Make it easy on yourself
There's nothing more you can do
You're so full of what is right
You can't see what is true
UPDATE: Before you read further, please see this note.
I live in a neighborhood of about 40 homes. Other than these neighbors, we are pretty isolated. Most of the families have been here for years, some for generations. We all speak pretty openly about all kinds of things: war, politics, the government. Fortunately for me, for the most part they hold similar views to mine. Stunning, I know. I call it heaven on earth!
As I mentioned, we are pretty isolated – a few miles down the road is a service station with a small convenience store. If one really wants to stock up, he has to go to the county seat of the next county – about 55 miles each way. No one goes in more than once a month; if anyone has an urgent need, they just check around – someone is bound to be going within the next day or so.
Being isolated, we have to fend for ourselves. Everyone learns to handle firearms at an early age. If you want to live here, you have to be able to contribute to the protection and safety of the group. It also helps to deal with the occasional wild animal…most four-legged.
Many of the residents read Lew Rockwell; a few support the Mises Institute. Some prefer Cato or FEE – we tease them often for their milquetoast ways, but we accept them anyway. Generally speaking, we see eye to eye on the general direction of things. A few are a bit more nationalistic, but we get along OK with them because they really hate the foreign intervention stuff. This is enough for most of us.
We all meet once a month just to talk about such things…and drink a few beers…and later some Jack and Coke….you get the idea. While we offer help whenever anyone is in need, we also know when to stay out of other people’s business.
In those rough edges of the NAP, the spaces in between – where the lines aren’t so clear or the infractions could be considered de minimis – we have figured out what works for us and pretty much everyone just decides it is better to go along with the program. Sure, it isn’t pure, but for living in this world it is about as NAP as one can hope to get.
We have what you might call a court (we call it The Hall of the Elders – kind of pretentious, I know; but that’s what it is) for those issues that for some reason can’t get resolved amongst and between the effected parties. It is made up of three people from the ten families that have been here the longest – families in terms of generations, not in terms of current residency.
This system ensures we have some continuity in law (not really law, but I am at a loss to find a term that works in this world). We rotate the three every year, by drawing lots amongst the eldest male member from each of the next seven families. I know the word “male” hurts some of you snowflakes out there…that’s your problem, not ours.
We don’t write many rules down – we have found that the more delineated the rules (e.g. like in a Constitution or some kind of Great Charter of the Liberties) the more likely someone will try to weasel his way around these. It has happened too often in history (like every time) to believe otherwise.
Anyway, most of the “rules” are pretty easy to understand: don’t steal, don’t damage someone else’s property, etc. Pretty close to the non-aggression principle, for those of you who understand this term.
Like I said, some of the families have been here for generations – we have developed a real trust with each other; we don’t want to be the generation that destroys what our ancestors have left us. It sounds corny, I know. But it works.
Those who have not been here very long come to learn pretty quickly how easy life can be the sooner they figure out how things are done around here regarding those de minimis gray areas – what we would call custom or culture, but to some of you, maybe the “rules.”
You know, some of our customs aren’t even gray areas – we know they aren’t pure NAP, but we also know how we want to live and the environment we want for our children. The children learn from the elders – it helps to further ensure this continuity.
Once in a while a new family will move in; we throw a big party. They get to know us, we get to know them. The children all play together; they teach the new kids how to fish, shoot a bow and arrow, that kind of stuff. The new family will generally figure out our ways and learn to go along. Until recently….
I need to give a little background. Pretty much every family here enjoys things involving smoke: grill-outs, a smoker, a roaring fireplace, a backyard fire pit – none of it with gas, all real wood. I don’t think a day goes by without at least half the families having fired something up (yes, even those if they want – what they put in their own body is their own business). On weekends? Let’s just say any family that wasn’t grilling or smoking some meat…we would think that the entire family died.
So a new family moved in. Within a couple of days the complaints started: “I can’t stand the smoke…I am allergic to the smell of cooking meat…you are getting my windows dirty…think about the children…” Stuff like that.
A few of us talked to them; it didn’t do any good – they were up in arms and wanted the “court” to hear their case. I mean, I guess it’s OK, but this isn’t a good sign – two days in and already causing a problem.
You should have heard their arguments in front of the court; from an NAP standpoint they were perfect. I will summarize it here, because even I cannot do justice to the NAP-bearing logic that these new owners were spouting. Let’s just say if you were to build an NAP automaton (some of my neighbors refer to this type as “autistic libertarians”), it couldn’t have done any better.
To make a long story short, smoke blowing into their yard is a violation of the non-aggression principle. They breathe it; it gets in their eyes; they have to clean their windows more often.
Technically, they are correct.
One of our elders (again, I wish I had a better sounding term) argued the other side: we have been living this way for generations; it is a big part of our lives; it is one of the things that keeps us attached to this community, to each other. Further, if it even is a violation of the non-aggression principle, it is de minimis.
Technically, he is correct.
The new couple stood up again: if it was so important, why didn’t you tell us before we moved in? We signed a half-page contract; it said nothing about fireplaces and smokers. How is it right that we lose some portion of our property rights for something that we never agreed to?
Technically, they are correct.
The elder stood up: why would we bother putting something in the contract that merely states how we have lived around here for hundreds of years?
Technically, he is correct.
One thing we all decided: from now on, the only “new” families we would let in would be a family recommended by one of the ten long-time families. The other thirty families didn’t get a vote on this, although the majority agreed. You see, we don’t believe in equal rights; it is a road to hell disguised as a path of good intentions.
Anyway, in the current case with this family and the smoke, it was too late for that.
A quality of justice
A quantity of light
A particle of mercy
Makes the color of right
Who wins? Why?
Which verdict is more just?
Which verdict is more likely to keep the community in peace? Does this even matter? Why or why not?