstrated that quite well over the past few years.

anonymous writes:

The_Orlonater: i understand that. my concern is not people who have a misplaced faith in government. my concern is the use of moses and the passover as a libertarian talking point, and the identification of people who would consider fiscal policy with pharaoh - and more insultingly the juxtaposition of such people with the tenets of the jewish faith. if someone acts like the government is god, that's worth criticizing them for on its own merits. if someone's not a libertarian the passover story shouldn't be twisted to make it appear that they're being inconsistent with the jewish faith.

Les writes:

Arnold: thank you for your inspiring message. Freedom, independence and liberty are prime values, and dependence, servitude and political favor are despicable.

Alex J. writes:

You can also draw a Eucharist analogy with the state magically transforming fecklessness of voters and politicians into acts of state which are to be rationalized e.g. claiming that FDR wisely saved capitalism from itself rather than firing out a random stream of programs split up along political boundaries.

The state as "final arbiter" stands in for divine judgment, obviously.

In the other direction, I would point out that Jesus said "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Render unto God that which is God's." He didn't say "Be Caesar", and the directive is incoherent if directed to Caesar.

tachyon writes:

anonymous,

thelogians and historians widely believe that the "slavery" referred to in the torah is more akin to indentured servitude than to our common conception of slavery. accepting this belief as accurate, would you find arnold's analogy less offensive?

Ted writes:

You really just compared government fiscal or health care policy to slavery ... really?

It's crap like this that makes nobody take libertarians seriously. The second you even attempt to compare government health care or fiscal policy to slavery* everyone just rolls their eyes and thinks you are a crazy. Primarily because, the comparison is crazy. This is a problem with almost all libertarians. Everything you disagree with is somehow unparalleled government tyranny tantamount to involuntary servitude. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to put things in a perspective that is actually rational.

I can only hope this was an attempt at a joke, because it's terrible as a polemic. Given this is online and I can't tell the tone and it's obviously not even remotely funny I'm going to assume the comparison was serious - though I hope not.

*Which oddly enough, despite the excessively detailed historical records in Egypt, nothing evens mentions Jewish slaves but whatever.

BucketofFried writes:

@The_Orlonator

There are many types of faith, not just religious faith. There's faith in people, institutions, government, and, dare I say, even markets. It would be equally mistaken to conflate a person's faith in free markets with faith in god.

guthrie writes:

@anonymous

It's a metaphor, and as such, will fail eventually upon dissection, but is made to make a general point. Is your objection really with the particular failings of this metaphor, or Arnold's use of religious iconography and language in general?

(IOW, if someone's not a Libertarian, why would they be worried about what a Libertarian is using as his object lesson?)

fundamentalist writes:

Nice! Thanks!

Mises accused the American people in the 1950's of being guilty of statolatry. I agree.

Emily writes:

To anonymous, if you look at chapter 47 of Genesis, you'll see that the Israelite people sold themselves into slavery to escape starvation. I think Mr. Kling's metaphor rings very true in light of that account because people are willing to sell themselves into slavery to government for the promise of healthcare.

Brian Shelley writes:

@anonymous

I don't know if you thought it was offensive to Judaism specifically, but as an evangelical Christian and libertarian, I would have cheered the sermon. Offensive, would be to censor himself in deference to gelded moralizers.

Kevin writes:

Mostly Democrats observe passover, thus no such sermons.

TD writes:

Fantastic.

Anonymous writes:

@anonymous,

thelogians and historians widely believe that the "slavery" referred to in the torah is more akin to indentured servitude than to our common conception of slavery. accepting this belief as accurate, would you find arnold's analogy less offensive?

mormonbastiard writes:

@ Orlonator: "wage contracts freely engaged in and freely broken."

where is the "freely" when the wage moneys originate from an involuntary confiscation?

this is a literal question, I want to know what i'm missing.

Jim writes:

a cheap point by contrasting a faith shared by billions with fiscal policy

@anon

Billions of Jews?

As the saying goes, you're entitled to your own (hysterical) opinion, but not your own facts.

