Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Freedom To Make Bad Decisions
Alternate Title: Libertarians and Puritans
I am typically a pretty concrete writer. I write about things I have done, things I am doing or the like. I am far more likely to be talk about how to pack a bag, ways to get in shape or how to improve your finances than some philosophical or political stuff. These are my strengths and the things that typically interest me so I play to them. Today we are going in a whole other direction. I posted a picture recently (probably a couple weeks or even months by the time this posts)that basically said if you don’t want people telling you what to do don’t try to tell them what to do and it brought a lot of discussion. I replied to folks in the comments section but it got me thinking.
The thing about freedom is that it isn’t just about good decisions. In fact I would argue that it is mostly about bad ones. Also there is the thorny issue of which omnipotent power decides what exactly constitutes a good decision and what gives them the right to tell anybody else what to do.
Everywhere you go there is some darn politician or expert who wants to be able to tell people what to do. Now I like experts. I have a money person, a weight training person, a conditioning person, some tactical training people, etc. The thing is that I choose to solicit their advice and follow it if I want to, for as long as I want to. If someone wants to tell me what I HAVE TO DO that is an issue for me.
Who the hell do they think they are? Why are they so inherently superior to me that they can tell me what I have to do? If their argument was actually convincing I will probably have gone along in the first place and they wouldn’t need a regulation or a law at all. I don’t think anybody has my best interests at heart more than I do. More to the point if I am doing something that isn’t clinically and scientifically perfect but I really enjoy it then why should they get to tell me that I can’t? It could be smoking or drinking or eating ice cream or whatever. If I want to spend my time and money on something to try and bring some enjoyment or happiness to my life it really isn’t anybodies business.
Look at the First Amendment to our Constitution, freedom of speech and religion and a bunch of other stuff. You never hear about a freedom of speech case where a nice woman said something polite to her friend. Freedom of speech is about Larry Flint offending just about everyone and the Westborough Baptist “church” spewing ignorant hate at military funerals. These things are offensive to any reasonable person.
Not many people would like to have Larry Flint over for Sunday family dinner. Pretty much everybody hates that “church” full of idiotic hate mongers. If 20 rough men with ax handles showed up at their next funeral protest and cracked some skulls I would be fine with that, and I don’t think I would be alone. The thing is that the freedoms built into our governmental protect those idiots. This is a good thing. It is built on centuries of accumulated customs and philosophy which culminated in the great nation of America. Really if you want to get deeper I believe these rights come from God.
The point of freedom is that you can do what you want unless it infringes on somebody else directly. Not “well studies show” or “second order effects of” or “society” but directly. Obviously Rapist Jim’s desire to rape doesn’t allow him to infringe on Suzie’s right not to be raped. More to the point as long as I am not threatening, menacing or vulgar I can tell anybody what I think of them at any time.
I can quit my job and start hitchhiking around the country like some 50’s beatnik. If I could physically do it I could smoke a whole carton of cigarettes in a day. I can wear my shoes on the wrong feet and tap dance in the rain. I can borrow money I know I shouldn’t for stuff I don’t need.
All of the things I talked about are stupid. Quitting my job to chain smoke cigarettes and hitchhike around the country tap dancing in the rain while running up a huge visa bill would be stupid all around. The point simply put is that it is my life and I am free to do with it what I wish, good, negligible or bad.
I can bust my hump, save like crazy, start a business, invest wisely and then make huge money or I can get a shack in the woods, have a still and some chickens and get drunk in a hammock during the summer and a recliner in the winter. It is my life to do with what I wish.
The thing about freedom is that it doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. I am free to tell a 6’8” 400 pound biker covered in prison tattoos that black leather and motorcycles are just a sad cry for help based on impotence, homosexual tendencies and mommy issues but I doubt that would end well. I am free to tell my boss what I really think of him and after that I would be free to find a new job. I am free to eat McDonalds twice a day every day if I want, and I will become obese and probably have a heart attack at 50. I am free to blow my earnings on gambling knowing full well the odds aren’t in my favor and if I play long enough losing is a virtual certainty but I have to deal with the after affects. I am free to neglect my family and start chasing cocktail waitresses but that is going to cause issues in my marriage and likely I would be doing it from a half empty studio apartment before long.
For everything we do there is a consequence or more accurately numerous ones. There are first, second and third order affects of everything we do if you look hard enough. Take enough simple little decisions like charging a nice dinner out or hitting the gym and skipping desert and they add up to huge things.
To say you believe in freedom except for this that and the other thing doesn’t work. Really that is just “I am right and you are wrong”. To think that everything you believe is good should be allowed and everything you think is bad should be banned is the most egotistical and idiotic political philosophy out there. My son thinks that way. He will move things or throw them to suit his desires. He will hit people or try to move them or harass them if they don’t want to/ can’t pick him up or otherwise are bothering him. Whatever he wants is right and what he doesn’t is wrong. This is ok because he is a one year old and thinks the world revolves around him. Over the next few years he will grow out of this. I expect it from him so I don’t think it is too much to ask of adults.
That reminds me of the Puritans who fled England because they were persecuted and ultimately came to America, where they promptly persecuted anyone who didn’t believe exactly what they did. I find the comparison between the modern religious right and the pilgrims to be striking. They have strong beliefs and think they should be able to force you to have the same beliefs. Moreover they think they have the right to punish you if you do not have those beliefs. At least the pilgrims went to a new place to force everybody to act like them (though they did it because they were persecuted back home) unlike the religious right who think they can make everyone act like them wherever they are.
My family is very socially conservative. This is for a lot of reasons but it boils down to us believing it is the right way to live. Other than the various sects that say we can’t have booze and have to do other wacky things we live a lifestyle that meshes quite well with conservative republican/ Christian standards. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that we choose to live this way; we don’t do it because somebody told us to or wants to compel us.
I have realized recently that I can’t even call myself a Republican with a straight face anymore even though I may (or may not) vote for them. There are probably some republicans who are not fascists or puritans but they have been keeping a low profile for awhile now. Is it too much to ask for a candidate who isn’t a shameless whore to big business (crony capitalism, not free markets) or an evangelical who wants to force me to live by his particular religious code?
I just don’t see why anybody has the right to tell me what to do with my own life, money and body and by logical extension I don’t get to tell them what to do with theirs. When it comes to some religious issues I do not see why it is any different. I’m certainly not going to live under Islamic law and someone who is a Buddhist or an atheist shouldn’t have to live under a set of rules they don’t agree with. Also I tend to think that religious issues get sorted out elsewhere.
I have a live and let live philosophy about other people’s beliefs and ways of life. This extends from whacky religious nut jobs and vegans all the way people into weird sex stuff, drug users and the like. To paraphrase Commander Zero “I don’t really care if people have gay orgies while snorting a mountain of cocaine on top of rocket launchers as long as they do it on their own land and kids are not involved.” It doesn’t mean that I approve of it, just that it is none of my business and as such I stay out of it. We all have to bite our tongues now and then but we get to do what we want, seems like a fair trade off to me. Also life is short and if a person thinks something will make them happy then I wish them the best.
In closing the freedom to make bad decisions is something I firmly believe in.