Justin Buell

More About: Philosophy of Liberty

The Option of Liberty

Recently, in Key Biscayne, Florida, a three year-old girl got her arm stuck in a pool drain. This horrible incident luckily ended on a happy note, with the girl in stable condition. Everything seemed to turn out alright. Of course, the real problem with this story isn’t the incident, or the happy ending, but instead the aftermath of the situation. You see, when something bad happens, people get scared, and when people get scared, they get angry. This anger is then turned into rampant ignorance and stupidity.
The owners of the pool simply could have fixed the drain, and pools with similar problems could follow in the same manner due to consumer demand. But, via the raging ignorance and stupidity, another option is always put forward. This choice is called the political option. The political option is the use of the Government to solve every single ill that plagues society, including the safety of pool drains, by the passage of legislation.
Now this certainly sounds reasonable to the average person. Why not pass a law against dangerous pool drains that could cost someone their life? Why not pass gun laws that regulate a dangerous product? Why not have food regulations to ensure the safety of what we consume? Why not have laws prohibiting “wild” and “unruly” behavior that could threaten our security, and our children? Of course we need these laws! Only a traitor or a terrorist would think this type of action is a bad idea! Right?
In reality, there is a reason the political option exists in the first place. The people of ancient Samaria, apparently bored and in need of a way to entertain themselves, came up with the State. Without the State it’s easy to see what option may be presented when a problem comes into sight. Without the existence of the State people cannot simply go straight to the political option and must instead seek other options automatically. The creativity of a free people is practically limitless. All of these options are labeled the Civil Options.
For instance, while we are on the subject of pool drains, the choices available are quite simple. In fact the majority of people don’t have to lift a finger. Those that use the pool need only to desire safer conditions, and use pools that meet those conditions. This is not difficult to imagine. Everyone, aside from a finite minority of masochists and suicidal maniacs, wants to be safe while they swim. They especially want their children to be safe in their enjoyment, and want to have the luxury of trust so they can sit back and relax.
On the other hand, the owners of the various pools merely need to want to make money. This is also not hard to imagine. Everyone wants to make an honest living, and every businessman went precisely in that direction in order to make a financial profit for themselves and their family. So, with the law of supply and demand in play, the consumer demand for safer pool drains will automatically lead to pool owners putting things in place to make their drains safer, and in the cheapest and most efficient manner, so it won’t hurt your pocket book when you take your family and friends for a swimming trip.
This same scenario, and many others, can be applied to every single problem in society. Something as seemingly insignificant as pool drains may not be enough to exemplify my point. So I’ll put forward another example: Health Care. People need quality health care, that’s for certain. Whether they need medical insurance is up to them. Of course, they want their medical care provided in the cheapest, most efficient, and best possible manner.
Here we can try the same scenario. Patients, obviously, want the cheapest and most efficient health care (as lies within the realm of possibility). Doctors, on the other hand, want to make money helping people… thus why they chose to work in the medical practice. These two different desires must balance each other out, in a voluntary and peaceful manner, on the free market. Doctors provide good health care for the lowest possible price, in competition with others, and consumers choose which Doctor to trust based on his record of care, his personality, and his price.
The same applies to insurance companies, who must step in where an individual cannot afford a highly expensive procedure. They too want to make money, and the consumer wants the insurance with the most coverage and cheapest price possible. These competing interests also find a way of balancing themselves out, as long as the Civil Options are put in to play.
Unfortunately, whether it be pool drains or health care, people do not allow the Civil Option to take place. They do not allow free people to decide for themselves, to work with each other in a peaceful and voluntary manner, and creatively reach a solution without resorting to the Political Option. These people do not trust liberty, they do not trust justice to be reached voluntarily, nor do they think peace and harmony can be achieved without force. Whether through fear, anger, or ignorance… they always turn to the Political Option.
