People are only truly free if they have the freedom to err

other's rights

I shared this picture onto facebook today, thinking to myself, “Surely, people will agree.”

The response I got was as follows:

The reason this is bullshit is because many of these things are choices which those who disagree with are nonetheless forced to participate in. Gay marriage? Try refusing to photograph, perform the rites or cater one and get sued (already happened) Porn? There was a time when people in underwear weren’t shown in ads. Now they are nude in bed together on daytime TV for little kids to see. Alcohol? Try driving down the road while every third driver is legally intoxicated. Drugs? Try thinking you have raised your kid so he won’t be dumb enough to use illegal drugs and just sit back and enjoy the heartbreak. Cigarettes? Try dealing with the lies told your child by others who convince him it won’t hurt anything and it’s “cool”. Yep. this sign is total bullshit.

So, feeling strongly about the importance of rights and whatnot, I feel I need to respond.

First, let me take the responses points individually.

  1. Gay marriage? Try refusing to photograph, perform the rites or cater one and get sued (already happened)

The decision to refuse the benefits provided by being in a legally recognized union, known as a “marriage”, to those who choose to be in a non-standard relationship is tyranny. Whether or not homosexuality is moral or not is immaterial. The fact is that “marriage”, as we know it in the United States, means two different things.

One is to be joined in a commitment recognized by your religion. This union, by itself, does not bestow any particular benefits except to abide by one’s religious beliefs.

The other is to be legally joined to another person, and to be recognized by the government and in commerce as working together.

The first should be managed and administered by the “marrying couple’s” religion and it’s leadership. The second is managed by the government.

Now, religion and state being seperate entities, religious leaders should have the option to not participate in such ceremonies or personally recognize such unions. That is their choice, and they feel that their religion mandates such a position, and so long as they do not attempt to otherwise hinder the couple from getting married, then they should have the right to refuse to administer the ceremony or participate in it, even to the point of refusing to allow the service on their property or provide commercial services in support of the ceremony.

However, the state should recognize such a union performed within the laws of the state, and provide to the couple all of the rights and privileges it provides to anyone who enters such a union. The state is not a religion, and while it may offer lip service or a historical relationship with a religion, it should hold itself seperate from the religion. It should not, under any circumstances, show favoritism to one group or community over another group or community.

My opinion is that the state should have nothing to do with marriage at all, but that is not our situation in the United States. We have to work with the system that is in place, and that system requires that any couple who wants to be legally recognized as “married” has to pay for a license. To deny that license on any grounds to any individual, with the exception of a child, is inequality. All inequality that is supported by the state is tyranny.

If you support the idea that the legal institution of marriage should be refused to an individual or couple because they do not agree with your religious belief, then you support tyranny based on religion. If that is your belief, you have a right to it. I do not hold this belief, however, and thus, support the idea that ‘gay marriage’ should be legal.

The idea that any commercial service must be applied against the will of the proprieter of a business is also tyranny, but also madness on the part of a customer within a capitalist driven society. If you wanted a service provided for what you see as an important life event, why would you want people to do it who would be irritated and offended that they were doing it, when their work would invariably show this irritation and be ‘less’ than someone else’s who was pleased or indifferent to be there in the first place?

That there have equivalent lawsuits to try to force or coerce people into administering these ceremonies, or providing commercial services in support of the ceremonies, is tyranny as well, because it interferes with the individual’s right to practice their religion according to their own conscience. The fact that this has happened in no way takes away from the need for state recognition of homosexual and heterosexual marriage to be applied and allowed equally.

These are both situations that should be addressed properly by the courts, recognizing the rights of the individuals in each case first.

      1. Porn? There was a time when people in underwear weren’t shown in ads. Now they are nude in bed together on daytime TV for little kids to see.

What children watch on daytime TV is the responsibility of the parent. Morality is a pretty subjective thing, especially when it comes to sexuality, and it is the job of the parent to decide to what level children are exposed to it. I don’t personally think that they should be exposed to sexual ideas at a young age, but I do not feel that I have the right to decide what my neighbor thinks about their own children, to the degree which our society and culture suggests that it is appropriate. That is why we have laws which determine at what point a ‘child’ becomes an ‘adult’ and can make their own decisions.

