Sex and Violence and Paternalism

I admit it.

My heart is warmed a little by the study reports that Glen Whitman relayed recently:

Two studies to warm libertarian hearts:

David Friedman reports on a study showing that increased availability of pornography (specifically via the internet) decreases the incidence of rape.

And Tyler Cowen links to a study showing that violent movies decrease the incidence of violent crime.

Mostly, I’m happy about these results because they partially take away the most powerful-sounding arguments for regulating access to these things. And, it’s nice to see another case where increased liberty correlates with better results. But, my opposition to such regulations doesn’t depend on these results. I would oppose such regulations even if studies showed a correlation with worse results.

I’m a libertarian because I value human flourishing, and in my opinion the nature of human beings is such that they do best when they have autonomy; when they’re free to think and act and communicate however they choose (so long as they don’t infringe on others’ ability to do likewise).

I know that people will make mistakes, and poor choices, and get hurt by actions that they take that might have been avoided by limiting their autonomy. But, I’m confident that, in the long run, people are better off with the freedom to make those poor choices than by institutionalizing having other people make (often poor) choices for them.

Anyone can choose to let someone else make choices for him. For some people, in some limited domains, that’s probably wise.

What’s vitally important, though, is that we can choose for ourselves as well.


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