Monday, October 20, 2008

Liberty As I See It: The Island Scenario

I sure do run into a lot of people who don't seem to understand "liberty" in the same way as I understand it.

Some of them, it seems to me, seem intent on finding the hard cases where liberty might break down as a philosophy. Yet, even in those cases, liberty still seems the best available option, even if it doesn't solve all the difficulties. The other options certainly don't solve anything.

A recent example: You and I are stranded (shipwrecked or plane crash survivors) on an island with no available food (hard to believe there is nothing to eat, but let's pretend). If you found the emergency rations and refuse to share, and I need food in order to survive, do you violate my right to live if you don't hand your food over to me? The person proposing this scenario to me certainly thought so.

So, lets think about this. Does communism solve the problem. Take from the "have" and divide it between them both. Where did this government suddenly come from that is now dividing the rations? Maybe I found a gun among the wreckage and can coerce you out of your food by myself. So, then instead of a greedy person, we have a greedy person and a thief. That's not any better.

Does democracy solve the problem? We vote on it, and the vote will undoubtedly end up a tie. Even if I somehow trick you into thinking I have two votes to your one (Wilson votes to share!), how will I enforce your compliance with the "election". Once again, we see that force (theft) comes into play.

No, I have no right to your food if you don't want to share. Your actions might mean you are not a nice person, but you have no obligation to keep me alive.

My thought is that in this case cooperation would be advantageous to us both. I can start fires without any modern aids, I can make rope and stone tools, and shelter, and might just be able to find some of that "nonexistent" food and fresh water. Whatever skills you might be able to add to the equation would just increase our odds of survival. Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone will want to cooperate.

If the roles were switched and I had found the food, and you had the gun, I would probably walk away from the food and let you fend for yourself. After all, as long as I stayed away from you, I would soon have the whole island to myself.

Liberty does not eliminate the bad people, it just takes away most of their power and ALL of their legitimacy. Something no other system or philosophy can do.