A Calvinist Defense of “Anarcho-Capitalism”
“Capitalism” is widely understood to be the opposite of “socialism.” Capitalism delegates economic functions to the private (rather than the public) sector, relying on the “invisible hand” of the free market to allocate resources in the most efficient way. “Anarcho-capitalism” is a radically consistent capitalism, seeing all human action as an economic function, and therefore appropriately directed by market forces, not bureaucratic forces.
“Anarcho-capitalism” is the opposite of “state capitalism.” In the middle of these extremes are most so-called capitalists who reserve several economic functions to the public or governmental sector: national defense, punishment of criminals, and resolution of contractual disputes. Some capitalists would also include certain utilities (water, electricity) as necessitating a public monopoly. Anarcho-capitalists would remove all of these functions from political monopoly and allow them to be provided by the free market.
Anarcho-capitalists, in short, advocate the abolition of the State.
It is the purpose of this website to offer a Biblical (Calvinist) justification for the abolition of the State. As Calvinists we believe in the Sovereignty of God. We believe that every individual, every family, every voluntary association, every business -- even every nation-state, every empire, and every other organized criminal syndicate -- is morally (Biblically) obligated to bring every area of life under the jurisdiction of God and His Word.
“Theocracy” comes from two Greek words, Theos,
God, and kratein, to rule.
A Theocracy is where God rules, or governs.
Every human action and relationship should be “Theocratic.”
More on “Theocracy”
|Q14: What is sin?
A14: Sin is any [lack] of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (Westminster Shorter Catechism)
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4)
See if [the State] takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it
to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if [the State] benefits one
citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do
without committing a crime.
Our thesis is that actions which are sinful for individuals (such as theft, murder, and kidnapping) are also sinful even for those who
Stated another way, our thesis is that Christians should work to abolish any institution which claims an ethical right to steal, kill, or kidnap (such as the State, the Mafia, etc.), and abolish such an institution in a way that does not involve stealing, killing, or kidnapping. The focus of this thesis, however, is limited to the State.
Stated another way, our thesis is that a group of people occupying a previously-unoccupied territory where no civil government exists are under no Biblical obligation to form “the State.”
Our desire to abolish the State is motivated by the fact that the State is (to adapt the words of Princeton professor A.A. Hodge in 1887):
the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.
In particular, the State engages in more theft, murder, and kidnapping than any other group of people, including the criminals from which the State promises to protect us. The State is, without close competition, the greatest thief and mass murderer on the planet. The 20th century, marked by the final destruction of Christian localism and the rise of the secular State, has been the century of mass death on a scale unparalleled in human history. Details here.
The bureaucratic violence of the State depersonalizes all of our lives. Christian living becomes diluted in the face of “the banality of evil” which the State engenders. Forgiveness and other distinctively Christian traits are “privatized” and die the death of a thousand political and other more “realistic,” or “practical” qualifications.
“Biblical Anarchism” sounds like a shocking doctrine at first. But if you were to be
you likely would have been executed by sundown. “The Divine Right of Kings” dominated political thinking in those days, a doctrine which
The idea that vengeance is prohibited (even to those calling themselves “the State”) and the idea that civil functions can be provided by the private sector, are ideas which are not as far removed from our thinking today as today's ideas are separated from Christians of the first millennium after Christ. Our thesis (that the Bible does not grant ethical legitimacy to an institution which is based on vengeance and confiscation of property) will not appear as controversial after surveying the evidence.
Our thesis stands on two presuppositions which we will not attempt to defend.
Our thesis accepts as a matter of unchanging economic law the fundamental inefficiency of centralized government planning over free market decision-making. The reader can turn to these works for a nearly complete defense of the concept:
Mises in particular, and his Nobel Prize-winning student, F. A. Hayek, conclusively proved that without the price mechanism of the free market, socialist planners can never allocate resources in the most efficient manner. Mises’ work has never been refuted. More works are found in the Bibliography below.
