Friday, January 1, 2010

Red Nanny State, Blue Nanny State

WARNING: Libertarian perspective ahead

Many liberals and a dismaying number of conservatives cherish deep affection for Nanny Government. They differ only in what they think her purpose is. For liberals, it's Nanny Government's job to make life fair. For conservatives, it's her job to make us good.

Liberal Nanny Government wants us to worry about what our neighbor eats (trans fats are eeeeeevil!) and what car our neighbor drives (watch out for that carbon print!). Conservative Nanny Government, on the other hand, thinks we should be deeply concerned about whom our neighbors might be sleeping with (because their sex lives might jeopardize our own marriage!). The sensible middle course -- that each individual should do his or her best to live a life of honor and joy, self-control and creativity, discipline and courage, and should not obsess unduly about what his or her neighbors eat or drive or whom they sleep with -- is lost on Nanny Government and those who worship her.

Because Nanny Government knows what's best for us. She's not out to hurt anyone, Heaven forbid. She only wants to see that every citizen gets an equal share of our nation's prosperity (the liberal side), or that our precious children are protected or at least warned against the evils of books like "Harry Potter" and movies like "Avatar" (the conservative side). She's doing what she does for your own good, because that whole "making your own decisions" thing? It's so overrated and only stresses you out. Turn it all over to someone else. Big Brother loves you.

But speaking for myself, I rather like the whole "making my own decisions" thing. I like the idea that I might be trusted to avoid trans fats without having Nanny Government ban them, and to do sufficient research to make a sensible car purchase. I don't trust Nanny Government to plan my menus, and I don't trust her to serve as my marriage counselor.

It isn't the government's job to make life fair, or to make us good. It's the government's job to safeguard the fundamental freedoms of its citizens, including the right to choose whether or not to buy a candy bar from a vending machine at school. The government has a duty to see that U.S. citizens never have to live under oppressive Sharia law, and that no autocrat will ever attempt to smother me in a burka. That's the business they need to be about -- now!

Happy New Year to all.

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