Ordinarily, it seems, I write about topics which are slightly more controversial for this column. I believe difference of opinion is a great and wonderful thing that should be embraced. However, this week I have chosen to do something that doesn’t always gain readership, but I think it’s important to every once in while remind ourselves of our commonalities. Unfortunately, almost all the readers of this article will be libertarian thinkers, but the message applies to all. I hope you will share these ideas with others, because they are ideas I believe people generally support.
Every person knows, deep down, that he or she is a free individual. We are born with the knowledge that we have certain inalienable rights, and those rights have not been granted, but rather are a part of simply existing as a human being. Nearly everyone recognizes that when certain rights are taken from them that it just isn’t right. Among these rights are the right to live, the right to our own property, the right to pursue our own version of happiness (so long as it does not infringe on others), and the right to do with ourselves whatever we please (so long as it does no harm to others).
Whenever any of these rights are infringed, people inherently know that something isn’t right. It is only when someone manages to convince them that infringing on these rights are only affecting other people and not themselves, or when it somehow serves the greater good – then it is acceptable to infringe on these rights. It is truly rare when people argue that other humans have no inherent rights. At their core somewhere, nearly everyone is a libertarian.
It’s about the things we learn at a very early age. Don’t act out violently toward another person, don’t take other peoples’ things without permission, if someone insists on fighting – first turn the other cheek – but then defend yourself, don’t lie or try to trick people in a harmful way, don’t cheat, don’t say hurtful things (but if someone says hurtful things to you, don’t act out against that person), be generous but only willingly, and keep your hands to yourself. If you are someone who teaches your children these things, I’m sorry to tell you but you are teaching libertarianism at its basic level. For some, this must be a horrifying realization, but what we teach our children are things which still apply as we become adults. That’s the reason why we teach children such things – to prepare them for adulthood. Maybe it sounds simplistic, but expanded out to logical conclusions, these basic principles we teach work very well for society at large.
A favorite pastime of children is making up games. We’ve all done it in our youth. Someone comes up with an idea for a new game and begins laying out the rules, while others join in with their own ideas. At first, the rules are simple, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves simply trying to somehow score points in some certain way. Then, other children begin getting ideas for new rules that they believe make things fairer, or even attempt to advantage themselves or others in some way. Before long, no one can remember all the newly invented rules. People are getting called “out” and they have no idea why. There are points being made that result in nothing arguments and debates about what the rules actually are. Eventually, the game just isn’t fun anymore and everyone quits playing. The hopes for a new Olympic event are dashed, and everyone goes home feeling a little miffed for their troubles.
Again, it’s a simplistic, childish view of the way things happen, but it does still apply. The difference is that we don’t get to simply quit playing the game, and the stakes are far higher. We have no choice but to continue to play or we are kicked out of society (which some people may actually prefer). The simpler rules work the best. When things are boiled down to what rules best make a society function well, they generally fall into the sort of simple things we teach our children. It’s when we start adding to these simple rules that we begin to compound problems and start to try to outsmart ourselves into believing we can complicate our way into better societies.
I’ve kept this article on a childish level for a reason. Because, I think it’s important that we sometimes all remind ourselves of our commonalities at a basic, core level. We are children at heart, and while the world always benefits from disagreement, it’s also good to be reminded of the common ground on which we all likely stand. My hope is that everyone reading this article will consider what you teach your children. If you teach your children these basic principles of protecting the natural rights they inherit as being human, then also please attempt to apply it to yourself as an adult. If it’s good enough for your kids, it’s good enough for you. Sure, adult life is more complicated, but somewhere at its core, the truths are basically the same. It is likely that nearly everyone believes in libertarianism to some degree. By reading this article, I hope that libertarians are reminded of where we a free, and that non-libertarians can see where they might agree with libertarians.
We libertarians aren’t out to get you. We just happen to believe in the same kinds of things you teach your kids.
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