Can libertarians be opposed to a hedonistic lifestyle?
My wife and I live in Alabama and are active in libertarian causes. My wife is a physician, and I’m a political consultant. We receive questions from non-libertarians like “Do you believe in free sex?” or “Why do you believe that people should smoke marijuana” quite frequently. These sorts of questions often come from physicians, elected politicians and other reasonably intelligent people as a common part of our political discourse.
Another doctor in Alabama is apparently in the same situation. Chuck George writes:
There is an American national Libertarian Party and there are state Libertarian Parties. There are many libertarians elected to lower offices but none to Congress. There have been Libertarian presidential candidates for many years.
The Party has been adversely affected in the past by fringe elements that have attached themselves and have garnered much attention for their social issues. They tend not to be supportive of general libertarian principles. These have been rather flamboyant libertines who espouse and flaunt their life style, which doesn’t attract many from the heartland.
Socially there isn’t much dispute among the convinced: libertarianism proscribes any governmental restraints on action that doesn’t infringe demonstrably on others’ well-being. This means the hedonists are supported in their right to freedom from governmentally coerced proscription of their behavior. They need not be considered conventionally correct or morally correct or socially approved for such behavior.
George is generally correct, although I find fault in a couple of lines in his article. A minor point is that there is a l-ibertarian in the House by the name of Ron Paul, but no L-ibertarians are elected to either house of Congress. The second point I’d challenge is that many of the fringe elements to which George referred are truly supportive of libertarian principles. Although many libertarians disagree with some of his views, Starchild certainly serves as a colorful example. I don’t know anyone who would dispute the libertarian credentials of Angela Keaton or Terry Liberty Parker of Austin.
Like any significant political movement, the libertarian cause is represented by various coalitions. Most of these may be considered “fringe elements” to people motivated by other causes. In Alabama, it seems that the three most vocal groups consist of people concerned primarily about government spending and taxation, strong Second Amendment advocates, and those interested in the legalization of medical marijuana. Other locations vary, and I’ve plenty of friends around the world who view peace, recreational drug legalization or sexual freedom as their primary political causes.
Simply because I am a libertarian does not mean that I am heading off to the local orgy, condoms and Extacy in hand. I could just as easily be heading for the shooting range, AA meeting (recent South Park episode notwithstanding), church function or even just to the grocery store to pick up some milk and eggs.
George stated that those with libertine values don’t “attract many from the heartland,” and he is quite correct. If he, my wife, and I seem to be having the same problem with how many define libertarianism to outsiders, perhaps the libertarian movement has not done a sufficient job at defining (or promoting) the term. It now seems that two out of two local doctors agree.