A Libertarian Perspective: Tolerance Must be Taught and Learned
By Rex Bell
We have a two and a half year old grandson that doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for his six month old sister. I don’t suppose that’s an unusual situation, and we’re convinced he will warm up to her presence eventually. I probably wasn’t as tolerant of my younger siblings as I should or could have been in my younger days. That’s why I’m not convinced tolerance is something we are born with. I think it has to be taught and learned.
I grew up with seven brothers and sisters, so the tolerance we didn’t learn for each other on our own, we were taught out of necessity by our parents. I also learned a lot about tolerance from my parents when my old buddy Stinky Wilmont would come over to our house for a visit. Stinky quite often behaved outside of the accepted social norms that Mom and Dad had established for the immediate family, but my parents seemed to tolerate worse behavior from him than they would from us. I figured out later that sometimes toleration is influenced by expectations. I guess Mom expected better behavior out of her offspring, so she tolerated less bad behavior.
You never know where or when tolerance is going to show up or run out. Sometimes we seem to be more tolerant of questionable behavior from people we don’t know than we are of those we know. I imagine most parents at some time have said “I’d never tolerate that from my kids!” upon witnessing something outrageous from somebody else’s child, but in reality I think most of us are more tolerant and forgiving of family, even when they don’t live up to our expectations.
Being of the Libertarian persuasion, I tend to be more tolerant of other people’s social behavior than perhaps some of my Republican and Democratic cohorts might be. I don’t see the need for a lot of laws regulating peaceful interaction and dealings between consenting adults. That’s not to say that I approve of all of their peaceful interactions and dealings. It just means as long as they are not forcing their opinions and actions on anybody else, I can tolerate it.
While we Libertarians are more tolerant of people and their choices, the other parties have a leg up on us when it comes to being more tolerant of government. Republicans and Democrats add about 40,000 new laws and government regulations each year to the two million or so that are already on the books. Generally speaking, Republicans are usually more tolerant of new laws and regulations that are passed when they are in control, than they are of the new laws and regulations that are passed when the Democrats are in control. And generally speaking, Democrats feel the same way. Of course, once a new law, regulation, or program gets on the books, both parties seem to get more tolerant about it. Generally speaking, of course.
Our nation is currently involved in a discussion as to whether the President of the United States has the power to execute an American citizen without formal charges, without a trial, and without any public justification. The President and his aides claim that he does. And since the President is a Democrat, the other Democrats seem to be tolerant of White House position on the matter. Again, generally speaking. I suppose the Republicans’ tolerance on the issue stems from their belief that they will regain the White House someday, and retain the same power.
As a Libertarian, it makes me wonder if there is anything the government could do that they wouldn’t tolerate.
Rex Bell is a Wayne County Libertarian that writes a monthly column on events that shape our lives from a libertarian point of view. He is also the author of "Stinky Shorts", available at www.StinkyShorts.com .If you have a comment or question on a particular subject, you can e-mail him at email@example.com or snail-mail him at 17059 State Road 38, Hagerstown.