University is the place where most of us first taste true freedom. Freedom from curfew, from supervision (mostly), from decent home-cooked meals, from you name it. Yet, in the midst of all this novel independence there are typically two chains of dependence that stubbornly remain unbroken. The first is obvious: monetary support. The second is a bit less obvious, but, I hazard, just as prevalent.
You guessed it. It’s the binding tie of political affiliation. Many, though I concede not all, unquestioningly orient themselves to their parents’ voting habits. Now, perhaps this is all well and good. If students blindly trust that their political identity is best decided on the basis of adults whom they trust, who am I to judge?
But I sense a problem here, as I’m sure you do. Suppose one’s parents were similarly unparticular about their party loyalty, and their parents before them, and so on as far back as the days of the good ship Mayflower. Such generational folly makes for a boring army of unthinking mimics doesn’t it? A single independent-thinking individual would be a rarity. I’m sure you agree that such a tradition of party orientation hardly cultivates the thoughtful and independent citizenry that a democratic nation like ours requires to survive.
Our political views, along with our party affiliation, can profit from occasional, thoughtful adjustments. Politics is not static. The ability to consider and weigh the available evidence and arrive at one’s own conclusions is, after all, the hallmark of independent thought. We certainly have no claim to true independence until we achieve independence in political thought, free from manipulations by parents or pundits.
With the nearness of the presidential election on everyone’s minds, I suggest we reexamine the parties and our affiliations carefully. Let’s begin with the Democratic Party and its celebrated claim to being “pro-choice.” Is this label deserved? Admittedly, the Party claims allegiance to women’s abortion rights and people’s right to marry regardless of sexual orientation.
But, these two pillars hardly justify the sweeping mischaracterization of “pro-choice.” Indeed, the label is hardly deserved. Consider the Democratic Party’s prevailing rhetoric on wages and rent. Wages should be high and rent should be low is the basic reduction. Obviously, such a platform has wide acclaim among gleeful college students. And who can deny the underlying sentiment, which basically states that everyone should have access to endless wealth and costs should be low? Does the “D” stand for “duh” perhaps?
But such a utopian scheme necessarily imposes accompanying restrictions that are quite anti-choice. Consider that minimum wage laws deny a worker the right to choose what level of compensation he will work for. Is this denial of choice “pro-choice?” What about restricting the landlord’s right to charge whatever amount of rent he deems appropriate and reasonably profitable? Who has the right to impose their perfectly arbitrary concepts of a “living wage” (whatever that is) or “affordable rent?” I’m sure we can trust the nice and well-meaning people of the Democratic Party to make such judgments. I’m sure we needn’t be mindful of the economic and logical catastrophes that follow.
What about the Republican Party? Its platform these days hardly brags about being “pro-choice,” but the same critique applies. Take just one blatant example, that of the restriction of gay rights. Such an imposition of values follows the same reasoning as the Democrats’ restrictions on rent and wages. Each party supposes that they have a prettier picture of society to paint, to hell with the individual, to hell with those outside the party.
In a cruel and twisted sense, both parties are equally “pro-choice.” That is, both parties wish to choose, or, I should say, dictate, how the rest of us ought to live our lives according to their proposed vision.
I suggest we have an alternative to being tiny tyrants, trusting our combined might to force upon our fellow citizens the schemes of our party. The Libertarian Party distinguishes itself by its belief that individuals themselves, not bureaucrats, have the right to choose how they live their own lives. If you are truly “pro-choice,” vote for liberty! Or forsake the false label, neither accurate nor deserved.
Jeremy Hicks is a 2008 political science graduate and the founder of the Cal Poly Libertarian Club. “Don’t Tread on Me” will appear in the Mustang Daily every Wednesday as a weekly political column. You can contact him at LibertarianColumn@gmail.com.