|Competence & Freedom
by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D.
Imagine that you have raised your child be self-reliant,
self-directing, honest, law abiding, considerate of the rights and feelings of
others, and committed to cooperating with others toward shared goals for
win-win outcomes. Imagine that you have taught your child to act with honesty and
forthrightness in his occupational and financial dealings and personal relationships.
Imagine that you have taught him the usual standards of decency in respect to
sexual, aggressive and acquisitive impulses and that modesty and restraint are
better standards than showing off.
Imagine that you have taught your child that when he
accidentally harms or injures someone, especially through some negligent act,
he is morally obligated to apologize to his victim and attempt to compensate
him for the injury as best he can.
Imagine that you have taught your child that he must accept
the risks and consequences of his actions, whether good or bad, take personal
responsibility for his mistakes, hold himself accountable for his failures, and
try to remedy his shortcomings. Imagine that you have taught him to judge the
faults and failings of others as objectively as possible, but not falsely blame
or scapegoat others for wrongs they have not committed.
Imagine further that you have taught your child that it is morally
wrong to use force against others, exploit others, manipulate others, or
deceive others for personal gain at their expense. Imagine that you have taught
him that in a free society he and every other human being has a property right
in his own body that protects him from being enslaved or indentured by anyone,
including a government, for any cause whatever. Imagine that you have taught him that he has a
right to own something that he has earned or acquired by mutual consent or by
gift or by luck. And imagine that you
have taught him that he has a right to defend himself and the things he
Imagine that you have taught your child that altruism is a
virtue and that charitable contributions and volunteer efforts on behalf of
persons who are disadvantaged is one way of being a good person, and a
legitimate basis, among others, for self-esteem.
Imagine that you have taught your now adult child that if he
has children of his own he is obligated to have them in a stable and committed
marriage because that institution is the best arrangement we know of for
effectively rearing children. Imagine
further that your child has learned that once he has his own children, he has a
moral imperative to provide them with the love, affection, protection,
discipline, moral guidance, education, medical care, and social training they
need, even if he has to sacrifice personally and financially for them. Imagine that you have taught your now adult
child that his children are his and his spouse's responsibilities, not the
responsibilities of anyone else.
Imagine further that you have taught your child that if he is
unable to strive for these standards of adult behavior because of some genuine
disability, then his first duty is to rehabilitate himself, if possible, so as
not to be a burden to others, but if rehabilitation is not possible, then his
next duty is to accept the voluntary caretaking of others, express his
heartfelt gratitude to them for their efforts, and reciprocate in whatever way
he can for their benefit.
Imagine that you have taught your now adult child that
although he has been entitled to your caretaking over the course of his
childhood, he is not entitled to caretaking or anything else from anyone else
in the world, but must instead earn whatever he hopes to get from them by
offering something in return. Imagine that
you have taught your child that no one owes him anything unless he and they
have entered into some binding agreement, and that the obligation to cooperate with
others by mutual consent is the logical consequence of individual liberty.
Imagine that you have taught your child that individual
liberty is the highest political good, because if it isn't, then there is no
limit to the wrongs that can be justified against any individual in the name of
some other good, such as the good of "the American people" or the good of "society"
or the good of "the poor" or "the little guys" or "minorities" or "hard working
Now suppose that this young man or woman you have raised according
to these ideals becomes old enough to vote.
How eager do you think he or she will be to vote for a candidate whose
programs use the power of government to take something from some persons
without their consent and give it to others?
How eager do you think he or she will be to vote for government regulations
that restrict freedom rather than enhance it?
For programs that encourage government dependency instead of
self-reliance? For programs that attack
the moral and legal foundations of individual liberty? For programs that invite the citizen to
become a ward of the state, as if he has been adjudicated incompetent and in
need of a guardian? By what line of reasoning will the adult child you have
raised convince himself to vote for a candidate whose political culture
encourages sexual acting out with its resulting sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted
pregnancies, unnecessary abortions and the catastrophic effects of sexual
infidelity on marriages, children and families?
How eager will your adult child be to vote for a candidate whose
political culture rationalizes violence, excuses financial irresponsibility, condones
substance abuse, encourages blaming and complaining, insists on political
correctness, exploits the victim-villain theme, and authorizes all abortion on
demand? By what line of reasoning will
your now adult child convince himself that an education or job should be given to
someone based on skin color or financial status instead of skills?
It looks like about half of all Americans don't understand
how life and liberty really work, or they
wouldn't be voting for the madness that passes for modern liberalism. No one committed to the ideals of self-reliance
and voluntary cooperation or any of the other ideals just noted can reasonably seek
the morally bankrupt collectivism that dominates our contemporary political
scene. So we'd better take a second look at how were bringing up our kids -- and
ourselves. We'd better take a second
look at what we expect from government. A
lot of people these days feel entitled to health care, child care and
retirement benefits paid for by someone else.
A lot of people expect governments to care about them, feel their pain,
and provide for their material security.
Not a lot of people these days understand that freedom takes work. Not a lot of us are willing to assume the
responsibilities of competent adults. Judging
from how we vote, many of us would rather be children of the state. Maybe the burdens of freedom are too heavy for
us Americans. Maybe the price of freedom
is too high for us.
Not to worry, though; we can take the easy way out. We can give our votes to our parental
politicians. They will take good care of
us, because they care so much for us. Then
we won't have to be competent.