This is the approach to Scripture taken by Calvin, Knox, and the Westminster Assembly (1643-47), according to M.G. Kline. The Theonomic thesis is defended by Greg Bahnsen, who argues for a basic continuity between the Old and New Testaments, and advocates the abiding validity of the OT law “in exhaustive detail” (though recognizing the ceremonial and temporary character of Levitical and temple-related ordinances).
According to this perspective, Socialism is not just inefficient, it is immoral. Nevertheless, most adherents of the Theonomic view are unwilling to condemn all socialism. Thus, although the basic Theonomic thesis is presupposed in our defense of anarcho-capitalism, it should be noted that anarcho-capitalism is hotly disputed by nearly all advocates of the Theonomic thesis.
Section VII (out of X) in Bahnsen’s book is entitled “Application of the [Theonomic] Thesis to the State.” Most people mistakenly assume that this particular application of the Theonomic thesis to the State by Bahnsen is itself the Theonomic Thesis. The political views of the “Christian Reconstructionists” constitute only one possible “Application of the Thesis to the State.”
Western Civilization is Christian Civilization. Calvinism is the most consistent form of Biblical Christianity. Admittedly, John Calvin affirmed the ethical legitimacy of the State. But we believe that everything else Calvin said logically leads to anarcho-capitalism. His followers were unsurpassed in their critique of statism and their ideas of Republican representation and man's depravity gave birth to the American revolution and system of limited government. The Founding Fathers -- even so-called “deists” like Benjamin Franklin -- believed that American history was personally shaped by the direct intervention of God. History has shown that Calvinism has been the greatest motivating force for the Christian Reconstruction of society. While not everyone in society may call themselves Calvinists, their thoughts and institutions have been shaped by those who did.
We are losing what the Founding Fathers fought for. The house they built is being eaten by termites. To restore it, we must replace each plank of wood with Calvinist wood free of all unBiblical termites. Those termites, we contend, are “archist” notions of the ethical legitimacy of institutionalized sin which we call “the State,” notions which affect citizens as well as politicians.
In a court of law the Prosecution must bring a convincing case against the accused, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Defense attorneys don't have to call a single witness if the Prosecution fails to meet its burden of producing a case which is prima facie -- “at first appearance” -- convincing. When a prima facie case has been made, a person is reasonably and ethically justified in accepting that position until counter evidence is set forth.
Probably most church-goers have never read the Bible from cover to cover as they would a Harry Potter book. We contend that a person reading through the Bible is warranted in believing that the State is evil. We will summarize the teachings of the Bible in such a way that a reasonable person would be forced to agree with us (that “the State” has no moral legitimacy) until contrary evidence is brought forth.
We assume our jurors have taken Christian Ethics 101, and have heard Christ teach the duty to love one's enemies and eschew vengeance and violence. Our first witness is John Calvin, in his comments on Romans 12:17-21. We could rest our case here, but after the recess we will submit:
We will close by summing up the entire Bible, which never gives anyone the right to take vengeance:
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19, quoting Deuteronomy 32:35)
The purpose of the State is to take vengeance. It was invented by those who would not wait for the Lord to repay. If it is sinful for me to take vengeance, it is sinful for me to hire someone to take vengeance for me (a mafia hit-man), and it is sinful for me to “vote” for someone to take vengeance for me. The State is therefore precluded by this passage.
John Calvin's comments on this passage are found here.
Even if the State were a completely voluntary association, which did not finance its activities by initiating force or threats of force against others in order to confiscate their wealth, its fundamental purpose -- taking vengeance -- is sinful and prohibited to all human beings.
Our word “anarchism” comes from two Greek words meaning “no rule,” where “rule” is usually defined as “the State” or a political rather than market system of social organization. In Mark 10:42-45 Jesus commands His disciples to be “an-archists”:
The English phrase “to rule” in verse 42 is the Greek archein, from which our word “anarchism” is derived. For Jesus to say we are not to become archists is the functional equivalent of a command to be “anarchists,” or as we would put it, “anarcho-capitalists.”
