August 28, 2015

“God’s Forgotten Libertarian.” Lawrence Reed on J. Gresham Machen.

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Check out Reed’s great little article on proto-Reformed Libertarian, J. Gresham Machen, here. Excerpt:

Historian George Marsden, in his 1991 book Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalismlabels Machen’s political views as “radical libertarian” because he “opposed almost any extension of state power.” I think Machen himself might have been happy with the description, but he would have seen it as a natural extension of the teachings of Christ, who advocated character building and spiritual renewal and not state power.

When a proposed child labor amendment to the Constitution grabbed headlines in the 1920s, Machen slammed it as “one of the most cruel and heartless measures that have ever been proposed in the name of philanthropy.” He understood the economics of a measure outlawing any employment for children under the age of 18: it would either drive child labor underground and into deplorable conditions or it would relegate poor families to even greater poverty. More important to Machen was what the amendment represented: a usurpation by federal power of a matter more properly left to the states, localities, and families.

Make sure you read the whole thing!

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to
  • Jim Hale

    I did not know this about Machen, but his book Christianity and Liberalism is one of my all-time favorites, in which he eviscerates the social gospel.