B: On not-so-rare occasions, one hears of complaints about certain kinds of behaviors and that there ought to be some kind of law made to bar these behaviors. It’s easy to imagine how out-of-hand things would get if every impulse of this sort was satisfied by the government. There are plenty of behaviors people are annoyed by, even some whose existence rile up one group of people, and whose nonexistence irk another group.
There’s always at least the one potential problem with making new laws, that of decreasing people’s freedoms. If the government made a law to bar a certain type of behavior, every one of the citizens it governs has lost the freedom to behave in this way. Those who would be in support of the law wouldn’t mind the loss of this freedom because presumably they don’t behave in that way anyway. To them, it is as though no freedom has been lost. Furthermore, supporters of the law also don’t seem to mind reducing the freedom of others who may to prefer to behave in the now-barred way. It may be that they truly feel that nobody should be allowed to behave in that way, or perhaps they’re indifferent about it. Either way, freedoms are being reduced, and as long as that behavior was not in interference with other people’s freedoms, a government intending to preserve the maximum amount of freedom for its citizens should not enact such a law.
But unfortunately governments often appease the demands of the complainers and give them the law they would already obey anyway. Since this sets a new precedent, more groups begin complaining, and the government feels that, for the sake of justice, it should behave consistently with respect to this precedent, and increasingly more laws are made for people who want to bind others with their own sense of what constitutes proper behavior. (Please note that this “sense” constitutes a kind of belief: in other words, these people are binding others by their own beliefs, or their own religion.) Inevitably the desires of these groups clash, and some who supported one of these impulsively-created laws find themselves undesirably bound by another – i.e., the practice “comes back to bite them.” (You might recall we talked a bit about this kind of thing before.)
Let me illustrate with a couple of examples relating to the practice of homosexuality. In the first, a group of citizens feels that nobody should engage in homosexual behavior, and that it should be barred altogether. Probably a large majority, if not all, of this group does not engage in homosexual behavior themselves, and therefore has no problem with a law that would bar such behavior. The group apparently has little to no regard for the freedom of others who may want to engage in that behavior. The enactment of a law barring homosexual behavior would be imposing this group’s religion on all citizens of the nation. Some cherish it, some are indifferent, some hate it, and everybody’s freedom is decreased, whether or not they mind it.
In the second example, a group feels that nobody should be allowed to not recognize same-sex marriage; that is, everybody in the nation should be forced to recognize it. Once again, most in this group, if not all, have no problem recognizing same-sex marriage themselves, and would not feel adversely affected by a law requiring universal recognition of same-sex marriage. They apparently have little to no regard for the freedom of those who may not want to recognize same-sex marriage. The enactment of a law requiring recognition of same-sex marriage would be imposing this group’s religion on all citizens of the nation. Some cherish it, some are indifferent, some hate it, and everybody’s freedom is decreased, whether or not they mind it.
What, then, should have been done in the foregoing examples instead? Let citizens have their freedoms and leave the law out of it. Let citizens learn how to live with each other without constantly running off to the government as if they’re children crying foul to an overseeing parent about another child’s behavior. If gays want to be gay, let them be gay, and let nobody persecute them (i.e., take their freedoms away) about it. If people don’t want to recognize same-sex marriage, let them not recognize it, leave government out of it, and let nobody persecute them about it. Likewise, respectively, people can feel free to not be gay, and/or recognize same-sex marriage – but leave the government out of it, and don’t bind other citizens unnecessarily; else people are enabled to impose their religion on others. Freedom without the right to do wrong in another’s eyes isn’t really freedom, as I believe we mentioned before.