CCL: Christian Classical Liberalist

July 10, 2009

• Build a rail around your roof

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On my other blog I wrote about the Nanny State fining property owners who allowed people to sit on their roof and watch car races. According to the news item

The infringement notice cited a clause of the Building Act that refers to using or permitting the “use of a building for a use for which it is not safe”.

Let’s have a look at what the Bible says about this sort of thing. Unlike modern Socialist/Marxist nanny states God didn’t make any laws that prevented people sitting on their roof and watching a camel race, but Deuteronomy 22:8 says

When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it. (NASB)

Source in ancient Israel usually had a flat roof, and often an external staircase would lead up to it. People would sleep on the roof when it was hot as well as going there at other times, and sometimes people would die after rolling off the roof when asleep (this brings a whole new meaning to the biblical phrase “fallen asleep”, which refers to the death of a person 🙂 e.g. Matt 27:51-53).

If someone fell from your roof and died you carried the bloodguilt¹ arising from that, so God said that people should build a parapet or rail in order to avoid bloodguilt². These days most people are indoctrinated by the state and believe that someone who does not provide every safety measure is criminally liable when someone dies from a fall or whatever. I believe that God’s view is different, and if someone fell from a roof without a rail and died the property owner carried bloodguilt but had not committed a crime. Why so?

  1. Deut 21:1-9 shows that bloodguilt was separate from criminal guilt, or at least could be separate from criminal guilt.
  2. Someone who went onto a roof that did not have a rail did so of their own free will and chose to take the risk. Therefore if he fell was he ultimately responsible for his injury or death, and no crime had been committed.

The critical point is this: there was no crime of “failing to build a rail around a roof”. Instead each property owner had a choice of (a) not building a rail and risking bloodguilt or (b) building a rail and avoiding bloodguilt. It’s all about each person taking responsibility for their own actions and wearing the consequences of those actions (cf Ex 21:33-34).

How would a modern Socialist/Marxist nanny-state government handle this situation if it was ruling ancient Israel? It would say “People are falling off roofs and it is our job to stop this injustice, therefore we will make a law that requires railings of a specified height and strength. We will violate property rights by entering every property against the will of the owner in order to inspect the railings, because the end justifies the means. We will punish those who do not build a railing because they are endangering others and it is our job to prevent harm and maintain social order”.

Can you see the difference? God addresses a selfish interest (avoiding bloodguilt) and everyone gets a safety benefit as a result. Socialist/Marxist nanny states ride roughshod over personal and property rights in order to get a safety benefit for everyone, whilst also turning a bunch of people into criminals.


If the Israelites had wanted to sit on their roof and watch the Dromedarian Derby camel race there would have been nothing to stop them, because the Bible is essentially libertarian. There would not have been any agents of the state patrolling the streets during the race to see who was sitting on a roof, fining those people, and then justifying it by saying “Our role is the health and safety of people”. God did not create a nanny state that said to people “This is dangerous, therefore you may not do it”. Instead, God’s message in the Bible is “You can do whatever you like provided that you do not harm the person or property of someone else or violate my moral code”.

We have a wonderful God who actually allows people to sit on their own roof and make choices about what risks they will take.


1. My reference books are very vague about the meaning of bloodguilt. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “Ezek 18:13 seems to indicate that the phrase does not necessarily signify bloodshed, but any grievous sin, which if it remains, will block God’s favour to his land and people” . Make of that what you will. Deut 21:1-9 is perhaps more enlightening.

2. Note the self interest here: property owners built the railings in order to protect themselves, and other people benefited from the self interest of the property owners: in modern times insurance costs can regulate behaviour as fear of bloodguilt did in biblical times, without involving the state.

With biblical capitalism everyone benefits from self interest and there is no need for a Socialist/Marxist state to maintain social order and protect people from the supposedly predatory capitalists. E.g., the self interest of a trader who wants to keep his customers coming back (not to mention his fear of being beaten up if he’s found to have false weights) will cause him to use honest weights in his scales and his customers benefit from this. Self interest regulates behaviour to the benefit of others.

scales with weights_cr 30pc



1 Comment »

  1. […] Click here for a biblical perspective on this situation. […]

    Pingback by • Sitting on your roof is illegal « Kiwi Polemicist — July 10, 2009 @ 9:18 am

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