The less free one is, the more conformist one has to look

In my book "dressing well" means dressing in a manner that is pleasing or interesting to look at, not being a fashion conformist.

  Conformity is its own subtle form of poison. As recently as a half century ago in the United States, women could not comfortably wear short skirts nor men go without hats in public. The clothing of that period exhibited a drab sameness and lack of creativity that reflected a boring and homogenized society with relatively little room for individuality or personal expression. Stephen Carson writes of this stifling restrictions regime on how one could adorn one's body and still be accepted in society as if it were a good thing:

Look at the old movies, (from the 1950s or earlier). Men are just about always dressed in jacket and tie unless they are depicted doing manual labour.

  And he sees the cultural revolution of the 1960s as a bad thing:

What changed? I would say it was the cultural revolution of the 1960s... An egalitarian, anti-traditional cultural moment that gave us wonderful things like high levels of divorce, better thinking through hallucinogens and whole new families of frightening sexual diseases. Why continue something that came out of that?

  If Carson had written nothing else in his essay, the paragraph above would have been sufficient to demonstrate to me that he is incredibly misguided.

  The cultural changes wrought by the dawning of the Aquarian Age highlighted the possibility that traditional marriage may not be the best one-size-fits-all model for everyone; freed people to separate from long-term partners with whom they were miserable; tore down longstanding racist and sexist barriers in the workplace and society; advanced the idea of egalitarian personal relationships; opened peoples' eyes to the possibilities of better living through chemistry; gave birth to a freedom of movement that was previously unknown in popular dancing; gave us exciting new forms of music; encouraged people to question authority on many different levels; engendered a serious anti-war movement; allowed GLBTQ people to come out of the closet and be themselves; and made it possible for men to dress more comfortably when applying for jobs.

  It has taken centuries for people to achieve the freedom of what to wear that we enjoy today. I'm not about to advocate throwing all this away in order to appeal to the shrinking percentage of the mainstream that cannot think outside the box.

  The more social pressure there is to dress a certain way, the more important I will feel it is to do anything but.

Yours in liberty,
        <<< Starchild >>>

Dear Mike and All Others;

What's being said in the article is simple: Dress for Success. If you look sharp and dress sharp you will be sharp. This comes into play especially if you are presenting yourself as a Libertarian spokesperson to an audience who may not know what the heck being a Libertarian is all about. Your audience will take you more seriously if you are well dressed. If you appear sloppy in dress or wildly arrayed the message gets lost.

If you are a wild eyed frizzy haired spouter of gaseous rhetoric - dress well. Take Ralph Nader as an example - he is always suited up for an interview. Anyone ever see Ralph un-suited for any public appearances?

It's like when you go on a job interview. You dress well for the interview - even if the position is at a casual dress company.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian

Dear All,

These articles articulate the theme of my speech at the Michael Badnarik fund-raiser better than I ever could. I suggest that we all read these articles carefully and consider how we currently package ourselvesÖ.this means me too.


The Year of Dressing Dangerously

by Stephen W. Carson

Several years ago I started to wear a sports-coat regularly. I wasn't sure why I was doing this, some vague desire to dress more conservatively perhaps. I certainly didn't really know how to dress in a more traditional manner. So, a discouraging comment from a friend and the experiment was quickly put to an end. I returned to the drab, overly casual wardrobe that is the mark of the contemporary American man. (You might think that being a software engineer I would be extremely conscious in the way I think things through. For this programmer at least, it doesn't work like that at all. I very often sense the solutions to knotty design problems before I can articulate them and, in general, think through things in a rather indirect, impressionistic way.)

Then one year ago, I read Jeff Tucker's article How To Dress Like A Man on (also see his Addendum). With the passing of a few more years I had solidified my reasons for why I wanted to dress in a more traditional manner but still didn't know how. Jeff's article gave me the basics I needed but somehow was never taught. My wife and I went out that night, picked out a sports-coat and the next day at work I was in jacket and tie and have been nearly every day of the year since.

