Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Freedom for me . . . but I’m not so sure about ye

HL Mencken used to say that a puritan is someone possessed of the all-pervasive fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun.

Mencken would have noticed lots of puritans about today, huh, some of them possessing legislative power.

There’s even a strain of “libertarian puritans” – or to be more precise, puritans who would like to be freedom-lovers but who just can’t fully rein in their fears about other people. They support freedom for this, and freedom for this . . . but there’s no way they can support freedom for that

That is to say: they are consenting adults who can support the freedoms that they do agree with – like drinking wine, choosing their own lightbulbs, and being generally free from coercion and electoral abuse --  but not the freedoms they disagree with – like the freedom that other consenting adults would like to keep their own money, to use their own cell phones in their own cars, to drive fast, to carry a firearm in self-defence, or to put into their own body what (and who) they like. 

That’s a lot harder for some to support, but freedom is only freedom if it’s  freedom across the board. Real freedom, you see, is indivisible.  Whereas for the puritan,  freedom is “Freedom for me, but not for thee!”

However freedom, real freedom, means allowing other people to do things that you disagree with, without calling for laws to stop them. 

It means allowing other people to do things that offend you, without insisting they be locked up for it.

It means supporting the freedom for people to do things you would never do, knowing however that as long as they aren’t initiating force or fraud against someone else then it’s their right to do what they will – just as long as they take responsibility for what they do.

Sure, there are people who will make mistakes;  but allowing the freedom to fail means making possible the freedom to succeed.  There are people who will stuff up; but allowing the freedom to get things wrong means making possible the freedom to get things right.  Real freedom means taking ownership of our successes, and of the things we do that suck. Real freedom means making the world safe for reason; which means making it possible for some to be stupid. There it is.

My freedom ends where your nose begins, and vice versa. And the flip side of freedom is responsibility.  Without both, you have neither.  But if you’re arguing for both, then you’ll succeed. As PJ O’Rourke says there is only one basic human right, and that is the right to do as you damn well please.  And with that there is only one human duty: the duty to take the consequences.

It strikes me however that there are many people who recognise and value freedom in their own area of interest, but they still blanch when it comes to recognising freedom across the board – for the freedom for other people to do things that they don’t like, either because they’re not yet fully comfortable in their support for fully-fledged freedom, or because the welfare state makes them take responsibility for those other people.

My advice to them is to lose their freedom inhibitions.  To recognise that the effect of banning folly is simply to fill the world with fools.  To understand that arguing for freedom on every issue pushes back the forces of greyness on a broad front – even when it’s freedom for something we wouldn’t do ourselves – whereas arguing that some freedoms should be limited only ends up making the grey ones hungry to take more.

Freedom for ye is also freedom for me, if we’re arguing for freedom across the board.  So bring on the drugs and fast cars.  For ye, if not necessarily for me.


  1. But what about the CHILDREN!@? You're not thinking about the children!!!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. My freedom ends where your nose begins... And with that there is only one human duty: the duty to take the consequences.

    Absolutely. Which is why I should be free to consent to an exorcism, (or, Anon 10:35, to consent on behalf of my children to their exorcism) and I have the responsibility to take the consequences.

  4. A fine post. I'd like to print it out on sheets of sandpaper, roll them up and insert them....you know the rest. :-)

  5. Both Anonymouses... how hard is it to sign in, seriously?

    Anon2: Who said you couldn't? If you do, it might pay to sign something though, so we know you have, and that you understand and take the blame for your own death, should that pan out. I'd advise witnesses too.

  6. A splendid post, Peter; if only every libertarian (and Libertarianz) felt the same way as we do.

    How great it would be if everyone was instilled with the view that the true test of freedom is keeping your sticky beak out of things you dislike.

    It should also be remembered that this does not mean you try to pretend to yourself you actually 'like the things you dislike'; by all means express disapproval (that is tolerance, afterall), but the frequent banning and censorship by libertarians really is astonishing! ha ha!

  7. The problem I see with libertarianism is that it relies on the false tenet that people are prepared to be 100% responsible for 100% of their actions 100% of the time - coupled with the fact that libertarianism has NO empirical evidence to support many of its arguments.

    True, a genuinely libertarian society would work in a Robinson Crusoe situation but not from the moment companion Friday turns up.

    If Marxism is an ideology which insists a great society can be founded on collectivism and altruism alone, then libertarianism is the mirror image delusion that an equally great society can be founded in individualism and selfishness. As someone once opined - Libertarianism, Marxism of the Right.

