Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Freedom And Privacy

Two of the things I value most in my life are freedom and privacy. My personal and political opinions are based, in large part, on these two core principles. In my view, freedom and privacy are closely related, overlapping ideas. Following are some rambling thoughts on these concepts.

I believe that people should be free to live their lives as they please, just as long as they do not infringe on the right of others to do the same. All people should be free to march to the beat of their own individual drummers, which involves the liberty to be "different", even if, to some people, "different" is a synonym for "wrong". Again, the only limits should be that which either harms or prevents others from doing differently.

Related to this is the ideal of personal privacy; that anything one does that does not physically harm or interfere with others' freedom is no one's business but those directly involved and, as such, should not be monitored or regulated.

With these two values in mind, I believe that, in most cases, government should essentially be a neutral entity, with only as many laws as necessary to protect people's freedom, privacy, rights, and safety from being infringed upon by others, to ensure national security, and to ensure basic needs that allow for the full exercise of freedom, such as health care, education, and a basic survival safety net for the weaker members of society.

To use an example that is personally relevant to me, I am against marriage being a legally regulated institution in our society, as I think legal marriage infringes both on the ideas of freedom and privacy. I do not think it's the government's business to promote or regulate any particular form of personal relationships between consenting adults, nor should it be the government's function to define what a legitimate personal relationship is and is not.

At present, the government tells us who may get married, (heterosexuals), what form that marriage will take for everyone (monogamous), and outlines what the benefits and responsibilities will be for every marriage. The government also regulates and limits how marriages are to be ended with divorce laws.

Personal relationships should be a private matter solely between those involved, and people should have the freedom to decide what form such relationships will take, and to decide what benefits and responsibilities, if any, their relationships will entail on a contractual, case by case basis.

Though many people are satisfied with marriage structured the way it is, I could never legally surrender my personal autonomy and freedom. My body, my mind, and my emotions are my own and, though I may chose to share them on my own terms, my freedom to use these things however and whenever I see fit is not to be limited or abridged in any way, nor would I expect that of anyone who freely enters into a relationship with me. Likewise, my freedom to end any relationship is not to be regulated.

Privatizing marriage is also related to the larger idea of sexual freedom; the freedom for consenting adults to privately engage in any type of sexual behavior with or without an ongoing committment of any kind without stigma. Similarly, women should be allowed the freedom and privacy to make the decision of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. Those against abortion should always be free to offer information why they believe as they do and to provide alternatives, but the decision in the end, should remain with the woman.

Well, enough about the sexual arena for now. Though that is a large part of who I am, I am much more than just my animal nature.

Some other essential cornerstones of freedom for me are the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and the freedom OF and FROM religion. People should be free to believe or not believe whatever they want, say what they want, read, write, and view what they want without censorship.

The purpose of education should be to teach people HOW to think, not WHAT to think -- to give them the tools necessary to examine the ideas and things for themselves, and to draw their own conclusions. With this in mind, I believe that sex education should be comprehensive and morally neutral, to provide complete information to allow young people the tools to make informed decisions about this private matter. The school should provide the full technical information; it's up to the parents to present whatever their moral beliefs are on the matter.

The separation of church and state should be strictly maintained, as both freely operate better when the other doesn't meddle into its affairs. The government should not prohibit, limit, or promote any particular religious beliefs or philosophies. People should be free to pray or have religious clubs at school, but such prayers and clubs should never be led or administered by school officials, nor should they be part of the official curriculum. Religious education, if any, should occur either privately or at whatever house of worship each person attends.

I believe that all victimless crimes should be legalized, as they interfere with people's freedom and privacy to live as they see fit. Prostitution should be legal; everyone should have the legal right to sell what's theirs. Drugs should be legalized; alcohol Prohibition didn't work in the 1920s; it only allowed organized crime to solidify its position in this country and the "War on Drugs" has an equally dismal record. As long as the practice of such victimless crimes involves no one without their consent and doesn't harm other people, it should be a private matter of personal preference.

Privacy and freedom are issues in the work world as well. I believe that, primarily, employers are paying for our TIME before they are paying for our actual work. That is, we exchange intervals of private time for money, for the employer to use as they see fit. As such, their legimate interest in our activities should be limited to just those hours in which we are on the employer's clock. Our private lives off the clock, away from the workplace are none of an employer's legitimate concern. As such, drug tests should only be used to determine whether an employee is sober while on the job -- it's not their business if an employee has a joint or gets drunk on the weekends. Nor should personal habits or attributes that have nothing directly to do with ther performance of one's job be an employer's business -- such as smoking, hairstyles, tattoos, being overweight, etc. The employer's only legimate concern is whether the employee consistently does the expected work satisfactorily. To that end, an employer may require that people don't smoke or be high during working hours, to limit their smoking to off duty hours, to wear hairnets or to bind one's hair at work, and so on, but their control over such things should end at quitting time.

I could go on about this, but it's already turning into a book here.


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