“If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” – Anatole France
by R. Lee Wrights
When I was a child, just as most children do, I believed in all the myths and fairy tales my parents taught me. I believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. These are all classic stories, passed down from generation to generation. But there’s one myth many parents teach their children which my parents never taught me. That is the myth that in politics there is only left or right.
My parents, especially my father, taught me the truth. There is no left or right. There is only right and wrong.
This myth is particularly popular among politicians, who even as adults perpetuate the idea that there are only two sides to every issue. They use this myth because it’s simple and it makes it easier to force people into a political slot. It’s easier for politicians to manipulate voters by claiming that every issue is a clear choice between only two opposites, even if there is barely a sliver of difference between the choices. It’s easier to run a league and keep control of the game when there are only two teams.
Even we libertarians fall under the sway of this myth when we use labels like left-libertarian or right-libertarian. In a political landscape dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties, we all still end up being square pegs trying to fit into a round hole. We all know better. Most of us have never believed in the left-right myth. I never did. That’s why we’re libertarians in the first place. So why do we carry on the fairy tale?
As children grow into adults, they eventually stop believing these childhood tales. When many people reach political adulthood, they’re often confused and perplexed when other adults insist that they have to choose from one of two sides on all political issues. They’re confused and perplexed because when they fully analyze and understand the issues, the solutions they see don’t readily fit into the right-left paradigm they’ve been taught.
In other words, they realize they are libertarians. That recognition process was what led the late, beloved, Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan to develop the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.
Libertarians are different because we utterly and totally reject the false choices put before us by the left-right schema. When faced with a choice between Satan and Lucifer, libertarians are different. We refuse to choose and instead become our own choice. We don’t accept the lie that one is better than the other when we know there is not a dime’s worth of difference between them.
Frederic Bastiat called government (the state) the “great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Politicians on the left and right live by that fiction. Because of the libertarian difference, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to see through that falsehood and uncover the left or right camouflage and subterfuge so painstakingly erected by politicians.
They’re coming to believe what libertarians have known all along, that the only legitimate purpose of government, the only reason it exists in the first place, is to defend what is right—individual rights. The question libertarians ask first when someone proposes a new law or regulation is not whether it’s “needed,” not whether it’s in the public “interest,” not whether it’s for “the common good” – but whether it is right.
Choice is the only metric of freedom. If you’re not free to choose, you’re not free. If your choices are limited, you’re not free. As more and more Americans reject the false two-choice premise preached by the establishment parties, the Libertarian Party will have a perfect opportunity to offer them a true choice — not between left and right, but between right and wrong.
R. Lee Wrights is an editor, writer and political activist living in Texas. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party national committee. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Contact Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.