I told you in my last post that I was formulating a theory about the differences between liberals and conservatives and that I would share it with you in this post. Then I started writing this post and my theory went paflooey. Just didn’t hold up. Oh, well. I guess that happens. Best just to admit it when you’re not as smart as you thought you were, I suppose.
Let me tell you where my busted theory originated. An FB friend posted a video (which I reposted) of a reporter at the DNC convention asking self-declared pro-choice delegates about their feelings about choice in other areas – like schools (they oppose school choice), light bulbs (people should be forced to buy the environmentally smart one), union membership (they oppose right-to-work states), trans-fatty foods (sure, government can stop restaurants from selling unhealthy food) . . . the contradictions were obvious. And as a friend pointed out, one could question a bunch of pro-life Republicans about their stance on war, the death penalty, guns, etc. and come up with a similarly smug piece.
I couldn’t help but think, though, that there has to be some inherent logic behind where each side believes the government should and shouldn’t intervene in people’s lives. There are two basic doctrines I expect most Americans would agree with:
1) In a free society, people have the freedom to do things are unwise or even wrong. It must be so; this is the essence of freedom. You’re not free to do right if you’re not also free to do wrong. This is even Biblical, I believe; the choice to give your life to God must be one of your own free will. God has many children, but no grandchildren.
2) In a sane society, one’s freedom must be restricted when one’s actions are hurting someone else. Of course. But THERE seems to be where the problem lies. Sometimes we disagree on the hurt a behavior is causing. (Does it hurt society if gays are allowed to marry? Does forcing a homeschool parent to teach the same curriculum as the public schools keep that child at the same substandard level as her public school counterparts?) Sometimes a smaller hurt to one person may be permitted because it prevents a greater hurt to more people. (Will waterboarding this prisoner give us information that will save the lives of thousands of innocent people? Will allowing a few people to smoke increase health costs for all of society?)
As a conservative, I believe people ought to be free to buy old-fashioned lightbulbs but not free to buy heroin. Both behaviors have the potential of bringing harm to many people – why is one okay and not the other? My liberal friend believes a woman should have no restrictions placed on her when she wants to end her pregnancy, but many restrictions placed on her when she wants to buy a gun. Both behaviors can lead to loss of life – why is one okay and not the other?
I was really hoping I would write myself to an insight here. Didn’t happen. Ah, well. As I said – not as smart as I think I am. Maybe you all are smarter and can enlighten me.