The Logic of 'Love It or Leave It'

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Any person
who has strong sentiments against the way things are done in this
country has probably heard "love it or leave it" at some
point. What is the logic of this argument?

First of all,
we must apply this idea to common life and the problems that we
encounter daily. Suppose I go into a fast food restaurant, and the
place is packed. Kids are running around screaming, trash cans are
overflowing, and the line seems endless. In this situation, the
appropriate response might be to leave and go to another establishment.

This is obviously
an easy choice that takes no major effort. However, there are other
alternatives. You could complain to a manager about the restaurant's
environment and express your inability to return until conditions
have changed. It is likely that your complaint will not do much,
but it could. This second alternative is obviously a choice other
than leaving. The second alternative promises some change (profit/loss
analysis of private business could also change things by leaving;
this is much different from how government would react to a citizen
leaving). The fact that the second alternative gives other options
shows that you don't have to leave. The fast food restaurant has
a capability to change, and in its own interest it should.

The above situation
is a small inconvenience. Let's take it up a notch. Suppose a fraternity
buys the house next to me. The noise level is horrendous, and I
can't sleep at night. According to the "love it or leave it"
people, I should sell my house and move. Why not choose other avenues
and alternatives like attempting to negotiate with the owners, call
the police, or try to get new noise regulations in your neighborhood?
Because the local government does not have adequate noise regulations,
you should accordingly leave the entire city instead of attempting
to change the law.

Our founding
fathers were not "love it or leave it" people. Thomas
Jefferson did not tell everyone in the colonies with the Declaration
of Independence to leave the oppressive tax regime of England and
move to the unsettled and ungoverned far west. In fact, Thomas Jefferson
went one step further by saying in the declaration:

"…Whenever
any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is
the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute
new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing
its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to
effect their Safety and Happiness."

Jefferson did
not simply wish you to stay and change the laws of your government.
If necessary, the people should "abolish it, and [to] institute
new Government." I can express this idea in a similar sentence.
The government should respect the wishes of its people or leave.

Another argument
made by "love it or leave it" people is that this country
is better than other countries and those against the current regime
should stop complaining. I agree. The US is one of the best countries
in the world. However, being the best does not justify all actions.

Suppose that
if you live in Mexico a citizen is stabbed five times and in the
US you are only beaten. Surely, any reasonable person would agree
that the US is better than Mexico. Being better does not justify
violence and coercion toward citizens. Actions of both countries
are inappropriate even though Mexico's are more violent.

Isn't there
a separation of loving your country without loving the government?
I can love New Orleans without loving all rules, taxes, and regulations
involved. Another example is parents. Most of us love our parents,
but we didn't enjoy being punished as kids. Therefore, any kid who
does not like their parents' rules should become a street rat according
to "love it or leave it." The child loves his parent despite
the rules. Together, the kids and parents may negotiate new rules.

This philosophy
is utterly incompatible with real life. "Love it or leave it"
is best left to those who cannot defend justifications of state
power and laws through logical argumentation.

May
18, 2006

Vedran
Vuk [send him mail] is a student
of Economics at Loyola University of New Orleans, and a 2006 Summer
Fellow at the Mises Institute.

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