The first lesson of liberty is “you own yourself.”
This is pretty fundamental. We have a pretty basic word for a person who doesn’t own himself, right? It’s a five-letter word, starting with “slave.”
Liberty and equality are fundamental. Not equality of income, not equality of groups, not “I get to define my equality, and you get to live by it.” Equality is, at its core, about POWER.
The first lesson of equality is “my decisions about me count more than somebody else’s decisions about me.”
Seriously. If other people get to make decisions, and YOU have to obey those decisions they make, then it’s pretty much a no-brainer that you’re not equal. Right after that comes all of the very, very important stuff about everybody being treated the same way in front of the law. No writs of nobility (aka, ‘laws are for the little people’) no second-class citizens or oppressed minorities.
Combine these two fundamental ideas about liberty and equality, and you get what the libertarian types call the “non-aggression principle.” I’m not entitled to INFLICT my opinions about somebody else on them, but I AM entitled to defend myself to keep somebody else from doing so.
So, point-blank, I don’t get to punch Michael Bloomberg in the face.
Though, boy, do I want to. Michael Bloomberg’s a prick; but you knew that.
There are a lot of things wrong with Michael Bloomberg which would be solved quite handily by Random Citizen 32 saying “Hey, Mike: head or gut?”
(Cultural Anthropologist Side Note: though popularized by The Last Boyscout, “head or gut” has been around for a long time. It’s a quintessential ‘man culture’ thing, and thus completely misunderstood by the NYT crowd. ‘Head or gut’ and its equivalents are ways of men redressing issues, where the aggrieved gets to haul off and get the anger out of his system, and the guy doing wrong, by standing there and taking it, admits he deserves the shot. What a lot of folks miss, though, is that this ENDS IT. The guy who’s been wronged had his shot — he’s now obligated to move on and get over it. Also, if the guy says “head,” he’s probably tougher than you are.)
Right now, Bloomberg is making a decision with a lot of consequences for other peoples’ lives. And no, I’m not talking about that Soda ban thing, though we’ll get to that in a minute.
Bits of the blogosphere are aghast and talking about Bloomberg’s decision to combat prescription drug addiction by saying “hey, fuck poor people.”
Oh, wait. Did he say that? Well, let’s find out:
“The city hospitals we control, so … we’re going to do it and we’re urging all of the other hospitals to do it, voluntary guidelines. Somebody said, oh, somebody wrote, ‘Oh then maybe there won’t be enough painkillers for the poor who use the emergency rooms as their primary care doctor,’” the mayor said on his weekly radio show with John Gambling. “Number one, there’s no evidence of that. Number two, supposing it is really true, so you didn’t get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. The other side of the coin is people are dying and there’s nothing perfect … There’s nothing that you can possibly do where somebody isn’t going to suffer, and it’s always the same group [claiming], ‘Everybody is heartless.’ Come on, this is a very big problem…..
We talk about drugs, heroin and crack and marijuana, this is one of the big outbursts–and it’s a lot worse around the country than it is here. It’s kids and adults getting painkillers and using them for entertainment purposes, or whatever field of purposes, as opposed to what they are designed for,” he explained. “If you break a leg, you’re going to be in pain, nothing wrong with getting something that reduces the pain. But if you get 20 days worth of pills and you only need them three days, there’s 17 days sitting there. Invariably some of the kids are going to find them, or you’re going to take them and get you addicted.”
Yep. That’s what he said all right. Rather than saying “hey, Doc, you’re prescribing wayyyy too too many pills here and contributing to addiction, please knock it off,” he said “I have an idea for how to combat this problem, and if you’re poor and in pain, hey, fuck you, them’s the breaks.”
MAN, is Michael Bloomberg a prick. But you knew that already.
