I’m feeling more libertarian by the minute

I’ve never thought of myself as a libertarian.  Instead, I would characterize myself as a conservative with libertarian tendencies.  Why the distinction?  Because viscerally I viewed libertarians as fringe nutcases and because intellectually I did not, and do not, like libertarian foreign policy, especially when it comes to Israel.

Watching Progressives/Liberals/Democrats at work, though, is pushing me into more and more libertarian positions.  Take for example the latest Progressive lunacy out of New York:  no Super-Sizes there if Nanny Bloomberg has his way.  (I know that Bloomberg been both a Republican and a Democrat, and is now an Independent.  He can call himself whatever he wants, but his politics show that he’s a Progressive Nanny Stater.)

Yes, under Nanny Bloomberg, if you want a big, cheap soda, you can’t have one.  Instead, you’ll have to buy two smaller, more expensive sodas.  This is because New Yorkers are becoming fat — or so says Nanny Bloomberg.

First, a little quibble with the “becoming fat” bit.  I have real problems with blanket statements such as this.  As we’ve discussed at this blog before, science keeps changing the definition of what constitutes fat, and it’s a definition that has nothing to do with health and everything to do with playing a numbers game — usually one that provides a financial benefit to this proposing the numbers.

In today’s America, the BMI index is the body weight equivalent of affirmative action.  Think about it:  Affirmative action initially made some sense, although anyone with any smarts could see that it was a foolish idea and one that could be abused.  The theory was that people who had actually suffered disadvantages because of their race — especially disadvantages in education — could go to the head of the line.  It was a bit of a handicap or a shortcut.  The only way this approach to affirmative action could have worked, of course, was to limit it to a single generation of students.  It should have timed out after ten years at most.

Instead, though, affirmative action got institutionalized and became a numbers game.  The policy stopped being about whether people who had suffered genuine and wrongful disadvantages on account of race were being a given a fair shot, and instead became about which institution could boast that it had more minorities on board.  So we end up with the uber-middle class Elizabeth “Snow White” Warren getting hired far above her pay grade because she’s Native American, and we have the California higher education system threatening to poll people about their sex lives.  I can see it now, as UC Berkeley president sneers at the UC Davis president:  “We have more gays than you do.  Nyah, Nyah!

The BMI thing is the same.  Yes, we can eyeball certain people and say, “Gee, that person is really fat.”  But think about the fact that Marilyn Monroe would be considered obese nowadays.  And then think about the fact that what killed her wasn’t obesity but substance abuse.  There’s a message in there somewhere.  I’m not precisely sure what the message is, but I’m pretty dang sure that the message isn’t “Hey, Marilyn, you need to go on a diet.”  Indeed, looking at poor Judy Garland, who was consistently drugged into some semblance of skinniness, Marilyn is lucky that,with all her other tsurises, the Hollywood powers at least had the smarts not to put her on a diet.  She looked plenty good zaftig:

As for me, I’ve known healthy plump people and unhealthy skinny people. Being grossly fat brings big problems with it, but they’re only societal problems if we insist on socializing medicine. It’s called moral hazard. If we make it so that people don’t have to bear the costs of their own dangerous habits, they won’t change those habits. And perhaps they like those habits. A smoker might love smoking so much that he’s willing to risk shortening his life by one or two decades. Who am I to say that 60 short years are worth more than 80 deprived years? Please don’t smoke near me — I hate the smell — but go outside and smoke yourself to death, if that’s what you want to do.

Speaking of smoking, let’s legalize pot — or let’s make alcohol illegal.  It’s ridiculous to have one legal and the other not.  I’d certainly limit access to young people (not that doing so works well), because I believe that both pot and alcohol can interfere dangerously with a growing mind and body.  I’d continue to keep DUI as an offense, because I believe the government can regulate fairly heavily what level of capacity people have to have to drive.  And if for some bizarre reason a stoner attacked someone and ate off his face (which is really impossible to imagine a stoner doing), he’d go to jail.  Otherwise, the government should let people be stupid if they want to be stupid.

The whole Obama drug use thing high lights the rank hypocrisy that results from having the government get involved in things such as pot use.  Obama was a heavy, hard-core, regular pot user, who also used cocaine and thought about trying out heroin.  In 2008, the media lied to protect him.  The better thing would have been to castigate his behavior if the media was genuinely opposed, or to castigate America’s drug laws.  Instead, as I said, the media just lied — and, funnily enough, the lie was that Obama lied.  That I believe.  Obama lies about everything.