If it was a situation where people were required to watch television, and the only things on the television were sexual in nature, then it would be tyranny for parents’ rights to be overstepped and forced into allowing their children to watch such things. This is not the case, however, and the situation is that there are other choices in programming, choices which do not include such advertisements.

For the government to decide things that are within the parents’ purview is tyranny. The government can protect a child’s physical safety, as there are parents who are incompetent when it comes to this, but it is not the job of the government to determine the child’s morality, and the further they stay from that idea the happier I am.

  1. Alcohol? Try driving down the road while every third driver is legally intoxicated.

I would have to say that this sounds like quite the challenge, but far from reality. I invite you to give evidence of the claim that every third driver is intoxicated, as you say.

Alcohol is a substance generally used for recreation. It is illegal to use it publicly, except under certain conditions. It is illegal to drive while intoxicated or to be publicly intoxicated.

Are you saying you’d like to bring back prohibition?

  1. Drugs? Try thinking you have raised your kid so he won’t be dumb enough to use illegal drugs and just sit back and enjoy the heartbreak.

While I understand that you may have had a personal experience with this, and I’m sorry that you have, I cannot sign on to the idea that it is the government’s job to protect people from making the choice to use them.

The government should, by all means, expect a person to pay a consequence if they harm someone else or damage property or become a public nuisance while under their influence, it should not be up to the government to decide whether or not a person is able to use them.

I can see some wiggle room in this issue, as some drugs have far worse effects and chance of death than others, and if a drug is generally “safe for use”, then it should be legal, and up to the individual to decide if they will use the drug or not.

Thus, marijuana, which is the drug currently under examination as a possible legal drug, based on the current research, should be legal and regulated in the same ways that other legal drugs are regulated, so that the consumer is getting a viable product that does not harm them further than is expected by any such substance.

To allow access to other, more dangerous, less helpful substances while denying access to marijuana is tyranny.

      1.  Cigarettes? Try dealing with the lies told your child by others who convince him it won’t hurt anything and it’s “cool”

Again, while I understand that you have had a personal experience with this, and I am sorry for that, it comes down to the right of the individual to choose to use the substance.

Now, on cigarettes, I would have to say that it is reasonable to expect cigarette smokers to refrain from smoking in public places, considering that the smoke can harm others. It should probably be regulated with similar laws as alcohol, with the exception of those laws which were created to combat people trying to do activities which would be dangerous while experiencing an altered state of consciousness.

The goal here, as with all the other points, is protection of the rights of the individual. For the government to deny the rights of an individual is tyranny. For the government to deny the rights of an individual based on the desires of another individual’s personal beliefs or morality is inequality.

Individual rights, applied equally and protected to the utmost by the government would allow for all of these things to one degree or another. Without government influence, in a free, capitalism driven society, these things are self-limiting. Those who want success or long life are careful with the substances they take in. Parents who want their children to hold off on sex until they are of an appropriate age will do what they need to do to arrange for that. Those who do not, will suffer from the things they will experience within the capitalist society-less luxuries, possible homelessness, even death. Those people who are unfortunate enough to wind up in these situations can thus be held up for the rest of society as reasons to probably avoid those things within the society.

I think Gandhi said it best: People are only free if they have the freedom to err.


(extra note:  I hold a libertarian position on abortion, for more info on that go here: )



Filed under People with interesting ideas, Social ideas, Things I like, Thoughts

10 responses to “People are only truly free if they have the freedom to err

  1. If only “laws” could be enacted to “force” human beings to demonstrate personal responsibility, especially human beings that are responsible for raising tiny clone human beings. Of course, that concept would infringe upon / negate our “freedoms”. I really enjoy reading your material!

  2. WELL SAID!! Kuddos to you, truly!

  3. I think you make some good points, but I am not so sure about your assumptions about “freedom.” One example: you say “Drugs? Try thinking you have raised your kid so he won’t be dumb enough to use illegal drugs.”

