Benevolent Imperialism

Y’all, my britches are still burnt over the whole pitbull discussion.  Today, in my big, giant important meeting, someone made an off-handed comment about how the neo-conservatives really believe that they are promoting a kind of benevolent imperialism. 

I hadn’t heard neo-conservatism defined like that before–as benevolent imperialists–but I heard it and it made a lot of sense to me… heh, folks, bear with me.  The DayQuil is kicking in and I’m reduced to simplistic… um… simple-isms… I mean, it made sense of the neo-conservative worldview for me in a way I find useful.

And I think the thing with the pit bull discussion that just grated on me was that I felt like I was being benevolently empired (shit, there’s a real word that would fit there, I’m just not going to come up with it tonight).  Both the Uncle and I were trying to have a reasonable discussion with someone determined to affect public policy and, at least, I felt like the person we were trying to have the discussion with is so certain that he’s right about the dogs and right about what to do about them that it’s fine for him to exploit the public’s fears in order to get his way.

I still feel kind of bad about reducing it to a class thing.  I guess I should say up-front that I have a kind of soft bigotry against rich people.  I’m better about it than I was in my younger days, but shoot, back me into a corner and it just springs out in full force.  But it was unfair of me to do it and it kind of revealed something unflattering about me that I guess I’d rather y’all didn’t know.

Anyway, I was telling the Uncle that I kind of believe in benevolent corruption.  I mean my experience with the Democratic party and unions and other old-school liberal entities is of that kind of Midwestern corrupt machine.  But the thing is that it was kind of like the mob.  If you were in, you were in.  If you needed food on your table and you had the right connections, someone was going to get you a way to get food on your table, even if it meant that you ate something that “fell off a truck.”

I believe in robbing from the rich to give to the poor.  I just do.  Intellectually, I know that’s a bullshit thing to believe but in my heart, I still think it’s the right thing.

That’s the funny thing about life, though.  You will be forced to eat shit every once in a while.  And the shit I’m being forced to eat lately resembles the repercussions of my simple Robin Hood worldview.

Because, see, what I’d like to believe in is a Democratic party that says, “Hey, B., we’ll take care of you.  Don’t worry.” meaning that, if something goes wrong–like say my city is hit by a hurricane and I can’t evacuate–I’ll be rescued.  Fuck whose job it is–city, state, or fed–it doesn’t matter. Someone is going to step up, throw some weight around and get me some fucking help.

But with this guy and the whole pitbull mess, it makes me very afraid that the Democratic party is all about “Hey, B., we’ll take care of you.  Don’t worry.  We know what’s best for you.” which means that I have to suffer through, “eat this, don’t eat that, drink this, don’t drink that, own this pet, not that pet.  Etc.” 

It’s not about saving my ass when I get into trouble, real, verifiable, objective trouble.  But it’s about controlling my life so there never is any trouble.

I think that guy thinks that’s a noble and acceptable goal.

That terrifies me.

Not as much as the conservative “we must monitor your every move so that we can make sure you never get away without being punished for your wrong-doings both morally and legally” but it’s still scary.

23 thoughts on “Benevolent Imperialism

  1. Look at it from his perspective.He is saying:"Pitbulls scare me. Won’t the government come in take care of me, by taking them away."That’s the problem with government; it always has to take something from someone else, in order to "give" to the needy.

  2. Jagosaurus, I agree. I think both are the same impulse filtered through different worldviews.Exador, I’m not saying that you’re wrong, but don’t you think we have obligations to each other? What does it mean to live in the same community (in this case the large community of the United States)? Doesn’t being in community with each other sometimes mean I’ll give up things for your benefit and sometimes you’ll give up things for mine?I’m not trying to trap you. I’m just trying to understand how you understand our obligations to each other.