When most people hear the word “anarchist” they think of a lawless bomb-throwing bearded assassin. According to Jesus, the opposite of an “archist” is a “servant,” not this caricature of an “anarchist.” Assassination and lawlessness are the antithesis of a Theonomic servant, and therefore the antithesis of an anarcho-capitalist as defined in our thesis.
In fact, opposition to violence is at the heart of “anarcho-capitalism.” Socialism depends on the coercive and violent imposition of political policy upon the free market. The anarcho-capitalist opposes all infringements of man’s unalienable rights to life, liberty and property, and is unwilling to excuse any initiation of force, even by “the powers that be.”
If Christians followed Jesus' command to be servants, and Paul's command (Romans 12) to eschew vengeance, the State would not come into being.
In addition to the command to be a “servant” rather than an “archist,” Scripture firmly prohibits the essential functions of “the State.” Four of these prohibitions are as follows:
1. The Dominion Mandate (Genesis 1:26-28)
God commands human beings to “exercise dominion” over the earth. Socialists are inherently inefficient stewards of God’s earth, as capitalists have proven (see resources above), therefore socialism violates this mandate.
Those who passively allow the State to perform vital social functions often do so as a means of escaping personal responsibility for these functions, and also violate the Dominion Mandate. There is a strong correlation between socialism and immorality: as a society moves toward higher levels of morality, it moves away from state socialism toward anarcho-capitalism.
2. The Eighth Commandment (“Thou shalt not steal”)
Suppose I want to install a security system in my home. I lack sufficient funds. May I put a gun to your head and demand that you provide me with the money I need for my project?
The anarcho-capitalist believes that nobody—even those calling themselves “the State”—can legitimately confiscate the property of others. “Taxation” is theft. And it is taxation which defines the State; private parties must rely on voluntary support for their endeavors.
The Westminster Larger Catechism - Exposition of the Eighth Commandment
Note: some anarcho-capitalists believe in self-defense. Others of a more pacifistic stripe are comfortable with a literal application of the Sermon on the Mount: “resist not evil.” Both parties would condemn taxation as the initiation of force against another, regardless of how they would personally respond to the initiation of such force against themselves.
Notice how these first two prohibitions come together in our current system of welfare. The “dominion-oriented” approach is seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He sees someone in need, and reaches into his own pocket. He may not have been rich. He may have helped the needy at great sacrifice. He did not rob the next passerby to support the victim of the first robbery. When a modern “liberal” sees a needy person, he does not take personal responsibility and act at great sacrifice. He robs the next passerby (taxation), pockets half the money he takes for himself, and hires someone to give the rest to the needy. The personal dimension of charity is lost both for the giver and the recipient. One act of violence is compounded by another.
3. Prohibition of Manstealing (Ex 21:16; Deut 24:7)
Deprivation of liberty (conscription, regulation, imprisonment) violates the prohibition against kidnapping, even when carried out by those calling themselves “the State.”
4. The Sixth Commandment (Thou shalt not kill)
The fundamental definition of the State is that institution which monopolistically enforces its desires with the ultimate political power: death, both in war and in capital punishment. This power of death is symbolized as “the sword.”
Resistance to the State’s attempts to regulate or tax will also be met with the full power of the State. While the use of tanks and helicopters against the “Branch Davidians” in Waco, Texas, to enforce payment of a small firearms tax might be said to be an “abuse” or inefficient use of the final political power, it is clear that the State will escalate its use of force to match and then exceed any force used in defense against its aggression. In short, the State will kill in order to enforce its decrees.
The Westminster Larger Catechism - Exposition of the Sixth Commandment
Defenders of the State are quick to contend that society would be plunged into crime and violence without the State to hold back the floodtides of depravity. But it is not merely the case that the State does a poor job of protecting us from criminals (as opposed to private security agencies), but The State is the Greatest Criminal. Most capitalists and all anarcho-capitalists are quick to point out that it is the State, rather than private criminals, that has caused most of the violence in the world. In fact, more bombs are thrown by “archists” than “anarchists,” and more crimes against property are committed by “archists” than common “private sector” criminals.
