How Much Freedom Should We Have?
And How Much Government?
by Scott C. Haley
June 1, 2004
The principle of Freedom is simple: one should be free to do anything one wishes, AS LONG AS that action does not infringe on the rights or property of another. In other words, do what you want to, but no initiation of violence, coercion, or destruction on another person or that person's property. The role of government is to assure that that principle is upheld; thus, government should be limited to the police, the military, and the courts. Additionally, because government is "We the People", the principle also applies to government. No initiation of violence or coercion should flow from the government.
For those unfamiliar with Libertarianism, you're thinking, "Well, that won't work!", or, "That's not the USA."... you're wrong about the first statement, but right about the second. The primary reason that many people believe Freedom as I've just described it won't work is because they simply don't want to pay the price.
The price of true Freedom is not only on the battlefield. Just as importantly, it is in the toleration of anything that offends or disturbs you. That is, anything that also does not infringe on your rights or property. The price of Freedom also is in the risks of life. Here's a somewhat trivial example... the risk of injury if I don't wear a seat belt while driving. It is in my rational self interest to wear the belt. But that's not enough for the government; instead of leaving it up to me to run my life, I'm coerced into wearing a seat belt. The main rationale for the coercion is that everyone's insurance/medical rates will benefit. The point missed is that no one has the "right" to lower insurance rates. The price of Freedom includes toleration and risk.
Another example... For some reason, the government thinks it's OK for me to come home after work, lock my door, and drink half a bottle of whiskey, but not OK to come home and smoke some "illegal" drug. That's nonsense. The drunk is arrested AFTER he/she infringes on someone's rights or property; but the pot smoker is arrested (in many cases) BEFORE any infringement. Where's the sense in that? It's a matter of toleration. It's a matter of dethroning the tyranny of the majority.
Libertarianism is consistent; Conservatism is not. Conservatives claim to support Freedom, but they do so only if the free actions involved do not offend or disturb their senses of morality. Excuse me, but morals differ from group to group. One group thinks it is moral to have more than one wife (or husband)... another group thinks it is immoral. The definition or principle of Freedom cannot be based on the majority's morals and still make any sense.
Freedom is based on natural law; it is innate.
Unfortunately, in today's world, the government does more coercing than individuals ever thought of doing. The Income Tax: coercion and outright robbery. Legitimate functions of government (police, military, the courts) could be paid for by a national lottery or some similar means. Our Freedom is dying while most voters argue about the degree to which the government should coerce us.
About the Author:
Scott Haley is semi-retired, working part-time as an independent HazMat Regulatory Compliance consultant. Many years ago he taught various sciences at both the high school and college levels. Before that he was a working cowboy. He lives in Sacramento, California.
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