If realizing how little one knows is part of growing up, then I am on the threshold of bona fide adulthood.
Over the past year, I have seen and done many things for the first time. And instead of reassuring me of my inexhaustible teenage knowledge, calmly meshing into my calculated and comfortable worldview, these experiences have dethroned my knowledge, demoted my pet ideologies.
Everything from the 2016 presidential race to my nerve-wracking driving test to some clear-eyed Bible study has drawn me ever closer to the simple conclusion that life offers few simple conclusions. It offers even fewer simple solutions.
One of the earth-shattering implications of this truth, one whose consequences were difficult for me to embrace, is that economic and political freedoms are no solution for the human condition—they can guarantee neither order nor morality. While some systems are more just and potentially moral than others, no political system makes humans any better than they are now. Libertarianism cannot counteract inborn human depravity. Only the Gospel can do that.
In an idyllic free society or Misesian economy, people would likely be more prosperous and things might be more peaceful. But on their own, these systems still present innumerable human flaws and reflect mankind’s all-encompassing sin problem.
In my subconscious I wanted to believe that if only man was given a chance, if only people were given freedom and modern technology and trade, they would do something good and worthwhile and wholly amazing. As soon as I acknowledged this thought, I also noticed its danger. It denies the unique power of God to change people, it diminishes the true value of freedom by introducing absurd impossibilities, and it forces freedom and free markets into a league of other failed ideas that have promised to “change” humans.
Scripture is clear that, whether free or oppressed, people keep on doing just what they have always done: building towers, trying to make names for themselves, and trying to reach heaven on their own accord in an open rebellion against God.
Freedom is good—for many reasons, both practical and Biblical—but not because it makes man good; it does not, cannot, and will never change human nature.
Even if Misesian minarchy were the best system of government ever devised, it and its components would still be surrounded by and capable of great evil. The same goes for every other governmental and economic system in the history of the world; some are better than others, but all are nevertheless bad by reason of their human elements.
So far as solutions go, there is only One for changing people. So far as governments go, well, there’s a lot of debate about which is the most conducive to justice and goodness. In that regard my view of freedom still stands, as strongly as ever and as radically as ever. And although it stands, it stands demoted—its value has not diminished, but a foggy, faulty understanding of it has been put to rest.
I will continue to call myself a freedom-lover, but only after I have been sure to call myself a follower of Christ.
(And maybe, one of these days, I’ll also be able to say that I’m a grown-up.)