The Conservative Nanny State
Radley Balko has a good article over at FoxNews.com about the Conservative Nanny state.
It’s largely the Republicans have vamped up the Drug War, and who have regretfully expanded it even into doctor’s offices, where drug warriors now decide what courses of treatment are and aren’t acceptable. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez recently stated that under his watch, eradicating pornography will be a priority on par with fighting terrorism. And several members of Congress are now pushing to expand FCC regulation to include cable TV, satellite radio, and perhaps even the Internet, all in an effort to protect Americans from bad words and dirty pictures.
Nanny Statism is commonly thought to be the province of the left. And with good reason. The public health movement that has taken on obesity and alcohol and given us seat belt laws and smoking bans has always carried with it whiffs of socialism. But the right is no better. If leftists don’t trust Americans to make our own decisions about what we eat, what we drink, or whether or not to smoke tobacco, conservatives don’t trust us to make up our own minds about what transpires in our bedrooms, what music we listen to, what television we watch, what we consume from the Internet, and whether or not we should smoke marijuana.
[…]But what about those Nanny Statists on the right? Is the “coarsening” of American culture really having all of the ill social effects conservatives say it is? The data overwhelmingly suggests not. Nearly every social indicator is trending in a direction we ought to find comforting.
For example: Teen pregnancy is down. According to the Department of Justice, juvenile crime, crimes against children, the incidence of rape, as well as overall crime, is down.
Divorce is down. Teens are waiting longer to have sex. High school dropout rates are down. Unemployment remains low. Over the past decade, the roverall rate of abortion has largely declined.
If Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction,” Internet porn, and violent video games are indeed inducing a nationwide slouch toward Gomorra, it’s difficult to discern from those statistics.
Interestingly enough, the one statistic that bucks the trends outlined above is drug use. Drug use among adults is up fairly dramatically over the last twenty years. But drug use is one area of personal liberty the government has gotten more aggressive about policing. Which to me suggests that government efforts to control our decisions not only stifle individual freedom, they aren’t very effective.
The entire article is pretty good and I urge people to read it. I have two beefs with the current crop of Republicans:
- Economic policy
- Social Policy
The Republicans, in my view, have shown themselves to be incompetent on both fronts. Granted, the economy is growing at a decent pace and inflation is pretty low. However, the labor market is at best adequate, and the budget outlook is very, very bleak. Add on top of this that a large part of the credit for the state of the economy goes to the Federal Reserve and it strikes me as far from clear that the Republicans know their butts from a hole in the ground when it comes to economic policy. We have the following list of horrible pieces of crap legislation:
- Elderly Medicare Prescription Drug Plan,
- No Child Left Behind,
- Energy Bill,
- The Highway Bill,
- The massive spending on Katrina,
All of these things have added trillions to future budget shortfalls (with the Prescription Drug Plan being the largets contributor). It is even possible that the Prescription Drug Plan will lead to some sort of price controls on prescription drugs. That program is projected to add trillions to the already massivly underfunded Medicare program. One sure fire way to control that spiralling costs is to control the price. Given that politicians in general don’t like the way markets work, there will be building pressure to control those spiralling costs. There is some evidence that the No Child Left Behind policy is actually not helping children learn. A policy that mandates 100% success, but lets each state pick the test means that the test will be pitched at the lowest common denomminator (i.e., the least capable student). The bottom line is that we are currently spending billions, committed to spending trillions and at the same time cutting spending nowhere else, and wanting taxes to be kept lower or even lower. This just doesn’t add up.
As for the social policy, my basic view is that what other people do with their lives is none of my business so long as,
- Nobody is being coerced or injured,
- I’m not being coerced or injured.
This means if you want to have an orgy every night at your house, so long as your orgy attendees aren’t parking in my driveway or acting in a rude or obnoxious manner I don’t care. You’re gay and want to marry your same-sex partner? Good luck with that, but basically I don’t care, I’ve got my own problems to deal with. Bascially, you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone, unless we think that by interacting we can both be made better off.
I think many people feel this way and hopefully in the next election or so they’ll give enough Republicans the boot from office. Hopefully, this will lead to the Republicans realizing their mistake and correcting it, but I’m not holding my breath.