“Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” “Don’t like guns? Don’t buy one.” “Don’t like drugs? Don’t use them.” You’ve probably heard one of these – or something similar – before. It expresses the notion that if you don’t like something, don’t do it, and don’t try to take away someone else’s right to do it either. It’s simple, persuasive, and sounds very American. Liberty, freedom, independence, and all that good stuff.
But there are serious problems with this line of reasoning. Mainly, it assumes moral relativism, which means everybody has their own moral code that they’re free to follow. You do what you want, I do what I want. I live my life, you live yours. You don’t judge me, I won’t judge you. Sounds great.
But can this logic apply to absolutely anything? Let’s try it: “Don’t like murder? Don’t murder.” “Don’t like rape? Don’t rape.” “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own a slave.” Those don’t work so well, do they? Of course not. There are some things that no one should be allowed to do. Things like murder and rape are obviously and universally wrong. No one has the “right” to do them. And if you disagree, you are either dishonest or you have a broken moral compass. Period.
So let’s look at “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” The problem is that pro-lifers recognize abortion as taking the life of an innocent human being without proper justification. In other words, murder. If no one has the “right” to murder an innocent human being, then no one has the “right” to an abortion.
Plus, the “Don’t like it? Don’t do it” argument has a hidden assumption that you shouldn’t take away someone else’s right to do something. First, that sounds like a moral absolute, which directly contradicts relativism. Second, why shouldn’t I take away others’ rights? Maybe you don’t like taking away other people’s rights but I do. Are you telling me there’s something I can’t do? How dare you oppress me?!?
This highlights another failing of moral relativism. We pull the relativism card when people accuse us of wrongdoing but then turn around and condemn others when they do something we don’t like. That’s inconsistent and hypocritical. The true relativist is absolutely silent. He recognizes he can’t judge anyone else on their behavior since they’ve got their own moral code.
Actually, in some cases, I wish “Don’t like it? Don’t do it” were acceptable, such as “Don’t like taxes? Don’t pay taxes.” Or “Don’t like same sex marriage? Don’t bake a cake or provide flowers or take photos for one.” Again, this is another example of inconsistent moral relativism and proves that “tolerance” is not a two-way street. Those who truly cherish freedom accept and respect that people have different beliefs and opinions. But “Don’t like it? Don’t do it” only seems to apply to popular or politically correct behaviors.
Please don’t get suckered by the “Don’t like it? Don’t do it” argument. It sounds nice but it’s shallow and naive. It assumes that all things are morally relative to the individual but there are things like murder and rape that no one should be able to do. And our hypocritical culture only allows the argument to work for things it approves of. Instead of petty slogans and memes, let’s work towards true respect and human liberty.