Matt Ridley’s “Mind and Matter” columns in the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday Review section are among my favorites that appear in the paper. He offers up unique perspectives on a variety of topics and even when I don’t agree with his analysis, it’s usually well thought out and interesting. His effort this past Saturday called Inside the Cold, Calculating Libertarian Mind was likewise an interesting and thoughtful read. Well, at least it was until this point:
All Americans value liberty, but libertarians seem to value it more. For social conservatives, liberty is often a means to the end of rolling back the welfare state, with its lax morals and redistributive taxation, so liberty can be infringed in the bedroom. For liberals, liberty is a way to extend rights to groups perceived to be oppressed, so liberty can be infringed in the boardroom. But for libertarians, liberty is an end in itself, trumping all other moral values.
So liberty can be infringed in the bedroom? This is the ends that social conservatives supposedly seek? This has to be one of most exhausted of tired clichés, yet it is the one that Ridley lazily employs with little apparent thought. What does this even mean?
Allow me to play Devil’s advocate for a moment and offer three examples that I think liberals or libertarians would offer to demonstrate how social conservatives would supposedly infringe upon liberty in the bedroom.
First up is contraception. As far as I know, no social conservative is calling for the banning of contraceptives or limiting their use. If asking that our church not have to PAY for contraceptives for others is an infringement upon liberty than the word liberty has truly lost all meaning. Liberty is being allowed to do something, not being subsidized for it.
Next up is abortion. Actually, I’m not sure if abortion has anything to do with “liberty in the bedroom” since pro-abortion advocates have assured us again and again that women never ever use abortion in lieu of contraception. But if the right to abortion is indeed connected to sexual freedom in the bedroom then by extension the same could be said of infanticide. Social conservatives aren’t saying you can’t have sex. We’re just saying that you have no right to kill the baby that results from it or out of the womb.
Finally, we have same sex marriage. Again, anyone who thinks that social conservatives’ opposition to gay marriage in any way limits what two consenting adults can do in the privacy of their bedroom clearly doesn’t understand the difference between tolerance and approval. No one cares what two guys, two gals, or some variation of do between the sheets. But don’t expect us to pretend that such relationships are the same as that between a man and woman or that the state should recognize them as such.
Liberals and libertarians may find it difficult to believe, but social conservatives have no desire to infringe upon anyone’s “liberty in the bedroom.” In fact, the less we hear about what’s going on in your bedroom or this tired trope that we in any care about it, the better.