The Imperfections of Freedom
I just finished Ron Paul's book Liberty Defined. it’s a collection of essays on “50 essential issues that affect our freedom.” There’s everything from Abortion to Zionism (yes, it’s in alphabetical order), with all sorts of other stuff in between – the CIA, torture, moral hazard, envy, unions, etc.
It was...okay. I agree with him on some stuff, and think he’s hopelessly naïve on others. (Also, he’s not a very good writer – a lot of it was very scattered and meandering; I defy anyone to make heads or tails of his chapter on slavery.) I think Paul is as libertarian as we’ve ever seen in a mainstream-ish political candidate, which means he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected.
However, there’s one sentence in the afterword that I though rang extremely true, and is worth quoting:
We need to become tolerant of the imperfections that come with freedom, and we need to give up the illusion that somehow putting government in charge of anything is going to improve its workings, much less bring on utopia.
I’ve come to appreciate this sentiment. There are so many things that sound great in theory, but just never work in practice. Freedom is a dirty business sometimes. it’s not perfect, and never will be. We can strive to make it equitable, but there will always be winners and losers.
This is what I found so humorous about the Occupy protests. They started off with lofty goals, and then realized some very sad truths – a lot of people in their encampments were freeloading, theft was a problem, drug use was a problem, and their meetings were descending into chaos because no one was in charge and there was no – gasp! – hierarchical power structure.
Democracy works, and so does capitalism most of the time. They were created to solve very real problems. I’m not saying that some people don’t get treated unfairly, and some other people don’t get to be greedy bastards at the expense of others, but that’s how freedom works.
it’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have.
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