Why Liberty? We Can Do Better Than the Left-Right Paradigm

EspañolWhy Liberty published by Students for Liberty, communicates a simple message: an alternate vision of politics, voluntary interaction and not the use of force.

The reality is that the political world has an important impact on our lives. It generates a great number of debates and affects every individual in the world, whether we like it or not, either through the use of force by the state or through peaceful channels.

Why Liberty
Why Liberty. (Students for Liberty)

The book tells us why the concept of liberty, when applied to this domain, is simple yet sophisticated. Very complex social rules stem from the “voluntary” or non-aggression principle.

The well-known authors — including Tom PalmerJohn StosselClark RuperJames PadilioniAlexander McCobin, and Aaron Ross Powell — pose fundamental questions regarding politics, and invite us to consider liberty as the answer.

Tom Palmer begins this collection of essays with a presentation of how we already incorporate libertarian ideals into our daily lives. In regular interactions, we believe in persuasion and not physical coercion to achieve what we want. By doing so, we are acting as libertarians without even realizing it.

Palmer asks the reader: what distinguishes a person who embraces liberty from the rest? The answer is simple: libertarians do not believe in attacking and assaulting others, but rather in recognizing there are rights we cannot violate. Those who embrace liberty understand our rights are only safe as long as the state remains within defined limits.

Which leads us to John Stossel’s opinion. The recognized US journalist explains how the vast majority believe problems can be solved through lawmaking. But the reality is another matter: it is not that politicians do not willingly settle social problems, but that the state is unproductive and inefficient in its own nature.

For many, the standard ideological spectrum in politics narrows down to two distinct ideals: right wing and left wing. However, SFL Vice President Clark Ruper shows us how beyond the dichotomy, there is liberalism as a constant battle for the individual against the state’s power over the people.

This conviction has won many battles in the past 200 years, and allowed us to overcome what were once considered evident paradigms. According to James Padillioni, a PhD candidate in American studies, up until recently slavery was a prominent component in how so many viewed the world. Padillioni demonstrates how abolitionists fought for the libertarian principle that we are all masters of our own destinies, and how the idea became a fundamental part of political institutions.

The ideas of liberty have transformed the world in more ways than one that are now taken for granted. To explain these changes, Palmer narrates the birth of the libertarian philosophy, a movement blossomed as a response to authoritarian doctrines. Even though he traces the history back to England, he affirms that the ideals are not the exclusive claim of one culture.

Alexander McCobin, cofounder of Students for Liberty, explains to us how this movement differs from the vast majority of political philosophies. It does not require its followers to follow the same lifestyles of personal values. Rather, it merely asks that we accept that we all have the right to freedom, and that includes different personal convictions.

As Aaron Ross Powell reminds us, we all suffer from ignorance, even when it comes to our own lives. How can we assume we know what is best for others?

Sarah Skwire then blends liberty with art. In one of my favorite essays in the collection, she helps me understand the role of criticizing the government through creative and ingenious art work. She demonstrates the power of art in promoting freedom, and reminds us of the artistic sacrifices that have taken place throughout history.

Slone Frost, in her essay “The Tangled Dynamics of State Interventionism: The Case of Health Care,” narrates one of the biggest cases of a government’s intervention in the United States. The vast majority of the established regulations since World War II, she claims, have interrupted the people’s capacity to choose what is best for their health.

Lode Cossaer and Maarten Wage, in a coauthored essay “How do you know? Knowledge and the Presumption of Liberty,” appeal to the advantages of a free society relative to authoritarianism. By participating in free markets, citizens combine two aspects that may seem incompatible: competition and social cooperation. But in reality, markets seek what is best for all, creating value for the individual and for everyone else.

That is the value of free markets! Where the state is the only service provider, transactions are “take it or leave it” and hurt consumers.

Palmer finishes off with the origins of the state and the government. He encourages us to see beyond what we already know, and to never forget that the state is not responsible for the honest success of the people. He invites us to consider how the state does not provide us with our identity nor our rights.

As editor, Palmer also recommends people not read the book cover to cover. Although I did not take his advice, I did apply it when writing this review, and left the one that touched me the most until the end: “Africa’s Promise of Liberty.”

Written by Olumayowa Okediran, a member of the SFL Board of Directors of Students and founder of the continent’s chapter, he recounts the history of colonialism in Africa. He also exposes the colonialism that still exits and that worries him the most: mental colonialism.

He argues that an entrepreneurial character of the people is the foundation upon which Africa will progress. Okediran has faith in the people of his generation who are not willing to tolerate corrupt governments.

And this is the same hope that I have for Latin America, from Mexico to the farthest corner in Chile. It is time for us to embrace of ideas of freedom, to stop demonizing capitalism, for us to recognize its morality, and to stop listening to politicians’ beautiful yet ineffective speeches. Lets demand fewer promises and more opportunities, without the state telling us how to live, what to eat, what to see, and what to read.

Lets embrace how we are meant to live: in freedom!

Translated by Anneke Ball.

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