[By Ryan Noble]
Occasionally we say things that, had they not been off the cuff remarks, would perhaps never have crossed our minds. This happened to me the other day when I said to one of my political confidants “I realize how little my opinion on all this stuff matters.” I have been mulling over this on and off for days. The statement’s importance unfolds in two directions. Firstly, as a thinker and activist for my values, my reach barely exceeds my immediate family. Secondly, having opinions about what is best for more than 300 million people almost necessarily crosses into the realm of hubris and absurdity. This second thought was the one which prompted my remark. My thoughts turn to this; Why are people all across the country debating and getting worked up over how a massive nation’s government ought to run its affairs? Whether it be a Facebook political hissy fit or a pundit on TV we seem to be a nation where our reach exceeds our grasp in a comically disproportionate way. Libertarians will perhaps know why this is without having to give it much thought. It should have been more obvious to me.
Election season is the special interest hunger games. Minnesotans are arguing about whether or not, 1500 miles away, Mexicans should be allowed to move a few hours north into Texas. New Yorkers are getting in pissing matches over whether or not North Carolinians should have a bathroom law. Californians are righteously indignant that Nabisco is laying off Chicagoans and employing Mexicans. And all of them have something to say about how Europeans ought to relate to African and Middle Eastern immigrants. On the other hand, there are a thousand important events happening all across the world that people here are rationally indifferent about. So, are we all being irrationally concerned? I wish I could say yes.
Those Minnesotans will have to live with the consequences of a little more national debt from those Mexican immigrants, not to mention at some point the votes of the immigrant’s children. New Yorkers may very well feel the consequences of another state’s law if it sparks a legal battle that goes to the supreme court. Californians and their businesses will either be helped or harmed when outsourcing outrage leads to new tax law. If Europe destabilizes Americans will all involuntarily funnel their tax dollars to deal with the problem. So here we are, we are all concerned about problems that have nothing to do with us, precisely because they have everything to do with us. We live in a tangled web of completely involuntary relationships. I can’t imagine caring who the next CEO of Visa or Google is, but damned if I don’t feel invested in who puts their hand on the bible next January. The difference is obvious. I can’t opt out.
The scale of this tragedy is impossible for me to comprehend. Debt burdened college students, African migrants, cookie factory owners, transgendered people; we could have neutral, positive, or no relationship with people from any of these groups. Instead we are on the defensive, shields up, in a conflict that has no business existing. We have been coerced into living at the expense of other people. We have been trained to be outraged for others even if they themselves aren’t. Bits and pieces of our moral and economic self-determination are being stolen and handed to the will of the masses and the elites that speak for them. When our volition is outsourced to the state the free choice and action of others not only becomes our business, in some way we have rightful claim on it. In democracy, when property and freedom are stolen from all, we all become agents of how the plundered goods will be distributed.
So let’s continue debating how to shape the futures of people we have never met, the policies of institutions we have no stake in, and the morality of people in their private homes and businesses. In a different world that might seem strange. Here, however, we decide things with ballots, guns, and prisons.