Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Enlightened Liberty

On the subject of religion and spirituality, I've always been an independant. I've never been fond of organized religion of any kind, and my spiritual beliefs make me out to be a mutt of sorts. Despite this, I have always been fond of much of what comes from the world of Buddhist thought, although Buddhism, properly understood, is a philosophy as opposed to some form of religion or whatnot. You could say that this spiritual mutt has a larger ratio of Buddhist blood in it than of other spiritual traditions.

When witnessing the continuning onslaught of terror being waged by nation-states and others against you, me and everyone else in the name of "national security", "the common good", "protecting the children", or whatever, it is easy for one to lapse from whatever spiritual principles they may have and resort to lashing out against perceived enemies such as politicians, lobbyists, judges, bureaucrats, etc. While vigilance in the name of liberty and action in the name of self-defense are important things to strive for and achieve, it is also important to avoid slipping into the mindset of these people who are declared enemies with calls for revenge and whatnot (Lost Liberty Hotel, anyone?).

Anywhoo, I was happy to stumble across a blog today that is attempting to blend libertarianism with Buddhist philosophy. It is the blog of Jacob Lyles and is called Enlightened Liberty. What follows are some excerpts from a couple of his more recent entries that I appreciated.

From a post titled "Rooting for the Home Team":
When people judge the actions of the men who run their country’s government they use a different moral standard than they use for the rest of humanity. In America, the actions of men who work under the red, white, and blue banner are allowed to bypass the moral filter that each citizen developed in childhood.

This is very dangerous. There have been many horrible acts in human history that should never be repeated. However, if we fail to apply the moral lessons learned from history to our own government then we allow long dead horrors to resurface in the world- even as we scream with indignation at the smallest human rights abuses occurring in other countries.

Other men have used logic similar to Truman’s supporters to justify attacking civilian targets. However, I don’t think my American friends would hesitate to condemn their actions because they don’t bat for the home team.

For example, the name “Osama bin Laden” has taken its place among Hitler and Satan in the pantheon of evil. The reason? He thinks the freedom of the Arab world from Western imperial influences is important enough to sacrifice civilian lives. We might call him the Harry Truman of the Middle East.

And from a post titled "Enlightened Liberty":
We cannot force people to be peaceful. We cannot force people to be compassionate. The means and the ends are antithetical.

In light of these beliefs, I find it strange that many engaged Buddhists adhere to the political philosophy of socialism. Some have even run for office with various socialist-leaning Green Parties. As with all harmful actions, the reason behind this is ignorance. Libertarianism has a very small following, so most Buddhists probably have not had contact with its teachings. However, libertarianism’s critique of socialism is unanswerable and much in tune with the Buddhist worldview.

The problem with socialism is that it attempts to use force of arms to engineer utopia. When a person refuses to pay taxes it is not a group of Buddhist monks that go to his door, imploring him to give of his wealth to aid the suffering in society. Rather, a person who does not pay his taxes will find armed men at his door that will cart him away to prison and take his possessions away to auction.

When a Buddhist votes for socialism, when he attempts to carry out compassion through the offices of the state, he is not practicing “peace in every step”. He is encouraging brutality. In this way, the goals of well-meaning and peaceful men are thwarted.

In that the state must use coercion to stay in existence, in that the state’s very definition is “legitimate” coercion, the state is an inherently anti-Buddhist institution.

All of the state’s social programs fail the litmus test of “peace in every step”. If a person is harming himself with addictive, mind-altering substances, the state shackles him and takes him away from his family to spend decades in a prison cell. That is not the way of compassion, that is not the way of peace.

Some words of wisdom to take to heart, even if you aren't a Buddhist.

I'll finish off this entry with a quote from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh:
"In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them."

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Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Even Fred Woodworth of The Match!, than whom a more strident denouncer of religion I couldn't imagine, has nice things to say about Buddhism as an ethical philosophy.

10:50 AM  

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