  8. Yes a great post. And of course the part of keeping ones own money, well I have another axe to grind with the IRD. I have thought about writing on the bill I received recently: 'F**K OFF!' and sending it to them, but history has shown it is *not* a good idea to be on their shitlist.
    Pity they have so much power.

    As you know, drugs and guns are quite often the things that people have double standards on. I remember talking to an old workmate regarding guns and he got very uncomfortable with my pro gun stance, because it was within earshot of others. His body language said it all...

    And with regards to Anon 8/18 @ 1035 hrs. FFS, put your name on the post!

  9. The 'not quite libertarians' or freedom for me, but not for thee, are generally people who can't believe that their neighbours are responsible or as smart as they are. It's akin to intellectual snobbery. One can hear it in the patronising tones of those that want to be seen "helping" Maori, believing that Maoris are incapable of, or not smart enough to, or lacking proper values to help themselves. Another example is those that say "Maybe I'll save for my retirement, but that fella won't, so we must make saving compulsory." I say to those people "who gave you the exclusive notion of your brilliance and their stupidity?"
    As Anonymous: "Libertarianism, Marxism of the Right." Where are libertarian's guns, whips and chains?

  10. Sean Fitzpatrick18 Aug 2009, 13:00:00

    "The problem I see with libertarianism is that it relies on the false tenet that people are prepared to be 100% responsible for 100% of their actions 100% of the time"

    No where do I think any libertarian would so frame their belief - it is more the case that libertarians believe people SHOULD be expected to assume responsibility for their actions.

    There is no question that some never will accept such responsibility and face the consequences - the question is should society be essentially set up in such a way that it's primary focus is to shield the irresponsible from the consequences of their choices (and in so doing inevitably placing burdens on the backs of those who have been taking responsibility for themselves) or is it to allow the individual to walk their own path, make their own decisions and reap the rewards or lack thereof?

    Libertarians simple take the latter view.

  11. PC, you stated that, to use their own cell phones in their own cars and I will add to that by saying on my road ? Now do you see the difference? No problem with using their own cell phones in their own cars but on their own backyard?

  12. "make their own decisions and reap the rewards or lack thereof?"

    So if I had the freedom to drive as fast as I like on a public road {a victimless crime} and I (by sheer inability to control the vehicle at speed) plough into a carload of other people, that has a negative impact on those innocent parties, therefore it is no longer a victimless crime, and I must suffer the consequences, right? There would have to be an awful lot of fluidity to what few libertarian laws may exist.

    Libertarianism is a Utopian vision. It can NEVER become reality simply because it glosses over the incredible complexities of human interaction. It's an illusion, more often than not a philosophical bauble for greedy pseudo-intellectual narcissists, that's all.

  13. ...by saying NOT on my road?

  14. Anonymous: This arguement could go on and on...How about you tell us what the world should be like? How people should interact? At what point you'd be concerned at the loss of your liberty (assuming you have a point) Spell it out, how do you see the constant errosion of liberty turning out; utopia perhaps? Is all well? Should we just accept the status quo? Is there anything worth defending?

  15. Great comment Russell W.

  16. Sean Fitzpatrick18 Aug 2009, 13:47:00

    "So if I had the freedom to drive as fast as I like on a public road {a victimless crime} and I (by sheer inability to control the vehicle at speed) plough into a carload of other people, that has a negative impact on those innocent parties, therefore it is no longer a victimless crime, and I must suffer the consequences, right?"

    Right. Therefore the original issue of driving as fast as you like on a pubic road is only a victimless crime insofar as it is mindful of the driving conditions - just as the current driving laws do in fact state. There is nothing un-libertarian about the police having the discretionary power to stop someone they consider behaving in a manner that shows reckless disregard for the safety of others.

    "a philosophical bauble for greedy pseudo-intellectual narcissists"

    I honestly had not noticed. In my experience libertarians are ordinary people who just want to live their own lives, don't want to tell other people how to live theirs and want the government to play by the same rules. If you want narcissism you need look no further than the ultra-big government supporting parties like the Greens - who are probably also the best example of the 'freedom for me but not for thee' types of which PC is refering to in his original post.

  17. It can NEVER become reality simply because it glosses over the incredible complexities of human interaction.

    Heh... so let me get this straight...

    Human interaction is so complex that the only people who can unravel it all and legislate around it are the bunch of unqualified popularity contest winners we call politicians?