Joey Donuts writes:

Anonymous:

Rather than accuse Arnold of insulting behavior, why not just fess up that YOU feel insulted instead of trying to make Arnold responsible for your feelings.

As a word of advice, if reading Arnold's blogs stir up so much un-pleasant feelings in you, perhaps, for your own health, you should read something else.

Brian writes:

Its brilliant I might actually use this some time in the future. Most people tend to forget everything is religious especially politics.

Glen writes:

Brilliant. (I probably would have left that unsaid, but then I saw that some people jumped on your case for it. These people need thicker skins.)

MikeM writes:

Anonymous typifies progressives when he espouses that everyone has the right to not be offended, or that ideological messages that are against government are somehow offensive.

hiro n bosch writes:

Governments have and can create jobs. It's been done since, uh, the first governments were in place.

But don't take my word for it. There are a ton of historical examples and statistics that you could look up to verify this.

It is, and always has been, the role of government to stimulate a nation's economy and to ensure that there are jobs when there are none available. This rhetoric of "free choice" in America does a disservice to actual working Americans. It presumes that there's an endless supply of resources and cash that anyone can tap in to.

And governments have successfully implemented universal healthcare. Just look up, uh, most any country in western Europe. Or Canada. Or Japan. Or better yet, talk to someone who's actually from a country with universal healthcare. You'll find that the rhetoric used to scare Americans out of supporting universal healthcare are just that: scare tactics.

Clara writes:

I will bring this to my grandparents' seder table next week. Three generations of Jewish libertarians and counting!

maximizer writes:

The "green jobs" bit is priceless. Jewish humor at its best.

jstaples writes:

One of your best, Arnold. Keep up the great work!

SydB writes:

From Wikipedia: "God then commanded Moses to kill and hang the heads of everyone that had engaged in idolatry, and Moses ordered the judges to carry out the mass execution"

Yup. Sounds like a live-and-let-live freedom loving libertarian to me. Not.

Steve Roth writes:

Since the Egypt/Exodus story was fabricated centuries after the fact as a rationalization/justification for the then-existing political/religious power structure, it strikes me as eminently a propos that it should be invoked here to justify a political view that is just as fantastic and fictional as the story being employed.

Hume writes:

Steve Roth,

How is a political view "fictional"? Perhaps you meant to say that the philosophical principles supporting libertarianism are false or incorrectly applied. That would make sense, but would require philosophical argument. Of course, you offer nothing. Try again.

Carlton Banks writes:

For you libertarians out there that also like the bible, check out 1 Samuel 8.

When Samuel (the high priest) was old, he appointed his sons judges over Israel. When the sons started taking bribes, The Israelites asked Samuel to give them a king. In verses 10 through 20 Samuel warns them of the perils of having a King [all governments in my mind]. Mainly taxes (vs. 15 and 17).

However, the best is in verse 20 when the people argue for the merits of a king by saying that a king will "go before us and fight our battles." They wanted to absolve themselves of personal responsibility! They wanted a nanny state!

rvturnage writes:

@Ted said "You really just compared government fiscal or health care policy to slavery ... really?"

Yes, why not? When I work and the benefits of my work are taken from me against my will by threat of violence and then given to someone else as a benefit for not working, that is slavery.

@Carlton Banks: "They wanted to absolve themselves of personal responsibility! They wanted a nanny state!"

Read on the rest of the Book, and put that section into context. See how well that nanny state worked out for them. Not too well. Lead to Babylonian exile and ultimately Roman rule.

Doc Merlin writes:

'Read on the rest of the Book, and put that section into context. See how well that nanny state worked out for them. Not too well. Lead to Babylonian exile and ultimately Roman rule.'

1 Samuel 8 10-18

"10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king."
11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
14 He will take the best of youry fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.a
15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.
16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day"


This verse clearly supports Arnold's view. Also it says in plain language that we ourselves must deal with this problem because G-d will not do it for us.

Chris Bolts Sr. writes:

Doc Merlin, that is a wonderful passage and I commented on it in my blog.

