One thing which pretty consistently comes up as an objection to a libertarian society is that it is dangerous. Without a large nation-state to protect us, we would all be at the mercy of foreign governments and domestic terrorists. In the “real world,” we must accept significant limitations on our personal freedom to remain safe because, after all, no one is free who lives in fear. It is fine and dandy to speak of liberty but, without the protections provided by the state, we would have none. Of course, the greater the size and scope of government activity, the greater the risk that the state itself becomes the biggest threat.
Interestingly, that argument is one most commonly heard from the Right. A strong military and police are usually seen as acceptable because they are there to protect us from aggression. But what do we mean by aggression and what in the world is “micro-aggression,” a term we now hear frequently coming from the Left?
On the surface, aggression seems like it would be pretty simple to define. If you kill someone or assault someone or rape someone, you have clearly aggressed against them. But what of verbal intimidation? We have most all had moments where we felt very uncomfortable because of what someone said to us. If you were in a situation where you felt singled out because of your race, sex, social standing or any other characteristic, it may have been very scary indeed. Even if there was no direct threat of physical violence and none took place, it made you more likely to avoid any situation like that again.
The frequent complaint of the Left is these things happen disproportionately to minority groups and help reinforce the existing imbalance of power in society. You know what? They are right. If you aren’t a woman, you can’t possibly imagine what it is like to deal with men on a day to day basis. If you aren’t a person of color, you can’t know what they face in dealing with us Caucasian types. And the argument can be extended to pretty much any traditionally disadvantaged group. Imagine being bullied, not just by random people, but by the very people who often still think of you as less of a person, just because of a secondary characteristic.
And yes, that is a matter libertarians need to address. At its core is a very basic concept of ethics, that of respecting everyone as an individual person and treating them in the way we would want to be treated. Racism and sexism are not consistent with any libertarian theory of morality. We each need to be sensitive to how we are treating each other and need to listen more and talk less. Being “politically incorrect” may sound like the cool thing to do but doing it just to hurt others is pretty lame and pretty mean.
And now I will be politically incorrect. I’m sorry but I can’t endorse a society in which we micro-manage behavior, however boorish it may be. The reality is that we can’t even effectively protect people against the most terrible forms of aggression. And, even with a massive state police, we can’t stop all terrorists. And, even with a massive military, we can’t be certain we won’t be attacked. I wish we could live in a world where people stopped treating each other like shit. But we likely never will.
The kind of society that regulates every element of how we interact with each other and punishes (or re-educates) those who transgress those many rules has one name: Totalitarianism. The only way to protect you from everything that might cause you pain is to create a surveillance state so massive and ubiquitous that all privacy is gone. But then who will protect you from your protectors? As is often the case, defining the problem is easy. Solving it is not.
As always, thank you for reading. I hope that each person who reads each posting will at least think about something a bit differently than they did before. Have a great weekend and we’ll be back next week with more controversial thoughts!