The Extortion of Principle and Sophie"s Choice


I heard what I never expected to hear in a million years at a Libertarian convention yesterday, the acceptance and actually condoning of a "libertarian" raising taxes. The State Chair of the Libertarian Party of Illinois a few years back, as a member of a school board, voted to raise taxes as a response to a threat from the State of Illinois that if they didn't, the state would take over the school district. Confronted with what the Illinois State Chair considered a Hobbesian choice, he voted to raise taxes rather than allow the school district be taken over by the state. Of course, the state took over the school district anyway.

So, at the convention yesterday, instead of reprimanding the State Chair for taking such an unlibertarian position (a blatant violation of the pledge libertarians take to not advocate force for political change) so-called leaders of the Party stood up and supported what the State Chair did as an acceptable vote considering the circumstances.

I guess street-smart is something one can't accuse most of these "libertarians" to be. Those on the street know that once a person succumbs to extortion, there is no limit to how severe that extortion will come. And make no mistake about it-that is what is happening here, an extortion of principle for short term expediency and unexpected long term dread.

At what point will these "libertarians" draw the line and choose principle over extortion?

Will they vote for speech codes on college campuses rather than being forced to have the exercise of "free" speech licensed and more severely controlled in other ways?

Will they vote for the abolition of the private ownership of automatic weapons, or semi-automatic weapons, or body protection gear, or even the use of weapons for self defense in order to preserve the right to hunt?

Will they vote for confiscation of property for non-payment of taxes rather than be forced into a whole sale communization of private property?

Will they vote for the internment of all Muslims instead of allowing the marauding of CIA death squads?

At what point? Once one rides the slippery slope of sanctioning extortion, one will eventually end in the pit of agonized extorted choice where what one is left with is the bleak horror of Sophie's choice. Remember what that choice was in the novel turned movie in which Meryl Streep won the best actress award. In the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, Sophie, played by Streep, has two children, a boy and a girl. She is given a "choice" to save one of them from death. If she doesn't choose, they both die. She chooses and is haunted with that choice for the rest of her life.

Who is responsible for allowing Sophie to be put in such a position? Was it the Nazi guard in the concentration camp? Yes. Was it the guard's superior who allowed the guard to make such situations to happen? Yes. Was it the German politicians who voted on policies that sanctioned wholesale murder? Yes.

But each and every one of us--every time we succumb to the extortion of our principles, we have played a role in bringing society to such a state that makes Sophie's choice possible.

Nobody ever said it was easy to stand up for principle, and standing up for principle is what should differentiate a libertarian from the crowd. But the alternative is so much worse. The alternative is almost unthinkable. The alternative will haunt one's soul as an out-of-control cancer engulfs an organ. The alternative will kill one's spirit. The alternative is the very negation of life.

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Kenneth Prazak hosts a weekly live radio talk show called “Freedom Rings”, heard every Monday morning, 9:00 a.m. Central Time at