Sunday, April 15, 2007

Stevie Joe on Liberty

This afternoon after church, I went on over to see Prudy at the Junebug Cafe and Internet Lounge. Junior was there, and over lunch I got to hear about his recent incarceration. Junior went to visit his cousin Philly over in Greenville on Friday. That night, Junior was Junior, and he became stinking drunk. Nothing new there, but it seems that the Greenville Police are not as understanding as the folks here in the Holler. They arrested him on drunk and disorderly charges.

Junior maintains that he wasn't bothering anyone so they shouldn't have bothered him. I explained to Junior that this is the libertarian view of the proper role of government. Junior said that he didn't need any books, but I ignored him and continued.

See, this fellow by the name of John Locke went and continued an argument that people have been discussing since Plato's time. That's the argument over what the heck we need a government for. Locke felt that government should butt out and let people be unless someone is interfering with another's right to be.

Locke felt that drunks wandering about was just fine until one of those drunks did something dumb like taking a swing at someone. At that point, the drunk, in exercising his right to do whatever he pleased, interfered with some other guy's right to do what he pleased. It's kind of like having no traffic laws until you crash into somebody. That's liberty.

So, the Founding Fathers, who were quite fond of books (unlike some of today's leaders), read Locke's Second Treatise on Government and learned all about liberty. They dug it and decided to use it as the basis of a new country. Pretty radical, eh?

As you can imagine, however, liberty without restraint might cause a few problems. If everybody went around acting like Junior, the whole country would be a mess. Liberty requires responsibility. It requires people to act ethically and morally. When folks don't do that, you have chaos. It is then that government has to step in and limit liberty to preserve order.

So, Junior is right that he should be able to drink and act like a damn fool. However, if he chooses to do so without any restraint, his liberty might be curtailed. And it was.

If people always behaved ethically, there would be no need for government regulation. Unfortunately, not everyone plays along. So, a balance needs to be struck between preserving liberty and preventing unethical behavior.

Junior's liberty is right there in his own hands. He can choose to act responsibly or not. Society as a whole has the same option. Either we act responsibly or be prepared to lose our liberty.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!
Stevie Joe Parker

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