Murder by any other name would be called “National Defense.”
Theft by any other name would be called “taxation.”
The bottom-line distinction between “the State” and private persons is the alleged morality of State actions which would otherwise be roundly condemned as immoral if perpetrated by private parties. Our thesis is that Scripture provides no justification for these otherwise-sinful acts.
In spite of the fact that Jesus commands us to be servants, and the Law of God forbids us to be “archists,” most Christians believe that the State is ethically legitimate, and affirmatively commanded by God. This idea flourishes only in ignorance of Biblical history.
The heart of our thesis is a survey of the State in Scripture. Just to be cute, we have divided our survey into 95 key events or commandments in the Bible which either show the State to be immoral, or champion decentralized free market approaches to social problems. Along the way we discuss several other doctrines which are implicitly or explicitly presupposed in the mainstream expositions of Romans 13, such as “the depravity of man,” the predestined decline of civilization before the Second Coming (eschatology), and the “separation of church and state.”
The Theses are arranged chronologically, as you would find them reading through the Bible. They are organized under the following heads:
Thesis 1: The Biological Basis of Anarcho-Theocracy
Let's Define Our Terms!
Thesis 2: The Dominion Mandate
Thesis 3: Anarcho-Theocracy and the “Extended Family”
Thesis 4: Anarcho-Theocracy: The Original Society
Thesis 5: Anarcho-Theocracy and the Sanctions of the Covenant
Thesis 6: The Priority of Agrarianism
Thesis 7: Anarcho-Theocracy and the Mountain
Conclusion: At no time before the Fall did God command men to form “the State”
Thesis 8: The Fall of the Angels
Thesis 9: The Fall of Man
Thesis 10: The Purpose of Cain's “Suspended Sentence”
Thesis 11: Cain's City: The Autonomy of the State
Thesis 12: The Demonic Roots of Tyranny
Conclusion: At no time before the Flood did God command men to form “the State”
Thesis 13: The Post-Flood Absence of the Institutional Church
Thesis 14: The Patriarchal Power of “Capital Punishment”
Thesis 15: Nimrod: The First Politician (Post-Flood)
Thesis 16: Anarcho-Theocracy vs. Political Slavery
Thesis 17: Demonic Activity At Babel
Thesis 18: The Division of the Nations
Thesis 19: Evangelism in the Old Covenant
Thesis 20: Anarcho-Theocracy, “National Defense,” and Military Socialism
Thesis 21: Anarcho-Theocracy and “Sacraments”: Circumcision
Thesis 22: The Myth of the “Separation of Church and State”
Thesis 23: Anarcho-Theocracy, Precious Metals, and Money
Conclusion: At no time before the giving of the law at Mt.Sinai did God command men to form “the State”
Thesis 24: Anarcho-Theocracy and Resistance to Tyranny in the Early Days of the Old Testament
Pharaohs and Pyramids
Thesis 25: The Source of Statist Power and Direction
Thesis 26: Ceremony, Ritual, Liturgy, and the “Pedagogical Law”
Thesis 27: Anarcho-Theocracy and “Sacraments”: Passover
Thesis 28: Patriarchs and “Elders”
Thesis 29: The Need For A Pedagogical Legal Structure
Thesis 30: Angels and the Pedagogical Legal Structure
Thesis 31: The Promised Land
Thesis 32: The Temporary Character of the First “Church Officers”
Thesis 33: Anarcho-Theocracy and the Temple
Thesis 34: Anarcho-Theocracy and Education
Conclusion: The Mosaic System did not contain a command from God for men to form “the State”
The Myth of the "Separation of Church and State"
Thesis 35: The Character of “Gods”
Thesis 36: Social Security Without a State
Thesis 37: The Prohibition of Monarchism
Thesis 38: The State As the Answer To the Prayers of Rebels
Thesis 39: The Inferiority of Old Covenant Typological Mediators
Conclusion: At no time before the time of Saul did God command men to form “the State”
Thesis 40: Romans 8:28 and The State
Thesis 41: God's Sovereign Ordering of Every State
Thesis 42: As With All Angelic Activity, No State Action Is Coincidental or Random
Thesis 43: The State Serves God by Sinning
Thesis 44: The State As Sanctified “Servant” / “Deacon” / “Minister”
Thesis 45: The State Does Not Serve God Self-Consciously
Thesis 46: Only One King Self-Consciously Serves God
Thesis 47: Judgment of The State in Heaven and Earth
Thesis 48: Moloch-Worship and the Nature of Idols
Thesis 49: War and “the Sword”
Thesis 50: The Throne of David
Conclusion: At no time in the Old Covenant did God command men to form “the State.” The desire for a State was a rejection of God. God raises up evil empires to “serve” His purposes of vengeance, but the men participating in these acts of violence are judged by God.
