"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Would You Hurt Me If I Said No to Your Politics?
Exclusive to STR
“Put down the gun, then we’ll talk.” This is the core morality of both libertarianism and civilization.” ~ Stefan Molyneux
Would you hurt me if I said "no" to your favored politics or policies?
“Of course not!” you say. “I’d never dream of it, this is a democratic country!” But I will, in fact, be harmed or at least inconvenienced by certain policies, and I will be hurt if I say “no” strongly enough.
Example: you support a health-care bill that would force people to buy health insurance from The Party’s buddies in the insurance industry, or else force folks to pay huge taxes to fund some sort of "universal" plan. You feel such plans will ensure that all people have health insurance one way or another. But what if I think it’s a bad plan, unfair, or downright stupid? No matter. I must comply, because you (and your man in Congress) said so.
Well, what will you do to me if I continue to say "no"? Will you call the cops on me? Will you garnish my wages, suck my bank account dry, and threaten me with violence if I resist? Will you be the one dragging me to prison, where I will be roughed up, raped, psychologically abused, and lose my freedom as well as my human dignity? When I am finally released, then I will be thrown onto the margins of society, have few job prospects, and perhaps live in a box under a highway overpass--all because I did not comply with your well-intentioned plan.
Would you really subject me to this?
Another example: You oppose same-sex marriage. Your opinion is that marriage contracts should only be between men and women. Maybe your holy book tells you so, or maybe it just feels right to you. It sure feels right to your "representative" in the government, who helps ban same-sex marriage through force of law. Of course, my own marriage has nothing to do with your marriage; I do not force you to marry someone of the same sex although you’d try to force me, through your laws, to marry someone of the opposite sex.
But what if my partner and I refuse to comply; what if we decide to marry in violation of your opinions and your law? What will you personally do? Will you be the one denying me the license? Will you crash our wedding and rough us up? Will you arrest us? Will you burn down our home, blackmail us, or run us out of town?
Final example: you support the President's financial policy of printing money and giving most of it away to bank barons. You support taxing others to further help pay for these bailouts. You support the Federal Reserve's blatant manipulation of the economy. Maybe some talking head told you it was a good idea, that it would create jobs or fund welfare or the war or something. Never mind that these policies cause inflation (i.e., my living expenses skyrocket while my wages stagnate and buy less and less each year). Never mind that our leaders have to borrow from countries like China that don't like us very much, putting us in their power. Never mind the financial disasters born from such stupid plans, causing people to lose their jobs, their homes, and their livelihoods. You still think it’s better for people to force these policies on us, for the so-called “greater good” or whatever.
Again, what if I won’t comply? What if I refuse to pay the 35% of my meager wages needed to feed the corporate-industrial complex? What if I want sound money, backed by gold, that isn’t easily manipulated and won’t force me to gamble my retirement in the stock market? Will you garnish my wages and make me pay the piper? Will you sign my pink slip? Will you man the printing press? Will you go beg China and the Arabs for more easy money and credit so you can continue your Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous existence? Will you be the one blacklisting me if I speak out publicly against the Fed?
You, the person now reading this column, are a thinking person, with a mind, with a spirit, with life experience. You understand that if you touch fire, it burns; if you drive drunk, you may crash and kill yourself; if you spend all your money on plasma TVs or fancy cars or trips to Aruba, you’ll have nothing left for the rent and groceries; if you hit someone, they’ll hit you back; if you neglect your girlfriend, she'll dump your ass. You understand that for every action there is a reaction, that we are all connected to each other in society.
You already understand my thesis. And so you’ll understand just what I am driving at here.
In short, ideas have consequences. YOUR ideas have consequences. And sometimes they are not very nice ones. Ideas, once they are out of your head and out in the world, do affect others when they are carried out.
Politics isn’t just random slogans or feel-good catchphrases and cool policies that make the world a happy place of rainbows and sugarpops. No, politics is about playing the system and using force against others to get what you want.
Sure, some policies and laws and edicts may be well-intentioned and lead to a positive goal, but many more have all sorts of ill effects on people in their daily lives – exploitative taxes, threats of punishment if one doesn’t comply with “social insurance” schemes, denying civil rights and liberties because someone doesn't like gay people, taking people’s land through eminent domain and giving it to those with power and clout, granting special privileges and bailouts to Wall Street in order to “save the economy,” shooting people who try to scale a border fence so that they can work and feed their families – the list goes on and on.
Whatever reasons or goals you may have in mind, the question remains: Are you prepared to use force to make others comply with your ideals? Someone has to enact and enforce politics; after all, policies don’t enforce themselves. So others (cops, district attorneys, Congressmen, Presidents, etc.) will do the dirty work and you won’t have to lift a finger; you bear no responsibility – or at least you think you don’t.
But I don’t support initiating force against you to enact my ideas. I seek persuasion and solidarity and direct action to create constructive change. If I think things ought to be done a certain way, or that we should pursue a certain goal, I don’t turn my fists on others to make it happen and I certainly don’t make others fight each other to make it happen – even if only metaphorically, within the civil confines of the voting booth. (You can guess how I feel about those with power “hammering” out compromises.)
I don’t write this to merely scold you and bloviate on libertarian morals. I just want you, as a thinking person, to understand that other people are affected by your ideas when politics is involved, and often very harshly so. If you still think political force is a good idea and won’t consider alternatives, fine. It’s your choice. But at least know the implications of that choice, why nobody is ever truly satisfied or happy with politics, and why I cannot support you in that belief, even if you are my friend. Anyway, how can you really call one a friend while you support political institutions that can hurt him and others?
Well, that’s what politics boils down to – you against me, and nobody really wins. But we’re civilized folk, and I think we can do better than that!