“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” — H.L. Mencken
Rarely have I read a quote that contained more truth. It is the story of my life. In so many cases my energy is spent defending the rights of people I probably wouldn’t like, who are doing things I don’t necessarily approve of, simply because I am able to see how their rights are mine. And yours.
This often puts me in the position of defending scoundrels who are having their liberty violated by people with good intentions, which puts me at odds with those who only see the good intentions and the scoundrels, but not the unintended consequences, or how those consequences could eventually harm us all.
Freedom means doing what you want to do, regardless of whether it is within your rights or not. Liberty is the freedom to do what you have a right to do. While it is sometimes proper to constrain freedom, it is never right to limit anyone’s liberty.
As long as those scoundrels are within their rights — they are not attacking, stealing, or trespassing — it doesn’t matter if I like them or approve of what they are doing. They still have a right to be doing it and no one has a right, or the authority, to interfere. No matter how noble the interference might seem or how much I might agree with the general objection to what is being done.
If you are willing to violate the scoundrel’s rights then you shouldn’t be surprised when you discover that you are someone else’s scoundrel who is facing the torch-bearing villagers anxious to storm your castle for the “common good.” And, as long as you are not violating anyone else’s rights, I’ll be right there beside you, whether I like you or approve of your actions or not.
You only have the liberty you respect in others. I am willing to fight against the violation of the liberties of others because it is the right thing to do, and my expectation is that no one will call for my liberty to be violated in any way. I’ll hold up my end even if others don’t reciprocate.