Is Microsoft Driving Valve and Steam to Strengthen Linux as a Gaming Platform?

April 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Decentralism, Operating Systems, Technology | 8 Comments

If I combine a few news items to reach a natural conclusion, for the first time, it makes sense for a large business to fund Linux as a gaming platform.

Consider this. Not just any mere Valve employee, but the CEO Gabe Newell himself wrote:

1. L4D2 runs multithreaded at 250 – 300 fps on my Windows 7 machine. Single threaded it’s ~180 fps. On Linux it runs at 25 – 30 fps with the same NVidia GTX 580 video card (after getting them to fix some things), and around the same on a ATI 6970.
2. Good tools to track down OpenGL performance and help debug rendering issues just don’t exist.
We want to fix this. It would be nice to have people who have experience with Linux work on it.

Followers of Linux gaming have known that Valve had a few employees dabble in Linux before, but not make commitments or investments in it. So a CEO saying “We want to fix this.” Is a major change and improvement.

But why the change? Ah, this is where Microsoft is the danger to Valve. But I’ll back up to explain what Valve does to those who don’t know. Valve started as a video game developer. They saw that a game distribution platform would be useful, and since they couldn’t find anyone else willing to create one, they created their own.

This platform is called Steam and has turned out to be majorly popular and profitable. And unlike the love-hate relationship many have with Microsoft and Apple, users are pretty much in a love-love relationship. In other words, it is viewed as both a must have and good or great on prices.

Steam provides a centralized system to buy games digitally, receive patches and updates, interact with friends who play games, and find people to play multi-player games together.

Steam follows (more accurately, predates) the model of an App Store that is used prominently by Apple, Google, and Amazon for Iphones and Android devices. And unlike Apple at least, it doesn’t do hardly any ideological filtering to remove politically incorrect applications. This is also similar to the repository model of software distribution used by most Linux distros which is much older, but mostly for free without much paid software.

Microsoft’s Windows platform does not follow the restrictive App Store model, but as this model seems profitable, it wants into the format. The Android model is popular for its freedom… you get its benefits, but you can still install separately. The Apple model is much more restrictive, making it difficult to install outside of the App Store.

Microsoft, being a giant monopoly desiring company like Apple, would like to follow the Apple App Store model. It has made indications that it will push toward this model with Windows 8 and the Metro format.

This presents a problem for Valve’s Steam. It currently requires Microsoft Windows, or Apple OS X, which is also pushing the App Store model on the desktop as a future direction for profits. It is not hard to imagine Microsoft locking out or debilitating 3rd party digital distribution stores.

For comparison, think of Microsoft Windows as a government that creates the laws by which the entities (software in this case) are allowed to operate within Windows. But Microsoft does not act as a mere government, it also acts as a competing corporation within the governmental framework. Does this give it an unfair advantage? Absolutely. When Microsoft wanted to get into Office software, it went into competition with Wordperfect, a software that significantly helped make Microsoft’s operating systems valuable. But Microsoft could and did design Windows (the government) in such a way as to advantage MS Office and disadvantage Wordperfect.

There are many other examples like web browsers that could be used, but suffice it to say, such is the Microsoft pattern, and Apple is in no way better. This is bad news for Valve and Steam. If it stays dependent on Microsoft, it is likely to be marginalized to nothing within a decade.

That is where Linux offers an alternative. In the past till now, no large company had a clear and strong financial reason to invest in Linux as a gaming platform. It has developed into an adequate gaming platform, but not great. In order for Valve and Steam to offer an alternative through Linux, it must become graphically competitive.

The prime limitations include OpenGL, while in no means bad, has had its primary financial backing by companies that focus on non-gaming graphical computation, and so is not competitive to DirectX 11. Next is X.org or Wayland display driver. The first is growing archaic and the second is incomplete. These would need developers funded to include gaming performance as an important consideration.

Separately is the Wine program primarily directed by Codeweavers. Wine allows Windows programs and games to run on Linux. However, Codeweavers is a comparatively tiny company that can only improve wine slowly but surely. This is a central place that Valve would need to drastically increase the rate of improvement to provide an alternative for the many thousands of already existing Windows games that it already supports. While there may (I hope) come a time when game developers view Linux as a primary platform, I foresee no transition path without Wine figuring prominently. Nor do I see an intelligent path that does not partner with Codeweavers to rapidly expand Linux gaming.

Microsoft has hinted that Windows on ARM will be locked down to a Metro application store with likely no opportunity for Valve’s current business model for Steam. The potential future lock down on x86/x86-64 as well is a noose around Valve’s future on Windows. It is possible that ARM could continue its expansion against Intel and AMD processors and limit Valve in that direction even if x86 Windows never locks down 3rd party application stores. If so, then Wine on ARM may also be a future focus of Valve to secure its future destiny.

There has been recent discussion that Valve might create a “Steambox”, an alternative to the Playstation and Xbox consoles. While it acknowledged no such immediate plans, if it were to do so today, it would basically be a Windows PC already configured for gaming. If we were to go out maybe 5-10 years in the future, a Steambox could be a Linux based x86-64 or ARM PC that could run the majority of 20+ years of x86 Windows games, and most of those at high frame rates without glitches.

Someone may think that Valve may eventually target Android instead of standard Linux, but the two are compatible enough that converting between the two is far easier than the conversion from Windows. Wine and OpenGL are much bigger challenges necessary for a focus on either standard Linux or Android.

As a post script, Valve is further an interesting subject for this blog because they may be the most decentralized moderately large business in America. If you can believe it from their own statements, they have no management and effectively no job titles.

[POST SCRIPT EDIT: There is further confirmation that most of what I said is in the right direction. Valve CEO Gabe Newell is directly seeking work on Linux and OpenGL. Also note “his negativity towards Windows 8″ seems to reaffirm the threat of a Windows lockdown.  However, Wine doesn’t seem to be figuring into their current equation.  Software built directly on Linux without Wine is the best end-stage option if they focus primarily on future games, but I am equally interested in the back catalog of thousands of games.]

The Mathematical Restitution Formula and Its Application

April 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Anarchism, Decentralism, Political theory, Religion | 1 Comment

[This article was originally posted on Strike-the-root.com on Sept. 28,2004. However, in one of that website's format changes, mathematical symbols were lost. So it is reprinted here. A few minor corrections and hyperlinks added as well.]

I still find it hard to believe that I may be the first person to make tort and criminal restitution into a mathematical formula that encourages both sides to be as honest and fair as possible in claiming what the most just and equitable amount of restitution should be. Since I am so far unsuccessful in finding this formula in other writers, I will call this the Hobbsian Just Restitution Formula until someone can show me someone who derived it before I did, originally around 1999 though not published till now.

