What The Comment Section Is Teaching Us

disagree

Kris Morgan 7/8/2018

It seems like everyone on social media has been part of a thread that has gone off the deep end. Political discussions there are flooded with name-calling, condescending attitudes, and all-to-often the mention of Adolf Hitler. In fact, the Nazis have been mentioned so frequently that we now have ‘Godwin’s Law’, which states that “if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis within a discussion thread, you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.” None of this is to say that there is no truth being shared, but it is regularly drowned by deflections, personal attacks, misinformation, cognitive dissonance, and other barriers. It is very tempting to conclude that there’s not a lot we can learn on a discussion thread, but that’s not quite true.

Veterans of social media will instantly agree with two basic conclusions drawn from the comment section. First, everyone thinks they are right. No matter how well or how poorly informed a person may be, when a position is taken, it is taken definitively. The individual, aware of the never-ending feed of fake news, conspiracy theories, and other seemingly-less-intelligent people on the web is very unlikely to change. To us, our beliefs and the reasons behind them are clear, so what kind of person disagrees? A wrong one.

Secondly, the politically active among us must realize that we are not all going to agree, probably ever. While we have general groups of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, etc., each of us is also unique in life experience and knowledge. The idea of two people agreeing on every foreseeable situation in human affairs is unimaginable. Though it may not seem it, there is a foundation from which we can move forward. If we acknowledge our disagreements, rather than preach our own version of the gospel, there is no reason we cannot move past them together, as there is a third truth we have to keep in mind.

Deep down, kept away from comment sections, or “in places you don’t talk about at parties,” we know that we don’t know everything. We are fallible, have biases, dissonance, and are even aware of the sway in the media we consume. So we share this world, full of different people, each believing themself to be right, and yet none is omniscient. What do we do when we all think we are right, our opinions rarely change, and none of us even has all the necessary information?

The only sane position is freedom. Freedom from coercion brought upon us from political and private entities. This means limiting government to the defense of individual liberty and private property rights. Only in this framework will we all be able to try what we believe is right and determine for ourselves if we are satisfied with the results.

Just because a group of people want a welfare state doesn’t make it the job of the politicians to threaten anyone who doesn’t participate with fines or jail. Just because someone thinks the Middle East should be invaded and occupied doesn’t mean soldiers who swore an oath to defend the United States should face a Courts Martial for not taking part in it. Just because some among us think the risk is too great to use new drugs before they’ve had the chance to be properly tested by the FDA doesn’t mean anyone should be banned from making a different decision for themselves.

The common belief is that there is strength in numbers. This is difficult to dispute on a battlefield, however, civil society is not a war zone. Our disagreements make us strong. Who among us hasn’t been forced through debate to find new ways to articulate their positions or address concerns they have never considered?

Private charity is a great example of how differences in opinion can help us cover our bases. Some believe it enables people, while others focus on helping the less fortunate. This has the effect of sending two important messages simultaneously. First, it tells people that there are those among us who are willing to help in times of need. Missions, food trucks, and other charitable services feed the homeless daily. At the same time, charity can be pulled at any time. If people get the sense they are being taken advantage of, they will likely pull their resources. This fact is a deterrent to people who are capable of doing more, but would be happy to live off charity.

We may want numbers, but what we need more than anything is a willingness to debate. Rather than trying to stamp out opposing views through law, we should welcome them. When the goal is to expand our horizons, and make our ideas, and ourselves, as good as possible, disagreement is extremely beneficial. Besides, it’s not as though we are going to wake up one day and find we all share the exact same beliefs.

Solidarity works out for the squad of soldiers on the battlefield only because the intellectual labor has already been done. Behind the scenes, where Generals and Admirals regularly meet with top government officials, disagreement refines the strategy. Let’s be the best version of ourselves we can, by supporting each other’s freedom to act on our own opinions. Ironically, taking power out of the picture could lead to more willingness to listen on all our parts.

 

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How To Finally End The Culture War

culture

Jacob Chesky, 07/06/2018

Social politics are spiteful.

Almost anyone will admit this about American political discourse, but what’s the solution?

Some use Facebook posts to lament a lack of civility in political discussions. Others might tweet a call to action, encouraging their followers to have genuine conversations with people of opposing beliefs and to learn from them instead of having bitter arguments.

But will these actually solve the problem? Do we just need to try harder and be better in order to discuss social issues in a kinder and more productive manner?

No.

No amount of determination to have a civil attitude will help, because nearly everyone is still approaching the issue from a grossly inappropriate perspective: trying to force others to live according to their own values.

Here are the common positions that are being debated today in American politics:

In general, the left wants to

  • Restrict freedom of speech by censoring “hate speech,” silencing those they believe to have evil views, enforcing particular speech (such as using certain gender pronouns), etc.
  • Restrict “cultural appropriation”
  • Enforce environmental laws of questionable effectiveness on private people and businesses
  • Heavily restrict or eliminate private gun ownership and carry
  • Restrict freedom of association if they feel a “marginalized group” is being discriminated against by private business owners or others
  • Enforce “affirmative action” instead of allowing individual employers to make their hiring decisions freely

In general, the right wants to

  • Enforce particular forms of patriotism
  • Heavily restrict immigration, sometimes to the point of trivializing human rights of non-US citizens
  • Enforce traditional family structure and gender roles
  • Outlaw various forms of sex work
  • Restrict the use of drugs and other substances (although most make exceptions for substances that aren’t as culturally frightening to them, such as alcohol or tobacco)

Both sides usually hold these polar opposite views in good faith, believing that they can fix society if only they could have their way. Unfortunately, if we approach social issues with the idea we can solve them through legislation, we will never be able to have civil discourse with those who disagree.

