Sent: Monday, May 16, 2016 2:02 AM
Subject: Libertarianism and libertinism
Dear Professor Block,
I just read your (now rather old!) article ‘Libertarianism and libertinism’, which I fully agree with, but have a question about. You said ‘This means that I abhor homosexuality, … and other such degenerate behaviour’. Most criticisms of homosexuality resort to religious teachings, and you have described yourself as a devout atheist, so do you have a rational argument for why homosexuality is unethical? I too find it disgusting, but I have been unable to convince myself of its immorality, and I think such ethical questions are quite interesting.
Block, Walter E. 1994. “Libertarianism and Libertinism,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 117-128;
Kind regards, O
I’m really not all that sure about ethics. Libertarianism deals with but a small subset of ethics, that concerning the use of violence; here, I have very strong views about the non aggression principle (NAP) being the foundation of rights. As for overall ethics, for me, and this is entirely subjective, homosexuality doesn’t pass my smell test. I find it yucky. I contemplate engaging in sex with a male, and I am greatly put off by it. That is all I meant by saying that homosexuality is unethical. Here, I’m using “unethical” as pretty much a synonym for “off-putting,” or “distasteful,” or “yucky.” However, I full well realize that many homosexuals probably have the same feelings when they contemplate having sex with a member of the opposite gender. Certainly, I think that homosexuals should have the same (NAP and free association) rights as anyone else. I also abhor eating eel, or spiders, or ants in much the same way as I do contemplating having sex with a male. In retrospect, I greatly regret writing that short passage about homosexuality being unethical or immoral. I wish I had stuck to what I regard as my area of specialization, libertarian theory, and not entered into the field of overall ethics, or morality, about which I am very much unsure. However, true confession: there are three males who I do kiss: my son, and my two grandsons. And I do so without any revulsion whatsoever. Also, I do hug several men: but only very good friends of mine or people I greatly admire. Hey, I’d hug Ron Paul in a second.
Let me repeat: In retrospect, I greatly regret writing that short passage about homosexuality being unethical or immoral. I greatly admire several (libertarian) homosexuals. I am friends with several of them. I don’t find them distasteful in the slightest. But the idea of having sex with any of them, with any man, I still find repugnant. I’m on the hetero team. I think most heteros feel the same way I do.
Is homosexuality incompatible with libertarianism? Of course not. The very idea is atrocious. The only thing incompatible with libertarianism is the initiation, or the threat thereof, of violence against innocent people or their property. If a gay person does this, he is acting incompatibly with libertarianism, he is a criminal, but not because he is a homosexual; it is because he would then be violating the libertarian non-aggression principle.
I march in Gay Pride parades. I do race walking. I regularly enter 5k races put on by Gay Pride organizations.
Walter2:39 am on February 15, 2019 Email Walter E. Block