I try not to write about politics anymore.
Once upon a time, I was a rabid Republican. That was when Republicans said things like “government should defend our shores and deliver the mail and otherwise stay out of our lives” and “In this present crisis, government isn’t the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Then I had a conversation with Andre Marrou, a libertarian running his quixotic campaign for president. Politicians all want to be your parent, he said: Democrats want to be your mother, and Republicans want to be your father, but make no mistake, they’re convinced they know what’s good for you better than you do. Essentially the major parties are two sides of the same Big Government/totalitarian coin.
When I wrote about politics, it was from a limited-government, individual-freedom perspective, which at the time I found more often on the Republican side of the ledger. As the debate grew increasingly shrill and the limits on government fell away, I sought other topics than politics.
If I were to write about politics, it would be to say that in 2020 — much like in 2016 — the major parties are offering two brands of extremism from the scrap heap of history, if anyone cared about lessons from the past. We are being offered either 1917 Moscow or 1933 Berlin, both precursors of horrifying and brutal regimes, and my only consolation is that the Libertarian Party has returned to its roots and has offered an actual libertarian, Jo Jorgensen, rather than Republican Lite.
But I am not really here to talk politics as to offer solace to the disenfranchised who wonder why politicians don’t talk about freedom anymore, why we treat the election of the president as choosing the dictator who will run our lives and do the thinking for us for the next four years.
Some years back I was writing along, minding my own business, when a revelation occurred right there on the page in front of me. I’ll always remember the moment when I changed thoughts in mid-sentence and wrote that freedom isn’t about picking the right boss to run my life — oh, wait. Yes, it is. Freedom is recognizing that I am the boss of me.
That was the moment I began to see that living free does not depend on permission or consent from an artificial, external construct like a government, which will be lenient or oppressive but deigns in any case to rule over your decisions. No, freedom is an internal thing, a frame of mind that cannot be excised or destroyed without your permission.
This kind of freedom is defined in many ways. One excellent description is known as the Zero Aggression Principle: No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor should anyone advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else.
Imagine a world based on that principle; it’s easy if you try. Clearly, it’s not the world we live in; people are being forced one way or another all the time, or shouting that we ought to be forced in some direction. Imagine if we just left each other alone to live our lives in peace, raising our hands and voices to others for no other reason but to lend aid and comfort, or to defend against those who didn’t get the memo about initiating force.
I try not to participate in the Great Argument about who should force whom to do what, although I do get caught up in the fray more often than I care to admit. Most of the time I refuse to participate, choosing neither the Republican nor the Democrat brand of force and recognizing the tyranny in both. I trust that you know more about running your life than I do, and I will lend a hand if I have the ability to assist you if you ask, but I’m not qualified to tell you how to live that life you own.
Imagine if that was the guiding principle of our lives. It would be something like freedom.