Essay:Doing one's part for liberty

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Doing one's part for liberty is a rather arbitrary concept that implies one has made all the effort or progress in pursuit of liberty that should be expected of one. It implies that the rest is someone else's responsibility. This can be either a sincerely held belief or an excuse for inaction.

Where one draws the line and says that one need not do any more in furtherance of freedom in order to fulfil one's duties as a citizen is a matter of preference and opinion. For example, some people consider it enough simply to vote for a candidate who is somewhat libertarian, or even only slightly more libertarian than another candidate. After all, if everyone were to consistently choose the more libertarian candidate in every election, then the government would tend to move in a relatively libertarian direction as candidates sought to win votes by striving to be the most libertarian candidate of those available. This is essentially an application of Kant's Categorical Imperative, which states "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

Of course, many people who hold this view do not bother participating in primary elections, because they think it is enough to only vote in the general election; thus, it is quite possible that even if everyone "did their part for liberty" by voting in the general election, they would still only have a choice of two rather statist candidates. In any event, it is clear that there must be at least a few people who do more than their part for liberty. We cannot all be just voters; some people must also be candidates, party officials, think tank leaders, and so on, even if one assumes that working through democratic channels will suffice as a means for obtaining liberty. But some of those jobs are not easily divisible; we cannot, for instance, evenly divide the tasks of the President of the Mises Institute among all the people in the world, because that would negate the advantages of specialization. So, some people end up putting much more work into activism than others.

One could look at it another way and ask, "What do I seek to do my part as a member of?" E.g., does one seek to do one's part as a citizen, or as a libertarian, or as a radical libertarian? Depending on which it is, one might conclude that one's responsibility is lesser or greater. For example, a person who views his duty as simply that of a citizen may feel the need to do nothing more than simply vote libertarian, because it is enough if all the other citizens do the same. But a libertarian, realizing that he is a member of a subset of the population that only amounts to 15 percent of the total, may feel the need to do even more than vote, because he must make up for that other 85 percent that is not libertarian. Or a radical libertarian, realizing that he is part of an even smaller subset, may feel the need to do still more, in order to make up not only for the inaction or counterproductive action of the non-libertarians, but also for that of the moderate libertarians.