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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Atoms, Communities and Straw Men

Massoud makes some provocative points here, and asks me some questions, so I feel I should answer. I found his response somewhat curious. He says that “individualism and self reliance" are the only path toward liberty, but then in the next sentence says “communities” must govern themselves on a voluntary basis. “Communities” are necessarily not “individuals,” so I’m a bit in a quandary as to his point.

The straw man here is when Massoud asks: “What claim do people in other regions of the nation or world have on my life, liberty, property, or income?” I have not claimed that anyone has a “claim” on anything. What I have suggested is that human beings are tribal and highly not self reliant. We each – aside from perhaps a few random Tarzans – rely on the people around us and far away for the stuff of life. Anthropologically, the difference between now and thousands of years ago is that we do individually get to choose peacefully which “tribe” we wish to associate with, and which not.

“Rugged individualism,” then, is the myth. One can, for instance, view all others as, for lack of a better term, “brothers and sisters,” and yet not necessarily feel that one must at any given time be another’s “keeper.” It’s more about a personal attitude than it is about a political view. It’s what I mean when I say “peaceful association.”

I also don’t disagree that the good people of some states tend to have different attitudes than others. I do agree that this can be “empirically” shown, but only up to a point. For instance, as we are talking about the northeast, from where I hail, that region tends to be far more socially tolerant than, say, people in the south. This is, of course, a very broad generalization, for there are, of course, many intolerant people in the northeast and many tolerant people in the south. And, yes, defining “tolerance” – a true live and let live attitude – can be a slippery matter. Yet, the prevailing levels of social tolerance can and does spill over into public policy in the direction of more liberty (read: peaceful association).

-Robert Capozzi

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