“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler –
Libertarian philosophy encompasses many things. It values peace, personal responsibility and free markets among others. But before adopting these, people must first let go of their long held positions. Consider the monkey trap. Hunters place food in a container and fasten the container to an immovable object. The opening to access the food is wide enough to allow the monkey to slide their hand through. However, once the monkey grabs hold of the food (making a fist in the process) they are no longer able to pull their hand out. Despite having the option to let go of the food in order to escape, the monkey refuses and is eventually captured. The monkey’s freedom could have been realized by releasing the fruit. What do humans need to release to achieve freedom?
The first is falsehoods. Our ideas shape our worldview. We come about those ideas through varied experiences, interactions, and oftentimes through study, the majority of which takes place at school. Recent data shows 92% of Canadian and 82% of American K-12 students currently attend government schools, definitely the majority. The reality of government schooling: Both the schools and the teachers are government funded, the textbooks are government approved, and the curriculum is aimed at satisfying the government mandated testing criteria. Therefore, the school system may hold biases when presenting ideas pertaining to the role of government. Generation after generation are now accepting government endorsed curriculums with limited exposure to alternative theories and points of view. Given this bias, what other means are available to present our youth with alternative views on history, science, economics, and the realities of big government? Brace yourself! Parents. Parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s education. They can have an impact by choosing to homeschool or simply supplementing what is being taught. A great resource I recommend is “The Tuttle Twins” series of books by Connor Boyack. The series covers several topics from a non-curricular viewpoint. Some rely wholeheartedly on the government school system to educate their children. In the absence of personal responsibility, falsehoods taught in the classroom will continue to shape the views of our future generations.
Next up is the attitude of indifference. It has been said before awareness is most beneficial when translated into action. As a recovered alcoholic, knowing I had a drinking problem did nothing for me until I took steps towards recovery. Indifference keeps us in an inebriated state, preventing us from taking the necessary steps towards new life. In discovering new truths (whether economic, political, or philosophical) people should strive to apply them, challenging their worldview. If inconsistencies or incompatibilities exist, tension should be generated within the individual, forcing them to revisit the conflicting ideas. This is the boiling point. Does the individual embark on changing their old views or do they side with indifference to protect their notions of security and comfort? By keeping indifference at bay, we can learn to live more authentically.
Perhaps this doesn’t happen at the broader community level but rather in individual lives. There are still benefits. When humans live by their set values, they often feel more at peace, reducing conflict. Individuals may also choose to be indifferent when they are minimally affected by the policies falsehoods create. As a white male living in a rural middle class community, having never experienced it myself, I could turn a blind eye to police brutality. Additionally, I could shrug off the ethical implications of forced taxation if I determine I am net benefitting from the services received at the expense of others. Self-centeredness, the root of such indifference, is something I try to resist. Self-interest is essential. But ensuring others are free to take care of their own self-interests is of equal importance in ensuring collective security. But what to say to the individual that isn’t indifferent, who wants to see change yet does nothing? What holds them back?
Fear. Publicly demonstrating contrarian views often comes with consequences. Ideas other than those considered mainstream threaten the current order. Speaking out on social media can result in being banned from those platforms. Worse yet, we now see people being arrested for organizing protests using Facebook’s platform. Current cancel culture applies pressure on employers to rid employees who speak against or don’t follow mainstream ideas. The fear of losing one’s income is a highly effective weapon against contrarian or “radical” thought. Another, is the fear of losing certain comforts, or at least initially. What if the size of government was vastly reduced and many of the provided services ceased? At least initially, our standard of living could be negatively impacted. For many, this may prove too much to endure. But what of the sacrifices if we let things continue? Unfortunately, by focusing on what could potentially be lost, we ignore what could be gained. Free market minded people are hopeful private enterprise and voluntary actions would bridge the gap in adjustments to our living standards. Perhaps the fear of diminishing comforts should be replaced with the fear of diminishing freedoms.
Dreaming of how life could be different is easy. Walking through a refiner’s fire to get there is not. It is beyond plausible hardships could befall us if the current structure were to change. But as already mentioned, to focus on the seen without giving due attention to the unseen is a mistake. I believe increasing individual freedom and personal responsibility leads to improved emotional and mental health. Our ailing system of big government breeds apathy, creating individual reliance on the state. Libertarianism offers an antidote far too many will never experience. It’s high time we abandon the “monkey see, monkey do” mentality, and be willing to let go of that which entraps us.