By Susan Stevens
A recent discussion with a libertarian Facebook friend has highlighted a strong point of similarity between libertarians and social democrats: our trust in people. This faith in the spark of goodness and wisdom burning in every human is arguably the cornerstone of a social democrat’s passion for expanding the democratic process. We believe that the more ordinary people have a say in the policies affecting their lives, the closer these policies will align with the common good. As emphasized by their name, libertarians are also passionate about human liberty, and perhaps for the same reasons.
As a student of A Course in Miracles, I’ve been learning how the ego works to separate us from each other, and from that trust, by planting thoughts of attack in our minds — basically the fear that we will be attacked if we don’t stay on the defensive, ready to attack our brothers if needed. Our minds are so powerful that thinking about the need for attack leads us to actually experience the need to attack — which calls forth an attack response from others.
We have thus projected an evil pseudo-world over the loving beings that we naturally are when not grasping for weapons to defend ourselves. Where libertarians and social democrats differ is on what we see as the best path to undoing this violent world that we have created. In our pseudo-world, there are some who have become more skilled at navigating attack-culture and risen to the top of the socioeconomic pecking order, and others suffering at the bottom. Libertarians see taxation for the purpose of wealth redistribution (or any other purpose) as violence.
In our natural state of love, no one would need to force us to care for our neighbor. I also see our social welfare system, even with all its room for improvement, as a means of expediting assistance rather than tasking every individual with the need to keep up with the details of every single situation going on in their community, country and world.
Moreover, while society is still operating in the attack-mode of protecting (hoarding) individual wealth, ending or cutting social programs rips the rug out from under those not thriving in this weird universe. In contrast, with social democracy, which (like libertarianism) goes hand-in-hand with free speech, we increase the power of every person’s vote while simultaneously enjoying the freedom to keep dialoguing with our brethren, persuading them and being persuaded ourselves to embrace ever-better ways of living together.
We may even, eventually, democratically usher in a solution to economic suffering that eliminates any need for economic coercion. I hope a fruitful discussion can begin here between social democrats, libertarians, and people of other persuasions. My thoughts and understanding are still in process, and the greater the number of us willing to process these ideas together, the better!
Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of Social Democrats USA.