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
ourselves....this means me too.
The Year of Dressing Dangerously
by Stephen W. Carson <mailto:Stephen@…>
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
Then one year ago, I read Jeff Tucker's article How To Dress Like A Man
<http://www.lewrockwell.com/tucker/tucker38.html> on LewRockwell.com
(also see his Addendum
<http://blog.lewrockwell.com/lewrw/archives/000746.html> ). 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 (1987-91) 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
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 in California 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
<http://www.RadicalLiberation.com/Events1.html> ) 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 <http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/> . 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 <http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/carson2.html>
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 <mailto:Stephen@…>
] 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 <http://www.mises.org/film.asp> . More
articles are available at his Web Site
Copyright (c) 2004 LewRockwell.com
Stephen Carson Archives
by Stephen W. Carson <mailto:SWCarson@…>
"The desire to rule is the mother of heresies." ~ St. John Chrysostom
"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 "Christian"
scriptures)? Doesn't G-d ordain our government leaders? Didn't G-d
directly select the first two kings of Israel, 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
of Israel. 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
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
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
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
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 of Egypt
until 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 of Israel
committed a grievous sin when they rejected G-d's anarchy for a State.
The continuing record of Israel under 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 of Israel'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 of Israel, Saul and David?" After warning the people
of Israel, 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 - 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 <mailto:SWCarson@…> ] 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 (c) 2001 LewRockwell.com