01 August 2008

A Libertarian on Veganism

Libertarian blogger of economics Megan McArdle explains her response to people who seemingly take offense when they learn that she is vegan. It pretty much sums up my view of the issue and thus gets a "Recommended Reading" star. A brief quote:

Is it possible to be a vegan without judging other people? It had better be, because I just don't have time to pass judgment on the overwhelming majority of people in the world who eat animal products. Obviously, having decided that it's morally wrong to eat animal products, I can't exactly say that I think it's perfectly okay for other people to do so. On the other hand, I recognize that the universe is a complicated place, and my moral judgements are imperfect.
Naturally, this idea that "I can believe something is wrong for me without judging those who disagree" raises complaints of moral relativism from the commenters, but I feel that commenter Jay gets it right, saying:
Come on, people. You can have your own sense of right without feeling compelled to impose that sense on everyone around you. That isn't moral relativism and it doesn't just reduce it to a preference, let's instead call it living in a pluralistic society. The notion that in order to hold a moral judgment you must therefore attempt to impose that judgement on all others is vaguely totalitarian.
It's interesting to see the quantity of craziness that many of the other commenters produce which, in turn, serves as a clear reflection of exactly the kind of reaction that McArdle is talking about in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that whether or not you seek to impose your moral judgments on others depends on how strongly you feel them. We have no problem imposing our moral judgments about murder, rape, child-abuse, because the moral impetus we feel for protecting people is typically greater than what we feel for protecting animals.

    I think that for most people, moral judgments only start shaping lifestyle when they are felt really strongly.

    So, a lot of people assume that if a moral judgment is affecting your life style you must feel quite strongly about it. If you feel strongly about it then people assume, like other moral judgments you feel strongly about (rape, murder...), that it's a basis to pass judgment on other people.

    Maybe what is remarkable about vegetarians who don't pass judgment on others is that they have a lower threshold for how strong they must feel about something before they are willing to start changing their lifestyle to conform.

    So it's not that they are more enlightened about living in a pluralistic society, it's that they are more committed to living according to their own ideals.