I see the look in my best friend’s eyes when I talk to her about free markets. She looks at me like she doesn’t know me. As if the friend that she has laughed and cried with, that she trusts, has been invaded by an inhuman body-snatcher.
But I only told her that developing countries have experienced great successes in their private schools (especially compared to public schools which cost three times as much for the same or worse results), that perhaps alternatives to failing public schools aren’t a bad thing, and that we need to guard against giving away our power because one day it might end up in the hands of a monster.
It makes sense to me, but I can tell she thinks that I no longer care about the experiences of minorities in America, the LGBT community, or women’s rights.
Not so! I must not be explaining myself to her accurately. Allow me an attempt to do so now.
E Pluribus Unum
I truly care about the people who live in our society. True, I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual woman who lives in the southern United States. Also true, I feel a strong connection with the disenfranchised people who are struggling to get by and to be accepted in the land of the free and abroad.
I don’t believe in freedom and capitalism because of some careless idea about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. I know that some people don’t have boots to stand in. And that is a shame. I feel for those people. I know how easily that could have been me, and still could be.
These are my people.
It’s nice to be nice and what stops us? Nothing.
I think about the ways that we are the same. There are kind people in every group, who feel when strangers are hurting, who love animals and the environment, and who care about the lives of everyday Joes and Josephines. My people, the human race, all over the globe, they feel the power of music. They smile at babies, share meals, embrace. They’re innovators and explorers; long ago, they took to the seas, the mountains, and the moon. Scattered all over the planet, they look up at the same stars. They hope and dream.
I want more than prosperity for these people. I want opportunities. I certainly don’t want all of us to be equally screwed.
I acknowledge that I am privileged by experiences over which I have no control and that have nothing to do with the person that I am. For example, if I speak and write with “correct” grammar, no one calls me a credit to my race. If I am nonviolent, career-driven, or pursue an education, I am not labeled as ‘one of the good ones’. If I buy nude pantyhose, the nylon will actually resemble the color of my skin.
Like you, I have no control over the place of my birth or to what family I was born. The world is not just and we all fear the power of others to make us small. To make us disappear.
There are people a plane ride away from me who confront this reality daily. I’ve seen pictures of cities reduced to rubble and of kids who have only lived through war.
A majority of humanity wants the same things, to feel safe in the world, in our homes, on the street. It’s nice to be nice and what stops us? Nothing.
Power and Freedom
I’m not so naïve as to deny the impact of historical horrors and people with iron fists, whose amplified voices have moved feet and toppled innocents. As a people, we have flung salt at each other, thrown up walls, and tossed over exploding bombs. But every day we have an opportunity to be better than yesterday.
Culture, which you and I contribute to at every moment of our lives, defines what our society looks like and how people are treated.
We give away our power so easily, out of fear and hate and hope. I want opportunity for you, just like I want opportunity for me. I also want your freedom, and mine.
The question of policy will always be: where do we draw the line?
I like to imagine my ideal government as a metal fence post. It has clearly defined geometry, a solid foundation, and within its structure, it stands strong. Society and people's lives twine around the post like vines, occupying the negative space, growing, flowering, reaching for the sun. The fence post doesn’t show favoritism, it doesn’t suppress or give one vine a boost. It is functional and useful and it stops right there.
We are at liberty to add love, multiply our empathy, and forget to divide. But I believe the solution to our concerns is subtraction of power from the grasp of people who will take it.
Freedom as a life philosophy and free-market economics are about civil rights and allowing the people who need it most to build wealth. They are not about stepping on the poor or ignoring women’s and minority rights. There can be a balance between protecting people and allowing society to progress through spontaneous order.
According to Vox, 3.3 million women marched down US streets last Saturday. They did not do so by the grace of government. Individuals made choices; they used their agency and their civil rights to assemble, use speech, and protest. What will stop passionate people from fighting against injustice?
Politicians can only play catch-up. Culture, which you and I contribute to at every moment of our lives, defines what our society looks like and how people are treated. We don’t need Government to save Gotham. We have us.