Arvin Vohra | Vice Chair of The Libertarian Party
Consent always matters. Even if it’s something considered good, even if it’s something demanded by religion or sense of duty, consent always matters.
For example, it’s generally considered good for married couples to have sex. In many religions and cultures, it is virtually considered a moral obligation. Perhaps because of this, for centuries marital rape was not considered a crime. As late as the 1980s in America, in many states it was considered legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife, or vice versa.
Today, thankfully, we’ve started to understand that consent always matters – even in marriage. We’ve understood that marital rape is possible, that it’s morally unacceptable for the same reasons that any other rape is unacceptable: consent matters.
I imagine this may have been very difficult for some men to hear. A husband accustomed to forcing himself on his wife, who thinks it’s normal, even a moral obligation, does not want to be compared to some back alley rapist. But rape is rape. We recognize that marital rape is wrong for the exact same reasons that stranger rape is wrong. We now realize that having consensual sex with a stranger is far better than having nonconsensual sex with a spouse.
Today, we have many people who are like that husband of the past who didn’t get that consent matters. They are trying to do a thing that they think is good. It may be trying to educate kids, defend the country, etc. Like sex within marriage, most people agree that it is a good thing. But done without consent, that good thing becomes bad.
Today, government schools, charter schools, and vouchers are done without the consent of those being charged. Those who have not consented to pay for those programs are being forced to pay anyway – not only without their consent, but often over their strong objection.
It’s not an issue of democracy, or law. When democratically elected representatives passed laws making marital rape legal, or failed to pass laws against it, marital rape was still wrong. And no matter how popular nonconsensual, theft-funded schooling is, it is completely, absolutely, morally unacceptable.
The ubiquity of this nonconsensual funding does not make it okay. It makes it worse. Rape is always bad, but more rapes are certainly worse than fewer rapes. 100 million rapes is worse than 100 rapes. The fact that so many parents use government schools, unconcerned that they are funded by force, that so many teachers work there, similarly unconcerned, makes it worse, not better. The fact that so many kids are being indoctrinated into thinking that it’s okay to steal, as long as it’s for what you believe is a good purpose, makes it even worse.
This isn’t a battle that will be won at the policy level. Today, a democratic voter referendum would probably support tax funded schooling, just as a referendum in 1810 would probably have supported slavery, or one in 1890 might have supported marital rape. This battle, like those battles, must be fought on moral battlefields and cultural ones. Our job is to change hearts and minds. Change them, not pander to them.
We must have faith that even when people are doing evil, some part of them wants to do good. The husband accustomed to raping his wife may have wanted to do something right, and just didn’t get that what he was doing was wrong. Changing that mindset didn’t come from pandering and sweet words, but from intense and controversial discussion, and a massive cultural war.
Non-consensual funding is morally wrong. It’s certainly not necessary in education; in a world with free online education, theft funding schooling has gone from morally wrong to patently absurd. Let’s change this toxic mindset, with the simple concept: active consent is necessary before you take someone’s money, no matter how good you consider the purpose. And participating in system that acts without consent, that acts over the objections of those being robbed, is always morally wrong.
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