Last week in my newspaper column I decided to use the local mayors to make a positive point about voluntary actions.
Soon after posting a link on Facebook, I received a letter from an online Voluntaryist friend of mine. He took me to task on several points. You can read the column as well as excerpts of what he wrote in response to it here.
I was reminded of this when reading Carl’s interview. He wanted to differentiate his view of taxation from those who object only to specific ways some taxes are spent, for example someone who objects to taxation being spent on war. Carl’s objection goes deeper and to contrast his view, Carl says this:
“Government employees are the only group of people in society that regularly and consistently use physical force or its threat to collect funds to sustain themselves. It makes absolutely no difference to me how this group of people spends the money it coercively collects; my conscientious objection is opposed to their initiation of coercion or its threat.”
This is of course the argument my friend made and why he objected so strongly to my attempt to use government employee’s actions to demonstrate voluntary efforts.
I completely understand this point. Really I do. But the vast, vast majority of people out there simply do not get it. Or maybe more to the truth, they refuse to admit they get it. So, the question is, will it help people understand, or admit they understand, if someone makes correlations as I attempted to do in this column?
Don’t we need to just take people where they are and hope that by drawing such comparisons, perhaps some will start to think about things differently and perhaps gain an insight? Are we better off downgrading voluntary actions by government employees or should we say, "hey that’s a good start?"
We must begin the conversation somewhere. So is it valid to find an angle to a story that moves the conversation towards voluntary actions, even if there are issues with it?
Plus, in this instance, we are talking about the actions of individuals and these individuals are acting in a voluntary manner when they donate money, so is that a good start? Is that a difference worth using the pound the point of voluntary action?
Yesterday I would have finished this post here and said yes. But last night I read an essay in Creative Nonfiction magazine that sent my mind down a whole other road. The essay was written by a woman who was badly abused throughout her childhood by her father. At one point in the essay she goes into detail about how he beat her and then took care of her wounds afterward.
As I read this, I did not feel better about his actions. I felt even angrier at him, at the idea that he not only damaged her physically and psychologically with the beating, but he created even more psychological damage because he connected the two disparate actions in her developing mind.
I didn’t think anything he did after the beating, no matter how kind it looks made any difference at all.
So I had to wonder - Could I ignore the beatings and use his kind actions to point out how wonderful it is to take care of someone who is hurt?
I have to say, when I think of it that way, it makes me cringe.
So the next time I think it might be possible to put a positive spin on something someone does within government, I think I'll stop and consider the Voluntaryist insight that the end does not justify the means.