October 21st, 2013

Should Libertarians Support War to Defend the Defenseless?

Libertarians apply the non-aggression principle to both interpersonal and geopolitical conflicts. This means that self-defense is justified against a threat of any size, whether it be from an individual or an entire army. Put simply, we are morally justified in employing violence only to deter an attack.

Of course, not all wars involved groups of people with similar size, skill, and supplies. Those being attacked are, in many cases, ill-equipped and largely defenseless, leading to outright slaughter, and in some scenarios, borderline genocide. Many libertarians struggle to reconcile their political philosophy with this very real circumstance. It’s a question we must all ponder: is war justified when it’s being done in defense of a defenseless, victimized third party?

A strict interpretation of just war theory and the non-aggression principle would lead most people to conclude that the answer is no. My answer is a qualified yes.

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October 11th, 2013

No Caucus Means Flyover Counties

The following is an op-ed I had published in today’s Deseret News.

For years, former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt led a failed effort to create a presidential primary in the West, hoping to remedy the longstanding concern that Utah and other surrounding states are “fly-over states,” meaning that candidates don’t spend much time or attention here. Now, Leavitt and his like-minded associates are promoting an effort to create this same problem in Utah.

The “Count My Vote” initiative—a proposal to dismantle Utah’s hybrid caucus/convention and primary system and move to primaries alone—would disenfranchise rural counties with sparse populations around the state, thus creating “fly-over counties” that would fail to attract candidates for state-wide office during a primary or general election.

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October 6th, 2013

Doubting Your Doubts Before Doubting Your Faith

I know many people who have struggled with or completely abandoned the Mormon faith. Some have problems with the Church’s doctrinal claims, others grew apathetic to the gospel’s lifestyle requirements, and a select few allowed a personality conflict or other evidence of a Church leader’s fallibility fester until they could not separate the gospel of Christ from the actions of His followers.

These challenges are not new, having existed since the Church was established. As Joseph Smith erected the structure of the Latter-day Church, even his closest confidants sometimes strongly disagreed with his decisions and doctrinal proclamations to the point of breaking away altogether from the Church. But after nearly two centuries of precedent and practice, combined with the rise of the information age and new media whereby people can research and write about any topic they desire, doctrinal disputes have astronomically outpaced the other reasons for disaffection from the Church.

From its inception, the Church of Jesus Christ has been criticized and attacked. Scholarly attempts to undermine its central claims have fallen short, time and again. As Elder Holland said regarding the keystone of the religion, the Book of Mormon:

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October 5th, 2013

Women and the Priesthood: Separate but Equal

The so-called “separate but equal” legal doctrine purported to empower state governments to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race. Cruel stories highlighting the problem with such an approach fill volumes of books, all pointing to the evident injustice of the law.

In the landmark SCOTUS case Brown v. Board of Education the justices opined, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”—thus beginning to dismantle the inequality perpetuated by the state through its favorable treatment of one group over another.

The underlying reason for which such a legal system was so egregious is that the government is comprised of the citizens over which it governs. Thus, no unjustly discriminatory action can be undertaken that favors one class of citizens over another. No authority exists to restrict government services or offerings to one group and exclude them from another, when all pay taxes to fund them, and when said government only legitimately operates with the collectively delegated authority of every class of citizen.

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September 23rd, 2013

Time to Decriminalize Polygamy

The following is an op-ed I had published in this weekend’s Salt Lake Tribune.

On May 15, 1945, fifteen men in suits and ties gathered for a photo opportunity on the steps of the Utah State Prison as they began their indeterminate sentences of up to five years. The supposed crime for which they were being incarcerated was “unlawful cohabitation.”

Put differently, the freedom of fifteen men was severely restricted, with taxpayers footing the bill for their prosecution and incarceration, because the men had strayed outside society’s norm by consensually choosing to love, support, and live with more than one female companion and their subsequent children.

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September 19th, 2013

Marriage and the Church, Sitting in a Tree, playing D-E-F-E-N-S-E

The fight for Proposition 8 was a mess. The effort to uphold heterosexual marriage through law gave the LDS Church a political and cultural black eye. As a result of the political and financial capital exhausted in the unsuccessful effort, and given the continuing trend of increased support for same-sex marriage nationwide, the Church is evidently seeking to employ a new stratagem.

This new tactic is entirely a defensive one. Rather than investing time, money, and talents (in select locations only) to enforce a political definition of marriage that is in harmony with current church doctrine, Latter-day Saints are being asked to voice their views (whatever they may be) and in doing so seek exemptions for the Church.

Mormons in Hawaii, for example, have been asked to fight for “a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith” including protection for “religious organizations and officials from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities” and protection for “individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.”

