Misery Provides Company

Quick, think of the subject of the last conversation you had with a friend. Now I’ll bet you that whatever you talked about was centered around a controversial issue, that someone at some point in recent history has tried to legislate.

Think I’m wrong? Let’s try a few examples. “Oh, that’s a nice new shirt you’re wearing, where did you get it?” Probably from some large corporation that outsources labor to Romania. Plenty to fight about there. “Gosh, the kids are driving me crazy, they just won’t settle down.” Enter a debate about child discipline, and/or the role of government in providing early childhood education. “Yeah, I heard that new song, but you know me, I’m more of a metalhead anyway.” Too bad for you, Al Gore has already attacked your heathen music in court. “So yesterday my mail-order bride from the Ukraine finally came.” Immigration! Human trafficking! Foreign policy! My point is, as long as this world keeps on turning (and possibly even in the event it stops), people will find ways to not only disagree, but to also drag it all into the realm of telling each other what to do through the heavy hand of the government. Can’t we all just get along and stop fighting?

Sure we can. We just need to be afraid of starving or getting shot.

Who remembers the months immediately following the destruction of the World Trade Center? I sure do. Everyone was getting along. Almost everyone was behind prolific military action, even a couple of years later. It was a rare and beautiful moment of patriotism. Just kidding, it was a beautiful moment of: “Sure, whatever, we just don’t want to die.”

We’re getting close to the same place again, but this time the threat is being unable to pay the bills. The dismal state of the economy, especially after so many years, AND so many government efforts to “do something” about the crisis, has shaken people’s support of President Obama. It’s important to note that this includes African-Americans and Hispanics. It’s also important to note just how serious this is, considering the alternative. The Republican Party has had a sort of adversarial role with the black community, and they don’t exactly seem too eager to let more brown people come into the country, either. The build-a-shark-filled-moat-spanning-the-whole-border kind of “not too eager.” But hey, supporting people who hate you is better than starving to death, right?

That’s the piercing truth that hard times reveal: What’s really important, and what we can all agree on, is being safe and prosperous. And now that we have that cleared up, we can go ahead and figure out how best to accomplish these goals. Most of the debate revolves around what the government should do to save us. Unfortunately, it turns out that government is really terrible at helping us be more productive, whether it be all the stimulus and bailouts in recent US history, or the whole glorious Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It may be easy to debate the merits of economic planning when you’re a professor with tenure in a rich capitalist society, but when every intervention just strangles out healthy economic growth before your very eyes, then what works best for the economy becomes decidedly less of a matter of opinion. So really, then, all government should do is keep us from being robbed or murdered while we do the rest.

Go anywhere in the world. People are so different, yet so similar. We all have different priorities, but the fundamentals remain the same: We all want to survive. We all want to be prosperous. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to belong. We all want to be free to do what we want, and live the way we want to live. And we have the right do things our way, as long as we aren’t hurting or oppressing others. So we give up a little money and a bit of our freedom so that we don’t lose the rest. But then, inevitably, when we get rich and safe enough, we start screwing with other people’s lives and taking their money. And then, somewhere down the road, we end up back here. Back to the basics.

It’s a big world, with so much left to accomplish for humanity. So before we start nitpicking and oppressing each other, let’s focus on the big things, like making sure everyone can be free and well-fed. Then we can quarrel and disagree to our hearts’ content, as long as we don’t keep other people down.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.