July 12th, 2012

My Remarks from FreedomFest

Update: Here is the audio file, which includes the remarks of my debate opponents, as well as rebuttals (not included below). It’s 55 minutes long.

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This afternoon I participated in a debate at FreedomFest in Las Vegas regarding the political implications of Mormonism. I represented the libertarian view, Paul Mero of Sutherland Institute represented the conservative view, and Rory Reid, Harry Reid’s son, represented the liberal view.

Here are my remarks.

Introduction

At a Brigham Young University forum in 2007, Harry Reid, Rory’s father, said “My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined. I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it.” In a 2009 speech, Paul Mero stated that “I’m a conservative because I am a Latter-day Saint.” In my book Latter-day Liberty, published in 2011, I argue that the doctrines and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in fact support a libertarian political philosophy more than the others just mentioned, and will aim to explain why in these few minutes of time I’ve been allotted.

In a revelation given to the early Latter-day Saints in 1831, God told his followers to “be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign” (D&C 58:22). Similar counsel for Christian conduct is found in the New Testament when Jesus told his disciples to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21). The question politically-minded Christians must ask is: what belongs to Caesar? If we are to be subject to “the powers that be,” then which powers are legitimate and worthy of our support?

Other scriptures offer an answer. In section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants, another book of scripture within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it states that “we believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments…” (D&C 134:5). This important qualifier suggests that legitimate government powers, or “Ceasar,” must be restrained such that the individual rights of each person are properly protected—and only then is such government worthy of our complete allegiance.

Similarly, one of our church’s “Articles of Faith” stipulates that Latter-day Saints “believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” This statement of submission to political authority is often misinterpreted to argue that Mormons must subject themselves to political rulers and the laws of government. The actual statement only says, however, that we are subject to such rulers in their obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. The obligation to be subject to the powers that be requires that those powers be legitimate and lawful. If Latter-day Saints are obligated to support the existing political system inasmuch as that system obeys, honors, and sustains the law, then what is true law?

In a theocratic system, the law is what God says it is. As our lawgiver, he is of course free to create and enforce what laws he will, and for whatever reason (see Isaiah 55:8–9). But until Christ reigns, and while we are to be subject to the powers that be, the law necessarily takes a different shape. Left to govern ourselves, the law becomes, as Frédéric Bastiat said, nothing more than “the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.” Man-made government’s only legitimate role in our lives thus becomes the defense against aggression upon our persons or property. All other additions to government’s role and authority are illegitimate usurpations and a deviation from the underlying natural law that justifies the use of force only as a method to defend against aggression and impose justice.

As children of God, we are equals and lack the moral authority to unjustly impose anything upon one another, even (and especially!) righteousness and obedience to God’s commandments. Abstention from drugs and alcohol, sexual morality, fidelity in marriage, keeping the Sabbath day holy—these and so many other areas in which government currently interjects itself may only legitimately be promoted through persuasion. We are to persuade others to follow in Christ’s footsteps, not beat and tax them into compliance. Employing the government to achieve such ends—a stance supported by conservatives and liberals alike—requires abandoning true law and violates the inherent and inalienable rights of the affected persons. As our scriptures state, “the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never suppress the freedom of the soul” (D&C 134:5).

This is one of the most significant distinctions between libertarianism and the interventionist political philosophies of conservatism and liberalism. Many libertarians recognize the importance of families, charity, compassion, and equality, but believe that societal ideals such as these may only legitimately and morally be realized through persuasion. This harmonizes closely with God’s own pattern for promoting righteousness, as explained in the following quote by one of our faith’s leaders: “…God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. . . . He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess.” Using the coercive arm of the law to enforce compliance to a moral standard is anathema to the way God himself works. Why, then, do individuals believe that they can employ such means to realize their desired goals?

