Everyone knows that it is an injustice to deprive a people of freedom. What is less well known is that it is an injustice of equal weight and urgency to deprive a people of responsibility.
While our civilization has done everything it can to avoid the former, we have thoroughly neglected and even precipitated the latter kind of injustice. Whether it is through cultural or legal means, we strive to abolish responsibility and so we strive, intentionally or not, for injustice.
What is responsibility and why are we so averse to it? It can be summed up as a duty, burden, or an obligation one has. Though it is not as thrilling as the concept of freedom, which can be defined as the liberty to do whatever, whenever, responsibility at least seems like a necessity. And really, we are not expressly opposed to responsibility. We know that things like ambition, will, and accountability are all fairly admirable even if we don’t practice them ourselves. And while other forms of responsibility like work, church, exercise, eating dry bark-like health foods, monogamy (celibacy?), early to bed, early to rise, no drinking, no smoking, no drugs, ordinary clothes, and plain personality may all be considered tedious and annoying, few would make them federal crimes.
All kinds of responsibility have one thing in common: their tendency to limit and direct one’s effort toward a particular end. With this tendency, responsibility becomes a restriction, whether it is holding back our appetites, hampering our instincts, or forcing us to do something we would rather not do; and as such, responsibility becomes an enemy of freedom. As an enemy of freedom, in the last 150 years or so, responsibility has become the number one enemy of our culture.
The Search for Utopia
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Freedom is a valid aim; there is no question about that. The question is how to achieve freedom and whether we need to eliminate responsibility in order to do so. Ask the framers of history’s utopias and the consistent answer is in the affirmative.
From Plato to More and on to Swift and Butler, all utopias illustrate a country where wine flows abundantly and no one has to work. At least work is reduced in attempt to minimize everyone’s duties. In other words: high freedom and low responsibility. Religion is often eliminated in utopias as well and exercise is only accepted if it is a form of play. Most often, women are in common and children are only brought into the world gradually and systematically because children and monogamy equal obligation. The idea is that in a perfect life, man will be able to do anything that he enjoys and avoid anything that is disagreeable.
So, would ridding society of responsibility lead to the ideal? Consider the modern version of these utopias—a country where money grows on trees. It seems like it would be simply delightful to live in such a place. One could buy everything he wanted without having to labor or put forth much effort at all. Everyone would be rich and no one would need to work for a living.
We also find that without workers, nothing would be produced, especially in the sense of modern mass production; and without produce, there would be no food or shelter, much less luxury. Without these, there would be no life. The people of this money-free society could produce their own food and shelter once they realized that other people wouldn’t do it for them, but if they did harvest their own crops and build their own shelter, they would be working, and the ideal state of complete freedom and zero responsibility would automatically be lost.
Indeed, these utopians would find quickly that the amount of work they put into providing for themselves would be equal to the amount of provisions they collect. When others are added into the equation, the system will be more complex, with the possibility of trade and subsequent risk of waste and exploitation, but the end result will be the same: the amount of reward will equal the amount of work. And so it is impossible for the utopia of complete freedom and zero responsibility to exist.
Not coincidentally, the true meaning of ‘utopia’ is ‘no place,’ suggesting that these ideal societies are impossible and can be found nowhere. It is only fitting then that the word ‘ideal’ at one time also meant ‘unworkable.’ Plato and More knew that their states were impossible and that is why they described them using these words. Today, however, the idea of complete freedom is demanded unequivocally and responsibility is increasingly eschewed, as if someone has declared utopias workable after all.
Two innovations of the last 250 years have buoyed up the dream of utopias; they are specialization and machine industry. Both aim to increase product and decrease work, specialization by reducing transition time between tasks and machine industry by making robots do the work formerly assigned to people. The increase in productivity, wealth, and standard of living since their inception attests to the benefit specialization and machine industry have offered mankind and they certainly make life more comfortable.
