On Coffee & Liberty
I once took an informal class through the University of Texas titled: “Coffee Barista for a Day”. Although it only lasted until noon, the class was a great introduction to a world I knew very little about. The handful of us that signed up learned about the history, the cultivation, and the processes that go into a cup of coffee. After the history lesson, we were to try our hands at crafting caffeinated staples like espressos, lattes, and Americanos. But before we got to that, the instructor — a coffee shop owner himself — asked us this question: “what makes the best cup of coffee?” The answer seemed obvious. One after another, each of us took turns seeking the answer. “It’s the quality of the beans that counts,” says one person. “It’s the process that matters most,” replies another. With a soft smile, the instructor answered his own question. “No,” he said to our surprise, “it’s whatever you like most.” For those in the group looking for the secret to the perfect cup of coffee, they were disappointed. To those of us happy to be along for the ride, we knew it to be true.
See, the instructor wasn’t being coy or sarcastic. In fact, he was being completely authentic. As a coffee shop owner, he could’ve boasted his own brew to be the best. Instead, he provided an inarguably objective answer. One could try to proclaim he or she knows the key to the perfect cup of coffee. That answer could be true for 99% of people. But maybe 1% just prefers a different cup. Argument dissolved. One person may say the perfect cup exists in a diner mug at a run down Waffle House off some interstate. Another may make a ritualistic ceremony of their pour-over each morning in their expensive glassware. What makes the best cup of coffee is up to the individual. No one way is forced upon another. If it was, it would fall short of what the individual sees as his or her ideal cup.
What made me recall this memory was listening to a podcast on one of my morning walks. It was an episode of the Tom Woods Show discussing what the world needs most right now. The guest in the episode is a freedom-minded lawyer, Marc Victor. What Victor was arguing was reintroducing a concept most (if not all) of us learn in kindergarten: the Golden Rule. He elaborated that kindergarten teachers teach children to treat others well, not to steal their toys, and to not bully. All good things. By comparing society to a kindergarten class, he was arguing that for the world to become a better place, we need to bring back the concept: live and let live. He made an interesting point clarifying that he wasn’t interested in the demerits of capitalism or communism, large government or no government. Those were not topics of interest to him. What matters most is allowing others to let live by not forcing them to live under one system or another. If one group wants to live in an anarcho-communist commune, let them. It is their absolute liberty to do so. Forcing people to live under such conditions, however, violates their sovereignty. Forcing one group of people to live under a system they don’t want to is the equivalent of forcing upon them the perceived “best” cup of coffee of another.
What’s the best cup of coffee? What’s the best way to structure society? What’s the best form of government? The answer is universal: whichever one you like most. The caveat is allowing people to choose and enjoy their best cup of coffee, societal structure, or form of government. By doing so, we uphold individual liberties to the fullest.