Who Are the People In Your Neighbourhood, and How Can You Control Them?

I just came across this old letter of mine, which appeared in the Opelika-Auburn News on 9 February 2001:


To the Editor:

So local government officials in Alabama’s counties are upset because the state Constitution doesn’t give them the authority to impose zoning laws or to ban prostitution?

Thank about what that means. These officials are upset because they think they, not you, should have the right to decide what you are allowed to do on your own property or with your own body.

If they decide they don’t like you running a business on your property, they claim teh right to shut your business down. That’s what zoning laws mean. And if they decide they don’t like your choices about whom you have sex with and on what terms, they claim the right to interfere there too. That’s what anti-prostitution laws mean.

In other words, they think both your property and your body belong to them, not to you.

The United States was founded on a different principle: that your life belongs to you, not to the government. But we don’t think often enough about what that implies. If your life really belongs to you, then you have the right to make your own decisions about your body and your property, so long as you’re not interfering with anybody else’s freedom to do likewise with theirs.

Sunday’s Opelika-Auburn News quotes professor Wayne Flynt arguing that without zoning laws and anti-prostitution laws we “have no control over what happens right next door”to us. But since when are we supposed to have control over what happens next door to us? If we don’t like the way our neighbors are living, we have the right to argue with them, or to shun them, but not the right to impose our preferences on them by force of law.

Thats why I vote Libertarian.

Roderick T. Long



(But it’s now been a while since I voted Libertarian (or at all); Barr/Root drove me away in 2008, and it’s going to take more than Johnson/Weld to lure me back.)


2 Responses to Who Are the People In Your Neighbourhood, and How Can You Control Them?

  1. Neil May 31, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    American law considers us subjects of the sovereign, otherwise known as the body politic of the people as a whole, specifically with dual sovereignty being shared between the people of a state and the people of the united states as a whole. Luckily, for Alabamians, their sovereign has seen to it that such laws may not be enacted by the the state which represents it. If the sovereign has a change of heart and through constitutional convention decides to grant Alabamians the privilege of having zoning laws and outlawing prostitution, what gives Alabamian subjects the right to complain? More specifically, what is it about a constitutional convention that gives the sovereign the power to demand duties from each subject? How is it possible for every subject, collectively as a whole, to make up the sovereignty and have representatives carry out the will of the people without unanimous consent or, if unanimous consent is required, how is it derived?

    Natural law has no place in American law, so Lysander Spooner’s arguments seem to lack anything beyond moral force. It is likewise for the non-aggression axiom, despite being a point upon which most anarchists of the various of flavors can all agree upon. So, anything less than essentially everyone in America being libertarian anarchists, or at least enough subjects in enough of the states united in order to hold the appropriate constitutional conventions and vote accordingly, would trigger the sovereignty to allow a successful overthrow. Apart from agorism and the like, what could be missing? There seems to be no other alternative with any potential for success. If there is no button, how do we build it?

    • Roderick July 15, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      We don’t need to change everything at once. Building alternative institutions — the new society within the shell of the old, as they say — gives us incremental freedom from the state. And lots of people will participate in building these institutions, not for ideological reasons, but because they benefit from them, piecemeal. Agorism, man.

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