We’ll leave it to the history books of the future to decide whether the events in Charlottesville, VA in August of 2017 were a clear demarcation of events, indicating the start of a dangerous civil unrest. For the first time, clashes between rioters from the extreme left and those from the extreme right ended in a tragic loss of life. Regardless of protesters’ political views, lethal violence should never be the answer, but somehow when dealing with politics, it is.

Yet in the free market, fans of products don’t come to blows. Have you ever seen a frequent diner at Panera come up to a Subway aficionado and give them a knuckle sandwich? Has a Ford guy ever made it clear to a Chevy guy he is cruising for a bruising? When did a lover of Ella Fitzgerald’s music and an admirer of John Coltrane duke it out over who’s better? GE and Philips employees don’t punch each others’ lights out, nor do Colgate and Crest users come at each other armed to the teeth, and I can’t recall when an iRobot and a Dyson owner ever had a dust up.

No, that doesn’t really happen, and the reason is clear. If I buy one brand and you another, my consumption habits do not infringe on yours. But in a political system – and it doesn’t matter whether it is organized as a democracy or as a more explicit form of tyranny – whoever gets to the position of power can dictate what everyone else must do.

Is it any wonder why both the Alt-Right and ANTIFA see this struggle as life-or-death? ‘Heavens forbid if the Alt-Right get into power‘ shrieks an ANTIFA member hysterically, ‘or we would all be put in concentration camps!‘ (forgetting that it was the beloved Franklin Roosevelt who did that indiscriminately to people who happened to be of Asian descent). And ‘I would not stand for ANTIFA being in power‘ declares the Alt-Righter ostentatiously  ‘because then them blacks would steal our women and take our jobs!‘ (reminding us that the need for a marriage license was the product of the State, trying to restrict individuals from being with the people they love, and reminding us that the labor unions did everything in their power to make sure minorities cannot compete in the labor force).

When it’s winner-takes-all and the views of the minority are coerced upon everyone, all sides regress to the notion that victory shall be gained by any means necessary. The political system reduces its populace to barbaric in-fighting. And, of course, a divide-and-concur approach allows the powers-that-be a much simpler way to handle a distracted nation.

It’s completely pointless to care about others’ points of view if it has no bearing on our lives. However, it’s akin to self-defense if the opposite is true.

Political perspectives and opinions lead to public policies, laws, and legislation. This means people with guns start telling us what to do, say, and think. Therefore, any discussion of political opinions quickly veers away from merely one’s personal preference and towards morality and ends with the dichotomy of good versus evil. It is no longer a question of chocolate or vanilla, coke or pepsi. The debate turns one (or both) sides thinking the other must be subhuman for holding the beliefs they hold.

Books to pique your interest

The State clearly corrupts rational discourse and the institutionalization of the power-over structure creates a dynamic that leads to ever more violent conflicts. While not directly discussing these topics, Wes Bertrand‘s Complete Liberty and especially its sequel Complete Liberty Inside Out are great primers on understanding the power-over structures created by the State.

Having identified the root cause of why these debates have the potential to get so nasty and even end in tragic loss of life, a few more books come to mind that compare and contrast how people of differing political perspectives view life.

George Lakoff has written extensively about the intersection of cognitive psychology and politics. Three of his books on these topics are Moral Politics, The Political Mind, and Your Brain’s Politics.

Jonathan Haidt has also recently published a very interesting account of what might explain the divide between ideological stances in his book The Righteous Mind.

Concluding thoughts

When faced with threats of violence and coercion, people respond with fear and anxiety. Those advocating a free society based on mutual respect of private property and voluntary interactions know all too well that politics and laws are opinions backed by guns. Those advocating State solutions to one’s problems only recognize the gun is there when their opponents are in power. The more we are able to take our blinders off and recognize that both sides require violent enforcement, the more we can appreciate the peaceful nature of the state-free alternative of a free market. Please help spread love, or at the very least indifference to other’s opinions. And as always, thank you for reading!

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