Bryan Caplan  

Question for Conservatives

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As expected, I greatly enjoyed last night's Libertarianism vs. Conservative Debate at Cato.  I'm always impressed to see students publicly defend their cherished beliefs before hundreds of onlookers.  I spent most of the Q&A mentally searching for constructive questions - questions to help both sides understand each other a little better.  Here's the question I decided to pose to the conservative side:
What things that are currently illegal do you think people should be free to do?
After hearing the Heritage response, I wish I'd rephrased:
Please name the top three things that are currently illegal that you think people should be free to do.
Dear conservative readers, would you mind sharing your answers to either question?
 

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COMMENTS (28 to date)
Matt writes:

Build more freely on property

Practice profession without licensing

carry a concealed weapon(?)

Tracy W writes:

Can I participate even though I'm not a conservative?

Pay less than the minimum wage.

Hire whomever you like to provide childcare.

Leave school once you can pass a tough reading and writing test.

tim writes:

Reading the last two entries I'm finding none of those illegal. Regulated - yes (which is a completely different discussion). But not illegal.

I'm free to build on my property.
I'm free to practice my profession without a license.
I'm free to carry a concealed weapon.
I can hire whomever I want to provide childcare.
Our schools in this state have touch reading and writing tests (I was surprised how much my 4th grade nephew knew about biology and evolution).
And in many industries you can pay less than the minimum wage.

Here is one which IS illegal by the laws of my state:

Marry my same-sex partner.

tim writes:

(yes - i see the irony in misspelling "tough" in my last post)

matt writes:

I was being broad with the categories, but here are the same categories with more specific, illegal actions. Some of them are county/city specific, just like the same-sex partner example.

wire my home with romex

charge for giving someone a ride to the airport

walk out the door, this morning, with a hand gun

Taimyoboi writes:

1) Legalize marijuana.
2) Immigration (I wouldn't completely legalize, but I would broaden it substantially).
3) Eliminate the Dep'ts of Education, EPA, HHS, etc.

Turn it around for libertarians:

Name three social/moral issues that are not currently illegal that you think should be.

Blackadder writes:

Here is one which IS illegal by the laws of my state:

Marry my same-sex partner.

Nope. You're free to marry your same-sex partner if you wish. It's just that the state won't recognize your marriage.

SJSThriller writes:

1. Legalize Drugs
2. Get the Federal Monster (Federal Government) out of the public school system. Allow teachers to have freedom in the classroom. Not just teaching a standardized test.
3. Using the Front entrance of Federal buildings in the nations Capital, ie, supreme court building.

Tracy W writes:

Our schools in this state have tough reading and writing tests

Can they leave school regardless of how young they are, once they can pass said tests? (I thought that the US had minimum school leaving ages of 16).

Floccina writes:

I do not know if people would consider me a conservative but here is one:

Get prescription drugs without a doctors approval with may be a test before I can get antibiotics. (I know that this means an end to the war on drugs.)

Thomas writes:

Pay any wage agreed upon.
Use marijuana.
Get a license to start or run a business.
Keep more of their income.

The End is Far writes:

It is rather silly to discuss an infinite number of Rights by describing which of your favorite 3 should be legal. See 9th Amendment.

The discussion needs to be about what Rights are and what Privileges are. Do Governments that get their Just Power from the Consent of the Governed have Rights or Privileges?

It is obviously Privileges. Rights are actions that do not require someone else's permission. Rights are Universal, if it is denied to even ONE person, it must be a Privilege, even if for the majority however vast.

Consent requires Permission so Governments are given the Privilege to exist. Privileges may be rescinded, Rights may not be UNLESS an individual has infringed upon another's and is being punished.

Legal an Illegal need to be compared under Natural Law that recognizes Unalienable Rights. That is a system that does not require everything to be codified and in fact codifying somethings and leaving out the countless others encourages confusion and Tyranny.

guthrie writes:

As seen above, this is a harder question to answer than it first appears. To Taimyoboi, Tim, and Thomas, a typical 'conservative' wouldn't be supportive of relaxed drug laws, relaxed immigration, or expanding the 'definition of marriage'. But tim has a point that while many suggestions are regulated,sometimes heavily, none of the above suggestions seem to be currently strictly outlawed.

It would be more likely that a 'typical conservative' (more or less) would, for example, want the right to have a business that caters only to men or Caucasians or somesuch. While this kind of business would indeed be overtly 'racist' or 'sexist' (thus morally repugnant), such a business ought to be protected under 'right to assemble' but it clearly isn't. Such an admission might be hard to come by, however.

ThomasL writes:

1. Secede.

Noah Yetter writes:
Turn it around for libertarians: Name three social/moral issues that are not currently illegal that you think should be.
Does not compute. By definition, libertarians don't believe social mores should be legislated.
The End is Far writes:

Noah Yetter,

My favorite answer yet! Morality can be legislated. Morality must originate from free will less it not be morality, but coerced behavior.

