One of the basic tenets of Libertarian thought involves the non-initiation of force.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that while they agree with most libertarian ideas, they just don’t believe they will work in the real world.
I disagree. They do work, for all of us, everyday, and as long as I can remember.
I like to tell a story (and I’ve told it a lot) that happened 50 some odd years ago, when my Mother brought a couple boxes of cereal home from the Becker Brothers grocery store in New Castle. I can’t for the life of me remember what type or brand of cereal it was, but I vividly remember the prize that was in each box. It was an authentic Rin Tin Tin ballpoint pen, shaped like a genuine repeating rifle that was used by Rinty’s cavalry troop and Corporal Carson. My older brother and I nearly foundered on that cereal trying to eat our way to those ink pens, and our diligence finally paid off. In a matter of days, we were each the proud owner of one of the pens.
My brother put his pen in his desk, but I was anxious to show my good fortune off to my pals at Millville Grade School. And, as was often the case so many times in those days, my brother still had his ink pen, while mine was missing, either out on the playground, or behind one of the registers in Mrs. Dilling’s room, or under one of the seats on Howard Tucker’s bus, or in that no account Stinky Wilmont’s lunch bucket.
Regardless of where it the pen was, it was a devastating loss, one from which I thought I might not recover. Through my grief, however, I was able to devise a plan that would alleviate my sorrow. I surmised that if my brother gave me his pen, which he hardly ever used anyway, then he could have the pen out of the next box of cereal. He, of course, would have none of that plan, so I decided to plead my case to Mom and Dad, and all of my younger siblings. Promises of future favors gained the support of a couple of the younger ones, but I hit a brick wall with my parents.
They informed me that the pen belonged to my brother, and no matter how much I wanted it, he was under no obligation to surrender it too me. If I could convince him to give it to me, or trade for something I owned, or if we could agree on a selling price that I could afford, then I had a shot at getting the pen. Otherwise, I was out of luck.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was one of my first lessons in libertarianism. Most of us learn that lesson early in life. No matter how bad you want something, you don’t have the right to just take it. Not even if you want it really bad. And not even if someone else has taken something from you. Most people accept that as a fact in their personal lives.
We may not agree with our neighbor’s religious or political views, and we might spend a lot of time arguing about them, but the vast majority of us don’t resort to force in order to change our neighbors mind.
And if a store or restaurant doesn’t meet our needs, we generally just take our business elsewhere.
If we find another person offensive, outside of the occasional punch in the face, we normally just avoid that person.
Every year, Americans voluntarily contribute $250 to $300 billion to charities of their choice. And while you might try to persuade your neighbor to contribute to a charity you deem worthy, most of us wouldn’t consider forcing our neighbor to contribute.
We seem to take a different attitude, however, when the government gets involved. People seem to believe if they want a park, or a hiking trail bad enough, it’s alright to authorize the government to take money from a person and build one. They’ve somehow developed the attitude that if they want a business to locate in their county or state, it’s alright for the government to take somebody’s money and give it to a business. People who wouldn’t even consider taking something from their neighbors don’t seem to raise too much opposition when the county takes the neighbors house and auctions it off in a tax sale.
When government gets involved…if we disagree with another person’s lifestyle, we are apt to ask the government to outlaw that lifestyle. We ask the government to initiate force on our behalf, that we wouldn’t consider initiating on our own. That’s how government works.
George Washington said that ” Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.”
George was right.
I’ve had many people tell me that they agree with libertarian ideas, but that they just won’t work in the real world.
I disagree with that assessment. We interact without the initiation of force every day.
And that, is the essential Libertarian idea.
You may not agree with me on that, but I trust you won’t walk up and hit me if you don’t.
And I trust most of you not to take my ink pen.