Pushing Libertarians up against the Wall

Since Comrade Karl doesn’t seem to want to play, I thought I might ask some of the more Libertarian-minded readers here on the RNL if they would help me understand a few things about your ideology.  Now, mind you, I am going to be civil, so I hope you will be in return.

OK, let’s start by granting your “Libertarian Utopia.”  I do not want to set up a straw man, so let’s just say we somehow manage to create a society with the absolute minimum of government – even less than what the founders had.  Let’s also assume that prostitution, gay marriage, drugs, gambling and whatever other vices free and responsible person might wish to engage are legal.  In fact, let’s assume that there is no attempt to legislate morality at all in this new society.  We will simply focus on individual rights and liberty.  I trust that this is a reasonably accurate picture of a Libertarian “Utopia.”  So, unless corrected, I will operate from this position.

First, let me ask you how you would deal with someone who steals your stash of weed?  I mean, it is legally your property, so what do you do when it is stolen?  Do you call the cops?  After all, laws against theft are not “legislating morality,” right?  So it would be perfectly in line with the Libertarian principle to have laws against stealing other peoples’ property.  So I assume you will call the cops.  My question then is the same one I posed to Karl: on what grounds?  You claim you do not want to legislate morality, so how can you accept a law against theft?  Without morality, theft cannot exist, so why would you have a law against it?

Let’s look at another example.  Suppose you are a prostitute and you enter into a contract to have sex with a man for an agreed amount of money.  Now let’s assume this man likes it rough, and he seriously injures you in the process.  What do you do?  Do you press charges, and, if so, on what grounds?  First, there can be no law against harming you because there can be no forced morality.  And as Karl has so eloquently explained, there is no Natural Law, so there is no universal morality.  Therefore, you cannot have a law against assault in this Libertarian world because there can be no assault.  The next problem then is that you willingly entered into a contract to accept money to let this man do what he did.  You may say that physical harm is not part of the contract, but to him, that might just be an inherent part of the act, in which case, for him, it most certainly was part of your agreement.  How do you dispute this?  You can’t argue your version of what is sex against his anymore than you can argue your morality against mine – not without setting some sort of universal moral standard supported by law.  But, if you do that, then haven’t you just crossed the divide over to the “Social Conservative’s” position?  So, how do you deal with these issues?

Next, I have a question about the legal drugs.  Like it or not, this will lead to wide-spread social disorder and massive crime.  People will lose their jobs because they either do not go to work or they are useless on the job.  People will be lying around in the streets, homeless.  And they will be stealing to support their habit (remember: minimum government = no public assistance for drug addicts – not even health care).  If you doubt me, if you feel the need to dispute my assertion, I offer you one word in defense of my assertion: Woodstock!  So, how do you propose we deal with this situation?  (don’t talk to me about Denmark, I’ve seen it firsthand.  I am on solid ground here).

Next, when you realize that the “responsible” members of society are starting to understand that your policies are destroying society, what are you going to do?  When those who have sympathy even for drug addicts start to demand that something be done for the addicts lying in the mud in the streets, what do you do?  When people start to demand that you do something about the theft, what do you do?  When businesses fail because they can’t find employees who will or can work, what do you do?  You can’t pass any laws against the drugs; that would be legislating morality.  You can’t pass laws to provide public assistance; that wouldn’t be “Libertarian.”  So what do you do?  And again, if you think I am exaggerating the inevitable, ask someone who is old enough to actually remember what it was like to be around the Hippie Communes of the 1970’s what they were like.  I think – if they are honest – you might learn that I am on solid ground here.

You see, all laws are based in morality.  What else is a law but a rule that allows society to punish people for violating the social norm of what should and shouldn’t be done?  And what else is morality but a social norm of what should and shouldn’t be done?  Therefore, when a Libertarian tells me that “You can’t legislate morality,” what I hear is, “Let me do what I want to do,” and that sounds a great deal like the Left to me.  In fact, in my experience, the only operative difference is that the Libertarian agrees that I shouldn’t be forced to pay for his welfare.  Other than that, I simply do not see the distinction between the Libertarian and the Liberal who thinks he has claimed the mantle of Jefferson.  And this is why I find that, no matter how sympathetic I may be to their general ideal, society — if it is to preserve individual rights and liberty — must accept that morality is a necessity.  The founders told us so, and who studied these issues more than they?  This is why I cannot stand with the Libertarians.  If I would be free, I must stand with the founders.