The end goals of conservatism and liberalism are, in many cases, important and worthy of our support. What form that support takes, however, is a significant point of contrast whereby libertarianism stands alone in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The common theme among liberals to feed the hungry, aid the poor, educate the ignorant, and otherwise offer assistance to those in need is something that every Christian has been commanded to do. Realizing those objectives through the state, however, creates a circumstance in which righteous ends are realized through unrighteous means. In other words, liberals endorse the use of coercion as a means to force people into helping their fellow man, confiscating an individual’s property through taxation in order to satisfy an apparent need on the part of another person to whom that stolen property is redistributed. By promoting social welfare through government programs, persuasion is abandoned and replaced with force. Of course, nowhere did Jesus state that his commandments to love and serve one another may be fulfilled through force. The opposite is true, and thus the libertarian position of realizing these important goals through peaceful, voluntary, charitable means is supported by Christ’s teachings.

Similarly, conservatism embraces the fleshy arm of the state to enforce the ends it deems most important, such as with drugs, marriage, obscenity, and other issues relating to morality. While not all libertarians will agree with the importance of adhering to these and other of God’s commandments, the political philosophy of libertarianism provides for the most moral method of promoting these societal standards. Whereas conservatism also endorses the use of coercion against those who engage in such activities, libertarianism recognizes that living a life of Christian conduct, or simply living a moral life and abstaining from such vices, is accomplished through a voluntary adoption of the underlying principles and lifestyle. We cannot and should not force a person to conform their behavior into compliance with God’s commandments.

Liberty is, in the words of one of Christ’s apostles, “the privilege to be free and to be unrestrained in all activity except that which interferes with the equally sacred rights of others.” And that, in a nutshell, is libertarianism.

[5 minutes ad-lib rebuttal]

Conclusion

The Mormon faith is based on certain key fundamentals, one of which is the concept of moral agency—the unrestrained ability to make our own decisions and be held accountable for them. We believe that God’s plan of saving his children and allowing them to return to his eternal glory is predicated upon this agency, such that individuals may choose whether or not to obey him. When Adam was placed into the Garden of Eden, he was taught God’s law and made to understand the various choices he might make. After telling Adam what he could and could not do, God noted that “thou mayest choose for thyself” (Moses 3:17). Even when disastrous decisions might negatively impact another person, God respects our agency and allows the consequences to unfold. How arrogant of mankind to intervene so often to “play God” and attempt to restrict another’s agency or to force a person to behave a certain way to avoid certain consequences.

This alternative was Satan’s counterfeit proposal to God’s plan of salvation. Satan was and is the polar opposite of peace and persuasion, ruling instead by coercion and control. This dichotomy between contrasting personalities was expressed well in the following quote by a church leader:

“But the spirit of that contention [between God’s and Satan’s followers] did not cease to exist. It has existed and has come down to us through the ages; one side contending for individual liberty and the rights of man, and the other side contending for rule by force and by compulsion. That was essentially the issue in that great conflict before the world was. Christ stood for government by persuasion, by long suffering, by kindness and gentleness and love unfeigned. The other power was for government and salvation for all, to be secured by the spirit of force and compulsion…”

Libertarianism, more than any other political philosophy in existence, upholds government by persuasion and the protection of individual liberty and the rights of man. Conservatism and liberalism each resort to government ruling by the spirit of force and compulsion in their varying areas of interest, content to mandate compliance to their preferred societal standard and imprison those who resist.

But the agency of man—the ability to make choices and reap the consequences—is as necessary to live morally and righteously as it is to live wickedly. If even God won’t force his children to obey his commandments and adhere to his “order,” then what right do we have to force one another to do so?

39 Responses to “My Remarks from FreedomFest”

  1. Marc Roberts
    July 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    To continue with your concluding sentence I contend that the very moment we endeavor to use force and coercion upon one another to limit the agency of man we are essentially denying Christ and the power of that great gift the atonement that made it possible for us to have agency in the first place.

  2. Joshua Steimle
    July 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    After reading the book Satan’s War on Free Agency, which you recommended to me, I’m curious as to why you included the quote “But the spirit of that contention [between God’s and Satan’s followers] did not cease to exist. It has existed and has come down to us through the ages; one side contending for individual liberty and the rights of man, and the other side contending for rule by force and by compulsion. That was essentially the issue in that great conflict before the world was. Christ stood for government by persuasion, by long suffering, by kindness and gentleness and love unfeigned. The other power was for government and salvation for all, to be secured by the spirit of force and compulsion…”

    I found the author’s opinion that Satan’s lie didn’t and doesn’t include force but rather blanket salvation (same results regardless of one’s actions) rather convincing. Just curious to know if you disagreed with the book on that point.

