"War is a judgment that overtakes societies when they have been living upon ideas that conflict too violently with the laws governing the universe."
— Dorothy Sayers
Like those of most libertarians, my views cause widespread confusion. Friends often ask my opinion on the political brouhahas of the moment. Because I don’t come down, with the brute consistency of a sledgehammer, on the same side every time, they tend to accuse me of being inconsistent.
They may be right about that, though I happen to think that the libertarian philosophy is the only truly consistent one in currency today. But I also hold a value I consider at least as important. I believe in balance.
Most of the choices we face from day to day don’t lend themselves to “conservative” or “liberal” solutions.
The ancients regarded balance as a primary virtue. A person of sense and reason was one of balanced mind. As was a responsible citizen. But 21st-century society has gotten perilously out of balance, out of whack.
It is virtually impossible for an individual human being to be either totally conservative or totally liberal. We wouldn’t even attempt it in everyday life. And most of the choices we face from day to day don’t lend themselves to “conservative” or “liberal” solutions. Will you buy this “liberal” tie at the clothing store? Will I squeeze myself some “conservative” grapefruit juice for breakfast?
In their behavior as citizens, however, most people feel they must always run in the same direction. They are less like adults than like middle-schoolers. They distrust their own opinions, or simply can’t be bothered to form them. Instead, they join a gang.
Every healthy society needs both conservatives and liberals. Nobody is infallible. We need each other, even if we don’t like each other.
Inevitably, the gang swells into a mob. All too easily, it may then metastasize into an army. Therein lies the peril.
When they get frustrated because they can’t figure me out, my friends will demand to know just where I stand. Am I a liberal or a conservative? One of “us,” or one of “them?” And when I reply that I am both — a very libertarian answer — they either tell me that’s impossible, or they get so frustrated that they never mention politics around me again.
If they give me a chance to explain, I say that I don’t consider liberalism and conservatism to be mutually exclusive. Sure, we’re always being told that they are. But every healthy society needs them both. Nobody is infallible. We need each other, even if we don’t like each other.
We can’t make sound decisions if we must follow one strategy all the time. In politics, as in the governance of our individual lives, one size never fits all, nor does one approach solve every problem. Too often, politics attempts to govern all of our lives. But we can’t make good choices even for ourselves, much less for others, if we ignore common sense and the balanced perspective necessary to maintain it. Surely neither Left nor Right can be correct every time.
We can’t make sound decisions if we must follow one strategy all the time. One size never fits all, nor does one approach solve every problem.
Now, when we tell our friends we think they’re right some of the time and at least occasionally wrong, it disarms them. It invites them to think instead of automatically reacting. In our refusal to be drafted into either army, we retain our own power. We stand firm as conscientious objectors in a totally unnecessary and wasteful war, waged on behalf of tyrants.
Divide-and-conquer tactics are useful only to conquerors. Those who would rule over us cherish one value, and only one: power. They are totally consistent. They are brutes. And unless enough of us refuse to cooperate, the sledgehammer they wield will crush us all.