Dan Carlin – How Liberty Requires Rights and Tolerance
“Political Martian” Dan Carlin says Americans need to educate ourselves better about the meaning of liberty. Watch the full interview here.
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Dan Carlin: You remember, Oliver Wendell Holmes had defined the limits of liberty on the court. He said, “The right to swing your fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” I had asked the question, “What if the other man’s nose is continually growing?” In other words if you say, “You can live the way you want until you harm somebody else,” what if you decide things harm you now that didn’t harm you before? For example, if you play your music too loud and I live next door to you, I can’t sleep, you’re directly impacting me. That’s a direct imposition on my freedom, so you shouldn’t be able to play your music that loud. If on the other hand I smoke cigarettes and my insurance company is going to have to pay for me if I get sick, which is going to raise your rates, did I really impact your rights?
Well, people will say, “I can impact your rights, because you’re costing me money.” Okay, well, that’s equivalent of the nose growing. I call that wallet rights, because it’s different than a direct inhibition on your rights. It’s an indirect one. Now the problem with that is if you’re clever, you can connect point A to point B on anything. Why don’t you say, “If it cost you money in a society as interconnected as ours, then Oliver Wendell Holmes, his whole proposition goes out the window, because then everybody’s actions cost you something.” So, you can’t swing your fist at all.
Dave Rubin: Right. You’d be out there grabbing cigarettes out of people’s mouths, stopping them from drinking.
Dan Carlin: That’s right. That’s right. That’s become the problem. Once we decided that instead of a direct challenge to your right to live the way, an indirect challenge is in imposition and becomes cause for limiting you, then we’ve destroyed the idea that you have any personal liberty that you could call your own, because everything you do impacts at least my wallet somehow.
Dave Rubin: That’s interesting. Let’s just, quickly, before we wrap up, go back to the example of the music, because I think it’s a perfect example where we can talk about government intrusion and personal rights and all that stuff.
Dan Carlin: Okay.
Dave Rubin: So, if my next door neighbor was banging on the piano all day long, even if they were playing great, great classical music, but it was bothering me, I would eventually go next door and say, “You know, if you wouldn’t mind, maybe from these hours, blah, blah, blah, blah, please play a little … ”
Dan Carlin: But you’re telling him that you’ve impacted my rights.
Dave Rubin: Right. I’m saying, “This is my right and my own home to live here peaceably and not be a [crosstalk 00:02:24].”
Dan Carlin: And the golden rule, you wouldn’t like it if I did it to you.
Dave Rubin: Right. I would use something like that, but it would be me expressing my thoughts, and then hopefully them hearing that. Now what a lot of people would say is, “No no … ” They would say, “Maybe you tried that,” but if they don’t, well, then what’s the next step? Do you go to your local congressman or councilman and say, “We need some sort of noise law passed,” and then all you’re doing really is just expanding the government to then control what should be done as a interpersonal thing. Sometimes you can’t win all of those … What if the guy just says, “Well, go fuck yourself. Sorry, buddy.” How do you balance liberty and not an intrusive government?
Dan Carlin: This gets back to my views on not educating the American populace on what their freedoms and what they mean. We don’t do enough. I mean, liberty’s a bad word now. Yet, look at your founding documents, it’s the number one …
Dave Rubin: I like the word liberty.
Dan Carlin: Okay, but nobody even knows what it means anymore. So, for example, I always connected it to the golden rule: The amount of freedom you’re willing to give your fellow human beings in this country is directly proportional to what you get. So, you’re saying, “God that music really disturbs me, but you know what? The guy enjoys it. I’m gonna cut him some slack until 8:00 p.m. and then I’m gonna go to him and say, ‘Hey, buddy, you know what? After 8:00 p.m, can we cut it off?” That’s a fantasy way to live because human beings aren’t that way. At the same time there is a golden rule aspect to liberty and if you get too restrictive of your fellow man, you’re in effect, restricting yourself. Now, people don’t understand this, because we don’t … If you go look at the founding documents, there are eras. And eras, certain things become big. In this era, we talk about terrorism a lot and we get granular with it, we examine it.
In that era liberty was big and all these great writers, the John Lockes and all these people that we celebrate today, the Thomas Paines, they were examine that question from … Their version, by the way, what they meant when they said liberty is different than what even you and I are talking about today. They had an 18th century political concept of what it meant. In the ’70s, to get back to what I like to call “the high-water mark of our concept of these things,” this idea of your right to live your life the way you see fit was pretty darn strong. That became restricted due to this idea that people were going too far. In my view, I have a hard time with going too far in your rights to live life, especially if you’re not directly … Directly, not wallet rights, directly impinging on my freedom.
For example, we are less tolerant as a species. I mean, look at how angry people get at smokers, for example. I understand especially if it impacts your health. At the same time, there is no sense amongst … I don’t mean to single out anybody because we all this in our own ways, but to not understand that that impacts you, they’ll say, “Well, I don’t smoke or I don’t care what I do to those who … ” Yes, but it impacts the general idea about what you’re allowed to do.
Dave Rubin: Yeah, they’re doing something legal. You may not like.
Dan Carlin: We all do something that someone doesn’t like and the way we’ve become these way is very selfish about our rights. If I do it, it’s important. If I don’t do it and it costs me money, to hell with that. There’s a general concept, though, that we should teach in schools about how liberty is a give and take thing.