When Liberty Can Turn Ugly


Where Liberty is not connected with accountability, the results can turn ugly. For example, in a study about how people act first when they can be identified as opposed to anonymously, some observations were made on the same people first when they were on an elevator and then later when they were driving their cars. While on the elevator, most would say “After you,” and the responses would be “No, after you.” But when the same people were driving their cars, and thus anonymous, they would normally try to cut off the other drivers. That’s what anonymity can do. To sum up this thought, the great UCLA Basketball Coach Johnny Wooden put it best by saying that “Your reputation is the way others perceive you, but your character is how you act when no one else is looking.” Under this definition, we all know that some people’s character when they have the Liberty to act anonymously can be ugly.
And this is a problem, because today we are all facing circumstances in which Russian agents seemingly were able anonymously to plant stories intended to influence the outcome of our recent presidential elections; some people are hiding their identities on the Internet in an attempt to coerce sexual photographs or even liaisons with other unsuspecting people; and anonymous donors are funneling money into elections for their selfish goals. So what can be done about this problem? Our institutions should adjust as best they can to reduce anonymous acts, and thus restore accountability. Of course this can be touchy, because the more the government intrudes into private transactions, the more that Liberty can suffer. But life is a constant tradeoff of some interests against others. Liberty is not only important, it is sacred. And sometimes total Liberty must be reduced to protect us from other people’s predatory and ugly natures.

** Here is one of my favorite anonymous quotes:
“Recently I have read so much about the harmful effects of what we eat, breathe and drink that I have decided to give up reading.”

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President