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September 9th, 2013

Rumors of Wars

In a private discussion with Jesus, some of his disciples asked him about events preceding his Second Coming. In addition to warnings of false Christs and widespread deception, Jesus notes that the calamities occurring before his arrival would begin in an atmosphere of “wars and rumors of war.”

Many other scriptures make reference to this same concept. For example, in his vision of his posterity Nephi “beheld wars, and rumors of wars.” In a later vision of the latter days, Nephi likewise “beheld… that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth.” His use of the term, as a descriptor of his visionary experience, provides the context it so often lacks. One cannot really behold, or see, what today is considered a rumor—false information verbally conveyed by one person to another.

Noah Webster’s wonderful 1828 dictionary offers insight into the meaning of the term as used in the vernacular of the time when the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture were published. It defines ‘rumor’ as:

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September 5th, 2013

Are Foreign Interventions in America’s National Security Interest?

As talking heads and political elites manufacture support for yet another war, this time in Syria, they are employing the standard interventionist justification for military aggression. “It’s in our national interest,” we are emphatically and persistently told.

Almost every single supporter of the intervention has robotically repeated this refrain. While it has been sufficiently convincing over the years, embedding itself into the American psyche as a reference point upon which wars are now justified, it is fundamentally illegitimate.

To explain why, imagine applying the same standard to police work. What if, rather than requiring probable cause, law enforcement officers could detain and arrest people if it was in their “law enforcement interest”? What if judges and juries could determine guilt not as something being beyond a reasonable doubt, but based on the “interests” of the justice system?

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August 30th, 2013

Political Partisanship and Temple Worthiness

Can a person be a good Mormon and a Democrat?

It’s not an uncommon question. American Latter-day Saints, who predominantly are members of the Republican party, wonder whether their brethren on the “other side of the aisle” can be faithful followers of Christ while uniting with a political party that adheres to and advocates policies that openly conflict with the doctrine and policy positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Given their minority status, it’s not unsurprising to see LDS Democrats go on the defense. They’ve organized a caucus, organize support groups and training meetings, and openly defend their claim that they, as Democrats, are still Mormons in good standing.

What’s hilarious about this situation is that it’s a historical role reversal. Mormons once heavily favored the Democrats (after all, the Republican party was explicitly founded to fight for the eradication of polygamy, which the Saints were practicing at the time). I explain the circumstances behind this political relationship in the introduction of Latter-day Liberty (read it free here), highlighting how a dissolution of the local Mormon People’s Party in Utah led to the Saints joining either the Republican or Democrat parties. Naturally, they shied away from the former. I conclude the point with this tidbit:

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August 22nd, 2013

Faith Without Works is Dead: Do We Believe It?

Almost any Sunday School class covering the topic of faith will make reference to a teaching authored by James, Jesus Christ’s brother, regarding faith being dead without corresponding works. The pertinent verses read:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

We Latter-day Saints use such scriptures to highlight the importance of religious worship, ordinances, and service. We contrast ourselves from other religions whose adherents feel, in many cases, that mere faith is sufficient to be saved. We note that the gospel of Jesus Christ is, as Spencer W. Kimball said, a “gospel of work.”

As with many other things, however, too many Saints have a myopic view of this scripture’s application. They narrowly define the parameters to which topics this counsel applies, and therefore remain only superficially compliant.

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August 10th, 2013

Compulsory education violates parental stewardship

The following is an op-ed I had published in today’s Salt Lake Tribune.

In an effort to tear down Sen. Aaron Osmond’s proposal regarding eliminating compulsory school-attendance laws in Utah, critics have produced a wide range of responses, absolutely none of which addresses the actual problem.

Utah law (62A-4a-201-1a) states that, “Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children.” It also says that the state recognizes that parents have “the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority” to educate their children and that “the state’s role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.”

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July 16th, 2013

A Public Policy of Personal Responsibility

The following is an op-ed I had published in today’s Deseret News.

When legislation regarding the expansion of Medicaid was debated in the legislature earlier this year, Representative Jake Anderegg (R-Lehi) argued for charity care as an ideal alternative to increased dependence upon government programs.

“My vision is a vision of people, county by county, throughout the state, stepping up, hearing the call to action and stepping up to serve the least of these our brethren,” he said. “We have the power to do this ourselves.”

The criticism to this suggestion was swift and sustained. Many interest groups and concerned citizens strongly balked at the idea that those in need of medical care should be required to depend upon the charity of other individuals. Government exists for this very purpose, critics generally claim—to help people take care of themselves when they’re unable to do so on their own.

This idea is false, and more than that, it’s dangerous.

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