Why is Liberty Good?

A lot of people, myself included, are passionate about human liberty. We want people to be free. Most of the time we blame the government for depriving us of our liberties.

But why all the hullabaloo? Whats so great about liberty that its worth getting all worked up over anyway?

Before I answer that question, I’d like to tell a very short story. I went to the post office yesterday to mail some items. There were some guys out front with signs that said “Impeach Obama”. I’m partial to the idea. The war in Libya, the federal overriding of California’s medical marijuana laws, the undeclared acts of war against Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, just to name a few, are impeachable offenses in my opinion.

On my way out, I stopped and chatted with one of the young men. I asked him who he’d replace Obama with. He said that Joe Biden or Hilary Clinton would be much better options. His response seemed crazy to me, but I decided not to argue. Okay, I asked him, how do we go about doing it? Which congressman or senator can  we get to draft the articles of impeachment? After a pause of about 3 seconds he told me that he hadn’t really thought about it.

He hadn’t thought about it! Here is this poor soul standing out in the cold in front of the post office with an outrageous sign and he can’t even answer a very simple follow up question. I was a captive audience. I really wanted to know what he thought. What was his plan? What was his point of view? What was he all about? The whole experience left me very disappointed. He couldn’t even take a swing at slow pitch lobbed right over the plate.

On the bike ride home, I started thinking about my own ability to answer simple questions about my beliefs. If somebody asked me, why the hell are  you such a fanatic about liberty anyways? Could I answer succinctly and convincingly?

In that vain, I present you with three reasons why liberty is important, good, and necessary. First, liberty provides the greatest amount of material wwealth for the greatest number of people. This is the utilitarian argument. Second, liberty is just. This is the moral argument. Third, liberty is a good fit with human nature. This is the natural law argument.

The free market economic system, which is implicit in the belief of human liberty, has proven to be far and away the best creator of wealth the world has ever seen. Under the free market system goods and services flow freely to wherever they are in highest demand. Business are started easily and freely. Profits are reinvested into making goods cheaper and of higher quality. Tons of capital is invested in research and development. Inventions are brought to market at a dizzying pace. Human energy is released on a massive scale. Funds are not squandered on ridiculous government projects. All capital must be put to use in serving consumers.

The real beauty of the free enterprise system is that people can only get rich if they are good at serving others. Without an agency that can take money and redistribute it to special interests, all energy is focused on how to best provide for others.

Liberty means that people can do whatever they want with their own lives and property as long as they don’t interfere with everybody else’s right to do the same. This is extremely just. It means that all human action and interaction is voluntary. People can work together and form relationships if it suits them. They can be lone wolfs if they prefer. Some people will be artists. Others will dedicate their time and money to philanthropic causes. Nobody is physically coerced into being something that they don’t want to be or doing something that they don’t want to do.

It is unjust and, in my mind, immoral to force people to undertake acts that they have no desire to perform or that go against their conscience. If a person is against a war, drafting them into the army an making them go out and shoot people is an outrage. Any time that a person has their person or property aggressed against, an injustice has occurred. We all agree that victims of rape, theft, and assault have had injustices perpetrated against them. The standard applies no less to governments. Anybody that infringes upon another person’s right to be secure in their person and property commits an unpardonable wrong. Involuntary taxation, aggressive war, and incarceration without a fair trial fall under this category.

Humans like to own stuff. Little kids, even those who haven’t had much exposure to the world, invariably cry when their favorite doll is taken from them. We all think twice before loaning out our possessions. What if the person doesn’t bring our stuff back? The joy of knowing that our things belong to us and nobody can take them away is ingrained in human nature. People sleep well at night knowing that their money is in the bank, they have a title to their house, the doors are locked and  their things are safe.

Whenever somebody violates this law of human nature, the results are nasty. Feelings of security dissipate. Tears flow. Insecurity creeps in to the consciousnesses of the once secure household. People seek revenge. Their thoughts stray away from the peaceful and productive activities that used occupy their mind. Investment in the future seems risky. It makes more sense to consume everything now. After all, there is no way to know what tomorrow brings.

So we see, it is easy to express the real, concrete benefits of liberty. But beware, it is not wise to be fanatical without being informed. Nothing will make you look more foolish or discredit your ideas more that having a strong opinion about which you know nothing.

If you love liberty, prepare yourself to answer why you feel so strongly about it. Explain clearly what liberty is and how it can be violated by both private citizens and the government. For my part, I support liberty because 1) it provides for the best material conditions for all humanity 2) it is just and moral and 3) I can’t help it. I’m human.


One Response to Why is Liberty Good?

  1. Matt says:

    “Second, liberty is just. This is the moral argument.”

    Ahh, but what is justice? And why is it good?

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