Call to Outlaw Porn Billboards (Reason I'm Not A Libertarian #738)

My wife and I were married at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the small and historic town of Micanopy, Florida, just a few miles south of Gainesville, where we met. Micanopy is a charming little town, the sort where you stop in to go antiquing on Saturdays, or where you might brunch before a little visit to Payne's Prairie.

Alas that no one in Florida knows that Micanopy. Because what Micanopy really is is Cafe Risque. Like a pornographic South of the Border, I-75 for miles in either direction as one approaches Micanopy is dotted with billboards letting truckers and general citizens know that a world of greasy and tawdry delights awaits them at exit 374.

The edifice pictured here is not Cafe Risque. This is where we were married...the Herlong Mansion. Are you being serious right now? "Herlong"? As in "I gave herlong pleasure"? Yes.

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Of the several grocery chains in our area, Bi-Lo is the shadiest, and you can see it in the check-out aisles. Few grocery stores in the area exercise what I think would be the common courtesy of covering up the Cosmo magazines at the check-out, but Bi-Lo is the worst about shoving them right in your face.

The thought that my nine-year-old daughter might be consistently exposed to the sort of misogyny embodied in desperate headlines like "25 Orgasm Tricks That Couples Love" displeases me. I would love to see more grocery store chains adopt policies of covering up those magazines. Ideally, of course, they wouldn't sell that type of sad pornography for women, but I realize that's asking the moon.

It would only take enacting a policy. Whatever private company decided to be consistent about such a policy would likely become my new favorite grocery store.

And certainly no one would argue with a private business' right to choose such a policy.

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I detest federal centralization. I'm all about local representation and a small federal government. I mean, come on, I'm Presbyterian. Even my church polity is about decentralization. The South was right on constitutional grounds...it was a War of Northern Aggression. Lincoln was The Great Centralizer, our Constitution is broken, and now the country's poorer for it.

Have I established my rabid and crazed anti-federal and anti-centralization radical bona fides? I hope so, because I'm about to get all anti-libertarian on you.

I want city and county governments to make pornographic billboards illegal. GASP! Surely you don't mean that! Those billboards are on private property!

How wonderful to live in a society with a (at least somewhat) representational government. And that government does not solely exist to keep people off each other and allow them go about their private business. A libertarian thinks that building codes are ridiculous; I think that federal building codes are ridiculous. It's quite wise of a city or county to make sure no one comes in and starts building and selling really crappy houses to their people. At which point some libertarians say caveat emptor and I ask them to go read Rand by themselves in their selfish little corners.

I am not a libertarian because of Cafe Risque. Or, more appropriately for me now that we've moved, because of Bedtyme Stories near Blacksburg, SC.

Cafe Risque is actually outside the city limits of Micanopy, which is why it can do what it does. Still, I would love to see the county take care of the problem (yes, I know it won't because of moneymoneymoney).

The goal of our Constitution was to have minimal federal government.Nothing wrong with a more robust and virile government at town, county, and state levels. In fact, I think that would help in dealing with the federal government. Does this mean that I long for a piling on upon a piling on of laws? No. But I would like Christians to consider being less resentful of the only governments God has put over them that are immediately representational: local government. Of course, most never vote in local elections because they're busy talking about the evils of Democrats and the Fed.

We have to many laws and too many codes at every level of government. That doesn't mean we reject all government. The solution is not some principle that rejects the whole package. The solution is the hard work of doing it right. The State exists and is ("Alas", we think to ourselves) ordained by God. If we have anything to say about the State, it is that it must not be the Leviathan it wishes to be, but that it has a place on the earth. We musn't abstract government into some sub-category of a sacred meta-concept like Private Property or The Right to Trade.

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Am I suggesting that we legislate morality?

Of course. Is there something else a law is?

Comments

  1. Joffre, perhaps your being upset about the billboard might be more effective and your stance more potent if you didn't include the "This is not Cafe Risque. This is where we were married…the Herlong Mansion. Are you being serious right now? “Herlong”? As in “I gave herlong pleasure”? Yes," caption under the pic. Just a thought.

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  2. I love sex and I love modesty. That's a whole 'nother topic that I could go at for a while. Joking about sex is not automatically immodest, nor is it pornography.

    You must be a new reader, because this blog is loaded with that sort of comment, mon ami.

    I did enjoy your joke about my "potent stance" though. Good one.

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  3. Joffre, I could not agree more. I get into arguments every day with people who want religion, morality, and "Faith-based values" kept out of government and politics. They use the incredibly tired quip, "Government should not legislate morality."

    The point, however, is that modern society appears to have forgotten the fundamental and philosophical point of government - to provide for the common good of the society. Your goal of promoting better standards of modesty and chastity is clearly within the realm of "advancing the common good." So, too, would laws banning abortions, drugs, and similar conduct. I shudder to hear Libertarians talk about the role of government because they believe that the government really has no business doing anything to promote the "common good." Instead, Libertarians primarily believe that the role of government is to leave the individual as free as possible to seek out his PRIVATE good. "Common good" of the society simply does not enter into the equation of government for a Libertarian.

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  4. Thoroughly well said. And I might be wrong, but I believe Publix shields those types of magazine covers, at least at the registers.

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  5. While I appreciate your sentiment and I can understand where you are coming from I have to disagree. I would firstly question why the tyrant up the block is any more acceptable than the tyrant in Washington, it matters little whether I actually can see the man who is picking my pocket, and 4000 people vote for his election rather than 40,000,000, as far as I am concerned this is a distinction with little difference.