Thesis 51: Statism at the Time of Christ
Thesis 52: Kingship, Citizenship, and the Gospel
Thesis 53: The Civil Authority of the Pastor: Christ the Shepherd
Thesis 54: Jewish Opposition to the Kingdom
Thesis 55: Christ's Binding of Satan
Thesis 56: True Power vs. Political Power
Thesis 57: Kingdom Growth
Thesis 58: Agrarianism as Environmentalism
Thesis 59: Christ's Ascension to the Throne of David
Thesis 60: The Camaraderie of “Church” and State
Thesis 61: CNN and the Coming of the Kingdom
Thesis 62: The Anointed King Vs. Political Kings
Thesis 63: Jesus the Nazarene
CONCLUSION: The Messiah came to establish His Kingdom and crush rival empires to powder.
Thesis 64: Anarcho-Theocracy vs. Neutrality
Thesis 65: Sons of God and Pedagogues
Thesis 66: Judgment and the Church-Courts of Christ
Thesis 67: The Apostolic Church and the Spread of Power
Thesis 68: Anarcho-Theocracy and the House-Church
Thesis 69: Anarcho-Theocracy and the “Sacraments”: Baptism
Thesis 70: Anarcho-Theocracy and the “Sacraments”: The Lord's Table
Thesis 71: Self-Ordination
Thesis 72: Creationist Anarcho-Socialism
Thesis 73: Darwinian Archo-Socialism
Thesis 74: Salt and Statism
Thesis 75: Political Authority and Kingdom Citizenship
Thesis 76: Anarcho-Theocracy and Resistance To Tyranny in the Last Days of the Old Testament
Thesis 77: Taxation and Kingdom Citizenship
Thesis 78: Overcoming Through Suffering for the Sake of the Kingdom
Thesis 79: Violence
Thesis 80: Vengeance
Thesis 81: Pedagogy and The Powers
Thesis 82: The Spoiling of The Powers
Thesis 83: The Church and The Powerless Powers
Thesis 84: The Sons of God and the Powers that Be
Thesis 85: The End of Archists: The Pedagogues Judged
Thesis 86: The Last Days of the Old Covenant
CONCLUSION: The Early Christian families, meeting in homes, were opposed by both “Church” and “State.”
Thesis 87: The “Millennium”
Thesis 88: Ruling With Christ
Thesis 89: Definitive, Progressive, and Complete Salvation
Thesis 90: Salvation as Social Healing
Thesis 91: Edenic Restoration
Thesis 92: The New Heavens and the New Earth
Thesis 93: The Unconverted in the “Millennium”
Thesis 94: The Last Acts of Earthly Archists
Thesis 95: The City of God
CONCLUSION: God prohibits murder, theft, and deprivation of liberty, actions which form the heart of “the State.” God nowhere commands men to form “the State.” The State, therefore, should be abolished
Any Christian proposing to abolish the State or to create a new society without a civil magistrate is met with passionate objections, as though eliminating political institutions and replacing them with free market processes violates a clear command of Scripture. It is the burden of our thesis to answer these objections, by showing that God nowhere commands men to form the State, and that the formation of the State is continually denounced in Scripture.
