ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context: OnLiberalism, OnLibertarianism

Quora Answer : Libertarianism: Why do citizens tolerate government involvement in issues that are objectively personal in nature?

Mar 31, 2015

There's nothing that's "objectively" personal in nature. What is considered to be "personal" (and therefore none of anyone else's business), vs what is "communal" or "public" or "an externality" (and therefore other people's legitimate concern) is ALWAYS a matter of interpretation and negotiation.

Let's get down to basics. Your gravity will pull on other people. Your temperature will affect the thermodynamic properties of your shared surroundings. Your respiration will affect others. (halitosis is not private matter in a meeting). How much food you eat. How many resources you consume. What you spend your money on. Your mood today, and what you do to modify it. All of these have effects on other people.

You may think yourself the most hardcore Libertarian on the planet. A believer in leaving people to do whatever they want as long as they aren't actively stealing your property. But if I get my hands on a printer capable of producing undetectable false bank-notes, and start pumping out new money into the economy, you will be round my house with a pitchfork to complain about how I am devaluing your wealth.

All discussion of how we affect each other is "theory-laden". What you consider personal really depends on your theory of causation. If your theory is that putting more cash into the economy makes existing cash holders worse off, you won't consider printing bank-notes to be a "personal" matter. You'll consider it a pollution of a public space. If your theory is that pornographic magazines cause men to treat women badly, you won't consider porn production or consumption to be a personal matter. You'll consider it a pollution of the public space.

So the "personal" is, itself, a social invention. It's that bit of your behaviour that other people decide that they can safely ignore. But if they discover that they're wrong, that it wasn't safe to ignore it, they'll quickly change their minds.