Let’s All Take a Deep Breath

Let’s All Take a Deep Breath

By Scott McPherson

At a recent Seacoast Liberty event I was approached by a member of our organization who told me that he planned to start dedicating a great deal of his time to persuading people to homeschool their children. I applauded his intentions, only to quickly re-evaluate my initial reaction.

Because, you see, he then told me that one of his methods for accomplishing this goal would be to “convince parents that sending their kids to a public school is child abuse.”

Moral hysteria plays, sadly, too large a role in the Freedom Movement today. Few of us, myself included, are completely innocent of having employed it at one time or another to make a point. But in using moral hysteria as a ready tool to beat our opponents into intellectual submission we run a very serious risk of losing all credibility.

Admittedly, this kind of behavior is not unique to libertarians. “Godwin’s Law,” which states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches,” came to be a popular observation on the World Wide Web precisely because the average American’s ability to dispassionately and fairly argue a point is in rapid and steady decline. Politics is a nasty business.

But even if one feels perfectly up to the task of “proving” to another beyond a reasonable doubt that he is no better than a murderous dictator for failing to support some cause or embrace some point of view or take some action, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to get our overall point across. We will not make any friends this way.

Worse, we will drive away the friends we already have.

And while swimming around as the big fish in a little pond may gratify the egos of some, it won’t move us any closer to the free society we all wish to see in our lifetime.

This came jumping off the page at me today as I read my friend Jacob Hornberger’s blog on the Future of Freedom Foundation website. In a mock contrast of modern “liberalism” and “conservatism,” he shows how alike they are by highlighting the major issues on which they generally find common cause. These are:

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, SBA loans, foreign aid, government-business partnerships, economic regulations, income taxation, trade restrictions, immigration controls, public schools, the Federal Reserve and its fiat currency, home loan assistance, corporate bailouts, the war on drugs, militarism and empire, torture, military tribunals, and the military industrial complex.

I would add “gun control” to this list. Support for these pretty much sums up the liberal/conservative worldview. Now, you might shave a few off here and there, but essentially these are the things that the average American, regardless of the dominant political philosophy with which he identifies, agrees government ought to be doing to us.

Then there is this small but, thankfully, growing number of people who identify with the libertarian view. We by and large oppose all of that. You can shave a few off here and there, but essentially these are things that the average libertarian thinks government shouldn’t be doing at all.

What struck me right away was how large this list really is. It is by no means exhaustive, but it gives us a great perspective. There is a lot of agreement in our movement. It is this general agreement and, more importantly, agreement on the principles from which we derive our stance on these issues, that draws us to one another, and to Seacoast Liberty.

At the same time, it is important to realize that there is not universal consensus even among “hard core” libertarians about every one of those things, let alone some others I could mention. What about “intellectual property rights”? Anarcho-capitalism versus limited, constitutional government? Abortion? Privatization of roads and bridges? Gay marriage? The complete abolition of taxation? Replacing a standing army with a general militia? Age of consent laws?

Do all of these debates have to be settled with complete uniformity of thought before we can get on with the business of promoting individual freedom?

And if changing public opinion about government is truly our goal, then an honest person would have to admit that we are still a long, long way from even modest success. That distance will only grow larger when we abandon civil discourse and start calling people “child abusers” because they send their kids to school.

Scott McPherson is a member of Seacoast Liberty. His children have never set foot in a school.

Americans are quite capable of self-governing

Fellow member of New Hampshire Seacoast Liberty, Jack Thorsen wrote a great opinion piece entitled “Americans are quite capable of self-governing” over here. Here’s a brief excerpt:

The American people are fed up with paternalistic over-reaching government, and we are starting to shout, “Enough is enough!” Freedom is the unifying factor missing from today’s divisive political dialogue.