I'm a Liberal, You Dirty Radical!

Column by Alex R. Knight III

Exclusive to STR

I’d like to share a little something here with you, a recent e-mail exchange I had with a now-former Facebook “friend” of a few years. This individual will remain unnamed here, though I will provide some details. This person is a not untalented filmmaker, photographer, painter, and musician. He has published an autobiography of some acclaim, which I have read and own a signed copy of, and it is – if not exactly a paragon of literary excellence -- a most interesting read. Correspondingly, in part, this person’s main claim to fame is having been the official photo and videographer for an extremely famous (and now defunct) rock band, in addition to being a close personal friend of the legendary and now deceased lead singer.

I might add here that I am little impressed with fame, nor any kind of close proximity to it. I have met or known several famous people and realized in short order the essential normality, occasional mundaneness, and lack of superhuman qualities inherent to them. I only mention this since so many people in society tend to loan a wholly undue reverence to celebrities and their confidants, as if they held some kind of divine wisdom the rest of us do not or cannot. At any rate, here is a direct transcript of the conversation. My own initials precede my statements, while “UP” will suffice for “unnamed person.” The first statement, initiated by UP, was in reaction to a comment I made on a posting that compared the amount of tax revenue George W. Bush spent on vacations during his first presidential term, versus Obama. Note also that this came winging out of the clear blue, with no prior signs of agitation whatever:

UP: Your comments continue to upset me an [sic] my friends. I suggest you find other friends that feel like you do.

------------------------------
The comment:
Alex Knight (January 3, 2013): Personally, I wish every one of them, along with Congress, would go on vacation permanently and never return.

AK: I already have many of them here on FB and elsewhere, but fair enough. If your tolerance level and stomach for rational discussion -- and that of your own friends -- is so short as to become as irate as your above message would imply, then this only leaves me wondering why you haven't already removed me from your friends list. Understand that my open-mindedness is such that I will not perform that action from this end. That will be your call entirely.

Sincerely,
Alex

UP: You are not rational.

AK: Really? How am I not?

UP: You want to do away with government. I bet you will look forward to Social Security when you are the right age. Me and many people are living on it.

AK: And yet there is nothing irrational, in your view, about using aggression against other peoples' life, liberty, and property in order to finance things you happen to feel are more important than the lives, liberty, and property of those people? Is that your position?

UP: No. I am not aggressive. Human nature is naturally aggressive and competitive. I try to stay out of that game.

AK: That's a nice attempt at having it both ways, [name withheld], but it doesn't stand up to the litmus test of reason. Committing murder and hiring a hit man (or many of them) to do the dirty work for you are essentially one and the same. But because it's "them" doing the direct aggressing, and you just cheering them on, it's easy for you to ignore that fact. As much as you might like to think you are, by way of endorsing government, you are characteristically NOT staying "out of that game." Neither am I, entirely, by paying SOME taxes, etc. -- albeit against my will and core principles. But the difference is that I realize the situation for what it is and am willing to own up to it.

UP: I also realize the situation and also I realize the futility of your dialogue. You know that the majority of the people on my friends list are liberal and your position just isn't ...It is radical. We know what radical can do and want no part of it.

AK: Whether my dialogue is futile in the greater sense very much remains to be seen -- history isn't stopping anytime soon, from what I can see. Though it is evident to me that it is futile for you to bother reading it, since you and your friends have already made up your minds and are not about to change them -- which is perfectly predictable human psychology. About that "liberal" label you give yourselves however -- you are anything but. Government is inherent intolerance. No amount of nomenclature can disguise that fact.

UP: Do you think that the Storm victims in NY should be helped?

AK: Sure. But not by putting guns to other peoples' heads and forcing them to pay for it involuntarily. I find that one of the most common penchants of all statists -- in particular so-called "liberals" -- is to conflate "I don't want government to do that," with "I don't want to see that get done at all." Compassion doesn't mean threatening people with aggression. It means reaching out to those in need by peaceful, voluntary means. And therein lies the entire difference. Government is by its very inherent nature violent and compulsory -- it can ONLY exist on that basis. I submit to you that there is precisely nothing moral or "liberal" about that arrangement. Does any of this make any sense to you, [name withheld]?

UP: I don't understand the gun to the head part.

AK: What do you think happens if you don't pay taxes -- from start to finish, all the way through the process? Notice I said "don't pay taxes," not "don't pay taxes until the government begins to threaten me." Follow the progression. If it were not a forced exaction, then they wouldn't be taxes -- they'd be called donations. Anyone who continues to resist paying will be met with armed force. Always.

