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Where should government have authority over our lives?

By Scott Tibbs, April 13, 2012

On March 29, I posted the following statement in the comments for a letter to the editor urging people to open their windows instead of using their air conditioner: "Frankly, that is none of your business. You live your life and I will live mine." (The typo in my original post has been corrected here.)

In the days following, when I wrote in opposition to the murder of children, Leftists have been quoting my March 29 comment to illustrate what they think is an inconsistent worldview. This is an important point, so it deserves deeper examination. Following is a comment and my response:

It might be that you don't like your own words being used to point out that you use hypocrisy to try to make your points. If you want to force your point of view on others then you shouldn’t object when someone wants to force their point of view on you.

If this is the case, then virtually every person on the planet is a hypocrite. After all, we all have areas where we think government should prohibit, restrict or regulate behavior and other areas where we think that government should not have authority. For example, imagine someone believes abortion should be legal while handguns should be banned. Imagine someone else holds the exact opposite position on both issues. Are those people both hypocrites?

If that is the standard - that believing government should have authority in some areas but not others - is the definition of "hypocrisy" then the only people who are not hypocrites are true anarchists (who believe there should be no government at all) and universal authoritarians who believe government should literally control every single aspect of your life. Any position in between those extremes is hypocrisy.

Real hypocrisy, of course, is very different. Hypocrisy is when words and actions do not match - for example, a thief who rails against stealing. A thief is not a hypocrite for railing against running red lights.

If you truly have been reborn and found god then you should let god judge everyone and don’t attempt to take his place.

This is a common statement in today's postmodern society, but even the most committed postmoderns do not believe it. For example, if someone walks up to someone who thinks he is a pure postmodern and punches him in the face - or steals $500 from his wallet - that "postmodern" will immediately judge the assaulter or the thief.

Furthermore, unless you are a true anarchist, you believe in government legislating morality - because all laws legislate morality. We have speed limits because we have made a moral judgment that traveling above a certain speed on certain roads is an unacceptable risk to others - and is therefore immoral. I could list an infinite number of examples for this. Every person on the planet (except legitimate anarchists) believes that government should legislate morality - and even anarchism is a moral choice that people should be free to do whatever they want with no restrictions even of those actions harm others.

So what is the solution? Where should we draw the line and have government intervene. I subscribe to the following libertarian standard: Government should act to prohibit people from harming other people. Therefore, things such as stealing, assault and fraud should be illegal. And yes, this does include the murder of children. You can do as you please unless you harm someone else. Do you want to run your air conditioner? Fine, that is your choice. But you may not steal money from me to pay your electric bill.