In any case where a wrong is claimed to have been done, whether by intent or negligence, there is the temptation for the alleged perpetrator to seek paying less restitution than is just, and for the victim to seek receiving more restitution than is just. This may not always be so, but a justice system should have a way to minimize this tendency. This formula is a way that can minimize the temptation for each party to have the scales of justice lean in their favor instead of truly balancing.

Take the restitution claimed appropriate by the perpetrator to be Rx, and by the victim to by Ry. Now if they are unable to resolve this alone, they can take this to a third party to act as an arbitrator and judge, whose decision is Rj. Assume for now that Rj is not beyond the bounds of Rx to Ry. If so, then Rx ≤ Rj ≤ Ry. Now here is the important formula to determine who pays the cost of the arbitrator:

Ct (Ry – Rj) / (Ry – Rx) = Cy

and Ct (Rj – Rx) / (Ry – Rx) = Cx

where Ct is the total cost of arbitration and Cy and Cx are the costs of arbitration for the victim and perpetrator to pay respectively.

By this method, if the victim has requested restitution equal to the arbitrated decision, then he will pay for none of the costs of arbitration. Likewise the perpetrator could avoid paying arbitration costs if he had chosen what the arbiter decides. In the event that the judgment falls in between, then they each will have to pay part of the cost in direct proportion to how much they desired more than the arbitrated decision of an equitable amount.

By this method, each party would be financially encouraged to avoid excessive claims to minimize the arbitration costs to be paid. If they can come to a point where the spread of desired restitution is less than estimated arbitration costs, then they could recognize it might be cheaper to resolve the issue without a professional paid arbitrator. The more complex the issue, the more arbitration will likely cost, and the incentive to avoid paying for arbitration also increases.

It is possible that the arbitrator could decide that appropriate restitution is beyond the Rx to Ry borders. Rules can be decided before hand if the boundary points would be limiting or not. It is also possible that the parties do not let the arbitrator know the boundary points until after the decision is reached, if one or both feel that such might unfairly influence the result. They could then just be intended for use to determine who pays arbitration costs. However, it would still be necessary for the parties to know each other’s desired restitution value. It would make no sense to keep it secret from the counter party, go to arbitration, and then discover that you would have agreed to an amount without an arbitrator.

What about lawyers? Different arbitrators might allow or disallow them. In this system, they would rarely be necessary, and most often increase the expected cost for each side that uses one. An arbitrator should be unbiased, and should help both sides explain as well as understand the strength of each argument given by each side. An arbitrator’s goal is not only to make a just decision, but also to explain and convince both sides that the decision is just. This is not the goal of lawyers.

What about non-monetary compensation? This is a significant possibility, and a further complication that could add to the cost of arbitration. If a proposed compensation is to be labor of the perpetrator to the victim, then as the victim would act as employer, then the repayment wage rate would have to be agreed upon as any other wage rate. The arbitrator could help decide this, as well as look for third parties who would accept labor and then pay the labor wage to the victim.

This system does not require the alleged perpetrator to agree that any wrong was done. He can even claim that since no wrong was done, he is owed compensation for the counter party wasting his time. The formula would still encourage him to not overestimate this counter claim.

Additionally, despite modern practice, there is no reason to think this system would not also be best for criminal cases. Punitive damages could be part of restitution paid to the victim, not as fines paid to the state. When victims do not receive restitution through a criminal justice system, there is an increase in both extremes of letting crimes go unreported and unpunished, due to lack of incentive, and of victims groups advocating punishments that do more harm to the perpetrator than would be done by fair restitution. (See Bruce Benson’s books The Enterprise of Law and To Serve and Protect for historical examples of restitution-based free market courts and their successes, as well as the failures created when states monopolized criminal justice systems.)

Religious groups have usually realized that to submit to states in the area of justice is to make the religion a pawn of the state. Jews have always had a Beit Din to resolve problems religious, civil and sometimes even criminal. Islam has Sharia courts for the same purpose. Christians are required to do the same, per the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. (However, I don’t know of Christian groups that actually have established even informal courts or respected arbitrators for this purpose, other than religious bodies intended to decide purely religious dogmatic conflicts.)

There are many possible complications, but none of them really diminish the value of this formula. What if one party refuses to go to any arbitrator? What if some arbitrators are corrupt? What about appeals? These and many more are all legitimate questions. To answer them all would make this essay a textbook. However, other writers have already insightfully answered these questions, including Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, Power and Market, Bruce Benson’s The Enterprise of Law, Morris and Linda Tannehill’s The Market for Liberty, and David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom.

These authors (and more like Anthony de Jasay and J.C. Lester) provide quite different methodologies, but reach similar conclusions about the efficiency of polycentric law and arbitration compared to authoritarian, conquest-based law.

Could this be the kernel of truth to the concept of justice? Is justice something that must be created and defined by a government whose origins in conquest of weaker parties precede and supercede its concept of justice (sovereign immunity)? Or is justice a principle where conflicting parties resolve disputes without allegiance to any party above, beyond, superceding, or immune to justice?

Given that people tend to be utility maximizers, judicial systems will be tools to maximize the utility of those who control them. In a state, its laws are written to maximize the utility of the ruling coalitions as opposed to the whole ‘people,’ the subjects, or any other partition of it. If any social group seeks to be classless and judicially independent, it cannot form a state where any weaker party is subject to law made by the stronger. Nor can any part of the group be immune to the principles of justice.

There could be many social groups that could make themselves judicially sovereign-independent. Religious groups mentioned already have such rules, and might intend to be an example to outsiders in being independent from states. It is possible to have multiple overlapping social judicial groups, but this would create hierarchical limitations, as individuals would need priorities as to which social group (with its justice) to place primary association. For example, a conflict arises between parties who are in the same religious judicial group and the same business judicial group. Both groups could not require all members to seek justice for internal conflicts only through that group’s arbitration system. Or if these groups do, and have differing memberships, then individuals who joined both would have to violate one of the groups’ primacy agreements if such a conflict arose.

The reason that justice without sovereign immunity would naturally exist in cohesive social groups is that individuals obtain significant utility from their social group, and ostracism by one’s social group could provide a persuasive influence to those who would consider refusing to accept an arbitrated decision. Several millennia of diasporic Jewish social groups all over the world provide plenty of historical evidence for this non-state judicial system to be sufficient to maintain internal peace and order, especially relative to a state justice system. Social groups then compete non-geographically in the market for members, based on many factors, justice likely being one.

