There is perhaps no experience more valuable in my exploration of liberty than discussion with friends and family. These people know me. They aren’t afraid to offer their truth and to challenge mine. That’s good stuff. I mean, here we are, two different philosophies in the same space, sharing a meal no less: that’s liberty in action. There really is room for all of us.
Of late, however, there’s a commonality to these discussions that I must say has surprised me, surprised me enough to want to try to puzzle it out a bit. I’m hearing it from people I love and respect, so I gotta listen up, and there are strong emotions around this issue – always a clue we’re onto something of import. This said, know that I offer my puzzlings in the spirit of inquiry and from a place of love. Here goes.
When I talk to people about the new beliefs I’m forming about the importance of applying the principles of liberty to political questions, the response I most often receive is that we can’t employ those principles because in the absence of government law and intervention, terrible things will happen. In the absence of welfare, for example, the poor will suffer. In the absence of Roe. vs. Wade, women will suffer. In the absence of the Food and Drug Administration, our food supply will suffer.
Okay, so let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about why reducing the federal government’s involvement in private life seems scary. Let’s talk about why increasing the power of the individual is frightening. Let’s really talk about that. I sometimes feel like we’re stuck discussing how the federal government should fix things when what we should be discussing is whether the federal government is the appropriate solutions provider in the first place.
For my part I do not want my children or their children’s children to be subject to the whims and wiles of a single leader, nor to the interests of a minority, nor to the attentions of the majority. This desire to protect them whoever they may turn out to be and whatever forms their lives may take, leads me very much to believe that the path of greatest safety lies in societal embrace of greater and greater individual freedom.
And yes, this viewpoint carries with it some attendant beliefs. For one, it carries with it a belief that Anne Frank was right, that we really are good at heart. When I look around me, I see compassion and good works. I see real people in real time grappling with terrible things and offering up over and over their creativity, their energy, their resources and their love. I see them doing this not because a government agency told them to do so, not because a law mandated it, but because it’s what you do. Life antes up change and pain and challenging need, and we respond with whatever grace and action we can offer.
As fears of limited government are expressed, I am stunned to find revealed such a low level of faith in humanity. I am watching people who taught me to reject the doctrine of original sin and the idea of a savior in the form of a remote, paternalistic, all powerful God tell me that most humans are inherently flawed and must be led. They have become staunch supporters of the very same authoritarian model they once questioned: government help from on high has become our only salvation. Are we truly in a place where we have such distrust of our fellow Americans that the only solution is to have the federal government mandate kindness?
Perhaps this is only a case of my hopeful longing for a society that isn’t yet ready to be born, for in my ideal society we’d need only say that the law is love and if it harms none do as you will. In America in 2012 maybe we really do need to legislate things like the truth that love is love, no matter the sex of the persons involved. I don’t know. This is why we talk and puzzle it out together.
Regardless, I want to go on the record as saying this: I believe in us and I trust us. I do not believe that chaos and anarchy will result from smaller government. I do not believe that terrible things will happen any more than they do every day of the week. Liberty does not mean I have abandoned my desire to eradicate the sufferings of the poor, of women, of each of us.
As we keep talking, exercising our right to free speech in this great experiment in self-government called the United States of America, I ask only that my view be included and that I not be considered naïve, or on the other extreme, cold and heartless, for having held it. I ask further that you extend to me a little trust when I tell you that my intention is what it’s always been: love.
© Jennifer S. and harvestliberty.net, 2012.