Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Truth vs. Predilection
I have a confession to make: I don't really like libertarianism. I don't really like Austrian economic theory, either. Honestly, if I had my druthers, I'd rather be some kind of conservative socialist. I'm really not fond of the idea of people just doing whatever they want, with no real accountability to some higher authority. I don't like the idea of the possibility of an injustice going unpunished. I don't like the idea of injustice at all, and I want somebody in charge of making sure it doesn't happen. No, eternal punishment at the hand of God, sometime, someday, just doesn't do it for me. I want to see justice now, and I want it to be certain. And I really can't stand the thought or the possibility of people being left out in the cold. I'd like to think that everybody can be taken care of, that they'd all have regular access to a warm meal and a safe, comfortable place to sleep at a minimum. I don't like the idea of allowing people to fall through the cracks if that's just the way things happen to go, and I don't like the idea of just letting them do things we know will get them into trouble, like engage in drug use and prostitution. It has taken me a long time, but I have finally come to the realization that these very natural inclinations are wrong. Actually, I think most decent and reasonable people share these inclinations, and even most who are not all that decent or reasonable. The reality, though, is that this inclination is neither decent nor reasonable, as the history of socialism and authoritarianism has shown us. In a way, I envy people like my co-blogger Ben and Gary North and Vox Day, and even my kid sister Rebecca, who are instinctively "hands off my shizzle" type folks that I would call "attitude libertarians," who instinctively see this. That is, as opposed to me, who is only an "intellectual libertarian." Which is not to say that these folks aren't intellectually inclined (very much to the contrary), only that they didn't need it bashed into their thick skulls that libertarianism is the right and proper inclination the way I did. They just seemed to know it instinctively, from birth somehow. It's like a natural wisdom. I, on the other hand, am only a convert. But I have to say, I'm very glad I made the transition. The point of all this is to illustrate just how important it is to be able to overcome our predilections in favor of what is actually true when we are confronted with it. That is really what this is all about, and I would have to say that this is honestly one of the hardest things for human beings to do. We don't want to change in general, but we especially don't want to change our beliefs. But when they're wrong, and we are confronted with that fact and cling to our contrary notions, we do ourselves and those around us a grave disservice. Act in defiance of reality, and reality always wins. We know this. Yet how often we persist in our defiant ways, hurting ourselves and others in the process. Why do we do this? We can shake our angry fist at the heavens, demanding to know of God why he didn't act reasonably and make things the way we think they ought to be, but it won't change a thing. His world, His game, His rules. Play His way, or lose. Nothing could be simpler. And nothing could be more maddening to us prideful little beings. The simple fact is that, however it all works, whatever God's machinations are, ethical libertarianism (which I'm coming to be convinced is a redundant phrase) somehow leads to the best possible world. Its not a perfect world, which is an impossibility given the persistent and universal nature of human evil, and it is certainly not the world we want, as we have no say in how it turns out if it is out of our control, but I am convinced it is the best we can possibly achieve. Surely, the ethical half is the more important, but truth be told, ethical people leave others be, and respect their rights and their right to their own decisions, however things might turn out for them, and however much we may disagree with what they do. So the two really come hand in hand. To me, building a system on ethical libertarianism it is putting God in charge, and letting His laws work things out on their own as He intended. It doesn't matter if we don't like it. It doesn't matter if we don't like the rules, or especially if we don't like the results. This is probably the hardest of all for us to accept. It has certainly been difficult for me. But it is not our place to stand in judgment of His will or what is achieved within its bounds. It is our place to accept it. How much human misery has been inflicted in the name of the illusion of control? How often have our controlling mechanisms failed us completely, and left us far worse off than we might have been? And how often has our instinct for "compassion" been used as cover for inflicting horrific evils? Imagine you could travel back through time and visit ancient Egypt, before people understood things like basic algebra and had no inkling of economics. How crazy would you have sounded to tell the Pharoah that, honestly, things would turn out better if he would just forget about all his grandiose plans and let people alone to do pretty much whatever they wanted, so long as they didn't go around breaking basic ethical rules (thou shalt not steal, murder, etc.) How loony would you sound to tell him that this would make Egypt the richest kingdom on earth! You'd be taken for a fool. But you'd have been right. That is what liberty and free-markets are all about, and they work far better than the best planned economy ever did. How does it all work? A fair amount of space on this website has been devoted to answering this question in little bits and bites. And even so, we can only answer so much, as a great deal is a mystery far beyond what we could ever hope to know. But every so often I like to sit and marvel at it just for what it is, at face value: ethical people who respect the liberty of others prosper beyond their wildest imaginations, in ways they never could have foreseen, while those who try to plan every detail and have it "their way" wind up as paupers, and having it quite the opposite of "the way" they had intended. As C.S. Lewis might have said, put first things first, and second things usually take care of themselves. Put second things first, and we wind up losing both second things and first things. Who would have ever guessed? Though I am still just as prone to prideful defiance as anyone else, I cannot express how grateful I am to have overcome my natural predilection in favor of an inkling of the truth, at least on this one issue. I cannot express how much better I feel for having seen the current crisis coming and having been able to prepare for it, for myself and my little family. I cannot express how much comfort it has given me to have sought out guys like Gary North, Vox Day, websites like Mises.org, and friends like Ben and Mackay to talk to, to know that I wasn't a complete loon for being afraid when things looked mostly rosy to everybody else, and more importantly, for having a space to learn the truth, find support, and prepare for the future. And I cannot express how much confidence it gives me every day to be able to intelligently take steps to prepare for the situation ahead instead of cowering before economic demons I had as little chance of understanding as primitive man must have had for an erupting volcano, and being swept away by forces I could not hope to comprehend. Maybe it sounds kooky, or crazy, or unabashedly arrogant, foolish, or all of the above and whole lot more, to have written this piece, but I sincerely believe that the comfort and confidence I now have is a direct result of obedience and submission to God on these issues. I think it comes directly from Him, for having chosen Him over my own predilections, and having cared enough to spend the time to seek Him out when so many other voices were there to offer comforting words of untruth that would have been easier and more "popular" choices to accept. But they were wrong, as we are now finding out. I don't like the thought of a lack of control or of being at the whim of an uncaring unknown, but I now accept the fact that this is the way things were meant to be. It is the way they must be, for the only alternative is far, far worse. And the truth is, things really aren't, and never were, out of control. They were only out of our control. But however we feel about it, and whether we see it or accept it or not, they are in His control, to do as He sees fit. There is, and always has been, a Higher Authority, and real consequences for our actions, both in eternity and in the here-and-now, whether we understand them or not. Maybe it doesn't always look like it to us, and we are left scratching our heads at a lot of what we see, but He is here, and He is in charge, and He will do as He pleases whether we like it or not. I think the near miraculous practical success of ethical behavior is one such indicator that His Law is at work and in force. Gary North would call it "ethical cause and effect." Whatever it is, and whatever it is called, I have seen it. I believe in it.