Nokia as Extreme Corporate Corruption… a Puppet CEO from Microsoft

April 18, 2012 at 11:50 am | Posted in Decentralism, Operating Systems, Technology | 1 Comment

In 2008 I made this blog post about corporate corruption at Motorola and an incompetent CEO.  Since then, Motorola somewhat recovered by a partnership with Google and focus on Linux/Android.  Google still had to buy them out in the end.

Well now Nokia has a puppet CEO Stephen Elop, formerly from Microsoft, and as shown, still showing loyalty to Microsoft against his duty to his new employer.  There isn’t much to say beyond this very detailed analysis by award winning industry veteran writer and consultant Tomi Ahonen.  What did Elop do? 1. Burn all bridges with partners. 2. Destroy existing ecosystems long before dead or with something ready to replace them, 3. Fire all his best sales teams.  4. Throw Nokia’s fortune all under Microsoft’s platform which they couldn’t control, fix, or improve. 5. Replace experienced veteran employees with ex-Microsoft employees unfamiliar with a very detailed business.  6. Not allow sales of highly rated products in most markets so he could 7. promote Microsoft Windows Phones that didn’t yet exist and ended up being rated as inferior to the products he refused to sell.

Tomi’s article is too long and detailed unless you, like me, want to learn lessons on corporate corruption that places way too much power centrally in a CEO. That article is 4 months old and still applies without any counter-developments. Nokia is still sliding fast.  It will be interesting to watch what type of bottom it will reach in its slide.  I highly doubt it would be liquidated, the most extreme option.  Could Microsoft have to buy it and bail it out?  Could Elop face punishment for violation of fiduciary duty?

It would be a popcorn worth period if it wasn’t destroying jobs at a company that was on the verge of meaningful decentralized business progress with FOSS software like Qt and Meego products before hiring Elop for CEO.

Additional Tomi quote from a different post of his:

Elop Effect – A CEO’s statements that annouce that your products are obsolete now, and commit to producing several new products on the obsolete basis before replacements are to be made; all while calling your own products crap, even adding claims of imagined faults that your products do not have. That is the Elop Effect and it will destroy your company in less than a year, guaranteed.

Anarchist Revisions for Civilization the PC Game

April 12, 2012 at 10:49 am | Posted in Anarchism, Decentralism, Political theory, Technology | 2 Comments

[Originally posted on www.strike-the-root.com on July 21,2005, but reposting here as that site has technical issues.]

The computer game series Civilization created by Sid Meier manages to find a spot near the top of every list of top computer games of all time. As a moderate game enthusiast, I agree with such a placement. It is an addictive game that remains enjoyable long after being dated by better software technology. There are three versions created in the last 15 years with a fourth due in 2005, but previews show it will not likely address many of the challenges to the realism that I address here.

The title reveals the massiveness of its scope. You start as an ancient tribe just inventing the wheel and the alphabet with continuous progression in time to the modern world and beyond. Libertarians and anarchists who have played have probably grumbled at the portrayal of government. ‘Anarchy’ in the game is the period of chaos, revolution, and poor productivity experienced when switching between supposedly more stable and permanent forms of government. Despotism is the original form of government at the dawn of civilization, and different government types are ‘discovered’ through research, and democracy is considered the most advanced and generally advantageous form to have in the game.

Having played the game, I thought it would be good to have a more realistic and thus libertarian version of the game. However, the game requires a government to be controlled by the player in order for there to be a game to actually play. Trying to imagine an anarchist version, I could only think that being able to control a single individual unable to control the choices of even your own anarchist society, I gave up the thought of reconciling the political flaws of the game in a manner to retain the entertainment value.

The series has tried to make entertaining scenarios where a player can play real historical wars and events. Some scenarios it could do moderately well such as the World Wars. However, George W. Bush’s current War on Iraq could not even remotely be recreated within the design framework of the Civilization series. Not only does it fail completely to accurately model human nature in government, it equally fails to model 4th generation war.

An attempt to make a Civilization game model of the Iraq war would have one enormous problem. It could correctly model the three week conquest of Iraq , but that is it. In the Civilization game, that would be the end of war, end of story. Iraq with its oil reserves would then be a part of the American Empire. Destroyed infrastructure would have to be replaced, but citizens would go from pawns of one state to pawns of another without any further opposition or guerilla war. Judging by Bush administration pre-war statements, it seems they might have based their lack of post-invasion strategy on playing Civilization.

But what would be the best way to model the fundamental nature of real civilization to replicate all these historical events? While seeking this answer, I discovered that real civilization with its major complexities could in fact be modeled into a playable game.

The existing series starts with nomads settling down starting their first non-nomadic village. This dawn of land-bound agriculture should not begin with despotism as Sid Meier has it, but the opposite: anarchism. In a world of wide open spaces and nomadic lifestyle, those who want to leave can easily do so, and chasing them down to enslave them would be an impossible task, so any government must be wholly by consent at the start of the game. What ‘you the player’ as a people are is not a state, but a people/culture/tribe. (I could add nation, but the modern meaning of nation has changed.) The existing games blur this distinction, just as state propaganda would not have us comprehend the difference.

However, it is true that this ‘people’–either yours or other peoples in the game–could become a state, and likely many will. It happened historically, and the game would be inaccurate if perpetual blissful anarchy was the norm. This possibility starts after agricultural former nomads become fixed to the land, forgetting the nomadic way of life, and space constraints first make escape less likely to succeed. Two societies cross, often in competition for relatively scarce resources. Language barriers naturally exist, but were not modeled in the Civilization games. These societies can either spend the effort to learn to practice peaceful trade, learning your neighbor tribe’s language, going to war, or some combination. Whenever one formerly anarchist tribe conquers another one, a state is born. But if there is no complete genocide, and the loser is made to pay tribute, tax, or enslaved, then this new combined dual society has castes and/or classes.

The existing games would make such a conquest the end of game for the conquered, and the conquered take on the culture and identity of the victor. Instead, this should not be the end of game for the conquered. In reality, the conquered people live on, and may fight against the state, either within its laws by trying to change them, outside the law of the state for their own higher law, or some combination. Eventually they could seek to emigrate somewhere where they can have more control over maintaining their identity.

One particularly interesting historical people that any realistic Civilization game should be able to model is the Israelite/Jewish people’s history. Start from their entry into Egypt per the Torah record. Joseph was offered a high position in government by the Pharaoh for his management skills, and in return, the Israelites became a privileged caste, whereas the rest of the country became indentured servants.[1] But as a minority, eventually the tables turned and the influence of the masses turned their privilege to slavery, from which they eventually made their Exodus. After the Exodus they are again a free society, though eventually enslaving themselves to a king. Part of Israel is then scattered by Assyria to such a degree that they lose their identity. (In game terms, this loss of self-awareness as a people would be the ‘end game-failure’ condition, if this were the whole people.) Then there is the Roman Diaspora in AD 70, but the Jews continue to maintain their cultural identity in multiple nations.

