The dividing line between compassion and tyranny has a name: it is called coercion. It is the border that encircles libertarian geography on the political map.
Few would argue with our bedrock libertarian principle: it is unjust to initiate force or fraud against another person. Don’t you agree?
And yet we force people to join unions, force people to pay arbitrary prices for goods, services, and labor, force people to purchase insurance, force people to fund activities and organizations and activities they find immoral, force people to give up their property, force people to surrender their income, force people to lend money to others, force people to attend a particular school.
We do all this (and more) in the name of compassion; that is a distortion of the term’s meaning. Compassion is when 95% of us tend to the truly needy 5% on our own volition; tyranny is forcing 5% to provide unearned benefits to the 95%.
Compassion is giving poor parents the same school choice that rich parents have; tyranny is forcing Milwaukee kids to attend public schools where only 6% will be taught to read proficiently and painters make over $100,000.
60% of Americans now get more income from government than they give to it; that number will raise to over 70% when the new health care bill kicks in. This is not a safety net; it is an ATM where 3 of us deposit and 7 withdraw.
We use State force to compel, and we also use State force to prohibit: from eating certain foods, engaging in certain behaviors, traveling to certain places, buying certain products, engaging in certain forms of commerce - the list is too numerous to recite. We have eight times the incarceration rate of other developed countries - such is our preoccupation with enacting prohibitions and punishing each other.
Tearing families apart over victimless crimes is not compassionate. And if society itself can be a victim, then why is adultery not a class A felony? Can you think of anything which has destroyed more families, plunged more people into poverty, or inflicted more emotional trauma?
Libertarians believe that all voluntary exchange is just, and that any initiation of coercive force is unjust. That is where we part company with liberals on the social issues, often drawing criticism for a presumed lack of compassion.
The dividing line is clear: I have a right to form a union; no right to force you to join it. I have a right to health care; no right to force you to buy it for me. I have a right to choose my own lifestyle; no right to force you to subsidize it.
Liberals would never think of stealing your money themselves; but they have no qualms about employing the State to do the job. I doubt they would break into your house and snoop through your private files and records, but they set the State onto that task regularly.
If you employ a person to initiate force on your behalf, your prison sentence will be called justice and you will be called an accomplice. But if you employ the State to employ a person to initiate force on your behalf, then it will be called social justice and you will be called a progressive.
Libertarians prefer to use terms for their intended meanings. We do not consider initiation of force to be progress; we do not consider deprivation of liberty to be justice.
Liberals mistake and even misrepresent any libertarian objections to the means of achieving a goal as disagreement with the goal itself – Rand Paul is the latest victim of the grindhouse. The lesson to be learned is that a Constitutionalist should not engage in debate with a Frivolist.
Besides, the CRA makes the libertarian’s case, not the liberal’s. Half a century of State coercion has not cured racial disparity, just as State coercion has not eliminated income disparity, poverty, crime, violence, corruption, or drug use, and has not improved educational performance, economic competitiveness, domestic security, or a whole list of things that matter to all of us.
The things that we all value most - health, prosperity, opportunity, family, friends, love, happiness, freedom, pride, accomplishment, career, beauty, education, faith, security, material abundance, creative expression, community – are not things that can be compelled to materialize, and they are non-transferable.
Each of us defines them for ourselves, attains them individually, and decides for ourselves when we have accumulated enough of them. They can not be given to you by the coercive power of the State; they can only be taken.
That is why the line between compassion and tyranny must be drawn with a sharp pen; and why it must never be crossed.
Moment Of Clarity" is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.com to find your moment.