Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick and dirty thoughts on slut shaming and libertarianism.

Here's the latest appeal to libertarians to oppose slut shaming, which claims that because libertarians are generally on board with something like the non-aggression principle (NAP, in liber-talk), they ought to oppose slut shaming because it is aggressive in nature. Here's the thing about aggression - it's not one thing. There's a difference between aggressive language, which, unprovoked, might make you a jerk, and the type of aggression that we believe legitimizes preventative, coercive action.

Some libertarians worry that if we identify too many things as aggression/coercion, we create justifications for all sorts of state action. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the trap of believing that everything that's bad or harmful is coercion of the sort that libertarians are concerned by, and take a stand against all aggression. Instead, let's distinguish types of aggression from one another. A presumption against all aggression seems smart, but a blanket condemnation of aggression in all its forms takes many avenues for social change (criticism, argument) off the table for libertarians. 

Look. I'm on board with changing the culture we have around sex. Even if it weren't responsible for rape victims choosing more abuse over facing the shame this culture encourages, the norms we've built around sex and love lead to preventable unhappiness. That's bad.

I also believe that a culture of tolerance is important for a sustainably free world - FEE's work on character is compelling for this reason. But that's true or not is an empirical question - it could be that a free society has lots of room for even costly judgement. That's why it isn't necessarily libertarian (or not) to oppose slut shaming, even if we ought to. Not everything that's bad for human dignity and flourishing is un-libertarian. 

There's a lot of common ground in the reasons that many of us would like to end racism, sexism, slut shaming, etc. and the reasons we support libertarianism. But if we try to explain both for everyone through a single political philosophy, we're going to have a hard time. 

There is much more to the world than libertarianism. And thank goodness. We're richer for it.