I’m on the way to Boston for a conference, but I wanted to get something off my chest, namely the immense fatigue I feel in supporting individual liberty while railing against the tyranny of serfdom.
And not all serfdom is governmental. Sometimes it’s corporate. Welcome to the unique and persistent torture of being a Left Libertarian in the 21st century.
Everywhere I look, I see the pursuit of liberty portrayed as the struggle between individual choice and heavy-handed government bureaucracy. Everybody hates inefficiency and waste, particularly when it’s their money being wasted. But where are the noble defenders of freedom and choice when it comes to women’s reproductive health? Freedom of worship? Democratic access to media?
I am a staunch individualist who bristles at the thought of someone making my decisions for me. I completely understand that choosing one’s economic destiny is part of the fabric of freedom. Entrepreneurship is embedded in my DNA, as is a revolutionary attitude. Which is why I despise organized religion as much as state supremacy. If a supposed Creator endowed me with certain inalienable rights — freedom among them — then I have the right to express this freedom by rejecting the tyranny of small minds seeking to influence my spirituality. Hey, I guess Ayn Rand and I do have something in common!
Being an individualist, however, does not preclude my desire to guarantee others these same freedoms. In order to exercise them, we may need some basic assurances that are best provided by government. The common defense is all fine and good, but we can’t overlook the common welfare. It, too, is part of our Constitution. Without a reasonably level playing field, competition and entrepreneurship — to say nothing of our freedoms — are easily compromised. And it’s not just the government doing the compromising, although it certainly acts in cahoots with the economic ruling class.
Don’t believe you’re living in a cleptocracy? Read this article. It’s cool, I’ll wait.
The current climate for Left-Libertarians is harsh, indeed. Everywhere you look you see mainstream political figures willing to dismantle all functions of government in defense of ill-defined tyranny. Forget about Michelle Bachman for a minute. I’m talking about “straight-shooters” like Paul Ryan, who publicly (and repeatedly) invokes Ayn Rand as the bedrock of his political philosophy. Which is sort of like saying that your understanding of science comes from Star Wars movies. It’s just not something grown-ups do. Would Ryan be taken seriously if he was a Scientologist? It’s really not that different. A cult is a cult is a cult. And Rand’s followers are indubitably that.
Opportunity is the real driver of American exceptionalism. Until the electorate fully grasps this, we will continue our painful march not into tyranny, but social barbarism.
Freedom is a double-edged sword, and to wield it properly takes focus, diligence and respect for the instrument. These are qualities I see lacking in today’s so-called defenders of liberty.