Friday, April 15, 2005

The Libertarian Family: A Precautionary Tale

Mr. Libertarian sat at the dinner table, along with Mrs. Libertarian and the Young Libertarian. They were finishing a pleasant meal, and Mrs. Libertarian said to her husband, "Would you like some more coffee?"

"Yes, please; as long as it is 'free trade' coffee and not 'fair trade' coffee; or, worse yet, coffee produced under the conditions of a socialist economy." Mr. Libertarian craned his neck and squinted at the jar of instant coffee over on the kitchen counter, as if essaying to read the fine print on the label from across the room. But his astigmatism defeated him.

"Sugar or cream?"

"Me? Frankly, I'm an atheist."

The Young Libertarian interrupted: "Can I go out and play now?"

"Not until you finish your meal," said his mother.

"Oh!" pouted the Young Libertarian. "You and Papa don't love me!"

"Of course it is in our rational self-interest to love you," replied Mrs. Libertarian. "You see, you are the only hope we have for propagating our genetic material."

"And," added Mr. Libertarian with a self-satisfied nod, "caring for you while you are young and unable to fend for yourself is a rationally maximized strategy for inducing you to reciprocate, and care for us when we are old and unable to fend for ourselves. It's remarkably rational, under a mutual cost-benefit analysis."

"But I don't like brussel sprouts!" wailed the Young Libertarian.

"Now, now," said Mrs. Libertarian, "brussel sprouts (Brassica oleracea) are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium, sulfur, and vitamin A."

"Indeed," said Mr. Libertarian, "a 100 gram serving of brussel sprouts contains 60 milligrams of vitamin C. And in a peer-reviewed double-blind scientific study, brussel sprouts have been shown to help provide significant protection from mutagenic oxidative DNA damage."

"So you see," said the young boy's mother, "it is in your rational self-interest to eat your brussel sprouts. Why, we could give you fifty good reasons to eat your brussel sprouts!"

"But I HATE brussel sprouts!" shrieked the Young Libertarian. "I should be free to make my own choices and decisions on what I eat! Everyone should be free to enjoy maximal individual liberty consistent with the same maximal individual liberty for others!"

"Well, you see," said Mr. Libertarian, with a lofty air, "you have fallen into a logical fallacy. There is no self-contradiction in asserting that your mother and I may curtail your individual liberty at least so far as to tell you to eat your brussel sprouts. For you are still young and rather irrational in your thought processes, therefore it has been the general agreement in society to delegate to parents the authority to make informed and rational decisions on behalf of their offspring, until such time as the offspring are mature enough to make rational decisions on their own." When he had finished saying this, Mr. Libertarian had to pause for a few moments, for he was quite out of breath.

After dinner, the Young Libertarian went out to play, and Mr. and Mrs. Libertarian decided to go for a stroll in the back yard.

Suddenly the Young Libertarian came dashing up to his parents. "Mama! Papa! Look, the house is on fire!"

"I can see the empirical evidence for myself," said the father.

"Oh," said the mother, "don't you think we ought to call the fire department?"

At this, Mr. Libertarian drew himself up to his full height, and brushed a stray hair from the front of his vest. "I have always firmly maintained that fire departments should be privatized."

"But Frank!" cried Mrs. Libertarian, "Our house is burning down!"

"No," demurred Mr. Libertarian, "I will not feed at the public trough, or rely upon inefficient, non-free-market solutions. Plus, no one has ever with justification accused me of hypocrisy or logical self-contradiction."

However, his wife prevailed upon him at last. And so the next day the headlines of the local newspaper read: "House Ablaze: Libertarian called fire department reluctantly."

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Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Wish I could claim credit for that headline myself— but I know I've seen it somewhere else around the blogosphere. :)

Friday, April 15, 2005 3:05:00 PM  

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