aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Extremism in the defense of liberty is a bore

There are a lot of Libertarian types on the internet (including LJ). Recently, while taking part in a thread elsewhere, it occured to me that the gaping hole in Libertarianism is its extremism.

Think of the idea of social control as a continuum. At one end, you have the Police State, whether of the Left (Communism) or the Right (Fascism). In the Police State, individuals have no rights which they can assert against the public interest (as interpreted by the government). In the end, nothing is secure. This is an extreme position.

But at the other end, you have the Hippie Commune, where nobody can be made to do anything that one doesn't willingly decide to do. Even heavily hinting that one is making oneself obnoxious and should have some concern for others is considered moral interference. The rights of the individual to live as one wishes (barring assault or theft against another) are absolute. This also is an extreme position.

The kind of liberty envisioned by our founders allows for a measure of social control. The public interest is administered by government (a government responsible to the voters, be it understood). And that government can effectively tell people what to do in many circumstances: zoning laws; liquor licenses; restriction of dangerous activities; suppression of "common nuisances" (the point at issue in the thread I was participating in); and so on.

Certain individual rights are enumerated as a restraint upon government (or others). In certain situations, a person in America can assert one's rights over against all others, including the government. But that doesn't mean you can do whatever the hell you want, all the time, and thumb your nose at everybody else. Everybody else has a right to tell you to shut up, to move along, to put your clothes back on, to put out that stogie here, etc.

What keeps us from lapsing into an intolerable tyranny is the reasonableness of the rules we are asked to live by. Reasonable rules -- reasonable to the overwhelming majority of people -- should be followed (and enforced). But the Libertarians (as well as the overlapping category of resentful, you-can't-force-your-morality-on-me types) are always asserting that any control, however reasonable, is too much.

In this, they are exerting an extreme position, an unreasonable position. And the answer to their objections about forcing them to conform to everybody else's reasonable expectations is, "Grow up."
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