Give Them Liberty?

Published by costrike on

This post is a smattering of ideas presented in my not-yet-famous “stream of unconsciousness” format.  Hope you find something of value…


I had an interesting discussion on Twitter earlier this week, which got me thinking about Libertarianism.  I thought I’d share my thoughts on an ideology which I consider a logical house of cards.  It’s got a great looking facade, but it doesn’t hold up to the slightest prodding.

Let’s start with the definition of the root word.

lib·er·ty   [lib-er-tee] noun, plural -ties.

  1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
  2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
  3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
  4. freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restrain

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Inigo Montoya

When today’s Libertarians (and Tea Partiers for that matter) reference the founding fathers, they suggest a link between today’s regulatory environment and the hegemonic rule of the British Empire.  I’d like to posit the idea that when Patrick Henry gave his famous speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, he was referring to the first two definitions above, whereas today’s adherents are clamoring for options 3 and 4.   If that holds water, today’s Libertarian is nothing but a craven libertine in a dandy’s clothing.

Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!

Patrick Henry

Compare that to the following:

I don’t want to wear a seat belt.

I should be able to drive as fast as I like.

I should be able to choose which taxes I pay.

Why should I have to wear a helmet?

Image by: Thomas Hawk

Here’s the rub.  The colonists had their laws foisted on them.  Today’s libertarians either opposed and lost,   acquiesced, or actively supported the creation of the laws they claim to vehemently oppose.  They can bluster all they want, but they are part of a democracy with a social contract and as such have three choices: accept things as they are, work to change them, or get out.  There is no such thing as a pick and choose democracy.  You have to hand over a bit of your personal sovereignty to take part in something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Don’t like the rules?  Work to change them.  It’s hard work, but things that matter don’t come easy.

To avoid all our oppressive regulations, artificial islands are being built as Libertarian havens.  Looking ahead, I think I have a pretty good idea of how this experiment might turn out.  My suggestion, keep the popcorn handy.  The news reports should be entertaining.

A society devoid of selfishness is certainly difficult to imagine. But a society that glorifies selfishness can be imagined only as base.

Henry Mintzberg

Still not sold?  Check out the words from John Donne’s “No Man is an Island” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am an Island” and see which sounds better to you.  I love them both as art, but they describe polar opposite worlds. (As the titles would suggest…)

No man is an island

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne (1572-1631)

I am an Island

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark december;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Dont talk of love,
But I’ve heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Simon and Garfunkel

Here’s the kicker.  Check out Paul Simon’s comments (and stick around for the song).


I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections

– Stowe Boyd