The Case for/against Social Libertarianism

10 posts


I am moving my response to one of Angocachi's posts to a new thread due to the gruesome images on the original thread, which involves the drug Krokodil, a poisonous home-brewed opiate that is reported to be rotting the flesh, and drastically shortening the lives, of desperate, destitute heroin addicts in Russia.

Angocachi raised, partially from an Islamic point of view, a point or two against what I will call social libertarianism, i.e. the most typical libertarian set of positions on certain social issues such as drug use, prostitution, adultery, gambling, etc., which may be contrasted with social conservatism. For this thread feel free to present other arguments for or against social libertarianism.

The logic of this libertarian position has never seemed entirely consistent to me. If we shouldn't be allowed to wrongfully harm other members of the community, why exactly should we be allowed to wrongfully harm ourselves? From the moment we were born, conceived in fact, hasn't the community invested some resources, e.g. food, education, emotional support, etc., in our personal growth, support, and well being? Do we truly have no obligation whatsoever to maintain ourselves so that we might make some contribution back to the community that has nurtured us?
Niccolo and Donkey
I agree. Contra libertarianism, no man is an island. I'm not sure there's really such a thing as private behaviour that doesn't affect your relations with others and the social fabric as a whole, and your ability to fulfill your duties (the forgotten counterpart of rights). These arguments seem to be constructed solely in order to justify private vices, but I don't see why society should let its members rot away in drug or pornography use.
This a favourite argument of drug advocates, but it doesn't make sense. The presence of one or two hazardous substances doesn't justify the introduction of yet more. Tobacco use is rightly restricted and financially penalized, and there should probably be greater restrictions on alcohol like the traditional pub-licensing laws in the British Isles, enforcement of public drunkenness laws etc.. There's just too much cultural tradition and precedent behind alcohol use to get rid of it. Also, our society is adapted to its presence in a way that contrasts with the destabilizing effects an influx of exotic substances could have. The two proposals - of keeping various drugs illegal, and having a kind of Cromwellian revolution to purge alcohol from Western society - are very different cases in the real world, as opposed to that of libertarian abstractions.
Even libertarian scholars will tell you "we still have to figure out the whole children thing"

Libertarianism strictly defines morality in terms of ownership of physical property. The idea is that you own yourself and not other people. But of course, you're raised by others and they've invested in you, so don't you owe them?

I prefer the libertarian approach to policy when it covers nations/states. I think it's the responsibility of families/communities to enforce their own rules on things like drug use.

It doesn't state this. If it did, then what's the point of all their talk about morality, ethics, property rights, etc... if not to talk about human-human interaction?
I agree with the latter part of the statement, but the first is untrue. A libertarian argument can be made as to why people shouldn't be forced to consume poison. Would that be a justification of a vice?
The point of every libertarian formulation on those questions is to conceptually separate the individual from the society at large and consider him as a self-owning monad.
I mean specifically the arguments that these vices don't harm anyone but the individual user, are 'victimless crimes' etc. These are tropes invented solely to justify the vices in question.
Yes, who interacts with other people. No one denies the influence people have had from their environments nor the fact that people are raised. That's because the morality of libertarianism is defined in the idea of property rights and self-ownership. People don't own a claim to how much someone is worth. Also, people must fulfill contracts. But of course, many relations aren't defined in terms of contracts, so those things fall off in this theory.

Libertarians pur et dur actually do allow the harming of others, if it is consensual (e.g., in a sado-masochistic relationship involving adults). Since harming oneself is "consensual" (or an accident), there is no legal redress against it in a purely libertarian society.

This is not an argument for libertarianism (or, for that matter, for sado-masochism) on my part. Just an acknowledgment of libertarianism's consistency.

If Ron Paul would leave a post on Salo, he would tell you that government fails to enforce anti-libertarian laws (such as on drugs) and often makes it worse. He would tell you that it is the responsibility of parents to keep their children off marijuana and their daughters off the corner. It is the burden of the people who actually care about Harry the Heroin Head to save him, not the police department or DEA or any other tax funded arm, nor is it efficient.

An anti-Libertarian policy is only necessary if the community has failed or neglected its duties to its wayward members. When Harry burglarizes or mugs someone for quick cash, people ask the government why it isn't doing something about him, rather than his family or friends. Folks see yesterday's Prom Queen turning tricks, and they don't ask where her father and brother are, but where the mayor and police chief are.