Thoughts on Social Freedoms
I have been paying a lot of attention lately to the presidential candidacy of Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the Libertarian ticket. I very much like the fiscally responsible, limited government ideas that I've heard from Libertarians or Libertarian-leaning Republicans. In some ways it is compatible with the Tea Party movement. I consider financial responsibility to the most important issue in the election because it is what will drive our country into the ground, destroy social security, raise taxes, make us dependent on foreign nations (including ones that hate us) and so on. But I also care about moral issues.
Libertarians call themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. The philosophy that I've heard is let the people choose. I can agree with that. I'm all for choice, self-determination, freedom. Get the government out of people's lives except where individual choices could impinge on the choices of other people.
But it is interesting where we draw the line as to what counts as hurting other people.
I think there are two important points. Firstly, the lesser point, we should not have a government that incentivizes harmful behavior. If we know drugs are bad for people, while we should let people decide for themselves whether or not to use them, we should not do anything to encourage their use. This is relevant with cannabis aka marijuana. We can legalize it for medicinal use, and we can legalize it even for recreational use. We just have to be careful that the legalization does not count as an endorsement, which could encourage more people to try it to the detriment of their health, and that no programs that support medical use could in some way incentivize recreational use.
By the way, I like the campaign phrase that drugs (marijuana and others) should not be a criminal issue but a health issue. It makes no sense to jail so many people for using drugs, especially when these people are disproportionately the disadvantaged segment of society. They are often African American and I've heard research quoted saying such people are more likely to get arrested when caught with drugs than a caucasian. So let's do away with the criminalization of a personal health choice, save ourselves the money of enforcement and incarceration, and leave more people on the streets where they can get jobs without a criminal blot on their records.
The second point about the line between personal choice and harming others is why I'm afraid of another Libertarian platform phrase, which is "marriage equality." Again, I'm all for personal choice. You can choose who to spend time with, who to love, and what you do intimately with whom. You can choose your own self identity. I don't mind. But when one group tries to force their beliefs on another group a line has been crossed. I feel like the homosexual marriage group and the LGBT group are pushing too far. Let me explain.
First, the easy part. It would obviously be crossing the line to force religious institutions to perform marriages that are against their religion. I think most everyone knows this. At some point the conservative side used a bit of fear language to make people think they had to fight back to prevent exactly this. Whether there was ever such a danger I don't know, but it seems to me that most reasonable people understand that it would be too far to force religions to act against their own religions. I'm going to assume America is smarter than that.
What we do see, however, is that LGBT ideas are being taught in schools. In California there is a class session about how people are free to choose their own gender identities. (This relates to the recent New York Times cross word about "gender fluid" as well.) If someone chooses to believe this way, then fine. Furthermore, I understand that it is important to teach people to be tolerant. When I was growing up in California there was a big deal in the newspapers about a transgender teen who was killed. While I believe it was ill-advised of her (formerly him) to engage in intimate acts without fully revealing her true nature, it still is worth trying to avoid tragedies where people are persecuted or killed for being different.
But where is the line? At what point is it no longer teaching that some people believe and act a certain way so as to be aware and tolerant of them but instead it is teaching children, at school, what they should believe? As soon as you leave the realm of teaching facts and enter the realm of teaching belief you are preaching religion. The constitutional separation of church and state prohibits teaching religion at a state-owned public school.
There has been a trend lately to eradicate all mentions of God in the public sphere. But at some point the removal of God, not a particular church's idea of God but just the mention of a supreme being in general which many religions and even non-religious people believe, removing God completely is basically making atheism the state-sponsored religion. We have to be careful not to do that! Similarly, we cannot make transgenderism the state-sponsored religion.
I remember biology class in high school where the curriculum was to teach the best scientific theory we have at the moment about the creation of the world. It is Darwin's theory of evolution. The teacher started by pointing out that many people and religions belive in Creationism, that a supreme being organized the world. He stated that the curriculum said we had to learn Evolution, but that you should go home and talk with your parents or religious leaders to help determine what you believe. I thought this was a very tasteful way to handle the subject. I think we should apply the same model to any mention of transgenderism, alternate forms of marriage, and other social issues.
In the end, I agree with a phrase I heard Gov. Johnson use: "We agree more than we disagree." Yes. The majority of America, those that are not too far right or too far left, can easily agree with almost everything in Johnson/Weld's platform. I think this is the perfect time to choose someone outside of the broken, divisive, two major political parties.