Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blowing Up Foolish Memes, Libertarian Edition

Recently, I stumbled across this little gem of what is a clearly libertarian meme regarding social issues. Quoted in full, it reads:

Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one.
Don’t like cigarettes? Don’t smoke one.
Don’t like abortions? Don’t have one.
Don’t like sex? Don’t do it.
Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them.
Don’t like porn? Don’t watch it.
Don’t like guns? Don’t buy one.
Don’t like your rights taken away?
Then don’t take away anyone else’s.

The meme implicitly argues that "solitary" vices hurt no one, and thus should be allowed by society.
Is this a compelling argument? Not if you take it to its logical conclusion. Here are some other examples of similar, “solitary” vices.

Don’t like suicide? Don’t commit one!
Don’t like bulimia? Don’t binge eat and throw up!
Don’t like cutting? Don’t cut yourself!
Don’t like gluttony? Don’t overeat!
Don’t like the choking game? Don’t play it!

These vices, like the previous vices (at least, the vices among them; guns, sex, and cigarettes are not vices) harm no one except the practitioner. Should individuals simply be allowed to engage in these activities without criticism?
The answer is obviously no, because self-harm is not a fundamental human right. One does not have the “right” to hurt himself. It is a moral duty and a spiritual work of mercy to warn people (at the very least) of when they are engaging in self-destructive behavior.
But the argument fails on a deeper level. Human beings do not exist in a vacuum. Our every action (good, bad, and neutral) affects others for good or for ill. If we harm ourselves through our failures, those around us are harmed as well. Thus, the Christian refusal to accept "solitary" moral evil is beneficial and even necessary for society. 
Like other slogans such as “love is love” and “government in the bedroom,” the “don’t like this, don’t do this” meme is a lazy emotional appeal masquerading as cogent argument.


  1. "Should individuals simply be allowed to engage in these activities ... ?"

    Well, logically yes. Unless you want the government to regulate our food intake and forbid softdrinks from being sold. There's that bit about criticism, but I don't think anyone opposes the right to criticise others for being immoral idiots.

  2. My statement did not refer to legal prohibition of the vices I mentioned (except in the case of abortion, which does harm another person, and gay marriage, which is government sanction of a particular activity.) The "without criticism" part was there for a reason.
    No one opposes the right to criticize others for being immoral idiots? I beg to differ. Read the link, see especially the part about Canada.


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