Why?

Because as soon as anyone senses someone is willing to use the heavy hand of the law to trample their personal freedom and enforce their idea of what’s right, they feel threatened and indignant.

You might expect those who’ve experienced this to learn to respect the liberty of others, yet if the conversation turns to a topic they have strong feelings about, those same people often also reveal a willingness to be the aggressor in this culture war.

Some ask, “If we don’t outlaw or restrict gun ownership, how will we stop gun-related deaths?” Others wonder, “If we allow homosexuals to marry, won’t that threaten traditional family structures and values?” Or, more fundamentally, “If I truly believe in my religion or worldview, shouldn’t I support legislation that will make the law reflect my beliefs?”

These are legitimate questions, but most people respond to these thoughts by calling on the state to enforce their solutions to every social issue. They don’t accept that the world and the people in it are fundamentally flawed and cannot be fixed. The government can’t fix society. Education can’t fix it. As long as humans as we know them continue to exist, so will evil and social disagreements.

So how can we truly solve social issues? Right and wrong do exist. There are correct solutions and incorrect ones. Yet a sin or a social evil is not a crime if it doesn’t specifically harm anyone else’s person or property. Attempting to outlaw every vice will only continue to make the discussion around culture vitriolic and futile.

Perhaps the only solution is to forget about legislating every opinion and belief we hold. We could begin minding our own business and focusing on leading principled lives instead. We could change the conversation around social issues by promoting our most precious and deeply-held values in our own lives and in the conversations we have with our family, friends, and acquaintances.

We could stop slinging insults and threats of legislation toward those we disagree with, then getting angry when they retaliate in kind.

Perhaps one day, we will finally ditch this fruitless culture war in favor of a worthwhile ongoing discussion.

 

 

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The Quest For Moral Superiority

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Kris Morgan  September 17, 2017

Liberals believe in big government at home, whereas conservatives support an interventionist foreign policy.  The two combined have given us a welfare/warfare state that cannot last.  The United States has accumulated over 20 trillion dollars in debt, over 127 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities, killed innocent people abroad, and jailed millions of peaceful people.  In spite of this, the Federal Government shows no signs of slowing down.  How is it that the “freest nation in the world” manages to imprison more of its citizens than North Korea, a communist dictatorship?  Ironically, these evils exist because our debates revolve around attempts at gaining the moral upper-hand rather than an unhindered search for truth.

Since politics is always a question of when it becomes morally acceptable to use force, our views reflect our sense of justice.  We assume ourselves good and just upon entering political debates.  As a result, we define opposing ideas as unjust.  Any admission on our part that our beliefs are flawed inherently implies the other person is more just and morally superior.  These biases cause our conversations to get out of hand.

For example, many believe that the United States did not provoke Osama Bin Laden to carry out the 9/11 attacks.  Some lash out when presented with a review of US interventions in the Middle East, including sanctions in the 1990s that lead to half-a-million children dying, and our Secretary of State affirming their deaths were acceptable.  They often label the messenger as part of the “blame-America-first” crowd and ignore the facts.

Conservatives who push for interventionism abroad are frequently combative to those who highlight US aggression.  They dismiss the opposition with cliches about how the world is an unfriendly place, or claim the dissenter hates America. Admitting the US is a hostile nation contradicts their view that America is the greatest country on the planet.  To backtrack on that base belief would make them appear weak and discredit their moral authority, so they often react with a critique of their own without acknowledging yours.  This method is not restricted to conservatives.

Liberals voice support for civil liberties, yet favor central economic controls.  When an opponent points out that economic controls are violations of our freedom, they claim their foe is uncaring to those in need.  Their inconsistency goes unrecognized as they focus on attacking their opponents.  It is easier to blindly accuse adversaries of being sexists, racists, or wanting the needy to starve than face their contradiction.

Democrats and Republicans alike listen to their own bases.  If their supporters are not willing to admit discrepancies in their platforms, then politicians will continue to roam free.  The welfare/warfare state will endure until there is no wealth left to tax and the currency hyper-inflates.  Making excuses, creating strawmen, deflecting legitimate critiques, and ignoring new information has allowed our government to grow completely out of control. It is an unsustainable model for political discourse.

One can argue that libertarians are not exempt from taking part in this manner of conversation, and there may be some valid critiques.  However, libertarians have a ‘north star’ with which to follow.  While Republicans and Democrats have only their own sense of moral superiority to guide them, libertarians have the Non-Aggression Principle. This keeps our personal virtues away from our politics.  For instance, a libertarian may wish for society to build a sound safety net.  Nevertheless, progressive taxation is the initiation of force and is accordingly rejected by libertarians.  Libertarians do not use morality to justify coercion.

