Live and Let Live
By Bryan Caplan
David (Henderson, not Gordon) writes:
Nowhere in the definition of “tolerate” is there the idea of embracing
or liking a particular group, practice, race, type of music, etc.
“Tolerance,” in short, seems to mean the belief in the idea of “live
and let live.” Notice that Bryan used exactly that term, “live and let
live,” to talk about tolerance. But “live and let live” is simply a
popular way–one of the best, in my opinion–not only to define
tolerance but also to characterize libertarianism. The idea is that I
might not like the fact that you wear tattoos on your neck, say, but I
don’t use coercion to stop you.
Notice, though, that “live and let live” has two distinct meanings. One, as David suggests, is simply a popular way of saying, “It would be wrong to use force to stop you.” (sense #1) But “live and let live” also has a stronger connotation: “The fact that your lifestyle is very different from mine is no big deal.” (sense #2)
My point is simply that the two senses of “live and let live” are intertwined. Most obviously:
1. People who believe #2 typically think #1.
2. People who vehemently deny #2 rarely think #1.
Libertarians love to quote Voltaire’s, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Philosophically, it’s a vital distinction. But as a practical matter, “What’s the big freakin’ deal?” is a more reliable attitudinal foundation for liberty.