For some this might be no big deal, but for me this is quite a change. I grew up around hippies. Due in part to this, I was aggressively casual and always resented dressing up. I found dress shoes to be uncomfortable and thought ties would strangle me. To be fair to my younger self, I think I was typically wearing shoes that I had outgrown. I now know that dress shoes need not be torture. During my undergraduate years in college (1987ñ91) I usually didn't wear shoes at all in the warmer parts of the year. I kept sandals stashed under the driver's seat of my car in case I needed to go into a restaurant. So you can see why the first time one of my oldest friends saw me dressed up and heard that I was dressing like this every day, he said, "Who stole my friend and replaced him with an alien?"

To make my little transition all the more awkward, I work at a small software company that prides itself on a casual, relaxed work environment. The software industry was established inCalifornia after all. The CEO is often in shorts and a t-shirt. I am usually the only one at work wearing either a jacket or a tie, much less both. In the first few weeks of dressing more formally, I received several discouraging comments from managers about my new wardrobe. One coworker looked at me with frank horror when he saw my tie. I took Jeff's advice and just made self-deprecating jokes when people asked why I was dressing differently.

The one difficulty I did not foresee was the trouble I caused my wife. It was enough of a problem that I was suddenly dressing differently, causing her to need a slightly different wardrobe to match, but she was also pregnant (with this baby) most of this last year which causes wardrobe difficulties for a woman at the best of times. To make it trickier, I grew up around hippies but her parents were hippies.

As I worked on expanding my new wardrobe, I received invaluable advice from Ask Andy About Clothes. See, for example, his brief article, Ten Most Common Men's Fashion Mistakes.

Why Dress Up?

In his article, Jeff explained the how but only briefly addressed the why. Here's some of my thoughts over the past year on why to dress in the traditional way.

Look at the old movies, (from the 1950s or earlier). Men are just about always dressed in jacket and tie unless they are depicted doing manual labour. What changed? I would say it was the cultural revolution of the 1960s... An egalitarian, anti-traditional cultural moment that gave us wonderful things like high levels of divorce, better thinking through hallucinogens and whole new families of frightening sexual diseases. Why continue something that came out of that?

My wife and I have realized, by the way, that women who want to dress more traditionally are in a worse fix than men. Though worn far less than they once were, men's suits haven't really changed in a hundred years. Fine men's clothing can still be bought. But for young women, hooker chic reigns.

The traditional suit and tie are the culmination of many generations of development that have resulted in an outfit that makes most men look fairly respectable even if their body isn't giving them much help. Fashion is a perfect example of an area to apply Burke's recommendation that we ought to benefit from the wisdom of generations rather than rely on the trends of our passing historical moment. I'm the last one who thinks he has the fashion genius to go beyond traditional dress for men and come up with something superior. So, with that final bit of prodding from Jeff, I finally bent the knee and submitted to the results of a slow accumulation of knowledge over generations of how a man should dress so as to complement his looks and convey the right message. There is no question in my mind that in submitting to this tradition I am a far better dressed man than I was under my own weak fashion guidance.

Earlier in this article I emphasized the negative responses, but I have also noticed that I get a lot more smiles from folks now, especially older ones. There has been a subtle shift in the treatment I receive from people at stores, tellers at banks and so many others. I am far more often treated as a serious, professional adult. This is rather nice since I'm 35 now, am getting gray in my beard and have been a professional engineer for 15 years.

I have always understood the importance of manners, however sadly lacking I have been in proper training. It is a matter of religious conviction for me that all men are made in the image of the Lord and that, among other things, this means that I ought to respect that divine image that each person bears no matter who I am dealing with. Dressing in a more gentlemanly way has prodded me to behave in a more gentlemanly fashion. I have also felt a bit more dignity about myself. Just as I labor over my articles and speeches, selecting each word to express just what I want, neither more nor less, clothing is also a communication that deserves care. Dressing properly conveys that I respect myself, respect others and expect respect in return.


