Last weekend, I asked the Thoughts on Liberty Facebook group for some suggestions on what to post about last week, as I was having a major case of writer’s block. I was intrigued by the first two responses (and the support for them):
No, actually, I won’t. We won’t.
I will not direct TOL’s writers to stop talking about sex or relationships. These are completely natural and wholesome parts of human existence, and they are things that the state interferes in. It is completely legitimate for libertarians to discuss them. In fact, they do not discuss them enough. State interference in these realms has some of the most direct impact on people’s lives, an impact that they feel and understand beyond a few pennies a year being taken out of their paychecks. These subjects are perfect topics through which we can introduce others to the freedom philosophy.
I am immeasurably proud of TOL’s writers, who are brave to speak openly about topics that cause other writers, other publications, to tuck in their tails, for fear of reprisal. They speak of their own lifestyles, and those of others, and plead for tolerance. Tolerance is an essential tenant of freedom, and TOL’s writers embody the best of libertarianism in their fearlessness in confronting topics that few in our realm seem to want to.
It’s not that I don’t want conservatives to be libertarians. I do. I want everyone to be advocates for freedom. But you might want to look for someone else to bring in those folks. I doubt a polyamorous, pagan, sex-positive, social justice advocate is gonna do it.
Conservatives, as they currently exist in American politics, have a pretty narrow view of how the world should be and how people should live their lives. Lots of them claim to want to be left alone—and certainly that is their prerogative. However, many do not do others the same courtesy. They attempt to “persuade”—and by that I mean shame—others away from the peaceful ways they choose to live their lives, from loving people of the same gender to loving more than one person to choosing to not love or live at all. They try and back this up with “science” and “reasoning,” but any amount of pressure shows that these reasons are just smoke screens for what they are really after: Making people behave the same way they do.
If they are to properly join libertarianism, conservatives need to lose this impulse, and they are not going to do so if we avoid these topics. Persuasion has its place, and we should all share ideas of what it means to live a good life, but the difficult part of freedom is the utter humility that comes with simply knowing that you don’t know what’s best for someone else’s life.
As Cathy Reisenwitz says:
I don’t know how you should have sex, have kids, whether you should get a job, whether you should stay home with your kids. But no matter what, if you make that choice and if it’s a cooperative choice, you’re accepted… we’re not going to judge you.
If someone doesn’t get that, then libertarianism would never have appealed to them in the first place. But if conservatives can agree to that, then they are more than welcome to come join the party over here at TOL. Except if they believe that, they’re not really conservatives anymore—they’re libertarians.