‘Freedom is often most delicious when it is extended’

Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta points us to a column in the (Ind.) Journal & Courier by Baptist minister Steve Viars, calling on Tippecanoe County commissioners to approve the zoning application for an Islamic center. Viars sounds like a Baptist minister in this column — citing Roger Williams and the First Amendment in an op-ed that reads like a sermon:

Refusing to grant this request simply because the petitioners are followers of Islam would be contrary to our country’s cherished ideals of religious liberty and the importance of the separation of church and state.

… Celebrating the presence of other religions at home is the logical extension of the sacrifice our countrymen have made around the world. Freedom is often most delicious when it is extended to someone with whom you disagree. Our heroes did not fight to protect and promote one particular religious point of view. The fruit of freedom is diversity and a rich tapestry of culture and beliefs.

“Most delicious.” I like that very much. That’ll preach.

* * * * * * * * *

Laura Conaway reports on another, not-so-delicious development regarding church and state in Indiana, and says “This is what theocracy looks like“:

Three Indiana state senators, all Republicans, have introduced a bill that would allow schools to require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer every morning, if they want to. …

The Lord’s Prayer bill says the point is to help “each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen,” but you can get out of reciting it if you or your parents want.

The bill comes with a fiscal impact statement … so we can see the cost and revenue from introducing religion into the classroom. Expected expenditures are local, officials write: “There could be some minor impact in deciding the version of the Lord’s Prayer to use; however, it should be able to be done within existing resources.”

Conaway has a bit of fun with this question of “deciding the version of the Lord’s Prayer to use,” recommending that it be recited in Aramaic. But it’s not at all funny that these Hoosier hegemons think it’s appropriate to have government officials decide and decree how everyone’s children must pray. And to whom they must pray. The school board would be assigning every pupil an official “Lord.

The specific problem the bill’s sponsors acknowledge — which version of this prayer? — refutes the political grandstanding that lets them pretend that some vague “Judeo-Christianity” ought to be privileged as the majority religion. Once you mandate the exclusively Christian Lord’s Prayer, the conceit of an inclusive Judeo-Christianity crumbles, elevating Christians above Jews. And the further business of determining which version of the prayer will be the official version forces the local school board to pit Christian sect against sect, elevating and privileging one denomination or tradition over all the others.

I suspect that Indiana state Sen. Jim Tomes hasn’t really thought this through. Tomes, the primary sponsor of this bill, is Roman Catholic. I don’t think he realizes that his bill would almost certainly have the effect of establishing and privileging an explicitly Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer and, thus, establishing and privileging some form of Protestant Christianity as the official state religion of Indiana.

Tomes’ website lists some of the organizations he’s been involved with, including Indiana Right to Life, Gun Owners of America,** 2nd Amendment Patriots. Groups like those have a long history of, and an interest in, making sure that their followers don’t acquire a meaningful understanding of the Constitution. Groups like those have a long history of, and an interest in, promoting the mythmaking nonsense that “activist judges kicked God out of our schools.”

My guess is Tomes really believes that stuff by now and thus, having been well and truly bamboozled, he really doesn’t understand either what his bill would entail or why it is and ought to be unconstitutional — which is to say illegal.

I’d further guess that the only way to get Sen. Tomes to see past that bamboozlement would be to have him visit a public school somewhere in the heartland of Posey County. “And now, children,” the principle would say in the crowded auditorium, “let us begin our assembly by reciting our Lord’s prayer.”

And then, in perfect unison, all the children say, “Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar …

Short of that happening, I doubt someone like Tomes can be made to understand what the First Amendment says or why it says it.

* * * * * * * * *

Ginger Strivelli provided just that sort of vivid demonstration to a North Carolina school system. The headline in the local paper read “Woman not allowed to drop off pagan books at Asheville area school.” A more accurate headline might have said something like, “Pagan mom schools Christians on Golden Rule, First Amendment.”

