Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Unclear On The Concept"

In her post Unclear On The Concept, Roberta X, Alfa Geekette and novelist, introduces us to an educated idiot.

This piece of work, Anthony L. Schlaff by name, is "is director of the Master in Public Health Program at Tufts University School of Medicine."

I suspect that, as "director" of a program at a big-name university, he's a bit of a tyrant, considering that the signature statement of his little op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor* went like this:
...let us not forget that we as a society created our government to make our choices...

Just wow.

His thesis seems to be--no, is, he makes it pretty obvious--that anyone who opposes the U.S. Government mandating health care For All must be against any infringement of their rights whatsoever:  Republicans hate traffic lights!
If traffic lights were invented today, the Republican Party would be against them.
After all, aren't traffic lights a perfect symbol for government imposition on individual freedom? The government takes our money to build and maintain them, and then uses them to tell us when we can stop and when we can go.
In a word: No.

Look, any rule, and law, any regulation infringes someone's literal freedom to do as they please; some infringements are generally accepted as being an overall "plus".  Traffic lights are a perfect example: They help to regulate the order in which all users of an intersection or section of roadway can use said roadway (which, by the way and not incidentally, belongs to the government or governments which have jurisdiction.)  But those of us of the Great Unwashed who actually have real jobs have been through power outages where all drivers rationally and considerately take turns at an intersection.

Traffic lights are a stupid example, and Mr. Schlaff may have been trying a little reductio ad absurdum, and it simply didn't work.  The great danger of reducing an argument to it's most absurd level, of course, is that you make yourself look absurd. 

The basis of the debate is the great question of the day, and, I think, of the core debate of What Is America?: How can a people best secure their liberty?  How much government is too much?  How much is Just Enough?

I think we can all generally agree that many, if not most, traffic regulations have their uses and their place, although they are all too susceptible to abuse by governments which see them as a source of revenue.

Some food and consumer safety regulations are generally benign; others are crap.  And so forth.

Mr. Schleff seems to belong to that curious group which believes that perfect freedom lies in never having to make a decision, because someone else has made or will make it for you.
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”
Samuel Adams

*Anyone think it's more than a little ironic to run a pro-Obamacare piece in the Christian Science Monitor...?

1 comment:

Larry said...

If one comes to a traffic light that fails to change to green, it would be irrational to stay there forever.

Perfect example- on my motorcylce many traffic sensors do not notice me and change. I stay until I find a reaosnable, safe break in traffic, and then I run the red light.

What else can I do, except wait for a car to pull up behind me?

We are human beings, and our conventions and regulations are meant to enhance our lives, not rule them. If it comes down to an automated system or clear common sense, I will take common sense any time.

Am I against traffic signals? No. Am I for enforcing a ticket on someone who disobeys a traffic signal that is clearly not functioning properly, when they do it in a safe and rational manner? No.

This pretty clearly scales to the examinatioon of the dysfunctional police state we are becoming.