Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Libertarian values bring peace

Libertarian values bring peace

(My Clovis News Journal column for November 23, 2012)

Being libertarian isn't all fun and games. We are not necessarily the "party crowd" we are sometimes made out to be. While some libertarians are undoubtedly that way, as are many non-libertarians, it certainly isn't a given.

Libertarianism is not about "taking liberties", but about respecting the liberty of others to do as they wish with their own life as long as they are not stealing or attacking.

Many, perhaps most, libertarians have very ordinary personal lives. Some may never shoot or own a gun, may never smoke marijuana regardless of whether or not it is still criminalized, and may have no desire to do anything sexually experimental. Libertarians are not usually "libertines", although we will defend the right to be one- within limits.

Many have very deeply held moral beliefs which are quite familiar and traditional, and while realizing that we have no right to tell others how to live, we know that some choices are not right for us. We accept that we have no right to make those choices for others.

I may have no interest in doing something, but as long as the activity is consensual, I would never dream of stopping you or reporting you to "the authorities". It's simply none of my business. This has nothing to do with a libertarian's personal moral beliefs. Libertarians know enough to not interfere with the non-coercive behavior of others even if, personally, we find it disgusting. No one's personal idea of "immoral" should equal "illegal" nor become an excuse for using any form of coercion, official or private, against people. This is what leads to horrors such as Sharia Law and the War on Politically-Incorrect Drugs.

We understand there is no such thing as "harming society" because apart from individuals, "society" is meaningless, and that if no third party individual is harmed, no one is harmed.

We generally understand that being offended is not the same as being harmed. This is a hard concept for even some libertarians to live.

We libertarians understand the value of minding our own business as long as the behaviors at issue are voluntarily engaged in by all individuals involved. Minding your own business and letting go of the desire to control the lives of others brings peace to your own life and is the truly neighborly way to be.

At its heart, libertarianism is the radical idea that other people are not your property. What could be more self-evident than that?


Government is imaginary?

I see a few people who make the claim that government isn't real.  It is all in your mind.  And, to an extent, that is true.

The same could be said of "family".  Or "society".  Or the NRA.  Or any group.

There are only individuals.

However, while a group is nothing without individuals, individuals become "more" within the group.  That "more" may be positive or negative.

Seeing yourself as a part of a group can give you courage to do things you would never think of doing on your own.  It might give you the courage to mount an effort to collect coats for poor people, or it might give you the courage to join a middle-of-the-night armed raid on someone's home.

The "collective" has a real-world effect.

It also has an effect on those who are not a part of the group.

It can be discouraging to see individual members of a gang attacking others with no consequences.  It can be discouraging to see what happens to their targets who fight back.  Bad guys find safety in numbers.  And the biggest numbers are found in that coercive, violent gang known as government.

Government doesn't exist apart from bad people willing to do what they believe government is empowered to do- the belief that belonging to government empowers them to do things that are forbidden to non-members- and those individuals, and their beliefs, are a danger to those who find themselves in the cross-hairs.  Ridiculing the existence of government will only get you so far.

While I could fill this blog, every day from now on, with individual examples of evil committed by people who only have the courage to commit the evil because of their membership in The Gang, that would be tiring, and no one would want to read that.  So, the shorthand of referring to the evils of government is useful.

In the end it comes down to individuals initiating force and theft.  But to ignore what motivates them, emboldens them, and helps them escape responsibility is to ignore the elephant in the room. As long as most people see government as a real thing, apart from the interchangeable individuals who make it up, you will keep needing to address that belief.