Why I Am Not A Libertarian – The Myth of Neutrality

3 Jan

It is shortsighted or dishonest to think that the legalization of hitherto illegal activities can ever be value-neutral. Another way of putting it: it is shortsighted or dishonest to think you do not have a way of life and that this way of life does not necessarily conflict with other ways of life.

The libertarian thinks: “You do not have to smoke Marijuana. Keeping it illegal is an oppressive wish to enforce your views on other people.” He has the corresponding thought: “I do not force my views on others because I want to legalize it. My views aren’t oppressing others because I am giving them the choice to smoke or not.”

First, I will make a simple plea to honesty. And then, I will give a possible example that refutes the libertarian claim to neutrality. In this post I am trying to convince the libertarian that “You too want the law to mirror your opinions of right and wrong.”559532_124365704380703_469266583_n-600x350

(1) Be honest libertarian-liberal friends, you have a “value system” just as much as anyone else. When you succeed in legalizing something hitherto illegal, your values have beaten somebody else’s values. It is not morally neutral to say it is OK to use marijuana, but a moral position just like any other moral position. The only difference is that it is a more permissive position, insofar as it permits human beings the choice of smoking. It appears to be the less oppressive option because it offers this choice, whereas the person who wishes to keep marijuana illegal appears to be more oppressive because he is willing to limit what others are legally allowed.

However, what if I find it oppressive to live in a world where nobody shares my way of life? A people are free when they are free to live their way of life. This requires two things: (1) that your political community shares your way of life, and (2) that your political community isn’t the slave of another political community. If your way of life is to smoke pot and eat McDonald’s, then you are free so long as your community says these are good things to do and another community hasn’t come by and enslaved you.

(2) Example: Pretend I am a political leader that works very hard to keep the people of my city moderate and strong. I know that it takes a great deal of work to do this, because human passions are hard things to compete against. They persuade most people. Nevertheless, I love the freedoms my people have earned through our courage, moderation and ability to wage war against our enemies and so I work very hard to persuade my people that listening to their base pleasures is bad. Suppose a libertarian swaggers into my city and says, “Don’t you all know you should be allowed to eat as much McDonald’s as you like and smoke marijuana as well!” What am I to think of this character? My first thought will be that he is trying to enslave me and my people. His people must have been exhausted by our strength and this is their insidious plot to weaken us. But what happens when I find out this little talking-box is sincere? What a wonder! Of course, his sincerity only makes him more of a threat. That is, his ideas will weaken my people whether he is sincere or not, but it will be harder to convince my people that he is evil if he is indeed sincere and not at all malicious. His sincerity has a better shot of winning my people over to the bad thing because he is sincere, and so he turns out to be a graver enemy for his sincerity. Now, say the libertarian, over many years, convinced my people to eat McDonald’s and smoke pot. Who will have conquered whom?

In the end it is not about any given choice, but about ways of life made up by many choices. There are very few ways of life that are not based in a political community. When someone wants to change the laws of a community that person wants to change the ways of that community. This is a zero-sum game. It is time we were all a little more honest with ourselves about politics.

Post Script: I am fully aware this honesty can be dangerous, but it seems that the present dishonesty is the real threat at the moment a la Tocqueville’s soft-despotism. We are striking down anti-polygamy laws for goodness sake! “Nothing is dangerous.” A dangerous (and boring) way of thinking.


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