    Secondly I think in principle the types of laws you would enact for the betterment of society are in principle setting up precedence that is dangerous. Sure, I don't like sleazy billboards attracting truckers to the "Best Erotic Massage This side of the Mississippi", however, I don't think the answer to sleaze is a gun (the state), it's the gospel. I also warmly agree in your disgust over the smutty magazines about "Secret of how to orgasm for hours", I like you don't want my kids seeing that junk. But as I raised already, is the answer to smut a gun? That is what you are injecting into the equation when we say, "There oughta be a law against X!"

    Frankly on one level I see the debauchery around us as just part of being in a world that needs Christ. Should we use the state to arrest fornicators, adulterers, and homosexuals? I don't want my kids to see 2 queers with their hands in each others back pockets smooching, should we make a law, and have the constabulary whisk such offenders away? The same can be said of the war on drugs which has caused the deaths of untold thousands, and drugs are still easily accessible. All of that said, I don't believe in banning books, booby magazines, booze, drugs, racy billboards, or fanny packs and Crocs (as much as I would like to see some of these things go away).

    I do not thereby endorse the vice, I just don't see the state as the entity to curb vice, that's the job of the Church, and the family, and ultimately the gospel. If we had a thoroughly gospel saturated society laws banning smutty billboards and magazines would be simply redundant, as it is making such laws now is like giving a blind man a work of Rembrandt and bidding him to admire the true "painter of light".

    God bless

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  6. g2-47355c9fce6f353ebb6fd7e3284e08d5August 28, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    In regards toso called "common goods", there is no such thing, if it moves privatize it, if it doesn't move privatize it. Walter Block has some excellent essays on road privatization.

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  7. The "Common Good" and the "General Welfare" I presume to be the same thing. Important because one is a legal term, as it is in the U.S. Constitution. The problem, as Madison pointed out in my previously attributed quote, is that it is the ultimate slippery slope and it is meant to be used on a federal level with extreme caution and frugality. There has been far more written on this by greater minds than mine so 'nuf said.

    Regarding "queers with their hands in each others back pockets". That kind of statement is needlessly homophobic because you target a particular group? I point it out hoping because allowing it to pass would only give it credence. I don't want to see anyone, fat, skinny, hairy, bald, toothless, rich, poor, black, white, tall (gigantic) or small, playing grab ass and slobbering on other peoples faces in public unless it is newlyweds at their wedding, and even then there is etiquette.

    As for God being the answer to legislative morality; I would say that a solid family and an enlightened, healthy and prosperous society is the best counter to the more base predilections of the human condition. The family is of many times greater in importance than society. Exponentially more important.

    However, some do not have the benefit of a great family and thus we are serving our own interest as a society to better provide assistance for those who are less fortunate in this regard. These fundamental needs are best provided locally but should be provided. It is I believe the natural course of a free and evolving society to provide these things more readily as they benefit all. As some localities are less able to provide them so to shall they evolve over time to be able to improve if left to there own devices. It is not my place to help them evolve if they are not of my locality but to help them remain free as individuals so that they may evolve as a society.

    One may see this as a religious endeavor and for you it may be. I do not. I do not need to believe in a God to know right from wrong although I have certainly been philosophically educated and influenced by religious writing. I need only be enlightened to what is in my best interest and the best interest of those I care about, willing to live my own life in accordance with these ideas and willing to take responsibility for my place as a member of a larger society. It is best for me and mine to have a peaceful, educated, productive and happy society where all people can be free to live in harmony. But this will never be achieved through the threat of violence.

    And so finally I return to the original question Joffre. You are correct that someone should do something and so, you are. You are raising your children to be enlightened, healthy and prosperous and thus bettering the world. You may find these billboards a hindrance to that task but it is so minor a thing as to be inconsequential. Perhaps it is an opportunity. Importantly you are also sharing of yourself in your community and helping others to evolve. They may voluntarily listen and accept or reject. Perhaps future generations will listen better so that those signs and all of the distasteful, hurtful and hateful actions of this world may be eliminated. Voluntarily through a free market and a free society. Because I believe there is no other alternative.

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  8. John I agree with everything you are saying, with one major exception, I am basically and Anarcho-Capitalist. Your rejection of God and his moral revelation is obviously where we part ways. Without an objective word any talk of morality devolves into subjective gibberish, and as Nietzsche put it morality is simply a weapon of the weak to try to thwart the strong, that's the end result of the enlightenment you keep talking about. Why is peace something we should seek? Says who? If I can achieve my goals through coercion why shouldn't I? It's the "shoulds" that you are going to have a problem with, they become empty and vapid without any objective Author backing them up.

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  9. I disagree. Fine. I'll go on being moral and non-religious and you'll go on being moral and religious. OK. Thank GOD we still have the freedom to do that (for now).

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  10. "I love sex and I love modesty. That’s a whole ‘nother topic that I could go at for a while. Joking about sex is not automatically immodest, nor is it pornography."

    You are rightly worried about the public display of Cosmo covers, which are also not per se pornographic but pretty inappropriate. How would you feel about magazines displayed at kid's eye level that used a joke about giving "herlong pleasure"? And if the public display of that would be inappropriate, why not on a blog which is fairly public as well?

    For the record I think jokes like that are fine in the company of other men who know what's up. But isn't a blog more the equivalent of being in "mixed company"?

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  11. My question would be, where does the law of God authorize the state to take authority over that?

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