Your freedom to do something is inversely proportional to the net damage your exercising that freedom will cause others.
Anarchists believe that people have the right to do whatever they can get away with no matter how much that conduct will damage the life, liberty or property of others.
Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
Nothing is inherently good or bad. Things are good or bad depending on:
- The circumstances of their use and
- The total benefits vs. the total harm that their use creates.
- You die if you don’t drink enough water. You die if you drink too much water.
- You die without eating enough food. You die from eating too much food.
- Love is a good thing, but too much love becomes an obsession.
- Life is hard with too little money, but as King Midas and lots of lottery winners have found out, life can become toxic with too much money.
Too much chocolate, money, exercise, food, love, water — too much of anything, like too little of it — is a bad thing.
You would think that people would understand that anything good can be taken to excess and become bad, but not everyone does.
When Freedom Causes More Harm Than Good, It’s A Bad Thing
Anarchists don’t understand that this unalterable fact of life also applies to freedom.
Like too much food, water, love or money, too much freedom — freedom whose exercise causes more harm than good — is a bad thing.
- Freedom of the press is good until it is used to publish vicious lies, child pornography, hidden camera videos secretly taken in your bedroom, books that somebody else wrote, etc. In those cases freedom of the press is a bad thing.
- Freedom of religion is great except when a religion preaches that daddies should have sex with their ten-year-old daughters, beat their wives or blow up crowded churches, then freedom of religion is a bad thing.
You can think of your own examples where one person’s freedom damages another person’s life, liberty or property.
Your Freedom Stops When Its Exercise Tramples My Rights
It used to be understood that your freedom to swing your arm ended at the tip of my nose, but various flavors of anarchism don’t accept that limitation, or any limitation on freedom.
Their idea is that their freedom to swing their arm only ends when I’m personally powerful enough to stop them, and that if I’m not, then they’re entitled to the “freedom” to flatten my nose anytime they like.
Sure, libertarians are quick to say, “Well, no violence” but there are lots of so-called freedoms that involve no physical violence but are still an economic or personal “punch in the nose”:
- A subscription website streaming videos recorded by a camera hidden in a public bathroom or a private bedroom
- An apartment-house conglomerate that refuses to rent to non-whites
- A restaurant chain that refuses to serve non-whites
- A factory that dumps toxic waste into their scrub land behind the plant
- The pharmaceutical companies who control a life-saving drug agreeing not to compete while quintupling their prices
- An uninsured passenger who refuses to wear a seat belt and then consumes hundreds of thousands of dollars of free, post-crash medical treatment at the taxpayers’ expense
- A maskless person infected with covid who demands his so-called right to enter a crowded room
More People & More Technology Mean Less Freedom
When people came out of the jungle and created modern cities and great nations it became self-evident that:
- The denser the population and the more interconnected the society, the larger the number of people who would be affected by the conduct of a small number of people, and
- The more power that was available to a few people, the more serious the consequences of a small number of people’s conduct.
If there are only two people in a large room, one of them can generally swing their arm with no effect on the other person, but as the room gets more crowded the more likely it is that one person’s swinging their arm is going to impact another person’s nose.
Put a knife at the end of that arm and the amount of damage that swinging arm will cause becomes much greater.
If that knife turns into a sword, then the number of endangered people increases as does the level of damage.
The fact that you have a right to the freedom to swing your hand in an empty room doesn’t mean that you also have the right to the freedom to swing a sword in a crowded room.
The number of people at risk from your freedom to do something TIMES the level of probable damage you’ll cause by doing it EQUALS the Potential Amount Of Harm from your having that freedom.
Your right to the freedom to do something is directly proportional to the net benefit your having that freedom will generate and is inversely proportional to the net amount of damage that your having that freedom will cause.
A Civilized VS and Uncivilized Society
Anarchists don’t accept this.
We used to understand the difference between
- (1) a civilized society where a common set of laws enacted with the consent of a majority forbade powerful individuals and organizations from using society’s choke points to take away their fellow citizens’ life, liberty or property, and
- (2) an uncivilized society that was ruled by the law of the jungle where any person or organization was allowed to do whatever they could get away with no matter how unreasonable, exploitive or damaging it was to life, liberty or property of others.
It used to be unquestioned that one of the fundamental principles of a civilized society was that when the total amount of harm caused by unrestrained conduct materially exceeded the total amount of benefits from allowing that conduct to be unrestrained then people no longer had the right to engage in that conduct.
Anarchists Think That You Are Only Entitled To As Much Freedom As You Can Protect
But anarchists want an uncivilized society ruled by the law of the jungle where everyone has the right to do anything they want no matter how much it diminishes the life, liberty or property of others, and that no one has the right to more freedom than they have the power to protect;
— a society that is a battleground where your freedom and wealth are a prize to be claimed by the victor rather than things that are fundamentally yours in spite of the greater power of those who want to take them away from you.
Anarchists believe that the strong have an inherent right to take what they can and that those who are too weak to stop them deserve to lose both their property and their freedom.
A civilized society rejects the law of the jungle and does not accept the notion that people have the right to swing economic swords in a crowded room with cheers to those who survive the experience and contempt for those who do not.
Net Benefits As The Source Of Rights VS Power As The Source Of Rights
Pragmatists think that the freedom to do whatever you want should be limited by laws designed to prevent conduct that does more harm than good;
That the net benefit from acting or refusing to act is the foundation of the right to do that act.
Net benefits make right.
Anarchists think that the freedom to do whatever you want should only be limited by the power of those who are strong enough to stop you.
That possession of enough power to act or refuse to act is the foundation of the right to do that act.
Might makes right.
The Right To Shout “Fire” In A Crowded Theater
Believers in the principle of “might makes right” believe that everyone has the unrestricted right to earn a profit from shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
Pragmatists who believe that no one has the right to act in ways that unreasonably damage the life, liberty or property of others, think that no one does.
Article originally published here: https://medium.com/government-political-theory-columns-by-david-grace/too-much-of-anything-including-freedom-is-a-bad-thing-119db7de6920