There was only one time when communism could've worked and that was when God instructed Adam and Eve that they could eat of any food within the Garden of Eden, but not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. We all know what happened in that story. Trying to chase utopia - life before the Original Sin, as it were - is only a path to destruction.

Chris Bolts Sr. writes:

hiro no bosch wrote:

"Governments have and can create jobs. It's been done since, uh, the first governments were in place."

How exactly can a government create a job? What exact product did government produce in order to create the wealth necessary to create the job? All I know is that a government has a power to tax. Tell me: how can a government create a job if there are no producers to tax?

"And governments have successfully implemented universal healthcare. Just look up, uh, most any country in western Europe. Or Canada. Or Japan. Or better yet, talk to someone who's actually from a country with universal healthcare. You'll find that the rhetoric used to scare Americans out of supporting universal healthcare are just that: scare tactics."

Yes, because all inspire to be just like Europe where debt bombs and demographic bombs are blowing up, Canada where healthcare is slowly crowding out all other forms of spending, and Japan which still has not extracted itself from its own self-inflicted recession. I'm glad you take solace in mediocrity.

SW Penn writes:

Amen!

It is amazing to me that people who cry and moan and sue over religious references in the public square will turn around and do everything they can to turn the government into a church.
Are income programs the business of church or state?
Are food programs the business of church or state?
Are health programs the business of church or state?
Are employment programs the business of church or state?
Many, if not most of the things the government is doing these days are things people have convinced the government to do to avoid the disapproval, the judgment, the evaluation of their character by the church, by their neighbors.
You want alms, but don't want to the judged a slacker...ask Almighty Go-ment to give you cash. Are you're hungry because your addictions interfere with your employment schedule...ask Almighty Go-ment to give you food.
You need a place to live when your marriage breaks up when the wife finds out what you're up to? Pray Almighty Go-ment will find you a house.

These are not within the purview of a limited federal government to give.

Jesus said "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

I just wish Caesar knew what things are his.
And much more importantly what things aren't!

Rin Boulder writes:

Hayek did not name growing/socialist big government "the road to serfdom" for nothing.

Ken Besig Israel writes:

Given the blatant and despicable hostility of Barack Obama and his regime towards Israel during this Passover Season, I am more concerned with an American President who seems to want to emulate the tyrannical Pharaoh of the Exodus and oppress Israel, rather than any comparisons of big government with slavery.

AtheistConservative writes:

"It is, and always has been, the role of government to stimulate a nation's economy and to ensure that there are jobs when there are none available"

Really? If that's the case you should be able to find the exact 'chapter and verse' of the US Constitution stating as such.

We'll wait.

Milo writes:

AK;
Well said.
Thank you.

Dan writes:

Hiro:

It is, and always has been, the role of government to stimulate a nation's economy and to ensure that there are jobs when there are none available.

Actually, I don't think any goverment before about the 1880s at the earliest would have assumed this. So for the vast majority of history -- hell, for the vast majority of the Westphalian order -- this was not the case.

Excellent post, Arnold.

CT Lostaglia writes:

"Really? If that's the case you should be able to find the exact 'chapter and verse' of the US Constitution stating as such.

We'll wait."

Still waiting...

Gary writes:

The only jobs government creates are a pox on the people. Government jobs produce nothing. In Oregon we had this magical and mystical pronouncement that the *stimulus package* had produced a zillion jobs. Cause for celebration, right? The average length of the jobs was 2 weeks. They counted jobs created including people who were already working but were employed on a nanny job that was affected by the *stimulus*. If anyone can come up with an example of socialism or any other form of statism making EVERYONE'S life better, and without creating a loser class, I would definitely be interested in seeing it. Libertarians look for win/win. Statists seem to be happy with lose/lose or win/lose. Look at your programs. Show me any of them where everyone comes out ahead. In a free market, that is normal. In socialism/statism, it is impossible.

bernard baruch carman writes:

dear Arnold, excellent parallel! don't let the naysayers discourage you... they know not about what they speak!

8-)

bbc

Ron writes:

We can quibble over details and definitions, but Arnold Kling's point, his message is more accurate than the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. My gratitude to for this poignant post.

Ron

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