A lot of people say that libertarians are without empathy, that they feel no sympathy for people who struggle, and that they care about no one else’s plight. Seeing as I’ve spent the last few days burning straw men, I thought I’d burn one more: the Straw Libertarian.
Particularly on the left, I’ve noticed people tend to use the word “empathy” without knowing what it means.
Here is a woman so confused about empathy that she thinks it’s being okay with violence and people’s property being destroyed. I’m not going to get into how this woman’s current “suffering” is entirely in her head, because just notice what she said. I, a transgender resident of Mississippi, have no understanding of her plight and no empathy for people who, entirely in her mind, are being attacked and having their property destroyed–an “empathy” so powerful that it leaves her being okay with people being attacked and having their property destroyed.
Her “empathy” isn’t empathy at all, is it? It’s a disguised division of Us and Them where she doesn’t give a damn about Them. Those Trump supporters and innocent bystanders having their cars totaled, their businesses broken into, physical bodies assaulted–she doesn’t care about their real pain and loss, because it is her side inflicting it.
I’m not against protest. I’m not even against rioting. There sometimes does come a time when it’s necessary to take up arms against the government. Not against hapless bystanders who just happened to park their car in the wrong place. Before you attack someone or destroy their property, there are two things you must be absolutely sure about:
- The person you’re about to victimize has done you real, quantifiable harm. Esoteric harm does not count. That you heard it from a guy who heard it on Twitter from someone who like totes 4 real watched a video where Trump totally said it does not count.
- The person you’re about to victimize is directly responsible for your real injury.
If those criteria are not met, then your protest is not in any sense just; it is indiscriminately inflicting destruction and violence with no goal or effect except to hurt people.
Unlike the left, I condemn violence against the right. Unlike the right, I condemn violence against the left. I condemn all violence against innocent people and condemn all destruction of random property.
So do all libertarians.
We condemn violence precisely because we do have empathy for our fellow human beings. A political disagreement does not affect our desire to see them happy and unharmed. “Just because they disagree with us” is not enough justification for us to want to see them harmed. If it is enough for you, then I would suggest that you are the one who lacks empathy. If you only care about people on your side of the political aisle, fine, but don’t you dare pretend that blatant tribalism is empathy.
These are my people.
If you define empathy as that warped thing, or as refusing to acknowledge that a person can stand on their own two feet, then it’s true: libertarians lack empathy. Libertarians don’t want the government to protect me, to help me, or to cradle me in the nest so that I never have to fly. They will stand with me. They will not stand for me. They do not care in the slightest that I’m transgender (except that it makes me an oddity, since most lgbt people are democrats, so it gives me an edge gaining supporters). They care that I’m standing.
There has been a large outpouring of support because of something I said elsewhere, on one of Tom Woods’ posts, about how people need to chill out and live and let live. I’ve no doubt that hearing that from a transgender person is a breath of fresh air, juxtaposed with all the lgbt people screaming that religious people can’t be allowed to act in accordance with their religious beliefs.
But that’s the key element, isn’t it? I’m not one of many. I’m not sacrificing my identity to the group for safety in numbers, chaining myself to a dogma that homogenizes me into a tally mark on a page. I am not so insecure and afraid that I sacrifice my sovereignty to others who totally promise to have my best interests at heart, and libertarians don’t want me, or anyone else, to sacrifice my identity so that they can act in my best interests.
They want to make sure that I am able to act in my own best interests. They don’t want to give me a fish. They want to get the state out of the way because the state’s restrictions are what is keeping people from learning to fish. They will do nothing for me. But a lot of them will choose to do stuff with me.
So thank you, libertarians, anarchists, and voluntaryists, for standing with me, rather than for me. Thank you for caring enough about people that you want them to be strong, independent, sympathetic, and free.
I was going to include all the comments from people showing support, but it seemed kinda masturbatory for me to do it. Liking their support even felt masturbatory, but it was better than replying “Thank you!” over and over.