Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sliding Towards Hyperbole

As the California senate prepares to vote on whether or not to ban plastic bags, with the Governator supporting the proposal, one can already hear the angry conservative reaction: What - another government intrusion into our lives, our freedoms?!!!!

But aren't we simply talking about plastic bags here?  I mean, when I think of freedom, that's about the last thing I think of.  But this is a standard argument.  The common lament is that, yet again, the government is telling us what and what not to do.  But the concern always seems strangely mundane.  Motorcycle helmet laws, seat-belt laws, building codes, dietary information, smog checks, recycling deposits.  At worst, these are inconveniences.  At best, they are reasonable laws enacted for some specific social purpose.

I actually enjoy that kind of stuff.  I'm glad when most new regulations go into effect.  What's wrong with me?!!!!

Maybe I'm just a sucker .  Maybe deep down I want to live in Orwell's 1984 where my every move is scrutinized, my every behavior under external control.  Or maybe I'm just naive, and I'm hopelessly unaware of our slow slide into totalitarianism - our winding road to serfdom.  Or maybe these things aren't really that big a deal.  I asked myself if there might be some prohibitions on my "freedom" that I didn't like.  I came up with a few.
  • Anti-sodomy laws used to be popular.  I suppose that might simply be an odd inconvenience, but if I were gay - the law's real target - I might not be so blasé.  
  • Marijuana.  I don't smoke it.  But surely it couldn't be any worse than alcohol.  People really hated that ban.
  • Public nudity.  OK, I'm not really into that.
I can't think of any more.  Have I become that much of a prude?  I think we just happen to live in a pretty reasonable society.  The constitution does a pretty damn good job protecting what I consider our real freedoms.
  • Free speech
  • Separation of church and state
  • Fair trial
  • Right to vote
  • etc.
Apparently I have a different view of what freedom means.  Now, were the government to start infringing on those rights, I think there may be a case for an assault on freedom being underway.  Obviously, we can see where those who enjoy a particular attachment to the 2nd amendment get their gumption.  We can agree to disagree, but I will grant them that it is a constitutional right.

In the end all this trumped up hyperbole about freedom and liberty seems like little more than a device to conceal what is merely a juvenile attempt to be able to do whatever one wants, damn the consequences.  Maybe it is silly to ban plastic bags.  Maybe setting the speed limit at 70mph instead of 75mph is silly.  Maybe requiring dog owners to clean up their shit is silly.

But it's hardly a slide towards socialism.

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