“Silly Blue Laws” and Unexamined Privilege

I try to avoid criticizing my commenters, but this anonymous comment so perfectly crystalizes the attitude I was criticizing in my last point that I can’t resist quoting it:

For all the gassing on conservatives do about ‘family values’ and social issues and the like, the truth is as long as the state is leaving us alone and letting us keep the fruits of our labor, so to speak, people will always have the ability to buy our way past the silly blue laws that they pass.

The thing to ask about this is what does this commenter mean by “us?”

When I got married, my wife’s home state of Ohio recognized our marriage, as does every other state in the union. Every state in the union will allow us to adopt children. If I had decided to join the military at age 18, I wouldn’t have had to worry about my superiors learning I was attracted to women.

I live in a nice enough neighborhood that I’m not likely to be the victim of a wrong-door drug raid. The police are unlikely to seize my car because a drug dog detects trace amounts of illicit drugs.

I’m not likely to be wrongly accused of a crime, and if I were, I could probably afford an experienced attorney who would focus on my case and dramatically improve my chances of exoneration. Because I’m unlikely to wind up in jail, I don’t need to worry about prison rape.

I don’t do illegal drugs or hire prostitutes, but I’m smart and wealthy enough that I could probably do so without getting caught if I wanted to. I’m never going to need an abortion, but if my wife wanted one, she’d have the resources to travel to a jurisdiction where abortions are legal. I’m unlikely to be the victim of rape or domestic violence, which means I don’t have to worry about whether the police in my jurisdiction take such charges seriously.

I’m not on a TSA watchlist. There’s no risk of another country launching a preemptive war on my country, nor are foreign governments likely to secretly plot and finance a coup against my government any time soon. Other countries don’t dump poison on crops in my country. I don’t have to worry about being shot by a predator drone. I’ll never be mistaken for an “unlawful combatant” or subjected to torture.

I’m free to travel and work almost anywhere in the world. My community isn’t being impoverished by trade restrictions. I don’t have to worry about being deported to a country I barely remember because my parents brought me here when I was 2 years old. If I happen to be traveling abroad during a natural disaster or civil unrest, the most powerful nation on Earth will move heaven and Earth to get me home safely.

So it’s absolutely true that for me personally, a tax cut will make a bigger difference to my life than most “social issues.” And if what you mean by “us” is white, straight, male, American citizens with above-average education and incomes, then yeah, for “us,” the most important “social issue” may be “silly blue laws.” But personally, I’m a libertarian because I believe in freedom for everyone. And lots of people are facing government-created “social issues” much more serious than an inability to purchase alcohol on Sundays.

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11 Responses to “Silly Blue Laws” and Unexamined Privilege

  1. Rhayader says:

    Hell. Yeah.

    Great stuff.

  2. Luis says:

    Preach on. The question, of course, is how to build a movement that can actually work in this direction in a coherent, structured manner, rather than making (terrific!) statements of purpose on blogs.

  3. Luis says:

    Should have been ‘as well as’ instead of ‘rather than’ there… obviously a good rant is usually worthwhile, and this is a great rant 🙂

  4. I’m with you in spirit, Tim, but Anonymous has got a kernel of truth going. It’s economic freedom that allows most gays to escape relying on the military as a way of making a living, that has helped move most blacks into the middle class, and so on. Arguably, economic freedom is *most* important to the least privileged, to those least likely to find favor with a democratic majority in their town, county or state.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Very good post, Tim, but you held back a bit in one area. You write:

    I don’t have to worry about being deported to a country I barely remember because my parents brought me here when I was 2 years old.

    I have a friend from Liberia. He’s being deported to Sudan… a country which he’s never even visited.

    Sadly, things may actually be worse than you imply.

  6. Rhayader says:

    @Kevin: Yes, economic freedom is a necessary condition for making prosperity available to all people; a noble goal indeed. But still, unjustly locking a guy up, or stealing his property, or spying on him is going to “keep him down” in a much more profound manner than over-taxing him.

    And it’s really not legitimate to focus on the reliance (or lack thereof) on a job in the military or anywhere else. It’s about freedom of choice, not strictly a need for income. There are any number of reasons a person might want to serve his country that have nothing to do with the paycheck he draws, so sending him away and telling him he can make his money somewhere else is pretty depraved.

  7. Brian Moore says:


    You’re definitely right, and that’s why we should emphasize how economic liberty helps under-privileged people as well. But the key concept there is “as well.” One of the key points about economic liberty is that it doesn’t function as well when there is no rule of law. For a large number of people in this country, there are grave gaps in how the law treats them, ably outlined by Tim above. Also, these gaps are much easier to identify (especially to those they affect) than the losses caused by economic liberty.

    There’s no reason libertarians shouldn’t advocate for both, and if we’re trying to convince people to vote our way, and that person is very concerned about X (where X is gay marriage, unjust drug laws, serving in the military) and it’s something that libertarians agree with them on, we should respect that and say “yup, we want that too!” It may even end up being true that for that individual, economic liberty would help them a great deal as well; but if someone has an issue that is important to them, and we agree, we should happily support their efforts to achieve it.

    The problem, and what Kevin is implying, is that often you have to choose between someone good on economic liberty but bad on these social issues, and vice versa (I know, I’m being really insightful in my discovering of R’s and D’s!) Which is why I think that focusing on ideas is good. To a large extent, economic liberty people have managed to achieve (around the world) a pretty impressive consensus about what is better economic policy, despite some speedbumps. I think that means that’s there’s no reason we can’t, on average, convince the general public that greater social liberty is good as well, without negatively impacting the economic freedom argument.

  8. Rhayader says:

    The problem, and what Kevin is implying, is that often you have to choose between someone good on economic liberty but bad on these social issues, and vice versa

    Haha, more often you have to choose between two people, neither of whom are particularly good on either side of that coin. Especially on the social side — progressive liberals have been shamefully complacent in the civil liberties department.

  9. Brian Moore says:

    Oh, you’re no doubt right, but I just assume that libertarians are just plain depressed about those races, rather than having an opinion. 🙂

  10. JohnMcG says:

    I’m not a fetus, so I don’t have to worry that I will be determined inconvenient and have my life terminated.

  11. Pete from Baltimore says:

    Well said!

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