Whether they make life more convenient is up for debate. Machines do work for us, but we must do work on them in return. We must perform regular maintenance on them even when they are working correctly, and woe to the poor man whose machine breaks on him. Of course, we might not do the actual maintenance, but we pay money for the mechanic to do the work, money that comes from our own work. The initial cost of the machine also means that we must output work to receive the machine’s benefits in the first place. Emerson wrote, in brief summary of the concept, “If I keep a cow; that cow milks me.”
Specialization seems less likely to burden the individual, but even it has costs. Most importantly, it requires a great number of people to work—and therefore live—in close proximity. This social structure is as demanding on the individual as the rural farm life had been formerly. Every day in the modern city, one is confronted by a seemingly endless list of chores from dodging traffic, on foot and in expensive cars, to meeting and collaborating with people who probably don’t communicate clearly, work efficiently, or have other people’s wellbeing in mind. Even with specialization and machine industry, it seems, we cannot escape the so feared responsibilities of life.
But man is persistent, and when he has an aim in mind, he will do all he can to achieve it. Determined to reach utopia, he concocted a body that would serve him just as the ancient slave did the despot. That new body, oddly, was government.
Under the guise of an agency that would benefit the needy, government became an all-purpose storehouse for everyone’s responsibility, doing everyone’s chores and protecting interests across the board, often contradicting itself in doing so, to the point that all unwanted tasks are left up to the government. ‘Who will clean up this litter on the sidewalk?’ ‘Don’t worry, government will take care of it.’ ‘Who will help that poor man?’ ‘Don’t worry, government will take care of it.’ ‘I want to eat unhealthy foods without ever stopping.’ ‘Don’t worry, government will pay for your stomach-stapling surgery.’ ‘I want to spend a lot of money that I don’t have.’ ‘Don’t worry, you can declare bankruptcy.’ ‘Carry on heedlessly, vandalize, and rebel; live promiscuously and violently (as Roman Emperors would), because someone else will foot the bill.’
But who will foot the bill? We assume that this mysterious organization called government will take care of it, but what is government? To be sure, the government in a democracy or republic, or even in a quasi democratic-republic like America, is the people. This means that handing obligations over to the government is handing obligations back to the people. The average citizen might not be in charge of the actual street cleaning or stomach surgery, but just like the mechanic, those who do clean the streets and perform surgeries get paid salaries, and the money they earn comes from the tax payers—the people.
Governments can never produce wealth; only individuals can do that. Therefore, the burden will always remain on the people. Governments may displace or redistribute the wealth and output it as if they did anything, but they can never introduce it. The effect this kind of government has, then, is nothing more than an abstraction of the simple equation between freedom and responsibility. In the end, freedom will always be equal to responsibility, produce will always be equal to the amount of work put in; but now there is an obstacle between the two, a middleman that appears to do both while doing neither and clogging up the process along the way.
This abstraction begets confusion more than anything else. One is apt to believe that government is responsible for everything even though a real person pays for it somewhere down the line. And so one is careless and rude when one would otherwise be attentive and respectful. It might occur to the average citizen that his actions might inconvenience or harm a real person, especially if that consequence is seen up close and personally, but the great, invisible governmental body between them obscures the connection and distances the two, making decorum unreasonable and useless.
Indeed, the great abstraction encourages one to think only of oneself in all cases. It makes sense to scrape and scavenge for any quick profit, opting whenever the chance arises for bargains, freebies, tax deductions, lawsuits, or constitutional amendments that benefit only those in one’s own segment of society. Spending money one doesn’t have, racking up insurmountable debt, and declaring bankruptcy when it gets to be too much has become a fairly common practice, followed reliably by spending recklessly once again.
Meanwhile, one’s greatest ambition becomes ‘making it big’ whether by winning the lottery, selling the next big thing, or being seen by some top movie executive and from then on living the life of a billionaire celebrity. In short, one strives to live off the work of others. When things don’t go one’s way and the system fails, the unavoidable reaction is the most desperate of measures—crime—which is a way to live off of others’ work that we have consequently labeled illegal.
