I am part of a very, VERY small group, the New Age Libertarians. My husband jokes that I and my two sisters are the only members of this oxymoronic covey. I think that explaining how this came to be so is worth a post or two.
First came the political persuasion.
When I teach high school Government & Economics, I start one lesson by writing the following on the board:
For most people, choosing a favorite sports team is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.
The students debate the merits of this statement. Sure, the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox have had a good run in the last decade, and sure, if you’re growing up during this time in Boston or environs, you will be likely to enculturate their colors, their logo, their fans’ fervor. But what if you are growing up in Montana? What if Lacrosse is what lights your town on fire? What if you just don’t catch the glow of the Patriots or the Sox? Does that mean you are wrong?
Students usually come to the conclusion the statement is is true. One team is not inherently better than another (unless we’re talking about the Broncos, of course).
I then erase the sports reference and replace with the word religion.
For most people, choosing a religion is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.
Again, students debate whether or not they believe the statement is true. If you grow up in a Lutheran family in Minnesota, you are predisposed to holding Christian views and lifestyles. If you are born into a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, you are likely to espouse Judaism by osmosis, if not by choice. If your family is of the Vaishya caste, living in in Calcutta, Hinduism is probably your default setting.
People rarely choose a religion because it its True; they choose it because it is There.
Usually the class that ends up agreeing that one tends to be born into a religion, either by family or by culture.
Finally, I replace religion with one’s political leanings.
For most people, choosing a political party is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.
And they inevitably decide that that statement is also true.
Each democratic society chooses several principles to honor and construct laws around, but only one can be The Guiding Principle.
Justice is good. Freedom is good. Equality is good. Harmony is good. And there are others in the mix…but which is best?
I grew up with a father who thinks Freedom is the epitome of human values.
And freedom, he says, is really three words: Freedom With Responsibility.
Limited government is the best way to keep individual freedoms for people and have society reap the benefits of human achievement. This includes our freedom to wonder, to work, to own the fruits of one’s labor and one’s risk-taking and one’s calculated efforts. And with these freedoms goes the responsibility to behave honorably and respectfully toward others.
To drive home his points with his three daughters, he did his own oxymoronic thang. When I was in high school (and my sisters in junior high and elementary school), a documentary was produced based on economist Milton Friedman’s personal statement Free to Choose.
We were made to watch this PBS series for 10 weeks. (Ten weeks! To a teenager!) When we complained about the irony — that we had no choice in the matter — Dad replied, “Sure you do. You can watch it either on Friday night or on Saturday morning.”
(Haha, Dad. You probably think I forgot. Or that I’ve forgiven you.)
I grew up and married a Democrat. Roger’s father, a good man like mine, holds justice as his Guiding Principle (although he, too values freedom just as my dad also values justice.)
So we all have our default settings regarding politics. Mine was Republican, which at one time meant to me (correctly or not) the party of freedom and personal responsibility.
But no longer. Increasingly, the Republican party devalues both personal and economic freedoms. GOP lawmakers tax and spend just like their Democratic counterparts, and in addition they want to meddle with our freedoms in our private lives by telling consenting adults what is and it not OK for them to do behind closed doors.
So I will eventually switch my party affiliation.
But “New Age Libertarian” doesn’t quite have the same ring.
See part 2 of this series, for how my spiritual beliefs emerged.