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Michael Goodwin at the New York Post says, in part,

…the conviction that government no longer works for the majority of Americans is spreading like wildfire.

It would appear that the Ground Zero Mosque affair has been a trigger, forcing Americans to choose sides: on one the elitist governing class that promises ever more goodies so long as we are compliant; on the other a new spirit of individualism, personal responsibility, and Government accountability; and it would appear that the second option is getting most of the votes, ushering in a new era of Liberty in the Republic.

There is, however, a teensy-weensy little problem.

1. Cocaine is bad for you, so we will send armed goons to make sure you don’t get any.

2. Greasy hamburgers are bad for you, so we will send armed goons to make sure you don’t get any.

Do you think there is a philosophical or ethical difference between the two statements?

If you do, and you think of yourself as “conservative” or “rightist” or “classical liberal”, give over; you just surrendered. There is no such difference. Trying to establish one gets immediately to one or another form of “the stuff I don’t like is vile and dangerous, and the stuff you don’t like is innocuous or beneficial, because my {morals|ethics|knowledge|science|penis length|vaginal lubrication} is superior to yours.” You might say that there’s a practical difference: Cocaine is much more dangerous than greasy hamburgers. But is it, as a societal cost? A cocaine addict doesn’t last long; the cost of maintaining him is largely in the price supports inherent in any Prohibition, whereas somebody who eats greasy hamburgers is likely to survive to become an obese, diabetic, cholesterol-laden burden on society, whether directly through programs like Medicare, or indirectly from the resources the family must divert to support such a person, for a long, long time. The coke freak blazes like a meteor, then you bury him; the hamburger-eater is an aching burden for years and years. Which costs more, in the long run?

Even so, that isn’t the main problem.

The important part is the armed goons, and calling them “police” or “law enforcement” or “teddy bears” changes nothing — they’re guys with weapons whose job is to make life miserable for anybody their boss doesn’t approve of. Power is a tool, and has neither moral, ethical, nor scientific dimensions. Armed goons with the power to prevent you from having [X] are equally capable of preventing you from having [Y] or [Z]. If your {morals|ethics|knowledge|science|penis length|vaginal lubrication} is called into question by a challenger, it becomes trivial to appeal to the goons to suppress the challenge; at that point, the “debate” descends by degrees to end up, ultimately, as “my goons are bigger, badder, and scarier than your goons.”

It is an observable fact of human nature that prohibitions, in general, create opposition from people who want the thing prohibited. Those people search for a way to counter the prohibitionists’ goon squad(s), and find it in the creation of goon squads of their own; and that reduces the issue to armed clashes between (or among) goon squads of the various factions. Whether you call them “invading and defending armies”, “revolutionaries and oppressors”, “G-Men and rum-runners”, or “DEA and druggies” is immaterial. They’re all goon squads.

Goon squads are inevitably necessary at some level; a group that won’t defend itself soon disappears from predation, and a major function of Government is organizing the goon squads and keeping them focused on the task at hand. But prohibitions and restrictions enforced by goon squads always have pernicious by-effects that, as we observe in the evolution of human societies, almost inevitably evolve into primary effects without losing one iota of their perniciousness. The goal is (or should be) to minimize the number and scope of the goon squads, which minimizes the by-effects, maximizes Liberty, and allows the community to flourish. That Government governs best that governs least.

If you are genuinely an advocate of limited Government, you will seek to minimize the use of goon squads — and every Law, no matter how phrased, says “we’ll send armed goons to suppress [X].” You criticize the Left for advocating Government intrusion into the lives of the people; the leftoid, challenged, simply points to the prohibitions and smiles. “Oh, we agree on the basics,” he observes, “it’s only that you have a different list of stuff to suppress; we’ll just add mine. Oh, and how thoughtful of you to establish the goon squad and provide it with ethical cover! We’ll use it as is, or maybe a little expansion won’t hurt.” Game, set, and match to the Left.


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When I Posted

August 2010