May 23: Thoughts for the Day

I find polygamy distasteful. But should I, and should society at large, have the right to forbid its practice among consenting adults?

There are so many other laws, social and legal, that impose the social preferences of one group of people on every individual. Think of nudity, extramarital relationships, profanity, alcohol, marijuana, Sunday liquor sales…the list could go on.

I find it offensive that society can impose its collective will on so many things that are, to the extent they cause no harm to society at large, personal matters. The trick, of course, is to define that line of demarcation at which personal liberties infringe on the social order. But, often, that line of demarcation is ignored entirely.  Too little attention is paid to the concept of freedom and too much is paid to what a large or influential group of people find disagreeable. The result is the imposition of unreasonable restrictions on personal freedom.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to May 23: Thoughts for the Day

  1. Juan, I accept your position, and Mill’s, that there are many instances in which society has a stake in restraining individual liberties. Those instances all (from my perspective) involve individual acts or behaviors that infringe on others’ enjoyment of an unmolested life or that can have a negative impact on society at large. When an individual like your neighbors engage in the sort of things you described, their individual “rights” conflict with the rights of others, thereby morphing from “rights” to “unacceptable privileges.” That having been said, in my mind society has no business attempting to legislate morality in which either there are no victims or in which the “victims” accept that role willingly and with full knowledge of the options.

  2. juan says:

    I don’t mind — in some situations — that the collective imposes its social preferences. While I respect the right to individual choice, I understand that not all choices from individuals are in the best interest of the collective.

    “Human beings owe to each other help to distinguish the better from the worse, and encouragement to choose the former and avoid the latter. They should be for ever stimulating each other to increased exercise of their higher faculties, and increased direction of their feelings and aims towards wise instead of foolish, elevating instead of degrading, objects and contemplations” (J.S. Mill’s “On Liberty, Ch. IV, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual”).

    Only yesterday, I had a small pool party at my home with friends from the College. Everything was nice. We had all become soddy, sunny, and happy with our soda-whiskeys.

    Then next door — Alex with anger management issues is yelling at his 6 year old son. The tone, tenor, and loudness of his voice and the horrible degree of psychological abuse was so much, we all packed up our soda-whiskeys and went inside.

    It was that bad!

    Had he beat that boy, I would have called the police. But the abuse was limited to horrible words.

    On the other side of my home is the Ivory family. They keep trash in their front yard, and they hardly clean up.

    While I believe in liberty, the Ivory’s sense of liberty infringes upon my own: Their mess brings down the property value of homes in the neighborhood. On that note, I don’t squarely visit blame on the Ivorys, but on the owner who rents the home to them.

    Sadly, we are no longer living in a society of a few — but of many. As the many increase, so too does the likelyhood of mixed sentiments of orderliness.


  3. Larry Zuckerman says:

    There goes my whole weekend of drinking in the nude, cursing and having an orgy with my wives!

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