  3. chris
    July 13, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    I agree with much of what you say as a guiding philosophy, and especially agree with the scriptural principles you espoused very clearly.

    While I certainly agree with you more than I do with the liberals on the issue of making the world a better place through taxation and programs, I want to point something out.

    I think you have “over distilled” their position when you say the point of their programs is to compel or force righteousness. When a social program supporter calls for taxing and spending in behalf of others (and themselves) they are not doing so in an attempt to create righteous works in your behalf.

    To put it clearly, they are not taxing Steve Forbes more, so that Steve Forbes can be compelled to righteousness. Surely, you agree with me on this, as no one is attempting to “give credit” where it’s due as a result of taxing him. (actually, they seem to want to deny that Steve Forbes does any good at all)

    But rather, their point is simply that as a result of living in a society, which has no doubt provided Steve Forbes many opportunities (which he has done well with in large measure of his own merit…but still combined with the opportunity of our society), Steve Forbes is obligated to pay extra. And they would like to use that extra funding to “help” others out.

    Before addressing the merits of this argument, I think its important that you acknowledge your strawman is entirely wrong. Surely, no one is suggesting Steve Forbes is being compelled to righteousness. He’s paying extra, because they deem that he has a greater obligation to pay extra on account of his ability to carry a greater share of the tax burden. Certainly, it is argued that it’s all for the sake of charity or helping others, and that it’s righteous of a society to do such. And indeed, in some small respect it’s a more morally upstanding thing for a society to use tax money to help children eat breakfast as opposed to using tax money to do (fill in whatever immoral activity you can think of). — and again, I’m not suggesting the political policy or even the moral policy of countless welfare programs is a good one. I just don’t think you’ve demolished it as well as you think you have and I’m inclined to agree more with your position (than theirs)!

    Let me stress, I do not agree with this position as being a good principle of government. But I feel that if you actually want to intellectually engage with an idea, you have to understand the idea, and not just imagine up your own notions of the idea before demolishing it with scriptural quotes.

  4. E. Zachary Knight
    July 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Chris,

    Conner is not arguing that compelling charitable giving through taxation is compelling Forbes into righteousness. He is arguing that forcing people into participating in a program which some deem “righteous” is outside the bounds of Christs teachings and God’s law. The ends do not justify the means.

  5. Speckk
    July 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    It seems to me like there is some legal value to contracts related to marriage, even when marriage is no longer in the government’s purview. While infidelity, custody, and separation of assets are usually messy, relying on private enforcement and judgements could be worse than what society generally determines to be fair through legislation.

    Also, this writeup really needs footnotes for most of the quotes so we can see who said what, when, and in context.

  6. Val
    July 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Great work Connor. The doctrines of the priesthood are distilling upon thy soul.

  7. TRON
    July 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    I have a question to the libertarians. We have a rec center here in Lehi. No tax money goes to pay for it even though it is government run. The fees to enter pay for 100% of the cost to run it. Would the libertarians allow such a government institution, since there is no coercion. Or is government so hated by the libertarians that even a program that no one is forced to participate in, would be abolished?
    Along these lines if I wanted to have medicare and was willing to pay a monthly fee high enough to cover my total cost 100%. So that tax money wouldn’t pay a dime to subsidize me, would libertarians allow this also. Since they are not being forced to help me at all? Or would they make it mandatory that I use the private sector?

  8. Russ
    July 14, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    “Man-made government’s only legitimate role in our lives thus becomes the defense against aggression upon our persons or property. All other additions to government’s role and authority are illegitimate usurpations. . .”.

    What would you say to a society that chooses to come together to accomplish more than just defend against aggression to “persons or property”? The article is childish in that there is an underlying assumption, namely that the agency of all can be maintained in every point of daily living. Take public nudity for example. If a city, state, or whatever government agency pasted a law prohibiting it, your statements here would suggest that this government is “illegitimate”. My question is, do decent people have the right to walk out their doors onto the street without seeing some nasty hairy dude buck naked out for his morning jog? It is my personal belief a government entity which is a reflection of societies morals can be more and still be legitimate. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints stands in support of bills supporting marriage between one man and one woman. How do you explain that stance being consistent with Libertarianism as you describe it. The idea of such widely given freedom sounds good, but in practice I am not so sure you yourself would not choose a little more involved government.

