March 06, 2006


Libertarians Anonymous

...When I began writing this response, it was originally intended to be a follow-up to Amy’s comment on my last post. Her inquiry was short but thought-provoking: “After all, you are a Libertarian, right?” As I was reviewing the writing, I realized its length and wondered if it might be a worthy subject for a completely new post. The more that I considered it, the easier that it was to come to that conclusion.
...For quite some time my motto for life has been, “Live your life in the manner that makes you happiest so long as you’re not inflicting physical, emotional, or economic harm on others—unless they consent to do otherwise.” Likewise, it’s no secret that I’ve voted Libertarian in the last two presidential elections (mostly in agreement, partially as protest), but over the last few months I’ve turned into what might best be called a “rehabilitated libertarian.” This is simply because the more that I think about it, the more that I view libertarianism as a wonderful ideal that will never come to fruition.
...That might sound like a defeatist attitude, but it might also be a pragmatic concession. How realistic would it be to think that the majority of people would adopt a view that counters the basis of the two dominant ideologies? By “basis” I mean the concept that people need to be “guided” in some way throughout life with respect to something.
...My conservative friends want people to be “guided” in the “proper” direction in terms of their personal lives (gay marriage, drug use, gambling, and prostitution, for example); my liberal friends want people to be “guided” in the “proper” direction in terms of their finances (Social Security, graduated income tax, and public funding for numerous institutions, for example). Both sides ultimately defend their views as being “for the good of society,” and both sides ultimately disagree with the opposing view.
...Using the aforementioned examples, we can see that each has aspects which create a balance (or possibly a dilemma, depending upon how you view it): Drug use is unhealthy, but people should have the right to poison themselves; gambling increases your chance of losing vast amounts of money (sometimes money that the gambler doesn’t have in the first place), but a person should have the right to take such a risk; prostitution facilitates emotional distress and increases the chance for the spread of STDs, but a person should have the right to rent their body; Social Security (in theory) ensures that we’ll be able to pay off a few bills once a month when we reach a certain age, but it’s based on forcibly removing money from our paychecks “for our own good”; a graduated income tax allows for the country’s expenses to be met by those who have the money to do it, but it creates a mindset that wanting to earn more money makes a person bad and essentially punishes wage-earners; public funding for things like schools and libraries has helped to cut down on the illiteracy rate, but it requires that people have no choice of where their tax dollars go.
...To me, libertarian views will always be nearly impossible to challenge on an intellectual level when compared to those found in conservatism and liberalism, simply because they’re not rooted in coercion. At the same time I’m willing to recognize that libertarianism requires the absence of dishonesty and corruption to work properly. That, I’m afraid, is something that we’ll never see.
...The second situation that will keep such an ideology from gaining momentum is that most Americans fall into two categories: Those who like to “guide” others and those who like to be “guided.” Even if we ignore the dishonesty/corruption aspect of our culture, this desire for “guidance” is reason alone why libertarianism will never become a popular ideology.


Blogger amy said...

Great post, JP, but don't you think the portion of the country that wants to guide is terribly less populated than those who want to be guided? The American public is rather like sheep, which is unforunate, but true, and they don't want to have to think or work too hard for their political ideologies.

And as for believing in an ideal that will never come to fruition, I know that can be disappointing and frustrating at times, but I'm also of the belief that sticking to your guns and holding fast to that ideal is so much more rewarding than selling out to the nearest political party that hopes to buy your vote.

March 07, 2006  
Blogger J.P. said...

Amy, you’ll get no objection from me if you suggest that most people are sheepish. Thinking is too difficult, and besides, there are more important things to worry about—such as who will be the next winner on American Idol.

Even though I feel like part of me has given up the hope that more people might want to think for themselves and weigh everything, questioning why they think what they say that they think, my nature makes me want to say that I accept people’s desire to act like followers. Basically, it’s their choice and I have to respect it.

Would I ever sell-out to the point where I’d say that I’m wrong and I’ll jump in line behind people who want me to follow? No, but I’ll fight nicely when they tell me that they know how I should live or what I should think. Then again, am I doing the same thing by suggesting that everyone should respect everyone else if they’re following the golden rule? Maybe I’m essentially telling others what to think.

I still like the idea of starting my own party and running for office as a self-described benevolent dictator.

March 07, 2006  
Blogger amy said...

Well good, then, that's all settled. If you're self-appointed dictator, I won't have to make the effort to take off from work, drive to my local polling station and vote for you.

See, you make it SOOOOOO much easier!

March 07, 2006  

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