Such a wishful, hopeless condition is characteristic of a society that has relinquished its responsibility in hopes of infinite freedom. With regard to our survey of government in general, this condition points out a paradoxical truth. When people give up their responsibility, so too must they give up their autonomy, tying them inextricably to the external body that acquire their responsibility. When people relinquish their responsibility to government, they are bound to obey that government. No longer can the individual citizen depend on his own resources to find success—all life comes from the state, and so one must devote one’s life to the state. Thus, in our exhaustive search for utopia, we find that avoiding responsibility—an act that had its motive in gaining more freedom—ultimately handcuffs the individual to an external body, limiting him and thus reducing his freedom.
From this finding, we can infer the following generalization: For any individual or group to function properly, freedom must be equal to responsibility; otherwise, inappropriateness would reign and the individual or group would necessarily disintegrate.
For example, consider the so-called revolutions that occurred before the turn of the 19C, the American and French. Both revolutionary parties used the language of the Rights of Man and demanded the same freedom, and ultimately both parties won their freedom. But while freedom led to success in America as the new nation survived and flourished despite facing the frontier, in France, freedom turned into a series of revolutions that destroyed more than was produced in a succession of events that saw all the monarchists’ fears come true. Only when France reverted back to an imperialist, monarchic-styled government with the ascension of Napoleon did the nation’s inner turmoil cease.
The reason for this discrepancy rests in the level of responsibility that the two peoples had upon achieving self-government: high for Americans and low for the French. By 1776, Americans had already formed their own country, observed self-made laws specific to their own colonial way of life, and produced and thrived without the help of the Crown. Attempts to control a people that were already under such control could only lead to rejection. Meanwhile, the French people had not built their own country or assembled their own laws, and while they produced material goods, they were not capable of utilizing them appropriately. In France, control was necessary to make order.
Utopia, the magical, fictitious place where one can do anything he wants without working for it, should not be our aim. Freedom is chaos without responsibility. Rather, we should strive for what Barzun has labeled Eutopia (good place), the very real place where freedom and responsibility equal each other. Only then can a perfect society be gained.
Voluntary Coercion and Its Consequences
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Given the need for equal freedom and responsibility, one will wonder how historical monarchies and despotisms ever thrived for so long. Were they not built on injustice where the people were forced to work and not get paid for it? In a way, they were built on injustice. But one will notice that monarchies and despotisms were in reality not as unbalanced as they appear. Sure, the peasants didn’t have much freedom, but they didn’t have much responsibility either. Their inability to choose was accompanied by an overseer that actually took care of them in many respects. This is to say that freedom and responsibility were relatively equal for the people in the monarchies despite our conception of them as being completely oppressed.
Nor was this exclusive to the people either—the rulers also maintained a level of responsibility that equaled their infinite freedom. Their positions as divine protectors necessitated it. When a ruler did abandon his responsibility, thus offsetting the equilibrium, his life would fall into megalomania and paranoia and his country would fall reliably into decadence. The fall of Rome, for example, was nature’s way of bringing society back into balance.
The condition where rulers have both great freedom and responsibility while the people have both little freedom and responsibility can last because there is balance. And ultimately, we find that many people, perhaps most, are accepting of the condition. They do not want high responsibility even if it means that their freedom will be curtailed to avoid it. They are content to leave all that to the ruling body. They enjoy their role as followers, subordinates, or even inferiors because they don’t have to make decisions, be creative, or contend with their conscience. Things are determined for them, and that comfort is all they need.
Throughout the Middle Ages, people found this comfort in the church, which served as ruler and governor of all things, military, moral, and cultural. Remarkably, the people embraced the church’s set of principles for nearly a millennium. We call it blind following, but the medieval masses had good reason to believe the dogmas expressed in the canon—to them it was based in fact and for most of the era there were no grounds for dissent. With the church at the head, the people could go about living life as they knew how, orderly and sensibly, without having to question it all.
It seems foolish to our modern tastes to go about life without questioning—we have been taught to be suspect of everything, from parents to the president. We are especially skeptical of the church, which in our day is seen as nothing more than a tyrannous, hypocritical cult where misdeeds are allowed to flourish without retribution.
