Via Radley Balko,
We want the government to guarantee our health, deflect hurricanes, educate our children and license us to drive; we want to be told what to eat, what to smoke and whom to marry. We are justly proud of the fact that no enduring society has ever incarcerated more of its people. Noting that the policeman has a pistol, a club, a stun gun, a can of pepper spray and a database that includes us, we feel happy and secure.
Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.
The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.–Crispin Sartwell
I think Mr. Sartwell has hit the nail squarely on the head. Even the Republicans (at least those in office) appear to think this way (e.g. President Bush and all those Republicans that voted for No Child Left Behind, the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, the energy bill, the highway bill, etc.)
Radley Balko also points to Julian Sanchez who writes,
[Economists and political theorists] have assumed that, other things being equal, persons want to be at liberty to make their own choices, to be free from coercion by others, including indirect coercion through means of persuasion. They have failed to emphasize sufficiently, and to examine the implications of, the fact that liberty carries with it responsibility. And it seems evident that many persons do not want to shoulder the final responsibility for their own actions..[They] want to be told what to do and when to do it; they seek order rather than uncertainty, and order comes at an opportunity cost they seem willing to bear.
Classical liberals have become good at explaining how the market order they favor promotes freedom and happiness. They have been less adept at explaining why–at least past a certain point–people ought to want that freedom, which when genuine is always at least a little frightening. In the face of the parentalist impulse, we may need to develop the case that our bad choices, the choices that make us unhappy, are as vital and precious as the ones that bring us joy.
I’ve felt that the notion of personal responsibility and freedom are the harder sell than the message of current Republicans and Democrats (“We’ll take care of you”). The Republicans and Democrats both see government as: if we just get it right everything will be great. And the public seems to largely agree with this. The idea of scuttling Social Security and taking charge of one’s own finances and being responsible enough to save for the future is all too frequently met with the response: “Well, some people wont save for the future, what about them?” My response is “Well, what about them? If that is the kind of decision they want to make, who am I to tell them otherwise.” Many people are aghast at such a response. However, it isn’t meanness and hard heartedness that motivates my answer. Maybe some of the people aren’t saving for their retirement because current needs are seen as outweighing future needs. I see forcing such people to save as forcing them into a situation they don’t want. Which is policy is more mean? Not so clear cut now, IMO.
Granted some people are going to do dumb things. But should we as a society try to stop them? If a man wants to be foolish enough to take his life savings to Las Vegas and risk it all on a roll of the dice how is that any more foolish than another person taking his life savings and buying a state funded lottery ticket? While the State might object to the former, it almost surely wont object to the latter.
If you are advocating things like life time employement, government provided health care, government provided retirement, government provided housing, and the such guess what; you no longer want freedom. You want to be a pet. And disturbingly the Republicans seem all too eager to head right down this road behind the Democrats.