Friday, February 01, 2013

Drum: Freedom Now and Then

Drum is thinking about the relative degree of freedom Americans have now as compared to fifty years ago.

Libertarians and pseudo-libertarian crypto-conservatives like to pretend that we were clearly freer then. That's false. As Drum notes, if you're female, black, gay or disabled, then you're likely a lot freer now than you were then. OTOH, government does intrude more into business dealings, there are lots of places you can't smoke, there are all sorts of legal intrusions when you try to board a plane, and so on. So liberals who scoff too readily at the libertarians might think about these things.

I'd add: no more miscegenation laws (though that barely makes the 50-year cut-off).

And what about cohabitation laws? Didn't some of those still exist in '63?

Also: anti-sodomy laws. The government often literally told even married people what they could do sexually in the privacy of their own homes.

The real point to be made here, I think, is that the freedoms we've gained have been important ones, whereas the freedoms we've lost have been relatively less important, and traded off for important goods.

Sure, we're less free to smoke in public, but that's not an important right, and the cost to non-smokers of public smoke is high. Sure, there are people who are stupid, totalitarian lunatics about it, but, overall, it was the right call. And I say this as a person who enjoys the occasional cigarette, and would like to be able to do so in bars.

And let's not forget: contraception and abortion.

Things have moved in the right--or, at least, the more freedom--direction in the last fifty years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cohabitation is still illegal in Virginia:

2:34 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Holy sh*t!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

Wow! Go VA! Also, smoking rules aren't necessarily reductions in freedom. Every bartender I've talked to about this is 100% in favor of smoking bans. They all have horror stories about going home sick, and inability to clean their clothes completely. And every nonsmoking restaurant-goer/air-traveler agrees completely.

4:38 AM  

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