One of the moral principles that I strongly believe in, and that I frequently write about on this blog, is the idea that people have the right to do anything they want, as long as it does not violate the rights of anyone else. (This idea is known as the non-aggression principle.)
Unfortunately, many people have the idea that unless they personally understand and agree with another person’s actions and decisions, those actions and decisions are not legitimate. I strongly disagree with this way of thinking. As long as someone’s actions are not directly harming you, they are not required to justify those actions to you, or to anyone else. People have a right to do whatever they believe is best for them. It doesn’t matter if their reasoning does not make sense to you, because their reasoning is none of your business.
Second Amendment rights provide a great example of this. More times than I can count, I have heard the claim, “No one needs an AR-15” (as well as an almost infinite number of variations of this claim with regard to different types of weapons, ammunition, etc.). People who make this claim are completely disregarding the non-aggression principle. One doesn’t need to prove a need for something in order to be allowed to have it. The only thing that matters is the fact that having an AR-15 does not, in itself, harm anyone. Therefore, people have the right to own and carry AR-15s for any reason, or for no reason at all.
This meme from the National Association for Gun Rights sums it up perfectly:
Another decision that people are frequently expected to justify is the decision not to receive the Covid vaccine. Once I was arguing with someone on Twitter who claimed that if a person chooses not to follow the advice of public health experts, then of course it makes sense that the person would not be allowed to just wander around in public. This line of reasoning took my breath away, not just because of its blatant and unabashed authoritarianism, but more subtly because of its disturbing presumption that people are required to justify their medical decisions. This person seemed to be presuming that people are obligated to provide some sort of medical justification for disobeying the advice of medical experts, and if they fail to do so, then it is okay for them to be punished by having their freedoms taken away. In other words, it is one thing if someone has medical contraindications to getting the vaccine, but absent that, everyone should get the vaccine. Consistent with this way of thinking, the person then proceeded to interrogate me about what reasons a person could possibly have for declining the vaccine. But this way of thinking is wrong, and this line of questioning completely misses the point. Other people’s medical decisions, and the reasons for them, are none of his business and none of my business, either. The right to decline medical procedures is fundamental, and no one is required to provide medical justification, or any justification at all, for exercising it. “I don’t want to” is a perfectly good and complete reason for declining the vaccine.
Analogous situations frequently arise in everyday life as well. Society often expects people to provide a reason if they say no to an invitation, or leave a social event before it is over. These expectations are problematic for me, because I don’t particularly enjoy socializing, and I’m not able to tolerate it for as large amounts of time as most people are. Once when I told a friend that I was having a busy week and therefore wouldn’t be able to go to a particular event with her, she insisted that I explain exactly what I was doing and why that made it impossible for me to attend the event. I have been advised, when a social event is lasting longer than I want to stay, that I should make an excuse such as saying that I have a headache or have to get up early the next day. This has always seemed not quite right to me. Why should I have to make an excuse for staying for what I perceive to be a normal amount of time? My decision to leave a social event would be perfectly legitimate even if my only reason for doing so was preferring to play video games, sit on my couch, or watch paint dry. Just like with medical decisions or gun ownership decisions, people should not have to justify to others their decisions about how to spend their time and energy.