  9. jimz
    July 14, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    Russ,
    Great questions. I would comment that questions of what is decent is so culturally dependent. Some countries might consister showing an ankle or a wrist as not decent. Some may require women to be completely covered while in public, and can only be with males she is married to, or closely related. In contrast a jain sect, special religious leaders may go completely without clothes for more than 20 years at a time. Both can only be properly understood from the context of the particular culture.

  10. outside the corridor
    July 14, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    WELL DONE, Connor!!!

    *clapping from far away*

  11. Connor
    July 14, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I’m still at FreedomFest so my time is very limited. I’ll respond to the questions when I am back home in a few days.

  12. Riley
    July 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    EZ knight,

    “The ends do not justify the means.”

    Except if your name is Nephi and you need to get some plates. Or if you’re Deity and need to drown the world for a clean slate…

    Connor,

    Great job! Enjoyed it thoroughly.

  13. Julie
    July 14, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    You did an awesome job. Your mother has every right to be proud. After listening to the recording of the entire debate, I understand the difference between libertarianism and conservatism much better. There are issues on both sides that bother me, so I guess I have a lot more research to do. :)

  14. Amber
    July 15, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    My, Paul sure was nasty and mean-spirited and arrogant. I’m not giving him another sentence.

    I felt kinda sorry for Rory, and just a bit disappointed. I wanted to hear a true LDS defense of liberalism. Instead. the lone liberal representative was not up to the task of debating, and I came away with no greater understanding of gospel principles as they relate to liberalism than I did before. My sister does a better job, bringing up such things as education, caring for people who literally have no resources, and so on. Heck, I do a better job, bringing up anti-war foreign policy and respecting the humanity of each individual and such. I do wish that Rory explained his defense for us, instead of just say “those conservatives talk high and mighty, and say they apply their philosophy to everything, but they’re hypocrits.” His stated stance was anti-Republican, not pro-liberal.

    You did great, Connor. You got attacked on all sides, and you defended libertarianism without becoming nasty and mean and irrational. I definitely say you won that debate because you kept your cool, stayed civil, and was completely logical and deeply reasoned in your responses. Thanks for the audio!

  15. Mark D.
    July 15, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    I suppose that Paul Mero is a conservative in the general sense of the term, but he doesn’t really represent American style conservatism, but rather something more like European style conservatism, and a continental variation at that. Mero is the sort of fellow that you can’t imagine speaking the name of Barry Goldwater without some sort of ill concealed contempt, and that is why I am reluctant to grant him the title. He seems to have walked out of the world that preceded both the English and the American revolutions, indeed to have preceeded Anglo-American civilization completely.

  16. chris
    July 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Care to narrow the debate a bit. I think a lot of the underpinnings of Connors position(s) rely on this philosophical point (correct me if I’m wrong):

    “Using the coercive arm of the law to enforce compliance to a moral standard is anathema to the way God himself works.”

    I would like to suggest a thought experiment. Suppose you are a murder who wants to kill someone with a gun and a the government is able in install a network of laser beams. Would it be an anathema to the way God works to have law which setups a an administrative program with a baseline of protection and shoots all bullets fired within the city limits before they could strike someone? It’s perhaps not as silly as it seems, because the military would like to setup just such a system on a larger scale to protect against attacks.

    In a way, the government passes a law, administers a program, and enforces moral compliance within a certain narrow segment of operation (ie. you will be forced to comply with our rule against shooting missiles at the USA, while others will be forced to comply with our rule of funding such a program — whether or not they need the protection because they live in the sticks or in a missile silo).

    In doing so, bad men are thwarted from using their moral agency to harm others, and others have to pay for it.

    I realize, the quick rebuttal is that in cases of defense, it’s “ok”. But now you’re just arguing over what areas are ok, and there are no more clearly defined limits. Some people say health care is just as much a priority as defense.