This is what should be modeled: A game player controls a united people whom are not bound by force. The people could stay free, become enslaved in a state, become enslavers in the state, have their identity fade away through assimilation, hostile propaganda, or even genocide by enemies. If the game player does enslave another people, then at most he can control most of their production. He cannot control their will. (Though he may try and have some success with propaganda, bread, circuses, and buying allegiance through granting privilege to leaders of the enslaved people.) Likewise if he is enslaved, he controls his people’s will to resist, the fighting spirit, the counter propaganda, and even attempts to seek friendly cultures to make an alliance against his enslavers.

The factor that unites a people should have a name. Perhaps the best term for this, get ready . . . is religion. This may seem odd and incompatible with the reality of multi-cultural cooperation, but there is a type of religion that makes the reality instead of the Plato’s cave type perception. Are the American Baptists and American Mormons part of the same, or hostile religions? They seem to be able to go to war together to kill the Assyrian Orthodox Christian women and children in Iraq and be proud of it as justified collateral damage. In truth, their religion is not Baptist or Mormon, but American.

Every state is a religion. Generally we call this worship of state civic religion, with its flags, anthems, pledges of allegiance, rituals, and holidays. (Notice the etymological origin from holy day.) States often allow freedom of religion, but by propaganda, forced schooling/brainwashing, and threats to dissenters, it instills the civic religion into the core of every approved religion. You no longer have to believe that the state or king is God, only the instrument of God to be obeyed and the legitimate maker of laws of right and wrong.

In the existing series, a player is the head of state who must choose how to allocate workers to agriculture, manufacturing, trade, science, entertainment and such fields. This could still be done similarly in this essay’s revised game concept as a popular leader of a people, and it can be assumed that your people as a people consent to your general wisdom. (Exceptions nevertheless exist for alienating some people, and you could experience an outflow of people feeling unappreciated.) If whole cities are entirely of your people, then control of city dynamics could be similar to the existing games. Some of these cities could be in free anarchies, while others could be controlled and regulated by hostile states demanding tribute. Individual cities could be mixed cultures, and the trade and interaction of your people could vary by the strengths, weaknesses, peaceful or hostile state of other cultures to yours.

So everyone would want to know, ‘How do you model choices between capitalism and socialism?’ Unfortunately, those terms are too ambiguous. I can’t imagine a capitalism/socialism meter where you choose between 0-100% to represent the two. Instead, there needs to be meters to choose between tradeoff in voluntary cooperation vs. voluntary competition. There should be at least two of these: One internal one for how your own people are treated, and external meters for each of the other peoples that could change based on relative mutual regard between each people. Too much cooperation makes some people inefficient free riders, but too much internal competition gives no reason for your people to be loyal to you if they could be better off joining some other society.

If a player did create a state, then the game should accurately model the historical difficulty of undoing it. The creation of a state creates massive privilege among the conquering people. If a player created a state and then wants to abandon it, realism requires that at most he lead a break off culture (a counter-culture) because the portion of his people who obtained privilege would not follow him in this abandonment. So the game should not only allow for the various mergers between peoples, but even a single culture could split in two.

This game concept will have opponents. If a player (even a computer AI) decides to create a state and subjugate or destroy opposing cultures, then genocide is the inevitable approach against those who refuse subjugation. Players who likewise try to refuse subjugation will have to survive genocide attempted upon them. The opponents of this game will claim horrification at the possibility of modeling the Holocaust. Nevertheless, if the game provides an accurate model of this reality, it provides a means to observe causes of many possible historical or theoretical holocausts. Is not this a good way to remember the Holocaust to not repeat it in the real world?

I have no idea if Sid Meier and Co. are too ideologically invested in the inaccuracies of their series to desire these corrections or not. This concept is different enough from the Civilization series that a competitor could make such a game described here without violating Civilization copyrights if necessary. Still, this is only a rough outline of the structure of this game concept. Feel free to add ideas that could be useful to model the real nature of civilization, hopefully to present to a video game company to see if they would create such a game.

Christian Deism

April 4, 2012 at 11:20 am | Posted in Religion | 1 Comment

Food for religious thought. This is really only for readers interested religious thought and doesn’t address libertarian thought, unlike most of my posts.

I’ve long understood Zechariah 13 as an argument for “Christian deism” for lack of a better word in its tie to 1 Corinthians 13:8. These passages say prophecy, unclean spirits, speaking in tongues, (supernatural) knowledge will cease. Everyone hates me using the phrase Christian deism.  By that I mean that God stopped supernatural interference in the world after a point in time, both his own and that of angels or demons.

Zech. 13 implies this will happen in the time/generation of Messiah. 1 Cor. 13:8 doesn’t say when, only to expect it when the “perfect” has come and so these supernatural interferences in the world (“the partial” of 1 Cor. 13:8-10).  Jesus granted supernatural gifts to his apostles (his own generation) and they were able to pass it on through laying on hands. There is no Biblical statement nor history that those receivers could also pass it on.  So we might presume that, at most, the cutting off of the supernatural happened maybe one generation after Messiah.

And that coincidentally ties in to the best explanation of “the perfect” of 1 Cor. 13:10.  The completion and closing of all scriptural canon, which happened about a generation after Messiah, completed by writers of His own generation.

While traditional Jewish thought makes God actually choose to make the sun rise every day, etc., that isn’t nearly as different as it seems.  We may broaden that statement to say God chooses to limit Himself so as to maintain the laws of nature he created.   Separate that statement from God interfering with those laws of nature, i.e. supernatural interference.  Compare Moses’ request to see the full power of God in Exodus 33. God couldn’t allow that because God has to limit himself so that humans can have our own existence/free will.

(Tangent: This gets into the medieval scholastic theological split of Thomas Aquinas vs. William Occam.  Respectively, viewing God as the logical structure of the universe vs. God as pathmaker through the universe. Stated that way, I think they are both right instead of opposites, and other formulations of their philosophies are corrected by Karl Popper’s critical rationalism that solves problems of strong rationalism and irrationalism.)

