I value liberty and limited government because the more I have of each, the more flexibility I have to make the decisions that are right for me. And except in rare cases, each of us is the expert most qualified to make decisions for ourselves.
Unfortunately for those of us with grand opinions of our own wisdom (a group I must confess I belong to), this means that we must respect the decisions other people make, assuming they do not harm us.
Even if we would have made a very different choice.
Even if the choice is objectively bad.
Even if there are terrible consequences.
This is one of the most difficult parts of freedom. It applies to all of us equally and the results can be less than savory. Sometimes it is very hard, even gut-wrenching, to trust the people around us with the freedom we would like to have ourselves — can we really rely on them to make wise choices?
It is easy to judge people. I do it all the time. Why is she spending her money on that? Why would he waste his time that way? Why on earth would anyone put that on the internet? I probably have a better idea about what motivates these people than the bureaucrats enforcing one-size-fits-all rules, but that doesn’t make me better equipped to make decisions for them.
I consider it a blessing to interact with so many people who have chosen very different paths in life than I have so far. They offer unique insights and perspectives I might never have considered otherwise. Disagreement is valuable. Yet sometimes it feels like the bane of my existence.
It can be really hard to hear criticisms and judgments about the choices I have made. It seems crazy to me that the people voicing these opinions think they have a better idea of my bank balance, credit history, emotional stability, schedule or needs than I do. But how many times have I assumed I knew better and pushed my unwelcome opinions on my colleagues, friends and family just the same way?
My prudent financial decision might spell disaster for someone else, and the reverse is also true. So when someone gives me advice I can’t accept, I try to trust that they have my best interests at heart, even if it’s hard to see. And I try to grit my teeth when I’d rather use them to bite heads off, reminding myself that I still have my head, though I’ve probably said some things that would have warranted its loss.
Trust is a valuable resource. It forms the basis of all functional relationships. Trust takes effort and work and constant reminders to exercise, but it is the bedrock of a free society. And that society would be a little better off if we all made a conscious effort to employ it more as we consider the decisions that others make.