There’s this oddball idea that we’re all free to live in peace and as long as we’re not violating any rules we agree with, we’re not doing anything wrong. And therefore, no government has any right to stop us from doing what we want to do, because the things we want to do aren’t wrong by our own standards.
And I was thinking about this after reading an article about a “sovereign citizen” who killed two police officers who “wrongly” tried to enforce rules on him and his son. But this is really the basis for most rightwing libertarianism, as well as the underlying basis for conservativism.
And the idea is that, if they don’t agree with a law, then the government has no business enforcing it. And it’s a violation of their rights if the government attempts to do so. And so they insist that they have the freedom to pollute, the freedom to trade derivatives unhindered, and the freedom to deny black people from eating at their diners.
The True Extent of Freedom
And the thing is, yeah, they ARE free to do these things. In fact, we’re ALL free to do whatever the hell we want, all the time. Seriously. I really mean that.
For instance, you’re free to throw trash on my land, and I’m free to throw it onto yours. You’re free to steal my stuff, and I’m free to steal it back. You’re free to shoot my dog, and I’m free to kill you and your whole family. I’m not being cute here. That’s really how it works. We’re all free to do all of these things.
But…there’s ANOTHER freedom we get. We have the freedom to group together and form a system that infringes on the freedom of others. We have the freedom to decide which freedoms to infringe upon and what happens to people who continue to exercise those freedoms in violation of our freedom. And we have the freedom to hire people to enforce out freedom, and give them the freedom to do whatever it takes to make sure our freedom is secure.
And as part of this system, we decided to use geographical-based jurisdictions to determine which laws are applied where, and who gets to enforce these laws within these boundaries. And in America, we had the freedom to force everyone within our boundaries to obey our rules. And if you don’t like it, you have to get outside of our boundaries. That’s the deal.
And that’s where all these people get confused. Because they think that their freedom extends all the way to their preferred limits, whatever they personally decide it is. But it’s not. Because there is nothing that protects your freedom beyond your ability to enforce it. And if you became Superman and couldn’t be stopped, then you’d have the freedom to do anything and we couldn’t exercise our freedom to stop you.
Similarly, if you can amass a giant army which allowed you to take over America and prevented the rest of us from exercising our freedom to stop you, then do it. That’s how it works. But…if you CAN’T do that, then you won’t be able to stop us from exercising our freedom to stop you; which includes our freedom to kill people who attempt to destroy our system.
And again, I’m not being cute. This isn’t a rhetorical ruse. This is how life works. There are no guarantees and you only have the freedom that you can enforce. This has been the accepted system for thousands and thousands of years, and there is no other option. We all have the freedom to do whatever we want, and that includes the freedom to create government and enforce laws. And if you can’t stop us from doing so, then tough shit. Either change the laws or get out of the way. There are no other options.
And in any case, this clearly puts to rest the myth that the government is somehow evil for infringing upon individual freedoms. Because government is yet another freedom that individuals have. Yes, the government is infringing upon your freedom, but there's clearly nothing inherently immoral about that. And at the end of the day, you're still stuck justifying your specific actions, and freedom has nothing to do with it.