On Tuesday I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a happy hour put on by Campus Progress, it was a time of free drinks (I ordered some decent Scotch… call it redistribution of wealth) and very interesting conversation. I enjoy talking with intelligent people from different backgrounds, I think it is important to understand where “progressives” are coming from if we are going to work with them or persuade them to join the liberty movement. The conversation I overheard had two real points that stuck out to me.
Wealth Redistribution: The self-proclaimed socialist that was speaking at my table started by saying that any wealth gained from violence or theft was not legitimate… it was stolen and should be returned to the rightful owner. He went on to explain that in the past all wealth (and therefore future profits) were acquired unjustly, so wealth should be redistributed to make sure everyone is on an equal footing. Once we all are on an equal footing then society can progress in a just manner but until that day all the benefits people have from their education and work is unjustly acquired. He did admit that if evidence showed that government was not the most efficient redistribution of these resources he would not want government to do it. Unfortunately, the conversation didn’t really get to a point where the efficiencies of the market could be hashed out and the libertarian point of view could be explained.
Morality: This person also took a very individualistic point of view to what is morally right. His example was this: most people would say punching someone was immoral but firing that person from a job was not immoral. He argued that some people would prefer to be punched to being fired which means for some individuals it is more morally wrong to fire them than assault them. I think he was comparing apples to oranges in this case, one is the use of force and the other is the termination of a contract. The libertarian in the conversation rightly compared the situation to a loving relationship. We would say it is immoral for a woman to strike a man, but not for her to break up with him… even if the man would prefer physical abuse to being alone.
All in all I found the conversation interesting, it is unfortunate I cannot effectively express more of it. If any of you have a chance to hang with some progressives I recommend it. You can get insight into why some of them feel the way they do as well as reach out on common issues. For example, I made several contacts with Students for a Sensible Drug Policy who may not really be libertarians but we can get together and fight on at least this front and when you stand next to a person in a common battle it is nearly impossible to avoid a friendship forming.