A common misconception of libertarians is that we are ingrates. “You want all the good things governments give you,” a self-proclaimed progressive will say, “but you don’t want to pay for them.” The Free Agent would like to correct that misapprehension—it is illogical to be grateful to the brute who lifts a dollar from her reticule and gives back fifty cents’ worth of interstate highway. Furthermore, libertarians are so grateful for the government that was designed for this country that we work tirelessly to restore it.
And as we all do at Thanksgiving, The Free Agent has been counting her many blessings, and has settled on one to give especial thanks for this year, the coffee table.
Not the dining room table. Not the leaves-in, good china, high-stakes, who the hell are these people, turkey with a side of anger, new boyfriend sitting on his hands, why haven’t we put her in a home yet, rudderless asocial co-worker, we would have died before serving a frozen pie in my day, can’t we get along once a year, even when we were kids you only thought of yourself, marshmallow argument for the millionth time, oh I really shouldn’t, I can’t wait to go away to college, pass the tub we pretend is butter, no you can’t be excused, dining room table.
The other one, out in the living room, where the people who want to talk retire. The table of what kind of pie would you like, here try some of each, cream in my coffee, please. The coffee table which is the elongated descendant of the Neolithic stew-pot, around which grew a society that considered alternatives and contemplated the future.
In particular, The Free Agent is grateful for a coffee table in the Denver home of David F. Nolan, who died this past Sunday. Legend has it that around his coffee table, on December 11, 1971, the seeds of the Libertarian Party were sewn.
Responding to wage and price controls imposed by Richard Nixon (a president setting wage limits, preposterous!), the committee to form a Libertarian party came up with penetrating insights around that table: that much of the evil in the world starts with one person forcing his or her will upon another, that if an action is wrong for one person to do, it is still wrong for a group to do, that government is nothing other than force. Nolan had devised a chart which has evolved into The World’s Shortest Political Quiz, showing clearly that the terms left and right were inadequate to map the political terrain.
Those gathered around that coffee table created a seat for The Free Agent and her cohorts in American politics. Thank you, David Nolan.