James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Withholding Judgment

This is a response in agreement to Tom Knapp's post in response to Roderick Long's post about the Tennessee story of the government fire service that supposedly "failed" this past week.

I already responded to Long in the comments section of his post. The point I made there was, regardless of the injustice of current systems, there is a personal responsibility component in getting your bills paid on time. But I want to make a bigger point here.

I think some libertarians want to reserve the right to hold a grudge against, or condemn, other people who were acting within their rights. "You left my wife to drown!" "You let my son to starve to death!" "You let my dog to burn to death in that fire!"

The message being, you were "wrong" to exercise your "right" to not get involved. Therefore, while I wouldn't put you in prison, I still reserve the right to hate you. Many libertarians claim you should have this legal right to non-aid, but would also desire that there was a God condemning you to a cosmic hell for actually exercising this right to non-aid. They want to be "non-judgmental" and "full of hate" at the same time.

But another argument could be that the accuser telling you that you were "wrong" simply didn't have enough information to issue a condemnation.

* Maybe you were not a professional rescuer or a good swimmer, and wouldn't have known how to save the wife. If you tried to save her, you both would have drowned.
* You fed your own family first, and then your friends who were in need. You had none leftover even for the children of others.
* You didn't know there was a dog was in the burning house; in any case, dogs are property, not persons. You weren't about to put your own life at risk, or that of any other firefighter, when the owner didn't even pay the fire protection fee.

The fact is, no one has enough information about other people's lives, property, or circumstances to issue blanket moral condemnation. We just don't know all the facts and all the motives.

We'd be a lot more peaceful and civil society if we recognized that not only is aggression misguided and ignorant, but moralistic finger-wagging is almost as equally misguided and ignorant. Either way, we just don't have enough information to judge other people.

If anything, the serenity that comes with not judging other people has been more beneficial to my health and happiness than the formal legal rules that strict libertarianism provides. I can judge your actions if you commit (or advocate) violence, theft, or fraud against me or others, but I can't judge your motives for your refusal to help me when I'm in need. I don't have all the information to hold a grudge against you. You may have good reasons for not helping me.

In the same way, I wouldn't expect you to judge me if I don't feel like I'm in a position to help you.

By recognizing that we each aren't under any legal or moral law to help each other, we might be inclined to help each other all the more.

Treating others with as much non-judgment as you can bear is probably the most effective and persuasive way toward achieving the libertarian society that we want. Every other route will lead to acrimony, dispute, and possibly violence.

No comments:

Post a Comment