The Preacher's Daughter is a perfect example of this. While under the gaze of her father, she is as moral as he, when he and his wife got to work, she automatically loses the restraint that was never under her control. Self Control is a metric for Morality.

Morality is actually a requirement of independence. One must be able to interact with others without supervision in order exist harmoniously in one's community.

Best regards and we need more thinkers like you because the end is far . . .

drobvioussso writes:
Turn it around for libertarians: Name three social/moral issues that are not currently illegal that you think should be.

Escalation for punishment any time another law is broken under the color of government action. (Morally, I consider it worse when an agent of the uses the state to commit a crime than when the exact same crime is committed without the state)

Accepting pay from the government or a lobbying group after leaving public office. Things like social security can be kept at pre-office holding levels. (An ethical concern, which I assume is in line with 'socal/moral')

Holding un-elected government positions after holding an elected position. (Ditto above)

The End is Far writes:

Re: Legislating Morality

Correction, Morality cannot be legislated

Fralupo writes:

I don't think I'd put these as the top ones, but they're the ones I can think of right now (in no particular order):

1) The ability to work (at least as a proprietor, if not as an employee) at any job an not be punished (either by an arm of the state or by the courts) for expressing/living out moral/religious beliefs.

2) Selling lemonade without a license.

3) Exist without the drug-war/ant-terrorism surveillance laws.

Andy writes:

1. Immigration without prior approval
2. Violate patents
3. Use all drugs

Kendall writes:

Tim,
Depending on your profession you may not be free to practice it without a license. I saw a show about a man who was going to jail for giving some friends some legal advice. The charge was practicing law without a license. I don't see how calling it a regulation changes the fact it is illegal to practice law, medicine and many other professions without a license. A former NFL receiver just got out of jail for carrying a concealed weapon in NY City. I think he would disagree with you he was free to do so.

Björn writes:

At what time in the video do you, Sir Caplan, ask this question?

Hugh writes:

As a conservative I would like to:

1) be free to pray on government owned property ("pray" is used here as shorthand for religious activity - I realise one can say a silent prayer anywhere);

2) Pay taxes according to the !Tax Code; where !Tax Code represents a radically simpler and fairer system of taxation;

3) Enforce the border with Mexico - it is currently illegal for Arizona to do so according to the DoJ - crazy stuff.

Peter writes:

1) It would be nice if it were easier to start up and operate a temporary business. (No permits, no LLC, no employer id number, etc)

2) I would like to be able to hire temporary employees without having to withhold income, SS & medicare taxes, or pay unemployment comp insurance, and check to see if they owe child support.

3) I wish women could go topless in public.

Anon again writes:

1. Advertise in a housing ad whether an apartment/house for sale/rent is near a place of worship or religious school. (This is presently considered a sign of illegal intent to discriminate.) I'd also exempt realtors from discrimination suits on the basis of ethnicity/religion if they're just following client demand for information about religious neighborhoods. If I can just be part of a high-functioning church-centered neighborhood, perhaps with its own schools, I'll care less about the outcome of the culture wars.

2. Discriminate in employment on the basis of sex & sexual orientation, so conscientious employers can pay a family wage or show preference for married men trying to support families. Married men are super-productive. This'd also allow more support for public morals in the private sector. And it would eliminate the de facto ban on non-feminist, morally conservative businesses, including for-profit media. Even the recognition of "gay marriage" would pose fewer problems if these freedoms were in place.

3. Ban pornography from their communities, especially the public library. My US circuit court (10th) considers internet porn access in the public library to be a constitutional right, & interference to be illegal. That's a limitation on the freedom of decent men to defend their communities' moral standards.

1) Play poker online
2) Use incandescent light bulbs
3) Use my iPad while my plane is taking off and landing

Abelard Lindsey writes:

Have access to new biomedical technology without having to wait 10-15 years for FDA approval. Elimination of the FDA prohibition against biomedical technology to treat aging itself. Being allowed to go into cryonic suspension while still legally alive (in the case of terminal medical conditions).

Bryan Willman writes:

Varous posters don't seem to realize that some of these things are either lightly regulated or not regulated at all in some states.

So, if memory serves, Alaska and Virginia have "unrestricted carry" of concealed firearms.
In WA it's a "shall issue" permit with no training or obstructions than a background check, so essentially a zero effort thing for most of the population.

It is now legal for same-sex partners to marry in a number of states. Whether that marriage has to be recoginized (or in practice will be) in other states is a question for elsewhere.

Electrical and fire and building codes differ by states, blogs about house building point out that in some places there are no building permits, so you have count house starts some other way.

So perhaps the question should be in terms of federal regulations, or regulations in the respondent's state.


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