Leonard (as part of my ongoing series–“I read Salon.com so you don’t have to”) is talking about some jackass on his plane who repeatedly complained to the flight crew because he didn’t like the shirt that some other jackass was wearing.
Leonard reflects on the incident:
But as I sat and seethed my way through a six-and-a-half-hour flight, it seemed to me that Mr. 23D was a symbol of everything I hate about a specific strain of cultural censoriousness that courses through our society. Your behavior offends me, so you must be punished. How dare you breast-feed in public, or believe in evolution, or love disco music? Your sexual practices, weird religious beliefs, choice of shirts — whatever it is, the fact that you are doing it bothers me, so it must be stopped! Especially if there’s any chance that the “children” might be harmed.[emphasis mine]
In this, Mr. Leonard and I are in complete agreement. People seem to think that they have a right not to be bothered, which is just utter bullshit. You have no right to never be offended, but, in return, there’s nothing that says that you can’t let the people who offend you know you find them offensive.
It’s just jackassy and weird to bring in the authorities when you’ve not been really injured and you’re not going to be.
And I don’t believe that it’s the government’s roll to involve itself in outlawing behavior that offends people but doesn’t actually harm them. In fact, I find that offensive (so, you know, maybe I should petition Bill “The Kitten Killer” Frist to sponsor a bill outlawing legislation designed solely to protect people from offensive behavior, since I find such legislation offensive).
And, as previously covered today, I think government is inherently corrupt and corrupting.
So, in some respects, I suppose I’m for smaller government, kind of**. I’m definitely for less policing of my personal behavior.
But here are the questions I keep meaning to ask the libertarians–and I know I’m usually snarky about things I disagree with, but this one time, hand to heart, I actually am really curious and promise to listen respectfully (But don’t go telling me to read someone. I want to know what you think, how you make sense of it.)
Coble says “These things that are the bailiwick of the individual–caring for the sick and needy–are now being handled by our drunken Uncle Sam.” And I think this, for me is a really dense sentence, so I want to handle it in two parts.
1. When y’all talk, I see a lot of emphasis on individual responsibility, especially a strong emphasis on individuals taking care of each other either through individual action or charitable donation. Correct?
1a. Let’s say that little Timmy needs a bone marrow transplant and his parents don’t have the money. So, they turn to charities and they host car washes and put their little coffee cans with poor Timmy’s photocopied image taped to the side in all the local gas stations and, all told, they come up with $10,000. That’s a shitload of money for a lot of poor people, but it’s a drop in the bucket towards the cost of saving Timmy’s life. Under your system, would Timmy just be out of luck?
1b. I’m on the board of a local non-profit agency that, in part, raises money for community health initiatives (to be sufficiently vague). One of the problems we have is that, after 9/11, though the healthcare needs of the people in the communities we serve have not changed, the country’s charitable dollars have gone elsewhere. We predict that, because of the hurricanes, we’ll continue to see depressed funding of our programs because, when things happen, people don’t give in addition to what they usually give, they just move their giving to the places that catch their eye. Under your system, how would you foster sustained giving, such that these programs (and more like them, if there aren’t any government agencies) could continue to function from year to year? Or are they also just out of luck when the fancy of givers flies to something else?
2. Coble says, “And we’ve elected to allow our money to be taken from us by force,” and makes reference to how our “drunken Uncle Sam” now has our money. So, it seems like you guys make a clear distinction between the government and the governed. Does that mean you think Lincoln was full of shit? That this is not a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”?
Because, corrupting nature of politics aside, isn’t the government “us,” too? It’s not really “they” who are stealing “our” hard-earned money and using it to provide poor people with luxuries like food or heat. Isn’t that we who are “stealing” our hard-earned money? Doesn’t it make sense to have a mechanism in place to pool the resources of the people in order to take care of the worst-off of us in ways that individuals just can’t?
Do you really believe that, other than not infringing on their rights, you really have no obligations to your fellow Americans? If you do have obligations to your fellow countrymen, why not use the government to meet those obligations?
Anyway, I’m just wondering and I’m curious to hear from you.
**Sorry, this blog lacks smelling salts. Maybe in the next upgrade.