So in my view God needed to limit the supernatural in the world so that we can be even more judged by how he designed the natural world (Romans 1:19). But since Satan and his angels also influenced/supernaturally altered the world, God had to first bring the world to a perfect balance (recall 1 Cor. 13:10) so he could end both His own interferences and that of the demons as also with Zech. 13. (See also book of Enoch)

I don’t think it best to think of God as limiting his foreknowledge so as to not require predestination, as if one necessarily causes the other.  That problem is avoided by an actuarial perspective of God’s knowledge.  No actuarial formula is the “cause” for an outcome. But if the formulation has effectively infinite knowledge, it provides effectively infinite accuracy.  There was a good action movie called Paycheck that I thought did a good job of explaining foreknowledge without foreordination of details. Plus it provides a view of how God could provide a means to answer prayers within the world by having foreknown them, and adjusting all “butterfly effects” before setting the world in perfect balance.

Likewise, I don’t see a meaningful difference between beyond degree of those who think miracles happen today and snake dancing holy rollers.  I’d much prefer to stick to a strict and meaningful interpretation of the word miracle than to apply it to things like recoveries from illness, etc. I know many Christians don’t want to believe in a world now devoid of miracles, but if not, why not go challenging nonbelievers to the challenge like Elijah did to the Baal worshippers in 1 Kings 18?  I think they won’t because they agree with me even more than they think they do.

The Curiousness of Calvinist Libertarianism and Gary North

April 3, 2012 at 11:57 am | Posted in Anarchism, Decentralism, Political theory, Religion | 1 Comment

The Curiousness of Calvinist Libertarianism and Gary North

by Lysander’s Ghost

“There is no neutrality. One’s presuppositions about the nature of God, man, law, causation, and time shape one’s interpretation of all facts. There is no brute factuality, as Cornelius Van Til insisted; there is only interpreted factuality.” (Gary North, Conspiracy in Philadelphia, p. 7)

Gary North has contributed an enormous volume of printed work that has been part of the libertarian movement or at least an interesting cross traveler for several decades.  Most visible are his 700+ articles at LewRockwell.com, probably all of which are supportive of, or at the least, not inconsistent with radical libertarian anarchism.

This article exists precisely because Gary North is often very insightful.  Some of his excellent writings include critical analyses of the Federal Reserve, his arguments for a lifestyle of thrift, advice on market timing, support for home schooling and the Robinson Curriculum, the PhD glut and minimizing college costs, explaining the methods governments influence the price of gold, and highlighting Deuteronomy 20:5-8 as a religious argument not only against a military draft, but against all modern enlistment contracts as well.

This article has many quotes from his book “Conspiracy in Philadelphia” in part because so much of it is not only right, but uniquely original and persuasive to libertarian oriented thinking.  He argues and provides persuasive evidence that the Constitutional Convention of 1789 itself was a coup d’etat.  This article starts with an assumption that his evidence of such is persuasive and overwhelming.  Since he may be the primary re-discoverer of this perspective of history, his perspective on the composition, motives, and goals of the warring parties of pre-Constitutional USA could provide a strong influence on readers to accept his further conclusions.

North identifies the parties at odds in pre-revolutionary America as a Masonic/deistic/unitarian/natural law alliance, along with those they influenced, which includes Federalists and Anti-Federalists on one side, and the Trinitarian Calvinists as represented by the heirs of John Winthrop as the other.  I argue that instead the division is between centralists and decentralists, with centralists being the party who created the coup, instituting the Constitution.  However, as decentralism had popular support, the centralist coup disguised their replacement for the Articles of Confederation with a false appearance of decentralism and natural law, but they did not mean it.  As Lysander Spooner wrote in 1867, the writers of the Constitution, “said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part; who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said.”  (NoTreason, No. 1, sec. X)

To begin, I admit my non-neutrality in this review.  I come from a Christian anarchist perspective fundamentally hostile in many ways to North’s religion.  This article is an unrepentant argument for where I disagree with him.  Eventually in some other article, I hope to enlighten the reader to my Christian anarchist perspective that was nearly exterminated from the US, by both the carrot and stick of government suppression.

To summarize my bias, my heritage is of the Churches of Christ influenced by the anarchist David Lipscomb1 and before him the classical liberal Alexander Campbell.  Campbell was, according to supporters and opponents alike, influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment and took a perspective influenced by the triumvirate of Isaac NewtonFrancis Bacon, and John Locke which led him to reject his Calvinist Presbyterian heritage.  The Biblical interpretations developed were believer-rationalist.  (As opposed to non-believer rationalist or believer-mysticist.)   So while other sects were indecisive regarding contemporary miraculous events, those influenced by Campbell would disbelieve in post-Apostolic supernatural events or expect some odd religious experience to overtake oneself.  Instead it focused on religion as an individual decision by people who are able to choose to do good or evil.

Gary North, is, more than anything a Calvinist, many of his arguments seem to present a radical Calvinist view for free markets, but to find out his desired “end stage” free society (if not a misnomer) his writings on libertarian websites are silent and you must delve into his massive quantity of religious writings.  Every interpretation of factuality for North is symbolically tied to defending Calvinism and opposing its enemies.  But do some of his more significant historical narratives and concept associations hold up?

To understand North one must understand John Calvin first.  There is no better point than the most notorious act of John Calvin, the execution of Michael Servetus.[1]  Any radical Calvinist has to make this seem at least partly justifiable.  Servetus was neither Arian, not Sabellian and accepted the divinity of Jesus, but was a non-trinitarian and an advocate of voluntary baptism, and so Calvin wrote:

“Servetus has just sent me a long volume of his ravings. If I consent he will come here, but I will not give my word for if he comes here, if my authority is worth anything, I will never permit him to depart alive.”  (Letter to William Farel, Feb. 13, 1546)

Calvin’s authority in Geneva was significant.  Servetus did not depart alive.  The peaceful scientist and scholar was burned on the stake.  Though killed by Calvinist religious intolerance, the Catholics and Lutherans wanted the same fate for Servetus and thanked Calvin for doing the dirty work.  Philipp Melanchthon, Luther’s cohort thanked Calvin’s magistrates for the execution.  Before that, Servetus had to flee the Catholic Inquisition due to Calvin getting the Vienna Catholics to go after him.

But there was a contemporary defender of Servetus’ right to think and speak without fear of death for it.  Sebastian Castellio wrote at the time, “When Servetus fought with reasons and writings, he should have been repulsed by reasons and writings.”  In opposition to Castellio, Calvin wrote “Defense of the Orthodox Faith in the Sacred Trinity” to defend repulsing reasons and writings with executions.  This should be considered even more important to understanding applied Calvinism than his Institutes of the Christian Religion3  because of its purpose to defend execution for differences of religious opinion.  Castellio would further challenge the hypocrisy of Calvin’s plea for persecuted Protestants (Institutes, Preface to the King of France) when Calvin did not show the same restrain and mercy.  Further applied moral comparison is seen when no Calvinist leader but only Castellio went to help the poor during a plague while Calvin considered himself too important to risk being around the ill.

