Something has been bothering me. I listen to people talk politics – hear them argue about what government should and should not do, and I realize; what we are most interested in is what is convenient for us personally. Running second is what fits in with our own personal beliefs about right/wrong, good/bad. A very distant third is what might be best for our society as a whole. People will of course argue this; they will say that their own personal beliefs constitute what is best for society as a whole.
I don’t think that’s always, or even often, true.
For instance: I’ve always been puzzled about the fact that the same people who support the death penalty are also anti-abortion. Or that the pro-lifers want every child to be born, but after that the kids are basically on their own, as these same people oppose any type of social service to help unwanted children (or single teen moms). They will tell you that such services should (and would) be provided by private entities. If you believe that, especially when it comes to services for poor inner city black and hispanic kids, I have a few bridges in Arizona to sell you.
Here are more examples:
Gun owners want no restrictions on their ability to own guns. Any guns and many guns, if they so choose. They wave the 2nd Amendment around in defense of their arsenals. They balk at delays in purchasing guns and they say that if you allow the government to restrict guns in any way, soon all guns will be banned.
Demographically, these same people do NOT favor legalizing drugs. They have no problem with a nationwide ban on the legal sale of recreational drugs. (Darn those Founders for not including the right to get high in the Bill of Rights!) But wait! Marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington State….does that mean that the next step is the legalization of crack cocaine? Of heroine or crystal meth? Supporters of legal marijuana might tell you that all drugs are not created equal (and they are correct in that assessment). But are all guns created equal? Is a shotgun the same as an M-16?
I realize that with drugs we are talking about the lifting of a ban and with guns the imposing of one, but as I said, most people want what is convenient for them & fits their own moral code. Reason and/or moderation does not play a huge role.
Most people believe that compulsory schooling is a necessary and even a good thing. They ask for more money from the government to make schools better. They do not, however, want the government that is heavily funding their school to say that prayer cannot be a mandatory part of each school day. The latter is viewed as a step toward socialism, the former is necessary for a “good” education. And those of us whose kids learn in freedom, outside of the school system? Who encourage our kids to follow their own path? WE’RE the weird ones who are probably, somehow, undermining things and sending our country hurtling toward third world status. (I recently read a comment from a schoolteacher who said what the homeschooling movement needs is…wait for it…MORE government regulation!)
Mandatory recycling? Too much work. Higher emissions standards? Infringes on our ‘right’ to drive enormous gas guzzling vehicles. But of course we want gas to be cheap, because we use so much of it!
How about what they are doing in Ireland now, which is charging people for the amount of trash they produce? My guess is that somehow this would be deemed as government interference in our god-given American right to destroy the earth, or if that doesn’t suffice, ‘socialism’.
It doesn’t make any sense, and the only common thread I can see is that people don’t want to be inconvenienced, whether by paying more for gas, paying higher taxes for anything, driving a more efficient car, taking things to the recycling station or deciding to eschew coercive schooling. There is also an element of class discrimination in all this; people don’t want to feel burdened by “them”, the ever growing class of people who cannot pay for themselves. Being poor and needing help is not only inconvenient for the rest of us, it’s un-American. But we’ll take government farm subsidies, thank you very much. We’ll drive on government built roads and go to publicly funded schools. We’ll enroll in Medicare when the time comes.
No one was sad to see the government step in and help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (Although now House Republicans are blocking the aid designated to go to help with Sandy cleanup…) We enjoy the assistance of the government when it is convenient for us. When it isn’t, we call it “socialism”. We deem it un-American or the work of “radicals” (as in the case of unschooling).
As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”