I don’t know many libertarians. There aren’t a lot to know out here in the boondocks. Mostly it’s the same mix of people I knew in Boston, just fewer of them. And even the few libertarians I am aware of locally are not given to too much conversation. They are well used to the common responses when confronted with matters of government and individual responsibility.
“But you can’t leave a decision like that up to the average person. They might do anything!”
The fact that the government they rely on is made up of average people, both good and bad, who are by nature self-interested, are easily corrupted by power and greed, and faced with an emergency, usually make the wrong decision, never seems to dissuade many from this preference, no matter the trail of tears and wreckage left behind.
Sadly, most libertarians—and by that I am referring to people who believe human rights derive from the individual, not the state—are unwilling to make a fuss over the encroachments of government beyond limited sotto-voce protestation. They have jobs with others who would not understand and it might be made uncomfortable at such thoughts. Even admitting that they are libertarians is a problem. Other people might think they are into kinky sex, or something.
For the past couple of years I have been trying to work up a new novel out of my ever increasing stash of collected notes. My last one, A Republic of Books, which played with many of my favorite libertarian ideas did not find much of an audience. I am not sure I care as much as I should about that response but it’s a fact. It’s a good novel and I knew at the start there were not many people who would appreciate the subject matter. I write my novels first to entertain myself. And I loved it! How very baby-boomerish of me. I simply figure there must be a few other people out there with my general frame of mind and that is my audience. But there appears to be even fewer of those who might be interested in the plight of a libertarian bookseller than I estimated. However, that brings me to the subject on my mind now.
After several false starts, I have settled on a ‘science fiction’ premise set in the same universe as a previous novel, The knight’s tale, but about hundred and fifty years before those occurrences. That would be less than fifty years from the present. And now begun, I am finding ‘The Decision’ very disturbing. I am writing fiction. I am not trying to make predictions. But simply extrapolating a storyline from these several given facts of the present has placed me in a future I don’t like dealing with. ‘Dystopian’ would be the usual inadequate descriptive. And this is not only because of the cataclysmic presumptions involved.
We all die. This fact comes before you pay all your taxes. Baby boomers in particular may have ignored this fact but the reality is setting in. And I am sad to say that you too, my dear reader, will very likely be dead before the events I describe in this novel might occur, but I have postulated that some individuals who are adults right now might still be treading the wreckage of this future and I must attempt to imagine what they might think, or be thinking, about the lost past they knew.
Now, the recent relinquishing of all individual rights and liberties to the ‘authorities’ in the guise of a public health emergency prompts this essay. Mind you, for the most part, these are not elected ‘authorities’ but appointed ones. Never-the-less, the decisions the authorities are making today will bear heavily on tomorrow. And that forces much of the present into relief.
And I mentioned my notes. On a typical day I make half a dozen or more relating to new ideas or things I am interested in working on. Most of the several thousand 3 x 5 cards which will come into play in this novel were written years ago. Thus they are a sort of non-chronological record of both the past and the future. They are not dated. I used to date every card and I found it disturbing to my concentration in other ways as I reflexively attempted to remember the instigation or motive for the premise of the idea. ‘What could I have been thinking?’ But that is not important now. The premise alone is the matter. If I must tie it to past thoughts or circumstances, it is useless.
I have rediscovered in these notes some of the ideas I used in a previous novel, The knight’s tale, involving the pandemics that I supposed over ten years ago would finally eliminate most of human life on Earth. A cheery thought. At the time of writing the early drafts of The knight’s tale, we had just gone through the Swine Flu pandemic which was relatively minor unless you had a relative who died from it. But in my life I have also witnessed the devastation of the AIDS virus ( about 32 million deaths and counting), the Asian Flu (over a million deaths), Hong Kong Flu (over 1 million deaths), and a constant drumbeat of other yearly flu deaths numbering in the tens of thousands in the US alone, but hundreds of thousands world-wide. Now COVID-19 is among us. It is difficult to read those past notes on such matters without relating them to the present.
Certain facts are obvious. Much of the responsibility for the spread of this virus can be placed on governments. The response of most governments has been irresponsible. Many more deaths have occurred as a result of the government’s response than were a direct result of the virus. The social structure of this nation and others have been fundamentally shaken, while confidence in government itself is at its lowest ebb. And many political actors have used the pandemic for their own purposes. But, perhaps even worse than the political opportunism, the news media have used the scare quote of the day to drive ratings rather than report the best available information as they have magnified the natural panic that people might feel. The ‘fear itself’ that President Roosevelt rightly identified has resulted in the greatest harm of all.
The subject of government corruption and failure plays an important role in all our lives life, as it does in the lives of those I am writing about, but it is not the subject of this novel. ‘The Decision’ is a story of good people and bad attempting to survive in an extreme situation not of their choosing. Not just a libertarian thing.
And I have no intention of writing a novel about a pandemic. Given the context of individual lives, the ravages are the matter. And as I suggested, most people don’t even know a libertarian, so I am not overtly putting that philosophy to work here, though I must use the sensibility I know best. Appropriating the wisdom of yet another President, all of us can be foolish some of the time, and some of us are foolish all the time, but all of us are not foolish all the time. And the time will certainly come when some of our children and grandchildren will refuse to be abused by the ‘authorities.’
‘The Decision’ will be made right here on the website, in portions, over the next year or more, much as I wrote out The Republic of Books and other story ideas over recent years. It is always a sobering process to know that your scrivenings will be immediately seen by others. It might even save me from my own foolishness.