  3. What I find strange is the concept of the government as some sort of autonomous entity, with its own motives and agenda. The government is us, no more and no less.My exercise of my "freedoms"/"rights" almost inevitably has an impact on you. My music fills your ears, my smoke fills your lungs. My rage is your fear. My fear is your pet. My pet is your meal. My meal is your sacred cow. My religion your blasphemy. My liberation your terrorism.There is a reason the rural states are most libertarian, and cities most populist. When you are alone, your actions rarely inconvenience anyone and you can’t expect anyone else to take care of you. When you cram people together though, it’s like your first college dorm, and if house rules aren’t agreed then people are at each other’s throats.To over-simplify, city folks have the luxury of economic opportunity and social/cultural interactions but the burden of responsibility to those around them; rural folks the luxury of independence but the burden of self-sufficiency.My bias, such as it is, is against anyone who thinks the rules (or lack thereof) that make sense where they are, automatically make sense everywhere else.(Aside: Don’t beat yourself up over that soft bigotry. I’m reminded of P.J. O’Rourke; hating someone for their race or religion is stupid when, if you get to know them, there are so many better reasons to hate them. Having worked my way over to the rich side of the street, I’ve come to respect a few rich people – Gates and Buffet of course come to mind – but also to more intensely dislike most. Money is a stupid reason to dislike people; a sense of blind complacency and entitlement is a much more satisfying one.)

  4. Jebbo, I’m not just saying this because I’m crazy on the cold medicine; I’m really glad you have finally started chiming in. I’ll have more to say about your points when I can think straight.

  5. Jebbo, I agree with everything you wrote.Aunt B, give up Mrs Wigglebottom for the benefit of the community.That’s really the crux of it, isn’t it? Nanny-statism requires you to give up a freedom (of having a dog) in order to prevent the possibility that someday she may scare someone.

  6. Exador, while of course I bow down to your penis of wisdom and authority, I think you’re avoiding my question and instead appealing to my emotions through the exploitation of my feelings about my darling dog.Just saying.

  7. Now that I think about it, Jebbo is correct, as far as the whole urban/rural/libertarian/nannystatism, that only goes so far as rules about things like dogs, noise, smokinig.It isn’t an excuse for most of the Libertarian principles; things like taxation.

  8. Nice post Jebbo. I agree that urban/rural differences explain a lot of the friction between anti-nanny-staters and anti-personal-ownership-of-bazooka’ers. I don’t think that it is impossible to draft good legislation at the national level, as long as some intelligence is used. Laws should be sensitive to population density where it makes sense, local economic factors, etc. A bureaucrat in Washington is capable of saying that certain provisions of a law wouldn’t make sense for any county where more than 20% of people are employed in agriculture, for example. We might need more intelligent legislators, but it could happen. Exador: He isn’t saying, "Pitbulls scare me". I doubt that pitbulls actually scare him. He just doesn’t want more children maimed or killed by pitbulls. He may be operating under faulty information about the risk that pitbulls pose, but his intention is to benefit the public, and probably not motivated by personal fear. I applaud your painting of people who feel compassion for strangers as hand-wringing wimps; that tactic has helped right-wingers win elections.

