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Date: Nov. 2014
Publisher: Institute on Religion and Public Life
Document Type: Letter to the editor
Length: 1,374 words
Lexile Measure: 1270L

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I am astounded that Nathan Schlueter suggests libertarians would put rape in the category of a "preference," akin to liking or disliking bananas ("Libertarian Delusions," August/September). Every libertarian I know would correctly judge rape to be what it clearly is: an act of unjust coercion, and therefore rightly subject to moral judgment.

Elizabeth Quaintance


I have three comments for Nathan Schlueter. First, a case for libertarianism and libertarian policy prescriptions can be based on some combination of ethical and practical considerations. For example, is it ethical for government to force workers and employers to negotiate a wage above a legal minimum? And if it's ethical, will the benefits and costs be a practical improvement over a world without that minimum?

Second, it's important to distinguish between positive and negative cases for "Christian libertarianism." The former is a sophisticated exercise, which requires careful caveats. The latter is relatively easy. In a word, when should Christians actively pursue government as a biblical and practical means to godly ends? The list turns out to be quite short--and consistent with libertarian policy conclusions.

Third, to Schlueter's important comments about public choice economics, I would add an explicit reference to Austrian economics. In a nutshell, where public choice focuses on the motives of those in political markets, Austrians note the impact of highly imperfect information on policy outcomes. To use the Affordable Care Act as an example: Public choice would start with questions about agents in political markets (members of special-interest groups, politicians, bureaucrats) benefiting themselves at the expense of others. Austrians would begin by asking how thousands of bureaucrats in the federal government might reasonably be expected to implement effectively a gargantuan public policy in a complex policy arena. Good policy requires good motives and good knowledge. Public policy rarely combines both.

We're blessed to live in a country where we don't need to think much about politics. But the flip side of this coin is that few people have a coherent approach to politics and public policy. Especially for Christians--and especially given what's...

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