The Buncombe County (N.C.) school system allowed the Gideons in to distribute free Bibles to students. Strivelli complained that the public school shouldn’t be handing out Christian texts to her Pagan children. If you let Christians groups give out their stuff, she said, then you’ll also have to let Pagan groups give out our stuff:

… School officials said they would allow for the availability of her materials, just as they did the Bibles from a local group of Gideons International.

When Strivelli brought the Pagan books to the school Wednesday morning, she said she was told “a new policy is being crafted.”

“I’m not surprised a bit. That’s fully what I expected,” Strivelli said. “Basically, they were calling my bluff thinking I wouldn’t bring in the books.

“They’re changing the policy, which is wonderful. They shouldn’t [allow] it, but they shouldn’t have done it to start with. That makes it unfair after they have given out Christian propaganda.”*

The school system needs a “new policy” here, not because the old policy wasn’t working, but because it seems there was no old policy. Strivelli had both basic fairness and legal precedent on her side when she challenged the school by saying that if they allowed the Gideons in to distribute Bibles then they’d also have to allow other religious groups to do the same.

“Sauce for the goose …” is more or less the legal standard for these questions of equal access. Strivelli provided the school system with a deliciously vivid illustration of what that means.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* I sympathize with why she’s fired up here, but calling the Bible “propaganda” isn’t accurate. The Bible is far too massive, messy, elliptical and sometimes confusing, contradictory, ambiguous, dull, strange, off-putting and offensive to ever function as propaganda. No one designing a work of propaganda would ever include anything as mind-numbingly boring as all those genealogies in Numbers or Matthew. Or anything as cryptic and weird as, say, the end of Zechariah. Calling it that also runs counter to the essential basis of Strivelli’s argument here, which is one of basic fairness, reciprocity and mutual respect — the Golden Rule.

** Added: Here is Gun Owners of America. Here is an archive of its founder/leader’s columns over the years. Like the “Constitution Party” to which Larry Pratt has many ties, and like the “sovereign citizens” whom Pratt praises as “Constitutionalists,” the GOA talks about the Constitution a great deal, but not in a way that betrays any comprehension of what it says or what it means.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The Lord’s Prayer?  Don’t you know that it is as generic and universal a prayer as can be crafted?  (Link goes to what I wrote upon learning that someone actually used that claim as an argument in court.)

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I’m not actually a drive-by commentator, I’m a lurker who followed Fred over from the original Slactivist blog for the “Left Behind” deconstructions. I just don’t post much because I am prone to Foot-In-Mouth disease, like today. I post a little bit more over at Slactiverse, and sometimes in Ana Mardoll’s blog. “Nuker”-type activists tend to terrify me into silence, so I’m very shy of posting in any kind of activist blog–but sometimes I get excited about something, and post without thinking/researching.

    Self-defense is a very valid reason for keeping a gun (says the woman who has lived alone at various times in her life) and requirements for gun locks and gun safes are directly obstructive to that purpose. I also think seat belt laws are none of the government’s business and stupid, but the Tenth Amendment does give states the power to enact stupid laws.  I wear a seat belt because it’s proven effective in reducing your chances of being killed or maimed in an auto accident, not because the law says I must. There weren’t seat belt laws back when I started to wear one. (It’s a stupid law because it is unenforceable and it’s not the state’s business if you do something stupid that hurts no one else. There’s a lot of things I don’t think are the government’s business.

    Heinlein had a point with “An armed society is a polite society”. He missed the fact that sometimes you need to be rude. At one time I bought into the “shadowy oppressive government” conspiracy thing… but I held down one too many government contracting jobs. I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh, decades ago, but came the day when he was talking about stuff in the news that I actually knew something about–and he was jeering at all the callers that tried to explain how he was wrong. I knew Limbaugh was wrong, and that the callers he was sneering at as “left-wing program callers” were right. Started to realize that maybe Limbaugh was full of shit, and definitely intellectually dishonest, and stopped listening to him. I can’t abide someone who is intellectually dishonest in an argument.

