(My Clovis News Journal column for August 15, 2014.)
Liberty, responsibility, and happiness are intimately entwined.
Liberty is the freedom to do absolutely anything which doesn't violate anyone else's identical and equal liberty. It really is that simple; it's how responsible people behave.
Living by liberty can lead to happiness if you're not careful.
Some disturbed people aren't content with living their own liberty because it means staying out of the way of others. These people seem driven to meddle and prevent others from living a life of full liberty.
Often they take issue with the choices others make; calling them "libertines" or pointing out that some people will always be irresponsible. Until a person's choices violate the liberty of someone else, it's no one's business, and not within anyone's authority to interfere. You have no right to violate the liberty of others simply because some people might act irresponsibly or make choices which offend a "majority".
Your highest responsibility is to control yourself, not to enforce your ideas of responsibility on others- which seems to be very difficult for a lot of people in today's meddlesome society.
Every human interaction should be strictly voluntary. When someone breaks that indispensable rule of civilization and forces themselves or their way upon you, self defense becomes a legitimate option- even if the other person feels they were right in their actions toward you. They may point to "laws" they claim allow them to impose on you, or say they are doing it for your own good, or even worse, "for the children" or "for the good of society". Those excuses are always lies.
Some people get an empty substitute for happiness- and may even believe it's the real deal- from violating people. Don't be those people. You can't truly be happy while violating others and restricting their happiness.
If you honestly worry about someone else's choices, you have every right to warn them and try to convince them to see things your way. They may listen and change course, of their own free will, or they may keep doing what they are doing. It is then your responsibility to walk away. Later, you may choose to help them if your warnings were not heeded and their choice leads to problems, but you're not obligated to save them. And forcing yourself on others, even if motivated by genuine love and concern, is wrong.
Your responsibility is to do only those things you have a right to do. Respecting liberty means you must accept the right of everyone to make their own mistakes and either learn from them, or not, without overstepping your bounds. I know you can do it!