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States' Rights & Alabama sex toys

2007-10-05 14:07:00.825654+00 by Dan Lyke 14 comments

Many of you know that this week The Supreme Court left an Alabama sex toy ban intact. This is why I'm extremely skeptical of anyone conflating states' rights and anti-federalism with "libertarian", but as usual others have said what I want to express, only more coherently.

Marty Klein on the Alabama sex toy situation.

[ related topics: Politics Libertarian Erotic Sexual Culture Civil Liberties ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-06 23:07:15.838082+00 by: crasch [edit history]

And when the Fed's ban sex toys? Where do you go then? Sure, it's nice when the Feds enforce the laws you like, but what do you do when they enforce those you don't?

It's true that, left to their own devices, some states are going to choose some laws that are more restrictive than the laws Feds might enforce. For example, I think CA would have much more restrictive gun laws. Many Southern states would probably ban abortion.

However, it's much easier to reform and escape state law than it is to escape or reform Federal laws.

If we had a more federal system, marijuana would be completely legal in many states, and perhaps harder drugs as well. You might be able to buy a silencer without a FFA license in others.

Advocates of liberty would also be able to point to real life examples of American communities that are working just fine, despite the legalization of drugs/machine guns/prostitutes, instead of hypothetical examples, or distant foreign experiments that most people will never see.

People would be more free to choose which legal regime most closely matched their preferences. If you wanted to live where abortion was legal, live in CA. If you wanted to shoot machine guns, choose WY or ID. Want to do both, move to NH.

Compare that to what you would have to do to escape oppressive federal laws. One route would be to move to a completely new country, which would require you to leave behind friends, family, and business contacts. You would also have to surmount language, cultural, and legal barriers to immigration.

Or, you could spend decades waging a campaign to reform the law at the federal level. This would probably require millions of dollars, and the cooperation of thousands of people to wage, with no guarantee that you would ultimately succeed.

Remember too, that states would still have to compete for people. Want high tech/bio tech businesses to locate in your state? Anti-abortion, anti-gay statutes are going to be a big turnoff to the employees (and hence, the employers) of such companies. This will put pressure on those states to reform their laws.

A more federal system might not mean a more libertarian society on a given issue, in a given state. But overall, I think it would result in greater practical freedom for those who want it.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 02:34:46.998893+00 by: Dan Lyke

The problem I have with that theory (beyond "states don't have rights, damn it!") is that nearly a decade in the south has me hearing the phrase "states rights" in the voice of Byron De La Beckwith, and that most of the rhetoric I hear from the supporters of "states rights" aren't about California's ability to define its own clean air standards, but about the ability of conservative states to restrict sexual freedom or adopt biblical affectations in their courts.

Frankly I don't think allowing states to become little Pakistans does anything for the greater freedom.

When the hollering about "states rights" is as loud for California to be setting its own clean air standards, then I'll take it more positively.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 05:04:06.862046+00 by: spc476

How about California's attempt to legalize medical marijuana vs. the Federal government trying to keep it illegal regardless of use? (hmmm ... also Colorado as well)

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 06:35:44.504758+00 by: topspin

California is actually more restrictive than Alabama when it comes to assault rifles. Unless you registered an assault weapon before around 2000, you can't even possess one in CA, even if you inherit the weapon from someone who has a license for it in CA. One CAN possess a vibrator in AL, but you can't buy one there.

The facts apparently are: Most folks in CA aren't concerned with the use of vibrators, but are concerned with the use of assault weapons. Most folks in AL aren't concerned with the use of assault weapons, but are concerned about the use of vibrators.

I'd say Jefferson's notions of state's rights from the Kentucky resolutions are actually working in AL.

1. Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes - delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

  1. Resolved, That the Constitution of the United States, having delegated to Congress a power to punish treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States, piracies, and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations, and no other crimes, whatsoever; and it being true as a general principle, and one of the amendments to the Constitution having also declared, that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, not prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,"...

Read that Constitution one more time, Dan. There's no Constitutional promise of the "right to keep and bear vibrators"..... but..... I seem to recall something about not "abridging the right to keep and bear arms."

I'd say Alabama isn't the state trampling on the Constitution here.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 11:54:21.28506+00 by: Larry Burton

>> Most folks in AL aren't concerned with the use of assault weapons, but are concerned about the use of vibrators.

I'd go one step farther and say that most folks in AL aren't concerned about the use of vibrators they are concerned with the sale of vibrators. I'm also guessing that it isn't the sale of vibrators they are worried about but the public display of vibrators for sale. I don't think the law in AL prevents people from obtaining their vibrators online or via catalog sales.

