Yesterday’s dissection of soi-disant “moderate” commenter galoob’s views brought out some very interesting discussions — and highlighted quite thoroughly the fact that many of today’s liberals have a very bizarre notion on what “the law” is about, is for, and means.
For example, if someone opposes something, then obviously they oppose it so much that they think their beliefs ought to be enforced by law.
For example, Steve Crickmore cited a very thinly-sourced report that Sarah Palin doesn’t believe in evolution, is a hard-core creationist, and believes that dinosaurs co-existed with man.
That means, of course, that she wants to mandate schools to teach that and ban the teaching of evolution.
Never mind that during her tenure as mayor of Wasilla or governor of Alaska, she never even hinted that she intended to do so, let alone proposed any sort of legislation in that vein.
Or the Ground Zero mosque. Palin’s against it. So am I. But I would never support any kind of government action to prevent it, and Palin has never even hinted at such a thing. But that doesn’t keep our opponents (I can’t really call them “supporters” of the Mosque, because they seem primarily motivated in opposing “our side,” and not actually interested in the construction of the building apart from proving some ideological point) from accusing us of being against the First Amendment and religious freedom and hateful racist bigots and whatnot.
Which leads me to a related point: so many of the left seem to think that simply passing a law makes a problem go away. People should wear seat belts in cars? Make it a law, and problem solved. People shouldn’t smoke? Make it almost impossible to smoke legally, jack up the taxes to the point where the government makes far more off each sale than anyone (or everyone) else in the business, and the smoking problem will go away. People using over-the-counter drugs to make meth? Make a law and it goes away.
Then wrap your head around this: it’s also a tenet of the left that “bad” laws should just be ignored. Drug laws? Addicts are victims, not criminals. When arrested for breaking the law, they should be treated, not locked up. Illegal aliens? The laws are bad, and shouldn’t be enforced. In fact, we should probably suspend all enforcement until we can swing “comprehensive immigration reform” (and trying to nail down just what the hell that means is like trying to nail Jello to a wall).
Think I’m exaggerating? Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Charlie Rangel are two of the leading members of their respective Houses for overseeing financial matters, and they’ve both saved fortunes by ignoring the very laws they helped craft and expect the rest of us to pay. And let’s not forget Treasury Secretary Timothy “Turbo Tax Tim” Geithner.
So, what is “the law,” anyway? I’m going to steal a concept from the old TV show “The Commish.” On that show, Michael Chiklis’ character expressed his philosophy on policing: “the job of a police officer is to regulate human behavior.”
That’s what it boils down to. The law is one implement we use as a society to regulate the behavior of our members. And it’s the one that we put the full force of our society behind enforcing.
We have many other ways of setting and enforcing standards for behavior. But none are driven by the power of the law. None of them have the power of the government behind them. None of those other methods have the power to deprive individuals of their property, their freedom, or even their lives.
Which is a large part of why I personally hold such respect for the law. I obey the law. When I disagree with the law, I will argue forcefully for it to be changed. I might even willfully violate the law, when I believe it worth the consequences.
And yes, sometimes I’ll violate the laws that I shouldn’t. When caught, though, I won’t whine or bitch. I’ll own up to it, and accept the consequences. I’ve never lied to get out of a speeding ticket (either time I was pulled over), and I guess my attitude has been refreshing and contrite enough to get off with warnings, ‘cuz I still have a spotless driving record.
But back to the point. On some specific issues, let me spell out how I believe they should be handled in regards to the law:
Abortion: Roe v. Wade is one of the worst-crafted Supreme Court decisions I’ve ever seen. The reasoning is incredibly sloppy and full of holes. It deserves to be struck down. The issue itself should be resolved by the states, on an individual basis, where the people can more directly express their opinions on the issue. Abortion simply isn’t a matter that is covered by the Constitution, and therefore by the 10th Amendment is a matter for the several states to decide.
Evolution v. creationism: As an agnostic, obviously I fall on the evolution side of the argument. I’ve always reconciled the two sides, though, by saying that evolutionary theory and cosmological theory are simply ways that can explain how God did what He did (presuming that He exists). “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth with a big bang.”
Quite frankly, I think that anyone who gets bent out of shape over the topic as a political litmus test — on either side — is nuts, and ought to be kept as far away from positions of power as possible. It’s being used as a football, with the leading proponents being hard-core evangelical Christians and hard-core atheists, with most people in the middle being pulled one way or another. A pox on both their houses.
The Ground Zero mosque: the federal government has no role to play in the issue whatsoever. The state and local levels do, on a lesser basis, with existing laws to be respected and enforced even-handedly. No, the opposition (which I count myself among) should — and is — using strictly social pressure and non-governmental means to express our opinions. The whole thing is a very-thinly-veiled “victory monument,” wrapped in all kinds of symbolism to proclaim supremacy while offering up a fig leaf of cover of “tolerance” and “interfaith” and whatnot. Further, the constant rewriting and denials and secrecy of the Mosque backers continue to convince me that my perception is correct.
There. Three issues addressed, and not once did I make a federal offense out of any of them.
There are some matters that need to be addressed by federal laws. For a good listing of them, feel free to consult the Constitution.
There are other matters that should be addressed by the other levels of government. The 10th Amendment makes that abundantly clear.
And finally, there are some matters that the law itself should take a strictly agnostic view towards — leave them up to the individuals, and the various forms of social regulation we’ve developed for ourselves.
Only simplistic idiots think that any time someone expresses an opinion, they’re calling for the law to back them up. And only simplistic idiots think that when a politician expresses their opinion, they want the federal government to enforce their views.
Well, that’s not necessarily true. There’s an alternative explanation:
Some of those people who howl so loudly about the right doing such things are scared — because that’s precisely what they would do if given the opportunity.
They have their vision of an ideal society, and by god they’re going to bring it about — whether members of that society wants it or not.
Nobody should have to go without health insurance — so we’re all going to have to buy it, whether we want to or not.
No one should ride in a motor vehicle without a seat belt — so you’re going to buckle up, or pay a fine, or even go to jail.
No one should smoke — so we’re going to regulate and tax the hell out of it until no one can afford it or find a place to do it.
No one should be a bigot — so we’re going to make it illegal to even speak “hateful” words.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
I agree with each of those sentiments. Hell, anyone with a lick of common sense should. But I do not think, under any circumstances, that it is the business of the government to protect us from being idiots. To protect us from ourselves.
But then again, I don’t hold my fellow citizens in contempt. I don’t think of them as children who need Big Nanny to look out for them and protect them from the consequences of bad choices by making sure they can’t make “bad” choices.
Which, of course, means they won’t be allowed to make any meaningful choices at all.