  9. Okay, a quick one for taxation then. My friends in England wonder why we don’t invest more taxation in public transportation. My answer: if you have high enough population density, you can afford to build out the network to the last mile. The USA (except for the northeast corridor) has too sparse a population, so even if you take a train somewhere, you’re screwed for the last mile. You end up having to rent a car, so what’s the point?As for giving up Mrs. Wigglebottom, the better analogy would be if B lived out in the country then there’d be no need for leashes. In Manhattan, there’d be need for leashes. Again, the government is us enforcing the responsibilities we agree as a group. So my question would be, what are the circumstances where I would agree that I should not be allowed to have a certain animal (say a grizzly bear)? I would only support that if the animal was of sufficient strength/aggressiveness that it could not be effectively controlled with either a leash or with training on my part. If I can’t control the animal and it presents a danger to others (as grizzlies would), then I shouldn’t be allowed to keep one in the company of other people. If I want to keep one in my backyard in the middle of Wyoming, then it’s only my own life I’m endangering and it’s nobody’s business. If I want to keep one across the street from the public park in town where the kids play, it is other people’s business. And I would consider my responsibility not to keep the animal there, even if I loved it.I hope that is common sense. I would expect the argument, such as it is, would come when someone says "hey grizzlies are misunderstood" and others say "they are wild animals and can’t be tamed". When we disagree on the risk there is conflict. That, in my book, is where the ‘try out the leashes’ then ‘try out the training’ approach comes in. We should require incremental, progressive approaches to controlling demonstrated measurable dangers.I guess the last part, maybe the hardest, is that different people have different risk tolerances. My third college apartment had two slobs and a neat freak. When people live together, they may have different expectations as to cleanliness, quiet, safety, etc. My favorite cat used to scratch and bite the hell out of me, it was half wild. Loved it. Don’t know that I would have done if I had a roommate. I’m not sure there is a "right" answer there. Personally I like community rules that err on the side of tolerance of differences except where actual physical safety is concerned.

  10. IC,I agree that he’s "doing it for the children". My point is that nanystatism is based on this very principle: That the few are punished because someday, something bad MIGHT happen, as opposed to being punished for something that they have actually done.There is never a value placed on the loss of freedom for many.This is the classic "if it saves just one person, it’s worth it"Following that logic, leads us to being protected into safe, meaningless existances.

  11. >> Following that logic, leads us to being protected into safe, meaningless existances.Maybe it leads us into a meaningless existence. Maybe it leads us into a good balance. You can own a ‘ridiculously’ over-powered car, but the maker has to install air bags, and you have to wear a seatbelt.You can own dogs from over 60 breeds, but not the 7 breeds* that have been identified as causing a disproportionate number of serious injuries and deaths**. If you want to keep one of these breeds, you have to build enclosures to reasonably protect the public (I know a woman not far from my house who has 3 lions; strict requirements on enclosures, and inspections from the fish and wildlife service (to ensure that the lions are well cared-for, and to protect the public)). * A Homeowners’ Insurance group came up with a list of 7 breeds. They considered refusing to sell liability insurance for any house which would have one of these dogs, because the risk of a lawsuit from an injured party was high. I haven’t heard that this practice has gone into effect. IIRC, breeds included Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Dobermans, etc. BTW, this list was not compiled by what people ‘felt’ was a dangerous dog. Insurance adjusters looked at the frequency and severity (cost) of claims to determine which dogs were ‘worst’, and presumably stopped at 7 because the #8 breed risk was nearly normal, while #1-#7 were disproportionately high. The problems could have been caused by owners failing to train the dogs, or abusing the dogs. There was no attempt to prove a genetic predisposition to violence, just real-world problems. The insurance approach is also a Libertarian-approved solution (market forces, ya know), even though it means no insurance (and thus no mortgage) for owners of these dogs.** And this wouldn’t necessarily mean killing anyone’s pets Aunt B. A law could allow for attrition: anyone who has a ‘dangerous’ dog must register the dog. No new registrations accepted after 6 months. The problem solves itself over ~14 years, without killing any pets. If you think that the anti-wigglebottom law has any chance of passing, contact all of the members of your city council, and recommend this attrition-based law yourself. It lacks the satisfaction of a quick-fix, but every year the ‘threat’ decreases, and no politician ever got himself elected on the platform of puppykilling (except in Vietnam where the slogan ‘a puppy in every pot’ went over big).

