Response to Paul de Wet's letter on Liberalism
I respond to your correspondent Paul de Wet, who believes that four of the ACT MPs were "illiberal" in voting to decriminalise prostitution.
He spends much time discussing the original 18th century liberals such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who helped form the original ideas of freedom, individualism, personal responsibility, the abolition of privilege and the rule of law. However, Thomas Jefferson was also a significant slave owner, which suggests that he did not fully explore the consequences of his ideas. Mr de Wet should therefore place little credence in the personal morality of these original liberals as an example to follow.
Given that liberalism is indeed about personal responsibility, I am concerned for Mr de Wet. Does he truly have such little self-control that prostitution needs to be illegal to prevent him from utilising one?! No? Then why should his personal morality oblige others in a transaction between consenting adults that is none of his damn business?
If Mr de Wet believes that the concept of public good applies to someone's sex life, he has no excuse for insisting that it does not apply to someone's business. Simply because he does not have sex with prostitutes gives him no excuse to insist others should be forced by the government not to - no more so than a government has a right to tell him how much he should pay his employees, what sort of conditions they work in, or what amount of profit he should make.
Mr de Wet is welcome to be as personally moral as he likes - that is the best part of living in a liberal society. But morality is best instilled by force of argument, not force. His worldview is therefore nothing near liberalism - it is actually conservatism, and I would add that it is a hypocritical one.
Sincerely, Blair Mulholland – New Zealand.