Incest is a bread and butter issue for libertarians and those who love freedom and oppose authoritarianism.
Recently I came across this article ‘Incest – a favoured cause for old lefties’
‘Decriminalising incest was one of the pet causes of the brothers and sisters of the extreme Left represented by the NCCL,’ it states. The article itself doesn’t offer a specific rebuttal to the idea of legalising incest; it simply operates on the ‘ew-it’s-disgusting factor.’ It also relies on a big picture of Josef Fritzl, attempting to tie incest to rape, child abuse and enforced imprisonment. What Fritzl did wasn’t wrong because it was incestuous, it was wrong because it was non-consensual, because it lead to the death of a child and because it was a form of slavery. But what is wrong with incest itself?
Incest, like many unsavoury sexual practices, is in the eyes of the majority pretty disgusting. This is the main case against it. People find it repulsive, they know they would never do it themselves and they find the prospect of doing it sickening. But the same is true of many other legal sexual practices. BDSM is sick in the eyes of many, but its legal, and rightly should be. What happens in the bedroom of two consenting adults is no place for the state, or indeed for anyone other than those two adults.
So let’s look at actual arguments against incest. The main one seems to be genetic disease. (I was surprised to find how many generations of incest it took to actually produce children with serious genetic disabilities, I will however in this article assume that all incest ever produces horrific inheritable genetic defaults). The argument goes that incestuous sex is more likely to produce children with serious inheritable genetic faults. The problem with this argument is two-fold; firstly this is only an argument against family members reproducing and not just having sex, but secondly and more importantly, if you wish to ban incest on the grounds of inheritable genetic defaults you also have to ban everyone that has a genetically inheritable disease from reproducing, akin to the Nazis forced sterilisation of the mentally and physically disabled. If incest must be banned for genetic reasons so too much all those who can pass on as serious or more serious genetic defects. Either the opponent of incest supports this (in which case there are serious problems with the totalitarian state that they are advocating) or they are simply being incredibly inconsistent. http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/index.php/logical-fallacies/113-inconsistency
Other arguments seems to be based on blurring the line between incest and child abuse. If a parent like Fritzl forces a child to have sex with them the problem is not incest, it is rape. Arguments such as those who do it are psychologically damaged individuals again leads to the conclusion that all those who are psychologically damaged should be controlled by the state. If people argue that incest damages you psychologically then we have to ask why do we not ban a whole multitude of other legal practices that are psychologically damaging.
So why is incest a bread and butter issue for libertarians, liberty lovers and those who believe in freedom? Well simply put, what happens between two consenting adults is no business of the state. J.S Mill said that ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.’ When a brother and sister consent to have sex they are not harming anyone other than – potentially – themselves. If we take genetic harm as discussed above this leads to a whole host of other issues.
The very basis of libertarianism, of valuing freedom, is that people should be left to live their own lives and make their own decisions and mistakes, so long as they do not harm others. So long as incest is consensual there is no good basis for banning it. Many things other people do I find disgusting and would never want to do myself but that does not mean I have any right or any legitimacy to ban those activities. Similarly society has no right to impose its morality upon others.
As this is such a divisive issue I welcome comments. Please tell me other arguments against incest and I will do what I can to rebut them, or maybe you will change my mind. If your arguments are that good my sister might stop looking quite so attractive.*
*(I do not actually have a sister.)
UPDATE: For more information on incest, some of the discredited arguments about abuse, and mutated offspring please see this great site’s Incest FAQ
Reddit this article ↓