Remember that smirk? This isn’t the first time Bloomberg’s come out with this attitude in public. Bloomberg’s soda ban was fundamentally based on the assumption that smart people with smirks can make decisions about what fat people without smirks drink.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Obesity is an epidemic. I’m not talking about being a little overweight. As you age, being a little overweight isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You won’t win any beauty pageants, but you might actually live longer. But Bloomberg’s not talking about people who are carrying Typical Middle-aged Potbelly. He’s talking about people who take the whole fat-shaming idea, aka, “you shouldn’t be a dick to somebody just because they’re fat,” and use that to play their own personal “I can be as horrifically obese as I want, even to the point where paramedics hurt themselves just trying to handle my fat ass, and nobody can ever judge me” card.
Those people (those playing the card, not fat people in general) are dicks, and Bloomberg’s trying to fight dickery with prickery. It never ends well.
Mikey’s saying that because he knows better, he gets to make a decision to make poor fat peoples’ lives better, in spite of what they may want.
He’s also saying that because he knows better, he gets to make a decision that leaves poor people in pain.
That’s because he’s a prick. But, you knew that.
But it’s also because he’s a Progressive.
Now, for those of you about to flip out and start cheering in Classic Conservative Righteousness, or else start penning an Angry Liberal Response, sit down and listen a minute.
Progressivism has NOTHING to do with being politically liberal, nor with being conservative, for that matter. MANY “rightwingers” are as Progressive as the day is long.
In fact, Reagan’s signature domestic policy, his expansion of the War on Drugs, is Progressivism 101.
Back then, they called it “Prohibition.” To be fair, a LOT of cops are hip to this irony, and oppose the drug war. But this isn’t about prohibition per se. It’s about Progressivism.
the political orientation of those who favor progress toward better conditions in government and society.
Well, who the hell could be against that?
But that’s a stupidly-broad and therefore pretty useless definition. By that definition, even Illinois Nazis are progressives. What I’m talking about is a wee bit different. Progressivism isn’t about wanting a better world. It is, rather, a specific way of trying to achieve it.
1. Develop scientific and expert solutions to social and political problems (especially corruption and public health)
2. Advocate for the passage of laws to address the problem according to Step One.
3. Use those laws based on expert solutions to coerce social and political change for the benefit of society.
This is the Progressive Playbook. You can see it at work nowadays at the EPA, you could see it in the 1920s with prohibition — and eugenics-based forced-sterilization.
But, like forcible eugenics, prohibition is fundamentally built upon the premise that the experts have the right to make decisions regarding the rest of society.
- This person’s pretty stupid, and society shouldn’t have to support stupid people, so some people shouldn’t be allowed to breed: “let’s make idiocy grounds for forcible sterilization.”
- Bob drinks and beats his wife, so the cure for that is to ban alcohol. “Walter can’t have his whiskey, because Bob can’t hold his beer.”
You see a lot of this going on. The irony is that at its core, Progressivism is what gives birth to technocracy, and the rule of society by an elite. Progressivism, to be fair, HAS done a lot of good. I like elevator certifications, and definitely prefer to go up or down fifty floors in an elevator which has been inspected by a professional, not the mayor’s flunky nephew who needed a job. Sure, the private sector actually could handle this sort of thing, but as municipal ordinances go, it’s one of those things we can generally agree is fair ball.
But if there is a single lesson of the 20th century, when upwards of 200 million people were murdered by their own governments, it has to be this: the ends do not justify the means. And the best way to keep people from using the ends to justify the means, and, like Michael Bloomberg, ruin the lives of those least able to resist his new hokey idea of the week, is to insist upon real equality.
- An equality where prohibitionists can’t take away your house and everything you own, because your son happened to smoke a joint in the back yard.
- An equality where corrupt cops get to grope and “strip search” teenage girls because they might have drugs.
- An equality where starry-eyed idealist X, like Michael Bloomberg (who’s a prick, but you knew that) doesn’t get to sacrifice poor people on an altar of pain because he’s got some neat new idea for how to make society better.
Remember, no matter what your political breed, if you’re free, YOU OWN YOURSELF.
And if you don’t like the fact that people own themselves and can make choices that you don’t want them to make….
well, then you’re a prick. But we already knew that.