"It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will." ~ Adam Smith
Harming the Cause for Liberty
Column by Bradley Keyes.
Exclusive to STR
Harm - a small but powerful word with a strong, emotional pull.
No one wants to be harmed.
But is it the best word to use when trying define liberty?
Phrases such as:
"As a voluntaryist, it is my personal opinion that, we should take individual responsibility, that our decisions regarding our bodies should be left to us, individually, as long as those decisions do not directly harm another human."
"For me, it is putting into action the tenets of the Non-Aggression Principle, which states, “Do not seek to harm others for personal gain.”
Both from an otherwise good article posted yesterday, are often used to try to explain or define a philosophy of liberty or voluntarism.
But is the use of the word harm clear and correct, and equally important, can it be misunderstood or twisted?
If I start a business and run it better than my competitors, have I harmed them?
If you invent the everlasting light-bulb, have you harmed the current manufacturers?
If someone falls in love with you and turns down another suitor, have you done them harm?
Just listen to the cries about the harm that will be done when someone proposes simply cutting the growth rate of government spending, let alone actually cutting or eliminating spending.
Look at what has happened with the US Bill of Rights. How has "shall not be infringed" been twisted? What does "unreasonable" mean?
What does "harm" mean? You could argue that the examples above are not ones of harm, but to do that, you need to get into the fundamentals of violations of rights, initiation of force, and voluntary exchange.
And that is my point. It's better to start at the fundamentals, to start with necessary, basic principles even if they don't roll off the tongue as easily.
In the battle for liberty, it is best to be as clear and as accurate as possible. Even the smallest wedge can be used to split an argument if it's hammered on enough times.
So what do you think? Is the word harm harmful to liberty?