I confess, I'm shocked

And I didn't think I could be shocked.

A bunch of allegedly libertarian commenters in this thread do not seem to grasp the idea that there is any sort of operating manual for society other than what is legal.

Someone may have the legal right to say abusive things to their spouse, refuse to hire Catholics, or use racial epithets. Indeed, I think they should have the legal right to do all these things. But that doesn't mean that I believe people who do do those things are right. I am not going to smile approvingly and say "Normal human impulse." Society--in the person of you and me, excercising our own precious right of free speech--should discourage these sorts of behaviors. We don't need laws precisely because the hidden order embedded in our culture does a (mostly) very good job at controlling behavior in these areas.

Society operates on rules. But the legal system is just the tip of the iceberg. 95% of the rules that sustain us--"Don't jump the queue"; "be polite to your mother in law"; "send a thank-you note"--float below the level of our consciousness. They are not codified anywhere, and through long socialization, they have become so natural to us that we are rarely aware of them at all. Libertarians are supposed to appreciate and celebrate the awesome weight of this emergent order, not complain that expecting people to behave like civilized adults without supervision is really just an extension of the state's cold, dead hand.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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