THE BANALITY OF THE BALLOT
by R. Tim Barber, guest columnist [August
Americans no longer want freedom or liberty.
That's the simple reason
why the Libertarian Party is stuck in low
percentages at every election -- and why the Greens will probably see increased
popularity. The only thing that a Libertarian Party candidate can offer is freedom
and liberty. But that's not what most voters want anymore.
What do Americans want?
security. They want safety. They want someone to take care
of all of their problems. A majority of Americans support random
drug testing in schools, random vehicle searches on roads, closing the
borders to immigration, regulating the economy and corporate behavior,
and restricting travel and trade. Modern Americans will gladly part
with freedom in return for the promise of security and/or stability.
equals responsibility. Freedom means pain and suffering. It
means regret and sadness and missed opportunities. It means endless
choices and constant change.
is the chance to fail. It's the painful consequences of bad decisions. Freedom is impending doom and tragedy, living a life staring into the unknown
tremendous responsibility that freedom entails, and we get scared. So we surrender our freedom. We have to surrender it, because freedom
can only be discouraged or suppressed; it's inherent in our being. It's as natural as a child's first steps.
The child can choose not
to walk, but the world beckons, and the child's natural inclination is
to explore. In due course, there will be scraped knees and burnt
fingers and broken bones, but the child learns that the world is a big
place, filled with both danger and wonder.
From those painful lessons,
the child alters his behavior and makes better choices. From experience
flows wisdom. But only by exercising our freedom to choose can we
gain the experience necessary to make prudent choices and minimize the
pain, suffering and danger in our lives.
Americans, however, are overwhelmed by life's dangers. Their fear
drives their thoughts and actions, leaving only one solution: seek security. This imperative is often sought at all costs, including the abdication
is we live in a democracy, and one person's vote impacts all. When
one American abandons freedom, every American loses. Each time a
new threat is identified, panicked voters scream to their elected representatives,
the government legislates away some of our personal liberties, and fearful
Americans mutter "well, it's worth the sacrifice."
times throughout history have those words been uttered? Do people
ever really believe them, or are they a bromide to soothe the soul? Was the Spanish Inquisition "worth the sacrifice"? Was the French Revolution's Reign
of Terror "worth the sacrifice"? How about the Soviet five-year
plans or the Nazi's Kristallnacht or our own Congress's HUAC?
find the news filled with an array of dangers. Our politicians promise
safety and security, and the content electorate heaves sighs of relief
and thinks "well, it's definitely worth the sacrifice."
a libertarian world that most Americans want. Libertarianism is about
freedom, and that's too scary.
drugs? Are you nuts?!? You want the streets to be filled with
crazed crack addicts?"
borders? Good God, the country will be overrun by terrorists and
average American if they believe in freedom. "Absolutely!" they reply
confidently. Then ask them if they should be free to keep their whole
paycheck, and they start to waver. "Well, that would be nice, but
then how would the government function?" Tell them that it wouldn't,
and they wait for the punch line.
of freedom is nothing new. Many American colonists were opposed to
declaring independence from the British crown in 1776. History is written
by the radical few. The faceless majority is just along for the ride.
you go to the ballot, who will you vote for?
Copyright © 2002 by R. Tim Barber
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