Armed with the basic guidelines for dressing well, I have found that I am not as inept with fashion as I assumed. My wife regularly comments on how she likes ties and outfits that I have selected. I don't think I've been alone among American men of my generation in finding clothing to be a confusing and even forbidding area. It's a small part of life, but one about which we must make decisions every day. And who knows? Maybe my radical political ideas will get a more serious hearing if I come off as a gentleman instead of a wild-eyed kid.

July 16, 2004

Stephen W. Carson [send him mail] works as a software engineer, occasionally writes about political economy and is the proud father of a new baby girl. See his reviews of Films on Liberty and the State. More articles are available at his Web Site.

Copyright © 2004

Stephen Carson Archives

Biblical Anarchism

by Stephen W. Carson

"The desire to rule is the mother of heresies."~St. JohnChrysostom

"My kingdom is not of this world."~ Y'shua

How can someone who holds the Bible to be true and sacred be an anarchist? What about the respect for authority and the emphasis on obedience throughout the scriptures, (both the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as the B'rit Hadashah, the Greek or ìChristianî scriptures)? Doesn't G-d ordain our government leaders? Didn't G-d directly select the first two kings ofIsrael, Saul and David? Doesn't the sinfulness of man require a government to restrain our evil? And, for followers of Y'shua (Jesus), what about the words of Paul commanding obedience to secular rulers?

By clarifying what precisely we mean (and don't mean!) by anarchy as a political system and what the Scriptures teach I hope to answer these objections and explain how I both hold the Bible to be the revealed Word of G-d and also desire society without the State.

Though the teachings of the Bible can be followed and applied under any system of government, the Scriptures do give us some fairly strong clues of what forms of government are ideal. First and foremost, there is the Torah. The Torah, which is the first five books of the Tanakh, includes lengthy passages describing a system of law for the newly freed nation ofIsrael. This "Mosaic Law" is directly dictated by G-d to Moses and it is the clear testimony of Scripture that this Law is good and trustworthy.

Besides passages having to do with the sacramental life of the new nation, the civil law portion is very compatible with libertarian notions of law. The civil law consists primarily of prohibitions like: "You are not to murder. You are not to adulter. You are not to steal. You are not to testify against your fellow as a false witness." (Exodus 20:13)

Most of these prohibitions and their prescribed punishments deal with violations of person and property, just as libertarians emphasize the law should. Also, there is no notion of prison in this Law, the system of justice is largely based on making restitution to those who were harmed.

But most telling is what the Mosaic Law leaves out. There is no establishment of what we would now call an executive or a legislative body. There is no establishment of taxes (the religious rules require a tithe to support the priests but there is no punishment specified for failing to tithe). Civil order is kept by adherence to this legal code, private justice in the case of infractions of the code and private courts in the case of disagreements. In modern political terminology, this political system is called "anarchy." Anarchy literally means "without rulers." Modern libertarian anarchists (i.e. anarcho-capitalists), envision a system very much like this Mosaic system with no tax-funded political authority but with a system of private justice for mediating disputes and assigning restitution.

But it gets even more clear! Eventually, after a period under this Mosaic "anarchy," the Israelites ask the prophet Samuel for a king. Given our contemporary faith in the State, you would think that G-d, through his prophet, would praise the Israelites for realizing they needed a ruler, a strong leader to unite them and provide them direction.

Reading what G-d actually says through Samuel is a sobering reminder of how deeply heretical our modern faith in the State is:

And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out ofEgyptuntil this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day." (I Samuel 8:7-18)

Here, the Bible makes it absolutely clear that the change from the Mosaic anarchy to what by today's standards would be a "limited government" will have terrible consequences and shows a tremendous lack of faith in G-d. This passage makes clear that the people ofIsraelcommitted a grievous sin when they rejected G-d's anarchy for a State.

