Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I will stand up for your liberties

I will stand up for your liberties

(My Clovis News Journal column for December 9, 2011. Yes, it begins with the same H. L. Mencken quote that begins my current Liberty Lines column, but the columns are completely different, even if inspired by the same incident.)

"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." – H.L. Mencken

Rarely have I read a quote that contained more truth. It is the story of my life. In so many cases my energy is spent defending the rights of people I probably wouldn't like, who are doing things I don't necessarily approve of, simply because I am able to see how their rights are mine. And yours.

This often puts me in the position of defending scoundrels who are having their liberty violated by people with "good intentions", which puts me at odds with those who only see the good intentions and the scoundrels, but not the unintended consequences, or how those consequences could eventually harm us all.

Freedom means doing what you want to do, regardless of whether it is within your rights or not. Liberty is the freedom to do what you have a right to do. While it is sometimes proper to constrain freedom, it is never right to limit anyone's liberty.

As long as those scoundrels are within their rights- they are not attacking, stealing, or trespassing- it doesn't matter if I like them or approve of what they are doing. They still have a right to be doing it and no one has a right, or the authority, to interfere. No matter how noble the interference might seem or how much I might agree with the general objection to what is being done.

If you are willing to violate the scoundrel's rights then you shouldn't be surprised when you discover that you are someone else's scoundrel, facing the torch-bearing villagers who are anxious to storm your castle for the "common good". And, as long as you are not violating anyone else's rights, I'll be right there beside you, whether I like you or approve of your actions or not.

You only have the liberty you respect in others. I am willing to fight against the violation of the liberties of others because it is the right thing to do, and my expectation is that no one will call for my liberty to be violated in any way. I'll hold up my end even if others don't reciprocate.


Libertarian buts

I see a lot of people who claim to be a "libertarian, but". And some who claim to just be "libertarian" while they ignore their big "but" and pretend it is a feature of all "real libertarians".

The biggest "but" is support for the military. Militia, yes. State-controlled military, no. Tax-financed, government military is not "libertarian", no matter how you try to spin it. It doesn't matter if the Constitution says it is OK, or if your family has always been a "military family" and you want to honor their lives.

The second biggest "but", which is related to the first, is belief in national borders. Usually they pretend this "but" is about property rights. If you think national borders are about property rights, just see how much the State that enforces the borders respects your property rights. Nope. It's about violating your property rights. It doesn't matter if the trespasser is an independent migrant from Mexico or an employee of some government agency. Trespassing is trespassing and the backstory doesn't matter. And, if you choose to allow a person on your property, that is your right as a property owner and no one has any say in the matter.

A third "but" is pretending that the US Constitution is a libertarian document. It has some good things in it and it has some horrible things in it. But none of that matters since the US government ignores it all anyway, unless they find a particular part useful to the agenda at the moment. Go ahead and use the Constitution to show that the government is not legitimate since it has unilaterally violated the agreement that bound it, but don't get hung up on this too much. There are better ways to organize a "society" voluntarily.

The last "but" I notice the most is ignoring coercion unless it is committed by The State. Coercion is wrong. The State is wrong because it relies on coercion. Coercion isn't wrong just because it is used by The State.

I'm sure there are lots more "buts" out there. All those who claim to be "libertarian, but without the crazy stuff" have at least one.

As for myself, I try to make sure I have no "but". If my first inclination, when presented with an idea that pushes the envelope of individual liberty, is to pull a "but" out of my... well, you know... then I try to look very hard at why I felt the need to have a "but". What aspect of legitimized (or justified) coercion am I trying to hold on to? And why?