I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly IDW stuff, but also several others with strict libertarian leanings. One of those is Dave Smith’s show called Part of the Problem. I listened to one where he recounted his discovery of libertarian philosophy and how it was an epiphany for him. I recall the same discovery. I’d always felt uncomfortable with both the liberal and conservative movements as they exist today so I felt disenfranchised. Dave Smith mentioned how disappointed he was because he thought all he had to do was tell people about it and they would immediately have their epiphany too, but it never actually happened.
Like Dave, I thought once people were exposed to reason and rational thought, they would immediately see the error of their ways. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting people don’t use reason at all, I’m just suggesting that most don’t take it to the level necessary to consider the true concept and implications of freedom and liberty. What I’ve concluded is that most people actually don’t appreciate freedom enough to understand when those freedoms are being eroded. They would rather be lemmings because quite frankly, it’s easier that way.
Since that time, it has become evident to both Dave and myself that reason and rational thought are not what most people use to get by in their daily lives, at least when it comes to political thought. I’ve become frustrated too. After all, as far as I know I’ve not converted a single soul to the libertarian movement. For someone stuck in a small town in Kentucky, it gets a little lonely. I seriously don’t have a single friend with whom I interact in person that believes what I believe. As a libertarian, I’m the equivalent of the crazy uncle that mouths off too much at the Thanksgiving dinner. My wife listens to my rants and rambles, but I’m doubtful even she is a full convert.
But two days ago, I had another aha moment. I finally realized why I’ve not been successful in converting people. It began with a rather trivial thing, something of which had little impact on mine or anyone else’s daily lives. Here’s what happened. I received notice in the mail from our city government that declared that Halloween would occur this year on both the October 30 and 31 instead of the usual where it is celebrated on October 31.
It seems there was quite a debate stirring among the three close knit communities where I live. The forecast was that it would rain on the evening of Oct 31. The forecast for Oct 30 called for perfect clear weather. As such, the three municipal governments decided it would be better to change the celebration to the 30th. Naturally, the purists among the community were outraged. The practical ones liked the idea. Back and forth the governments went, unable to decide how to celebrate this holiday. Finally, on October 29th, the communities decided to appease everyone by declaring that Halloween should be celebrated on both days. Well, they appeased everyone but me.
My first reaction to seeing the mail flyer was, “who appointed the government to decide when and where Halloween should be celebrated?” Yeah, that’s the libertarian in me, but so be it. After investigating a little further, I discovered that the mayor of my small town of 3,500 people had been inundated with requests to change the date one way or the other. I personally know the mayor, and he’s one of the nicest men with the highest integrity of anyone I’ve ever known. He did what he thought was best. Which is exactly why he makes a much better mayor than I ever would, because my response to all the complaining parents would have been, “Go pound sand you whiny little snowflakes. Halloween is on Oct 31, but feel free to trick-or-treat whenever you like!” Given that the loudmouths of the community made a big deal out of it, he made the right decision. In fact, it was brilliant in my view. He shut them up and people did what made sense.
He probably knew what would happen anyway. That the kids would flood our streets on Oct 30 because it was perfect weather and had they waited until Oct 31, their annual celebration would have been nearly ruined. Not one child showed up for the celebration on Oct 31, so in the end, the decision worked out well for everyone. But that’s not the point.
My epiphany was discovering just how addicted the general population is to government, even our small municipal ones. Faced with their children being disappointed because of rain, they overwhelmed the mayor and council members and basically bullied them into making a decision about something on which they should have had no say at all. While I’m pleased the children were not disappointed this year, I’m not happy with my epiphany–that people are basically lemmings. They want to be led by the nose by government in even the most mundane and trivial ways. They don’t want to accept the challenges, responsibilities, and benefits from making their own decisions. And it this case, it was all done to protect children from disappointment.
Most of us adults remember a time not too long ago when government had nothing to say about when Halloween would be celebrated. It occurred on Oct 31–because that’s when the damned holiday occurs! And I do recall a few disappointing days when it was ruined by weather. We are all better off for experiences like that because we learned that life is not fair and sometimes when something bad occurs, it’s nobody’s fault. Imagine that. What a concept, right?
By relying on government for everyday things in our lives and demanding they change something that is well beyond the scope of government, we’re teaching our children that disappointment will always be solved by government. We’re teaching them the government can fix anything we don’t like, even inconvenient weather during a holiday. It seems trivial to suggest the government deciding which day to celebrate Halloween is ridiculous, but it is in fact, a loss of freedom. Freedom to decide yourself when to celebrate. We’re granting that power to a government. This is a fundamental principle. If you don’t think so, ask yourself what Christians would think if the government decides to change Christmas this year to the Dec 27 due to an unfavorable weather forecast. There is no difference in principle. Once one becomes acceptable, the precedent serves as fodder for more important matters.