Jaywalking: Libertarianism in New York City

Everybody knows that New York City is a major center of liberal ideology. A number of New Yorkers decided to remind Glenn Beck of that fact a few weeks back.

But while the residents of New York think liberal, they often act libertarian. Just go to any Manhattan street corner. The government in its wisdom and kindness has install lights that tell the people of New York whether they are to WALK or DON’T WALK. Clearly, any liberal would tell you that such signs are necessary to create order and protect pedestrians from oncoming traffic.

But reality is very different. As half those signs glow DON’T WALK, dozens of people are crossing against the government’s advice. The people of New York realize that they don’t the government to tell them when to cross. They can just look for themselves, see if a car is coming, and decide for themselves. People don’t need the government to organize every aspect of their lives.

In the movie Keeping the Faith, the two main characters are waiting at a corner for a traffic light. The scene, meant to be a metaphor about life and faith, could also be a metaphor about politics and government.

 What the– Why are you standing here?

Oh, my God. You’re right. What am I doing? What am I doing standing here?

Sign hasn’t changed.

– Oh, my God. – This is New York City. Who waits for a sign?

What– Cross the damn street! What, do we all need signs to tell us what to do now?

God does not always give us a sign what to do. We certainly don’t always need signs from the government.

“Men must walk in freedom, responsible for their own behaviour.”  Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

— Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

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