    It's so clear to me now. I totally see why that's better than libertarianism.

  18. Is there anything worth defending?"

    First if all "we" could only recognize the onward march of global socialism as the primary threat to freedom and civil society and stop being unwitting dupes for progressivism (as so many libertarians are) by handwringing over phantom threats to freedom like everyday God-botherers.

    I know this will go WAY over your head and result in typical displays of sneering arrogance and chortling but do yourself a favour and read this:


    If you value liberty like you say, there will be an abundance of material contained within you will agree with. However, I suspect you won't read it ... that would require a lower level of ideological purity that is required in order to become a member of the exclusive libertarian bretheren.

    I repeat, libertarianism has no empirical evidence to support that it would work. And since your quasi religious sect are so numerically insignificant, that makes matters even more pitiful.

    I however have a fix for the Libertarianz party and it comes from within your own membership, and will give the party more appeal and grounding in reality. It should be the slogan used by your group to improve your poll numbers. Here it is:

    "Less pseudo-intellectual babble, more Bastable"

  19. Oh, it's Redbaiter. No wonder he won't sign in, everyone always picks on him. :( Poor bugger.

  20. Just when you thought it was safe...

    It seems various busy bodies in Britain have discovered an astounding fact - that a lot of people fornicate! ...and what's more many people pay money to do so!

    Needless to say they now want to ban it (in case someone else gets laid and they miss out)...


  21. "Sex workers from across the world are expected to attempt to cash in on thousands of site workers, spectators and athletes"

    - so the busybodies want to disappoint all of those spectators who've travelled to London from around the globe? Not good business practice. There is clearly a need there that enterprising traders should be allowed to meet. If the authorities need a veneer of respectability then they could call it a "stimulus package"!

  22. In a Libertarian world, all roads would be private property and the owners could decide how they are used. Successful road owners would offer the safest and fastest roads at best value. Market forces would result in roads being far safer than we could imagine. Read Murray N. Rothbard. Also, most crime is committed on public property.

  23. Anonymous No1. Of course there is empirical evidence; it’s happening everyday, even to you. 1. Each time you buy a coffee or a car, a voluntary transaction occurs, if you aren’t happy with exchange it doesn’t take place, or if it does and you aren’t happy you have recourse to not go back, or if defrauded - legal redress if you are of a mind to take it further. 2. Each time someone is…say, in an accident, there are people who rush to help without coercion; same goes for floods, fires etc. 3. Once upon a time if you wanted to live the life of an *artist* and hop off the world you are quite at liberty to do so without fear of having to be identified by the state, nor live off it.(I said, once upon a time). 4. Once upon a time there were schools run and administered by private citizens, and markets were mostly free to trade, and it worked very, very well; in fact our greatest human progress came about when that was the dominant idea (a flicker in time, but evidence nonetheless). This evidence you seek is all around you, libertarianism, including its consequent necessity of *limited government*, has demonstrated itself as the normal state of most people when allowed to be so; the governments’ roll is simply to stop the few that don’t wish to live that way and would rather loot & violate.

  24. Greig

    Yes, it's that moron redbait again. He's such a sad sack-of-shit. I'm still laughing at his stupidity from the last exchange we had (he ended up revealing he hadn't actually read material he was presenting opinion about). Still, it is amusing to give him a kicking from time to time. He leaves himself wide open through a combination of pig ignorance and plain stupidity. Hell, he isn't even any good at fibbing (which he reverts to whenever cornered). The guy's a socialist who doesn't even realise it.


  25. Brian Scurfield19 Aug 2009, 06:29:00

    PC - I would add to your well written post the following: There is another strain of libertarian: they support freedom for this, and freedom for that, but not freedom from coercion for children. According to this libertarian, children clearly do not have "fully functioning minds", they have no knowledge, they are property, and it is of no concern if we act all authoritarian towards them and coerce them and force them do things they don't want to do.

    This strain of libertarian wonders why there are not more libertarians.

  26. LGM - Sure, but I'd suggest instead of abusing him, we debate with him when he raises a valid point (as he has been known to do) and ignore when he gets his rant/hate on. If he chooses to take the cessation of discussion as "yay I won!" then so be it. We don't need to adopt the same abusive tactics do we?

