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A few weeks ago, I met a truly unpleasant person.
Of course, she may not have been universally unpleasant, but instead had reasons provoking her to dislike me ahead of meeting me, but the facts stand – she didn’t want to talk to me, about nothing and nobody.
As libertarians, we spend a lot of time embracing the unpleasant and the uncomfortable and the disagreeable because we either a) know they’re not enjoyable, but understand they’re necessary to a free society, or b) we’re not-so-secret perverts. I happen to fall into category A most of the time, but mazel tov to category B!
Of course I’ve already taken this slightly out of context, because being libertarian describes an attitude towards the government, not necessarily towards civil society. That’s why someone can be pro-legalization of drugs and still fastidious about people smoking outside of their home – that shouldn’t feel like cognitive dissonance to a libertarian, because those are two different realms of responsibility.
But we’re humans, and we often mix up the two, and frankly, there are times when I understand how liberals work. Because if life was FAIR, I wouldn’t be living in this compelled force state where ONLY I am being polite, and there is no similar accountability to other members of the social contract. There should be a LAW.
If we accept that a social contract exists, we could use free-market principles to understand what went wrong. For example, we sit down (i.e. engage in social contract), I have a drank, she has a drank, then I make a proposition (“Oh, you’re from California! Me, too! Where are you from?”) Now if this offended her and rendered the social contract undesirable, she could put her drink down, stand up, and walk out of the room. But this would lead to anarchy.
See, because there are outside forces imposing standards and expectations upon both engagers in the social contract (i.e. company), the risk is social shame. So what does said unwilling engager do? Exhibit passive-aggression. Imposing standards hasn’t eliminated her unpleasant feelings – she must merely express them around the limitations presented to her. This has caused her to say ridiculously unnecessary things, such as “I think as you get older you’ll understand.” (This may feel more like a terrorist action, but we must not negotiate with terrorists.)
Now, as a similar engagee in the social contract, I too am presented with social strictures. But I also have another set of strictures that I impose upon myself – let’s call them manners. This requires me to give said person the benefit of the doubt, continue attempting to engage her as if she were not behaving the way she is, and to drink copious amounts of my Tanquaray and tonic (mmmmm…..social lubrication).
The libertarian temptation here may be anarchy – God knows that’s my fervent wish. Space monkeys attacking – really anything would do. But we must not succumb. Because essentially, by sitting down at all, we must complete the contract to its full execution – which means sitting there, getting quietly drunker. Come next time, however, we can choose not to hang out with them. We can buck our native coils and say, “That girl was a total bitch, guys,” and move on with our lives.
Were there not some sense of responsibility from at least one party member, we would have a “Tragedy of the Commons” on our hands. We would both feel immune to responsibility, viewing our intended pleasant discourse between us with a “well I guess YOU will take care of it,” and chaos would ensue. Space monkeys; something pretty unexpected and terrible.
So while we libertarians may often feel restricted by the bounds of civil society, I beg of you – do not so hastily rid ourselves of the GOOD laws, like “be nice to people and don’t talk with your mouth full.” Some of them are worth keeping, even if there are criminals in our midst.
Lindsey Dodge is professionally contrarian and the editor-in-chief of Wollstonecrafty.com, a blog where women can read about Beyonce and libertarian politics in equal amounts and free of judgment.