Taking the world as it is
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 4, 2011

What I learned on the way to the Revolution:

You can't always get what you want.

On Monday morning, I turned my "Pathways to Peace" Disabled American Veterans calendar to August. The photo was perfect for the month: mostly a cool green, with waterfalls and sunlight falling onto a woodland pool that was surrounded by moss-covered rocks.

Each month has an inspirational phrase. August's is, "Taking this world as it is, not as I would have it."

Thanks, veterans' calendar: a good reminder, on the day of a historic vote on the national debt, which fully pleased neither side of the debate, of the lessons I've learned throughout my life about the world as it is.

One of my earliest memories: learning to walk by holding onto a large, white, round hassock, working my way around it. During one such stroll, my parents wanted to take my picture, so they lifted me onto the hassock. I didn't want to be lifted, didn't want to sit, so I cried; there's a photo of this, of course.

You might say that I learned about the event from the photo, but I remember what I was "thinking" at the time, though I didn't yet have the words I needed, which would have been "don't tell me what to do"! And so it began.

I wanted to do exactly what I wanted, and the grown-ups were bigger than I was. Never really got over that fact, continued to fairly cheerfully resent it onward to my own grown-up resistance to Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor and Big Church. Sometime in high school, I discovered Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-reliance" and "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. My first year in college, I found the libertarian movement.

Nothing like being a libertarian to fully realize that you're not going to have things your way not even close. But sometimes you get it close enough; my life has been as free as possible.

After two divorces, I realized I don't like being married. I was shocked to learn, in the early '60s, that marriage meant I couldn't hang out with my other guy friends anymore. My wonderful husbands weren't possessive; it was the other guys, who wouldn't invite me to play tennis or go sailing unless the husband went along or gave his OK. Yikes!



A woman holds a smiley face umbrella outside the White House shortly before President Barack Obama spoke last Sunday in the White House briefing room about the debt negotiations taking place on Capitol Hill.

My son will tell you one of his toddler memories was being told that mommy is a good sport about spilled milk and other mishaps, but can't stand it when someone hangs onto her leg and whines. He went through the rest of his childhood not hanging, not whining; is still pretty good about that and I'm sure his wife appreciates it.

Twelve years as a Catholic school student was one endless "don't tell me what to do or think" argument with long-suffering nuns and bemused priests.

Decided when I turned 18 that God wanted me to be free to investigate other religions and choose my own. When I put it that way, my long-suffering parents had to accept it.

Politics was the tough nut to crack, though, existing as it does to find ways to tell us all what to do. Libertarians generally want maximum freedom, with fully liberating personal responsibility; free markets; taxes used only as user fees, with which we all pay our share of the services we use.

Like liberals, we want peace; happy, well-fed children; the elderly and sick attended; also "forever homes" for every dog and cat. We urge good people to voluntarily choose charities that will make this a better world, to put their own money where their compassion takes them. For us, minimizing freedom inevitably maximizes misery.

In a libertarian world, no one could initiate force against others who haven't done so, thereby asking to be stopped and controlled. Because they mostly see national defense as primarily defensive, libertarians don't usually support foreign wars.

This means that even if our own country became libertarian, we still wouldn't have the world we want; we'd like everyone to be as free as we are, but have to recognize that we can't control other countries. Our forefathers left them for a reason, one of which was wanting more freedom than would ever be possible there.

So, you might ask, how can a libertarian be happy with the bipartisan compromise resolution to the national debt crisis, which leaves our Government very, very Big for the foreseeable future?

Well, there are two kinds of libertarians: those who never compromise, who insist on trying to create the world they want and are willing to go down with their ideological ship; and those who adjust to the world as it is, and celebrate every little victory that moves us in the right instead of the wrong direction.

The tea party also has these two divisions, which we saw in this week's vote on the debt ceiling package: unyielding idealists and pragmatists, arguing with each other about strategy to change the world. I know how both of them feel, and vote with the ones who take this world as it is.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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