I think it is hard to know what is true these days. One thing is definitely true for me though. I think that most people, myself included, can only take so much truth in one sitting. In my experience, freedom-minded thinkers tend to be independent thinkers and most of the time are open-minded, with a willingness to self-examine and change prior beliefs and thoughts that don’t pass the test of philosophical consistency. This type of mindset can lead folks to something called the truth, something to which ideologues of all stripes are often times blind. And drinking in too much truth too fast can breed unbridled cynicism and a sense of unbalance.
One of my favorite movie lines ever was from “V for Vendetta,” when the chief inspector, brilliantly played by Stephen Rea, asks his protege this question: ”..would you want to know?” In this scene he has reluctantly come to the conclusion that his own government cannot be ruled out as a suspect in the deaths of many of the citizens. He very carefully states that he has no proof, but rather asks that if it were true, “would you want to know?” I see his question now as an extremely well-mannered gesture, an opportunity given to the young protege to limit the pace of unpleasant ideas coming at him.
I think that for those of you who would answer “YES!” to the inspector’s question, you should remind yourselves how unsettling the nature of the truth can be. Believing, for instance, that the Unaffordable Care Act is crafted to line the pockets of various corporate interests, no matter how many are killed or neglected in the process, is not sunny picnic talk. After coming to this conclusion, I craved a P.G. Wodehouse novel for my own balance.
While the truth about the world around us is troubling and unsettling at times, the truth about freedom and liberty itself is always uplifting and buoyant for the spirit. The miracle of the free market has brought affluence to the human race like no other influence on the planet. Mutually beneficial exchange renders both parties wealthier. This tendency to improve your own lot by cooperating with others, while all parties pursue their self-interest, can certainly be soiled by the state, but the tendency and the truth of the nature and consequences of this interchange remain, nonetheless.
The more anger and vitriol I see from the statists, the more I know they are threatened by the growing appeal of the idea of less state coercion in our lives. The more desperate I see statists in their actions, the more I believe they feel their backs to the wall, their power threatened.
I am grateful to all of those whose personal examples have kept me from succumbing to skepticism and cynicism, that although to some degree necessary to survive in this world, can spoil the joy and laughter that an understanding of freedom brings. This is the balance that is difficult to maintain, I think.
In the arena of ideas, no one manages this better than Lew Rockwell, founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Look at his picture on google. He is always smiling! He is funny, all the while having few peers as a hard hitting writer. During the few times I have been around him, everyone around him was laughing. I never met Murray Rothbard, but I understand that he had the same sort of influence on everyone in the room. He was, quite simply, hilarious, but as brilliant and incisive as any scholar of his time.
I suppose I am giving this advice as much to myself as to anyone reading this. Focus on the presence of liberty as much or more than you do on the suffering caused by its absence. The cause of liberty is always good news for those who wish to be free.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.