Friday, February 29, 2008

The Libertarian Mind: A Short Post on a Big Idea

I remember my initial frustration on discovering Libertarianism was in my inability to see a path from here to there.

I could see how a Libertarian society could work; I just couldn't see how to make it happen starting from welfare-state capitalism.

Then I realized, somewhere along the way, that it all has to do with habits of mind. When we habituate people to standing in line to receive government benefits that they haven't worked for, we teach them to be subservient, grasping, and dependent. Every time we inculcate our children with the idea of blind obedience to authority--

Wear your bicycle helmet or the policeman will get you or you'll fall, crack open your head and become a quadriplegic!

Good children color inside the lines!

Everybody deserves a medal because everybody tried real hard!


--we destroy a tiny bit of personal responsibility and independence.

I've come to believe that we only get so many of those independent brain cells to start out with, so every time we kill one it's an irreplaceable loss.

So here's my politically incorrect solution to passive societal dependence: raise your kids to question authority, to think outside the application form, and to be too damn proud of who they are to kowtow to anyone for a hand-out.

Let them learn that there are worse things than starving.

But try not to get yourself reported to the Division of Family Services for child abuse while you're at it.

5 comments:

Brian Shields said...

Your dream of a Libertarian society is just that, a dream. Reality is that if you want Libertarianism to take hold, you have to find a way to work with the other two parties to squeeze your ideas in.

As a third party, the most effective way to get what you want is to work as the third leg for government to stabilize on. Republicans go one way, Democrats go the other, Libertarians can bridge the gap, and create true partisanship.

Stop me if I'm wrong, but Libertarians believe in Gay Rights, Environment protection, and safety. All common Democrat themes.

Libertarians believe in core conservative values that republican's haven't quite adhered to lately, and personal responsibility, another republican trait.

How the party can gain marketshare in voters is appealing to all sides. Green, Democrat, Republican, Independent, and Libertarian. by being the place all the outcasts are welcome, you can bind them together under one party and create a viable third leg that must be dealt with.

Brian Shields said...

Thinking that through some more.

http://elections.delaware.gov/archive/elect04/AGP04/AGP04Gen.PDF

2004's registered voters. 43% democrat, 33% republican, 24% other.

Ff you have 24% of the Assembly, you'd have the power to compromise ideals and add libertarian moderation to the mix.

Dana Garrett & Stephen Crockett said...

"Let them learn that there are worse things than starving."

That's a stunner of a statement. While I agree being tortured to death is worse than starvation, I cannot imagine how living in a capitalistic welfare state is worse than starvation.

Steve Newton said...

"Your dream of a Libertarian society is just that, a dream. Reality is that if you want Libertarianism to take hold, you have to find a way to work with the other two parties to squeeze your ideas in.

As a third party, the most effective way to get what you want is to work as the third leg for government to stabilize on. Republicans go one way, Democrats go the other, Libertarians can bridge the gap, and create true partisanship."

Brian,
In many respects I think you are correct; in a few critical areas I think you are dead wrong; see the new post up regarding the Libertarian Party for part of my answer.

Steve Newton said...

Dana,
The short answer is that Gandhi would not have agreed with you.

I meant this as a philosophical statement, to be parsed thus: living consistently with your principles and refusing to compromise them is far more important that the transient material benefits of a government hand-out.

Think of it another way: my students all perceive themselves as needing good grades to get into grad school, get a job, whatever. In pursuit of that end, an increasing number of them are willing to prostitute themselves by cheating their way through college.

I hope I have raised my own children with enough integrity that they would rather fail on their own merits than accept a degree gained by compromising their principles.

I suspect that you and I will find it tough to have this conversation because my perception is that you generally take a much more utilitarian view: i.e., if people's basic needs are not being met, nothing much else matters (I am cartooning somewhat here for brevity's sake).

I disagree with that premise. I think those philosophical principles always matter, especially when a society is deciding which resources to be moved from here to there to satisfy those basic needs.

That's why we're on two opposite ends of the political spectrum.

What sometimes amazes me is how much we agree on, despite that, not how much we differ.