The Anabaptists of the Radical Reformation deserve the true credit for bringing the principle of freedom of thought and peaceful coexistence to the West after the Dark Ages.  However, they were too far from mainstream trying to avoid extermination themselves to be a strong influence.  John Milton, in perhaps the most influential moral argument for toleration in his Areopagitica, spread significant and powerful arguments for freedom of thought.  But even before Milton, Castellio promoted the separation of church and state in opposition to Calvin at great personal cost leading to his own poverty due to the political power of Calvin.

Murray Rothbard  popularized an interesting perspective on the secularization of postmillennialism and it becoming an essential element of both Marxism and the secularized Yankee American Protestants.  Murray was wrong by a tangent.  Postmillennialism (supported both by Calvinists and anti-Calvinists) is a belief that implies individuals can successfully shape the future.[2]  It was in fact secularized Calvinism that was the essential element of Marxism and Yankee Protestants.  Postmillennialism could be statist or not, but Calvin was statist as the social structural foundation.

So who wast most influential in secularizing Calvinism?  Jean Jacques Rousseau grew up in the Calvinist stronghold of Geneva and received his childhood education by the study of Calvin’s sermons.[3]  He wrote his most influential political work, The Social Contract while a confessed Calvinist, albeit taking significant secularizing deviances.  It maybe wrongly thought that Calvinism is a hard philosophy to secularize because it argues that man cannot learn of God, good, or evil except through scripture, and even then not by choice.  However, in fact and application due to the authority given to the state to punish heresy and the opposition to natural law, what is secularized is the form, the social structure of Calvinism.  A Calvinist society is (and was in Genevan history) one where the civil government’s duty is to enforce the absolute Calvinist creed.  Calvinists actually think of this as the “proper type” of separation of church and state.  Secularized Calvinism is still a society opposed to natural law, claiming it to be a myth.[4]  Instead, it merely replaces the written religious creed with the civil statute.  Both theocratic Calvinism and civic Calvinism make the creeds/statutes absolute as interpreted by man via the state.  Secularized Calvinism is positivism.

Calvinists support a type of separation of church and state, but how meaningful could it be?  Calvin’s successor and disciple, Theodore Beza also wrote “On the Punishment of Heretics by the Civil Magistrate” in 1554 to further promote the Calvinist totalitarian state position that liberty of conscious was a “diabolical doctrine.”  North would similarly write, “So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” (The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, p. 25)

Before North was so blunt in stating the Calvinist position, Rousseau wrote, “…no State has ever been founded without a religious basis…Every religion, therefore, being attached solely to the laws of the State which prescribed it, there was no way of converting a people except by enslaving it, and there could be no missionaries save conquerors.”  (Social Contract, Bk. 4, Sec. 8)

In Rousseau, the natural goodness of man only superficially seems opposed to Calvinist original sin.  In fact, this goodness represents the Edenic era, and for Rousseau, when humans create the concept of property (remember, in Calvinism there could be no natural law for property so property is artificial) this becomes the secularized original sin and fall of man.  His “General Will” is like a secularization of God, but more than that because Calvinists considered their interpretation as in their creeds absolute enough to use it to determine heresies worthy of death.  Likewise Rousseau considered religious truths as determined by the legislature equally enforceable by death and wrote, “If any one, after publicly recognising these dogmas [civil religion], behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death: he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.” (Social Contract, Bk. 4, Sec. 8)  Rousseau said the people “must be forced to be free.”  Is this not identical to Calvin’s philosophy of forcing heretics to recant or die?  Rousseau’s argument that the General Will is infallible also derives from Calvin’s insistence that his scriptural interpretation was correct because if “the Elect” could misinterpret, then God would be the author of confusion.

Libertarians are pretty familiar with the historical development of modern totalitarianism starting with the French Revolution, Hegel, Marx, etc. with Rousseau as a godfather of it all.  Hopefully this is enough basis to show that Calvinism is the root of all of it through Rousseau.

Finally, if the sceptic still doubts Rousseau’s debt to Calvin for his Social Contract concept of total government, read his own comments on Calvin specifically regarding their agreement on political organization:

“Those who know Calvin only as a theologian much under-estimate the extent of his genius. The codification of our wise edicts, in which he played a large part, does him no less honour than his Institutes. Whatever revolution time may bring in our religion, so long as the spirit of patriotism and liberty still lives among us, the memory of this great man will be for ever blessed.” (Social Contract, Bk II, sec. 7, footnote 13)

Calvinist politics was what Rousseau learned, experienced, loved, imitated, idealized, and claimed for his own.  Was the French Reign of Terror applicationally any different than Geneva’s Reign of Calvin?

Returning to Gary North, his  symbolic bad guy should be like Servetus.  This person (for US History) is Roger Williams.  While Williams was a trinitarian, he peacefully tolerated non-trinitarianism.

“Roger Williams fled Massachusetts and headed into the wilderness of what was to become Rhode Island. Williams successfully created a new colony, but it was far more than a new colony; it was a new concept of civil government. It was a concept that has become dominant today – the distinguishing mark of political modernism. He founded a colony that was openly secular; there would be no church-state connection, or even a religion-state connection.”  (CIP, p. 9)

“[Rhode Island] was the first civil order in the West to break with the concept of trinitarian civil covenantalism. This tiny colony, established self-consciously as an alternative to the theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was the birthplace of modern political pluralism.”  (CIP, p. 13)

Breaking with “trinitarian civil covenantalism” makes Rhode Island bad, like Servetus.  Even tolerating such is just as bad, as Calvin wrote “Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are.”  (Defense of the Orthodox Faith, 1554) (Although writing this article means I’m worthy of death by Calvinism, that is not the reason I use a pseudonym.)

“Theologically and philosophically, unitarianism was an eighteenth century phenomenon, with theological roots in the late seventeenth century, especially in the systematically concealed theology of the most influential unitarian in Western history, Sir Isaac Newton.”  (CIP, p. xviii)

So even Isaac Newton deserves blame for the power growth of the modern American nation-state?  I won’t take the tangent to defend Newton here further than to say that the excesses of strict rationalism that Newton inspired (though opposed) has been corrected by Karl Popper and critical rationalism without falling into irrationalism.  It seems that politically, the Unitarians in the 18th century were the allies and heirs of the Calvinist social structure of Massachusetts, and were the major part of Boston by the end of the American Revolution.  President John Adams also represents this change from Calvinist to Unitarian without a change in faith in a coercive centralized state.  Unlike Servetus, American Unitarians were a half-secularized version of Calvinism that Murray Rothbard grouped as “postmillennial pietists.”  Besides the direct geographical, family, and government influenced secularized Yankee Calvinism, the American Unitarians[5] were influenced by Rousseau’s Calvinism.  Their negative influence on America does not provide evidence against “freedom of religion” because, like the Calvinists and Rousseau, they did not really believe in freedom of religion as they claimed because they had not grasped that the centralized state they supported was their real religion, and one they intended to compel on others through compulsory education laws, which they were the first to implement in 1844, in Massachusetts.

