Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Constant Battle with Hypocrisy

Ever since I started digging into libertarian philosophy I’ve struggled with hypocrisy. Once I truly understood and came to terms with the fact that government is an entity that exists because of the threat of violence, I did not want to support the state. Also I did not want to use or participate in anything the state controls, because it’s all backed up by the violence. I felt that I would be a hypocrite if I did.

I spent lots of time in lengthy debates with other self-described libertarians over specific actions one could or could not take, if one wanted to adhere to the philosophy of non-aggression. I tried to create specific rules in my mind, not just for myself but for others too. For some reason it was important for me to declare that “I (and anyone else) would be a hypocrite if I (we) used, or participated in, xyz.”

It didn’t work. I found gray areas all over the place. But now I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that we are limited by the society that exists today. Yes, there is the risk of rationalizing an action one wants to take, yet I don’t think it helps to constantly self-attack or attack others, particularly those who already get that the state runs on violence. We are all just trying to live our lives as best as we can.

There are choices others make to work with the state that I would not do because it would be crossing a line I just could not cross. And on the other side, there are actions others take to avoid the state that go far beyond what I would do. We all have to deal with our own personal experience, abilities, history and current life circumstances that related to how we may choose to interact with government.

I’m trying to relax more about my possible hypocrisy because it’s just not doing me any good at all. It’s not helping me to live the life I want to live. Ironically my constant worry about hypocrisy in relation to government is making me less free than before I learned all I have learned over the past 10 years or so. And if I try too hard to avoid accusations of hypocrisy I also might be stopping myself from helping others who could use help and are also limited by the society we currently live in.

On this subject, I was comforted by a recent podcast of Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio. Here’s an excerpt that really spoke to me. This is from FDR Podcast 2122, “Liberty Chat.” (This excerpt comes at around the 58:30 mark but the entire podcast is excellent.)

Someone asked if it was a conflict for libertarian anarcho-capitalist to pursue a law degree and here’s an excerpt of what Stefan said:

“No, no, I think that we spend a little too much time worrying about ‘should I take this student loan’ or ‘I’m working with a company that works with a company that works with a company that has a contract with the department of defense’, live your life and be happy! If you want to be a doctor in Canada that means you gotta join the socialist system then be a doctor, be happy with that. If you want to be a lawyer, go be a lawyer. You know, let’s keep our moral searchlights and lasers pointed directly at the people who have or cheer the guns and not worry about what we need to do to find our way through the thickets of statism with all of this stripy predator surrounding us. So I think we gotta cut ourselves a huge amount of slack and not worry about our own moral choices so much because I think once you have a good understanding of morality it’s kind of impossible for you to do any significant wrong. And as long as you’re speaking out against the system, I mean I could care less what you do with it because we all have to survive. And not just survive but actually have fun, you know, like enjoy ourselves,…”

I have been listening to FDR podcasts since 2007 and it appears to me that he has softened his views on our interactions with the state too. The main message I get from him presently is that we need to relax more about the way things are now and realize the move to a voluntary society will be a gradual thing, a “multi-generational project” as he says.

His focus on peaceful parenting as the means to this end really resonates with me. I will still continue to tell the truth and point out problems as I see them but it makes me less concerned about any possible hypocrisy in myself and others living within the limits of the current society, and much more hopeful about the future.


  1. Yep. Be happy. Personally I couldn't be happy while initiating force of stealing- using coercion of any sort. But other people have different values. Doesn't mean I won't defend myself if their values include harming me or my family.

    One thing that I have tried to get across to some of the people in my life is that I am not responsible for their choices. They may be doing something I couldn't live with myself if I did, but I am not them. It is not my responsibility to approve or disapprove of what they are doing. If they are looking for my approval it seems to indicate that they aren't happy with themselves and might ought to consider a change.

  2. Yes, Kent, and that's why it makes sense to me that once you get the ideas, you will end up moving in the right direction. If what you are doing really doesn't fit with the principles you say you hold, then you won't be happy and will need to work to make some changes in your life to align more with those principles.