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May 18, 2019

Recently (a good, relatively imprecise word that takes up less space than “the other day”), I wrote about the desire of most people to simply be left alone. That was brought on by some thinking I’ve been doing about busybodies (moral and otherwise) and authoritarians. While I vacillate somewhat in my views of both groups (some days they are all evil, space-Hitler wannabes and other days just people with whom I have a major disagreement), most days my calmer, more rational side comes down on the side of them just being people with whom I strongly disagree about, well, lots of things. Primarily, of course, I disagree with their belief that they have the fundamental right to tell me, you or anyone else what do.

I go through periods in which I don’t get the reading done that I want. Today, though, I was only a day late in reading this post from Sarah Hoyt. The part that resonated with me was this:

It was the last meal we had in Portugal, Tuesday lunch.  Somehow motorcycle helmets came up.  And my brother explained to my parents that Americans have weird hangups and fought tooth and nail laws on mandatory helmet use and seat belt use, despite the obvious benefits of both.

At which point I explained that (It’s not true that “F*ck you, no” became my catchphrase this trip, but it’s also not a total lie) “F*ck you, no. I don’t care how beneficial it is, what right does the government have to mandate things EVEN IF THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU.”

At which point everyone but my husband stared at me in sheer incomprehension.

I encourage you to read the entire post, if you’ve not already done so. If you aren’t a regular reader of her blog, According to Hoyt, you should probably change that, too.

Anyway, there is a lot to be learned from the last sentence of the above quote, “At which point everyone…stared at me in sheer incomprehension.” It is that incomprehension against which those who love liberty struggle, as much as it is against the uncomprehending authoritarians. It is not simply that authoritarians believe their way – always someone (or several layers of someones) in charge of one part or another of others lives – will work better than the alternative. Rather, it is that they do not and cannot conceive of the alternative working, not really.

In my calmer, more rational moments, I recognize that’s why authoritarians make the arguments they do. It’s why they try to hold up Somalia as an example of libertarianism. It’s why they speak of the need to license gun owners or to outlaw “hate speech.” It’s why they seek to misrepresent constitutional conservatives. Because the alternative, that people are largely capable of running their own lives, that locals know more about their circumstances than some group of “experts” 2,000 miles away, and that most people are pretty honest and trustworthy, simply makes no sense to them. When we speak to them about natural rights (whether you choose to define them as coming from God or simply part of being human), they laugh, not because they have a good argument against them, but simply because the idea is contrary to how they view the world. It’s like trying to teach a goldfish to whistle – the concept is alien. The big difference, of course, being that in this case alien is also threatening.

Those who oppose authoritarianism suffer from no such disadvantage. After all, we grew up surrounded by authoritarians and busybodies. We have, our entire lives, interacted with the institutions they build and run. We know how they think. Many of us thought the same way for a good while, until “it” happened. For some it came on quickly, for others more slowly, but the result was the same. We had that “Oh, dear God, who thought this crap was ever a good idea and why did I ever buy into it,” moment. Followed by anger and frustration at the realization of how widespread “this crap” really is and by how completely we had accepted it. Even those of us who were known to be a little on the independent side (a characteristic thankfully instilled and nourished by my parents), bought into it more than we often like to admit. Still, at least we understand it. For many of us, the fact that we bought into it at all leads us to not only dislike it, but to actively hate it.

I don’t have a real clear picture of where to go from here, just some broad, general ideas. Clinging, nay fighting, tooth and nail for the principles found in our Constitution seems a good place to start. Beyond that, I don’t have much, right now.

What do you think?

*I really like The Princess Bride, okay?

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