Sometimes kids have a way of putting it all into perspective. This clip, which I can’t recommend enough, features a young boy meeting a gay couple for the first time.
I would have trouble coming up with a better way to demonstrate what libertarianism is all about. “Wow, you guys love each other? Cool.” Though he does not yet understand it, this young man intuitively grasps the idea that what two men, woman, or combination thereof do is no one else’s business unless it materially harms others.
I sometimes have trouble explaining libertarianism to those who only see their world through a liberal/conservative lens. Liberals as yet unfamiliar with the foundational principles of libertarianism are quick to see it as another twist on conservatism. Since conservatives are believed (often erroneously) to advocate free markets, we libertarians get associated with all the other things that come with conservatism. Many of them are hateful and stupid.
Conservatives, on the other hand, see libertarians through the lens of liberalism. Because we generally think pornography, drugs, and whatever else others choose to engage in privately is none of our business, we are likewise associated with the whole liberal buffet of ideas. Many of those are naive and stupid.
Libertarians see history as the painful birth of the truly free individual. From the brutal conformity of the tribe to the more civilized but equally pernicious authority of the state, human beings have perverted the virtue of cooperation into the vice of coercion. We have lived the better part of our history under the thumb of others. Sometimes we call them the King. Sometimes we call them the Collective. Sometimes we call them the Church. Sometimes we don’t call them anything at all, but simply obey all the unspoken “rules” that have emerged over time.
Libertarianism is this charmingly innocent young boy writ large. We don’t care who “marries” whom because we don’t think the state should disallow any type of domestic contract. We don’t care if you do drugs because it’s your mind to screw up. We don’t want to take your money as long as you earned it.
Leaving others alone may seem like a mundane moral imperative. How much more exciting it is to solve the world’s problems, imposing our own wisdom on everyone in sight! Liberals and conservative are a lot more alike than either side likes to admit. Whether it’s taking others’ money to give to those deemed deserving or enforcing one’s own idea of domestic propriety on the rest of humanity, each places itself in a position of unearned authority.
The libertarian agenda is not hateful, not meddling, and not overbearing. We believe that human beings need only be restrained from harming others. We believe that individual rights trump any notion of the collective good. We want you to keep what you earn and marry whom you please. We don’t care if your household consists of two husbands or five. We want you to buy what you want, build what you dream of, dress as you please, and eat what you will. We think you and most other people will figure out what’s best for you, and we will probably help you out voluntarily if you really need it.
Now, I am going to play ping-pong. Feel free to join me.