    Apply the same logic to health care — (BTW I do not support public health care or Obama care, etc). The government passes a law, administers a program, and enforces moral compliance. That means that everyone has to pay for a program so that as a result of bad men, accidents, etc. people can receive treatment — regardless of whether or not they want it or want to pay for it.

    I do not suggest these two cases are exactly the same. But I think a sure-fire way to lose the argument is to nitpick the details. Some might say that it’s impossible for you to protect yourself from nuclear attack, but it is possible to work for care. To which others would reply, it’s both impossible to pay the expensive medical bills that can mount up in this day and age, and although such a thing may have been possible in the past it’s now too increasingly complex to go and make informed decisions on your own.

    Eh… I’m not too sold on that argument, but I hope you can see at that point you are no longer arguing based solely on principle, but arguing based a mix of principles, compromise and preferred position.

    I admittedly do not know the best way to promote liberty as Connor, or even better the Prophets (who differ from him in some areas) envision it.

    But I am quite certain since you are not addressing the argument on your opponents intellectual turf, this style of argument will not convert many supporters, however it may serve to bolster the convictions of those who agree with you.

  17. Jordan
    July 16, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    TRON: Was the initial construction of that Rec center funded entirely by voluntary donations, or was some taxation involved at the start? Was eminent domain involved?

    If it is, in fact, currently run entirely funded by user fees, then what is your objection to the idea that it be owned privately on the free market instead of by the municipal government? Cut out the superfluous layer of management; lower costs even further. Easy.

    The problem with your high-fee medicare idea is that the free market competes to lower costs in order to increase profits, a savings which is also a benefit to the customers companies compete for. For a variety of reasons, government bureaucracies don’t have that incentive. For the same services, you almost certainly will end up being charged more by a government agency than by a private company in a free market.

    I suppose if fiscal prudence just isn’t your thing, I see no particular need to stop you from shooting your wallet in the foot, so to speak. Just don’t complain about it, please. Although, if you did save the money by allowing the free market to lower costs, then you’d have more money left over to spend on other things, which would enrich more people, including yourself, trade and exchange between individuals being mutually beneficial and whatnot.

  18. jimz
    July 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Chris,
    There are some things which don’t make sense to me. Let me ask this, in theory, LDS philosophy believes that every place on earth has ‘free agency’, because its an eternal god given principle. But wait, some places don’t have it, or at least to lesser degrees. For example North Korea. That it exists calls into question the idea that everyone has had a fair shake at ‘free agency’.

    In the Sam Harris wrote a book on ‘Free will’ and he believes that it simply doesn’t exist, anywhere. I heard a review on public radio, and he makes a compelling case.

    Another thought question would be the following, a machine that makes it impossible for anyone to have children unless its been approved by a local government. There would be no abortion, and hopefully no abused or malnourished children. Environmental problems would be reduced, the price of just about everything would fall. War would most likely be a thing of the past. Something like this idea was mentioned in ‘starship troopers’, where people had to proove in some way that they were worthy to bear children.

  19. Eric
    July 16, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Well, Mero has posted his follow-up to the debate. It’s tainted with the same arrogant style vs. non-substance found in his debate.

    http://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2012/07/16/going-off-the-rails-on-a-crazy-train/#more-3482

    There’s a haughtiness to Mero and his anger towards “the extreme right wing” that’s uniquely unattractive. I came away far more impressed with the “30 year-old”, as Connor enjoyed calling himself.

    Rory Reid wasn’t even in the game. I like him plenty and appreciate that he wanted to tangle a bit, but his was philosophically vacuous stuff. Democrats are impressively vague folks when the gun of logic is around, and they run like government red ink when its barrel is pointed their direction.

  20. TRON
    July 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    @Jordon

    Wow at least someone responded.

    Quoting you “I suppose if fiscal prudence just isn’t
    your thing, I see no particular need to stop you
    from shooting your wallet in the foot, so to speak.
    Just don’t complain about it, please. Although, if
    you did save the money by allowing the free market
    to lower costs, then you’d have more money left over
    to spend on other things, which would enrich more
    people, including yourself, trade and exchange
    between individuals being mutually beneficial and
    whatnot.”

    Let’s look at costs.

