TAMPA, December 24, 2012 ― It’s not a surprise that libertarian themes pervade many iconic Christmas specials. After all, they celebrate the birthday of one of the great libertarians of all time.
In the Gospels, government is exposed as evil right from Jesus’ birth. A paranoid Herod is willing to kill all of the babies in the kingdom to try to eliminate the perceived threat represented by Jesus.
Tax collectors are considered de facto sinners, on a par with prostitutes. Libertarians would consider this unfair to prostitutes, but for the times this couldn’t land better.
Jesus himself doesn’t disappoint, either. From the moment he begins his ministry, he wages a nonstop verbal war against the hypocritical, oppressive, tax-devouring Temple priests. Jews at the time were required to pay annual taxes to the priests and were also expected to come and make sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple. To do so, they had to buy the livestock for the sacrifices from the priests and deal with the priests’ money changers.
That’s why the libertarian from Galilee kicked the money changers out. This would have been considered a revolutionary act.
One can’t help but equate Jerusalem at that time with Washington, DC, an entire city of tax-fed, opulent wealth.
Jesus has no patience for excessive regulation, either. When he encounters a Jewish law that does not address actual criminal activity, he encourages his followers to break it. When the meddling scribes confront Jesus with allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands, Jesus lets loose with his customary anti-government invective, calling them hypocrites and then instructing “the people” to ignore this idiotic law and focus on not committing real crimes instead. (Mark 7:1-23)
Jesus doesn’t have much use for social conservatives, either. When they bring a woman who has committed adultery before him to be stoned, he shames them into letting her go (John 8:1-7). He does not condone her sin, nor imply that she may not be judged by God for it. He makes the distinction between those actions which constitute harm to other human beings and can therefore be punished by men and those which do not constitute harm and can only be judged by God.
Jesus shows no such objection to the law against theft, committed by the men crucified with him. Unlike adultery, this constitutes actual harm against the property of another. One of the thieves says that he is justifiably punished and Jesus does not contradict him. He offers forgiveness but not escape from punishment (Luke 23:40-43).
Michael Moore seems to think that Jesus’ message is inconsistent with free enterprise. Perhaps Mr. Moore should actually read the gospels. The heroes in most of Jesus’ parables are businessmen and property owners. The villains, like the evil vinedressers in Mark 12:1-12, are those looking for unearned wealth. The beauty of this story is that it affirms property ownership on the literal level and simultaneously represents a symbolic shot at the corrupt Temple priests.
The third steward of Matthew 25:14-30 is punished for not being a capitalist. Again, there is a symbolic meaning here, but Jesus chooses a free enterprise-friendly vehicle to convey his message.
While Jesus says that wealth can be a distraction, he unambiguously states that it is not a sin in and of itself. Jesus has many wealthy friends, including the wealthy women who support him and his disciples during his ministry (Luke 8:3). He does not consider them sinners as he does those who derive their wealth from taxation. If only today’s “liberals” would learn this distinction.
While Jesus often encourages people to voluntarily give to the poor, he never once implies that this should be accomplished by forced redistribution, especially through the Jewish government he spends the rest of the gospels criticizing.
Even during his passion, Jesus continues to make libertarians stand up and cheer. Anticipating the 5th Amendment by over 1700 years, Jesus refuses to talk to the cops or give evidence against himself. In John 18:20 he basically says, “If you have some proof, present it. You’re not getting anything from me.” He likewise refuses to talk to Pontius Pilate.
The result? Acquittal. Pilate “finds no case against this man.” Of course, both the Roman and the Jewish governments break their own laws and Jesus gets crucified anyway, providing another libertarian lesson about the moral character of most governments.
Whether they believe in God or not, all libertarians have good reason to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. If only more Americans would be Christ-like by holding the government in contempt, resisting its ridiculous edicts, rebelling against its wealth redistribution and honoring free enterprise, we’d all be a lot freer here in the “land of the free.”
And if we observed the one rule this great libertarian gave us on dealing with one another, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we’d live in a safer, more peaceful world.
Merry Christmas to all.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.