A worldview affects the interpretation of evidence. It is like a pair of spectacles, through which light passes, allowing us to see. If the spectacles are cracked, this does not entail that the world itself is cracked. Rather, it means they are in need of repairing or replacing. This is a fundamental part of the Judeo-Christian concept of repentance: it means changing one’s mind, re-orienting it to God’s view of reality. There are big moments of repentance in the life of a Christian, but also small ones. Understanding and accepting truth in all things is a life-long process of learning. Sometimes we are tempted to compromise what we know to be true; other times, we are confused, trying to step back, take a breath, and make sense of it all.
The differences that the core group at AATW (myself included) have with the Left spring from our fundamentally different worldviews, and this is why, without a change in the fundamentals, dialogue is essentially fruitless. Those who have a utopian view of the aim of politics can never be reconciled with those who accept that life has its inevitable tragedies, rooted in the weakness of human nature and the inclemency of the natural world. Those, like me, who advocate for a diminution of the state do not do so in the belief that such action will automatically and inevitably produce a paradise on earth. Far from it. The free market does not promise to make all things right. Since liberty entails the choice to do evil, a free market approach necessarily involves a risk of evil. In advocating for liberty, we are not promising to make the world a materially perfect place. Rather, we are elaborating a fundamentally deontological view of ethics and human interaction, based on the principle that liberty is inherently valuable, just as life is inherently value.
This reasoning does not mean that a free market entails a poorer world. When people are free to spend their money as they choose, they have the option to give it to charitable schemes and to invest in companies that bring sustainable growth to the world. In such a system, the choice to use money in this way is a kind of virtue. Virtue presupposes free will; without free will, there can be no virtue. When the state spends tax money to do these things, it takes away some opportunities from the individual to do good. Not only that, it also has the power to use the tax-payer’s money to fund what he considers to be evil. An example of this would be the use of tax money to fund abortions against the will of conservative Christians.
The Leftist might respond that virtue is not what is important; results are what counts. Improving the lives of vulnerable people is what matters. If forcibly appropriated resources are necessary, so be it. This view has problems, however. First of all, it assumes the poor would be worse off if people were taxed less, because our selfishness would make us keep the “surplus” to ourselves. This is ultimately a synthetic proposition, a proposition about how the world is. It is not true (or false) by definition. It can only be known by experience. As a prediction about how things will be, it must rely on statistical data – and the data does not uniformly support it.
Secondly, if it is wrong to forcibly appropriate money, then the advocate of statism is forced to balance two evils, and argue that leaving the poor uncared for is worse than appropriating other people’s property. This might be true in the short-term (and even then, that proposition is debatable), but in the long-term it is far from certain. If the long-term effect of state appropriations is a withering of the private economy, and the economy is what actually generates wealth, then there will be less and less wealth to meet the needs of the poor as tax revenue dries up. So this model will only work if poverty is eradicated before the point of economic destruction. Wealth must be generated before it is available to the state for spending.
Lastly, there is the problem of the system itself. The Bible teaches that a workman is worthy of his wages, and most countries in the world operate on the basic principle that people will not work for nothing. Therefore, if one builds a state-system for meeting the needs of the poor, then a great amount of money will be spent on the system itself, its processes and employees, rather than on the poor people it is meant to serve – unless the employees are willing to work for nothing. This marks the fundamental difference between old philanthropy and modern state-systems. Old philanthropical works were done by those who did not need to be compensated for their time and effort – women who were dependant on reliable husbands and the very wealthy – these people did not take anything from the work.