Live and Let Live

Live and Let Live

My political journey began on the severe religious right side of the spectrum. Conservative values were correct; liberal ideas were a virus, a degradation of society – the embodiment of an evil that threatened to ruin mankind. Most people grow up, experience a wide world with new ideas, and gain a broader perspective than their upbringing offered. Instead of that, I went to Brigham Young University – not known for its broad perspectives. (Just as a disclaimer, I think BYU is a great school and my engineering education had few equals). I witnessed a single viewpoint/morality that all were forced to follow. This single morality mentality barely worked for a generally homogenous group of people who actively chose to be there.

Throughout history, people have proven to be desperate to force their beliefs on others. Unfortunately, now we see it more in politics than in any other facet of life. Both the right and left continue to grant the government ever increasing power in an attempt to shape society in their own image. Each side, of course, thinks they are fighting for the greater good. When one side is trying to outlaw abortion, they see themselves as preventing murder. When the other side forces affirmative action, they believe they are ending inequality and bigotry. Just to name a few. Ultimately a lot of good can come from both sides, but the ends cannot justify the means. History is full of too many examples of a majority doing too much harm. A majority must never be trusted to enforce its will on a minority. Even if we, in the majority, think the minority is evil, or backwards, or wrong and we have God or logic or science on our side. History has shown that God and logic and science have all been wrong an awful lot of times.

I’ve returned often to the memory of my experiences in college. If a group who all believes the same, all has the same desires (all looks the same) is barely able to live under a one morality mentality, then it is impossible for a vastly larger, more dissimilar group to ever live under one morality. It can never, and will never happen. We cannot all agree on one set of beliefs, so the government should not be the forum where beliefs are codified and enforced.

If the right considers homosexuality evil, they may boycott groups that support it, they may try to persuade others of their opinions, they may limit their social circles and religious ceremonies. (These are all appropriate, if not moronic). But as soon as they legislate their beliefs, the right is forcing citizens to subjugate their own personal beliefs to the thoughts of the majority. And in my opinion, the majority should never be trusted to rule your mind.

But rather than look at all negatives, let’s talk positives. There is a more perfect way to govern. Government – the one body we all must submit to, the one body who will use force against dissenters – should be limited to the bare essentials: The protection of the rights of all citizens for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the beginning and the end. Libertarianism. Why is it better than all other systems? Because I’m not telling you that you need to believe like me. I’m telling you that you should continue believing what you want; just don’t force it on others. Everyone has exactly the same protections, everyone has the same freedoms.

If some citizens want to fight poverty, they can. They can donate money, raise awareness, and recruit others to their private cause. The only thing they can’t do is steal money from me for their personal causes. Guess what, I like animals more than people(animals are friendlier and smarter), I’d rather use my time and money helping animal shelters. Most people don’t want me stealing their money for my cause, and I’m fine with that. So don’t steal my time and money for your causes. The government should not be empowered to pick individual causes, no matter how big or important to the majority.

Human nature is small. We all have difficulty admitting that life does not have one right answer or one right path. But if we all can have enough confidence in our beliefs that we are comfortable with someone’s dissent, well then that is a true utopia.

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Jacob Morgan

Free until proven governed

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3 Responses to Live and Let Live

  1. I do think you are right that one of the advantages of libertarianism is a clear case for why it should trump other preferred systems of government. And if we were really starting from scratch, I might be interested in starting there. Certainly I often wish religious conservatives would dial down their rhetoric.

    But from a historical perspective, I just can’t see embracing libertarianism now as a good solution for the past wrongs done at the consent of (and often with the aid of) government. The best example for me in the U.S. is the damaging consequences of race/racism. LBJ said in 1965, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” While I sympathize with libertarianism as a direction in many areas, I grow concerned when we verge on examples like that. It’s liberty, but it’s not equal liberty.

    Are there limits to your pursuit of libertarian liberty? What would they look like?

    • Jason – I don’t have any true limits to my pursuit. I don’t think we should shackle ourselves to an imperfect future solely as a result of an imperfect past.
      You bring up racism, slavery, and the unequal starting line that most african americans deal with. I agree, they certainly do not have as easy of a time as I have had. And I think citizens and individuals can address that. On a personal level, not a governmental level.
      If you task the government with bringing everyone up to a single starting line, where do you stop? Clearly all Native Americans would have similar grievances against the American society. But why stop there? What about the waves of immigrants that came to America as a result of persecution in their home lands. They got a late start in america and don’t have the same advantages as a result.
      And why limit ourselves to history? What about the thousands of children that are subject to abuse? Clearly the issues they deal with handicap them as they compete against children who are raised in a loving and supportive environment. And what about the people who just aren’t as intelligent as the average american? It’s not their fault that their parents weren’t the smartest crayons in the box, yet their entire life will be limited as a result.

      Now there are a lot of differences in all of the above examples, but they are all connected by one simple truth – there is no equality to be had in life. Even in a perfect government, some will have advantages. (In fact, I think most of us want that. I bet that you work extra hard, and dedicate an extra amount of your life, to make sure that your children have every advantage in life that you can afford them).

      So what can government provide? A safe environment where everyone can feel safe, where everyone’s efforts and lives are protected by the same freedom (I will say that there is some definite progress that can be made in terms of the policing of america). Beyond that, the government can never address the wrongs of the past – only a moral and advancing society can do that – on an individual basis.

      • I think you just have more faith in self-correcting systems than I do. I’m not confident that a suddenly non-interventionist government would do more than promote the inequalities that the interventionist government has put in place (most notably in racial matters, but in others as well).

        Taken to its furthest extreme, your ideology would seem to preclude any attempt to hold government accountable, since all bad action is technically “in the past.” The problem is, that past carries on into the present and future, even when the actions have stopped. I just can’t sign up to a political philosophy that entirely precludes using the system that helped generate the problems to try to address the consequences of those mistakes.

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