A Letter to Tristero

A Letter to Tristero

This is the part that jumped out for me:

Two weeks after September 11 I went to New York with my soon-to-be wife, and we took a cab to Lower Manhatten at Midnight. The subway wasn’t running yet, and it was too far to walk from where we were staying. City Hall was close enough to the pit, so we got out there, too ashamed to tell the driver where we were going.

The acrid stench of burning–.what?– wafted north toward Midtown. Choppers circled the smouldering ruin, barracades blocked the neighborhood streets, and soldiers manned the checkpoints. “My God,” I told Shelly. “It feels like we’re in a war zone.”

Then it hit me for the first time. I mean, it was then that it really hit me. I knew from the way I phrased that sentence that I was still in denial.

It wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t a show, it wasn’t an “incident,” and it wasn’t a “tragedy.” War had come to New York. War. In New York.

We stood at the lip of the rim of oblivion, and I never felt so old in my life.

(For the record, those were burning people, Mike.)

I’ve heard it said often that a liberal is a conservative who has never been mugged. I don’t have a problem with the “builders and defenders” model as much as I have with the “liberals and conservatives” model. When you base your description on a flawed model, then you carry those inherent flaws over.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between liberals and libertarians. It is worth noting that, if you have called someone a liberal 150 years ago, you would be talking about a libertarian, not what we think of as a “liberal”. The difference I see is that liberals tend to assume that people will be good when treated good, while libertarians assume that people will be bad regardless of how you treat them.

Take socialism, for instance. Few people on either side will argue that if socialism worked the way the idealists describe that it would be a bad thing. The diagreement between liberals and libertarians often comes down to this: liberals believe that if you give everyone a good life, then they will be good, and everyone will benefit. Libertarians believe that if you give people anything, then too many of them will see no reason to do any good.

The other main difference is how you see people. If you see people as groups, you are more likely to be liberal. Liberals love to classify people: black, white, rich, poor, male, female, liberal, conservative. When you classify everyone like that, then it is easy to ignore the individual and look at how things affect the groups that they belong to. Libertarians never forget the individual. We tend to believe that no group is more important than the individuals that comprise it.

The best and most topical illustration is the liberation of Iraq. The liberal viewpoint tends to be that it isn’t worth American lives to free Iraqis. One group is determined to be more valuable than the other. The libertarian view (aside from the ivory tower position of the LP) is that it is worth a hundred lives to free one person in tyranny. I cannot be free if you are not free. Freedom knows no nationality.

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