It’s nearly impossible for a libertarian to go through their entire life without being asked the great rhetorical question, “If you don’t like it here why don’t you leave?” They can also put it as an order. “If you don’t like it here, then leave!”
My personal favorite is the South Park version: If you don’t like ‘Murica, then you can geeettt ouuuuuut!
I have had far too many political discussions that last for about five seconds because they end on that note. No matter what evidence you present, no matter how logical you are, I promise you someone at some point will throw that line at you.
To my everlasting shame, I actually once used this retort in a column about the Pledge of Allegiance for my high school newspaper. Yes, yours truly once said people who don’t want to recite a pledge written by a socialist in front of a piece of cloth every morning could leave the country.
Obviously, things have changed. When I attended city council meetings and everyone else placed their hand over their heart and recited it, I sat there with my arms crossed.
To be fair, I understand where I was coming from when I penned the article; the people I spoke with who refused to say the pledge tended to not hate merely the government, but the idea of America itself.
Nevertheless, the rhetorical question or its counterpart are based on a horrible moral principle: If someone feels like they are being oppressed or persecuted, it’s their duty to leave. Perhaps because our ancestors did just that, leaving the Old World for the New World, it’s a natural reaction.
It’s also designed to shut down a discussion. It doesn’t facilitate a thoughtful conversation. It’s an ex cathedra pronouncement. This is different from an argument. An argument makes a claim with which someone can either agree or disagree. An ex cathedra pronouncement simply declares something as a truth.
Ex cathedra declarations are made all the time in lieu of arguments when discussing politics:
Without government, there’d be chaos!
We need taxes to pay for our streets and roads and infrastructure.
We fight terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.
That’s not the way the world works.
This is the way things work.
You’re just naive/fascist/communist/racist/bigoted/greedy/selfish/Neo-Confederate
The “if you don’t like it then leave” pronouncement is particularly atrocious because it doesn’t even bother to refute the argument made. It could even be construed as a tacit form of admission.
It’s as if the person is saying “Everything you told me is factually correct, which makes me insecure, but instead of acknowledging this I’m going to distract from the issue at hand by shifting the burden of responsibility onto your shoulders. It’s not our job to fix the problem but for you to leave.”
Imagine if you moved into a neighborhood. Imagine if the Mafia moved in and the Black Hand extorted money from you under threats of violence. Imagine if you complained about it to other neighbors. Imagine if they actually thought the extortion was acceptable because they believed the Mafia kept them safe. Imagine if you pointed out how the Mafia is a criminal organization and commits murder. Imagine if instead of refuting you they said, “If you don’t like this neighborhood, then you can get out!”
People who have their rights violated shouldn’t be expected to leave their property. It is not their duty to remove themselves from an unjust situation, though sometimes they should if practicality demands it. Had I lived in Europe during the late 1930’s or 1940’s, I would have gotten out. Though the “you can get out!” riposte is not what Germans or Italians should have said when they heard critical remarks about Hitler or Mussolini.
It is the moral responsibility of the person violating other people’s rights to cease.
Really, the whole “if you don’t like it you can leave” policy is a form of victim-blaming by ignoring the actions of the perpetrator. We don’t “get out” for the same reason a man whose house is being broken into doesn’t “get out.” Where we live isn’t the problem. It’s the people whose actions violate our rights. We are free to leave, if we choose, but we also have a right to stay.
The mantra also stands at odds with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. When governments become too oppressive, it’s not the duty of the people to leave. It’s their duty to abolish those governments.
At Lexington and Concord, the British redcoats told the Minutemen that if they didn’t like their confiscation of arms and munitions then they could “get out.” Maybe my recollection of history is a bit hazy, but the colonists seemed to have picked another option.
Over two hundred years later, it’s no different. If I don’t like things about America, it’s not because I don’t like the country. It’s because I don’t like what my government, be it municipal, county, state or federal, has done to it, just my ancestors didn’t like what the British government had done to their colonies.
If anyone needs to “geeeet ouuuuut,” it needs to be the people causing the trouble.