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Pesky Liberty

Both segments on today's episode of Vermont Edition dealt with proposals to restrict everyone's freedom of action to prevent human fuck-ups from doing what comes naturally. First was a discussion about raising the age to buy cigarettes in Vermont from 18 to 21 with an exception for people in active military service. The second story was about how poor people in NYC are killing each other with guns purchased in Vermont, where gun restrictions are few and shootings are fewer. In response to the first segment, I posted the following:

If you care about consequences and not individual autonomy, there are all manner of possible courses of action that would likely yield desirable results. If CPS takes a child away from his or her parent(s), then the parent(s) could be involuntarily sterilized. No point in letting them make another piece of human debris to be swept up by the criminal justice system at tax-payer expense. Of course some would see sterilization as unnecessary coddling of failed human lives. There are other ways to drag down the competent, productive members of society other than having children you are incapable of raising properly, so how about the death penalty for poor people who are unsuitable for forced labor? How about involuntary cosmetic surgery for ugly people? Or mandatory fasting for faties? If violating people's rights is not a concern, then raising the smoking age to 21 seems like a pusillanimous half-measure.

Yes, I know. It sounds petulent. Even to me.

The piont is, though, that the United States has encoded a basic level of individual human autonomy into the foundational documents and principles that govern this society. Not all countries do. China doesn't. Japan doesn't. England doesn't. How are they doing? Better than us? In some ways, maybe.

Do you want to live in Singapore? The streets are clean. The infrastructure is top notch. Violent crime is rare. People get cained for petty infractions and executed for drug crimes. If it's an orderly, prosperous society you crave then respecting people's freedom of choice is a fool's game. Unless, that is, you value freedom of choice for its own sake. Then you have to ask yourself HOW MUCH you value it. How much failure and unnessary expense are you likely to put up with as a result of free people making poor choices. Choices like smoking.

If you only value freedom of choice when it yeilds good results, then you only value liberty as a means to an end. If you're not willing to put up with a bit of disfunction, unsightlyness, and unecessary expense, then freedom of choice may not be for you.

You need only point to the fact that many of the authors of those foundational documents, which pay such eloquent lip service to "inalienable rights," owned slaves to dispell the notion that chipping away at individual autonomy is dragging us out of Liberty's paradise and into a consequentialist, nanny state, dystopia. Those supposed values have always been aspirational at best. Maybe it's time we rid ourselves of some maladaptive ideological baggage and ditch the conceipt of individual autonomy all together. Really, who'd miss it? I mean, other than a bunch of clueless, working class yokels who can't see through  a smokescreen of talk radio conspiracy theories to identify the real causes of their own deteriorating station in life. If they're the most empassioned champions of liberty, then how good could liberty possibly be? NASCAR good? Smokeless tabacco good? Rush Limbaugh good?



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 14th, 2016 03:10 pm (UTC)
Someone replied on the VPR website with...
Paul Drayman wrote,

Yes, and while we are at it, let's be a little more pro-active. All children at age, 8, assuming they can sign their name (or gesture in the affirmative), should be forced to swear an oath that they will always take the high road, never be a burden to society and when faced with temptation or the prospect of a life time of bad habits, "just say no".
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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