    Hey, don’t diss Moses! :-) Charleton Heston was pretty awesome. He did the best Cardinal Richelieu in the best Three Musketeers movies ever!

  • Anonymous

    restrictions on the second amendment. (I only found this out from my quick research about it just now. Good grief, do they think people should be allowed to purchase and carry Howitzers? You pretty much have to if you think the NRA isn’t

    If you can carry a howitzer, I don’t think anyone’s going to try to stop you from doing it, lest you punch a building to death or something.

    Honestly, I think the probability of artillery being used in any sort of crime is pretty much… nonexistent.  After all, if you can afford a howitzer, you’ve got more efficient ways of getting away with whatever you please – those things are not cheap.

    Besides, it’s already legal to own a tank, if you want…

    Erm… not that I neccesarily think that making it legal to own howitzers is a good idea.  I wouldn’t want my childish desire for pretty kabooms to get in the way of actual policy.

    Someone engaged in competitive target shooting shouldn’t care if a handgun’s capacity is 9 rounds or 15.

    Some target shooting contests (practical shooting) involve a large number of targets that must be shot quickly, so a large magazine could be beneficial… just saying.

    If evolution produces a deer that requires a teflon round to bring down, we’re all in real trouble.

    Aw, but shooting a deer with 30 7.62 high explosive armor piercing rounds is so much fun!

  • FangsFirst

    It’s been years since I looked at it, but did you check the appendix of exempted manufacturers?

    Everywhere I’ve looked, I can’t find one. I went to Wiki first (for all its reputation, so long as an article is nicely cited it’s usually at least a good starting point) then started just googling around for it. I finally found an extremely comprehensive discussion of it (which finally listed the specifically banned designs, which were all the usual suspects, mostly listed above–TEC-9, Mac-10, Uzi, etc) and it still didn’t say anything, then listed the later addition about specific foreign models designed to accept military magazines.

    “Nuker”-type activists tend to terrify me into silence, so I’m very shy
    of posting in any kind of activist blog–but sometimes I get excited
    about something, and post without thinking/researching.

    You sound like me (such places *terrify* me, which is why I was reluctant to post here on various issues for a very long time and still feel unsafe around a few things) so let me just add:
    I went and looked this up because I thought the idea of exemptions was reasonable, and the idea was galling too me, so I decided to see what the details were, or if it was (hopefully!) some kind of interpreted exemption. But I couldn’t find the exemption list, manufacturer-oriented, at least.

    I did find out it was monstrously stupid and pointless as it got so specific it became irrelevant as soon as it went into effect (Hey look! Let’s unshroud and unthread the TEC-9 barrel! Now it’s legal! It’s the AB-10!) though.

    (sidenote: I’m generally speaking non-violent and pacifistic, but I don’t shun guns or gun-owners or anything anywhere near that. I am obviously relatively interested in guns, in fact. So I’m definitely not piling on anyone simply for being a gun-owner.)

    PS: from what I’ve seen, the “nuking” is quite a rarity here at this point. Most everyone seems willing to try to talk to people first about most things. these days, at the very least.

  • Benjamin Lee

    Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, living as though you’ve only got one life to lose is good practical advice.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I also think seat belt laws are none of the government’s business and stupid

    What’s stupid about wanting to minimize a) the number of people hurting themselves accidentally and b) the number of people who go flying through their windscreens in a crash?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Self-defense is a very valid reason for keeping a gun…

    “very”? I’ll agree it’s a valid reason, but not that it’s a “very valid” reason.

    Violent crime is at historic lows, while the risk of accidental firearm discharge (including not only the obvious cases, but also firing at household members and guests due to mistaken identification) remains relatively constant to owner training and firearm ease-of-access.

    …requirements for gun locks and gun safes are directly obstructive to that purpose.

    Gun safeties are directly obstructive to that purpose as well, but I’m assuming you recognize the value in reducing the risk of accidental firearm discharge offsets the relatively minor obstruction in use.

