Ain't Nobody's Business What They Do

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Aargh. Just
when I thought that the year was going to end on something of a
high note: John McCain persuading George WMD Bush that torture ought
to be illegal, Russ Feingold leading a filibuster against renewal
of the awful PATRIOT Act, backlash against Bush’s spying on the
American people. But then the rug gets pulled out from under my
guarded optimism. The enemies of liberty strike again. It doesn’t
seem all that serious, but this is emblematic of all that is wrong
with the American Empire: a
federal judge has ruled that
“Intelligent Design” can not be
taught in a public school. Particularly galling is that, for the
anti-ID crowd, democracy actually worked. As the AP reports: “the
members [of the Dover PA Area school board] who backed intelligent
design were ousted in November's elections and replaced with a new
slate opposed to the policy.”

Who needs the
local, democratic process or the Tenth Amendment when we have un-elected,
life-tenured judges to write the laws for us? To hell with our “laboratories
of democracy,” up with imperial governance! (And yes, this was a
Republican judge, appointed three years ago. By WMD Bush. You know,
the man who believes in “judicial restraint” almost as much as he
believes in a “humble foreign policy.”)

The issue is
not the validity of the Intelligent Design theory. I’m not sure
I’m convinced about that. I’m even less convinced about the necessity
of public schools themselves. Scratch that; I’m totally against
public schools. The issue, however, is jurisdiction. The issue is
always jurisdiction. Just about every fight in the “Culture
War” was started when a branch of the federal government, usually
the judiciary, usurped powers that had, since the time of the founding
and before, been under the jurisdiction of the states.

the early 1990’s Peter
wrote a book: Ain’t
Nobody’s Business If You Do
, arguing against consensual
or victimless “crimes.” Ain’t nobody’s business what you do, what
I do, or what he or she does, as long as no one is unwillingly harmed
by force or fraud. Yes, I might care a lot about other people’s
business dealings, habits, or lifestyles, but that doesn’t justify
me, or the government representing me, to use force to change them.
I have too many logs in my own eyes to remove the specks in others.
The initiation of force is itself an evil greater than anything
it is supposed to prevent.

If my political
philosophy was on a coin, “Ain’t nobody’s business if you do” would
be on one side. And on the other: Ain’t nobody’s business if they
do. It isn’t our country’s business what the regimes in other countries
are like or what they do, provided they are not attacking or invading
us. Similarly, it isn’t the business of my state what the abortion
laws, marriage laws, religious observances, or school curricula
are in other states. Yes, I’m libertarian. I support the separations
of the womb and state, marriage and state, church and state, and
school and state. I hope that one day, all the states in the Union,
and all the countries of the world, protected rather than constantly
violated individual liberty. I hope that some day soon the State
itself will wither away, and everyone will respect each other’s
privacy and freedom. But in the end, how other communities, states,
and countries govern themselves is none of my business.

Ain’t nobody’s
business what they do. This is the summary position of non-intervention
and states’ rights. For the same reason I do not want to throw drug
users in jail, I do not want to “liberate” other countries by force.
For the same reason it’s none of my business if somebody pays somebody
else for sex, it’s also none of my business if a state courthouse
displays the Ten Commandments. On one side of the coin I despise
citywide smoking bans even though I don’t smoke; on the other, I
would with even greater outrage oppose the Supreme Court of the
United States striking down those very laws.

In the federal
government, there is hostility to both states’ rights and to the
sovereignty of other countries. Yes, other countries are often run
by bloodthirsty dictators. Yes, our own states have in the past
and still today pass stupid and tyrannical laws. But the federal
government was not established to liberate foreign peoples, or to
save the states from themselves. It was created in large part for
mutual defense and to ensure open trade between the states. It was
designed to leave individuals pretty much alone and let the states
govern themselves. It sought peace and commerce with other nations,
not regime changes. The more the federal government strikes down
state laws to check the “tyranny of the majority,” the more it makes
the states dependent on federal funding in the name of “social justice,”
and the more it overthrows other governments in the name of “democracy,”
the more hostile it becomes to individual liberty.

Thanks to the
federal courts in recent years, the American people have been “liberated”
from Intelligent Design, from saying “under God” in the Pledge of
Allegiance, from state sodomy laws. And yet, the courts have also
affirmed that growing marijuana plants for medicinal use constitutes
“interstate commerce.” They have ruled that a federal law prohibiting
criticism of incumbents within thirty days of an election does not
violate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech provision. They
have affirmed that the President can call an American citizen a
“terrorist,” lock him up, and throw away the key, all without a

Design isn’t the issue. The feds could have gone the other way and
mandated the teaching of Intelligent Design, and it would have been
just as bad. The issue is always jurisdiction. The message from
the feds is, “The states can’t violate Constitutional protections
that were never intended to apply to them in the first place, but
the federal government can. And other countries can’t violate basic
human rights, only the Americans can!” This is raw fascism. This
is the nature of the Beast. Liberals can’t applaud this decision,
and yet express “concern” for some violation of civil liberties.
And conservatives can’t lash out against this and at the same time
claim that critics of the War on Iraq are “un-American.” There is
one unifying theme: the centralization of all power in Washington
DC its Triple A farm city, New York, home of the United Nations.

We can’t have
it both ways. We can’t say that government must leave alone individuals
who want to live their lives as they see fit, but then applaud when
government goes beyond its jurisdiction to force change in other
governments. “Liberty” isn’t an abstraction to impose or a religion
to kill for. It is, rather, the unobstructed pursuit of happiness,
to better one’s life and one’s world through personal initiative,
voluntary cooperation, and persuasion.

The same people
who want to force change in their neighbors through laws, are the
same people who think they can save the world through war. Whatever
their beliefs and ideals may be, I don’t want to be like them. Those
who not only have it all figured out, but also would force their
conclusions on others, are the worst people on earth. True liberty
is knowing that we don’t have all the answers. Which is why it ain’t
nobody’s business what you do, and it ain’t nobody’s business what
they do. Even if “they” teach Intelligent Design.

22, 2005

Leroy Wilson [send him mail]
is a columnist for the Partial
and blogs at “Independent
.” He currently resides in eastern Washington State.

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