    I guess what I'm saying is play the ball, not the player. ;)

  27. Brian: And there is yet another strain of libertarian who thinks the world is other than what it is.

    Perhaps I should write about them some time. ;^)

  28. Brian Scurfield19 Aug 2009, 11:42:00

    Perhaps, PC, what you need to write about is freedom and children. Your post says nothing about children, yet they are where the battle for freedom is at its most urgent.

  29. Asked and answered many times, Brian. Sadly, I'm afraid you're becoming a troll.

  30. "Freedom & children".

    Brian, I'm popping over to your place to have sex with your 12 year old son, if he's up for it, ok? If it's fine with him, you and his mum can exit stage left, please.

    Or, if you have a promiscuous, well-developed 13 year old daughter, I'll send one of my adult male friends over. They can happily screw all weekend.

    There'll be no suggestion of coercion, so you won't have a problem.

  31. Whoops, forgive me. I haven't allowed for the fact that your young son might be wired differently.

    Should he prefer men, I'll sort a substitute. It shouldn't be tricky. We are the 'liberqueerians' after all, according to some! ;)

  32. Here's an idea to get over your single-issue obsession, Brian.

    Why don't you write three-hundred coherent words arguing your position on children, which I will post here at NOT PC -- a post that, just for once, explains your whole position -- and we have it out here once and for all.

    How 'bout it.

  33. In Brian's defence, he does appear to hold ridiculous opinions on more than one issue...

  34. Hey, wait a minute, now.
    I’m all for consenting adults who would like to keep their own money, to carry a firearm in self-defence and to put into their own body what (and who) they like. I’ll admit that while I’m comfortable with legalisation of lower class drugs (weed and E, for example), I’m frankly fairly uneasy with legalisation of ‘hard’ drugs – but I also understand that true freedom requires that I tolerate things I might not be personally comfortable with.
    I consider myself to have a Libertarian bent.

    Do what you want in your own home or on your own land. Hell, do what you want in public if it doesn’t hurt me and mine. But if your actions put me in danger, there is a line to be drawn.
    I understand that in some magical Libertarian world, all roads would be private and rules would be set by the owners. But this is not that world and while we have to share a road you can damn well slow down, get off the phone and watch were you’re going. Because your rights stop at the end of my bumper.

  35. Hi Tel,
    Nice to get your comment, but it sounds more like you're saying your "rights" extend well past your bumper, and right up to my mobile phone.

    Any reason they don't extend to my car radio as well, or mu hairbrush, coffee cup holder, my girlfriend's make-up bag, my girlfriend . . . ?

  36. Too be honest I’m not a massive fan of any anti-cell phone law, and I’d rather just have the police prosecute under the current dangerous driving laws. But regardless of whatever the bumbling government of the day is doing, you have to admit that there is a massive difference between what you do on the roads and what you do on your own property.
    While you might be confident of your ability to drive at speed, and you may be willing to accept the price if you are proven wrong, that is not a risk I am willing to share. My level of risk shouldn’t be dictated at the whim of others, so until I’m aloud to build my own roads into town, we are going to have to share the damn things.
    To that end, a shared agreement on what constitutes a suitable level of road-risk is appropriate. While we all may not all be happy with the result, I need to know exactly what risks I’m taking when I take to the road.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this point.

  37. By the way, despite any disagreement on this specific issue, I’m really enjoying the blog. I have ignored blogs until now, basically because most voices mainstream media are limp-dick conservative or outright socialist. Shrieking harpies, the lot of them.
    Imagine my shock when I found a number of good, common sense blogs that reflect some pretty down-to-earth views.

    I only poked out my head because I felt like this point unfairly implied that folk like myself were self-hating hypocrites. So while folk like myself won’t reply often, rest assured that I enjoy your articles and appreciate the effort you put in.

  38. Tel: Well put. I don't like people promoting the cellphone ban, because it's stupid. I mean, as others have already pointed out, if you're going to go there, you might as well ban attractive women in short skirts walking near public roads too, as well as any one of a million things which can cause distraction and therefore accidents.

    It matters not what you ban, some people will still be total arseholes. As you noticed and intelligently pointed out, we have perfectly good dangerous driving laws which should suffice perfectly for the shared agreement you mentioned. You can't legislate away stupidity or malice.

  39. Brian Scurfield19 Aug 2009, 19:34:00

    PC, I didn't mean to come across as trollish - you post was about libertarian freedom blindspots. Pointing out that one of those blindspots is children is quite on-topic. Even if you disagree with some of my views about children, don't you agree there is a children blindspot? Thanks for the invitation to post.


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