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41 thoughts on “Pushing Libertarians up against the Wall

  1. I’m not a Libertarian, though I have some libertarian leanings. I can’t get around the morality issue, either. However, the first scenario would justify calling the cops because the stash of pot is someone’s personal property, so whoever stole it would be violating the principle of personal property ownership. Morality doesn’t really come into it. It’s more of a “what’s mine is mine and it isn’t yours, so if you take it from me, I can use the state to punish you.” And, actually, I’m not terribly uncomfortable with that level of government.

    I suspect the second one would be answered by the right to be secure in your person — which would include a prostitute not having to accept being beaten as part of her business. Her body is, after all, her personal property and what is mine is mine and it isn’t yours, so if you break it, you get punished for the abuse.

    You make an incredibly valid point about the legalized drugs. The Libertarians I know would say that people would use less if it were readily available. They point to the excesses of Alcohol Prohibition and note that alcohol consumption was higher during that time than before or after. I don’t know. I think you’d still end up with a sizable chunk of the population sitting around contemplating their navels, which is going to be destructive to society … at least as destructive to society as the war on drugs has been.

    So maybe a real Libertarian would like to add to the conversation.

    • Aurora,

      To address all your replies at once: what is morality if not a measure of the right/wrong of an action in relation to the violation of another person’s rights?

      If you have a different definition, I’d like to hear it. If not, then you might want to re-address my questions because taking your property is only a “wrong” if you have right to that property, and if you have right to it, then morality just entered the equation and my challenge becomes operative. Otherwise, it’s just an argument of the Libertarian might-makes-right vs. that of the collectivist’s.

  2. Joe,

    I am not sure we can have this discussion in a non-personal manner, and I fear it is going to get heated. Why, you might ask?

    Morality—it’s the issue.

    (for hypothetical example only, and not to stereotype any one person or group) — You see, while you and I, and many others believe that our morality comes from the Bible and God, others such as Atheists will have a differing opinion of where these moralities and social norms come from, and thus a different set of morals and expectations of social norms.

    That one issue is the very issue that is the inherent rot of the liberal movement … no consolidation of morality. And, I fear it is also the inherent rot of the libertarian movement as well.

    • Augger,

      I understand, and this is the primary point I hope some of our Libertarian friends will come to understand: that no man-made notion of morality can sustain a free and self-governing society. Luckily, nature is God’s second book of instruction, which is why and how Job and Cicero both came to roughly the same conclusions as Locke, and as the Bible (I said roughly).

      As for the civility: I’ll do my best to ride the brakes on things if they start getting too rough, but this is the RNL :-)

    • There are many religious libertarians, Augger. But you hit the key point: If man has no morals or religion, then are we to let the govt. dictate them? I believe this is what the libertarians are trying to say. In other words, less govt.

      Also, I don’t feel as if they want to get stoned and nab a prostitute whilst they gamble in Vegas. Geez! B. makes everyone out to be a deviant.

      • Kells,

        Well, technically, if everyone in your world is gambling and grabbing prostitutes, then — in your world, at least — I would be the “deviant.” ;-)

      • “If man has no morals or religion, then are we to let the govt. dictate them?”

        Good question for Melfamy, Kells. After all, it was he that stated right here on the RNL that he needed the government to keep his morality in check. I’ve never asserted once that I depended upon the Federal Government to regulate my sense of morality or behavior. If fact, if you remember, it was I that said:

        “Rights are not subject to your perception of my “need”.”

        Now while Melfamy, Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Thunder-thighs Michelle O, and whatever crazy (censored) liberal thinks, I can manage my own morality and actions. I do not require their perceptions to guide me through life.

        • I recall both comments, but I thought G.’s to be in jest. I suppose I just wish there could be some sort of consensus between conservative parties in order that we may turn things around. I truly believe Hillary will run and I truly believe she will have a HUGE following. Do you not believe we must look at the big picture?……cause it’s a pretty friggin big picture with multiple ramifications..

          • “I recall both comments, but I thought G.’s to be in jest.”

            I take his comments as written. Nothing more, nothing less.

            “I suppose I just wish there could be some sort of consensus between conservative parties in order that we may turn things around.”

