Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Libertarian is within all of us

"There was a time when we honored those who created the prosperity and the freedom that we enjoy. Today we honor the complainers and sue the creators. Perhaps that is inevitable in an era when we no longer count our blessings, but instead count all our unfilled wishes"
Thomas Sowell

When engaging in a discussion with someone I find an effective technique to get them on board with your argument is to identify points you have in common with them. Once you have identified common ground it becomes easier to explain a certain point of view as the other person is more receptive to your ideas. In political spheres it is a popular myth that people of both right and left are diametrically opposed and share nothing in common. As can be seen with the recent Conservative conference where chants of "Tory Scum" and eggs been thrown by some of the people, they actually believed the other side to be pure evil. The difference between the participants entering the conference and the protesters outside were not as different as the scenes would make you believe.

If I was to ask a couple of questions to the protesters and the conference delegates first would be, do you believe in not taking other peoples stuff? Second, do you believe that we should not do harm to others? I would bet over 99% of people would agree with both points, in that people have a right to their own bodies and property and that we should respect one another and not cause untoward harm. You may not realise it but these two questions are central to Libertarian thought. Many people agree with such broad statements but in practice many seem blinded by their own contractions in life.

The classic example is when Governments decide to embark into conflicts. To pay for such skirmishes instead of asking for peoples money it rather takes from the citizens in order to hurt others, breaking both principles above. Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring uprisings - non of this was a direct threat to own bodies but yet our Governments decided it was in their interest to engage in armed conflict. Rather than protect our liberty we now find they have destabilised the region further, armed ISIS and created power vacuums in many countries. Why can Government take money from all of us in the form of taxation? We may all agree that a chunk of this money goes to good causes but there are many other good causes I could force others to support but as a society we view this as unacceptable and quite right. People have no right to tell others what to do with their fruits of their own labour.

The protesters outside the Conservatives Conference view themselves as morally superior yet their actions contradict this premise. Their belief is the rich should pay more into schools and hospitals. In essence their moral argument boils down to taking from people who work very hard and create wealth for the poorest; claiming they have the moral high ground as it benefits the poor. All they are advocating is organised theft, they themselves are not giving or creating solutions to combat poverty but instead believe that taking from their fellow man is compassionate. I could advocate the same policy its not hard, its no skin off my back. I wouldn't pay the extra money as I'm just taking it from others. Instead of holding such a view these people should instead enter business and come up with new innovations, products and make goods more plentiful for everyone including the poorest. Rather than complaining about their lot be grateful of the abundance they have compared with many billions in the world. Rather than plotting to take assets from others be the change that they wish to see in the world. Food used to be expensive. We now have diets of abundance because people put in hard work to create wealth and find better ways to produce goods. Everything good we have, has come about not by protest, self pity or complaining. It has come about from hard work, action and a can-do attitude. People from modest backgrounds have achieved astonishing things all because they dreamt they could. 

If the protesters believe that taking other peoples stuff is acceptable then would they also advocate that people in the slums of India or Bangladesh should take from the poorest worker in the West? This gulf is far greater than if we compare a millionaire and the poorest worker in a western country. The millionaire can own a few houses, a plane, a yacht, or a fancy car but an average worker can afford to use all these products just to a less extravagant extent. Compare that to people on less than a dollar a day. They have no clean water and have to walk miles to obtain their "drinking" water that could kill them. They have one meal a day of gruel, a subsistence diet and are lucky to live beyond their 40's. The millionaire and western worker has no difference in all the above. Both can also get drunk, have the latest iPhone and entertain themselves with large TVs and endless content. The only people in true poverty are the ones in 3rd world slums but many of us would not agree if those people were to turn round and demand we give them money against our free will. 

Regardless of your political beliefs ask people if they want better schools, hospitals, transport and so forth; again the majority of people would also share this view. We all have these end goals in common but its the means to achieve them that differ. I would argue we all have a little Libertarian in us. We just need to learn to express it more and understand that liberty is the only true moral system to resolve conflict with one another in a civil manner. It holds up to the two questions I asked at the start of the article that we all believe are right; yet all our mainstream political parties break these principles all the time with the majority of the public unwittingly supporting such actions.

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