(Part 1) The Moral Case for Separating State and The Economy – What’s That About?

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January 13, 2015 by Anders Ingemarson

Most Americans understand, explicitly or implicitly, why we have separation of state and church. We agree that faith is a personal matter; that choosing a faith, or no faith, is part of our inalienable individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We acknowledge that accepting a faith must be a voluntary decision, and that faith forcefully imposed by the government is a violation of our rights and therefore wrong and immoral.

In the United States we have close to a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire “market” for religious ideas. Different denominations and congregations, faith “sellers,” compete with their faith “products” for prospective faith “buyers.” If a potential buyer of religious ideas finds a particular faith offer compelling—a good investment in his or her pursuit of happiness—a voluntary trade takes place: the buyer invests time and certain monetary contributions in exchange for getting an anticipated set of guidelines to enhance his life and give it meaning, education in the faith in question, new acquaintances and friends sharing the same beliefs, emotional support and reassurance, and so on.

We consider this a most natural state of affairs and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Yes, we may dislike some of the faith “sellers,” and we may think they engage in false advertising and that their “products” are inferior. And yes, we may think some faith “buyers” are being cheated or have bad taste, or even make immoral choices. We may even try to persuade either or both sides to change their mind, and voluntarily withdraw their faith “product” or modify their “consumer habits.”

But in the end we accept these “market imperfections,” because we know that the alternative—some form of government force violating our inalienable individual rights to voluntarily choose a faith, or no faith—is a violation of the separation of state and church, something we almost unanimously agree is wrong and immoral.

Making the moral case for separating state and the economy applies the same reasoning to the market place for products and services:

What you and I produce and consume is a personal matter. Our right to choose a product or service, or no product or service, is part of our inalienable individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Deciding to buy or sell a product or service must be a voluntary decision; any production or consumption imposed or regulated by government force is a violation of our rights and therefore wrong and immoral.

The only system that preserves our moral right to voluntarily trade products and services is full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism. In practice, this means total separation of state and the economy. The government has no more right to regulate our production and consumption of products and services than it has regulating our choice of faith.

One would be forgiven for thinking that most Americans would consider this a most natural state of affairs and wouldn’t want it any other way, just as when it’s a matter of their faith.

Yet, when it comes to the market place for products and services, most of us don’t consider this full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire system the most natural state of affairs. Pick any area of the economy—healthcare, education, agriculture and food, telecommunications, banking, finance, retirement, and so on—and most of us do seem to want it some other way.

When we dislike a seller, and think he is engaging in false advertising or that his product is inferior, we call for the government to step in. The same applies when we think a buyer is being cheated or has bad taste, or even makes what we consider immoral choices; we don’t think it sufficient to persuade either or both sides to change their mind, and voluntarily withdraw their product or modify their consumer habits. We don’t accept such “market imperfections.” No, when it comes to the economy we think individual rights violating government force is required to deal with the problem.

Consequently, we have asked our politicians to meddle in every aspect of our economic lives in a way that we would find wrong and immoral if it were to any aspect of our faith. We have permitted them to tax, regulate, fine, coerce and threaten us to such an extent that had it happened in the market place for religious ideas it would have been considered fundamentalism of the kind that is only practiced in Islamic countries.

Here at SEPARATE! we find this a sad state of affairs. Hence we have made it our mission to champion the moral case for separating state and the economy. You may say that we’re here to spread the gospel to those who walk in economic moral darkness with the hope that they will see a great light.

In our next post, we will discuss why it is that so many Americans hold contradicting views of their rights to manage their faith and their rights to manage the rest of their lives, and what it will take to resolve that contradiction.

Until then, if you like what you see, check out the different areas of the site: Why Separate?, Separate What?, Separate Not!, and past blog posts. Subscribe, Like and Share our articles on Facebook, and Tweet them to your heart’s desire. Discuss us in the classroom, at work, at the family dinner table, and at church. All publicity is good publicity and brings us closer to full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism with total separation of state and the economy.

9 thoughts on “(Part 1) The Moral Case for Separating State and The Economy – What’s That About?

  1. iskeen says:

    Good article Anders. You might want to take a look at a picture in C. Bradley Thompson’s Facebook page. He has made a picture of free society based on individual rights and four pillars of separations: separation of church and state, separation of culture and state, separation of economics and state, separation of education and state. I think that if you can work with that framework and his picture, your case would be clearer to the average interested person. The post is dated Jan 9 and he calls his picture the House of Freedom.

  2. Eric Posmentier says:

    In most political issues, the optimum resolution lies in finding the best balance among extremes – in this case, the best balance between total freedom of private enterprise and totally state-planned, owned, and managed enterprise. Either extreme leads to extremely undesirable ends – Dickensonian enslaverment at one end, and oppressive totalitarian poverty at the other. The world abounds in examples. The high quality of life in mixed economy countries, and the suffering in third world free economies and pre-reformation China at the extremes.

    Freedom of any sort is elusive. In its extreme, it permits the strong to monopolize freedom itself at the expense of freedom for the majority, thus ending up in the same place as a government that is overtly totalitarian from its inception. The equitable distribution of freedom – be it religious, economic, or social – must maintained and protected by a government, and its sequestration by any privileged oligarchy, whether it is based on intellectual elitism, a familial monarchy, a religion, or wealth, must be continuously guarded against.

    An ideal state is an instrument of the people’s will. If the people want the state to protect them against a foreign invasion, it must do so. Similarly, if the people want the state to protect them against toxic foods, or suicidally dangerous vehicles, or the public marketing of ordinance, it must do so. The concept of a totally unregulated economy is a form of extremism and fundamentalism, just as much as the concept of a caliphate or an atheist state, and it leads ultimately to the stifling of economic activity except for those few that enrich a small, powerful minority.

  3. williamharris3 says:

    One of the moral cases for separating church from state is that churches already have their own governments. The State’s government would only interfere with a superior government (presumably) beheld by its citizens, which do include various forms and degrees of regulation. However, unlike churches, there would be no governing authority regulating the economy without the State, apart from the citizens. Correct or incorrect? If so, why should the State have no economic regulating authority over its citizens, since churches do have moral regulating authority over theirs? If not, how would the laissez-faire approach invest enough power in the individual to prevent the immoral manifestations that gave rise to anti-trust regulation in the first place?

  4. […] our last post, we pointed out the similarities between a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire […]

  5. […] a break from our “Separating State and the Economy – What’s That About” series (check out part 1 and part 2 if you haven’t already) to take a closer look at the separation of state and […]

  6. […] part 1 and part 2 of this series, we pointed out the similarities between a full, pure, uncontrolled, […]

  7. […] In part 1 of this series, we pointed out the similarities between a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire market for religious ideas and a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire market for products and services. We showed how both markets respect our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. […]

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