People are attracted to the communist ideal, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The idea that we can all contribute to a common stockpile and then take what it is that we need has this appeal that continues to draw people in. As Christians, we are supposed to share what we have with the less fortunate. As humanitarians, we don’t want to see our human brethren suffer from poverty and hunger. We see that some live in abundance while others barely squeak by, and there is something in our soul that doesn’t want to see other humans languish. Perhaps this is why the idea of sharing everything is so appealing.
The problem with communism isn’t that sharing is wrong. The problem with communism is that it does not work with human nature. While humans are generally empathetic to suffering, we are also driven by our own self-interest. If we don’t see what is in it for us, it is hard to get us motivated.
As I was reflecting on this reality the other day, it occurred to me that the reason we can’t hold on to freedom is that perhaps it isn’t compatible with human nature either. Libertarians are a very small bunch, and they have trouble attracting more people to the freedom philosophies they hold dear. I wondered if maybe freedom just wasn’t that important to most people.
I’ve been listening to Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton the last couple weeks. He wrote about how we have these competing desires. It hit me that our desire for security is in competition with our desire for freedom. Most of us don’t like arbitrary limits, so pushing for more freedom might seem like a good way to bring people into the libertarian movement. What we often encounter is that the libertarian ideas about freedom are too extreme for most people.
Why is it too extreme? Why is it such a hard sell? Is it because people have grown up in a society where everything is so strictly regimented? Is it because people lack the imagination to see beyond the vast regulations and restrictions? Or could it be that people have a certain desire for the security that they believe the state and government afford them? I think it is probably a combination of factors, but I think the desire for security is most certainly one of the factors.
If people desire security, and they believe the state provides that for them, then libertarians would be wise to make real world arguments to address how security can be achieved in ways that don’t involve the state. Libertarians could also show how the state can create instability versus security, such as destroying the currency.
I think Chesterton is right, that we do have desires that need to be balanced. I also think ideas govern the world, so we need to embrace the ideas that give us all the best chance to thrive. Libertarians may be able to help their case for liberty being the best condition for humans to prosper if they keep in mind that people also desire security, and that freedom without security does not seem all the appealing.