            You think our divide is wide? Try the liberals.

            “I truly believe Hillary will run and I truly believe she will have a HUGE following.”

            Maybe. She is some rust on her fenders now. :)

            “Do you not believe we must look at the big picture?”

            Hard to do when both parties keep changing the narrative. lol

  3. As I am a “soft-core libertarian” I will play devil’s advocate.

    Steal my weed…I did not adequately protect my stash. Too often a police report is to process an insurance claim.

    Rough up a prostitute…I understand that prostitutes will tell you what they will and will not do. One that is “violated” did not have adequate self-defense.

    Addicts lying in the mud…They must continue to lie there, until I go back and read the last part again. :)

    I think you assume facts not in evidence from the beginning of that segment.

    • Steve,

      If you think I have assumed facts not in evidence, I suggest you have not been around hard-core Libertarians very much :-)

      I notice you also avoided ALL the moral implications of what WILL happen should the nation try “Libertarianism” again.

      • “Like it or not, this will lead to wide-spread social disorder and massive crime. People will lose their jobs because they either do not go to work or they are useless on the job. People will be lying around in the streets, homeless. And they will be stealing to support their habit…”

        I think you go out on a thin limb here. Even with the “war” on drugs, drugs remain plentiful and easily accessible. I will concede that drug use in the workplace is a problem that employers deal with now, but would not predict an appreciable increase by legalizing them. Drug addicts and alcoholics are, in many instances, already homeless, and some do steal or commit other immoral acts in order to support their habit.

        You are right, the only hard-core I am acquainted with is Christine, but I have no problem with her.

        I did not avoid a of morality intentionally, I was just playing devil’s advocate for the situations presented,but here’s my 2-cents worth.

        I accept the teachings of Jesus as my moral guide. Even though others are not aware of his teaching or have rejected it, does not affect my beliefs. As long as their behavior does not harm me, I do not feel obliged to force my morals on them. I do try to be a good example of my beliefs in the hopes that it might wear off on others. When their behavior does harm me, I feel the need to understand their motives and to forgive them. That’s it in a nut shell.

  4. Isn’t it funny…
    Those that complain about the constraints of religious morality, Would lose all freedoms in a God-less society where man is beholden only by his own law.

  5. First, let me ask you how you would deal with someone who steals your stash of weed?

    This is predicated on your operating assumption that weed is legal.

    I’d call the cops.

    This is as true of weed as it is a lawnmower, jewelry box or a car.

    You claim you do not want to legislate morality, so how can you accept a law against theft? Without morality, theft cannot exist, so why would you have a law against it?

    We raise our children according to morals. We should legislate laws based on individual liberty and right to property. When someone steals my weed, they are taking my individual property.

    Lemme ask you, is it immoral to go faster than the stated speed limit? Yet it IS against the law. And then this, is it illegal to cheat on your wife? But it IS immoral.

    Suppose you are a prostitute and you enter into a contract to have sex with a man for an agreed amount of money. Now let’s assume this man likes it rough, and he seriously injures you in the process. What do you do?

    I am a he, so the pronouns don’t work, but here goes.

    Again, the act is legal. Which changes the whole game. Now that we are engaging in a legal exchange of services, I ca write up a contract that will be recognized in a court of law. Today, hookers CAN’T go to the coops because what they are doing is ILLEGAL.

    First, there can be no law against harming you because there can be no forced morality.

    Sovereign of the individual. I belong to me and you can’t harm my property.

    The next problem then is that you willingly entered into a contract to accept money to let this man do what he did. You may say that physical harm is not part of the contract, but to him, that might just be an inherent part of the act, in which case, for him, it most certainly was part of your agreement. How do you dispute this?

    See above. Perhaps some prostitutes enjoy the rough stiff too, or, they are willing to risk physical damage for more money, see boxing, in which case the actions are above board, legal and mutually agreed upon.

    Next, I have a question about the legal drugs. Like it or not, this will lead to wide-spread social disorder and massive crime.

    I would argue that beer, wine and liquor are all drugs in the same vein as weed or coke. In fact, some people think that Coke, as in cola, are drugs as disruptive to society as you think heroine might be.

    The answer is that we should be able to live according to how we see fit. Stealing for our habit is illegal, so is murder or assault. However, some of us DO buy into your argument and favor a hybrid approach; decriminalize the USE of said drugs and just go after the dealer.