But do we truly question things today? Take the church for example. Does the average contemporary atheist truly question the veracity of the canon or Trinity? To do so would be to investigate the church at least a little, yet the typical atheist does not put any effort forth to learn about the presumed backwards and ignorant creed. Rather, he prefers to follow popular culture’s latest attitude by ingesting some trendy entertainment, mixing it with a few factoids, and regurgitating. It is the medieval way of blind following, tinted to modern postures.
Science is said to be the essence of free, rational thinking, and we believe that it is the cure to the cultural ills caused by religion and other relics. But people understand the science of today as much as the Medieval believer understood the mystery of Revelation. No one knows how cell phones work or comprehends the chemical processes of anti-depressants; and yet, we don’t think twice about obeying our physician’s prescription. We’ve condemned following our clergymen blindly, but have no qualms with blindly following another kind of doctor.
Denial doesn’t abolish the hated thing, and so we find that our society follows blindly as much as past societies did. We find that the same tendency that placed medieval people in the ‘oppressive’ state of Christendom—the willingness to reduce one’s own freedom so as to limit responsibility—is alive and well in the West today and has placed us in the equally oppressive Welfare State. We live in the same condition as the monarchies or despotisms, the only difference being that instead of God and religion, we put our credence in science and pop culture; big government is our form of powerful monarchy. What makes our own version ironic is our fervent opposition to blind following and absolute rulers, and the fact that we have put ourselves in this situation by choice. We deplore the unthinking masses, but do so only because everyone else does.
Is this tendency to give up freedom to avoid responsibility acceptable? Considering the almost natural pull toward it, one might be convinced that this tendency is just something that we should live with. Besides, if people want to be ruled, why not let them be ruled, especially if there are those who want to do the ruling? Who are we to decide how they live their lives?
We shouldn’t of course decide how they live their lives, and that in essence is the reason why they should not live their lives that way. Their choice of government affects everyone in the country, including those who don’t want to live with such a restrictive arrangement. Those who want high responsibility and high freedom are limited at the same time as those who don’t.
At the root of all this is the concept of coercion, or forcing someone to do something he doesn’t choose to do. We all recognize the concept and can agree that it is undesirable, which is why we say that we should not tell people how to live—we should not coerce people to live any certain way. But we oppose coercion for the wrong reason. We find it objectionable because the coercer almost always seeks to benefit at the expense of the coerced, an arrangement which is obviously unacceptable. We make exceptions, however, when we believe the coercer has good intentions. In the rare instance when he has the benefit of the people in mind, for example in the Welfare State, we are more than eager to allow coercion. ‘It is okay for the government to tell us what to do because it is looking out for our best interests. Why else would there be so many laws to protect us?’
Meanwhile, we forget that coercion, regardless of its intentions, deprives one of his choice, his will and his individuality. That is the real problem, for, even if a person does something that appears to be good, it is not truly good when it is unintentional. And as long as one lacks the choice, one cannot accomplish anything good. Consider the thoughtless citizen who throws on the ground a half-eaten candy bar, which a homeless person retrieves and finishes to his delight. Can the citizen’s act be considered good? Feeding the homeless certainly has the reputation these days of being good, but since the passerby didn’t intend to feed the hobo, can we deem it so here?
Similarly, consider the citizen who through his taxes helps facilitate welfare programs that feed the poor. His act can be considered good on the surface, but when we see him going out to eat, stuffing his face, and then throwing away enough food to feed a hungry family, we know that he does not deserve the commendation.
The principle that all virtuous decisions are one’s own encompasses every facet of life, including the moral realm. Even if someone obeys the Ten Commandments absolutely, it cannot be said that he is a good person and will go to Heaven. It could be that he attempted to break one of the commandments and failed to do so, or that he committed a sin not covered by the finite doctrine. To be a candidate for paradise, he must understand the commandments, not just on a literal basis, agree with them, and follow them under his own volition, not just by accident. Only then will the good deeds be sincere and will he avoid the sins not covered in the Ten.
