"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
The Liberation of Leanne
Exclusive to STR
February 20, 2007
A surprise, well-armed SWAT team visit in the middle of the night can be a very eye opening experience. It happens a lot, but since it doesn't happen to all of us, we cannot hope that all our friends and neighbors will be dosed with reality this way in order to alert them to the erosion of liberty in America today. There is another way. I'd like to demonstrate it with the story of my friend Leanne.
When I was young, my Dad taught me the art of reeling in a fish. When you feel a nibble on your line, you can't just yank on it. You must proceed skillfully or you'll likely lose your prize. I have since become a 'fisher of men,' as my favorite philosopher would say.
Leanne grew up in a dysfunctional family, the kind that has always voted. They think things like personal responsibility are mean because we're all victims of life and handouts are good and appropriate. Leanne's thinking has been conditioned, but I know her as an intelligent, warm and funny person. When we discuss politics, I tread very carefully so as not to offend her sense of compassion for the underprivileged, while at the same time gently point out the unpleasant realities of initiating force, government waste, etc.
I take the tack with Leanne that there is a huge gap between the proclaimed compassion of government and the reality of its guns initiating force to achieve unattainable social goals. Over the years she has conceded every area of politics that we have discussed, because basically they're all the same. I've practiced infinite gentleness with Leanne so that there is no force for her to feel the need to push back against. I simply lay out the facts, wait a beat for them to sink in, and then ask her if this is what she wants to continue paying approximately 40% of her income for. Aren't there other things she'd rather spend the money on? The answer is always yes. To my dismay, even though she has conceded a lot of ground, my mission to help shift her basic political premise has never been realized.
I've been able to crack her belief system that somehow handouts must be good for some people. She has even described to me many ways in which various government institutions have stuck it to myriad people she knows, all under the guise of helpful programs. She cannot give me one example in which a government program has benefited a single recipient more than superficially, which actually causes destruction in the end, not to mention the resulting growth of the leviathan of government. Even if she could show me one example of a successful government program (successful to someone other than a bureaucrat), it would in no way begin to address the resulting damage done to working families who are squeezed to pay for it all and the ensuing erosion of our liberties and national character (to say nothing of morality.)
My persistence is bearing fruit. Once, in a moment of honesty, as a bottom line Leanne admitted that she simply wants to be taken care of in life. Most people are no different. Most would love a free lunch, although few admit it. There are millions of lotto tickets purchased each week in the U.S. Get-rich-quick schemes have never lacked for a willing participant. Lawsuits become more amazing and frivolous all the time. You can Google 'I want to marry a millionaire' or visit Sugardaddie.com to witness the falling limbo stick of materialism to which 21st Century man has been reduced.
Few will outright admit to greed. I consider it excellent progress for her to tell the truth this way. At the time she did so, Leanne was referring to her marriage, but I'm convinced that this deep desire doesn't change hue when spread on a broader canvas. Don't we all base our politics on our psychology? Don't our personal relationships reflect our view of the wider world?
Most voters consider 'greed' a sin when defined as wanting more than you need when other people are in need. As a capitalist, I couldn't care less if others want more than they need, unless they are neglecting their children (who will one day be unleashed upon the rest of us) or turning the guns of government against me to get it. In fact, the way it works is that a capitalist must give me what I want in order to get what they want. Greed would be better defined as taking what doesn't belong you. Harm comes not from freedom or desire, but from coercion.
Capitalism is like the flow of blood. When it is restricted, as with taxation and regulation, illness ensues. Government greed is the true harbinger of suffering, not capitalism. We see this today on a grand scale. After years of inflation and taxation, the growth of government is causing the economy to flail as surely as a squeezing hand wrapped around its throat.
Leanne's increased honesty stems from her recently embarked upon psychological recovery program. The specific route is insignificant. What matters is that she in now practicing rigorous honesty and this can only bode well for her pursuit of happiness, the satisfaction in her personal relationships and the level of freedom she could attain in her time on the planet.
Leanne is a compassionate person who wants security for everyone. Problems arise when one begins to think that 'the pursuit of happiness' somehow rightfully involves sacrifice from others with or without their assent. Changing the world begins when we realize that happiness is not something that can be pursued for anyone else, but is limited to choices one makes for oneself.
This is how it worked for me. When my life as it was became painful enough, I too embarked on a journey of self-discovery. This was a painful undertaking, but as my level of honesty about myself and about life grew, the solution became obvious. When I assumed responsibility for my happiness it increased. The value of liberty grew for me along with it, as one must be free to pursue happiness. As her level of honesty increases, I'm convinced that it is a matter of time before Leanne can accept that the use of force against one person for the benefit of another will be seen for the evil for which it essentially is.
Hopefully, as Leanne grows in her ability to accept responsibility for her own unhappiness, in time she'll come to realize that she is completely responsible for pursuing something better and recognize the need for freedom in order to pursue it. Just as no one else can make you free, no one else can make you happy. Sovereign individuals are completely responsible for their experience of life. We voluntarily exchange with one another to our mutual benefit, but no one else can make you happy.
Leanne is maturing and slowly making progress in this way. When she fully realizes the inextricable connection between responsibility and happiness for herself, I'm convinced that that paradigm shift will color everything for her very differently, including her politics.
It is a basic tenet of maturation to discover that all that glitters is not gold. Every nickel spent for 'security' must be taken from one person and chipped away at by each bureaucracy along the way. Not only are bureaucratic means unjustifiable, the end (security) is a pipe dream. Calling something secure (e.g., 'Social Security') does not make it so. In fact, it practically ensures the equal and opposite outcome as we now witness with the crumbling and evaporation of social safety nets.
When we become completely responsible for ourselves, everything changes. We can no longer identify with other 'victims' of life who want to be taken care of with the guns of government pointed at our neighbors. We begin to identify with mature people who take complete responsibility for their experience of life and realize that those guns are being pointed at us too. We begin to see that freedom is essential to the pursuit one's own happiness and the irrational desire for security, even though it once glimmered brightly, becomes too costly when measured up against liberty ' the Hope Diamond of human existence ' invaluable and only obtainable at the greatest cost, the loss of your illusions.