Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts on Quran burning and Mosque building

If liberty is truly valuable to you then you must allow others to use their liberty to do things that you might find offensive - so long at their behavior does not violate the rights of others.
This silly pastor in Gainesville has as much right to do something stupid as Muslims in New York have the right to do something that might be offensive.

It really does not matter what we think about a mosque being built in the shadow of 'Ground Zero'. The people who lost their lives nine years ago do not have an opinion on the matter any more than those who are upset about the mosque have any right to use government to stop its construction. If the folks who are proposing this building have paid for the land, labor and materials to build it, then so be it. That is the end of the story....IF....we truly believe in the idea of liberty. To force them to go somewhere else would simply show that Americans are hypocrites and that all that we say we have been fighting against the last nine years would be for naught.
I would be upset if I saw some nut burning the Bible in Iran - or Illinois. Yet, I only have an interest in seeing the Bible treated with respect, not a right to see it treated with respect.

If a book gets burned in America, so be it. So long as the pastor did not steal the matches or force someone else to assist him, we, as liberty-lovers are obligated to stand back, shake our heads over the foolishness of the man, and then let him proceed.

I would hope that Muslims and Christians living in America would see these events as an opportunity to do what we are supposed to do - leave each other alone.


  1. Assuming the mosque is a symbol of conquest (it's my assumption for the sake of argument, I realize there's no hard, fast proof, although I personally feel it's possible to make a strong case for this),by a people who in most parts of the world don't believe in or practice liberty, at what point does it encroach upon our liberty, i.e. do they have to make more definite statements before we should take action or are we justified in our efforts to attempt to see the mosque located somewhere else even though it's presence is essentially legal in every aspect.

    As libertarians we believe in leaving others alone until they encroach upon our liberty. IF the mosque is a symbol of conquest it symbolizes a huge encroachment in my opinion - flying planes into our buildings. Again, we have no concrete evidence the two are linked, but the possibility is worth serious consideration.

  2. Although I absolutely agree that it would be a gross violation of liberty to forcibly prevent the burning or the building, I do have a question.
    How can libertarians deal with the issue of indirect violation of liberty? Meaning, if this pastor in Gainesville had burned those Qurans there would have been terrible backlash worldwide. Although the pastor himself would not have personally harmed anyone else, his actions would have caused anger in a group known to be consistently violent towards his fellow Americans. What's your opinion on that?

  3. Great question, Arianna. I am not sure how other Libertarians would respond but here is my opinion..

    If we look at situations where our troops are at greatest risk, would you agree that our troops being in Iraq & Afghanistan is putting them at risk? Just being there alone is enough to cause them to run a risk of death. Sure, burning a Quran might make some people over there shoot at our troops who otherwise would not have, but I don't want our first amendment rights held up by the threat of backlash.

  4. Steven,

    Our liberty means our right to do anything that is peaceful. Even if the mosque is a veiled attempt to declare victory 9 years later, it does not interfere with my right to pursue happiness. I have a right to pursue happiness, but no right to happiness. Therefore, no matter what the reason for building the mosque I have the right to continue to pursue the things that bring me peace and joy. They have not violated that right of pursuit at all.

  5. Professor, this is the rare occasion I have to disagree with you. I believe this is one of those incidents where individual liberty will impact others in a negative way. In my opinion there should not be any new locationof religious significance in the area of Ground Zero. In time opinions may change, but not while we are still rebuilding, still at war, and our people are still dying at the hands of people who believe this Mosque is a symbol of victory. The answer is not as black and white as saying if someone has the money, owns the property, and wants to build a mosque they can. Looking beyond the morals and ethics, economically how would this mosque impact the values of nearby property? If it negatively impacts values would'nt that be infringing on ones property rights? I know I would have problems if my neighbors did anything that could devalue my house. Thats just my thoughts on it.

  6. I am confused... Do we have a right to the property value we desire? If someone next to me wants to plant some really ugly bushes on their property that might lower my property value have they taken away my property rights or simply used their property rights to do something I disapprove of? By the same token, why can't Muslims challenge the location of churches? Why can't I challenge the location of a new restaurant that might depict women in a way that I disapprove of? The cost of liberty is that some will use their liberty to do things we disapprove of, but we must let them in order to keep them from picking things we do that they want stopped.

  7. It is true that one of the costs of liberty is people will do things we dissaprove of; however, when people do things that have a direct impact on others then the line of liberty has been crossed. As for as property rights, if market fluctuations dictate a drop in home values, thats one thing, but if a neighbor has done something to their yard that can impact the value of your home and the ability to sell your home, thats a whole different beast. It has created a direct impact to another homeowner. Of course a rational person would not do not those things. Rational people would do things to maintain the value of their property and would hope their neighbors would do the same. Yet we know this is not the case. Not everyone thinks rationally. In the case of the mosque, the majority view that it should not be there. Even my muslim friends here at OU have the same feeling. This goes beyond a simple case of property ownership and usage. On that note....BOOMER back to thesis work.

  8. It is ridiculous to assume that building av ISLAMIC COMMUNITY CENTER (look up the details) a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero, alongside a strip club and a McDonald's is really a "symbol of victory". If anything, it shows to moderate muslims (the ones that really matter in the war on terror and whose support we have lost over the last 10 years)that we stand on principles we preach. It also shows that America is the Land of the FREE; not the Christian FREE nor the Jewish FREE. Regardless, we can't make decisions based on their significance to the crazy Muslim fundamentalists. After all, they view hurricane Katrina as "PUNISHMENT FOR OUR EXCESSES", the Great Recession as a "SYMBOL of OUR DEMISE", and even the California fire on 9/9/10 as "IMMEDIATE PAYBACK" for burning the Quran.
    @ oldmantang: It ACTUALLY is black & white. The constitution protects everyone's right to pray to whomever whenever wherever, as they see fit. Besides, liberty is not a constant. It is an idea given meaning and value by the extent to which people will go to defend it; And, in my humble opinion, there are no better times to defend it than NOW.
    @ Arianna: at the end of the day, it's funny how things worked themselves out. The pastor backed off after all the media-driven frenzy. On top of that, I read on yesterday that the City of Gainesville plans to charge his church a $180,000 security bill. I guess what goes around comes around.

  9. Oldmantag,

    What is the definition of rational? If 712 pink flamingos in your yard creates greater benefits than costs to you, then you are rational to put them there.

    Second, the "line is crossed" when one person has a "direct impact" on another? What does impact mean?

    When I see two men kissing, it has a direct impact on me. It bothers me. Has the line been crossed or does liberty mean I have to leave them alone and let them kiss? If they are not kissing me, or kissing each other on my property then I cannot, in the name of freedom, pursue a remedy to make them stop. You need to be very careful about the word "impact". The Nazis burned books because of "impact". Obama thinks businesses "impact" us when they earn "too much" profit. Roosevelt jailed innocent Japanese because of the "impact" they were causing by simply walking around in America.

    The moment we allow you or I to define "impact" and then get the government to act on our definition of the word, that is the moment it is over for this country. Imagine how the other 307 million people will define "impact" when it comes to movies, gambling, clothing, music, magazines and on and on and on.

  10. I need to forward this to my homeowners' association.

  11. Jason

    Ah yes, the homeowner's association. The problem here is that people consent to the rules of the association making it perfectly fine for the association to tell you what you can do with your property.

  12. Although I haven't taken a class of yours since 2006, it is posts like this that make you my economics Professor until you retire and quit writing.