One can say that the Bible is wholly good, always good, and the only good, which may be true in a certain sense. But if someone throws it and hits another person in the head with it, the Bible is not good in that case. It is good only when the user’s intents are good, when he can read the passages and, considering its context, understand the virtuous intent behind it.
It cannot be said, then, that all moral and legal codes are worthless in themselves. They introduce responsibilities to us and illustrate them to some degree, which always helps in determining direction. We should just recognize that they are powerless without the will of an individual; and ultimately that person’s will, not the orders or laws, is what begets goodness or evil.
The effects of relinquishing responsibility to an external body can be seen most clearly today in the debate over the separation of church and state. There are arguments across the board, all of which have solid reasoning and substantial support throughout the country. The arguments are all based on the idea of coercion. Those who argue for separation of church and state do not want the state to command what and how we believe. They invoke the Founding Fathers to prove that the two great institutions should be independent. On the other hand, there are those who are no less patriotic and yet, in the interest of morality and social cohesion, endeavor for state funding of religious institutions, prayer in school, and religious paraphernalia on public property. Who is right in a debate where both sides have such good intentions?
It would be safe to say, based on our inherent dislike of coercion, that we all want a separation of church and state—no one, especially those who are religious, wants to be told what to believe and how to act. In short, we want our state to be non-religious, not anti-religion, but independent from all religious matters. This was what the Founding Fathers meant when they said that religion should be left up to the individual, not dictated by the state.
But the Founding Fathers established a state that was also independent from all other matters as well—infrastructure, economics, and school for example. The Founding Fathers’ was a minimal state, one that did not interfere with its citizens’ lives at all. Theirs looked little like our modern state of income taxes, comprehensive restrictions, and social welfare. Using both income and sales taxes as a reference, it could be said that 40-50% of the average American’s life is occupied by the government. Given a non-religious state, that means that 40-50% of the average American’s life must be non-religious. We technically have the ability to promote and support the religion of our choice with the remaining 50-60% of our lives, but we do not have freedom in the department controlled by the government. That means we are being told to be non-religious, and ultimately the state is dictating what we should believe.
Take school for instance. A good portion of our lives is dedicated to public education whether our children attend or not. Since it is public, the separation of church and state demands that the education not promote or support any religion. That means taking away the prayer in class and on the sports field, removing “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and teaching Evolution, not Genesis, as the true fact of human origin. As such, all Americans are forced to support—and further through propagation—prayer-less society, non-religious patriotism, and a detached, scientific explanation for man’s existence. Religion is covered in history classes, but viewed only in its role against the march of freedom as the tyranny that persecuted Bruno and silenced the masses, which is a rather logical perspective if religion’s theological foundations are neglected.
To counter this forced atheism, many in America have campaigned to install religion into the state in some capacity. They lobby for prayer in school, to keep God in the Pledge, and for the option of teaching Genesis in the classroom. And it goes beyond the school. The same contingent argues to keep the Ten Commandments posted at the courthouse entrance and the religious symbol perched atop the war memorial. They push to direct government funds toward church-based charities and welfare programs, and, through legislation, they promote strong, religion-based ‘family values’ that expand the campaign to a nearly all-encompassing operation. If they had their way, the ‘religious right’ would see that lifestyle, sexual orientation, drug use, abortion, guns, smoking, pollution, entertainment, and more would all fall under the jurisdiction of their religion-based doctrine.
But how can they be blamed in their quest to religify everything? They are simply striving to live life the way they see fit, a way that happens to be centered largely on the Bible. To live the way they see fit, since government takes up so much of their lives, they must first alter government, thence dictating to others what they must believe. They don’t intend to force it on others, it just happens as a consequence of government’s size. Atheists too are guilty of promoting the same inadvertent dictatorship with their demand for a non-religious school, courthouse, and monuments. When the state is as big as ours, coercion is unavoidable. All of one’s beliefs, whether Christian or Muslim, pro-life or pro-choice, for smoking or against, must be reflected in the law for that person to be completely free.
