There is a tendency among libertarians to argue for more individual liberty and freedom as the key to societal good. This isn’t because everything people do with freedom is good but because bad things will cancel each other out. It’s like a vision of humanity as economic, social, or emotional billiard balls. There is a rational argument here but one minimizing the moral sense of limits and conscious self-control. The libertarian argument is essentially the Satan-ist argument. No, Satan doesn’t exist, and libertarians aren’t committed to evil. Still, libertarians seem to believe that vices naturally cancel each other out in an utterly free social order. Do they really?
I once came upon a book by some funny Jewish guy of the church of Satan. In it, he argues that the seven deadly sins are nothing to be afraid of. Instead of resisting them we should indulge them because they cancel each other out. For instance, take vanity and gluttony. Gluttony is pleasurable, but it’s bad because it turns us into gross fatties. But, not to worry since vanity is there to balance it out. In other words, a person may want to pig out, but his narcissism will control his appetite or push him to exercise. So, we need not fear these vices. If we indulge in them, we not only gain pleasure but also arrive at some kind of equilibrium. Somewhat true to be sure. But, would it be sufficient for a person to be healthy? Can we have a good society where vices simply cancel each other out? (Also, what about people who are so ugly to begin with that they would gain little by controlling their appetite or exercising? Despair & self-loathing in the looks department may lead a person to eat like pig to compensate for his or her ugliness.)
Libertarian philosophy comes pretty close to such thinking–the notion that vices, if let loose, will cancel or balance each other out and make for a decent society. While such ideas may have some macro-social or psycho-individual validity, there is no substitute for individual virtue and moral character in the maintenance of a healthy society. (Libertarians, of course, aren’t anti-morality, anti-virtue, nor anti-self-restraint, but they hardly emphasize such values in their preference of theory of freedom). Indeed, the beauty and power of virtue unite the individual with the community–made up of other individuals. Individual freedom is something we all prize and seek, but it has no inherent moral value(except in the vaguest and broadest sense; man needs freedom to choose good or evil, but freedom isn’t synonymous goodness; nor, can we expect the bad to simply balance out the other bads).
And, freedom is often socially destructive for the simple fact that people indulging in excessive behavior–even in private–are likely to cause problems spilling into rest of society. Fat people, for instance, make healthcare costs rise for everyone. And, people who gamble away their money become burdens on their family and rest of us.
The libertarian argument is most compelling when law enforcement against certain vices aren’t effective or counter-productive. This was certainly the case with prohibition in the 20s and 30s. The problem in a free society is that even criminals enjoy rights and protections which give cover to much of their criminal activities. The only effective way to eradicate such behavior is by eradicating freedom itself, but that would be throwing out the baby with the bath water. So, a free society simply has to allow certain kinds of freedom. We cannot legislate ourselves at every turn into a healthy society, and it almost impossible to legislate virtue in a democracy(and such don’t do much good even in a theocracy).
Nevertheless, who can deny that certain vices are extremely destructive, and we simply cannot expect other vices or virtues to naturally or organically balance them out. Though being fat is not a crime–and of course shouldn’t be–, the rise of fatassness among Americans shows us the serious shortcomings of the balance-of-vices theory. Though it’s true that people want to enjoy both food and have look goods, narcissism simply isn’t powerful enough to neutralize excessive gluttony in many people. Fatsos know they don’t look good, but they keep pigging out. Why? Because eating is fun and exercising is strenuous. People know they should eat less but they want to eat more and more. This is why so many Americans are fat-tards. Gluttony and narcissism are both vices, but one is much easier to indulge than the other(at least in modern society; gluttony would have been difficult long ago when procuring food was the hardest task of all.)
It’s quite obvious that people need another mechanism to eat less: shame. There is a thing called self-shame, but the most effective kind of shame is social shame. But, as we move away from a shame culture–due to both liberalism and libertarianism–, we have people who indulge in behavior that is immediately gratifying but harmful or destructive. In our politically correct, sensitive, and litigious society, we are not allowed to call fatsos ‘fatsos’. Some states are even considering protecting fatties from the evil of ‘weightism’. Now, I’m not recommending that we call fatsos ‘fatsos’. That would be rude. But, would it be so bad if there was some degree of social pressure or ostracism against fatsos? Indeed, it would be best for the fatsos. Fatsos are not victims. They are self-created self-indulged monstrosities. If they are shamed out of fatness, they would be better off and so would be–lower all-around healthcare costs.