While watching the aftermath of the events in Washington D.C. I was struck by one of the protestors who said this is what freedom feels like. It struck me because it is a question worth exploring. What does freedom feel like?
The person who said these words certainly believed them, as they were spoken with passion and almost ecstatic enthusiasm. I think there is a common confusion that doing what you want to do is the answer to the question. What does freedom feel like to the protestor? Me doing exactly what I want, to whomever I want, and forcing them to do the same.
Naturally, it becomes quite clear when we examine the entirety of the answer as I’ve restated above, it is fundamentally wrong and almost the exact opposite of the correct reply. It seems paradoxical and it’s easy to understand the confusion. Freedom does mean, to a certain degree, being able to do what you want without interference from, particularly, the state. So, when someone is beating a police officer to force their view of the world onto those who disagree, it understandably feels like freedom. I’m doing what I want and getting my way.
This, happily, is only half the answer to the question as to what does freedom feel like. The other half of the answer is allowing other people to do as they desire. That’s the full answer to the question. Yes, I’m free to do as I want but to experience true freedom, I must allow others to do as they want, I must not use personal, or government, force to coerce others into doing something they do not want to do.
This is the conundrum of government as a whole and one of the driving forces of the Libertarian ideology. If we understand some people do bad things, anything from traffic violations to murder, then we must have rules and ways to enforce them. Government and law enforcement largely being the solution.
It is the implementation of those rules and enforcements that are of concern when we try to answer the question of what does freedom feel like. How much should we force people to do as I want. Where does your freedom to drive 100 mph down a neighborhood street infringe on my right to walk to the grocery store?
These are not easy questions to answer but I can state, with unequivocal certainty, that beating police officers, coercing politicians, violently telling half the population that you will bend them to your will is not the feeling of freedom, it is the glorious and disgusting feeling of unchecked, violent power, enforced with fists and guns.
We have elections, we have courts, we have law enforcement officers. Because they, through normal processes, decided that your candidate lost an election is not taking away your freedom. It is you who is taking, it is you who is stealing, it is you who is crushing freedom; despite your feelings to the contrary.