    I’m using Utah stats.

    Public School cost per student per year: $5964
    Private School cost per student per year:
    Judge Memorial $9800
    Juan Diego $9465
    Lutheran High $9000

    Legacy center Lehi Public (per year) $261
    Golds Gym Private (per year) $431

    Police (per $200,000 house per year) $55
    Police private security (Daybreak hoa) $73

    Fire (per $200,000 house per year) $45
    Fire private (and they will let your house burn down
    if you don’t pay) $75

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57338526/firefighters-watch-home-burn-owners-didnt-pay/

    Roads for Lehi (per $200,000 house per year) $9
    The cheapest HOA i could find was (per house)$60

    Just on these examples alone a libertarian system
    would cost my family $3305 more per year.

  21. Jim Davis
    July 16, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Riley,

    Good ends do not justify immoral means. Elder F. Burton Howard addressed this in his conference talk Repentance (which specifically addresses the Nephi example):

    Some seek to justify their actions by quoting scripture. They often cite Nephi’s killing of Laban as an example of the need to violate a law to accomplish a greater good and to prevent a nation from dwindling in unbelief. But they forget that Nephi twice refused to follow the promptings of the Spirit. In the end, he agreed to break the commandment only when he was convinced that “the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes” (1 Ne. 4:13; italics added) and also (I believe) when he knew that the penalty for shedding blood had been lifted, in that one exceptional case, by Him whose right it is to fix and waive penalties.

    The truth is that we are judged by the means we employ and not by the ends we may hope to obtain…

    The war in heaven was essentially about the means by which the plan of salvation would be implemented. It forever established the principle that even for the greatest of all ends, eternal life, the means are critical. It should be obvious to all thinking Latter-day Saints that the wrong means can never attain that objective.

    The danger in thinking that the end justifies the means lies in making a judgment we have no right to make. Who are we to say that the Lord will pardon wickedness done to attain a perceived “greater good.” Even if the goal is good, it would be a personal calamity to look beyond the mark and fail to repent of the wrong we do along the way.

    Paul fought the same false teaching in his day-

    “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8)

    We sing it in our hymns too:

    “Do what is right, let the consequence follow”

  22. Scott
    July 17, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    Haha, I just have to say that it’s pretty funny that the guy (Paul the Conservative) who uses Hayek to defend his case on “safety nets” later claims that he (Paul) doesn’t believe in spontaneous order :)

  23. Scott
    July 17, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    @TRON I think you’re comparing Apples, Kiwis, and Bananas to Apples, Mangos, and Oranges. In other words, there’s at least one thing in common in your comparisons, but there are many things that are different, only one of which is cost/price.

    Take for example public vs private school. Just showing that cost for public school is lower than the cost for private school does not show that the free market doesn’t provide schooling at lower cost than the government. The public schools and the private schools are not the same good. Perhaps the private schools have better teachers, better facilities, better curriculum, etc. That seems to be a safe assumption given the parents are choosing to pay ~$10,000/yr when there’s a $0 alternative. If they were the same good they wouldn’t be sending their kids to the private school.

    You then compare the price of a public gym to a private gym. Do they have the exact same location, equipment, upkeep, occupancy, hours, etc? Then they’re not the same good.

    You then compare police to private security. Again, not the same good. Are they the 3 police cars across town at the 7-eleven and your security guard patrolling your building door doing an equal job of protecting your business from thieves? Normally not.

    You then compare public fire protection in a city with economies of scale and limited distances to fire protection in a rural area.

    And by the way, none of these private services examples are the free market alternative. They’re all regulated by the state to varying degrees and presumably in ways that increase their costs.

    Finally, you the compare cost of roads maintenance to HOA, which often covers things like landscaping. I’m not sure these have anything in common.

  24. Jim Davis
    July 17, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Utahn’s pay way more than $5964 per student in public education according to this analysis which includes indirect costs such as cost of capital, nutrition, etc:

    http://www.utahtaxpayers.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/school-district-spending-report-click-here.pdf

    Also, the Cato Institute did research on 18 different school districts across the country and found that all of them grossly understated their total cost per student. This video briefly explains their findings:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzvKyfV3JtE

    Regardless, none of this addresses the moral cost of legal plunder.

