Dear Government Supremacists, Self-Ownership Needs No Explanation

by | Aug 29, 2022

Dear Government Supremacists, Self-Ownership Needs No Explanation

by | Aug 29, 2022

fpc

Lately I’ve heard libertarians ridiculed because their argument against some law boils down to, “Because freedom.”  Why shouldn’t we have inheritance taxes?  Because freedom.  Why shouldn’t we ban handguns?  Because freedom.  Why shouldn’t we have an affirmative consent standard for rape?  Because freedom.

The ridicule is often unfair on its own terms.  There are consequentialist arguments for these libertarian positions, if you care to listen.  Still, critics correctly sense that even self-styled consequentialist libertarians have a strong pro-freedom, anti-government presumption.  If the consequences of government action are anywhere in the vicinity of “bad overall,” libertarians frequently do say, “Because freedom” to get over the hump.

What few critics care to admit, though, is that they too routinely makes the same intellectual move.  Almost everyone does.  Whenever an honest assessment of consequences of government action fails to yield ideologically palatable answers, non-libertarians retreat to “Because freedom” too.

Why not ban Satanism?  Because freedom.

Why shouldn’t societies where homophobes vastly outnumber gays legally persecute gays?  Because freedom.

Why not punish strangers who have unprotected sex without being tested for STDs?  Because freedom.

Why not forbid climbing Mount Everest?  Because freedom.

Why not require adults to get a Non-Alcoholic’s License to buy alcohol?  Because freedom.

Why let the Nazis march in Skokie?  Because freedom.

Why let parents prevent grandparents from visiting their grandchildren?  Because freedom.

Sure, you can offer consequentialist justifications of these policies.  But if you’re convinced all of these consequentialist cases are clear-cut against government intervention, you’re guilty of wishful thinking.  Honestly, can you point to anyone who knows enough to do passable cost-benefit analysis of all of these issues?  Doubtful.  The argument that gets you to your conviction is “Because freedom.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  “Because freedom” isn’t the only morally relevant political argument.  But truth be told, it’s one of the best.

This article was originally featured at EconLib.org and is republished with permission.

About Bryan Caplan

Dr. Bryan Caplan is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and New York Times Bestselling author. His most recent book is titled, Labor Econ Versus the World: Essays on the World's Greatest Market.

Our Books

latest book lineup.

Related Articles

Related

Last Weekend, Iran Changed Everything

Last Weekend, Iran Changed Everything

On April 13, Iran responded to Israel’s attack on its embassy compound in Damascus that killed seven Iranian officers, including a very senior military official, General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, by launching over 300 drones and missiles at Israel from Iranian soil. U.S....

read more
FISA Exchanges Real Liberty for Phantom Security

FISA Exchanges Real Liberty for Phantom Security

House Speaker Mike Johnson betrayed liberty and the Constitution by making a full-court press to get a “clean” reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Act through the House. Section 702 authorizes warrantless surveillance of...

read more
Embracing Deflation

Embracing Deflation

In recent years, the specter of inflation has loomed large over the global economy, fueled by unprecedented monetary stimulus measures and supply chain disruptions. As prices have surged, concerns about the erosion of purchasing power and the threat of runaway...

read more
One Hundred Years of IRS Political Targeting

One Hundred Years of IRS Political Targeting

One hundred years ago, Senator James Couzens, a Michigan Republican, took to the Senate floor to denounce the Bureau of Internal Revenue for abusing its power and trampling innocent taxpayers. Couzens launched a sweeping Senate investigation of federal tax collectors....

read more