“[Unitarianism] gained influence politically after 1830 in the North because most American Protestants in the North had already adopted its political conclusion regarding the necessity of a unitary state, a state that matched Unitarianism’s doctrine of God.” (CIP, p. xviii)

How does a unitary God imply a unitary state?  Does a fat wallet imply a fat belly?  Analogy is not proof and this important claim seems left unargued.  Perhaps some Calvinist can provide an argument for this that I have not yet found.

“The political history of the United States after 1688 has essentially been the extension of Roger Williams’ view of civil government, as opposed to John Winthrop’s….  But if Rhode Island was not the explicit political-theological representative model in eighteenth-century colonial America, what was?” (CIP p. 13)

To answer his question: these two models fought, but merged.  As both secularized, the “freedom of thought” of Williams became the outward face, but the total state model of Winthrop became the hidden cornerstone.  Although Williams believed in believer’s baptism, like most Baptists he still supported most if not all of the 5 points of Calvinism[6] and attacked Arminianism, and so even when Baptists occasionally try to promote freedom, they pit their belief in voluntaryism (inherent in the voluntary baptism doctrine) with their Calvinist influences. (See the TULIP.)  Winthrop, besides governing constant condemnations and death sentences for heresy, considered the Native Americans had no title to the land and so made war with them.  Williams intentionally tried to seek fair dealings and relations with the Native Americans.  Notice that Winthrop’s actions are completely consistent with the Calvinist rejection of natural law, and William’s actions are here consistent with support for natural law.  Further, it may be little more than anecdotal evidence that the Bush family is descended from Winthrop, and, as far as I can tell, not Williams.

Gary North would have the focus between the Winthrop vs. Williams model as the issue of freedom of thought.  But if that is just the face, and belief or disbelief in natural law is the meaningful core, then we get a new picture where Calvinism through Rousseau in Europe, but directly through the Puritans in America built a nation that increasingly rejected natural law yet with occasional lip service to it, then the continuous decline in individual sovereignty is a direct continuation, even down to individual families of influence, from Winthrop.[7]

Gary North specifically addresses what he calls “halfway covenantalism” in the US citing the influence of Rev.  John Witherspoon and the legal theory of William Blackstone.  Blackstone, as North acknowledges, promoted an “absolute judicial sovereignty of Parliament.” (CIP, p. 20)  Prior to this investiture in Parliament, there was the absolute power within the King of England called the Divine Right of Kings.  Absolute power transfers quickly between human institutions without cessation as long as people believe in absolute power whenever one institution gains the majority of relative power.

Blackstone believed in a face of natural law, as North quotes him,  “This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other.”  But North quotes Blackstone further, “But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error…the revealed law is (humanly speaking) of infinitely more authority than what we generally call the natural law… If we could be as certain of the latter as we are of the former, both would have an equal authority; but, till then, they can never be put in any competition together.” (CIP, p. 21)

So Blackstone promotes the human ability of the state to interpret scripture as infinitely more reliable than any interpretation of natural law.  This is really not a defense of natural law, but a false and superficial concession like a right to beg for mercy.

North also provides evidence of the poisoning of natural law beliefs with the overlapping domination of Calvinism.  “From the time of the Puritans until about the middle of the nineteenth century, American evangelicalism was dominated by a Calvinistic vision of a Christian culture.”  (The Failure of American Baptist Culture, p.5)  And elsewhere,  “By the early eighteenth century, natural law doctrines were universally accepted by all educated men in the colonies.” (CIP, p. 62)

North makes a major oversimplification, ignoring the difference between superficial verses consistent natural law doctrines.  Anything short of Lysander Spooner’s natural law perspective is necessarily superficial, having less power than the state.  The opposite of natural law doctrine is unlimited sovereignty.  Since North argues that Blackstone supported the unlimited power of parliament, and likewise the Constitution provided no external limitation, these are proof that natural law never took hold in America and was only popular as a superficial concept left over from the justification for independence.

The Federalists under Hamilton and Washington blurred the concept of natural law with an effectively unbounded legislature (despite their claims) because they could profit and secure power thereby.  North intentionally perpetuates the error so as to blame natural law theory for the evils that quite naturally followed from Federalist-Constitutionalism.

Similar to Blackstone, Calvinism makes concessions to Biblical scripture, but at root they believed in the absolute power, even unto unlimited capital punishment, of their interpretation of scripture rather than scripture itself.  Recall the Calvinist (Van Tillian) position believing only in interpreted factuality with no brute factuality.  The unspeakable next conclusion is that if scripture is fact, there is no brute scriptural factuality, only interpreted scriptural factuality.

This may seem to be too rational a deduction for Calvinists, given their belief in Total Depravity.  But even Calvinists must have a moment of doubt when their natural reason sees a contradiction.  It is to this I appeal in Calvinist readers.

But should a criticism end with Calvin?  Actually, Calvin claimed to expand on Augustine, and that is true enough.  Just like Calvin had his Servetus, Augustine had his Pelagius.  Twice Pelagius had the chance to defend himself from the accusations of Augustine of heresy, and both times he was acquitted.  So Augustine engineered two synods with Pelagius unable to defend himself in order to get a condemnation.  These synods sent their evidence also to Bishop Zosimus of Rome, and when Pelagius’ defense was received, he was again acquitted, but the acquittal was later overturned due to Augustine’s side bribing the Roman Emperor Honorius to outlaw Pelagius and his beliefs, and then the Roman state coercing Zosimus to change his position.[8]  It is only by such statism has original sin theology been ramrodded into Christianity, and opposition to it made heretical.

