I marvel sometimes at the chasm between libertarians and statists. When we do manage a productive exchange, it is usually centered on particular instances of state intervention in the lives of its citizens, not the core values underneath.
Statists, those who advocates range from liberals to progressives to socialists, generally believe that the state should play a central role in the individual’s life. The state is uniquely designed to coerce, and thus advocacy for the statist position always entails a “You must.” A state that only admonishes its citizens to behave a certain way (“You should”) but leaves the final decision to them would be only an annoyance, not a threat.
The libertarian advocates free choice, free association, and free most everything that does not materially harm another. The only role for coercion in a libertarian’s mind is the prevention of and retaliation for force initiated by another state or a private citizen.
There is no fundamental reconciliation of these points of view, and it is time we recognized that. Those who believe sincerely that the state is right to coerce others into all manner of things alleged to be good for them and helpful to others can never be convinced to leave others alone. Short of a complete repudiation of “You must,” the statist is forever conjuring up excuses for more of the state, always figuring somehow that he/she knows best about more and more and shows restraint concerning less and less.
In order to get what they want, statists have to resort to force. The people who own or create what the statists want are generally not disposed to give it away, so it must be taken. That statists have managed to creep this far into the private lives of everyone is a testament to we libertarians’ naivete and lack of vigilance. We have trouble getting into the mindset of someone who thinks it good to constantly be telling others what to do and so we have not seen until recently just how near we are to losing all semblance of individual freedom. The statists have been winning.
“We won’t” has started to pass the lips of Americans who have finally seen the true nature of the statist lizards. It has become clear to many of us that there is no persuading the statists to behave, and being opposed to unnecessary violence, we are starting to ask ourselves at what point civil disobedience is justified.
The fact that we would even entertain that notion leaves the statist incredulous. Convinced of their rightness in setting up society for the good of all, any bold assertion of individual rights prompts them to work for more of the state–more law, more taxes, more regulations, and more restraint of the freedom of each to do as he/she pleases. The individual is the enemy and must be squelched, though a clever statist will never admit so outright.
The jig is up. Faced with an insatiable state, individuals are resurrecting the idea that the final arbiter of rights is the individual. The rabid condemnation of the Tea Party shows just how far statists are willing to go to crush any political movement that dares call the state out. They are seeing the true power of “We won’t” and it scares them spitless.
One of two things will happen–soon. Either the statists will recognize that all variants of collectivism are evil (unlikely) or libertarians will stop complying with illegitimate dictates of the state (likely). I do not relish this. I would much rather let the economic failures of statism speak for themselves. I would much rather see our rapidly diminishing individual rights attributed to an out-of-control government and measures taken to restore them. I would much rather have statists go home and leave everyone else alone.
They won’t, and we won’t. They won’t stop and we won’t tolerate any more. We won’t wait until the last spark of individuality is dead and the enervating wind of collectivism has blown away the last person who knows what “I” means. We won’t live as wards of liberal do-gooders or neo-conservative scolds. We won’t sacrifice the individual to anyone claiming dominion. What we will do is clear. We will live as men and women, makers of our own destinies, masters of their own lives. You can back up and shove off or shut up and **** off. We won’t have it any other way.