Politics: A Word

The following only looks to define a term in light of a Christian worldview, and is therefore only cursory. The implications are not fully discussed here, but may be in subsequent posts on matters related to this subject.

A couple of days ago I made the point on my Facebook that “Christ over politics” is an unhelpful platitude. I was saying this with respect to what I believe to be a proper definition of “politics.” As it is colloquially defined, the term is somewhat broad and ambiguous. It involves government propaganda, mere opinions about how best to govern, and the fantasy of “positive rights” — which is nothing more than unjust legal rationalizations for the use of violence to compel a person to do something against his or her will in providing a product or service to another individual.

When you Bing “politics,” you get the following:

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I don’t really find these definitions all that useful in light of government; with partial exception for the first one. The way I would define politics is that it is the subject of or  the study of government policies and activities concerning the mediation of conflict between individuals. I mean, what other definition could there be, and why would you define it any other way? After all, civil matters are what’s in question — matters in resolving conflicts between persons whether they are governing or the governed.

In politics, there cannot be a disjunction in the application of polity between those governing and the governed because all humans are equally obligated to a divine ethic, not to mention the laws of logic. The only difference between these two parties (governing authorities and the governed) is their obligation to the application of proper polity as defined here. Unfortunately, this idea is massively eschewed by the powers that be.

The sorts of conflicts in view are those of property rights; viz. the human right of self-ownership. For what other basic rights are presupposed when entering into an argument or dispute? Does not a person assume his or her self-ownership when making an argument? Can it not be inferred from the moral law of God that individuals have subsidiary rights vis-à-vis other individuals based upon God’s prohibitions against murder, theft, and false testimony? Is such a divine ethic not logically consistent? For what other basis is there to speak authoritatively concerning civil matters — to resolve conflicts between individuals?

We know a priori that humans have rights to their own bodies. To paraphrase Hans Hermann-Hoppe, to dispute such a right one would become caught up in a practical contradiction since arguing so would already imply acceptance of the very norm which one is disputing.[1] In other words, to deny self-ownership is to affirm self-ownership in one’s own argument that such doesn’t exist; for the act of argument presupposes one’s own right to self.

Politics looks to resolve the conflict between the ontological truth of self-ownership and prohibitions against violations thereof. As a Christian, it is easy to bridge this gap of what is and what ought to be or ought not to be, in light of such. Therefore, instead of “Christ over politics,” it is better to say, “Christ over unjust policies that fail to ethically mediate conflict between persons.” It is Christ over unethical polity — e.g. Christ over Statism.

 

[1] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property: Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy, The Ludwig von Mises Institute’s Studies in Austrian Economics (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993), 334.

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