Recognize, mind your own business

“Mind your own business” used to be the American way. Or at least, the openly-proclaimed preferred way to live. Sure, there have always been gossips and nosey folk; the meddlesome neighbors and busybodies who can’t seem to mind their own business, who therefore feel the need to direct your life “for your own good” (the ego boost is icing on the cake).

These people spend a lot of time concerning themselves with what others are doing, and sneaking a peek into everyone else’s windows in order to make sure no one is doing things they think they should not — or as H.L. Mencken said of “puritans”: suffering from “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” When their sickness becomes the basis of law and punishment their harm spreads beyond their physical reach.

It used to be that these damaged people were on their own, and generally had to hide their most objectionable activities from public view. There have been exceptions, of course, such as their favorite program from an earlier generation: Prohibition- Act 1, which failed to fool people and was repealed. They regrouped and attacked again. Now they are the ones making and enforcing the laws; wrecking lives and destroying the economy in the process. And too few people hold them accountable for the harm they do, thinking that their actions are necessary for “the common good.”

Nowadays too few people seem to be able to even recognize when something is their business. Even libertarians can have difficulty there, although we generally think it is better to err on the side of staying out of other people’s lives rather than to err on the side of sticking your nose where it may not belong.

To those who can’t stay out of the lives of others, I want to ask: Isn’t your own life enough for you to stay busy with? Don’t you have enough to do without worrying about who others are marrying, what they are smoking, what they believe, or how they live? Do you not respect private property rights?

All of these things are just “Peeping Toms” telling the rest of us his or her perversion is not only OK, but good for us. His victims must be punished for objecting to his invasions and for desiring to be left alone. Sure, you can justify almost any meddling if you stretch far enough, but that doesn’t make it right.