As followers of Augustine’s actions, the Westminster Confession of Faith would establish as strict Calvinist dogma: “…he [the Civil Magistrate] has authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordainances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he has power to call synods, to be present at them and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God”  (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, Ch. XXIII, sec. 3)

Then Rousseau took the next step. He repeated the Calvinist demand for the state to enforce religion (or a secularization) on the whole society: “For the State to be peaceable and for harmony to be maintained, all the citizens without exception would have to be good Christians.” And in the same section, “Of all Christian writers, the philosopher Hobbes alone has seen the evil and how to remedy it, and has dared to propose the reunion of the two heads [church and state] of the eagle, and the restoration throughout of political unity, without which no State or government will ever be rightly constituted.”  (Social Contract, Bk IV, sec. 8)

Augustine’s belief system was an attempt to explain his own lack of ability to control his own sexual desire using his Manichaean dualism (flesh is bad, spirit is good) and Neoplatonism as a means to interpret Christian scriptures.  He took the concept of Original Sin, which was most likely invented in the wildly imaginative mind of Origen, who likely created it to explain and justify infant baptism, a practice that Church Father Tertullian argued against in a manner as if he had never heard that it was actually practiced by some.  Augustine expanded it to make all sexual activity, even in marriage as innately evil, and thus a baby is born due to the evil lust necessary for a man to impregnate his wife, and so an infant is thereby born in sin too.

Calvin wrote, “”Again I ask: whence does it happen that Adam’s fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? … The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.” (Institutes, Bk 3, Ch 23, s. 7)  And we see the belief came from Augustine.

Just as Augustine used violent coercive power of the state against the more ethical Pelagius, he had already done so against the Donatists.  Augustinianism is a foundation of Catholicism and all mainstream Protestants, excluding the Radical Reformation and other Restorationist movements.  Despite some good limits in his Just War Theory, libertarians should be wary of those influenced by Augustine.

North wrote of my religious heritage, “The Church of Christ may be the most self-conscious Arminian denomination m the world, whose founders left Presbyterianism in the 1820’s because they could not stand Calvinism.”  (North, The Legitimacy of Revival, 1995)  The problem with this statement is that Arminianism is Calvinism-lite, still accepting original sin, total depravity, involuntary baptism, and faith only.  The Church of Christ rejects Arminianism because we reject these gnostic-platonic doctrines.  I take the statement, “they could not stand Calvinism” as a great compliment. For those further interested, see this article of a comparison of Alexander Campbell’s religious similarities to Thomas Jefferson, particularly regarding their mutual quotes of disdain for Calvinists.  www.leroygarrett.org/ac_tj/chap04.htm

 

Technically, rationalism is separate from libertarianism but I see it as a necessary foundation, given the limitations for human error in empiricism as warned by Karl Popper, so I address it in relation to Calvinism also.

North as an explicit Calvinist places his beliefs outside of rationalism or irrationalism.  “Rationalism and irrationalism are inherent in all forms of non-Christian thought.” (CIP, p. 47)  But the perspective of rationalism vs. irrationalism as a false dichotomy is common to almost all irrationalists.  The rationalist sees no third alternative.  You may ask how can you persuade an irrationalist?  Not until they first decide to accept the natural reasoning within their own mind against their artificial training.

Calvinist presuppositional apologetics starts with belief in Christian revealed scripture as truth, strictly rejecting the need or possibility for rational arguments undergirding that, as this is their foundational belief.  Calvin wrote, “…it is utterly inconsistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to anything but God’s secret plan…it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God’s will.” (Institutes B 3, Ch 23, s. 1)  In other words, if you don’t understand it is because God won’t let you understand, and don’t try as it is a secret.

Presuppositionalism also ignores the question of knowing the actual contents of scripture, much less interpretation.  If I argue that that all known Greek New Testament texts contain simple and obvious errors that only make sense if translated from an original in Aramaic, how do they argue which language scripture was originally in or the books that constitute it?  They argue you must start with scripture, but with no means or allowance to prove the boundaries or language of the canon of scripture, except to demand that there is one that must be enforced by the state.

According to Calvinism, you can’t judge the Bible true.  God chooses those who will accept it.  Following the Creed is just external evidence God has probably accepted (predestined) you.  Although debating the rightness of it for the purpose of persuasion is vain, an irrationalist is not bound to consistency, and often does a combination of arguing, killing, or book burning, which ever is seems best among options of the moment.  A Calvinist accepts scripture as a fixed whole without interpretational differences from the All-Powerful-Creed.  There could be no debate on particular contents of scripture.

Socialism did not result in its greatest evils because of the motto “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” even if libertarians often attack that motto.  Technically, libertarianism is indifferent because that motto doesn’t address the use of force or violation of rights and property.

Similarly, Calvinism does not result in its great evils because of its claim to put scripture first.  Where it mimics socialism (or more accurately, socialism mimics Calvinism) is not placing meaningful limits on those in power to interpret the supposedly absolute rule(s).  Whereas socialism took till Leninist-Marxism to have the chance to create totalitarian power, Calvinism took no time and it was pure Calvinist Calvinism in Geneva that created totalitarianism.

So given all this, are the Covenantal Calvinists like North libertarians?  The answer seems clear, but then if you look closely, I don’t think they ever claimed to be.  I am not claiming them to be dishonest.  They just have some significant overlaps where we can share scholarship, and we should.  But like the philosopher Bertrand Russell who made important advances for rigorous logic and metalogic, sometimes great ideas on a topic are advanced by those who don’t want to be bound by rationalism.  Irrationalists love to confound others, and sometimes do so by being quite rational.

Calvinism, like Calvinist scripture perhaps, has no brute factuality.  It is ironically possible to reinterpret Calvinism to be as pro-liberty as the extreme of anarcho-capitalism, as this theonomist Calvinist website tries to argue.  While I wish anyone the best of luck in such an endeavor, for the reasons presented in this article, I’m sure no one will expect me to gain much enthusiasm for it.


[1]For a very detailed proof that Calvin was not only responsible for the murder of Servetus, but of false witness and cover up, see this online book: http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/Lessons/Did%20Calvin%20Murder%20Servetus.pdf

[2]Premillennialism was originally more the opposite.  It foresaw a bad future that was unavoidable.  Only with 20th century premillennialism did premillennialists actualy decide to act to bring about the evils they believed necessary before a Second Coming.

[3]Gary North even provides some of Calvin’s sermons on his website for free under the section “Calvin Speaks”.  This might be useful for a young history student who wants to show more rigorously  how much Rousseau was influenced by Calvin.

[4]Serious libertarians also debate the metaphysical existence of natural law and rights, but however they choose to define or avoid certain terminology, they still believe in acting just as if they believe in natural law.   In contrast the Calvinists not only denied natural law, but acted contrary to it on principle.

[5]Admittedly, this is unfair to group all Unitarians as such.  I’m sure a more detailed history would find important exceptions.

[6]For a detailed analysis of the overlap and differences of Calvin and Williams, see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NXG/is_2_39/ai_n6116658

[7]It is too much for this article, but the Anglicans starting in Virginia deserve near equal condemnation in the controlling corruption of America.

[8]For sources and a detailed expansion, See this article on “The Sins of Augustine.”  http://www.gospeltruth.net/stmorgan.htm

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