A Way to Prove We’re All Born Libertarian

natural libertarianWe’re all born knowing the truth, but by the time you’re four or five years old, they’ve beaten it out of you.
– Attributed to Bob Dylan

I think I’d be a bit more charitable than Mr. Dylan; I’d say that we’ve only had the truth partly beaten out of us by the age of five. I think truth endures in us, at least to a significant extent, up till puberty, after which it is beaten into submission over the next decade or so.

The Crazy Years

We all have experience with the tumultuous years that begin with puberty: First we are slapped with a rush of hormones. That triggers a reproductive imperative. That’s crazy-making enough, but then we find ourselves inside of a rigid, status-based system… a system that massively influences all of our potential mates.

That’s a recipe for the corruption of thought, and it does corrupt our thoughts.

Orson Welles was an unusually clear-thinking and experienced child… far more experienced than average. He spent his days (he was what we’d now call home schooled) reading the works of Shakespeare and all the existing Greek tragedies, repetitively.

As a man, Orson was once interviewed about his young days. The interviewer asked what he had thought of teenagers. Orson replied, “I thought they were absolutely insane.”

I think all of us can understand why.

Getting to the Truth

So, if we want to get a glimpse of human nature before it’s stressed and shaped during the crazy years, we should really go to pre-teens.

Granted, kids are not the pure saints they are sometimes imagined to be… and it is true that these kids are already sexualized and trained in status these days… but there remains, in most of them, some residue of honest thinking. They have not yet been dragged all the way into the conformist way of mind.

My hypothesis is that most of us are born as natural libertarians – having a built-in bias toward liberty.

And I have a clean way of testing this idea: Go to pre-teens, in a neutral setting, and ask them a very simple question:

Shouldn’t you be allowed to do anything you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone?

My guess is that the results would show a large majority agreeing with the statement, and the younger the respondent, the higher the percentage.

A Challenge to You

I’d like to propose we actually run such an experiment. I’ll be pleased to coordinate and publish the data.

In order to ensure that the results are meaningful, I recommend the following:

  • Make sure you have a neutral setting. Don’t talk to the child about liberty, obedience, or anything along those lines before asking the question. Make sure that you are feeling neutral too. You should want to know the child’s opinion, sincerely.
  • Since children have notoriously short attention spans, ask the question only after you have calmed them and centered their attention. I suggest something like this:

   Can I ask you a question? I want to know what you think about this.

  • If the child answers more than a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ write down precisely what they say. Then, if necessary, write down your interpretation of what the child said and why you interpreted their meaning that way.
  • After you write down the answer, feel free to continue the discussion with the child if fitting, but not if there are other study participants in the area. Keep them neutral.

As I say, I’ll be pleased to tabulate and publish the results if one or more of our readers want to run the experiment.

I think the results might be very interesting… and quite possibly very useful.

Paul Rosenberg

8 thoughts on “A Way to Prove We’re All Born Libertarian”

  1. To “Shouldn’t you be allowed to do anything you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone…” should be added, “else?”

    1. I read this the other day:

      “Rules are written for those who lack the ability to truly reason.”
      It came to mind immediately as I read your suggestion to ask my kid this question. I know what this would do to the “rules for your own protection” paradigm that I have carefully crafted with her these last 7 years. She is highly intelligent and has an uncanny ability to recall the rules that I have set forth and why those rules exist. Asking her for a response to that question, worded that way could result in pure Pandora.
      While I agree we should teach the principles of Liberty at as early an age as possible, I would argue that timing of when a concept is taught and in what context it is taught can be more crucial to the final outcome. My job is to produce a confident, poised, free young woman capable of making good decisions on her own.
      At 7, when their minds can only sluggishly recall why you MUST look left a second time while crossing the street, would not the time, in my opinion to be teaching her that anything goes so long as it hurts no one but herself.
      While your meaning was utterly clear to you when you asked the question, her perception of it might lead to some disastrous results and (if she lives) anecdotal fodder. When my older sister was ten, she decided that a hefty bag would make a fine parachute and proceded to fracture her shin jumping from a rooftop. It didn’t hurt me a bit and I told her beforehand that while I disagreed, she most certainly had my blessing. (I wanted her room)
      Children have no developed sense of self preservation, that is why they make such excellent soldiers. I should know, I led them (in but sometimes not out of battle) for the better part of my adult life.
      While I am fully prepared to accept any adult’s well-reasoned, mature expression of Liberty where it does not infringe upon mine or impinge on my pursuit, I believe we are better off leading our children slowly by example, with rules in place and teaching Liberty slowly, in context, so that by the time they are adults, it is fully, properly absorbed and ready to withstand the onslaught of collectivist hooha that it will most certainly be exposed to.
      The people we should be asking this question to are adults who are unfamiliar with the principles of individual liberty and the responsibilities that it entails–nevermind the self-edifying effects of fully embracing it. It is THEM we should be talking to.
      Sorry to get all windy on this post….too much coffee.

  2. I think the question is a little bit leading and may prompt more positive responses as a result. Seems like a great idea, though.

  3. I used the leading form of the question. I told my 10-year old not to say what he thought I wanted him to say:

    Me: “Don’t you think you should be able to do whatever you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone?”

    Owen: “Probably, but you could also wreck things they’ve bought with their honest-earned money, so there should be a rule against that.

    You can’t be under-aged and shoot guns for this reason – you might hurt someone. Really under-aged people tend to be really careless. You could also do big damage to your own property.”

    Me: “If you know that, why do you need rules?”

    Owen: “Most people don’t know that, and most peoples’ parents are too careless to establish that for them”.

    “Hurt” really needs definition. Is lowering someone’s bank balance “hurting” them? How about your own future? Should that count as “hurting”? Does the “hurt” have to be guaranteed, or do we try to prevent reasonably-probable POTENTIAL “hurt”?

    In fact, that’s a lot of the reason we exert control over little people. Their brains are not developed yet to understand the future – their own or society’s. Adults have a better grasp on those things and exert control to give the little people their best chance. Left to their own devices, children play video games and eat sugar full-time… not “hurting” anyone, but arguably their future selves.

  4. No comment Paul? My one-sample seemed to blow your theory out of the water, and the logic it brought up seems pretty good too.

  5. It’s been long known that by the age of ten a person has finished their moral training – however a ten-year old views the world is how he or she will always see the world. Hence you have sayings such as “give me the boy and I’ll show you the man” , “give me his first seven years and he’s mine for life” and “give me one generation and I’ll change the world”.

  6. Look up the classical Trivium method of learning and you will find that its three stages (grammar/logic/rhetoric) are passed through by every young person in that order – grammar representing facts (the parts of a car as Richard Grove of http://tragedyandhope.com puts it), logic representing their order of assembly (the parts manual for the car), and rhetoric being the ability to explain to others how the assembled car functions. It’s the third stage that is reached at the onset of puberty, and this is where the ‘common core’ type of schooling corrupts young minds, by questioning all of the prior logic young people have acquired up to that point (think 2+2=5) and casting grave doubts in their precious young minds, right as the hormones are kicking in. It’s a dastardly plan if there ever was one…

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