UP: I think if you don't pay taxes you go to jail. Taxes are used for many things like infrastructure, unemployment, first responders as well as helping Katrina victims and any other major catastrophe's the human race has to endure. You like to work and make money, well that job probably wouldn't be there without some form of gov. You want to go back to the dark ages where the powerful ruled the earth and the people were made to do slave labor. You wouldn't last a minute.

AK: Well, your first sentence proves all my previous points, case closed. Jail is not indicative of non-violence and non-aggression. It doesn't really matter so much what taxes are used for insomuch as the method by which they are collected -- by force. Further, I can say you have an extremely inadequate understanding of market economics, to say nothing of history. The whole Obama "You didn't build that" syndrome. Further, government ISN'T the powerful ruling the Earth? That's your contention? Then what is it? You think because you can go cast a ballot in an election every couple of years that it mitigates that? Please. It's window dressing at best. The essential features of EVERY government are coercive force and aggressive violence. It can never be otherwise. And the Dark Ages HAD government, and it seemed people there must've lasted a bit more than a minute since you and I are here, so I think there you've really got your argument reversed.

---------------------------------

The conversation ended there. The individual in question followed through on my initial suggestion and sailed off into the cyber-sunset by “unfriending” me. He never bothered responding to that last.

Now, before any of my libertarian-friendly critics even get started (yes, I can hear you stomping out there, like horses eager to crash out of your stalls), I fully realize that I didn’t do a perfect job here. Some of my wording is awkward, there were certainly points I could’ve raised or followed through with and didn’t, and so on. Such is the nature of spontaneous correspondence. But I think it gets my point across, and displays the other party’s mindset pretty clearly. His thinking is skewed, he is not particularly intelligent to begin with, and accordingly, he cannot make rational, effective rebuttals to my argument. Nevertheless, in his own mind, he is right – certainly not because of his superior logic, but because of his impenetrable emotional attachment to his beliefs and self-appointed cause. Not to mention he is old; a child of the 1960s – though this is really no excuse. I know a number of people his age and older who are still learning because they choose to.

Indeed, if the person in question here were among them, he might at the very least question whether the “liberal” of the Sixties can any longer be considered so – if he ever was – and whether what I’m saying is really that “radical” . . . or if he ever really was.

I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, that it’s time to rethink the Sixties and the leftist dogma that it spawned. Then it’s time to rethink the rest of history.

Emotion has no valid place in philosophy, and vice-versa. Like any other science, it needs to be approached with rational, unbiased logic. But wait a minute, that’s just too . . . radical.

Is it? Really?

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 112

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.

Comments

ReverendDraco's picture

I suppose you could call me a "child of the Sixties," as I was born in 1964. . .

I'm also smart enough to see the government scam for what it truly is - the "Mafia" writ large. Pay your "protection money" or pay with your life.

Fuggem. If this is all it took to get them to "unfriend" you, they were never really a friend. . . just an opportunistic hanger-on.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

Yeah, same here, ReverendDraco (but I was born in 1965 [Feb], so I'm like **way** younger than you: maybe the writer was talking about old fogies like you, not young vibrant kids like me).

It's not an 'age' thing: it's a "think hard, or don't" thing. I will never forget how shocked I was when my youngest brother (born 1977) told me that he and his girlfriend has a huge fight over marijuana...

Me: "What? Is she some sort of anti-drug dummy?"

L'il Bro': "Stupid... it's ME who objects to HER smoking drugs"

Me: "WHAT?"

We then had a five minute conversation, during which I pointed out to him that stupid knee-jerk reactions to .gov-proscribed 'drugs' was about the dumbest moral action a person could ever undertake without joining a cult.

He had simply not thought hard about it (oddly, he also thought I was anti-drugs), and therefore had not researched it. But he's a smart kid, and after he read some links I sent him, his view changed.

**THAT** is the difference: some folks will change their mind if they are faced with data that shows that their prior opinion was unsupported by evidence... others won't.

(My kid bro' was also staggered to hear that I - a life-long anti-smoker - think that the "passive smoking" hypothesis is garbage... that happened when I was asked to review the literature when I was a grad student, and being horrified at the AWFUL statistical work that was touted as 'proof'. It's my fave anecdote about how a good researcher leaves his personal tastes out of his analysis)

ReverendDraco's picture

Yeah. . . I've tried having the "passive smoking" discussion with a few people. . . I've known for a few years now that it's based on "junk science." It's almost as difficult to have that discussion as it is to discuss guns with a hoplophobe. . . it amounts to trying to teach a pig to ride a bike - ya get nowhere, and piss off the pig.

