A Libertarian Perspective: Taking Advice Good and Bad

By Rex Bell

I’m no stranger to advice. Like most people, I’ve received a good bit of it in my lifetime, sometimes solicited and sometimes not. And like most people, I’ve also given it in both manners. I suppose that also like most people, I’ve rejected some good advice and accepted some bad advice along the way.

In my younger days, I’d have to say that life was usually easier, even if it wasn’t always as much fun, when I took the good advice, but the lessons learned from taking the bad advice seemed to stay with me a little longer. It also seemed to make a difference if I considered who gave me the advice in the first place. Most of the advice my parents gave me could have been considered sound, but looking back, much of the advice I took from my old buddy Stinky Wilmont resulted in one of those not so enjoyable life lessons.

One thing about advice, good or bad, is that we can take it or leave it. And what might be good advice for one person might very well be bad advice for another, and sometimes even though the person giving or receiving the advice might consider it good, there is always the possibility that it might end up bad.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove down to Mississippi to visit my son and his family. Although I’ve made the trip several times, I keep a GPS in the car to remind me of exit numbers and needed lane changes when I get into heavy traffic. Somewhere in Memphis, the device advised me to leave the road I was on and merge onto another road that eventually ended up in Nashville.

Now, I’m not much of a traveler, and I don’t normally consider myself intelligent enough to question computers and satellites, but I decided this time I was being given some bad advice, so I just ignored it and drove on to my destination. That’s not to say I’ll never accept advice from our GPS again, but I’ll probably be a little more wary it, much like I became more wary of accepting advice from Stinky after a few learning experiences.

As I mentioned earlier, that’s the good thing about bad advice. You can take it or leave it. Depending on who is giving it, of course.

Our government spends most of its time giving us advice, and most of the time that advice comes in the form of some law. Laws are a lot like advice in the respect that some are good and some are bad. Of course, they’re not so much like advice when it comes to taking or leaving them.

Being of the Libertarian persuasion, and a strong advocate of individual freedom and limited government, I tend to give a lot of unsolicited advice concerning the role of government and its laws. Most Libertarians believe government and laws should exist to protect us from force and fraud. It’s generally considered good advice that a person shouldn’t harm their neighbors or take their property, and it always works out better if we all take that advice.

Laws that exist because someone in Washington thinks they have a better idea on how you should manage your life and affairs, or on who should benefit from your labor or charity, need to be removed from the law column and placed in the advice column, where you can choose to take them or leave them.

Otherwise, this nation that was founded on the concept of individual freedom and limited government could end up going down a bad road.

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 lpwc@msn.com or snail-mail him at 17059 State Road 38, Hagerstown.