After discussing the health risks of male homosexual lifestyles, Eugene Volokh then had to respond to both accusations of homophobia and denials of the health evidence. But what compels this sort of reaction? You’d think the defenders of gay rights could simply reply: “So what? Homosexuals accept the risks of their choices and bear the consequences. Their sexual behavior is still no one else’s business.”
Sadly, that’s a line of argument no longer available to many of the non-libertarian left, because in recent years they have enthusiastically embraced the notion of “objectively bad risks.” This is nowhere clearer than in the obesity debate. Health crusaders like the folks at CSPI view evidence of adverse health consequences from consuming high-fat foods and engaging in sedentary leisure as ipso facto proof that the behaviors in question are bad. They don’t entertain the wild notion that individual preferences and subjective attitudes toward risk might matter – that for some people, the pleasures might be worth the health risks. To the paternalistic left, the prevalence of any behavior with deleterious health consequences justifies government intervention, in the form of fat taxes, lawsuits against McDonald’s and other providers of unhealthy options, and so on.
But the same paternalism about risk-taking that buttresses the left-wing agenda of controlling our eating choices (not to mention our drinking, our smoking, etc.) also buttresses the right-wing agenda of constraining sexual freedom. And it turns out the left-wing case for restricting sexual freedom is stronger than the right-wing case. It is the primarily the left, after all, that advocates further socializing health costs (though the right has cooperated, such as by passing the Medicare prescription drug benefit). The more taxpayers have to bear the monetary costs of others’ behavior, the more such behavior becomes the taxpayers’ legitimate business. The left can’t deny the logic, because they invented it in the tobacco lawsuits (which were based, in large part, on the claim that tobacco-related illnesses created a burden on Medicaid and Medicare). The same logic justifies using the power of government to discourage male homosexual lifestyles.
No longer able to deploy a straightforward value-based argument for individual choice, the left has little option but to deny the facts.