The problem, then, is not a matter of the separation of church and state alone, but also the separation of school and state, economy and state, lifestyle and state, and so on. Unless the state leaves all aspects of life alone, its people will be constantly obliged to fit government to their beliefs, thus insisting others agree with them. When the state does retreat, freedom is achieved and totalitarian tendencies disappear.
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When Alexander Hamilton said that “Justice is the end of government,” he did not mean that Justice is the termination of government. A Federalist with the other Founding Fathers, Hamilton recognized the value of a constitution and representative governing body. Rather, he was referring to purpose and meant that Justice should be the aim of government. But Justice is not an award of absolute freedom presented to the people unconditionally; Justice requires an equal share of responsibility as well, such that the people are not only capable of doing what they want, but also sensible enough to do what is right. And, as we see, if the people are sensible enough to do what is right, there is no need for a body that watches over them and tells them what to do. Ultimately, the end of government is the end of government.
To say this these days is to promote anarchy, which is the modern American word for chaos and barbarism. Anarchist is the label we use for a variety of characters not limited to vagrants, revolutionists, criminals, and terrorists. But why must anarchy—the lack of a ruler—equal chaos? It is assumed in our precarious society that we require the force of some administrative law to ensure peace, but is that our nature? Can a people choose responsibility when given total freedom?
Perhaps our mentality is based on the fact that we already depend on a ruler, so imagining life without one is difficult. Like the French of 1789, we modern Americans have lived over 70 years without a true form of self-government and there is no reason to believe that we would be capable of order without some government forcing it on us. When restrictions blanket a people, civility diminishes, their responsibility falling to match the level of their freedom, thus requiring some form of external government.
On the contrary, responsibility would also rise to meet the level of freedom when it is high. Thus, a people would not only choose responsibility when given total freedom, but rather that responsibility would be the necessary choice. As with the colonial Americans, when any individual or group is left without restrictions, order and peace develop naturally in the form of an agreement or what has been called a Social Contract by preeminent 17 and 18C theorists, Locke and Rousseau. No outside body is needed, no coercion necessary. The idea is that as humans we have an innate understanding of and compulsion toward Justice. It is a ‘natural law’. Given this inherent responsibility, we can rely on ourselves to secure a virtuous and productive society.
The aim here, then, is not to abolish government altogether, just to replace the coercive, external kind with an individual, internal kind; not lawlessness, but self-regulation; not reckless abandon, but letting go of protectors.
Accepting this notion is to believe the paradoxical statement that illegal activity would cease if laws were abolished. It is a difficult concept to allow. Today there are many who advocate the legalization of drugs, prostitution, gambling, and any other vice one might think of; are we to believe that simply lifting the prohibition of these would lift the craving for them? Of course we are not. Rebelliousness is not the only reason people use drugs, although it is a major factor these days. Other reasons folks get into drugs—love of sensual pleasures, a desire to fit in, boredom—would not diminish if the restrictions on drugs ended. But, as we can see, those ulterior reasons have a source in the same condition that rebelliousness has: low responsibility. Raising responsibility will eliminate things like boredom and rebelliousness and thus purge the need for drugs. We raise responsibility by raising freedom, and that means getting rid of restrictions and laws.
Those who clamor for the legalization of marijuana use libertarian rhetoric to promote their cause. But the very people who want drugs to be legal also want guns to be illegal, they want government to provide affordable housing and stipends for unemployment. In other words, they aren’t true libertarians. If they were, they would want government out of all aspects of life, not just the drug trade. Moreover, if they were libertarian, they would seek complete independence from government, taking on the tasks of building and cleaning the roads they drive on, protecting their homes from wrongdoers and natural disasters, and defending the country from international security threats. That is to say that they would have a lot more responsibility than they formerly had and would no longer maintain the luxury of lazily hanging out and doing drugs all day.
