The book, “Latter-day Liberty,” by Utah County political activist Connor Boyack, is extremely provocative. If sales gain steam, it could provoke a political debate within Mormonism. I say that as someone who disagrees with Boyack’s conclusions at times. Yet, his arguments and conclusions are persuasive and painstakingly researched.
Boyack believes that doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints parallels most closely with libertarianism, or what he describes as classical liberalism. He’s not pitching the Libertarian Party to Mormons, but he does argue that libertarian ideals, such as freedom of personal choices that do not harm others, or a foreign policy that avoids proactive conflict, are elements of the U.S. Constitution and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He opposes Alexander Hamilton’s idea of implied powers or rationales, such as “general welfare” or “commerce” clauses, used to enforce federal taxes or universal health care. His narrow view of federal powers puts him, as he admits, in conflict with a majority of current Latter-day Saints on federal intervention in the War on Terror, immigration reform, public education, welfare, and health care reform, among other issues.
The book’s arguments are heavily infused with Latter-day Saint scriptures and quotes from past Latter-day Saint leaders. Some of the quotes might surprise many active Mormons. A Mormon apostle sharply criticizes the use of atomic weapons on Japan; another decries the slavery of welfare dependence in the 1960s; the LDS Church urges no military action from the U.S as World War II looms.
The war between liberty and enslavement began in the pre-existence, argues Boyack, when Lucifer pitched a salvation plan alternative to God’s plan. Jehovah’s plan of agency was a defense of God’s plan, which is liberty. Lucifer’s failed plan of compulsory obedience is government controlling its subjects’ freedom, or slavery. Within that context flows the interpretation of what government’s role in our lives should be.
That people should be allowed freedom so long as it does not harm others is the core of Boyak’s argument. Government should do nothing to restrict that freedom. Within foreign policy, peace should be the primary goal. A nation should only fight if attacked. And, like the Nephites during times of righteousness, Boyack argues that once an enemy is expelled from invasion, war should end. Preemptive attack, such as the Iraq War, is outlawed.
On immigration, Boyack argues that no limits should be placed on foreigners who wish to move to the U.S. He argues rather persuasively that immigration control has its roots in 19th century bigotry against Chines immigrants. Welfare, civil rights, zoning laws, anti-discrimination laws, Social Security, Medicare … all to Boyack are perversions of the Constitution, and Latter-day Saint doctrine.
The author’s arguments are not as Scrooge-like as they might seem. He argues that communities, families and organizations, such as churches, can do what government has taken via taxes. He argues that the takeover of assistance by the government has moved with a consistent increase in poverty and societal dysfunctions. A key reason for this, Boyack argues, is because government charity, as opposed to family or church charity, comes with no motivation or conditions toward improved behavior. The same rule applies to welfare payments, which rather than move recipients toward employment, more often results in generations of subsidized families, with the resulting dysfunctions.
Agency, liberty, as defined by Boyack, conflict with most Latter-day Saints on how many issues are handled, notably the War on Terror and immigration, but also on drug control, prostitution, business-code enforcement and gay marriage. To Boyack, though, these differences are not a matter of differing opinions that can be tolerated. He makes it clear that belief in the ideals he argues is not enough. They must also be argued, defended and lived. There are no Caspar Milquetoasts in Boyack’s world.
The atrocious legacy of federal spending, a $15 trillion deficit, trillions in taxes that fail to eradicate poverty, all lend support to Boyack’s arguments. The terror war has pleased few, with foreign policy decisions of past generations contributing to a more dangerous world. Nevertheless, there’s a utopianism to Latter-day Liberty’s solutions that clashes with reality. It’s easy to say that the feds have screwed up a lot of issues; no arguments there. But trillions of dollars in commitments can’t be wiped away by returning to 19th century governance. We can’t withdraw from a world we have committed ourselves to and retreat from a war against terrorism.
Yet immediate action is what Boyack wants; and he attaches LDS doctrine to his argument, which is one way of seeking finality to an argument. I’m impressed by Boyack’s command of LDS doctrine. It’s better than mine, but I suspect other general authorities’ quotes could be found to counter some of the quotes he gathers from Ezra Taft Benson, David O. McKay, J. Reuben Clark and other LDS icons.
Boyack is a Ron Paul supporter, and the GOP candidate has endorsed “Latter Day Liberty.” The book is a fascinating, well-researched, in-your-face libertarian manifesto from an LDS perspective. The author was recently a guest on libertarian commentator Andrew Napolitano’s national TV show. More proof of its provocativeness: the book has been rejected for review by the Pabulum pub “The Mormon Times.”
I hope the book sells well and starts a serious debate among Latter-day Saints, as well as conservatives. With the depressing state of our nation today, Boyack’s book is needed. (To see a review of “Latter Day Responsibility,” a sequel, click here.)