Some time ago, I made a humorous throwaway observation that Democrats didn’t believe in individual freedom of choice except in matters pertaining to sexuality.
At the time, I thought the statement a mere comedic exaggeration. As a libertarian, I consider each political ideology a mixed bag. Each political group gives freedom with one hand and takes it away with the other. I assumed that a little honest examination of all the Left’s policy positions would quickly reveal many areas completely unrelated to sex in which the Left advocated letting individuals make the decisions about what or what not to do.
However, to my disquiet, I cannot think of a single one! I honestly cannot think of a single non-sexual area in which the contemporary Left advocates letting individuals decide what or what not to do.
Can anyone else? I’m really serious about this. If you can think of an area please say so. If you can’t, ask around your leftist friends and contact me at shannonlove-at-chicagoboyz.net.
Let me expand on this a bit.
Prior to the 1960s, one could at least rely on the Left to protect free speech. Yet, since then, the Left has waged a war on all speech, unrelated to sex, that they disapprove of. They protect speech relating to sex rigorously but feel no qualms about advocating censoring depictions of violence, the speech of corporations or non-leftist speech on public airways. Leftist dominated universities have become the only public places in America where an individual can be actively penalized for speech that isn’t incitement.
Let’s look at major policy areas and see if leftists advocate individual choice: Health care? Nope. Social security? Nope. Employment? Nope. Crime? Nope. Housing? Nope. Transportation? Nope. Environment? Nope. Education? Big Nope. Communications? Nope. Economics in general? Nope.
Hell, a major leftist politician even recently advocated bringing back the military draft!
In every policy area except sex, leftists advocate moving the authority to make decisions away from individuals and to the state.
Of course leftist don’t think of themselves as restricting individual choice. They play rhetorical games to deceive themselves into believing they actually provide greater freedom of choice. For example, leftist will commonly consider a person “free” to chose a course of action only if that person possesses the actual material resources to do so. For example, they do not consider a person unable to afford to attend college “free” to choose whether or not to attend even though no one else otherwise restricts them from choosing to do so. I think this is tantamount to defining someone as not free to have sex with other consenting adults because they lack the good looks, money or status to attract the partners they desire.
If leftists do admit they restrict the right of individuals to chose, they say that they only restrict the choices of a minority to benefit the majority. This usually takes the form of penalizing one side of an inherently two-sided interaction and claiming that only one side loses the ability to chose. For example, leftists do not advocate penalizing individual employees who work for below minimum wage or without a union. They merely penalize the employer who hires them. As long as an individual employee can find an employer who will hire them at the risk of punishment by the state, that individual can work for whatever wage they wish.
I find this position similar to the alcohol laws of the Prohibition era. Prohibition laws did not outlaw the consumption of alcohol. They merely outlawed the manufacture, distribution and selling of alcohol. As long as an individual could find alcohol manufactured before prohibition, which no one had transported anywhere and which someone gave away for free, why that individual remained free to chose to drink all the booze they wanted. Strangely, no one describes this era as time in which Americans could individually chose whether or not to drink alcohol.
The Left’s apparent post-’60s opposition to virtually all matters touching on the state’s police and military powers offers a ray of hope but I think that a detailed examination of their actual record shows them just as willing to expand such powers as those on the Right when they have the power to do so. The Left expanded police powers in the areas of the war on drugs, domestic violence, schools, personal protection and environmental regulation. Leftists also created much of the military intelligence apparatus they now so passionately criticize. Even if we grant the Left a point in the pro-freedom column for their opposition to military intelligence, it seems like one lone candle in an otherwise all-enveloping darkness creeping into every other non-sexual part of our lives.
I think it a sad truth that in the ’60s, the Left discovered the age old marketing truth that sex sells. They discovered that as long as they give people freedom in sexual matters they can steal away their freedoms in every other facet of their lives. Thus freed, they raged ahead, stripping away our ability to actually make concrete choices about most matters in our lives.
Beyond sex, they made every choice we make subject to political oversight. They disguise these restrictions so that most people do not realize they have lost the ability to chose. People do not miss choices they never realized they could make in the first place. For example, people will not realize that they have lost the ability to chose to drive a “gas guzzling” vehicle if the government simply makes it illegal for manufactures to provide them. Ditto for housing, education, medical care, etc. Leftists simply improved on Henry Ford’s quip that his customers could freely chose any color they wished for their Model T as long as they wished it painted black. Individuals can freely chose between the options that the state dictates to them.
I think we need to start repeatedly asking leftists just how often they do or do not advocate individual decision making. If we force them to address a long, long list of policy positions in which they restrict individual choice, the electorate will see them in a much different light. Compared to the ability to chose one’s own medical care, education. transportation, housing, retirement, employment, media, etc, the freedom to screw anyone agreeable will seem rather trivial.
At least to anyone over 30.
[Update 2007.8.24.13:27] Declan McManus suggest in the comments that Leftist generally advocate a loosening of the laws pertaining to recreational drugs and allowing individuals more choice in whether or whether not to give themselves a chemical happy. I think that a fair observation.
We could honestly say that Leftist advocate personal choice in matters pertaining to sex and drugs. Sex and Soma for you Huxley fans.