    I just finished reading “The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Maté. Turns out that most of the current research on brain chemistry and addiction hasn’t made it out into “general knowledge.” There’s a lot of solid scientific evidence that addicts aren’t free to choose; their brain wiring is such that they will feel horrible until they find the thing they will abuse, and then they will do that (the drug, or the behavior) in order to get the brain chemicals that should be there but aren’t. They use to feel less horrible, and the original deficit plus the use actually impairs the functioning of their decision-making ability.

    That’s not “free to choose.” I’m not even going to try to explain all this here, because it’s just too complex, but if you are interested in wrestling with the idea of “freedom” give Dr. Maté’s book a read.

    • First, just to make sure we’re clear, that statement was something to which I was replying. That said…

      You make an interesting point. Indeed, some of the people who end up using drugs may indeed have been genetically predisposed to eventually use and become addicted to a mind-altering substance. The problem I have, however, is that part where you mention, “the original deficit plus the use actually impairs the functioning of their decision making ability.”

      What is freedom, if not the ability to choose? The choice to use a drug of any kind is a conscious choice, one which is not impaired before the use of the drug. Therefore, it is a valid choice in and of itself.

      After that point, I have to question whether or not the person hasn’t wandered past “choices” and into “consequences of a choice”. If I choose to eat salt, I will become thirsty. I will then have to make a choice about whether or not to drink something, and what to drink. Because my body says I am thirsty, I will be predisposed to choose to drink something. This choice is a consequence of the first choice I made, and not really subject to the idea of “complete freedom”. The choice can be made to refuse to drink anything, but such a choice would be very difficult. The first choice I was free to choose as I pleased. The second choice is a consequence of the first choice, and my freedom is less relevant.

      I will check out the book you mention. Thank you for commenting!

      • The research Dr Mate cites in his book suggests that the ability to choose may in fact be impaired even before the first use. Enjoy the book;it’s a great read.

  4. Pingback: People are only truly free if they have the freedom to err - |

  5. I realize the writer is not promoting the named activities, but is stating beliefs concerning personal freedom. Unfortunately, the freedoms discussed are presented as value neutral and their effects as neutral by those who are interested in profiting from others’ participation in those activities.
    Freedom to err is a great thing as long as it isn’t forced upon others by the error being made. I may swing my arms anywhere I like until they come into contact with others who will suffer from my arm swinging. Personal responsibility requires that one not encourage errors on the part of others who are too young to understand the consequences of such errors. The attitude which says “They don’t have to do it. It’s their decision” is equally applied to children as to adults by most who say those things as a sales point for whatever noxious activity they are peddling(e.g, “entertainment” such as porn, Heavy GangstA rap, the culture of drugs, etc.) which are sold under the auspices of such attitudes. Children are ill-equipped to see whether the product being sold in this manner is beneficial, but a re lured by the siren song of “personal freedom” which in fact ends in personal destruction if not quickly intervened in. as a Christian, I am literally free to participate in ANY activity because of the Grace of God. But I am constrained to a total avoidance of activities which will likely cause others to feel those activities will be good for them (For reference peruse the epistles of Paul.). So, as a representative of a better way to live, one which carries less seed for the consequence of personal destruction of myself and others, I try to avoid those activities. It is my responsibility as a free person to stay my hand from doing things which tempt the unwise and the unwary to regard me as an example of why it is alright for them. That is the logic and temptation as applied by the young teen who is in the process of establishing herself as a separate entity from parents. It is the lack of examples of the necessity for self-control which has our society see people murdered for the titillation of bored young men and women. It is the lack of personal responsibility encouraged by those who peddle poison, whether physical or moral, which uses this idea, even if one grants that it is used out of context, to destroy lives for profit. That poison can take the form of many other things than drugs, and the moral poison of lacking the empathy necessary to be a whole human person follows from the idea that we are free to err when it is used out of context as well. My ultimate suggestion is that those who wish to promulgate ideas which seem simple on the surface also give cautions concerning the misuse of those ideas of freedom, even if it messes up a cute and easy set of bromides on a sign. Peace. Love.

    • I agree with your statements. The only thing I would ask, though, is this: are you saying that we should LEGISLATE these controls and warnings, or should we culturally encourage parents to make good choices and take responsibility for their children and their children’s safety as they deem necessary?

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