    The underlying themes here are “risk assessment” and “cost/benefit analysis”; these are (fortunately) factual issues where real statistics and evidence can be gathered. It turns out gun locks greatly reduce the number of accidental firearm discharges, including those that result in injury or death of the owner, household members, or guests. Unless you can show statistics that display a similarly dramatic offset in effective use of firearms in self defense, I consider the evidence compelling in the interest of public safety.

    I wear a seat belt because it’s proven effective in reducing your chances of being killed or maimed in an auto accident, not because the law says I must.

    Good. I’m glad to hear that you’ve made an informed, educated decision based on the evidence and the real risks involved. However, you’re in the minority. Human beings aren’t very good at assessing risk*, or estimating probability**; our mental processes tend to create a lot of false positives, especially when the risks have a strong emotional component like fear.***

    it’s not the state’s business if you do something stupid that hurts no one else.

    No man is an island. Every person in our society has an effect on others, and as a society, we’ve agreed that in general****, it’s better if people don’t die if it can be reasonably prevented. If you go to the ER, even if you don’t have any money or health insurance, the law requires the doctors to give you life-saving treatment. We do put boundaries on what constitutes reasonable versus unreasonable efforts, but simply by passing laws (enforcement nonwithstanding) some people’s behavior will change, fewer people will die, and can we really not agree that’s a good thing for society?

    Oh, and I aint sayin’ Heston’s a bad guy. Just that someone saying “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” might not be the best representative of a proud and noble tradition of outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen, and collectors.

    *Exhibit A: drunk drivers
    **Exhibit B: State-run lotteries, and the continued existence of Las Vegas
    ***Exhibit C: Shark Week!
    ****In order to not get horribly bogged down, can we agree to skip the euthanasia/capital punishment exceptions?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, living as though you’ve only got one life to lose is good practical advice.

    It varies. I sometimes find that living as though I have eternity ahead of me helps me avoid making mistakes that feel much more tempting when I think this is all there is. 

  • hapax

    I was just responding to hapax’s seeming surprise that PZ would say something with which she could agree.

    Oh, I’m not surprised that Myers says things I agree with.  (I read his blog semi-regularly)  Usually I find more points of congruence when he’s talking about evolutionary biology. :-)

    It really wasn’t all that many things I’d have to redefine.  I’d agree that we have “only one life” — I just think it has a lot more, mmm, phases than I think Myers does.

    Biggest caveat I’d have to make is that I believe that there are Real Entities not contained by “this world” and “this universe.”  Of course, the creed as written doesn’t explicitly address this question, let alone the nature of those Entities, so I could cheerfully recite the creed in good conscience.

    (Actually, I rather like it.  It makes some important points, and is gracefully expressed.)

  • Matri

    I also think seat belt laws are none of the government’s business and stupid

    Irony. It is funny.

  • P J Evans

     Once upon a time – forty or fifty years ago – the NRA wasn’t a lobby for guns, but an organization of hunters and plinkers, and their magazine was actually interesting to read. Bow, however, all they seem to be interested in doing is promoting gun ownership (not hunting or even target shooting for pleasure). Tehy sure don’t care about any part of the Constitution except the 2nd Amendment, and they’re not at all interested in its introductiory clause (‘A well  regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state’ – remember, they intended that we not have a standing army.)

  • P J Evans

    That’s the response pretty much everywhere. How the heck did he get to be an editor???

  • P J Evans

     Well, if you go for the most extreme possible position, you could argue that individuals should be allowed to buy and own nuclear weapons. Which at least might get someone to stop and think.

  • P J Evans

    What’s stupid about wanting to minimize a) the number of people hurting
    themselves accidentally and b) the number of people who go flying
    through their windscreens in a crash?

    And minimizing the number of people who suffer brain injuries that require expensive lifetime care.