    See, we wanna be able to help the addict. But the addict can’t get help if what he’s doing is illegal. Further, we’re incarcerating TONS of kids who simply smoke weed. They come oout far FAR worse than when they went in.

    Therefore, when a Libertarian tells me that “You can’t legislate morality,” what I hear is, “Let me do what I want to do,” and that sounds a great deal like the Left to me. In fact, in my experience, the only operative difference is that the Libertarian agrees that I shouldn’t be forced to pay for his welfare.

    Yes. The best definition of a Libertarian is “Socially Liberal and Fiscally Conservative”

    I am for laws that allow gay marriage and legalized pot. And I’m for laws that allow me to keep what I earn and enforce individual property rights.

    Think of it this way, I do not want to pass a law that makes it illegal to have sex with another man’s wife but I don’t live my life thinking that its just a-okay to engage in that behavior. Additionally, and I’m Christian, I would NEVER support a LAW that made it a crime to take the name of the Lord in vain. Something that I strive very earnestly not to do in my private life.

    • Pino,

      I’m not sure you understand the Libertarian dilema I am trying to illustrate. In short, most Libertarians argue that they should be allowed to do what they want because morality cannot be legislated, but then, everything they want is based on a moral claim. Therefore, if you have a law against it, you are legislating a moral code — theirs. The only way to NOT legislate morality is to have NO laws. In other words, Anarchy.

      • most Libertarians argue that they should be allowed to do what they want because morality cannot be legislated

        Yes I should be able to do as I please AS LONG as it doesn’t infringe on you doing what you please.

        everything they want is based on a moral claim.

        No. Everything we want is based on the concept of the sovereign of the individual. I own the wheat, you can’t just take it. Moral or immoral, it has nothing to do with it.

        The difficult part is when liberty intersects with morality.

        Both libertarians and republicans would agree that we need laws against theft, but I think that we would argue the reasons differently.

        A good example is drugs or gay marriage.

        In both cases the republican wants to legislate morality while the libertarian wants to legislate liberty [which means no laws restricting drugs or gay marriage]. And we want you to LIVE morally.

        Just because I think dope should be legal doesn’t mean I advocate getting stoned by 09:00 Saturday morning and staying on the couch in my jammies until Monday morning anymore than you thinking beer should be legal implies you think we should all be hammered on a street corner playing drums on a garbage can begging for money.

        I think that people should go to church twice a week; I would never legislate it.

        <i The only way to NOT legislate morality is to have NO laws. In other words, Anarchy.

        Thinking libertarians support anarchy is a common push back for the uncomfortable feeling of admitting that just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I should outlaw it. For example, I don’t think that democrats should teach their children to be democrats, but again, I would never legislate that ;-)

        • Pino,

          If you do not see that your claim to your body and your property are moral claims, then we just ran up against the impasse that I call the divide between Libertarians and the Founders. :-(

          • If you do not see that your claim to your body and your property are moral claims, then we just ran up against the impasse that I call the divide between Libertarians and the Founders.

            Very Ayn Rand of you ;-)

            I think that it’s time to acknowledge that the republican party is going to have to give way to the libertarians:

            1. We’re the only fiscally conservative party out there.
            2. We’re the only party capable of electing non-democrat effective officials; Rand, Marco, Chris et. al.
            3. 60% of America is Libertarian – they just don’t know it.

            • The Republicans maybe, but the conservatives will never do so because that would lead to the destruction of the nation as surely as the Liberals will. Besides:

              1 — CONSERVATIVES are as fiscally sound as Libertarians (note: Conservative does NOT = Republican)

              2 — You have no proof of the second, but the TEA Party has proof that they CAN do so. Remember, Rand is a REPUBLICAN ;-)

              3 – Actually, 60% of America scores solidly in the “conservative” realm, NOT “libertarian.” Besides, the Libertarians are as active in redefining of the term as the Progressives are in redefining Liberal.

  6. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more clear from this post.

    • Harens,

      I’ve almost quit posting several times. Each time I am brought back to it by someone like you who said they managed to learn something from my efforts. I do not so much care whether anyone agrees with me or not, just so long as I was able to be of some service to them in their own lives.

      So, with a humble and sincere heart, I thank you for your comment. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time (which is yet another reason for my faith, as well) :*)

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