Likewise, we should do away with laws against prostitution, gambling, and even driving recklessly and other traffic violations, smoking and other health concerns. But if we lift restrictions on those corrupt acts, we must also remove the social framework that alleviates the negative consequences of them, which means eliminating insurance, Medicare, Social Security, the option for bankruptcy, and all other forms of welfare. When a person faces the consequences of his actions directly and certainly, the result must be carefulness and righteousness.
Even if one finds this a reasonable proposition, one might still argue that social welfare is a necessary and inevitable fruit of human nature; that it happens organically even if government isn’t forcing it. As if a genetic, parental instinct drives each of us, we tend to take care of people in need, whether or not they are related, but especially children and elderly in our families. It is something that we feel compelled to do since they are helpless without our assistance and we can benefit from their presence. Are we to suppress this natural impulse to help others along with our abolition of external government?
Children, the elderly, and people with diseases and disabilities as well would not be able to survive on their own; are we to let them perish and give up the few joys of life they do have, all for the sake of self-rule? Does the principle of self-rule imply that those who cannot take care of themselves are destined to live incomplete lives?
To say so would be callous and lack the compassion that is the mark of a good citizen these days. The principle of self-rule does not mean that those unable to take care of themselves are useless. They offer something as evidenced by our native love for them. A new born baby might do nothing but cry and dirty diapers, but we know that he will grow to be his own self-reliant, cultivated human being, a reward that must be worth every midnight wake-up call. The same goes for the elderly, the sick and disabled—as long as there is life, there is the potential for goodness.
The principle of self-rule simply says to let that reward be determined and pursued by the individual, not some overseeing government. Humans will always have compassion for other humans, and this is admirable as long as it is based in the correct motivation. For those who contend that the helpless would go uncared for in this dog-eat-dog world if government didn’t force it, consider the average person’s level of compassion when he knew there wasn’t a governmental caretaker already in place.
One last argument must be considered. It says that libertarianism as described above requires agreement that drugs and other vices are bad and that human life and dignity are good. Indeed, to rely on this kind of self-government, a people must agree on everything, from drug use to the role of religion in schools. Only then would they be able to live without a constant struggle for power. This presents a problem in a multicultural nation such as ours because people just don’t agree these days. Witness the ceaseless arguing on television over any matter one can think of, drugs and religion in schools being major facets of the contention. Full agreement simply cannot exist in modern society, or so it might seem.
Moreover, the argument continues, man has a natural barrier to agreement because of scarcity. As physical human beings, we rely on our environment, the earth and its fruits, for our wellbeing. And despite the vastness of this planet, its limits are perceptible to all, whether it is seen in the cycles of life and death or in the threat of natural disaster. Because of this scarcity, men realize that other men pose a threat to their wellbeing. As such, we naturally disagree with one another and cannot hope to live in a world without some sort of forced accord. Nature gives us innate restrictions and so we cannot live completely free. Without complete freedom, we cannot have total responsibility and we are destined to rule and be ruled.
The argument, compelling and hard to resist, is the foundation for the principle of rule by others, whether it comes in the form of our own Welfare State, 20C communist Russia, or Medieval Christendom. To counter it and thus to establish self-rule would require nothing less than solving the enigmas of mankind: Can a people agree in this multifarious day and age? Can a people be united in a world of scarcity? What is it to be completely free? to be completely responsible? What is the significance of life? The answers rest in man’s consideration and view of himself, and the direction of his actions.
This essay is not intended to provide a step-by-step plan to move from our current state to the ideal one of equal freedom and responsibility for all. It is, rather, to provide a concise argument for moving in that direction. Once we are in agreement on that fundamental starting point, we can devise the plan to accomplish our goal. Some will suggest that such a change would require revolution, which in turn would mean destroying all that we have in order to start from scratch. This is reasonable considering the vast challenges presented in the argument above. It is foolish, however (read my essay, Revolution Or Creativity), and does not show faith in man’s ability to work together and overcome our difficulties, even when those difficulties seem to be lodged in other men. Perhaps faith is what it takes to get beyond the impasse we see before us. But if that is all, then let us close our eyes and take the leap.