Just Because You’re Free to Do Something Doesn’t Mean You Should

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Libertarians are generally united in the belief that people should be free to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s right to life and property. Though there is some variation in how we view the role of the State in this matter, it is something the majority of us can agree on.

But what some libertarians can’t seem to agree with or understand is that there is a difference between allowing someone to do something and approving of that thing.

For example, when Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson was temporarily suspended from his show back in December for homophobic remarks, many libertarians and conservatives rushed to his side decrying the punishment as a violation of freedom of speech and the First Amendment. This was misplaced rage for a couple of reasons. To begin with, the First Amendment only applies to U.S. laws concerning speech and press – it does not regulate the contractual relationship between a company and its employee. A&E was free to suspend Robertson in accordance with his contract; the Constitution has nothing to do with this. But more importantly, this mad dash to defend Robertson seemed more to do with defending his views than actually defending his right to express them.

Should Robertson be free to say whatever he wants without being concerned that he will be thrown in jail? Of course. But that doesn’t mean that we should defend WHAT he is saying. Homophobia has no place in society – it is based on ignorance, hatred, and religious bigotry. As a society, we ought to disprove of and, if necessary, disassociate with anyone who holds these types of views seriously. Should we beat these people up or throw them in a cage? Absolutely not. But what we can do is peacefully choose to voice our discontent and refuse to have relationships with them.

Libertarians should have supported A&E (and surely a lot did) because they were showing their objection to Robertson’s comments by enforcing a contract and NOT by using violent coercion. Sadly, many did not take this route and instead supported Phil, showing their confusion of Constitutional law and, in some cases, their support of asinine bigotry. In the end, A&E reversed their decision after merely a week.

More recently, we posted an article about a cop who was taking selfies with a man in the background about to jump off a bridge. Most people on the Facebook page expressed their disgust, and rightfully so. There were, however, a couple of people who once again rushed to defend this person’s freedom of speech. Not only was I shocked that someone on PRL would defend a cop (it’s pretty rare), but also that they would defend someone publicly mocking a man about to commit suicide.

The same principle applies here. Should someone have come over and punched the officer in the face to stop him from taking pictures of himself? Definitely not. Is it okay for us to express our distaste by criticizing him in an article? Fuck yes.

Just because we support the freedom of individuals to act and speak, doesn’t mean that we should support all of their actions and beliefs. A free market of ideas means that we can express ourselves freely – especially when we disagree with the way someone is behaving or thinking. I’m not suggesting we should all think the same or that we should shout down anyone with opposing views. We aren’t the Thought Police and censorship is not the answer. But what I am saying is that we shouldn’t be afraid to voice our opposition to ideas and denounce actions that we think are harmful to achieving our goal of a freer and more just society. We can support individual rights without supporting every single, idiotic action.

  • smurf

    Most often if I share my personal religious beliefs many libertarians flip out and somehow assume I intend to coerce others to my own belief system.

    Like seatbelts, I personally think you’re foolish to not use them, but that does not imply I want it legally mandated. Why are so many people insecure about folks with contrasting views?