We focus first on the most universally-cited objection to Anarcho-Theocracy: Romans 13:1-7. Defenders of limited socialism rely on Paul’s language describing the Roman Empire as “ordained by God.” Most commentators on the passage deny that Paul is speaking only of God’s predestinating decree. They contend that God affirmatively commands or gives ethical approval to the existence of the State. Where these commands are cited by the commentators, we will answer them.
For the most part, however, no such commands are cited by the commentators. Our contention is that there are no such commands. James Benjamin Green, in his Harmony of the Westminster Standards, has rightly noted that in Romans 13:
It is not meant that God directly ordained the state by saying to man, Thou shalt set up a government or organize a commonwealth.
Our analysis begins here.
Interaction with the Commentators
“If men were angels we need not have a government.”
Madison's words in Federalist 51 are often cited against anarcho-capitalists, who are quick to respond:
“If men are devils we dare not have a government.”
Ironically, Madison's overall point was not that the government can be trusted (as opposed to the depraved masses), or even on the necessity for government, but the reverse: that “power corrupts,” and the People must fashion a government with sufficient checks and balances to oblige the government to control itself. “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
The Calvinist-sounding doctrine of “the depravity of man” is our presupposition. No man or men can be trusted with a monopoly of institutionalized force.
“But without a State to control the people, won't the masses break out into lawlessness and violence?” They are more likely to do so if the society officially and publicly legitimizes force, which is what society does when it creates the State, which then models violence as an ethically legitimate response to the frustrations of life.
The Founding Fathers were virtually unanimous in their belief that the State was dangerous and could not inculcate virtue and self-control: this was the job of religion. The more we fear crime, the more we should strengthen those institutions of Gospel morality, and denounce the State, the Mafia, and all others who initiate force or violence.
The final objection against Anarcho-Theocracy which we will consider is based on verses which allegedly prescribe “capital punishment.” The Bible says: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6). How can we fulfill this command if we abolish the State? There are two responses to this objection:
These arguments are developed here.
A related argument, sometimes based on the same passages, is that we need a government to “punish” criminals.
These arguments are developed here.
 A.A. Hodge, Popular Lectures on Theological Themes, Phila: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1887, p. 280, quoted in R.J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1963, p. 335. Hodge was referring to the government-run school. But all of government, as propagator of law, is an educator. See R. Lerner, “The Supreme Court as Republican Schoolmaster,” 1967 Sup. Ct. Rev. 127.
 Kline, M.G., “Comments on an Old-New Error,” Westminster Theological Journal, vol. XLI, No.1 (Fall 1978).
 Bahnsen, Greg L., Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1977.
 Pure anarchism is an impossibility. There is always a source of law. Some who call themselves “anarchists” say they believe in no law at all. From a Christian perspective, this is an impossibility. In a group of 50 such “anarchists” there will be 50 law-makers and (at least) 50 codes of law. Every such “anarchist” is really just a nascent archist.
When everyone is his own god, his own law, you have multi-archy,
You may have chaos.
You may have terror.
But you do not have the absence of archism, which is what “anarchy” literally means.
“Anarchy” is best defined not as the absence of law, much less as chaos and terrorism, but as the absence of a “State,” a “political” system, or a “civil government” (leaving as an open question whether this would lead to chaos or to greater efficiency and order).
From a Christian perspective, “anarchy”—when defined as violence or the absence of legal sovereignty—is not even a moral option. Obviously, Jesus Christ is the Christian's “Archist,” (Colossians 1:18; cf. Acts 3:15; 5:31; Hebrews 2:10; 12:2; Revelation 1:5) and His Word is our “Archy” (He is the Word; John 1:1; I John 1:1; Revelation 19:13; cf. also Hebrews 3:14; 5:12).