Kris Morgan 7/11/2018
Libertarians have made much progress advancing the intellectual case for liberty. In economics, Ludwig Von Mises wrote about the economic calculation problems of socialism in 1922, 69 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He then went on to write a treatise called Human Action, which provided a step-by-step analysis of how economies grow based on the axiom of action (individuals engage in conscious actions toward chosen goals). In the area of philosophy, Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard contributed with a system of objectivism and the validity of unabated private property, respectively. It seems that reason and evidence are on our side, so what are we missing?
One fact that few discuss is that human decision-making is not entirely based on logical consistency and empiricism, but is heavily rooted in emotion. Jim Camp at Big Think noted the research of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio: “He studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that they seemed normal, except that they were not able to feel emotions. But they all had something peculiar in common: they couldn’t make decisions. They could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, yet they found it very difficult to make even simple decisions, such as what to eat.”
It is common knowledge that our emotional styles are installed during childhood. Is it possible that we are not peaceful in adulthood because our childhoods are full of conflict? Dr. Nadine Burke Harris makes the argument in her book, The Deepest Well: Healing The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, as well as a compelling TED-Talk, about how toxic stress in childhood impacts our lives forever. The information she brings to the table, which is based on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, suggests what one might expect —that how we are raised shapes who we become. Our hormones, genetic expression, physiology, brain development, and more are dependent on our upbringing and the amount of stress in it. The question is: how does this information explain how society is shaped?
On a recent radio broadcast, the host made a very brief comment about confident people that might point us in the right direction. Self-assured people do not allow others to push them around. In fact, bullies target people who give off subconscious indicators of low self-esteem. After considering our current state of affairs with safe spaces, poor mental health, over-sensitivity, and increases in suicide, I felt it prudent to attempt to pinpoint where we went off course. It seems self-confidence is lacking in our population and PsychologyToday had an interesting piece on the subject.
Jim Taylor, Ph.D. wrote: “Sometime back in the ’70s when the “self-esteem movement” started, a bunch of parenting experts said that raising well-adjusted children is all about self-esteem. And I couldn’t agree more. This is also when America’s self-esteem problem began because parents and other influences on self-esteem (e.g., teachers and coaches) got the wrong messages about self-esteem from those experts. Instead of creating children with true self-esteem, our country has created a generation of children who, for all the appearances of high self-esteem, actually have little regard for themselves (because they have little on which to base their self-esteem). These same experts told parents that they could build their children’s self-esteem by telling them how smart and talented and beautiful and incredible they were (“You’re the best, Johnny!”). In other words, parents were led to believe that they could convince their children how wonderful they were. Unfortunately, life has a way of providing a reality check and children learned the hard way that they weren’t as fabulous as their parents told them they were. Parents were also told to praise and reinforce and reward their children no matter what they did. The result: lower self-esteem and children who were self-centered and spoiled.”
Rather than building up the core of our kids, we have been building hollow shells. Kids are often more intelligent than we give them credit for. In due time, they realize on their own that their parents have been filling them with hot air. Might some believe mom and dad were just being nice and the truth is they’re not capable of anything? While we do see articles such as this one, claiming our kids are “brimming with self-esteem,” we have to keep in mind that overconfidence/arrogance is a symptom of low self-worth.
Fast-forward to 2001, an unstable economy and the attack on 9/11. Our population accepted losses in personal freedom with the Patriot Act, and more economic controls in light of the dot-com bust and the subsequent housing fiasco. A society with a significant amount of people who don’t believe in their own abilities is going to turn to power. It’s clockwork. We all have worries about the future, and in times of emergency we will fall back on our training. Our training has taught us to rely on authority. What was once mom and dad becomes the government in adulthood.
Unfortunately, there are those among us who partially understand this issue with child-rearing but only offer a negative solution. Then President Barack Obama, while addressing the NAACP, asserted “we need to go back to time, back to the day when parents saw somebody, saw some kid foolin’ around and, it wasn’t your child, but they’ll whoop ya anyway.” While Mr. Obama did offer reasonable advice prior to this statement, this invoked a roar in the audience. It is no secret most believe parents are simply too soft on their kids.
The facts disprove this myth. Studies consistently find spanking has negative consequences. Globalnews reported in 2017 that “A recent study out of the University of Manitoba found that spanking had similar outcomes to those experienced through adverse childhood experiences (ACE), including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and physical and emotional neglect. They found that children who were spanked were more likely to suffer from depressive effects in adulthood, including moderate to heavy drinking and street drug abuse, and especially increased odds of suicide attempts.” We also have to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of Americans still favor and apply the practice.
This is not to say that all libertarians are confident, nor is it to say all confident people are libertarians. However, it is reasonable to conclude that confidence plays a big role when contemplating ideas. Self-reliance requires faith in one’s abilities. If we cannot trust in ourselves, we may find it difficult to rely on free interactions to solve our most challenging problems.
It’s important to note that from this point of view statism is not the solution to social dysfunction, it is part of it. By being authentic with our kids, and building them up at the core rather than giving them a house of cards to fall back on, we can overcome this gap. The good news is all parents want what is best for their children.
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