  25. E. Zachary Knight
    July 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    First, thanks Jim for the response to Riley. Very concise and much the same as I would have presented.

    Riley, on the same note, we are not God. We do not have the big picture in view and the eternal consequences to weigh. As humans we tend to think short term and personally about everything we do. You bring up the Flood as a rebuttal to my statement. However, that was not Noah who made the decision to flood the world to cull the wicked, that was God that did. God in his infinite wisdom made that difficult decision. As a corollary to the Flood, God told Abraham that he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham in response to the news rejected God’s wisdom and sought to thwart God’s plan with various exceptions. Eventual God told him enough was enough. Left up to Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah would have stood and who knows what might have happened.

    The point here is that we are not God. We are not omniscient. We cannot make decisions that could negatively impact the lives of others simply because we have “righteous” ends in mind. As the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

  26. jimz
    July 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    E Knight,
    I think there are a number of problems with the idea of a literal flood. It also seems like pretty limited thinking to destroy the earth as a solution to the problem. I would suspect a human making up a story, not an account of actual events. Just as the projected anticipated events of ‘armogeddon’ are limited thoughts about any real solution to any problems.

  27. TRON
    July 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    @Scott

    I can’t answer your questions on which teachers are better. But as for facilities, the public schools win hands down since the private schools actually rent the public schools’ gyms, football fields and pools.

    As for which I would prefer, rent-a-cops or real cops? Uh, real cops win. Plus Lehi (public) has a lower crime rate than Daybreak (private).

    As for Lehi’s Legacy Center compared to Gold’s Gym. The Legacy Center is nicer (Connor you want to weigh in on this one? You live in Lehi).

    My public vs private road quotes were only road maintenance. You’re right, tons of the stats included landscaping — I used the stats that didn’t. Just Daybreak’s snow removal budget was $24 per year more than Lehi City’s total road budget of $9.

    And last, fire protection. Areas that don’t have guaranteed fire coverage (for whatever reason) pay 15% more in insurance premiums. So under your system, I wouldn’t pay that $45 a year in taxes. And that will cost me $80 per year more in premiums.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203961204577269591267553530.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

    Any amount I would save in taxes under a Libertarian system would cost me significantly more by replacing it in the private sector.

  28. Scott
    July 18, 2012 at 4:21 am #

    @TRON

    First of all, you’re ignoring economies of scale on all these scenarios, which make all the numbers meaningless.

    And again, these private solutions aren’t “a [L]ibertarian system.” Can anyone just start a fire protection service or a gym or do you need licensing and permission and compliance from all sorts of government officials and agencies? Exactly. There’s tons of anti-competition forces at work. If you don’t believe me then put out a sign “Will cut hair for money. I don’t have 2000 hours of practice and a government permission slip” and see what happens.

    Private schools: there’s a reason parents are willing to pay $10,000/yr vs $0. Ask them. Those are the differences.

    Cops: For me it’s no question. A security guard watching surveillance cams and another walking around the premise all night or a fleet of cops who only comes into my neighborhood once a week if a seat belt violator happens to get there before he can ticket them or will drive by once a night for a couple days after you’ve had a break-in and everything worth stealing is gone?

  29. M
    July 18, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    It is unfortunate that Rory Reid did not really attempt to articulate the liberal viewpoint, but rather focused on the role of merely playing the antagonist. I think this debate should be redone, but with someone who will at least attempt to articulate the liberal viewpoint.

    I also found Rory’s attacks annoying instead of being interesting. We’ve heard again and again in the church that we should not blindly cast allegiance to political parties but that we should search out and find good honest men of character to be elected to office. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are corrupt and hypocritical. No matter how honorable and well-meaning party may be at the start they always become corrupt. Why even bother attacking or defending the political parties?

  30. AV
    July 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I agree that we don’t have the right to compel anyone to keep commandments, we only have the right to restrict crime and actions that infringe on other’s rights.

    But one problem is that people, especially men and women, disagree on what a person’s rights are.

    For instance, Some would say that men should not be allowed to abuse women and their equal rights in marriage by living polygamy and that those men should be required to stay faithful to their 1st wife.

