"Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain." ~ Frederic Bastiat
Why Are You So Bitchy?
I maintain a small e-mail list consisting mainly of family and friends. I frequent many liberty-themed websites and subscribe to a number of likewise-devoted reviews and journals. I endeavor to glean from these sources articles that vividly illustrate the futility of the current system, as well as items I believe present a more viable alternative. Occasionally I send items outlining the basics of libertarianism, or simply links to recommended reading. I started the list with the objective of informing those I care about of the wonders of libertarian, individualist, and free market philosophy. Weary of watching from the sidelines as a philosophy I view as self-evident is constantly dismissed as fringe, whacked, and even dangerous, I decided to do a small part to expose such dismissals as misleading and oversimplified.
Two members of the list recently sent replies I find quite telling. The first requested his removal, due to, in so many words, the overly pessimistic tone of my dispatches. Incidentally, he also threw in the old canard of blinkered, unquestioning patriots everywhere: 'Freedom isn't free.' With all due respect to him, I am apt to involuntarily peel the skin from my face the next time someone utters that jingoistic, vacuous statement. Once more, for those who can't grasp it: Freedom is NOT a commodity to be doled out by 'benevolent' governments, their armies, or their agents. Government CANNOT guarantee your freedom; it can only revoke freedom. YOU are responsible for your own freedom. Government is ANTI-freedom, by definition. The larger the governmental apparatus controlling you, the less freedom you enjoy.
But I digress. My concern is with my former member's charge of incessant negativity. Is libertarianism, by nature, negative? I readily admit the peevish nature of most dispatches. Corrupt cops, imperious drug warriors, unctuous bureaucrats, Faux News republicans, none are spared. I aim to expose, ridicule, and lampoon every flavor of pro-state nannycrat and the cherished, professional victims they purport to 'protect.' The rhetoric is often fiery. Ad hominem attacks abound. I apologize for nothing. I do not believe, however, libertarianism, as a school of thought, is negative or pessimistic in any way. How can a philosophy extolling the virtue of the independent, reasoning mind versus the domineering, omniscient leviathan be viewed as negative, per se? Libertarianism celebrates the human capacity for self-sufficiency and peaceful coexistence. If libertarians seem overly pessimistic, it is only because the current state of our union provides mountains of fodder to sustain a robustly negative point of view.
The second member wrote to inquire how I could possibly believe government intrudes on my daily life. As long as I 'obey the rules,' I have nothing to complain about. Another old canard: 'If you aren't doing anything illegal, why should you care if the government is reading your email, surveilling your public wanderings, analyzing your urine, and endeavoring to control every facet of your existence?' Or something like that. Again, impulsive flaying looms. I complain because I do not NEED tax-subsidized, all-inclusive babysitting. I am a responsible adult. I am rational. I obey the laws of physics. I do not need a petty bureaucrat to threaten me with pecuniary damages for over-watering my lawn. I know water is scarce where I live. I obey the laws of humanity necessary for peaceful, nonviolent, non-confiscatory existence. I do not commit violent acts against others or their property. I do not willfully commit reckless acts that may harm others unintentionally. I even obey most laws I do not agree with. Shocking. The choices I have made are such that I am in no position to disregard certain laws I abhor--compulsory, threat-enforced taxation, for example. I am not prepared to lose my home to armed agents for standing on strict principle, at this point. That would be irrational. I like having a comfortable place to sleep.
To those who insist I have nothing to fear from the encroaching state as long as I 'obey the rules,' I ask these questions: Do you not realize all forms of preemptory public surveillance imply a presumption of guilt on your part? Why do you not resent this with all of your being? Why do you cede the privacy of your communications with others to federal agents so readily? Why do you willingly accept the presumption of guilt inherent in the surveillance of your bodily fluids? Why are you so willing to sell out your presumption of innocence for a meager measure of security? What frightens you so? Have you never wondered why government is permitted to confiscate a portion of your income by threat of violence against your freedom and property, yet you are not permitted to do the same to a fellow human or government agency? Answer these questions honestly, without resorting to bland platitudes. Then ask me again why I am pessimistic and why I complain so.