Thanksgiving can be a challenging holiday for libertarians. Reconnecting with family can be heartwarming, but it can also be tense, especially in our hyper-politicized culture. Talk over turkey can turn to hot-button issues: the elections, the president, presidential candidates, a recent tragedy or societal crisis. Philosophical differences may resurface. Discussion can develop into debate and devolve into discord.
It’s not inevitable for that to happen. Such dialogue can be civil, even loving and mutually enlightnening. However, making it so is delicate business and requires a lot of care. And sometimes it can feel like it’s not worth the effort.
We as libertarians may feel our non-libertarian brethren don’t deserve such “kid-glove treatment”: not even those who are actually kids. After all, they’re part of the problem. Those who support anti-liberty measures have contributed to the loss of liberty we have experienced as a society. We resent them for that and give vent to our resentment at the dinner table.
The last thing we want to do is manifest the reason for the season. We feel that non-libertarians, even within family, deserve not thanks, but reprimands, not gratitude, but scorn.
We may even be loath to give thanks to God. It may feel naive or even grotesque to “count our blessings” when such vital blessings as our freedoms dwindle under siege.
But the path of wrath only leads to making things even worse. The way to restore the good, liberty included, is the high road of love and gratitude. That’s not sentimental wishful thinking. It’s a fundamental existential truth. Indeed, it is when we give in to wrath that we are being counter-productively “sentimental,” i.e., emotionally self-indulgent.
When we fulminate at our family for their fallacies, it only serves to alienate them and to cause them cling to their convictions even more tightly. It accomplishes nothing for liberty and worse than nothing for our relationships.
There is good in everyone. When we remember and give thanks for the good in those before us, we strengthen our bonds. And the ties that bind are also conduits of good influence.
And when we let lost blessings be an excuse for neglecting to give thanks for our remaining ones, we forget how much we still have and underestimate how much we have to work with. That leads to despair, surrender, deterioriation, and death.
But when we count our blessings, we take stock of what we have at our disposal with clear-eyed accuracy. That leads to hope, action, improvement, and life.
In 1964, at Henry Hazlitt’s 70th birthday celebration, the man of the hour reflected on the drift "deeper and deeper into socialism and the dark night of totalitarianism.”
And yet, at a stage in life when so many surrender to bitterness, this champion of liberty continued to count his blessings:
“Yet, in spite of this, I am hopeful. After all, I'm still in good health, I'm still free to write, I'm still free to write unpopular opinions, and I'm keeping at it. And so are many of you. So I bring you this message: Be of good heart: be of good spirit. If the battle is not yet won, it is not yet lost either.”
On this Thanksgiving Day, I resolve to manifest love and gratitude toward my family, toward all humanity, toward being itself. I hope this message has encouraged you to do likewise.
Thanks for reading.
This essay was originally published on Dan Sanchez’s Substack publication “Letters on Liberty.”