“We must obey God rather than men”: Lutheran-Calvinist theories of resistance
By Keir Martland
The theology of Luther, Calvin, and other sixteenth-century Protestants is similar in some respects to that of S. Augustine, and arguably in the case of Calvin, based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Augustine’s doctrine of predestination, with Harro Hopfl describing the latter as Luther and Calvin’s “favourite Patristic theologian.” Whatever the provenance of it, there is in the writings of Luther and Calvin a strong emphasis on the fallen nature of man. Now, earlier Christian thinkers with such a view of the impaired, flawed, even wretched nature of man, tended to also hold such a view of society as a whole. When thinkers such as Augustine or later ‘Political Augustinians’ applied themselves to political matters, because of their view of man and society, they gave no ‘naturalistic’ interpretation of government, authority, and power, no account of it independent of the source of all goodness, God, since man and society were, on this account, incapable of any virtue apart from Christian virtue. Their treatments of politics, then, left little room for theories of resistance or even for theories of ownership and political authority independent of the Church; rather, such thinkers tended to view all dominion as belonging ultimately to the Church and they expected at least passive obedience from the Christian to the established secular – delegated – and spiritual authorities. Yet there developed in the sixteenth-century a Lutheran-Calvinist resistance theory, or theories. It is, on the face of it, hard to see how the resistance theory as found in Theodore Beza or the Vindiciae contra Tyrannos developed from the writings of Luther and Calvin. Read more
Towards a naturalistic account of man, society, and politics
By Keir Martland
For much of the Middle Ages – ordered anarchy though it was, owing to the situation on the ground of overlapping jurisdictions and law codes – the path to a fully-developed political or legal philosophy of any kind was blocked. There were, to be sure, a number of obstacles for the political philosopher, and no single factor can be held entirely responsible. Among these factors was the very idea of Christendom itself, since men in the Middle Ages did not separate ‘Church’, ‘State’, ‘Empire’, ‘kingdom’, ‘Europe’ etc. If ever Hilaire Belloc’s line that “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe” was factually correct, it was during the early to high Middle Ages. Naturally, this lack of clear thinking was one significant impediment to the development of serious political thought. At the same time, this Christendom required, so many thought, a single dominus. Whether pope or Western Emperor, for as long as the secular realm was thought of in the same terms as the spiritual realm, where one Lord and one Faith were both sufficient and necessary, for as long as the mission of the temporal powers was the same as the mission of the spiritual powers, one man on earth surely ought to be lord of the world. As a result, for much of the Middle Ages, while the battle for the position of dominus mundi raged between pope and emperor or pope and king or emperor and king, the ‘political thought’ produced was necessarily to a certain extent propaganda which took for granted the unity of Christendom under one divinely-appointed head. Read more
Welcome, fellow extremists!
Chairman’s Address to inaugural Mises UK Conference,
at the Charing Cross Hotel
27th January 2018
Extremism Disruption Orders
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said of the Government’s planned ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’, that they will go “beyond terrorism” and “eliminate extremism in all its forms.” The Government has said that these Extremism Disruption Orders will be introduced to tackle “harmful activities” of “extremist individuals” who “spread hate” but do not “break laws.” Read more
We repost Sean Gabb’s statement on anti-Semitism which he made while Director of the Libertarian Alliance. We wish to make it clear that Mises UK regards this statement as canonical:
The problem with anti-semitic conspiracy theories is that they involve continuous selection. Therefore, you take the fact that Karl Marx was a socialist, and overlook that he was a racist and cultural conservative. You take the fact that Mahler was a musical revolutionary, and overlook that he was a German nationalist. You wholly overlook people like Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, or Paul Gottfried and Meyer Schiller. You also overlook how many poisonous lefties there seem to be in Israel, calling for open borders and the demotion of Jewish symbols.
Jews tend to be opinionated and vociferous. There are Jews arguing fluently on each side of every argument. You can put together a very convincing theory of Jewish subversion by selecting certain opinions of certain Jews, and ascribing these to all or most Jews. You are left with a composite Jew that may exist in a few instances, but is not representative of the Jews we meet in our everyday lives.
You could, by using the same method, but applying a different principle of selection, prove that Jews were sexually-repressed white nationalists with a tendency to convert to Roman Catholicism. You will also find examples of the resulting composite. Again, it will be unrepresentative.
The truth is that we’ve messed our civilisation up by ourselves, and would have got where we now are even if every Jew in the world had fallen dead c1870.
We regret that recent events have made it necessary to repost this.
Congratulations to the Royal Holloway Mises Society on becoming our first officially affiliated and registered university society.
Reflections on the importance of the medieval English parliament
(Feast of Michael and All Angels, 2017)
What was the importance or significance of the mediaeval English parliament? This is a vast question and my thoughts on it are particularly difficult to articulate, but I think it requires a lengthy process of ‘setting the scene’ to begin with. To put the disputes between kings and representative institutions in their proper context, it is important to consider earlier mediaeval notions of law and kingship. The early mediaeval ‘customary law’ was not one of sovereignty, like the Roman law – whose famous maxim put it ‘whatever has pleased the ruler has the force of law’ – but one of compromises worked out according to a few immutable principles. In such an understanding, law – being the law of one’s fathers – was good because it was old, and old because it was good, and law was sovereign. The king was under the law, bound by it, and his very existence was predicated upon it. Indeed, the mediaeval Icelandic constitution functioned well without a king for centuries, with only one part-time ‘government employee’, a single lawspeaker. Furthermore, since ‘feudal’ relations were essentially personal ones of reciprocal rights and duties, territoriality, like sovereignty was alien to the mediaeval social and political order. As Frank van Dun has it in his essay Uprooted Liberalism and its Discontents, “…power rested on personal allegiances between freemen. Thus, the feudal lord-vassal relationship was not a transitive relation…” Tacitus’ words might well be applied to the early Germanic or barbarian societies, ‘Nec regibus infinita aut libera potestas’ (Their kings are not unlimited or free). Read more
The Medieval Roots of European Freedom
On the evening of 27th September 2017, I visited the boys at The Oratory School to give a short talk. I gave no title at the time, but a title which suggests itself retrospectively is ‘The medieval roots of European freedom.’ Here is a very brief outline of the 30 minute talk:
How do we explain freedom or liberalism? Any Little Englander will tell you that England is a bit special, but there are other such places in Europe worth investigating. Racialistic accounts, such as in Mein Kampf, and other accounts such as Max Weber’s, of how small countries like England and Holland came to dominate the world, are flawed. Explanations of the ‘European miracle’, too, are mostly confused, often lapsing into 19th century historicism. Rather, we must look to how our early and high mediaeval forebears thought about and practised law and kingship to come to a better understanding of liberal England and liberal Europe. After all, it was in the mediaeval period that the foundations of much that we hold dear – whether economic, political, cultural, or religious – were laid. Ideas and practices worth considering here are: strong kinship bonds; fealty; oath-helping/compurgation; the sovereignty of law; the absence of sovereign territoriality; the absence of the Divine Right of Kings; the consensus fidelium; the right of resistance etc.