Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Read beyond your comfort zone

Read beyond your comfort zone

(My Clovis News Journal column for August 9, 2013.)

Just about anytime you bring up the subject of libertarian books and authors, someone will mention Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". That's OK, and I do enjoy the book- even the infamous monologue- while pointing out that it is not specifically libertarian. I will admit it has inspired a lot of people to shift their world-view in a more libertarian direction, though.

Most people seem to think "Atlas Shrugged" is too preachy, and many like to focus on Rand's personal shortcomings rather than stay focused on the book. For those people, and the rest of us, it's a good thing there are so many other libertarian books that are a lot more fun to read.

If fiction is your preference, you might like "Hope" by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith, which looks at what might happen if a real libertarian ever found himself elected president. It's a fun story!

If you are a younger reader you might enjoy "Out of the Gray Zone" by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman which follows the adventures of a young escapee from a totalitarian society.

Many books by science fiction authors H. Beam Piper and Robert A. Heinlein have a strong libertarian streak. In fact, most science fiction either tends to be either highly collectivist in nature or very libertarian. Perhaps because science fiction explores the extremes.

Lying between fiction and non-fiction is "A Vision of Liberty" by Jim Davies. Mr. Davies lays out his vision of a free society looking back at the end of government.

For non-fiction readers there are also plenty of options.

In "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne, this liberty activist and former Libertarian Party presidential candidate describes his personal experiences living a free life while surrounded by people who don't appreciate freedom.

If Browne's ideas inspire you, you might like "The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook" by Claire Wolfe. In it you'll find 179 things you can do to protect and increase your individual liberty now, and have fun, while confounding those who would prefer to see you enslaved to one degree or another.

Of course you shouldn't limit your reading to only things that you agree with. See what the other side has to say. It is fun to read random fiction and, for example, see where the characters went wrong and how they could have avoided problems by not initiating force. Or think of ways you could have solved their Big Problem without violating the rights of any of the other characters. As always, worthwhile reading exercises the mind.

And please don't forget.


Toss away the training wheels!

A couple of nights ago I was trying to help my daughter learn how to ride a bike without training wheels.  It's a difficult thing to explain to another person- it's mostly instinctive when you've been doing it for decades.

I tried to tell her how to turn the wheel, and to keep her speed up, but in the end it's just a matter of doing it.

As a way to help her gain confidence, I first took off the training wheels (at her request) and then told her to just have fun coasting back and forth on the sidewalk.  My thought was that in coasting she might get the feel for balancing.  And, I think that helped.  I saw her coast better and better.  So, as I mentioned yesterday, we went to a parking lot a block from the house for a bigger practice arena.  On our way down the street, she was sitting and coasting and I got a little tired of the slow walk, so I asked if I could push her to go faster.  She said "OK, but don't let go!"

I told her I wouldn't let go until she asked me to.

So, as we turned into the parking lot she said I could let go.  I did, and she actually rode for about 20 feet.  She was very thrilled and wanted to do that again.  So I did, and that time she rode about twice as far.  And the next time she almost went into a fence... but the very next time she took off and rode completely across the whole parking lot.  In minutes she was riding around all over the lot and smiling from ear to ear.

She has the riding down, and is now working on starting without me pushing, and on braking.

It reminds me of trying to help people enjoy liberty.  To those of us who
just do it" it's instinctive- but until a person just does it, how do you explain it to them?

It seems scary.  They are sure they will fall and get hurt.  They are used to the training wheels- which actually make them less safe, but give false confidence.  You can give them a little push, but if you break their trust they'll blame liberty for your betrayal.  In the end, they just have to do it for themselves to see how easy and exhilarating it is.  You can't do it for anyone else- the best you can do is to show them by example that it is possible (and fun!).

Cheer them on and we can all ride together into a better tomorrow.