    Anyone else ever see stories of rollovers with people dying when they’re thrown out of the vehicles? Or teenagers dying or being severely injured when they’re thrown out in a crash? That’s why we have seat-belt laws.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Yes, and?  I said seat belt laws are stupid (because they are unenforceable, and unenforceable laws are a license for police harassment of people they don’t like, aka ‘selective enforcement’), not that wearing a seatbelt is stupid. Wearing a seatbelt is a Very Good Idea.  You can make a bad law in a good cause, you know.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Okay class, time to recite our Lord’s Prayer.  Repeat after me…
     
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

  • Matri

    That’s why we have seat-belt laws.

    It says a lot about us humans when we need to legislate common sense survival instincts and make them mandatory.

    It says even more about us humans that there are some of us actively opposing the use of safety equipment.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Actually, NRA has 3 main magazines, each for their different constituencies: American Rifleman for shooting enthusiasts, American Hunter for hunters, and America’s 1st Freedom for 2nd amendment activists. Also, I’d rather not argue the “collective right” vs. “individual right” issue of the 2nd amendment tonight– spent too many late night hours doing that on talk.politics.guns back in the day and don’t have the energy or spare time anymore. Got to love the old Usenet groups, though–both the talk.origins (Evolution vs. Creationism) and talk.politics.guns FAQs were/are fantastic resources hashing out all the standard arguments and debunking the bad ones.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Reductio ad absurdum can fall flat when dealing with human, social issues because “it’s more complicated than that”. 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    By that argument, you can justify laws restricting any and all behaviors that might be dangerous. Do you really want laws dictating your cholesterol count? Should sky-diving and horseback riding be outlawed? Should motorcycles be banned? Should you be required to have training and a license to swim? To hike cross-country? People die every year doing all of those things.

    Wearing a seat-belt is a good idea; making it a compulsory law is not. As currently implemented, seat-belt laws are very selectively enforced, which is a bad thing for laws. To make them properly enforceable would require rather excessive government intrusion into personal privacy.

  • Anonymous

    Fearless Son, I think you just “Elder Godwinned” yourself…

    There probably should be a Godwin-type law for Lovecraftian horrors.

  • Matri

    By that argument, you can justify laws restricting any and all behaviors
    that might be dangerous. Do you really want laws dictating your
    cholesterol count? Should sky-diving and horseback riding be outlawed?
    Should motorcycles be banned? Should you be required to have training
    and a license to swim? To hike cross-country? People die every year
    doing all of those things.

    Are you aware that you are using the exact same modus operandi that “slippery slope” Christianists just loooove using?

  • Lori

    America’s 1st Freedom for 2nd amendment activists.

    And this right here is the problem. The fact that the NRA refers to guns/the 2nd Amendment in this way is, IMO, evidence of exactly what’s wrong with the NRA. Guns are not in any logical sense America’s first freedom and telling people that they are is simply a way to get them to vastly over-value guns. That serves as a very handy way for them to manipulate public sentiment in favor of the interests they support, but it doesn’t exactly make them trustworthy. 

  • Dan Audy

    I think it would be neat as a Religious Studies ritual to cycle through
    representative prayers of various religions.  Not for general school
    requirements, though, as anyone in Religious Studies is usually there by
    choice.

    Where I live in Canada due to the lack of the Establishment Clause we don’t have the whole ‘wall of separation between church and state’ that the US does.  As such our local city council opens each session with a prayer which cycles through each faith or denomination that volunteers to take part.  It does still lean very heavily towards Christianity with its dozens of denominations and sects but still gets solid representation from religions that have smaller representations locally.  I know that both Shia and Sunni muslims are represented, Baha’i's, Sikhs, and Buddhists too.  Wiccans had a spot but the one solo practioner who had volunteered went into University and couldn’t meet the schedule anymore and none of the other Wiccans know/care/are able.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    When I was a child, any kid could just ride a bike.  Nowdays there are towns where children are legally required to wear a helmet and knee guards just to ride a bicycle. That isn’t “slippery slope”, it’s way beyond stupid.  It’s part of a blind, blundering, long-term trend to legislate away anything that can possibly kill you, to trade freedom for immortality–and it’s ultimately futile. You can’t outlaw Death. I don’t think my freedom and your freedom is worth trading away for nothing.

