December 4, 2011

State Action Raising the Libertarian Profile

by Hal Gershowitz

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In all of the discussion about the failure of Congress to reach a deal to reduce our bloated deficit and the angry doctrinaire debate about fixing blame, we need to take into account that the nation now has two minority political parties.  Polls indicate that neither the Democrats nor the GOP has a favorability rating exceeding eleven percent.  That is a staggering and depressing fact.  Historians, economists and political scientists could write volumes on the ramifications of this on American democracy.  Our bet is that no one would conclude that it portends anything good.

Thus, in the short-term future does any party or philosophy hold the upper hand in the 2012 national elections?  Actually, as we see it, with such disregard, even disgust, with our politicians, it is the party that demonstrates it can get out of our private lives that will gain an upper hand.  Essentially it is a libertarian philosophy (albeit not the Libertarian Party) that seems to be most popular even though the only real self-declared libertarian in the race (Ron Paul) cannot seem personally to catch fire among the electorate.

As Mr. Paul stated it:  “Freedom is not defined by safety.  Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference.  Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place.  Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives . . . If I want to wear my seatbelt then I will decide to do so.  I personally do because it is what I believe is the safer, and therefore for me, the right choice.  But, I do not believe by any stretch that it is the government’s place to make a law to tell me to do so.  I realize that dead people don’t pay taxes and they must keep their lines of taxpaying citizens full, but what happens to choice of lifestyle.  Let the gays marry, let the smokers smoke, let the people be the people they are instead of the people that you think they should be.  They, the people, will decide what is best for them, not some imaginary authority that mankind has created to help silence their fears”.

But Mr. Paul has tapped into a vein with which many citizens agree even if they don’t know him nor think of themselves as Libertarians.

Many people (we among them) were outraged by a story last week that postulated that some parents should lose custody of their children if their kids are “severely” obese. It is the growing “nanny-state” mentality that provides agency for prominent child obesity experts from the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital to opine in the Journal of the American Medical Association that state intervention can serve the best interest of extremely obese children, of which there are about 2 million across the United States.  Really?…remove up to two million children from their parent’s custody because the kids are too fat?

“In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems,” Dr. David Ludwig co-wrote with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

We’re not insensitive to the issues of poor parenting, even when the consequences might affect the health of children within the family, but, with few exceptions, we believe these should be family issues, not government issues, at least not in America.  It, perhaps, would make more sense to exclude non-disease-caused obesity from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance coverage than it would be to “remove children from their parent’s custody”.

And the notion that shopping habits can be monitored electronically seems another step down a slippery road, which can soon lead to more government interference.

On the right, anti-abortion politicians in Mississippi advocated, in a special referendum, that a fertilized egg that has not even yet reached the womb be defined as a human being, a measure the people of conservative Mississippi soundly rejected. And a candidate for the Republican nomination for President has taken the position that women who have been impregnated while being forcibly raped should be required to have the rapist’s child.

This is not to say that government cannot take a leadership role in influencing the thinking of our citizens on what, at one time, might have been the right to act according to his or her private philosophy (or biases).  It is, after all, the national government and the federal courts that took the lead role through the Fourteenth Amendment to incorporate the Bill of Rights to include actions of the States.  Without federal action some states might still enforce the odious Jim Crow laws by which some states and localities tried to reestablish the effects of slavery through an expansive interpretation of “states rights” by which segregation, denial of voting rights and other offensive actions became legal or where, in the case of lynching, the authorities looked the other way.

In 2011 it is hard to believe that the Congress of the United States couldn’t muster the guts or the votes to pass the Civil Rights Act until 1964 (a full century after the Civil War) or the Voting Rights Act until 1965.  Nevertheless, the post Civil Rights law era has brought with it a whole new way of thinking by previously oppressed minorities . . . a way of thinking that often causes some to see themselves as permanent victims.  Rather than earning their piece of the American Dream,  unlike the ancestors of others who did not arrive here in chains, some chose, instead, to rely totally on government action to get their piece of the Dream.  The rationale for this was to gain “equality” by making a fetish of the word “diversity.”

In many instances, diversity certainly has both been positive and long overdue, as, for instance, when barriers were eliminated in our Armed Forces, or when American industry and commercial enterprises began recruiting or advancing qualified personnel into management positions, or when companies saw that it was good for business to include minorities in advertising.  New opportunities opened when African-Americans became a significant part of the consumer market and companies began using black actors in their commercials because it simply made good common sense.

However, to too many Americans, “diversity” became a “rubric” to insist on a percentage of everything.  Even acknowledging the long-term effect upon students (often black or Hispanic) of the public schools they attend or the awful social and dangerous condition of neighborhoods in which they live, demands were and are being made to be hired for jobs where they do not have adequate training.  This has brought about huge social tension.   The left has seized on this issue as an opportunity to expand its political strength by expanding government action to include the absurd.  Although individually many of them are of little importance, consider a few mentioned by George Will in his November 24, 2011 Washington Post column

. . . This year President Obama cited [the example of] an Ohio restaurant [which] benefitted from funds received in the government’s bailout of Chrysler.  One week later the restaurant went out of business.

. . . In several states children’s lemonade stands were forcibly closed in a government crackdown against kids who tried to earn a few dollars without getting permission from bureaucrats obviously [seeking] the substantial taxpayer dollars they earn.

. . . and here is an anecdote too unbelievable to make Ripley’s believe it or not . . . Manning the ramparts on the wall of separation between church and state, a Seattle teacher required Easter eggs to be [referred to] as “spring spheres.”

As Mr. Will noted, “This is not a Golden Age” but, in quoting Randall Jarrell, he states:

“People who live in a Golden Age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks.”

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2 responses to “State Action Raising the Libertarian Profile”

  1. mark j levick says:

    Unfortunately everyone who is eligible does not vote. Most primaries have a turnout of 20% or less. Political activists such as unions on the left and Christian Conservatives or Tea Party groups on the right are thus able to determine their party’s candidate and the silent majority which clearly destains both parties is left with the lesser of two evils for a choice. The process is further distorted by the politicians who gerrymander voting districts and create safe seats for their congressional and statehouse candidates. Thus we have a system where governing for the good of the party rather than the good of the people is the norm. The education system is the bastion of the liberal left. Since most educators have never had to make a payroll they think great thoughts and are guided by the doctrines of entitlement, diversity and fairness never seeing the forest for the trees. Life isn’t fair, quotas which are the flip side of diversity aren’t fair to the more qualified people who loose out and no one is entitled to anything other than to not be discriminate against because of race, sex, religion or national origin. Two generations have been dumbed down by our education system and the results are evidenced in the demises of common sense and the ongoing reduction of attention span to fit the sound bites and photo ops used to sway public opinion. Our Government of the People, By the People and For the People has evolved into Government by entrenched politicians and bureaucrats who believe that what is best for them is best for us. It would help significantly if they took a page out of our President’s playbook and led from behind but don’t count on that anytime soon.

  2. STUART GOLDFINE says:

    I suggest a simple civics exam for all American voters with about 15-20 questions asking how many states in the US, how many Senators from each state, who was the first President, when was the Civil War, what event brought us into WWII, the term length of a Congressman, Too many uneducated people are voting and they should have a basic knowledge of our government.

    Also obesity should begin with the head dieticians of every state brought together and told to serve better and more nutritious food in the schools and send guidelines to families of obese children. Walk into MacDonald’s and see several generations of fat people and it is disgusting how many health problems will soon occur.

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