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Is the Friend of Freedom an "Extremist"?

December 7, 2009

Friends of freedom are frequently accused of being “extremists” in not being willing to “compromise” with a “reasonable” amount of government regulation, welfare redistribution, and social intervention.

But who really is the extremist, the advocate of liberty who respects diversity and differences among men and their beliefs and actions, or the political interventionist who wishes to impose his vision of the “good society” on all through the use of government coercion?

In a new piece that I’ve written on, “Is the Case for Liberty Too Extreme?” I contrast these two conceptions of man and society by looking at two recent examples: the political banning of smoking in both public and private spaces; and the growing political censorship and prohibition of religious expression and debate over matters of faith in the marketplace of ideas.

I suggest that it is the political interventionist who is really the “extremist” in his attempt to make all conform to his idea of “good behavior,” and not the advocate of freedom who believes in the liberty of the mind and the power of peaceful persuasion.

It is worth recalling Ludwig von Mises’ words in his brilliant book on, Liberalism: The Classical Tradition:

“The propensity of our contemporaries to demand authoritarian prohibition as soon as something does not please them, and their readiness to submit to such prohibitions even when what is prohibited is quite agreeable to them shows how deeply ingrained the spirit of servility still remains within them. . . . A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”

Richard Ebeling

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