Libertarianism, Individual Responsibility and Freedom is Compatible with Fat Acceptance

I get the hint from a discussion in the comments of a post titled “Hostility” on Shapely Prose that some people in the Fat Acceptance movement believe that, somehow, libertarianism has the penchant to create “straight white guys” who are non-PCers, i.e., reject the idea that one must use civil language and compassion when talking about people who fit into stereotypical groups. It is then explained that non-PCers are secretly afraid that, if they aren’t allowed to demean people with words, then their “incredibly tenuous superiority” will be threatened.

First of all, I should mention that the tie-in to Libertarianism was taken out of the original post. Thanks to Fillyjonk (the OP) for rethinking that tie.

However, regardless of whether it was taken out, it is an important to highlight a knee-jerk association, similar to “Conservatives are evil” and “liberals are fascists.” And I’m not saintly in this respect; I’ve maintained that modern liberalism more closely resembles classical statism, where an elite, in this case highly educated, few decide how/where the non-elite should live, what healthcare they should receive, how their children should be educated, what jobs and universities they do/do not have access to, what charities private individuals should support (in the form of taxes to support the popular social welfare programs of the moment), and so forth. I’ve also hinted, and seen hinted on other blogs that are certainly not libertarian, modern liberalism would (and already is) proactively separate out social undesirables and enforce a lifestyle upon them that would ‘integrate’ them into the masses (like weight-loss programs in public schools, and special-ed requirements for Aspies).

I would like to, at least on my blog, debunk some of the popular beliefs held about libertarianism and show, in fact, it is not those who truly understand and hold dear libertarian morals that would thrive in constructed superiority over stereotyped classes, but those who warp libertarian ideals for their own purposes (perhaps the same dynamic operating in the embarrassing elements of conservatism and liberalism). These individuals are operating perpendicularly to libertarianism, NOT in parallel with it.

From the Wiki article on Libertarianism:

Libertarianism is a collection of political philosophies possessing a common theme of individual liberty. Libertarianism’s ideals, although often varied in detail, typically center on policies in favor of allowing extensive personal liberties, rejection of state communism and state socialism in favor of individual ownership and control, personal responsibility and charity rather than welfare statism, and also theorize either limiting or entirely eliminating the power and scope of government with the purpose of maximizing individual liberty.

Certainly, within that scope, is the necessary acceptance of freedom of speech. I think, if we truly want to understand the mind of non-PCers, we need to see things from their perspective. They are, at heart, fiercely indignant at any external measure to limit their speech, which they believe is a way to control them. They’re likely angry, and finally having accepted non-PCism after years of succumbing to it, are abusing its purpose.

You see, the true strength in free speech in Libertarianism is that those who respect free speech, and want to protect it, are those who choose, of their own free will to use civil language, while at the same time rejecting doublespeak notions. In other words, a veteran Libertarian would never use crass, crude, developed-to-be-defamatory language to describe others, rather, we would use the most technically correct, civil language. We wouldn’t call the Fat Acceptance movement either Fattie-Fat-Fat Power or The Communal Progression to Be Accepted of Those Individuals Who Currently Fall Within the Overweight to Obese BMI Categories (which are arbitrarily defined).

Instead, Fat Acceptance is technically descriptive and civil-tongued.

Freedom is hard. It allows others to choose their words and their actions which could, in theory, lead to unpopular opinions and actions to arise. Dangerous and harmful actions have laws created which would protect the citizenry from each other, but unpopular opinions are left to the marketplace of ideas to ferret out the most sensical. Demagogues aren’t allowed to arise since the only way they could come into power would be for the society to reject libertarianism in favor of fascism since fascism has, at its heart, the destruction of liberty. A libertarian society would construct its laws and Constitution to, above all else, protect personal liberty.

