(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Three caterpillars — a conservative, a liberal, and a libertarian — looked up and saw a butterfly.
The conservative caterpillar said, “That should be illegal. Why, it’s blasphemous! If God had meant for caterpillars to fly, he would have given us wings.”
The liberal caterpillar said, “That looks incredibly dangerous! Who’s in charge of it? What’s going to happen to the crawling industry if this catches on? This needs to be stopped until the government can investigate it and set up inspection and regulation to make sure it’s safe.”
The libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”
People have always feared the innovation and choice that liberty brings. Liberty shakes up the status quo. Liberty constantly creates new opportunities and replaces old industries and institutions with new and better ones.
This wonderful process is scary and threatening for many people. That’s understandable.
Yet the history of the progress of the human race is the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.
Religious liberty made both religion and the state more humane. Economic liberty — lessening government control over the economy — brought us incredible abundance and saved billions of lives. Ending alcohol Prohibition in America ended the crime and loss of civil liberties that misguided policy provoked.
Time and time again, we see that personal and economic liberty create harmony and abundance.
Yet in each of the examples above, and many more, good people from across the political spectrum feared and opposed the changes that ultimately proved to be so beneficial.
Today our liberal and conservative friends are on our side on these once-contentious issues. No one yearns for subsidies to prop up the horse and buggy industry. No one wants to return to slavery, or alcohol Prohibition, or compulsory state religion.
As libertarians, an important part of our job is to reassure our fearful friends on the left and the right that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue.
Eventually, just as they did on the issues above, they will come to see the benefits of liberty on the remaining issues as well, and they will join with us on them.
As the libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”
(Thanks to that most prolific of authors, A. Nonymous, for the original version of this fable that I encountered on the web.)