Eric Field's picture

I think that everyone has dealt with a similarly irate "friend" over the years.  I've found that a surprising number of reasonably intelligent people become hysterical at any comparison between contemporary government and explicit violence.  For some reason, a certain cross-section of Americans believe that contemporary government is untainted by violence or evil. 

mjackso6's picture

The brainwashing runs deep these days. Personally, I'm a child of the '70's, but I guess that the koolaid was still being poured down our throats through a funnel. It took over 20 years, spent in the Army of all places, and a few lucky accidents to chip through the layers of hardened BS for me.

I'm occasionally disheartened when I talk to some of my friends and relatives about the subject of liberty, knowing that most of them, in spite of how well they know me and know that I'm no raving, tin-foil-hat wearing fool, still obviously believe that I'm just a little bit 'teched' in my belief that government is neither neccesary or desirable.

For me, that's been the most vexing part of holding a 'minority opinion'. It's not the lumbering, moronic Internet trolls out there, it's the family and ~real~ friends who, despite the fact that I ~know~ are both intelligent and reasonable in most matters, seem immovable in their opinions on the neccesity of government.

Most of them are wide open to a discussion ~about~ government, what the current one has done wrong, what it's flaws are, etc., but that's as far as they'll go. The only viable solution for them then is the formation of a ~new~, pristine government that would ~never~ repeat the same mistakes because ~we the poeple~ will be watching them like hawks. That's the hump that it almost inevitibly seems that no one's willing to cross. That's the point where all of the tired old 'logical' arguments for man's 'need' of a 'neccesary evil' seem to come out, and all of the eyes sort of glaze over.

I haven't found any real resolution to this problem. I don't intend to stop talking to my family or old friends, and I refuse to 'hide' my opinions as if they were some proscribed religion. Lately I've just sort of extended the NAP to my personal philosophies; I talk about my views, put them out there for others to examine, so to speak, and I'm more than happy to discuss them with anyone who's interrested. But I don't try to 'push' them on others; I don't initiate a debate on the subject, and if someone else does, I simply defend my stance and bow out gracefully as soon as I can.

I don't know if this is 'intellectual cowardice' or somesuch, and I can't say that I always follow my 'philosophical NAP' to the letter, but this is the best solution to not compromising my own beliefs while remaining 'friendly' with friends and family that I've been able to work out.

Mark Davis's picture

I too find it odd that people who support the state and will not admit that they support using violence will call people who point out this contradiction irrational.  This point of view (supporting the state is rational and opposing the state is irrational) is irrational because it contradicts itself and you nailed why:
"Nevertheless, in his own mind, he is right – certainly not because of his superior logic, but because of his impenetrable emotional attachment to his beliefs and self-appointed cause." 
However, young and old alike will cling to irrational positions due to strong emotional attachments.

Glock27's picture

Alex,
i wanted to run this through Grammerly but as the occassion would have I got fluffed by the machine.
I am going to rub against your idea of rational thought an logic. I don't necessarily believe in it. We are imaginative beings and the first thing that rose up in you was the imagination that things could be better than they are. Once you took to this new found friend your feelings took over and you developed a bond with it. Over time as you imagined other aspects of your new found friend your feelings grew even stronger until you now have a love relationship with your belief. You never arrived at this position by rationally thinking, or going to logic and a+b+c'ing it all out You read other works that stimulated your imagination into what it is today. John Hasnas, Chapter 8 of Anarchist/Miniarchist, introduced to me by Samarami.
This does not exclude the need for the necessity of logic and rational thought fpr the do become the mortor and bricks that lay the corner stone of the foudation.
I find it sad that you permitted the situation to degrade to a point of loosing a friend if that was truely what he was, or was he just an associate/

Respectfully.
Glock27

Jim Davies's picture

Very nice job, Alex; I disagree with Glock here. You were fair and articulate with your ex-friend and it's very clear he wasn't about to be confused by facts. Feelings, imagination and emotion certainly help but ultimately our strength lies in reason; there is no rational alternative to a free market.
 
And reasoning ability, however much rust has accumulated, is present in every human. UP will not forget your exchange, and there will come a day, perhaps via someone else, when he accepts the invitation to consider an alternative to government.
 
"History isn't stopping anytime soon..." - I love it. And hope you're right.
 
