Three Men Lost in the Woods

Porcupine Pundit

This is a parable that may help a Non-Libertarian understand how a Libertarian feels.

A story about 3 travelers lost in the woods.

In this story, they found a safe clearing to make camp. One was sent out to forage for food, another was tasked with building shelter and the last was to gather fuel and start a fire.


When they gathered for the evening, they cooked the food over the fire and then went to sleep in the shelter. In the morning, they set off to find their way out of the woods, once again. As they were walking, they came to a fork in the path.

They had a decision to make, whether they should choose one path for all to travel or split up and try both. If they split up, one pointed out, we will lose a critical member for our survival. But, another pointed out, if we split up, we will double our chances of having someone finding a way out of the woods. The third pointed out, yes someone could find their way out but then abandon those left behind.

Let us call the first man security. He wants everyone to stay together and survive… although they will decrease the odds of getting out of the woods.

Let us call the second man opportunity. He is willing to take the risk of discomfort in order to maximize the opportunity to find s solution to being lost in the woods.

Let us call the third man fear. He wants to surrender risk, further discomfort, and would choose to be lost than having a chance of being abandoned.

Now it is clear to us, that only one of the three men was desiring, or willing, to go off on his own and take a different path. If he did as he believed was right, he would get his way and the other two would not.

If he stayed, he would grow resentful each and every day at the lost opportunity and having to perform a task that may be proven to be unnecessary have he been able to exercise his freedom of choice at the fork in the road. This resentment may manifest itself in the form of growing poorer performance in the daily tasks of mutual survival… thus making it more difficult for the entire group.

So it would make sense that they split up, allowing the man of opportunity to risk taking the second path alone and letting those that have fear and need of security to rely upon each other on the first path.

However, the other two didn’t want to see it that way. They didn’t want to have to reduce their ranks and have to increase their efforts for their survival. They felt it would be to everyone’s benefit to force the man of opportunity to stick with them. They decided to use majority rule, shame, guilt, ridicule, false praise, and all else they could to coerce the man of opportunity to abandon his principles and core beliefs.

Unfortunately, that failed. So they armed themselves with the largest stones and sticks and beat the man of opportunity into submission. Now they all barely survive, still lost in the woods, in the security and fear of their created society.


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