We are being taken advantage of by a system that knows people have a desire to appear morally strong, so much so that they will defend politicians in order to protect themselves.  The best way to smash this system is to set aside our own egos, admit when we are wrong, develop consistent ideologies, and hold our rulers accountable. We have to make this change if we are ever going to claim our rightful place as the dominant party in our relationship with our power structure.

 

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Actions Speak Louder Than Infighting

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6681E997-D2F6-4E27-B1FB-312679C17C53

Jared Miller, October 3, 2017

It’s like clockwork. Big news stories dominate the political sphere, and infighting gets quieter. We unite against our common enemy, whatever that happens to be at the time, and most of the petty squabbles we use to entertain ourselves fade. Then we enter a slow news cycle, and it’s back to bickering! Without a common cause to unite us, our minor differences rush back to the surface.

What I love about libertarianism is that dissent against popular opinion is not only allowed, it is practically expected. So much so that it almost feels like a prerequisite to joining the party. When an idea or policy contradicts our hard earned sense of what is right, we take it as a matter of integrity to confront it head on.

This is true whether it comes from within our movement or without. We seem to be the only political party in America with a sound and consistent theory of government, and whose core principles are strong enough to allow for this level of internal debate. Our ability to think critically and disagree with one another is a feature of libertarianism, not a flaw. However, we have to keep the 20% of the time when we do not agree from overcoming the 80% when we do.

When we are able to do that, and work side by side with other libertarians, the friction virtually disappears. With a few very high profile exceptions, it’s amazing how seldom the people who are doing the work argue about trivial nonsense. Action helps us realize that any progress we achieve is a chance to move closer to freedom. Though our desire for ideological purity doesn’t disappear in that climate, it does become less important than the work we need to accomplish together.

Unfortunately, most libertarians would rather waste that potential raging against one another. They hide behind social media’s relative anonymity and lack of potential for physical injury to throw cheap shots at their allies. It’s almost as if internet comment sections are really poor places for constructive dialogue.

It makes sense that libertarians like to live online because, for many of us, it’s the only place to find like minded people. In our everyday lives we have no outlet to discuss the things we’ve read, or the conclusions we’ve worked so hard to develop. The freedom movement could never have achieved the success it has without our ability to grow together in the virtual world.

Even now, tons of activists and volunteers are using those communities to grow our movement. They volunteer their time and energy to things like networking, education, multimedia, and so on, which are just as meaningful as the contributions of activists outside of the internet. But that cannot be our only platform. We do not have to abandon our online communities to admit that it is time to start pounding pavement.

There is a legitimate fear that the desire to prove our purity may betray our true opinion of liberty: that it is somehow an unattainable dream. This may be why many libertarians treat liberty like a purely intellectual exercise. Their behavior suggests the belief that since we’ll never make any progress, all we can hope for is to be the most right, and the most pure, while otherwise going about our lives. It’s as if they feel like there is nothing we can do to actually change things. Yet we absolutely can, and we have to start trying. Today. Admitting that debate is valuable doesn’t negate the fact that spending all of our effort arguing about philosophy is a waste of time and energy we cannot afford.

Our emphasis has to shift no matter how each of us decides to act. If we truly desire liberty, we have to start being bold. We have to start working for the revolution we want to see. We have to believe that we can and will change things. Most importantly, we have to just… start.

Liberty is not an impractical pipe dream. It is not some theoretical utopia. It’s uncomfortable. It’s hard. It’s dangerous. And it’s worth it.

—————-

 

Author’s note:

Our need for action doesn’t require everyone to live off the grid or run for office. There are plenty of ways for you to push for a more free society. One of the best places to start is locally. Local parties are the most important unit of political influence we have. This is where we have the greatest chance of winning elections while building a reputation for integrity and freedom-oriented leadership.

Whether local or not, you could offer a small portion of your time to a Libertarian candidate. Candidates always need help. Any of them could offer some task to help drive their campaign. DON’T FORGET TO DONATE. Campaigns are expensive, and libertarians don’t usually have the deep-pocketed backers that the major candidates do. Any amount of money you can pledge to any candidate is welcome, and greatly needed.

Or, if you don’t want to be involved with the official Libertarian party, you could track down a few ballot initiatives or state level issues and annoy your state representatives. (There’s even an app for that.) Maybe you could stage a pro-liberty demonstration, or simply find your own way to start conversations which educate people on the principles of a libertarianism. Another option would be working with a community non-profit, or contributing directly to sites like gofundme, to show people Libertarians are serious about citizens helping each other.

If you don’t have the time to volunteer right now, there are some great organizations where you can donate money. To name a few:

The Cato Institute
The Institute for Justice
Reason Magazine
The Convention of States Project
The Freedom of the Press Foundation
The Drug Policy Alliance
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF)
…and a million others.

Whatever you decide is best, the hardest part is the first step. If you feel like you’re waiting for the right time (which is always), or for life to settle down (it won’t), it’s usually a sign that you are afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Do it anyway. We need you.

 

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