Last Tuesday, residents spoke to Folly Beach City Council in overwhelming support of a temporary alcohol ban on the beach following a so-called riot on Independence Day. Their collective voice heard, Council voted unanimously for the ban, much to the chagrin of people who, by and large, do not live on Folly Beach.
While it is important to note the increasing rarity of a City Council appearing to back its own citizens over the concerns of vacationers or developers, there is another aspect to the story to address, namely the wailing cries from many in social media channels claiming that “freedom” has been lost in Folly Beach.
Some went so far as to proclaim that the action of the Folly Beach Council amounted to an assault on “liberty.” These sentiments show a remarkable ignorance of the role and scope of local government, and it illustrates how some booze-ban critics are more informed by the ideological stringency of the modern American Right than by historical or political reality.
The driving myth behind the libertarian movement is that all government interference in our lives is wrong, immoral, or, at very least, completely unjustified. Libertarians will go so far as to claim that, left to our own intentions, the world would transform itself into a magical land of peace and happiness where no government exists to force us to do anything.
What is worse is that this individualist strain of libertarian thought will not only tell you that people, free from the coercive machinations of government, will always do what is best for themselves — and therefore for everyone else — but that it is somehow the fault of government when people behave poorly. Big Business only has a license to steal because government gives it one, and, somehow, people only misbehave with alcohol because there are legal restrictions on it. However, the virulently individualist nature of the libertarian view clouds one very important aspect of human cultural and political development: We live in communities.
In fact, we have lived in communities ever since our species first began displacing Neanderthals as the dominant species on Earth. Perhaps we were even taking cues from our distant ancestors whose legacy is plain even today in the social structures found not just in primate species, but others as well.
Living in communities means that we must share certain respectful boundaries with those around us. In the past, Folly Beach’s boundaries did not include a prohibition on alcohol. Whether correctly or not, the residents of the town have now decided that those boundaries are necessary, as the visitors to the community are no longer capable of respecting the town without them. This is not a case of “big government” infringing on “personal liberty.” This is a community acting to protect itself.
Not being able to see that is ignoring the entire history of human social, cultural, and political development. Perhaps that should be expected from a group doing everything possible to destroy all vestiges of the American public system of governance and education. However, this ideology should not be allowed to override the interests of a community that wants to enact ordinances that will improve their lives and the place they call home.
Mat Catastrophe has a communications degree that many argue he still doesn’t use. He lives in Mt. Pleasant.