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The State of Love

November 20, 2009

The academic philosopher Crispin Sartwell has posted some thought-provoking quotes from the annals of american anarchism. They’re part of a talk he’ll be giving on how some cornerstones in that homespun philosophy emerged from radical protestantism. One quote Sartwell cites from Emerson’s Politics stands out for me:

The power of love, as the basis of a State, has never been tried.

I’m no Emerson scholar, so I’m not certain if he believed the U.S. satisfied that criteria in 1844, but I’m a hard skeptic and would assert that the truth of this proposition still stands. The State based on love has yet to be tried. And I’m also ambitious enough to say that competitive government is the best approximation to that worthy goal.

There’s a noble myth told by St. Augustine about God’s reasons for giving man free will. It is true, Augustine says, that by giving free will to man, God introduced evil into the world. Sure, if God fully determined our actions, then there wouldn’t be any evil (unless he himself were evil). But for not determining this, our good God had his reasons. Because if God fully determined our actions, there wouldn’t be any genuine good either. We would be puppets.

The story concludes: God gave man free will because it’s the only way he could know if man truly loved him. Love is an act of the will. Anything less is meaningless.

Replace God with the State in that story and you’re halfway to the land of a thousand nations. TRY to be a deterministic God in that story, and you’re a legislator in the modern State.

You cannot compel meaningful community. I invite you to imagine a meaningful life that requires someone with a gun telling you what to do, whom to love and whom to associate with. (It was a movie called Fatal Attraction.) I don’t think it can be done, but there are those who do. Most of us seem to vote them into office.

I think this is what Nozick meant when he vaguely said his notion of rights and “side-constraints” was based on meaningfulness. He didn’t elaborate the thought, but this is how I understand it: the community created by a closed State with no exit option is meaningless in the sense that the choice to live there is not our own; it is the legislators’. In the closed State, our relationships are compelled. And so like Augustine’s God, there’s no love in politics unless it’s by free consent. Or to come back to Emerson:

Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations to him.


  1. Mike Gibson permalink*
    December 22, 2009 3:02 pm

    Thanks Chad, I’ll be sure to check it out.

  2. December 22, 2009 2:06 am

    I am glad that I found your post.

    My vision is to create a holistic community that is built on love. Community members/tenants will be able to daily engage in mental, physical, social, and spiritual exercise. The environment will be positive, supportive, and allowing. The fundamental purpose of the community is to constantly give and receive love and acceptance from yourself and others.

    The lessons I learned from Louise Hay, Libertarian Economists, and my yoga instructor have sparked a desire for a more positive place to live. I want to integrate these concepts by developing a tangible community of love, liberty, and peace. I believe that such a system could co-exist within the jurisdiction of a coercive entity.

    The community will grow as the members/tenants experience the sincere love that surrounds them.

  3. Mike Gibson permalink*
    November 22, 2009 5:28 pm

    @ Michael –thanks for the warm, warm words. As for education, you’re so right. I wish I had been to a school like that growing up. I hope my kids get to one day. Now I live Los Angeles and the idea of freely choosing your children’s school–it’s trench warfare here. No topic elicits hatred like the topic of public schools in Los Angeles. I don’t understand this impulse to imprison. Green Dot has made some inroads, but even then, its success shows that it takes a formidable individual to win those marginal battles.

    @christianclarityreview I’m not a theologian. And your comments move far afield of political philosophy. But insofar as they impinge on that subject, I would assume that whatever Jesus believed, he must have abided by some version of the non-aggression principle. So yes, we may want people to stick it out in their marriages, but that doesn’t mean we ought to use coercion to do it.

  4. November 21, 2009 4:01 am

    What a beautiful and original post, Mike. We need far more libertarian voices thinking, and feeling, like this, so that the world may understand that not only are we humane, we are the most humane of all.

    From the chapter on education in my book,

    More than anything, we need schools based on love. We need
    schools in which people passionately love what they are doing, love
    what they are teaching, love what they are learning, where teachers
    love their colleagues, students love their teachers, teachers love their
    students, parents love the school, where everyone is joined by a pas-
    sionate vision of excellence and human fl ourishing. Such schools can-
    not be mandated or created by force. They must be freely chosen by all
    parties involved.

  5. christianclarityreview permalink
    November 21, 2009 2:49 am

    I’ve heard versions of that many times: “love is meaningless without free will”.

    In short, Augustine was wrong on that. He was also wrong on what language is. So Augustine is not really a great example here.

    Love is success, not attempt. God delivers on His promises in Christ. He doesn’t ‘try’.

    A lot of people are doing an ideology of love that is simply feeling for a moment, that feeling goes away, then its “I don’t love you anymore”. They are serving an spirit of false love that destroys their lives. That is the result of the lie of human free will: everyone is chasing an ideal circumstance or environment in which a free willed love will work and leaving once-loved, not-loved people behind. In short, they don’t know actual love at all. They don’t know sticking to it to success.

    So what you see from the free will crowd over love is essentially “rent me for a time to get the love out of me” and/or “I’ll rent you”. After the grace period is over, Parents are put in asylums, children are aborted, abandoned, and abused, divorce and remarriage is simply a cycle ( everyone is ‘trying’ ) , euthanasia is held out as a supposed viable answer and the whole time those who are “doing love” are swooning over ‘free will’ and saying over and over: “If we don’t have free will, love doesn’t make sense” as a kind of mantra for its own sake.


    1John 4:20 If any one say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

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