Essay:Choosing one's battles

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Choosing one's battles, in the common vernacular, refers to selecting those struggles or conflicts that are most worthy of investment of resources. The problem is that a person who endeavors to only take part in those struggles that are personally remunerative will tend to never take a stand, under any set of circumstances likely to arise in one's life, against an enemy of liberty that is as powerful as the State. The State has set up the incentive structure in such a way as to convince each person that it would be counterproductive to his own interests to fight the State in any way. Yet at the same time, the citizens greatly outnumber the police, jailers, and other agents of the State who force them to submit to its laws, and the State would be overwhelmed by any concerted effort by the people to resist its edicts.

It might be accurate to say that there is no choosing one's battles when it comes to the State; those who fight the State are all fighting the same battle. To defend one person's liberty is to defend the freedom of all. Those who resist any form of tyranny, even a seemingly insignificant invasion of the rights of the people, join in solidarity with those who are fighting other injustices, because the same logic that tends to support freedom in one sphere also supports freedom in other spheres. Together, all the government's unjust rules add up to a significant set of restrictions on individual freedom; it is not for nothing that the Code of Federal Regulations consists of approximately 200 volumes.[1]

It might be accurate to say that one of the reasons the government has been so successful in its anti-liberal program is that people have been so intent on carefully choosing their battles that they never got around to fighting for anything, except perhaps by working within the system. With reference to that latter strategy, Henry David Thoreau points out, "A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then".

It is believed by some that the reason why Americans are not as free as they could be is that leftists only pursue freedom in the social and cultural spheres, while conservatives only pursue freedom in the economic sphere. The reality is that the politicians on neither side are very interested in any kind of freedom. The leftist politicians are not particularly active in pushing for, say, greater sexual freedom; nor are the conservatives very active in pushing for more economic freedom. To the contrary, the politicians on both sides of that political spectrum cooperate in infringing liberty in each of those spheres.

This is evident in how even the U.S. Republican Party, which claims to stand for economic freedom, will treat one of its own who does not cooperate with the Party's agenda of statist intervention in the economy. Congressman Ron Paul's district sometimes was treated unfavorably, as were his delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Pork-laden energy bills, farm bills, and transportation bills tend to pass with bipartisan support, as do massive entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.