"Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain." ~ Frederic Bastiat
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.
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.
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?