A Defense of the Freedom to be Left Alone

A Defense of the Freedom to be Left Alone

                             BAD Broadside #4


We live in an invasive society. Our freedom to peacefully lead our

lives as we please is severely restricted by laws, rules, and

regulations instituted by governments of all sorts and their

supporters among the populace. We are subject to a huge number of

laws, among which are laws that: outlaw certain forms of consensual

sex; ban public nudity; restrict the sale or production of sexually

explicit books and films; criminalize the sale of sexual favors;

prohibit ownership of handguns; require us to get notes from a

physician to buy certain medicines; prevent us from seeking the

assistance of another in ending our own lives; fine us for not wearing

seatbelts; and attempt to prevent us from using the recreational drugs

of our choice. Why do people tolerate such a level of government

interference in their personal lives? Because they have been convinced

that individuals and society need to be protected from the

consequences of “bad” choices people might make if they were left



Governments presume that they know better what is good for others

than do those people themselves. These rulers seem to think that when

other people make choices that they consider unwise, unhealthy, or

immoral, those people are misbehaving because they are either

uninformed, stupid, or physically, psychologically, or morally

diseased. The state then feel justified in stepping in to prevent the

“unenlightened” from harming themselves. These busybodies fail to see

that other people can freely choose to engage in activities of which

they disapprove.


People like different things and have different ideas about how to

lead their lives. Some prefer heterosex, some homosex, some both, some

neither. Some like coffee and cigarettes, others vodka and cocaine.

Some prefer to have physicians tell them how to stay or get healthy

and what medicines to take, others would prefer non-medical healers or

wish to make their own choice about what drugs they wish to use. Some

choose to engage in sex for free, while others are willing to pay for

or sell sexual favors. These activities are the result of freely made

choices and no one is affected by any of them except the individuals

who voluntarily engage in them. Therefore, they should not be the

business of anyone but the participants and should not be interfered

with by others.


People sometimes engage in activities that are potentially harmful

to them because the pleasure or benefit they derive or hope to derive

from the activity is more important to them than the actual or

potential harm the activity may cause them. People smoke tobacco

despite the increase in lung cancer and emphysema risk associated with

it because of the pleasure they get from smoking. Some people engage

in sexual activity, like cocksucking without condoms, which carries

some risk of causing HIV infection, because the sexual pleasure they

obtain is worth the small risk of being infected and perhaps

developing AIDS. Such choices should be left entirely up to the

individual, since no one else is harmed. We should be free to live our

lives as we please, even if we make some decisions that turn out to

have been unwise.


Some voluntary activities are prohibited or regulated because they

have the potential to involve others involuntarily. Since guns can be

used to kill others, the argument is made that gun ownership should be

regulated to prevent possible harm to others. Some harmed by guns

deserve to be harmed, as when gun owners are defending themselves or

their property, but sometimes innocent others are harmed by gun

owners. The fact that non-invasive people are sometimes injured or

killed when guns are freely available, however, does not justify

restricting their availability. Non-coercive people are also sometimes

hurt or die in car accidents, but few, if any, advocate banning cars

for this reason. Just because a gun or car can be misused to hurt

someone who has not injured the owner does not justify banning it.


Supporters of interventionist governments would argue that no or

little risk is acceptable in society. However, the problem with this

outlook is that lowering risk means restricting freedom. A society

that values freedom will necessarily be a society which allows people

the freedom to engage in risky behavior. We must make a choice: either

a free, somewhat risky world, or a safe and secure, but stifling and

unfree one.


Politicians of all political tendencies, rightists and leftists

alike, support government intervention in other people’s lives.

Conservatives and conventional liberals may be more crass and open

about their interventionism, but they hold no monopoly on it. The

socialist left is perfectly willing to interfere with the affairs of

others, and the socialist states have an even worse record than the

united states when it comes to restrictions on individual freedom.

Few leftists criticize the prescription system or laws against

recreational drug use, for instance, and the socialist states are

notorious for persecuting people who engage in homosexual sex.


No government of any sort, no matter what its size or political

orientation, will leave people alone. The nature and mission of

government is to interfere with free individuals and tell them how

they should live their lives. We will only be truly and completely

free when people finally decide that they can live better and more

freely without any government and begin the process of building a

stateless society.




Please send two copies of any review or reprint

of all or part of this to:


Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade

(BAD Brigade)

PO Box 1323

Cambridge, MA 02238


Internet: bbrigade@world.std.com


November 1991