    In the same vein, I’m also against county bans on fireworks. One, it’s a stupid government intrusion on humans enjoying themselves (People are having fun, we must ban it); two, they aren’t that dangerous if you take half-way decent precautions; three, around my neck of the woods it’s so blatantly unenforced and unenforceable that it’s hilarious. People just go across the county-line, buy fireworks, and shoot them off at home anyway.

    Unenforceable, intrusive laws that the majority does not like are bad law. They become a license for the authorities to harass selected groups they don’t like, and they encourage contempt for the law in general. Also, philosophically, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to hold my hand and protect me from my own willful, informed stupidity. It *is* the government’s job to set standards and enforce them.

    (i.e., a food A or drug B must meet defined standards of content and cleanliness to be sold as A or B, and any claims about A or B must be verifiable and any hazards of A or B must be documented. It should not, in my opinion, be the government’s business to say that A or B is forbidden to use, possess or sell at all.)

  • Lori

     
    When I was a child, any kid could just ride a bike.  Nowdays there are towns where children are legally required to wear a helmet and knee guards just to ride a bicycle.  

     

    Heh you kids, get off my lawn. 

    I’m old enough to have grown up without bike helmets and guards are well. And I had a friend in elementary school who died after being hit by a car. There were many other kids like her, even well after the technology existed to protect them. Those children basically died of ignorance and/or stubbornness—the iignorance and/or stubbornness of their parents

    The government didn’t pass helmet laws just to wreck your fun. They passed helmet laws because kids shouldn’t die of easily preventable causes just because they had the poor judgement to be born to parents who care more about nostalgia for the good old days and keeping the gu’mint out of their business than they do about protecting their kid. 

     People are having fun, we must ban it  

    This makes you sound like a child. 

    I don’t even have the patience to go through the whole fireworks ban issue, so I’ll just make two points. First, this sentence really says a great deal more than I believe you thought it did (emphasis mine) “they aren’t that dangerous if you take half-way decent precautions . Second, fireworks don’t only hurt the person who doesn’t take half-way decent precautions. The person who gets hurt or the property that catches fire doesn’t always belong to the person having the fun. 

  • Jamie

    In the same vein, I’m also against county bans on fireworks. One, it’s a
    stupid government intrusion on humans enjoying themselves (People are
    having fun, we must ban it); two, they aren’t that dangerous if you take
    half-way decent precautions; three, around my neck of the woods it’s so
    blatantly unenforced and unenforceable that it’s hilarious. People just
    go across the county-line, buy fireworks, and shoot them off at home
    anyway.

    So you’re saying it’s not plausible for someone to be injured by fireworks? I get what you’re saying regarding the helmets and seatbelts laws, since the primary harm in those cases is usually to the person who chose not to use them. But the fireworks thing — I don’t really see how (unless proper safety measures are taken, which isn’t always guaranteed) it’s any safer to use them than it would be to fire a gun wildly into the air.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There is something to be said for “doom-and-gloom” laws helping add to a sense of alienation from previously widely accepted fun things to do. Such things as laws effectively extending the reach of private property onto the sidewalks and streets mean that even just walking around a city block, or aimlessly “cruising your car” can now be interpreted variously as “loitering”, “vagrancy”, “soliciting for a prostitute”, “interfering with people entering a business” or some other loose interpretation fastened upon the act by a police officer in the right (wrong?) frame of mind.

    This tendency to regulate the social sphere ever more strictly is clearly a reaction to loss of sense of control over the economic sphere. Even “innocent” laws like mandating more and greater safety precautions for everything can carry the feeling of encasing all people in a bubble of foam allegedly for their own protection and it’s no surprise that the reaction to that from some people has been that for laws which affect only the individual disobeying them (e.g. helmet and seatbelt laws) they argue they should damn well get to make their own decisions about the extent of their personal safety in their day to day travels.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > It *is* the government’s job to set standards and enforce them.