I’ve gotta run, so this rant is over, although there’s a lot more I could say.  The bottom line is that it’s not the government’s job to make people smart. You cannot force people into a higher echelon of functioning. You can encourage people to better themselves. You can set economic, lifestyle and even moral goals. You can take barriers out of people’s paths.  But what you cannot do is make dumb people smart or turn klutzes into ballerinas. As Kurt Vonnegut knew before he went off the liberal deep end, all that government can do to force total equality and human perfect is bring higher level people down, until everyone is crawling in the gutter, watched over by a few party apparatchiks who know best.

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  • jj

    I’ve always tended (could you tell?) toward the somewhat libertarian view.  Human beings are not machines, we don’t do things that are stupid, bad, unhealthy, dangerous (choose your own term) and fall over in rows as a result.  Individuals react individually.  My father once remarked that he didn’t believe he’d ever seen Churchill either (a) completely sober, or (b) without a cigar, and Churchill lived to be 90.  Most of us, whatever we do, however we behave – will not.  I use him as an example because he’s one everybody knows, but we all know people in and around our own lives who cheerfully flout all the “rules,” and endure like the Matterhorn.  So it’s hard to generalize.
    A piece of life should be enjoyment.  If you don’t enjoy at least some of it, then, really, what the hell are you doing here?  Most of the world can’t travel much, or migrate with the seasons, or own multiple homes.  They get their enjoyment from smaller things: a cigarette or cigar, adult beverages, food, even something with sugar in it.  They can choose to so indulge – or they can not choose to.  There is no one who does not know that there are potential risks associated with these behaviors.  I remember the cigarette lawsuits, and the mileage made over the idea that people didn’t know the danger.  I always thought: bullshit.  I knew when I was nine years old that smoking was not good for me.  Everybody else with a claim to live brain cells knew it wasn’t good for them either, despite what the lawyers tried to assert.  It was a choice people made.  Those who sued didn’t like the end result of the choice they’d made, and grabbed for an opportunity to collect for it.  (But don’t tell me you didn’t know, because then I’m going to be compelled to conclude you’re irretrievably stupid, and will have nothing to say to you more substantial than baby-talk.)
    As for doing what you want, well.  I suspect I’m the only dedicated, long-term follower of Formula 1 racing here.  The “long-term” part is important.  If you want a brief history of Grand Prix, I’ll give it you if you ask, but the point here is, through the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s and much of the 1960’s it was a slaughterhouse.  Never an American sport, the races were mostly run over regular European roads in cars that bore very little resemblance, either in looks or performance, to what the world visualized when it thought “car.”  To take the 1950’s, the decade when I began paying attention, the number of drivers – top drivers – killed began to draw governmental attention.  The world became interested in who these guys were, and why they did this, knowing the risks they accepted.  Psychologically-based interviews and evaluations were conducted – with those drivers who would bother to cooperate – and some interesting things came out.  (I do have a libertarian-based point here – hang on!)
    One of the interesting studies that was done was performed by the University of London medical school.  I mention it specifically just for fun.  They had a few of them, I believe I remember the group included Graham Hill, Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins, Harry Schell, Bruce McLaren, Tony Brooks, a couple of others and a control group of people just picked up in the hall.  They sat them down in front of the old peg-board, round pegs in round holes, square pegs in square.  Everybody did fine when they just sat there and put in the pegs.  Then they began to put some pressure on: you had two minutes, then a minute and forty-five seconds, then a minute and half, etc. to complete the board.  As the pressure built and the time got shorter, the regular people fell apart; but the drivers got better.  If they had a minute and half to do it, they’d do it in a minute and a half.  If they had 75 seconds, they’d do it in 75 seconds.  If they were down to a minute, they’d use the minute – the regular folks were all gone by then.  They discovered that as the pressure increased, the drivers got better.
    And yet, they died.  Of the above group, Graham Hill was twice world champion, and had a career-ending crash in 1969.  Peter Collins was killed in 1958.  Harry Schell in 1960.  McLaren in 1970.  And they all, even those who lived to retire, crashed.  Crashing was the central fact of their existence.  Most lives are divorced from violent accident, and you tend to forget how tenuous life really is.  The drivers, in that sense, were closer to reality than any of the rest of us.  They were not taken in by the indomitability of man: they know man for what he is: fragile, and easily broken.  So why do it?
    Because, to paraphrase the words of Alfonso, Marquis de Portago (who died at the wheel of his works Ferrari in 1957), they have found something they can do, not only well in itself, but well in relation to the way other men in the field are doing it.  Having once discovered this talent, this latent genius (genius meaning exceptional skill at something extraordinarily delicate), they are compelled to grasp it, even knowing, especially as their experience increase, that it is terribly dangerous.  Death you simply don’t think about – not through any conscious act of will, or because they’re too stupid to know it’s there – but because they have become bored by it.  They have thought about it, long and intently, from every conceivable angle.  It doesn’t shock them any more.  As a subject it isn’t even interesting.
    Here’s how it relates.  Governments – Grand prix races are major national events, and it inevitably involves national governments.  When Luigi Musso died at the French Grand Prix in 1958, the French government was pontificating all over it.  So too was Italy, when Von Trips was killed at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961, so was Belgium on a number occasions, (Spa has killed a lot.)  Governments are always looking to step in, and regulate.  They’ve succeeded, too: Grand Prix are no longer run over public roads, but on tracks carefully designed with nothing for a driver to hit if he gos off the road, and the cars these days have to be designed to be tough enough to stop a cannonball fired at them with no damage to the driver’s compartment.  (You should only be as safe in your Mercedes at 40 as Nico Rosberg is in his Mercedes at 220.)
    Here’s the point, that governments never seem to get.  Or willfully won’t get, in the long march toward protecting us from ourselves.  When Timmy Mayer died in his McLlaren, his mentor and team-owner, Bruce McLaren – who was himself killed a couple of years later – said something very simple, and completely opaque to governments:  “He died doing exactly what he wanted to do.  Who is to say that he didn’t have the right?  Who is to say that he didn’t do more living, and get more of life from his short span than most of those who live to be old do?”
    Michael Bloomberg, I guess, would say that he can say otherwise.  It’s a long road to equate Grand Prix drivers with people who smoke, drink, or eat too much – but the theory is the same.  And the Bloomberg theory of controlling behavior, and forcing what he regards as being good for people down their throats is profoundly off-base.

