"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
America, Love It or Leave It?
My father used his trump card in one of our recent political debates. That is, he asked me why I did not just leave if I disliked America so much. This, of course, is a variant of the highly sophisticated ' America , love it or leave it' argument. How could I respond to such a well-reasoned attack on my anti-state views (or, as I like to call them, my pro-liberty views)? Maybe the better question was should I even bother to respond to such sixth grade logic.
Unfortunately, this argument is all too prevalent in discussions with state lovers. When the state lovers are backed into a corner with no other arguments to defend their views, just as my father, they often resort to the tried and true 'love it or leave it' argument. To refute this supposed untouchable statement, a thorough analysis of it is in order.
Let us start with the term America itself. What does America stand for anyway? Does it stand for the wide expanse of beautiful land located on the continent of North America , for the diverse people peacefully interacting on such land, and for the material prosperity provided by industrious entrepreneurs and manufacturers? If this is what one means by America , then I love it with all my heart. Thus the state lovers should not tell me to leave, because I have already met their required condition of love.
If, on the other hand, America stands for the United States federal government, which steals from people, tells them how to conduct their personal affairs, and incarcerates them for fictitious crimes, then, no, I do not love America . In fact, I hate it, just as anyone would hate the person who stole from him and threatened his life and liberty.
As an aside, this discussion regarding the definition of America applies equally to the 'anti-American' argument that is so prevalent today in the news media. It seems that anyone who apposes the Bush administration's foreign policies (or, for that matter, anyone who apposes any policies of the federal government) is labeled anti-American. If America refers to the people currently located in the geographic region known as the United States , then I am not anti-American. But if it refers to the federal government, and the policies of the Bush administration specifically, then I am rightly called anti-American. The news media should avoid this confusion, however, by properly labeling it anti-Bush instead of anti-American.
Returning to our main analysis, assume, then, that America does stand for the federal government. I do not love it, but why should I leave. Why shouldn't the federal government leave, or at least leave me alone? By stating that I should leave, the state lovers are telling me that I do not have a right to own property, and that I do not have a right to freedom from physical aggression.
If I have a right to own property, including real property (land), then I have a right to exclude others from such property. This right to exclude includes the right to exclude the federal government and it agents. If I truly own my land, then I have the right to tell the federal government to stick its laws where the sun doesn't shine, because the land is mine and I can conduct myself on it as I please. If anyone should be leaving, then, it should be the federal government. I am rightly located on my land, while it is a trespasser. When the state lovers tell me to leave, they must assume, then, that the federal government has a territorial monopoly on all of the property located within the United States . In their view, the federal government must own all of the property and is only leasing it to me as long as I obey its commands.
The state lovers must also assume that I do not have a right to be free from physical aggression and threats of physical aggression. If I had a right to freedom from such aggression, then I could tell the tax collector to go to hell anytime he came knocking at my door. This, of course, is not an option allowed by the state lovers. If I refuse to pay my taxes, the federal government will come to arrest me. If I resist arrest, government agents will shoot me. So the state lovers are telling me to love being robbed at gunpoint or leave. Nice guys, these state lovers.
In conclusion, the only way that the state lovers' 'love it or leave it' argument holds up is if they concede that (1) America stands for a tyrannical federal government, (2) that no one has the right to own property, and (3) that everyone must be subject to threats of physical aggression. Seems like a very bleak place to live if you ask me.