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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The author’s views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Ask A Libertarian Team or its followers.