    For adultery is a form of abuse, and polygamy is usually considered to be a form of adultery, especially by Joseph Smith if you study his teachings, and adultery or any form of abuse, infringes on a wife’s rights to be safe and secure in marriage.

    Yet many, especially in the Church, would have a problem with things like adultery, porn, polygamy, divorce, remarriage or any other forms of abuse being illegal.

    So it all boils down to what you consider a man’s or woman’s rights to be, and if they have been abused.

    For men throughout the ages have often believed women do not have as equal rights as them, especially in marriage. Polygamy or the philosophy that ‘men rule over women’, are prime examples of this belief of inequality.

  31. Jim Davis
    July 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    I wonder how Paul Mero (the conservative) reconciles his comment that we don’t believe in individual liberty with the scripture:

    We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life. (D&C 134:2)

  32. jimz
    July 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Jim Davis,
    In quoting D&C 134:2, is there any clarification you have to the protection of life? I understand that the O.T. only has a prohibition against the taking of INNOCENT blood. There are a number of offenses which ancient isreal could take a life.

    Christians later modified this as cutting people off from fellowship, which can be nearly as devastating for a person emotionally, and financially as killing someone. Disfellowship does not protect life.

  33. Russ
    July 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Jimz, your response to my post seems strange to me. I never even hinted that my argument was meant to “understand” cultures that may or may not be peculiar to me. The argument wasn’t even about nudity or extreme modesty. I merely gave an example of society declaring shared moral values in the form of laws. My argument is that society has the right to form these types of laws as long as ‘God given rights’ are not violated. What are ‘God given rights’? Now that would be an interesting discussion. I propose however that ‘God given rights’ on the whole are quite intuitive to Americans thanks in large part to the founding fathers and their work in declaring and establishing them. I believe in a smaller government than that which we see today, much smaller. However, Conner in an attempt to address this issue, has over simplified it and has merely thrown in some scripture and quotes from general authorities for credibility. I don’t mean to sound harsh. I think his intentions are good and not just to sell books. I appreciate the forum were these important types of issues are discussed.

  34. Russ
    July 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    p.s.
    “Dis-fellowship does not protect life”.
    -Jimz
    Comments like that make me wonder if I am either stupid or crazy for writing on these forums. You must have written this simply to get a rise out of people Jimz. Do you have any idea what type of ramifications that line of thinking potentially has? You open the door for people to be prosecuted by law for ‘not protecting life’ by merely excommunicating an individual from a religious congregation; and because that individual was emotionally and financially hurt no less. Really? No I mean it, really? If dis-fellowship can somehow be construed to be a violation of someone’s right to life then what good is the written word. Honestly, it is this type of wrestling written documents in an attempt to prove any point no matter how remote that has our country so messed up. By messed up I mean people who will try to twist any statement to prove their point even when they know their point is not what the author(s) originally intended. I suppose others innocently read documents so liberally. I would wager that most read documents liberally in an attempt to justify their actions.
    Life means life jimz, not protecting excommunicated members from financial and emotional pain.

  35. Louganzo
    July 26, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    Adultery was punished under the law in Alma’s time. That shows the BoM completely unhinges this whole silly line of thinking. Read your scriptures brother.

  36. jimz
    July 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Russ,
    Yes, the question of god given rights would be an interesting one. There are a few questions behind the question, what is ‘God’? and who decided that? I would think the question would extend through out history of the entire earth, and quite extensively into pre-history. A more complete answer would look beyond the limitations of the American experience, either by time or space.

  37. jimz
    July 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Louganzo,
    What is the intent of disfellowship?

  38. Chris N.
    August 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    “But the spirit of that contention [between God’s and Satan’s followers] did not cease to exist. It has existed and has come down to us through the ages; one side contending for individual liberty and the rights of man, and the other side contending for rule by force and by compulsion. That was essentially the issue in that great conflict before the world was. Christ stood for government by persuasion, by long suffering, by kindness and gentleness and love unfeigned. The other power was for government and salvation for all, to be secured by the spirit of force and compulsion…”

    Who gave this and where could the source be found?

  39. Connor
    August 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Charles W. Nibley said that in the April 1917 General Conference.

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