We take it for granted. That is, those of us who are lovers of liberty: little-L libertarians, rational anarchists, free-market anarchists, even big-L Libertarians and minarchists. Classical liberals, even paleo-conservatives. We think that liberty – human liberty – is a good thing.
Why is liberty good? Or to put it in a negative, why is tyranny bad?
Of course, we here at TPOL believe that liberty is the natural state of man. We here believe, as did the Founding Fathers, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, one of which is liberty: the ability to do what we want to do. We know that many lovers of liberty will disagree, as they do not believe in a Creator. But they do believe that natural rights, as a result of the way the Universe works, belong to all humans.
Even those people who do not believe in the God of the Bible often do believe that humans have natural rights because we are sentient, thinking individuals. We are self-aware and deserving of respect and treatment that we would want. Or so I understand that unbelievers who are libertarians (lovers of liberty) think.
(Folks, if I’m not getting this right, please tell me!)
Yes, other people CAN take our liberty away – just as they can kill us. And they can steal our possessions. But it is wrong to do so. (Unalienable rights, Col. Dubois to the contrary, are not rights that can be taken away: they are rights that it is wrong for someone to take away. Yes, our lives can be taken away without a truly just cause. But it is wrong!)
So clearly, one reason to love liberty is because we like (love) being alive! We like to do what we want to do, and if we are adult about it, we recognize that we have responsibility for the results of our actions. To be fully human is to be different, unique, from one another. No matter how many similarities we share: we are different, and liberty is the result of that difference: we are not machines!
Lawrence Reed, of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), tried to explain a few years ago: “Liberty is the only social, political, or economic arrangement that requires that we live to high standards of conduct and character and rewards us when we do so. This is a crucial difference between liberty and the soul-crushing, paternalistic snares that are offered as alternatives. Life without liberty is unthinkable.”
And for those of us who believe in the Creator and eternal life, that is the point. Why live forever in slavery? Even a benign and limited form of slavery? We don’t want to live in fear of someone who has more power, more clout, more buddies, to force us to do something we don’t want to do. And that goes both ways.
Call it the Golden Rule or the Zero Aggression Principle. Or don’t call it anything but live by it: I don’t want someone else to rule me, so I am not going to rule other people. If we don’t understand what goes around can come around, are we really grown-up? Adult? Responsible?
I don’t want to be treated like dirt. Like a slave. Like a tool. So does it not make sense to refuse to treat someone else like dirt, a slave, or a tool?
So I must strive to keep or gain liberty. NOT national or group or family liberty, but individual and personal liberty to call the shots in my own life. Not anyone else’s.
Think about these things!