    Philosophically, I agree with you. As long as “Dr. Awesome’s Miracle Elixir” is clearly labelled as not having any actual medicinal properties and resulting in painful lesions in three out of five people who consume it, part of me wants to say “Great! Go ahead and sell it. Anyone who actually buys the crap and takes it deserves what they get.”

    Pragmatically, though… I’m not so sure.

    What about someone who gives it to their kid? Does their kid deserve what they got? Well… no, I’m not convinced the kid does.

    What about someone who doesn’t read so good? Do they deserve what they get? Well, um…

    What about someone who is desperately ill and can’t afford real health care and just ends up doing something stupid out of fear and desperation?  Um…

    I get that we all draw that line in different places, and you may not draw it where I do. But collectively, we draw that line somewhere.

    And then we decide that the people who didn’t deserve the painful lesions should be somehow compensated for that undeserved penalty, because in general we approve of helping each other out when shit happens to us that we didn’t deserve.

    Which costs money.

    And at some point we realize it would have been a hell of a lot cheaper to just not let snake-oil salesmen sell snake oil. Not to mention avoid a lot of suffering, and maybe even encourage genuine health, both of which I’m also philosophically in favor of. And that maybe increased health, reduced suffering, and money have more weight than the snake-oil salesman’s freedom to sell Dr. Awesome’s Miracle Elixir.

    Now, if we want to ignore pragmatism and go with pure theoretical philosophical considerations, and we want to say that individual freedom (however trivial the domain) outweighs individual suffering (however avoidable), then I can see deciding the other way. But it’s not clear to me that passing laws based on impractical philosophical considerations, especially when it increases the amount of suffering in the world, is the right way for us to manage our lives.

  • Anonymous

    Violent crime is at historic lows, while the risk of accidental firearm discharge (including not only the obvious cases, but also firing at household members and guests due to mistaken identification) remains relatively constant to owner training and firearm ease-of-access.

    Do you mean ‘accidental discharge remains constant to training (i.e., it has not decreased over time), or despite training (i.e., it doesn’t matter how well trained you are, the risk is the same)?  Because I can’t quite tell.

    In the same vein, I’m also against county bans on fireworks.

    I’m not a big fan, either… the exception I can see is when there’s a high fire risk, or in cities (where the problem is as much noise as the danger.

    What about someone who doesn’t read so good? Do they deserve what they get? Well, um…
    What about someone who is desperately ill and can’t afford real health care and just ends up doing something stupid out of fear and desperation?  Um…

    These sound more like problems in and of themselves, than problems with the law in question.

  • FangsFirst

    Also, philosophically, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to hold
    my hand and protect me from my own willful, informed stupidity.

    Here’s my problem with anti-sealtbelt-law and other “stop trying to protect me from myself” sentiments–something I forget half the time as I think, “Okay, I see your point, it isn’t too enforceable”–but Lori reminded me.

    So, we have people without helmets, we have people without seatbelts, they are mostly putting themselves at risk. Okay.

    What about when someone like Lori’s childhood, bicycling friend who died from being hit by a car?

    Who is actually affected by that death? Only people who made the decisions regarding helmets? No. The child is obviously affected. The parents are most likely affected. Friends. Other family. Classmates (coworkers, if we change the age group).

    You also affect the person driving the car. Sometimes, stuff happens, and sometimes that car (or the other car, if we go back to seatbelts) didn’t do anything wrong. Now, though, they killed a kid or another drive or whatever, because that driver or biker wouldn’t wear a helmet or a seatbelt.

    Yeah. I’m sure, “What an idiot, he/she should have been wearing a helmet/seatbelt!” will be great consolation for the horrific thought that their actions led to someone’s death. And if they were driving like a sane person and the unseatbelted person was driving like a lunatic? Or was suddenly distracted and made the unusual movement so no one was the complete moron “at fault”? And they have a decent element of empathy? Why the hell should some jerk’s “willful stupidity” leave them traumatized for the rest of their lives by the idea that they unintentionally killed someone? Nevermind the understandable emotional response of the friends and relatives that will probably lead to condemnation of this person because they need *someone* to blame for the loss of their loved one?

