A Libertarian Tolerance Test
The core libertarian test of any human behavior is whether it forces itself upon any unwilling party. So, it would be a core libertarian position that doing anything by yourself in private on your own property — or privately between or among universally consenting sentient beings — should not be invaded to prevent it by any outside party.
Somewhere in here then comes questions pure materialists might regard as mere matters of taste or personal preferences but which those with a philosophy embracing any sort of metaphysics — a sense that existence itself is biased — might regard as nature.
A pure libertarian might be absolutely value-free when it comes to a question of whether nature is at all to be preferred over invention or artifice; many libertarians, it appears to me, actually have a strong disregard for the natural and prefer the invented; a disdain for the mainstream and a preference for the offbeat. I think this is true of most real intellectuals of any stripe.
But how far is anyone willing to take this? I actually think most libertarians — most intellectuals — are more conventional than they believe themselves to be.
So let’s find out. Here’s a quiz for libertarians.
1. Would you be comfortable living in a society where cannibalism was practiced? I exclude the eating of murder victims by their murderers from this question. But it would include the eating of murder victims by third parties when their families sold the bodies to restaurants, children and teens killed in automobile accidents, suicides, prisoners executed for murder, and — soon available on eBay — celebrities who die from overdoses of drugs.
2. How would you get along in a society in which undergarments commonly substituted for bathrooms, so that it would be a common occurrence to be sitting in a restaurant or movie theater — or walking through a shopping mall — within a few feet of someone freely and unabashedly defecating or urinating under their clothing?
3. Professor Arnold van Huis of Holland’s Wageningen University has written a white paper for the United Nations in which he suggests replacing the Western diet’s reliance on red meat for protein with insects. How would you feel if his suggestion were commonly adopted and KFC served Kentucky Fried Cockroach? Let’s up the ante. What if restaurants had bullshit burgers on the menu?
4. Combat to the death was popular in ancient times; the custom of dueling made it to the 19th century in America and later elsewhere. The Romans explored just about every variety of this, including combat between gladiators, human bouts with wild animals, and even filling an arena with water and staging ship battles. Would you have any problem with this as popular sports — and new variations, such as two skydivers fighting over one parachute — if all athletes were volunteers?
5. For much of human history human childhood ended at the onset of puberty. Could you live in a society where 11-year-old girls and 13-year-old boys could marry, work, smoke (including tobacco, marijuana, and opium), drink, consent to sex, gamble, and engage in prostitution in which they got to keep the earnings?
6. Do you believe people have the right to decorate, accessorize, or configure their bodies in any way they desire? Suppose tattooing and piercing were one-upped by “amping” — the deliberate amputation of body parts — or blinding — people deliberately deciding to remove their eyeballs?
7. Here’s a question about practices which are already not uncommon throughout Europe and Asia: public offerings of nudity and sex? Do you have a problem with X-rated sex-fetish movies on broadcast television; billboards with both male and female full-frontal nudity; nude beaches; topless women on sidewalks; couples having sex in public parks; red-light districts with prostitutes offering their sexual services to the street; clubs with orgies and human-animal sex shows?
8. A federal judge has just overturned California’s Proposition 8, which had restricted marriage to a man and a woman. Do you accept that any form of marriage should now be legal, that California county clerks should now issue marriage licenses for unions including any number of men and/or women within a single marriage — and that these marriages should be able to have as many children — naturally, through surrogates, or through adoptions — as they desire?
9. Should any form of peaceful protest be allowed, not only burning of American flags, but including the defacement of religious icons — crucifixes, portraits of the Prophet Mohammad, Jewish Torahs?
10. Fox News commentator/comedian Greg Gutfeld, has proposed the opening of a gay nightclub adjacent to the “Ground Zero Mosque.” I’ve already watched a documentary about a pro-life center operating across the street from an abortion clinic. Do you believe White Supremacists should be able to open offices next to NAACP centers, and that Neo-Nazis should be able to operate offices next to Jewish Synagogues?
[Revised August 15, 2010]
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