 

Glock27's picture

Jim: I am curious as to why you don't read the whole post before you make a decree on what was said? Not once in my post can you show me where I completely excluded logic an rational reasoning. I pointed to a new perspective and you appear to be ready to trash any new thought that does not nuzzel into your puzzel. I have noted this to happen more than once and on others remarks or articles. Why is it necessary to select one manner of thought process and become frozen to it when there are alternatives?
I found that the whole episode was a tragic event between two men who were friends. My perspective is someone should have been man enough to have recognized what was happening and conclude in some amicable manner. Yes there are reasons one should conclude some relationships, but this one just did not sound like one that should have ended the way it did. Alex tragically lost something he may never regain and loose a lot at the same time. I don't know but at least I tried to see them as close in some view point and it appears as you choose to see his friend as an advasary and nothing more. You know nothing about these people and what the once shared, a sharing that now will never be unless Alex chooses to try and to regain what was lost.

Evan's picture

Thanks for sharing, Alex. I'm sorry your friend was unable to continue discussing philosophy with you in a rational manner, but I'm afraid that most people are not swayed by direct logical arguments. Almost nobody likes to be told they are wrong, perhaps especially when they are. People tend to shut down when that happens, it seems. In my opinion it is much better, though undoubtedly more difficult, to avoid making your conversation partner "wrong" and instead seek common ground. Once you are both "on the same side," so to speak, it is easier to get them to examine the root.

Speaking of roots, I could not resist this opportunity to point out that the root of the word "radical," namely the latin word "radix," literally means "root." So "radical" simply means "of or pertaining to the root of any particular issue." Quite a compliment.

Peace,

Evan

Peter McCandless's picture

Alex,
You were as patient and rational as anyone could be in the face of your "friend's" illogic. He apparently had no idea that by pointing out his utter absurdity in believing that government is not inherently violent, you were doing him the ultimate favor -- correcting irrationality. As Jim says, maybe he will come around sometime. 

PeaceRequiresAnarchy's picture

Rather than point out that "your first sentence proves all my previous points...." AK could have said:

"UP, do you think it is acceptable to put someone in jail if they refuse to help the Storm victims in NY?"

Even though UP's comments demonstrated that he did not fully understand that taxation is aggression, UP did partially understand in the sense that he knew that taxpayers are threatened with imprisonment.

The above question takes advantage of this partial understanding of the fact that taxation is aggression and takes advantage of UP's previous statement ("I am not aggressive."). It would be difficult for UP to flat out answer the question "Yes" without appearing as a hypocrite.

If UP had answered yes, then again, rather than point out the contradiction in UP's views I would again ask a question:

"UP, do you consider it aggressive behavior to imprison a peaceful person who minds her own behavior merely because she refuses to donate anything to the cause of the Storm victims in NY?"

For UP to maintain his contradictory position he would have to answer this question "No," but by this point I would bet that at least a few of his liberal Facebook Friends observing the conversation would agree with the clear-headed observation that yes, such behavior is indeed aggressive.

As a general rule, I have found that if someone who disagrees with me (a libertarian) explicitly agrees with my principles, but just denies that government action indeed violates those principles, then rather than say "X contradicts that principle" I just ask questions to make it clearer and clearer what my opponent's position is until the contradiction becomes visible to those who erroneously believe that governments are completely voluntary institutions in every sense.

Also, remember that even though the person you are discussing with may become defensive and refuse to acknowledge the contradiction, by staying calm and pointing out the contradiction with questions (rather than "jumping" to the conclusion that there is indeed a contradiction) many observers to the discussion may notice the contradiction for the first time. (That's how I first noticed it. In fact, I was "observing" (re-reading) a conversation I had had with someone months previously and was surprised at how much I disagreed with myself.)

Suverans2's picture

"I just ask questions to make it clearer and clearer what my opponent's position is until the contradiction becomes visible..." ~ PeaceRequiresAnarchy

Thumb up! We lead with questions, we push with statements. And, when someone refuses to answer your question, their sophistry becomes readily apparent to virtually everyone.

Paul's picture

The one thing I would have added to this dialog, is this:
"UP, I actually don't mind your view of the way things work. If that is the society you prefer, then you should have it. I simply want no part of it, and prefer a different kind of society. We should both get what we want, and leave each other alone, don't you agree?"

If he agrees, then you have no problem and have gained an ally. If he doesn't, his wish to impose on you becomes obvious to all, and washes away all his rationalizations and his euphemisms.