There’s No “One Size Fits All” For Living

How much of what you want government to do is based on your emotions? On your feelings about what you wish other people would do or believe they should do, and your willingness to use government violence to make it happen?

If it’s more than “none” it’s too much.

I recently ran across a quote by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt in which he said, “Some people are less emotional, more reasoned. We call these people ‘libertarians.’ There’s actually data on this — that libertarians are lower on emotion, higher on reasoning ability. They have worse relationships; they care about people less, but they are better able to just reason through a lot of data.”

Fortunately, he’s not quite right.

Libertarians are not less emotional, but — at our best — we are less controlled by our emotions. I can hate drug abuse and still understand I have no right to use government violence to impose drug prohibition. As long as I don’t let emotion overpower reason I won’t advocate harming someone who isn’t violating anyone’s life, liberty, or property.

Libertarians know a crime requires the intent to harm. An accident might result in the same harm as a crime would, but without an intention to violate someone there is no crime. Emotions triggered by the event might try to steer us along a different path, but it would be a wrong path.

A debt is often created by an accident, but again, a debt isn’t a crime. To confuse these things creates tragedy for individuals and sickness in society.

He’s also wrong about libertarians caring less about people. I care about people very much. This is why I don’t accept any justification for violating them. How can staunchly respecting people’s natural human rights be mistaken for not caring?

It’s not “caring” to use taxation to steal from some in order to fund government programs that keep people impoverished. It’s not caring to force people to live as you believe they should.

So would I support government if only libertarians, with their superior ability to reason, were in charge? Not at all. Even those who are better able to reason have no right to govern anyone but themselves.

No matter how well a person can reason through data, they can never know all the circumstances of everyone else’s life as thoroughly as each individual can know their own life. There is no “one-size-fits-all” way to feed a family, dress, or live … or to govern. It’s foolish to pretend otherwise.

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Kent McManigal

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