Thursday, June 17, 2010

Living for yourself is not living only for yourself

This is the second of three installments aimed at addressing points made in comments to a previous post. In the first, I explained why I do not think advocating for voluntary funding of government is utopian (i.e. naive or unrealistic). Here, I would like to address another misconception: that in defending an individual’s right to be either persuaded or left alone, I am advocating we all “live only for ourselves.”

I do not “live only for myself”—nor is that what I advocate or promote. I am, however, insisting that each person has the right to exist for his or her own sake and that no one has any unchosen obligations. If a person chooses to be an antisocial recluse—that is their business, and I think, their loss as well. I am simply arguing that it is never right to do by ballot what you would never consider doing as an individual. One example would be demanding at the point of a gun that someone hand over his honestly earned money.

I do not advocate for any right which cannot be applied equally to all. It is this principle of non-contradictory individual rights which creates the barriers to stop each of us from infringing on others.

The basic political question is not “should I value and give my time to others?” (That is an important moral question--but not all that has to do with morals belongs in politics. Morals have to do with right and wrong in general; politics has to do with right and wrong in a social context, especially as related to the institutional use of force.) A fundamental political question is "If I don’t see the value in something, should my neighbors be able to gang up on me and force me into certain actions, regardless of my own judgment?"

Frequently it is postulated that either we put others before ourselves or we put ourselves before others. These two opposing alternatives do not exhaust the possibilities. The alternative I support is as follows: The respect for and valuing of other people is an extension of the respect for and valuing of my own life. My right to live for my own sake does not exist separate from the right of others to live for their own sake. My life is much richer for the interactions and exchanges I have with other people. Provided we keep our interactions voluntary, we have much to gain from sharing our lives, time, riches and values with other human beings.

When steeped in this mutual respect, people are of bountiful value to each other, not as supplicants or duty-bound servants, but as equals. When these rules of proper social interaction are codified in law, we can live amongst each other secure in our person and property, peacefully in freedom, with government acting solely as objective arbitrator and the protector of each and everyone's individual rights.

Up next: Voluntary taxes: How could it possibly work?



Doug Reich said...

Beautiful post. This is a very concise formulation and loaded with great insights in ethics and politics and how the two integrate. Thanks!

HaynesBE said...

Thanks Doug.

I am enjoying the challenge of trying to fully express and explain my beliefs and ideas. I appreciate Anon1 for setting the bar high, egging me on to think and write as clearly as I can. Supportive statements such as yours are crucial emotional fuel while I strive at this endeavor.