  12. "And this wouldn’t necessarily mean killing anyone’s pets Aunt B. A law could allow for attrition: anyone who has a ‘dangerous’ dog must register the dog. No new registrations accepted after 6 months. The problem solves itself over ~14 years, without killing any pets."" Europe will be combed through from West to East,…forcing the Jews out of the various spheres of life of the German people." Ever efficient, the participants foresaw that, "[i]n the course of the final solution and under appropriate direction, the Jews are to be utilized for work in the East in a suitable manner. In large labor columns and separated by sexes, Jews capable of working will be dispatched to these regions to build roads, and in the process a large number of them will undoubtedly drop out by way of natural attrition."Wannsee Conference notes, January 20, 1942

  13. Okay, I’m going to throw a little Jebbo love on too. That first post is a much better way of saying what I’ve been saying ever since I moved to Nashville. Living in a city makes you mean, because you have to deal with everyone else’s BS.

  14. Bravo Sarcastro, you realized that we really were discussing a "Final Solution to the Pitbull Question". Yes, we are talking about the ‘genocide’ of a breed of dog*, probably including forced sterilization. I suggest the attrition approach, not as an attempt to pull the wool over anyones’ eyes as to what is happening, but as a more humane approach (for the owners and the dogs) to marching them all (just the dogs) into a gas chamber. Good job finding such an approriate quote, though.* At least in one city.

  15. Yes, we must stand against pit bull bans or the Nazis will win!I’m sorry. I just love you guys.Anyway, as I said someplace… My problem with "breed" bans remains that I’m being punished even though I’ve done nothing wrong, that the banners create a "breed" out of six or seven types of dogs that then skews the statistics, thus making meaningful discussion with breed banners impossible, because they’re already showing an intellectual dishonesty that is in bad faith, and that, if cities want to say that all dogs over a certain size have to be muzzled or housed in certain ways, fine.But what they’re doing right now is bullshit.Just as an example, let’s look at the CDC’s numbers.’re showing that, from 1979 to 1996, "pitbulls" were involved in 60 fatal dog attacks, followed at 29 by Rottweilers and at 19 by German Shepherds.But they aren’t clear on what constitutes a pit bull. If they’re lumping the Staffordshire Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Bull Dog, and whatever dogs they identify as pit bulls into one group, that’s 5 distinct breeds as well as the catch all term. Now, math majors, if we distribute those 60 deaths among all six groups, that’s only ten per breed, putting those dogs all with Dobermans, Chows, and Great Danes. And making it look like the real problem dog (sorry, Devil’s Advocate) is the Rottweiler.It’d be interesting to know how those 60 deaths were distributed among those six groups. Because I’m willing to bet that you’re not seeing a lot of AKC registered dogs also being killers. Which then, also makes me angry. I have to suffer because my dog looks similar to a dog that’s dangerous.

  16. It isn’t a comparison of ideology, but one of tactics.1. Demonize the thing you hate.2. Exploit the media to highlight the "crimes" of the thing you hate.3. Propose laws to restrict and regulate the thing you hate.4. Annex the Sudentenland. Ooops, that goes in a different list.5. Eliminate the object of your hate.

  17. >> Demonize the thing you hate, Exploit the media…I think that these are the tactics of every conflict in human history. There’s probably a cuneiform tablet in the British Museum that contains the odious misdeeds of some neighboring city-state, released from the "Situation Ziggurat" or by "The Hammurabi Factor".

  18. No problem, Aunt B. While we have the distinct notoriety of the two breeds most likely to cause fatality, over $1 billion/year in damages (mostly to children, on the face) are NOT our lovely dogs:, while our dog breeds may kill the most, it’s only because they’re tough and strong and actually capable of doing it. It’s all those little ratdogs in the world racking up a billion dollars in facial stitches and missing fingers and other injuries that, you know, would never cause lifelong pain/suffering/disfigurement. But hey, my Rottie don’t bite and he’s very old now, so no worries on my part. :)

  19. Hi there,Ordinarily, I just lurk here, but your discussion about the perceived dangers of various dogs seems like it could be enhanced if everyone would read "The Dog Bite Epidemic" by Jean Donaldson. For various reasons, I’m not always a huge fan of her training methodology, but I think she nails the issue spot-on in this piece. You can find it online here: excuse the hideous color scheme.

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