  • Danny Lemieux

    It’s not conservatives that are the biggest threat to Liberal/Statist world view but Libertarians. Libertarians, by definition, define society as a collection of individuals while Liberal/Statists define individuals as a collective that defines society.  That’s why Liberals need to define individuals by groups or categories. 


  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    ‘Way to go, BW.  Inside MOST people is a libertarian (small “l”), striving to get out.
    I have NEVER like skinny women (sorry, skinny ladies – just in case you care)….my wife gave me this book once upon a time:
    which I recommend.
    As for pot laws, things like this have moved me to the decriminalization position, despite my awareness of the negative potential for society:
    This took place in the county I live in, and because I’m not involved with drugs of any kind, including alcohol, the injustice of this type of thing is not a personal threat…..but it infuriates me that we have laws that allow the government to persecute people that they CHOOSE, although the people involved have no sure way of knowing where they stand with the law.
    Difficult as it is for me to say, I’m THRILLED that the lying scumbag John Edwards was released by the jury – and my distaste for vaguely worded laws that can be used at “the man’s” discretion, to go after someone he doesn’t like, or has stopped liking, or, or, or….. is the reason why.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Wow, Earl. I couldn’t agree with you more. “YES” for decriminalization – I would legalize all drugs and bring their street value to rock-bottom zero. Punish peoples’ behavior on drugs if it breaks the law (like driving while…) but take away the incentive for criminal elements to profit from drugs. 

    I, too, agree on John Edwards. In fact, I don’t believe IL Gov. Rod Blagoyevich should have been jailed for just TALKING about committing a crime which, in the end, he didn’t commit. In the meantime, an Obama donor like John Corzine goes free. 

  • http://bkivey.wordpress.com/ bkivey

    “I’d certainly limit access to young people (not that doing so works well), . . ”
    When I was a senior in high school I wrote a term paper on the marijuana use rate among teens in The Netherlands (legal) and Alaska (decriminalized). The data showed that after legalization, the teen use rate increased for a few years, and then declined to a level below the (illegal) baseline. It’s human nature to want the forbidden fruit. When we were stationed in Germany and England, my brother and I, both preteens, could order beer, but we only did so occasionally, as there was no ‘rebellion’ in doing so. 
    “Obama was a heavy, hard-core, regular pot user, who also used cocaine and thought about trying out heroin. ” And dog, don’t forget dog.

  • Mr Earl

    Prohibition has never worked. The state loses control to the black market and the market asserts control over the state through corruption of officials, judges, police, et al!

    The truth comes from the fact the biggest supporters of the “War on Drugs” are the cartels and Mafia! If drug prohition ever becomes reality, they lose huge amounts (billions) of money!

    Oh, and by the way, the only substance abuse that killed Marilyn Monroe was too much Kennedy jism.