The Political Werewolf
If you know me, then you know I'm a big political nut. So, I've decided to add my own personal flavor to the realm of political discussion. We'll be talking about various issues - some of them having to do with current events, others perhaps more on a philosophical level. But in any case, you're free to respond to whatever you read here, either by E-mail or on the message board.
All righty, here we go.
Where's the Harm?
It's kinda weird, but sometimes the same liberals who lecture me about how guns and SUVs are bad and should be wiped off the face of the Earth also like to put on the libertarian hat every once in a while when it comes to other issues, not the least of which is abortion and various sexual issues. (Ironically enough, I tend to be a bit more moderate on those issues.) Of course, I could call these people on how they seem have some pretty raggedy holes in that philosophy, but I could say that about practically all of their arguments. Instead, what I'd like to focus on this time around is the whole concept of libertarian ethics. (That's right, I'm about to piss off two groups of people for the price of one. I need to catch up after missing last week.)
See, here's the thing. When you talk to a libertarian, they want to boil down the government to its absolute minimum. That's all well and good as far as bureaucracy and taxation is concerned, but when you get into the big mushy stuff like whether or not you should be able to rip the tag off of your mattress or streak in public, I don't necessarily think that we can cling to the rhetoric that as long as the people involved are consenting adults who don't infringe on the rights of others, everything is A-OK.
First of all, we have to realize something. Everything we do has a consequence, be it positive or negative. If you shoot a gun at someone, then obviously you are injuring that person and unless the person was breaking into your house or pointing a gun right back at you, chances are the rest of the public will look down on your actions. If you steal from someone to pay for your drug habit, the law is not likely to sympathize with your addiction. Now that's all well and good, but that doesn't address the "consenting adults" argument. Since we live in a dynamic society, sometimes the effects people have on that society aren't as obvious as a homicide or robbery.
Let's take drugs for example. There are a number of countries in the world that have legalized all drugs, at least in certain areas. These areas tend to be a major blight on the vicinity. They lower property values, which in turn raises the crime and poverty rates around these areas. It becomes less safe for children to pass through these areas - that is, if they ever wanted to. Now, you could make the argument that the drug users in these places are engaging in activites that don't directly intrude on the rights of others and that it was their decision to forfeit their lives for the pursuit of heroin or crack, but that's a pretty narrow view. I'm not even getting into the part about these drug addicts often subsisting on welfare, or worse - panhandling (since a libertarian society probably wouldn't have welfare of any kind) to feed their addiction. In a superficial sense, they aren't harming anyone but themselves, but take a more peripheral view of the results and you'll find things less cut-and-dry.
Another element of the consenting argument is all the various forms of sexuality that you'd open the door for. I'm not talking about the traditional Tab-A-into-Slot-B stuff, as a fellow DDRFreak member calls it. I'm not even talking about homosexuality, which I personally have no problem with. I'm talking about some of the more deviant acts that two (or more) people could engage in. Disgusting stuff. Stuff I respect you guys way too much to mention. I personally would not want my children (should I ever have any) to grow up in a culture where all of these truly gross fetishes are condoned - and let's face it, most of the motivation for the gay right movement and its ilk is to normalize fringe activities that many of us find repugnant. To tell you the truth, it's not as if thousands of people aren't getting away with sodomy every year; in order for such a charge to be filed, there has to be a complaintant, and if we're discussing two consenting adults not infringing on another's rights, by definition nobody's complaining. It's simply a matter of keeping it private - which sex should be anyway.
Now let's flip things around a little bit. I have a couple libertarian acquaintances, and while I don't necessarily agree with everything they stand for, at least they're even-handed about their beliefs. It isn't as if they half-ass their philosophy and add all sorts of qualifiers and conditions - their rhetoric is as straightforward as their ideal government. Now, you should watch a practicing liberal attempt to incorporate the consenting argument to their philosophy when they talk about certain issues. Talk about jamming a square peg into a round hole.
For one thing, one of the defining elements of liberalism is gun control. Granted, if they had it their way they would prohibit guns instead of control them, but all the same they feel that guns by themselves are evil objects and that people should be prevented from buying or using them. But if you look at it, it falls neatly into the consenting adult picture. I agree to buy a gun, the vendor agrees to sell it. Nobody is being harmed by this transaction, and it's only if I load the gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger that any harm is done, so by the libertarian thesis, this is kosher.
And what about the free market? If I have the money and the dealer has one in stock, I should be allowed to buy an SUV, even if it gets only 20 miles to the gallon and I'll never go off-road. The only way I harm anyone is if I crash. And what about sodas, cigarettes, and all the other things liberals like to attach guilt taxes on? If I want to rot my teeth out, turn my lungs black and die at the age of 32, it's my right to do it. The government should not be in the business of protecting us from ourselves, particularly when it involves such insignificant vices.
I don't really agree with the notion that consenting adults should be free to do as they please, because there are way too many opportunities for people to construe that to mean that every deviant and personally destructive act gets the green light. But at the very least, if you're going to make that arguement, don't play both sides of the fence.
Previous columns:5/12/03: The Ten Questions a Liberal Will Never Answer
5/5/03: Let The Fun Begin
4/21/03: It's My Money, Not TheIRS
4/14/03: Bush Won - Get Over It
4/7/03: Conservative Business 101
3/31/03: I'm a Celebrity - No War in Iraq!
3/24/03: Patriotism vs. Nationalism