Yeah, I understand your concern with the motivation for most people who are crying "state's rights" but the idea still comes down to where should the more restrictive legislation come from, local or federal government. I think I have a little more say at the local level than I do at the federal level so let me have the more restrictive controls come from my local government.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 15:10:31.393869+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hmmm... Since I've been on a "considering pragmatism vs principle" kick recently, I think maybe I have to think a little more about the pragmatic approach here. Thanks for the discussion!

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 16:49:22.747976+00 by: meuon [edit history]

I'd like a law that says that there are magic doors labelled: "Beyond this door are things that may offend you and that you may not agree with. if you enter this door, and are offended, leave. - You must be 18 or over, responsible for your self, and tolerant to enter."

Many things would be required to be behind such doors.

OK, I'm being sarcastic, but you get the point, almost everything can offend someone.

What gets me is.. the one thing that (hopefully) most of us enjoy on a regular basis, is a little masterbation or even better: sex with a partner. Sex is required for the proliferation of the species, it's important, like breathing, food and water.

But our world is perverse: You can buy 'Grand Theft Auto', steal cars and kill people (something almost all of us agree on as "bad"), yet if the kids use a cheat code and see a bad animation of virtual nookie in action, people get upset.

When states realize that one of the reasons people and companies won't move to 'Bama is their backwards intolerant ways, maybe it'll change. Unfortunately the people in charge are pseudo-fundamentalists with a bad illogical theology. Or they are smart people who've figured out how to manipulate people and make a buck while touting an inane moral and ethical agenda.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 17:53:24.368383+00 by: topspin

When states realize that one of the reasons people and companies won't move to 'Bama is their backwards intolerant ways, maybe it'll change.

The problem is that many making laws delight in knowing "those people" won't "sully" their state. This is why MS and much of the south remains poor and backward. I would submit that folks in power see outside business and "new folks with new ideas" as a threat to the status quo and their power.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 18:01:31.946924+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah. How many times have you heard "San Francisco values" as a negative? Listened to Merle Haggard recently? There's an amazing opus of work dedicated to "we're dirt poor, but we're proud and at least we're not like them forward thinking San Franciscans" that extends far beyond "Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee".

We're talking about people who wouldn't trade their core values for anything.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-08 18:05:55.207335+00 by: Larry Burton

Here's the thing about 'state's rights', if it is a state that is enacting laws that you find horribly revolting then all you need to do is persuade around 100,000 like minded individuals to move to that state into targeted districts and you can change those backward laws. You can't do that if it is a federal law. If it's a municipal ordinance you can probably make do with only a few 1,000 in the moderately populated cities.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-09 08:47:44.572044+00 by: meuon

"...people who wouldn't trade their core values for anything." - Funny, elsewhere I've been talking to some geeks in the "Short Term Online Consumer Loan" aka "Post Dated Check Cashing" business who are having issues with that very issue. Seems the new management is some variant of fundies: "We're doing the right thing, by God, helping these poor people." The geeks are looking for other work, not because they have issues with what they are doing (they do, but they are dealing with those by getting paid well), but because the hypocrisy of the management. Them there core values ARE for sale. I'll bet they are in Mississippi and 'Bama if the powers that be now, can stay in power. A good southern conservative fundamentalist can rationalize and justify almost anything, and find a bible verse to quote in the process.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-09 18:16:59.537993+00 by: Dan Lyke

Meuon, I think there are those who hold on to those core values come hell or high water, and those who take economic advantage of that stalwart faith, and I'm never sure where that line lies.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-09 20:05:04.262651+00 by: meuon

Good story. I want to know what the texts from Mrs. Roberts - the "first lady" - to and from the under-age male students from 1am to 3am said... 'Cause I know they get logged.

The people whom I know with strong core values that are not for sale are often NOT the ones touting a bible, although some are. The difference comes from which stance they take:

To put a geeky spin on it:

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-09 20:50:43.852454+00 by: Dan Lyke

Huh. Maybe "core values" is the wrong words, or there's something else that's getting lost in the translation from ideas to words.

Or maybe you're right in that it's the adoption of the symbol versus the adoption of the value; if it doesn't matter what I actually do, if everything's based on that symbols I promote rather than my actual actions, then I think we end up with what I find abhorrent about "southern culture".

(And I'm stereotyping in using "southern" there, because I think that's most of what I find abhorrent in culture in general.)

If that's the case, then this kind of breaks down into the "faith vs works" discussion. I'm an unbeliever in the deepest sense of that, I try to make sure that works are what matter to me. Maybe what makes me cringe in the aforementioned "states rights" dialogs is that the professed belief often carries with it a set of works that I can't abide.