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.

3 Responses

  1. Another example I should have put in my original post is from the 2008 presidential campaign. I was at an event, a “straw poll” in Strafford County if I recall, and I walked up to a booth set-up by a pro-Second Amendment organization here in NH. As that is an issue of particular concern to me, I thought I would talk to them a little and look at some of their literature.

    Picking up a flyer, I saw a lot of talk about “socialism” and “supporting the Constitution” so I said to the woman there, “I bet you’re here supporting Ron Paul.” “Well,” she said, “I like Paul, but I don’t agree with him on all the issues.”

    “Neither do I,” I replied, “but we see eye-to-eye on about 90% of things, so I’m supporting him, and I encourage you to as well.”

    “What don’t you agree with him about,” she asked, suspiciously. “It doesn’t matter,” I said, “what’s important is that we agree on principles, and we agree on almost every issue.” But this wasn’t good enough. She kept pressing me on exactly what it was I didn’t agree with Ron Paul about. Finally, I gave in: “I don’t support Ron Paul’s position on immigration,” I told her. “I support open immigration.”

    Well, that’s when the argument started. I was told that in supporting open immigration I also support people “breaking our laws” and “coming in here and [fill in the blank].” It became obvious real quick that this was not a productive conversation, so I said, “Well, we’ll have to agree to disasgree on that, but I do hope you support Ron Paul.”

    As I turned away, she yanked the flyer out of my hand. “YOU won’t be needing that,” she said.

    Several years ago, when I lived in Virginia, I was talking to a fellow libertarian about this phenomenon in our movement, this constant need to attack others within our ranks. He called it the “Let’s Lose” strategy.

  2. Ah but as someone involved in the public schools, I know for a fact it IS child abuse to force a political agenda on students.

    And you cannot have a republic without borders, language, and culture.
    People who want to join us and get with the program are fine. It’s those who want to come and take what we have and send it back to the homeland without contributing are what is bleeding us dry.

  3. Having been through the NY state public schools, undergoing attempted bullying, and having sent my two kids through a seacoast area public school system, that being punctuated with a consultation with the ACLU on a due process/school harrassment of parent issue, plus a later lack of physical protection from peers bullying that led to my homeschooling my kids for a year, I believe public schools are about 40% usefull. Mostly just warehousing the kids, keeping them off the streets. Boring the living crap out of bright kids, too. If I had it to do over, I’d exert a lot of energy to put my kids in private school. The Government schools are too big, and not accountable enough to students’ and parents. Arrogant and Condescending, “we know better than you what your own children need”. no I don’t think so. Children are young, vulnerable, and subject to a lot of misuse in the schools. Borderline abuse, and likely “actual” abuse. It’s not my way to call out other folks about it, but, damn.

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