Indeed, as a rights theorist libertarian, it is the control of another when the other has not in any way infringed upon the liberties of their controller, that I find most repugnant:

Rights theorists, which include noted deontologists, assert that all persons are the absolute owners of their lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their own bodies or property, provided they do not infringe on the rights of another to engage in that same freedom.

This should be of interest to FA activists, and is one of the primary reasons FA activism is compatible with my moral beliefs. While conservatism ever seeks its base and history for morality (which may mean imposing control structures on others), and modern liberalism answers ‘good of the majority’ determinations with control structures imposed on the unpopular, libertarianism believes “all persons are the absolute owners of their lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their own bodies or property, provided they do not infringe on the rights of another to engage in that same freedom.”

Even though there is hard evidence to back up the assertion that fat individuals do not harm the ‘people’ with their fatness, in a libertarian society the question of whether or not fat is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for the people would never have arisen. In fact, in a libertarian society, the only argument that would have fat people infringing upon the liberties of non-fat people would be in a universal healthcare system where, indeed, fat ended up costing others more money (though a recent study suggested even this well-worn position of fattists is, like their other positions, crumbling under the weight of scientific evidence [pun intended]). And, in fact, a morally-consistent libertarian society would never have a universal healthcare system in the first place, since it is fundamentally an income-redistribution mechanism.

Therefore, I put to you that libertarianism is one of the most strongly favorable systems to diversity. You can be anyone, of any color, of any sex, of any size and ability (and so on), and you can participate in the society with equal facility. That is, unless you desired unequal treatments that would infringe upon the personal liberty of others for your own gain, or whether others desired unequal treatment of you for the same reasons. Neither would fly. Therefore positive and negative discrimination would not be allowable.

It is important to note at this point, that I don’t consider most individuals who harbor beliefs opposed to such fundamental freedoms bad. In order to become a good character writer, one of the first concepts I had to grasp was that most people who are ‘bad’ don’t believe they’re ‘bad.’ I.e., they are just like you and I, in that they believe their systems will deliver us all into a better life. No system of beliefs has yet discovered a way to let everyone be free in a way where every single person has the perfect life, progressing in exactly the way they want it to. Libertarians would leave those who make bad personal choices out in the cold, and the children of the same would have their parents to first overcome (though then, in libertarianism, they would have a world of opportunities open to them. These aren’t opportunities in the sense that modern liberalism defines opportunities, but that is a discussion for another day). Liberals believe some should carry the burdens of others who ‘cannot’ carry the burdens of themselves, their children, etc. The definition of ‘cannot’ is very wide-ranging, and varies between liberals themselves. Conservatives believe government should impose the ideals of their forefathers and religious icons upon all, in order to preserve what they believe is some sort of cultural ‘golden age’ (like family values with respect to the 1950’s-era family); this would of course place impositions on some, like gay couples who want to be married, women who want/need abortions, and so forth.

Libertarians believe the cultivation of individual liberty maximizes societal happiness and prosperity. Liberals believe the cultivation of the collective good maximizes societal happiness and prosperity. Conservatives believe the cultivation of what they believe are historical periods of happiness and prosperity will maximize societal happiness and prosperity.

To say any one group is flawless, without so-called members that warp the fundamental messages to their own ends, is fallacious. Within libertarians, there are some ignorant people who translate individual liberty into “I can word-vomit all over you, and that’s freedom o’speech baby.” Those who really understand libertarianism would know that, with freedom, comes responsibility. That word-vomit does hurt others, while a civilized conversation embracing the same questions would make on think, not hurt. Libertarians want to preserve a civil discourse because to do so allows everyone the most freedom as well as maximizing their own freedom. It is in their best interest to speak responsibly.

Some liberals take the notion of the ‘good of the people’ to mean “My beliefs are superior, so people would be best off if they followed them. I shall make them follow them.” I’m sure that the good part of liberals find that view repugnant. Liberalism wants to maximize the good, and spread out privilege so as many people as possible have as much power as possible. Unlike libertarianism, there are constraints to personal freedom, since it’s believed some freedom (like that in the free market) will lead to abuses of some so that others profit (dog-eat-dog). Whether or not this is true is heavily debated, and is one of the fundamental differences between liberals and libertarians, who believe the free market maximizes prosperity for all, if the market is truly allowed to be free.

