Libertarians: How Not to Make Friends and Influence People

Topless protests on school bus routes. I really have no idea what point these people thought they were making, especially since female toplessness is not illegal in Keene, New Hampshire.

Full, but begrudging disclosure: These activities are mostly organized by people with ties to the Free State Project, the movement I founded. The libertine, anarchist, civil-disobeying wing of the FSP is a tiny minority of the whole, but alas, they get all the press.

9 thoughts on “Libertarians: How Not to Make Friends and Influence People

  1. This activity isn’t the best marketing for the Project and is likely to make it harder for the FSP’ers to achieve their ultimate goals -thus something they should stop doing on the grounds of prudence. It also isn’t very neighborly – something I value a lot – to do things that are offensive to others in your community when that thing isn’t all that key to your living the good life as you see it (like painting your house bright pink). But philosophically, I think that toplessness in the public square should be legal (though, like many things that should be legal, it is not something we should necessarily practice).

    Indeed, what grounds are there for it to be illegal other than aesthetics, a concern for public morality, or someone’s conception of the proper way to dress (given that there is no public health issue involved with the upper torso being bared, say, compared to baring other body parts)? And these concerns for morality and these conceptions of propriety are largely cultural or religious by-products – things we shouldn’t enshrine in the law, especially in a diverse, pluralistic political community like the US. Otherwise we’ll be open to the Islamist critique about what we, as a society, “allow” women to wear even thought it is allegedly bad for them (and us).

    And given everything else going on in our culture, I’m not sure naked breasts are going to break us. And if they are, then aren’t we essentially supporting the logic behind John Ashcroft’s silly (and expensive) move to cover the statue of justice?

    Now whether we ought to have a public square itself is another thing … 😉

  2. And btw, I’m open to the idea that small communities should be allowed to decide a thick set of rules a la Robert Nozick’s “utopia of utopias” — but then we have to have a much greater tolerance for different communities doing all kinds of things we might not like as long as there is free exit and initial consent. So, until we can agree to a mutual non-aggression pact, we should fight against communities restricting freedom in any way (and even then, it might be valuable to use moral suasion to convince those in other communities to change their rules).

  3. But philosophically, I think that toplessness in the public square should be legal (though, like many things that should be legal, it is not something we should necessarily practice).

    I agree, and in fact, I would see some kind of point in the protests were female toplessness illegal, just as I see a good point in “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” even though I would not normally endorse disrespect of a particular religion. But as it is, it just seems so… counterproductive.

  4. Yes, Jason, I agree with you on the lack of prudence. People need to remember to tightly tie their means to their ends — an important point we can all learn from our Clausewitz!

    1. Grover, I’m just glad you didn’t reply with a photo and that Jessica Simpson doesn’t live in N.H.

  5. There would be no “public square” in a libertarian state, so clearly we are into the realm of a theory of the second best when dealing with dress codes in public spaces. Not sure there is or can be a definitive libertarian position on this.

    1. Right, if we mean public square to be nothing more than state property that exists for legitimate governmental purposes as justified in a libertarian framework.

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