It’s Japan. Okay, no. But Japan is close. I’m just discussing freedom in this post: public and private freedom. The ideal society has a high degree of private freedom and a low degree of public freedom. Here’s what I mean.
Places with a large degree of public freedom don’t have restrictive laws or social rules about what you can do in public. You can be loud. You can rub yourself against a willing participant. You can spit, smoke, eat, play music, block the street, shout, sing, drink, chew gum. You can go in public without showering first. Hell, in San Francisco you can even inject drugs, piss, masturbate and lay in the street moaning and screaming with few, if any repercussions. I don’t mind if you want to do these things: but do it in privacy. Find a refrigerator box, at least. No one else needs to see it.
In places with a large degree of private freedom, you can do whatever you want in your private life without legal intervention from the state or much in the way of social censure. In Japan, you can have your penis surgically removed, cook it, and feed it to a crowd, and it’s perfectly legal. In privately free places, you can have abortions, get married to someone of the same gender, have sex with a dead chicken and then eat it for dinner*. Whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t involve unwilling victims.
The ideal society
Now, you might think that it’s better to have a society that is free in both public and private spheres. But you’d be wrong. While I agree that government intervention isn’t effective for maintaining a pleasant public experience, places with less public freedom are more pleasant to live in. Think Singapore or Japan. In the latter, I get the feeling that the average person would rather cut off their own arm than get in someone’s way or annoy them in public. This is fantastic. It keeps us from living like lower animals. Imagine if no one was ever in your way. And no one ever made a scene in public unless they were actually dying. No one forces you to listen to their crap music on even worse phone speakers (because they’re doing it on public transit). No one tolerates whiny children. No sexual harassment in the streets. Everyone treats you as if you don’t exist and minimizes their own impact on everyone else.
Generally, people should care less about things that don’t affect them at all. Like what others do in private. In the United States, we care too much about what others do in private. Abortions, gay marriage, laws about what who we can feed our penis meat to…
The ideal is that no one draws anyone’s attention in a negative way. Everyone should live by this principle. It’s easy. In public:
- Do not make any more noise than necessary
- Be aware of others, and stay out of their way
- Do not take up more space than necessary
- Never be in public with children you cannot control
- Never be in public smelling strongly of anything
- Don’t smoke
- Do not talk to strangers, especially not to sexually harass them
Even in places which are more publicly free, like San Francisco, you’ll find that those of a higher socio-economic status already tend to restrict themselves by the rules above. Maybe we can get someone who appeals to the masses to spread this ideal? Maybe the Kardashians can do a tutorial on how to behave in public?
* This was a real example given in one of my classes.