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The Daily Tar Heel

Freedom Is Your Responsibility

Agents of an American "intelligence" agency detected the small airplane on its mission of love, classified it as an enemy of the state and called in allied guns to destroy it on my behalf, and yours. Our agents reportedly later changed their minds, far too late.

I killed that missionary and her baby, and you helped. You and I are responsible for that atrocity and all the countless other actions our government performs in our name every day.

As the government grabs an ever expanding role, we've become responsible for a rapidly growing list of horrors. Why is it that we feel ever more remote and separated from what government agents do on our behalf?

"We the People" barely participate in the government nowadays, especially at the federal level. A few of us vote, but for strangers we've never seen, except maybe behind the tinted window of a limo speeding down cleared streets. These distant representatives vote on laws, but partisan politics bullies them for straying from the party platform, created by special interest groups and big corporate donations. "We the People," the real dynamism and genius of America, no longer have much of a voice in our government.

Federal officials and corporate bigwigs have spun an addictive web of strangulation around our basic rights, pushing politicians to invade nearly every aspect of our lives. As with any devastating addiction, weaning our society from government dependence will need to proceed slowly. After all, sudden removal of alcohol is known to cause delirium tremens then death among severe alcoholics, and our binge on government is now decades old.

Libertarians would begin to ease this addiction by first encouraging personal responsibility. You're responsible for your government's actions, and you're responsible for your own choices. Thus the bumper sticker, "Pro-choice on Everything." I believe you should have the choice to spend your money and energy as you choose. I don't want politicians or anyone else to force your choice of artists to support, or needy people to help, or technology to buy, or God to worship, or doctor to visit, or habits to avoid, or food to eat, or computer to use, or guns to carry, or sexual partner, or anything else. As long as your choices aren't forcibly precluding my choices, I want the politicians to let you be. I trust you, not them.

Pardon my idealism, but I'm sick and tired of our surrendering our rights and responsibilities to an inefficient government overseen by dishonest politicians. It's morally deadening - yet folks still wonder about "the decline of American values." It's not the government's job to help the poor and hungry, it's my job, and if you have a steady income, it's your job. If I think that art expresses the soul of society, it's my job to support the arts with my time or my money. If you work in a job where the employers treat you like a slave, it's your job to form a union, strike, hurt their profit and force them to pay you or give you health care or whatever. If you own stock in a company that lies, cheats or fouls the environment, it's your job to persuade the other stockholders, and hence the CEO, to stop. When I consume a product, it's my job to ensure that the product wasn't produced with slave labor and that its factory isn't poisoning rivers and that the profit isn't funding terrorists. If it is, it's my duty to find a substitute or go without.

We blast corporations for just about everything but ignore that those corporations are made up of people and run by people, and that more people have to buy products for those corporations to continue. Our addiction to government is blinding us to the fact that people have power, too, especially when we act together. I think it's time that "We the People" start acting responsibly, and quit counting on seedy politicians to do our duties.

Of course, to do all this, we need information. Welcome to the information age! For the first time in history, the assumption about free flow of information that underlies capitalistic theory is close to reality. We've never tried capitalism with this critical assumption met, and, now that we can almost meet it, we might be too brain-dead from years of political intrusion and television hypnosis to do any good with it. Wake up!

A government "solution" is the easy way out: make everything somebody else's problem and go back to sleep. Libertarian solutions allow and encourage individuals to seize responsibility. Some will, some won't.

Will you?

After all, you are the world's elite. By the time you dance across the grass of Kenan stadium, your experiences in the "southern part of heaven" will have made you more educated than the vast majority of humanity. Fewer than 1 percent of the world's people have a college degree. The blessings we've received and the rewards for our hard work come with an awesome responsibility. Will we accept this responsibility and attack our problems directly, or will we surrender to laziness and let somebody else's politician fail on our behalf?

Those politicians are brimming with plans to enforce their perfect world with even more laws. To which libertarians reply, "Utopia is not an option." No matter how many bureaucrats, police and soldiers the politicians draft, utopia can't be forced on an unwilling world.

But I can lead, healing our world a little bit by taking responsibility for everything I do, trying to improve myself, and helping others when they ask. So can you. Others will follow.

Russ Helms encourages: "Love, live well and be free." Advise Russ at rhelms@bios.unc.edu.

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