During the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, I was on a flight to Washington, D.C. to attend lobbying efforts for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of small businesses.
While waiting to board my plane in San Diego, I opened up Reason on my phone and found an article about the science ratings of presidential candidates, including Libertarian Gov. Gary Johnson. One of the questions posed to candidates was, “How old do you think the Earth is?” It was meant to expose creationists. (Spoiler: the Republicans all pandered. Gov. Johnson believes in evolution.)
That question exposed a minor gap in my knowledge. It has been twenty years since I took any earth science classes, which is very little time in earth age, but it shows the frailty of the human memory. So I wondered, is it millions of years? Or is it billions of years? This led me to open, and then read, the extensive Wikipedia article on the topic “Earth.” The Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
The Wikipedia article reminded me how amazing and complex the universe is. Everything in that article was interesting and I recommend it. I can’t wait to teach my children all this stuff (I’m currently working on an adoption of siblings, but that is a story for another day).
The Wikipedia article also reminded me how fleeting and unlikely our lives are. I do not consider myself a religious person, although I was raised in a Christian household (my father is Methodist and my mother is devout Catholic). But I do believe in God for several reasons, chief among them a near-death experience when I was 22 (which is also a story for another day).
My reverence for life was immediately dampened when I deplaned. The TVs in the terminal were blaring about the shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub. More than fifty people were senselessly murdered. I felt my heart wrench with grief and anger.
I asked myself, “Why would anyone do such a thing? How does one lose their humanity to such a degree that they can steal the life of scores of strangers?”
Right away, I saw the fear and the anger on my Facebook feed. Fear of guns. Fear of Muslims. Fear of terrorists. Anger about homophobia. Anger about the state failing to protect us. We demand answers! We demand protection!
We can focus on this one event. We can politicize it. We can ban things. We can block groups of people. We can go to war. We can subject ourselves to a police state. We can pray. We can argue on Facebook.
I don’t think any of those things will fix the root problem. What the world needs is a cultural adoption of the ethics of Libertarianism.
Life is fleeting and beautiful. It is a gift. Its unlikeliness makes it the manifestation of a miracle. We may all disagree about the metaphysical origins of life, but there is vast consensus amongst humankind that life is precious. Those who treat life as frivolous and cheap are the outliers.
When you start from this truth, the logic of Libertarianism flows easily:
* The taking of life by murder is wrong.
* The taking of life by war is wrong.
* The taking of life by slavery (i.e. the theft of irretrievable time) is wrong.
* The taking of life by theft of property (i.e. the theft of the fruits of irretrievable time) is wrong.
While the logic of Libertarianism is understanding the nature and preciousness of life, the heart of Libertarianism is empathy. It is understanding and valuing the life of others as much as your own.
When you understand that stealing life is wrong, and you feel that others’ lives are equal to your own because you have empathy, you are led to tolerance.
It is hard to justify murderous actions to yourself when you have tolerance of others. Tolerance cannot coexist with the requisite hate and delusional self-righteousness that acts like the Orlando shooting require.
Unfortunately, the world is currently filled with those who will steal life without remorse or rebuke. Orlando is only one of millions of such wrongs happening every day.
Stealing life, whether by killing, or even just stealing pieces by stealing time or property, is an affront to the miracle that is life. It is an affront to God.
It is our job as Libertarians to spread the ethics of Libertarianism. It is our job to protect our own lives and to protect the lives of others by infecting the world with empathy and liberty. We do have power here; we do not need to wait for the government to “fix it.” And to think that the government can is delusional and unkind.
I do not believe that we can stamp out all evil deeds from men’s hearts in my lifetime. But we can have a net positive effect on the world. The world needs Libertarianism. Maybe then we can have fewer tragedies like that which occurred in Orlando.
* Alicia Dearn is an entrepreneur and the founder of legal firm Bellatrix PC. Alicia has been widely published on the topics of law, politics and business. For the 2016 election, she was a candidate for Vice President for the Libertarian Party.