What is the Political Option? Well, I’ll first define what the State is. For the interest of this article, I’ll stick to the defining principle that differentiates the State from every other organization in society. The State, very simply, is the only organization that can legally use violence (the initiation of force: Aggression, and the threat of force: Coercion) to achieve it’s ends. It is the organization in society that has a legal monopoly on force, and automatically requires payment (with our without consent) to fund it’s endeavors.
Politics is the practice of using the State to one’s own philosophy, and for one’s own goals. So, whenever people become upset about the safety of pool drains, or the health care situation, rather than trust a free society, or do something peacefully and voluntarily to help the situation, they turn to the State and use the Political Option. Whenever people do not trust freedom, they trust only to force in order to enact their desires.
If pool drains need to be fixed, they do not allow the owners and consumers to work it out in a peaceful, voluntary, and economical manner. They instead cry for legislation, and for enforcement. They shout for more beauracratic regulation, more Government oversight in the situation. They want the politicians to use force in order to make people comply to the new safety measures. The safety itself isn’t the problem, but the method used is more dangerous than the original problem. They may have put down a pest, but they have created a monster in it‘s stead.
If people are worried about Health Care, or the Environment, or the Economy, or a country without freedom… they turn to the State. They use the political option to force everyone to have and provide health care, they force everyone to take care of the environment, they force people to pay for bailouts of banks and industries, and they force an entire country to behave like us.
It’s not really force you say? What aspect of Government does not imply, or directly use force, I rebut? If you do not pay your taxes, you will be put in a cage (prison), and if you refuse to be herded into a cell like cattle, you will be shot and killed. If you refuse to follow a law, a regulation, a government mandate, you will meet the same fate. The nation that finds itself on the opposite end of a battle with the U.S. Army will certainly tell you that the State uses force. The State lives and thrives off of force and coercion. Without them, it ceases to be the State. The Government is defined by the use legal use of aggression.
The Political Option is also the resort of various ideologies. The Communists want to use the force of the State to enforce it’s ideal utopia of a worker’s paradise. The Socialists want to use force to make people charitable, and help the poor. The Neo-Conservatives want to use force to spread “freedom and democracy” to the entire world. The Religious Right (and Left) want to use force to make everyone moral and upright before God. The Environmentalists want to use force to make everyone respect nature and recycle.
The ideals themselves are not all that bad. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is not a terrible idea. If a group of people adopt this notion and form a community (voluntarily) and choose to follow this dictum, then all the power to them. If people want to form a charity, give money to the poor, and help those in need… I ask: Where’s the line to donate? If people want freedom around the world, let’s stand for it, and promote activism in it’s favor. If people want to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and live morally upright before God, great! If people want to recycle, conserve energy, and “live green”… I’m perfectly fine with it.
The problem lies not with the ideal itself, but with the means by which it is implemented. The real dilemma is the use of politics itself. The use of force, violence, and coercion to achieve certain ends is neither beneficial or ethical. To use the evils of the State to promote a possible good is to destroy the effect of that good and to give credence to a greater evil than all the troubles that exist in a purely free society. It would be wise if we put to rest the concept of the political option. If we instead embraced the Civil Option, and all the freedom and creativity that comes with it, we would be so much better off as a
All of our faith in the State has led to more wars, more crime, more poverty, and more problems than we had before. Where improvements have been made, it is in a state of freedom, and with the most minimal (if any) involvement by the State. Going straight to the Political Option is hampering our creativity as a people, and annihilating solutions that might have arisen in the absence of it’s presence. We need to mature as a species, as human beings, and get rid of the juvenile use of force to impose our goals and overall world-view on everyone else just because we can. Might does not make Right. We must instead embrace human liberty, and re-invigorate our faith in freedom.
If something is necessary or desired, a free society will provide it. If it is not necessary or desired, it is best that it does not come about anyways. If force is needed to provide anything, it is neither necessary or desired.
- Justin T. Buell

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Trouser Chili
Entered on:

Nice article.  Well spoken.  What a different society we would have if people, when confronted with any problem, would just ask, "what can we do about this ourselves?"

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