All about ideas…

The Commons vs Liberteriansim

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The story line to this post is a person who lost a job and has not been able to find another and is suffering the normal economic hazards of living. The person is a libertarian who adamantly believes that government should not help or provide temporarily support those out of work, that a person should be self-sufficient and self-sustaining without the help of the “commons.” But that ideology goes against everything that history teaches us of the commons and the commonweal.

Out of Work - Wolf at the Door

Now, think about this. When you were working part of your taxes was allocated to programs to help the unemployed and working poor. Those programs were put in place in aid the poor while paying for the services the poor needed. No free lunch.

Now that you need those services, there is nothing wrong with using them…except our own belief in self-determinism and our own self-image. No one I know wishes to take welfare in any form, from unemployment to food stamps to WIC. We all would prefer a job that enabled us to pay our bills, purchase our food, buy our own health care, and so on. But we’ve been captured by an economy that is in the midst of a great disruption.

As you’ve experienced, libertarianism – a total John Wayne mythologized self-sufficiency – doesn’t put food on the table or pay the rent when jobs don’t exist.

Throughout history, people came together to help each other, and each gave up some individual freedoms to secure the benefits of the commons. Stories abound of the plains settlers coming together to help a neighbor put up a barn or help each other harvest their crops or provide foodstuffs to a family in temporary need. In early modern England, farming families lived in towns along with shopkeepers, artisans and laborers to secure the benefits of community while their farmlands – considered the commons – surrounded their town and in which every member of the community was expected to protect and held an economic share.

I posit that as a people, this nation lost its sense of the commons post-WWII with the rise of bedroom communities where neighbors don’t know each other, let alone care about them. Libertarianism only fuels that kind of isolation and community breakdown. People no longer even understand the concept, let alone the definition, of “commonweal.” To live only for oneself, without realizing our common need for others, serves only to break down the bonds that hold societies together and, thus, creates chaos.

Every American, as result of our pioneer spirit of self-sufficiency, self-determinism, and self-identification with our jobs, feels shame at accepting help, no matter how much it’s needed. Those factors differentiate us from the previous generations of social democracies that dominated Europe. We believe in work and self- identify ourselves with our work. That is our heritage and our future, regardless of who occupies the White House.

So, while you may feel ashamed to need help or to take governmental support, you need not believe you are breaking your beliefs because your libertarian beliefs do not acknowledge the commons. It is far better to accept governmental support to which you’ve paid into than to use your “wiles” to elicit freebies, which is nothing more than immoral stealing.

As a moral person, who began working at the age of 16, I would rather you accepted food stamps and other governmental help than cheat or con others out of the fruits of their labor. Because in doing so, those actions are truly immoral whereas using temporary governmental support, for which you’ve paid or is given freely, may bruise your ego, it does not require you to lie or cheat or con another out of their hard labor.


Written by Valerie Curl

November 15, 2011 at 9:39 AM

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