Between Michael Shermer and Penn and Teller, libertarians are well-represented in the world of atheism. It must have to do with the bottom-up processes of both biological evolution and the free market that makes the atheist/libertarian thing so visible.
A month ago, I posted on FB a funny Colbert clip about how the government may pull incandescent light bulbs from the market.
I noted on my post that it was funny that conservatives clung to gas guzzlers and anything else they might feel it is their right as Americans to buy, regardless of any costs to society. Steve Mirsky wrote in Scientific American magazine, “Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn seemed near tears as he softly asked, ‘What if you want to drive a gas hog? You don’t have the right any longer in this country to spend your money to drive a gas hog?’” Cry me a river.
I am not sure if fluorescent bulbs will improve society by cutting down on energy costs and hence helping the environment. I haven’t researched if the mercury in the bulbs makes them not so environmentally-friendly after all, but assuming that they do make a huge positive difference, the government would be right in pulling energy-wasting incandescent bulbs off the shelves.
The free market and capitalism are great, but it’s important to remember that we don’t live in a 100% capitalistic system. If we did, we’d be living in an Orwellian dystopia in which we auctioned off the organs of third world kids. Even the most staunch “let the free market decide” folks must acknowledge that going all the way would be terrible for society.
It was the free market that allowed slavery to happen in the U.S. Just as with sweatshop labor today (which I regard as a step or two above slavery), proponents claimed the economy would collapse without slavery. I’d like to think that, ethics of slavery aside, we proved them wrong.
Life under pure capitalism would be one big auction. Everything would be sold to the highest bidder. The bottom line– the almighty dollar– would decide everything, regardless of who got hurt. The reason we have civilization in the first place, at least in theory, is to protect those who are smaller and weaker. Under a pure Free Market system, stronger people would crush the weak.
Let’s get back to the light bulbs, though.
There are times when the gov’t should and does interfere with the free market. My free market friends: do you object to Big Brother butting into the free market to do the following?
—-Making it illegal to sell liquor or cigarettes to minors.
—-Protecting the public from dangerous items, such as lead paint and swill milk, pulling them off the market. (I can only assume that swill milk aficionados stockpiled swill milk before the law was enacted.)
—-Establishing standards for health inspection in food service, fire codes, architectural safety, etc. I’m sure you’d rather go to Denny’s knowing that Big Brother made sure they didn’t have mice crawling all over the Grand Slams. Check out this video about health inspection.
—-Establishing the Food and Drug Administration to create and enforce rules on which drugs are allowed on the market, and food safety standards. The government limits how many insect parts are allowed in our cereal. To leave this up to the free market would allow the foxes to guard the chicken coop. Life before FDA was pretty disgusting, food-wise.
—-While not completely necessary, I like that smoking isn’t allowed in bars and restaurants, and other public places such as libraries. Even if second-hand smoking weren’t dangerous (Penn and Teller denied that it posed a health risk, but science supports that it is), smoke smells bad and makes me cough.
—-Making seat-belts and other safety features standard on cars. I read that Ronald Reagan once said that making seat-belts standard on cars would “cost consumers their freedom.” Ralph Nader replied that it would indeed cost consumers their freedom– from going through the windshield. If Ralph Nader had not invented the issue of auto safety, in all likelihood, millions of FB users wouldn’t be alive due to auto-related deaths. (Note: there are some people who say that seat-belts kill more lives than they save. I think those people are ignoramuses. They need only ask an expert in the field to be set straight.)
I could go on, but you get the idea.
To reiterate: you wanna let the foxes guard the chicken coop?
Surely you think that these measures are worth sacrificing your freedom.
Only in the past few years have I met libertarians. I wonder where they came from? Out of the woodwork? At any rate, I can’t help but notice that they are all financially well-off men. As near as I can tell, they claim to support liberal values, such as keeping abortion legal, but then turn around and vote for conservatives. Voting with your wallet, guys, won’t maintain social progress. I call these folks “Republican lite.”
Just kidding. This is Not My God, a site for the personal aspect of atheism. I'm putting together a book with that title, having already 20 interviews lined up, but I still want to hear from more of you.
I've expanded the blog to include material not related to atheism, including rants, raves, consumer issues, curmudgeonly matters and other miscellany.
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