Is there any word in the English language more misunderstood? Well, maybe “antidisestablishmentarianism,” but who uses that one anymore? Love–deep and abiding regard for another human being–is held by many to be the pinnacle of human character. One who loves is somehow more human than one who cannot. Or will not.
Yet for all its apparent nobility, the emotion of love is sorely misunderstood. We are often told by well-meaning people that we are to love everyone, even people who talk during the movie. I confess that I have not reached that lofty height. Truth is, I don’t plan to.
To me, love is reserved for those people whose deepest values I share. That does not mean they have to agree with me on everything or that they necessarily have all the same interests that I do. They must, however, have the same basic viewpoint on what it means to live a good life and what things are truly worthy of achievement.
What about everybody else? Sure, I have a basic sense of regard for most any human being, at least those who have not demonstrated through inexcusable behavior that they are unworthy of the title. Killing others in the name of religion or some hare-brained ideology comes to mind. For me, that means treating everyone with some basic level of dignity.
The problem arises when we hold too loose a definition of love. One would act to the benefit of a lover or a family member (at least those we love) without a second thought even in cases of great inconvenience or pain. I would give up a night doing something I love for my wife or kids–probably not for the guy who wouldn’t shut up during Star Trek. To say that we must love everyone implies that each are worthy of equal treatment.
And what does this have to do with liberty? First, liberty implies that you are free to love whom you want and the same for me. Second, it provides a framework for us to benefit from one another even when we don’t love each other. You and I can trade value for value without having an affair. Thank heaven for that–nothing personal. I’m sure you feel the same way.
True laissez-faire capitalism means not being forced to provide anything for anyone. Participants in such an economic system can benefit mutually without loving each other–without even knowing each other. Systems that force individuals to provide for others invariably gravitate toward tyranny. The reason is clear: Soon everyone begins to concentrate on getting rather than giving. A true capitalist who can trade with those he/she chooses knows that creating value is the name of the game. A socialist hopes someone will be forced to provide for him.
Ah, but were we all just to love one another! You bet. Please have at it. As long as you voluntarily provide for others seeking nothing in return, you are welcome to do so. I don’t have the right to choose your beneficiaries and you don’t have the right to choose mine. Capitalism does not, despite popular misrepresentations, preclude us from giving freely to others. Spread the love, just don’t force your list on me.
Terry writes this blog frequently. He also misses Mystery Science Theater 3000. Whatever happened to that show?