Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Libertarian tolerance and progressive acceptance

I know I'm not the first person to mark the distinction between tolerance and acceptance. The two are often jumbled together, but tolerance is the weaker of the two. Acceptance means to fully respect and approve of something, while tolerance means to allow it to occur with or without accepting it.

That important distinction also demonstrates why libertarians and progressives can vote the same way on an issue, but completely disagree on why someone should support a policy. Libertarians are willing to tolerate more, as progressives need full acceptance before they will support something.

Drug legalization is a perfect example. As a libertarian, most of my arguments are about about how it's wrong for the government to stop an adult from putting something into their own body.

My friends on the left, however, will instead argue that marijuana is not very harmful and carries a lot of benefits for society. Those are very different philosophies being expressed.

For the left, they have to be convinced that it's a good decision for people to use drugs. For libertarians, we instead leave that choice up to people and let them draw their own conclusions.

The same thing happens with gay adoption. My friends on the left are forced to prove that gays make caring, trustworthy parents, where my fellow classic liberals simply have to say it's not the governments place to regulate who can be a mom or dad.

Tolerance has taken me to the opposite side of a recent issues. Lefties are rallying behind President Obama's requirement that all health insurance plans must include birth control pills for women with no co-payments, including plans from Catholic groups that are morally opposed to birth control.

Now neither of us accept the Catholic church's stance against condoms and the pill. I don't think it's a legitimate, reasonable stance to take. However, I'm willing to tolerate it and they aren't.

My real issue with the mandate, of course, has nothing to do with religious tolerance. I'm against any and all mandatory health care requirements. This mandate is not a form of insurance, and will drive up the costs of health care and birth control, guaranteeing less people will end up with coverage.

At it's worse, tolerance is a form of apathy. But when it comes to official mandatory policy with the power of the police force behind it in a nation with a diverse set of values, needs and incomes, I find tolerance a much more realistic and reliable standard than acceptance.


  1. The use of libertarian language is handy for the left because it has broad appeal in many ways, but I would prefer to see a wholesale shift to bold, utilitarian arguments. That's the general basis for a lot of progressive agendas anyway.

  2. Also, I made some changes to that post about intolerance because part of it didn't really make much sense. The gist is the same, though.