Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Mario can Teach You about Political Theory

Remember the first Super Mario game on original Nintendo?  It was side-scrolling along with many of the early video games.  You could only go the right (later games let you go back to the left).  It was technically two-dimensional but almost all of the game-play consisted of one dimension, going from one end of the level to the other.

Now think back to the first time you played Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64.  Suddenly you were not limited to a mostly one-dimensional game.  You had complete freedom to move in multiple dimensions.  You could explore the Mario universe in a way that was not possible before.

What does all this have to do with liberty?  Well, libertarians such as myself have a perception problem.  Most people, when they think about politics, assume a one-dimensional political spectrum, such as this one:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Never-Ending Game of Tug of War

Do you like to play tug of war?  It can certainly be an enjoyable game every once in a while.  How about playing tug of war forever?  Just imagine.  You and everyone you know playing a game of tug of war for the rest of your natural lives.  But this isn't just any game of tug of war.  In this version, everyone is shackled to the rope so you have to either pull or be pulled.  Force your opponent to come to your side or you will be forced to go to their side.  Some people love the game and pull very, very hard.  A lot of other people just relax and, since they are shackled to the rope, just get pulled wherever the rope goes.

A game this big needs referees to make and enforce the rules.  They must be paid for their services.  Since they're the only officiating crew in town, you have to pay a hefty price.  No player is exempt from paying them.  The refs look like they could get violent if anyone refuses.  To gain the upper hand in the game you can try bribing the refs to make things harder for the other side.  The refs love bribes.  In fact they openly ask for them.  A rule change here, a penalty call there - that could help.  Of course, the other side is also bribing the officials so maybe bribes won't help after all.  For extra fun, every two years the refs ask the team that is currently winning which additional shackles they would like everyone to wear.  This game of tug of war just keeps getting better and better.  You might get tired of such a game eventually but this game never quite ends.  Whenever one side gets close to winning, the officials attempt to reorganize the teams or move the center line in order to keep the game going.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Liberty can be Unsightly, but That's a Good Thing

Do you know what liberty looks like?  Let me describe to you one form it might take.  It looks like overgrown weeds on an unkempt lawn.  It looks like a house exterior in disrepair.  It looks like a broken-down car in the driveway.  It's beautiful.

I have just described a piece of property that I'm sure we have all seen at one point or another.  Such a property would certainly elicit varied responses.  Some wouldn't give it a second thought.  Some would take pity on the poor owner.  And there are some who would call the police.*  Those who would call the police would dictate to their neighbor how a property should appear.  Those people would use government agents to coerce their neighbor to alter the property.  Those people would have the government agents use any force necessary, maybe even violence, if their neighbor resisted.  Those people are the enemies of liberty.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Give Me Liberty or Give Me a Blog to Explain it

Here's the thing.  It doesn't actually matter to me what you do with your life, with your body, or with your stuff.  Just live your life.  Since it shouldn't matter to anyone how you live your life, you should be free to do pretty much anything you want to do.  That is the essence of liberty.  Is there a limit to the choices you can make?  Yes, there is.  Your liberty ends when you start harming other people or their property.  It's kind of like what everyone was (hopefully) taught by their parents:  Don't take other people's stuff and don't start fights.  Outside of these simple and understandable limitations do whatever it is that you want to do.  I'm not saying I support every possible nonviolent choice.  There are lots of actions and choices you can make that I would find questionable.  Sometimes I might even try to persuade you to rethink certain decisions.  But I understand that, ultimately, it's your choice and you should be able to live your life however you see fit without any compulsory interference.

This approach to life that I have been describing is often called the Non-Aggression Principle.  The core idea of the non-aggression principle is simply that it is universally wrong to initiate force upon another person or their property.  Don't hit.  Don't steal.  These are things you already understand in your day-to-day life.  You might get upset at other people for the choices they make, especially loved ones, but you know to not physically harm them.  You see things that you would like to have but you know to work for them and not take them by force.  It's simple, right?  But are you implementing the non-aggression principle outside of your immediate surroundings?  Do your political institutions practice the non-aggression principle?  Do they know not to hit or steal?  Or are they more like a child who hasn't been taught yet, taking toys from other kids and hitting them if they resist?  Or, since political institutions are decided and administered by adults, are they more like bullies who know better but hit and steal anyway because they can get away with it?