Conservatives have groups within them that view some ‘historical successes’ to be those times that maximized the happiness and prosperity of people like them, i.e., Jim Crow with respect to whites. And, again, most conservatives are likely highly embarrassed at this moral minority within their ranks, who warp their beliefs for their own ends.

In conclusion to a very long post I’ll probably want to edit a few times more, since it’s being written in all one shot (yay, Sunday morning!), all of the political groups within the FA movement have their flaws, and each person who adopts a set of beliefs believes he/she will truly maximize the happiness and prosperity of his/her fellow man. To pick out the members of a political group that warp the beliefs of that group and characterize the whole group that way, is nothing better than rhetorical mud-slinging. While I’m strongly opposed to liberal fascism and think it is a force for great evil in the world, I never confuse your average Democrat liberal with a liberal fascist, so name to separate out this dangerous element. In other words, liberal =! liberal fascist (=! means ‘does not equal’).

I also believe that the core precepts of libertarianism are, taken together, the best friend of the FA movement. We should all accept the notion that each individual should have liberty over his/her body, to love or hate it at will, to treat it well or abuse it, to promote it or denigrate it, without government intervention. That rehabilitation is our choice, not our consequence. That love, acceptance, and promotion is our choice, not our fight.

And if others don’t like it, they can speak against it. But they can never take our right to be who we are.

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8 comments on “Libertarianism, Individual Responsibility and Freedom is Compatible with Fat Acceptance

  1. chiara410 says:

    I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to find you. I’m a girl with a “strong libertarian streak,” as they say, and a (new) avid reader of Shapely Prose, which is how I made my way to you. Since I find myself sympathetic to but out of step with the political party line there (speaking in general terms) , I am really happy to find there is a FA blogger who sees freedom like I do. I see nanny-stating on the rise everywhere and fat people are likely to find freedoms limited as a result. I’ll definitely be following your writing…

  2. BigLiberty says:

    Cheers, chiara. I greatly enjoy the activism of the writers of Shapely Prose, and they’re a wonderful bunch of people. They’re a big part of what has really solidified this movement, and they work hard every day to keep the fattists on their toes, and to bring new activists into the fold.

    Politics is a difficult thing to divorce from one’s worldview, especially when one is pursuing activism. The natural question of “Okay, we know what we’re *against*, but what are we *for*?” is answered differently by those of a different moral bent. Some may answer this by creating new laws, new regulations, and new programs, and others may see the answer in overturning discriminatory laws, knocking down discriminatory regulations, and ending discriminatory programs. And for some, it’s a mixture.

    I have nothing but the greatest respect for the writers of Shapely Prose and I hope, with their voices combined with the voices of those who represent different political and moral viewpoints, we can really appeal to as many people as possible. We’re fighting *for* the same thing: an end to fattism and objectifying people based on their size.

  3. BigLiberty says:

    Note: The font here is tiny (I never realized, since chiara is my first commenter!). I’ll look into making it bigger. Time to stare at some CSS… 😉

  4. limor477 says:

    It’s nice to see a fellow libertarian in the FA movement. Thanks for the post. It’s hard for people to understand what libertarians are all about, especially when they are used to making decisions based on emotions rather than logic. I’ve added you to my blogroll at eema-le.blogspot.com

  5. BigLiberty says:

    Thanks, limor! I’ve started to read through your blog, and I really like it. I’ve added it to my blogroll, as well (thanks for the add, by the way 🙂 ).

  6. […] 26 02 2008 As a disclaimer: I identify with, most closely, the libertarian party (see my post on FA and libertarianism). Logically, I would not be supporting any of the current candidates for the presidency based on my […]

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