The wisdom of libertarian neutrality on social issues was demonstrated again recently when one man’s opinion on marriage provoked chicken bans in major cities and a cancer fatwa from the nation’s least-qualified marriage expert.
Libertarians are often described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but many of us prefer the term “neutral”, especially when liberals are prone to go fascist over things like someone expressing a personal opinion they don’t’ like. Our attitude about social legislation is the same as most other legislation – we don’t like legislation.
This is often wrongly construed, especially by conservatives, as an endorsement of vice, but the libertarian objection to criminalizing choice is not about sin, it is about crime. Specifically, it is the rejection of the notion that government can invent a crime when there is no victim.
Who is the victim when I possess a firearm, or if I carry one without a government permission slip? That is a victimless crime – and we oppose laws that restrict our right to keep and bear arms.
Who is the victim if you offer me work at $7.00 per hour and I accept your offer of my own free will? That is a victimless crime – and we object to minimum wage and all other laws that restrict our right to work.
Who is the victim when a farmer sells milk directly to a consumer? That is a victimless crime – and we stand against laws that prevent choice in the market.
This country has come down to prosecuting lemonade stands and roll-your-own shops, banning chicken sandwiches, hounding hair braiders, fining the uninsured, and programming aerial drones to seek out insurgents holding large cups of pop. OK, that last one was exaggerated, but you get the point.
The list of victimless crimes can go on for pages without ever having to get into the juicy stuff, but it is when we confront the lurid that liberty’s mettle is sorely tested. Freedom to choose demands the courage to let some people choose badly some of the time.
If prostitution is the price to pay to have free markets, we are better off to tolerate the whores. If pornography is the price we have to pay to insure that we can always buy “Atlas Shrugged,” then the presence of smut merchants is oddly comforting. The risk of addiction is preferable to government choosing our intoxicants for us.
Tolerance of vice is necessary because the alternative is intolerable – when government can concoct victims at will, or assign victimhood unto itself, then it can justify any action it takes. It has, it does, and it will.
As is often observed, everything Adolf Hitler did was lawful; the millions he killed were criminals according to laws he enacted to “protect the German people.” The only reason a maniac like Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t ban everything he doesn’t like and force you to buy everything he does like is because he can’t. Any reasonable person should like to keep it that way.
When we define liberty as the absence of government in choice, it becomes easy to see when government has overstepped its bounds. A government which would outlaw sandwiches because one company employee expressed an opinion cannot be trusted to enforce a workable moral code for 310 million free people. Pandering is not principle, and the inconsistencies of partisans on social issues are glaring.
Democrats who tear their rotator cuffs patting themselves on the back for insisting the State sanction gay marriage will recoil in horror at extending the same right to polygamists. Why? Any two will do, but three’s a felony? Why is the number of hyphens in a modern surname the dividing line between subsidy and crime?
And Republicans who will drive hours to attend a “hands off my health care” rally will be the first to demand that Government come down with both hands clenched into fists on someone else’s health care if it happens to involve cannabis. I have read the Constitution’s enumerated powers hundreds of times and still can’t find “ban plants” listed there.
Social neutrality is the principled demand that government stand mute on issues of personal morality so that people can act on their own conscience and beliefs and are not compelled to act against them. Don’t ban, don’t fund – fix a bridge and go lay by your dish. Especially you, Bloomberg.
None of us would tolerate our neighbor barging into our home this week telling us how to raise our children under threat of seizure; we should not change our minds next week simply because she has landed a cushy government job in order to get better insurance for her husband’s knee replacement.
The growing power of the Tea Party rests upon its focus on economic liberty, fiscal responsibility, and allegiance to our Constitution. Those priorities unite conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists, free-thinkers, independents, Republicans and many Democrats who believe in individual rights and individual responsibility – and yes, there are many of them.
It is an unbeatable electoral coalition that can only be defeated if it is divided – and social issues are the liberals’ only hope of dividing us. That’s why they keep fabricating one phony civil liberty “crisis” after another as the election approaches – abortion, contraception, gay marriage, illegal immigration, chicken sandwiches.
There are as many different beliefs about virtue and vice as there are Americans to hold them; that is the diversity that makes us a great nation, not some arbitrary herd assignment based on skin color, genital configuration, or ancestry. God decided to gift us with moral free agency, not the Libertarian Party; His is the higher law we are commanded to follow and His is the judgment we must accept when it comes to sin and salvation. Secular government should stay in its lane.
Libertarians do not advocate for any specific activity we seek to decriminalize; we merely object to putting our fellow citizens in prison because they make different choices than we do.
Because that is not very liberty-like.
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