The continuing record ofIsraelunder kings shows that Samuel's warning was all too accurate, if anything understated. Most of the kings are terrible for the people of Israel, getting them into wars, leading them into sin and stealing whatever catches their eye, (even the best king, King David, steals a man's wife and then kills the man).

With all this in mind, let's address the questions we began with: "How can someone who holds the Bible to be true and sacred be an anarchist?" Given the Torah, the Prophets and the records ofIsrael's kings, I think we should rather ask: 'How can someone who holds the Bible to be true and sacred NOT be an anarchist?"

"What about the respect for authority and the emphasis on obedience throughout the scriptures?" The emphasis on obedience in the scriptures is, first and foremost, an emphasis on obedience to G-d. When G-d is your king, as Samuel implies, you should desire no other. Nevertheless, even when the government is not ideal, the scriptures charge G-d's people to be respectful of established authorities. It is faith in G-d that will bring us liberty, not constant rebellions.

"Doesn't G-d ordain our government leaders? Didn't G-d directly select the first two kings ofIsrael, Saul and David?" After warning the people ofIsrael, to no avail, that they should not reject His rule for that of a human ruler, G-d selects that ruler through His prophet. The Bible often records how G-d meets people where they are. If we do not have enough faith to live with G-d as our only king, then He will try to work with us through the system we choose. Suffice it to say that when G-d ordains rulers, that does not constitute a ringing endorsement of the State as the best system of government.

"Doesn't the sinfulness of man require a government to restrain our evil?" The sinfulness of man means that putting the awesome power of the State into the hands of sinful men is asking for trouble ("Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely"). G-d made it clear how the sinfulness of men should be constrained in society: the Law. Libertarian anarchists agree.

"For followers of Y'shua (Jesus), what about the words of Paul commanding obedience to secular rulers?" The passage is from Romans: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which G-d has established. The authorities that exist have been established by G-d... if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is G-d's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:1,4)

In this brief article, I cannot fully address the teaching of Paul and the rest of the Greek scriptures on authority and the calling of followers of Y'shua. A few thoughts, though, to suggest how this instruction is in harmony with the anarchistic Torah. Paul was not spreading a gospel of political revolution. The message of Y'shua is spiritual. The follower of Y'shua believes that healing in our broken relationship with G-d is the foundation for healing in the other areas of our lives, like our system of government.

The method of the Christian is persuasion and good conduct, not violence. In an interesting parallel, Paul instructs Christian slaves to obey their masters and even returns a converted slave to his Christian master (Philemon). But note carefully what he says: "Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called?Don't let it trouble you ñ although if you can gain your freedom, do so." (I Corinthians 7:20-21)

Is this instruction incompatible with the abolition of slavery? Surely not. Likewise, Paul's instruction to individual believers to submit to existing authorities does not preclude a people's return to G-d being our only king under a just Law.

One final objection. Isn't anarchy a utopian political system? In the literal sense of utopia, "no place,"anarchy is not utopian. The Tanakh records just such a society. Anarchist researchers have found other historical examples. Several hundred years ago, the notion that the slave trade could be ended and then chattel slavery itself abolished certainly seemed utopian. But British evangelical Christians began to make the moral case against it and within a century or two slavery was abolished throughout the wider European world.

Do we have less faith than those British evangelicals? Is the State, which has slaughtered over 100 million civilians in the 20th century alone, a lesser evil than chattel slavery? Shall we wait until a couple hundred million more are slaughtered before humbling ourselves before G-d and asking Him to be our only king once again?

With faith in G-d and a Biblically based submission to His good and eternal Law, let us work towards a time when the State will be seen for the unnecessary evil it is and the cry will go up in the land a second time: Abolition! Abolition! Abolition!

June 7, 2001

Stephen W. Carson [send him mail] works as a software engineer, studies political economy at the graduate level at Washington University, and works with inner city children in St. Louis through a ministry of his church, which also has a special mission to the Jewish people. See his reviews of Films on Liberty.

Copyright © 2001