    My point being: it doesn’t even come down to only those related in some way to someone dying from not following those laws. You can’t just strip that away and say just, “Well, it sucks for the parents and I feel bad for them, but they raised their kid to be an idiot who didn’t wear a helmet.” Because the other people involved may have had zero to do with that, and they don’t deserve to have someone they care about die, or be responsible for someone’s death that could have been avoided.

    I get the unenforceable part and the risks derived from that, but “protect me from myself” and “hurts no one else” simply aren’t true.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    And I had a friend in elementary school who died after being hit by a
    car. There were many other kids like her, even well after the technology
    existed to protect them. Those children basically died of ignorance
    and/or stubbornness—the iignorance and/or stubbornness of their parents.

    …and this has what to do with forcing kids to wear helmets & knee guards when biking?  No helmet in the world is going to save your life if a ton of rolling steel hits your body. Surviving that is a matter of luck and how fast the car was moving–neither of which is affected by the presence or lack of a helmet. Seriously, you might as well have argued that we must wear helmets to protect kittens–this was a blatant appeal to emotion: “Think of the CHILDREN! If you are against being regulated and controlled in every aspect of your life, you must hate children! Don’t complain that it doesn’t make sense, because CHILDREN!”

    People are having fun, we must ban it  </quote

    This makes you sound like a child.

    No, it makes me sound vaguely like Mark Twain. It’s a quick & dirty summation of the puritanical attitudes of an awful lot of state & local lawmakers, from the time of the actual Puritans forward. Historically, you get even more effort towards prohibition if it’s an activity practiced more by an oppressed minority than the white majority.

    First, this sentence really says a great deal more than I believe you thought it did (emphasis mine) “they aren’t that dangerous if you take half-way decent precautions .

    Nothing in life is perfectly safe. Even sitting still doing nothing can
    kill you from deep vein thrombosis. Trying to legislate away all risks
    is folly, and destructive to freedom.

    Second,
    fireworks don’t only hurt the person who doesn’t take half-way
    decent precautions and the property that catches fire doesn’t always
    belong to the person having the fun.

    “Half-way decent precautions” include keeping a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher handy. The group shooting off fireworks is responsible for what the falling embers do, including putting them out. At least that’s the way we handle it at the in-laws July 4th get-togethers.

    Fire is intrinsically dangerous. Using fire is part of what makes us human, and not just apes who are good at running. If you say that most people can’t handle fire and should not be (legally) trusted with it, than you are saying that most people are dumb apes and not quite human.

    That’s the other thing that annoys me about trying to prevent all injuries and death by forbidding anything hazardous: it’s the government saying “You aren’t an adult to be trusted to act rationally; instead, you are a stupid child or subhuman and we must tell you what to do for your own good.” Yeah, no.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    They would be just as upset if someone deliberately killed themselves by throwing themselves in front of the car. Nor would they be any less traumatized if someone illegally died of not wearing a seatbelt or helmet.

    You do know that “someone else might be traumatized by stupid things I do to myself” is not a reasonable basis for LAW?

    Depending on your personal philosophy, it is a reason for you to decide to not do stupid things to yourself–if you care about your actions hurting other people, then you won’t do them. If people in general think that getting yourself stupidly killed and leaving your relatives to grieve is a dickish thing to do, and you don’t want to be thought of as a dick, you won’t do willfully stupid stuff.

    However, saying “Because something you do has a remote chance of upsetting some hypothetical person, we must make laws with penalties like fines and jail time that forbid you from doing things that are physically harmless to anyone but you” is a bad basis for making law.  Fines and jail time are pretty upsetting, too. I don’t think people deserve to be legally penalized because they don’t protect themselves adequately.

    I think laws are serious things. They shouldn’t be created or invoked without careful consideration of what the consequences, both good and bad are.

  • Lori

     
    …and this has what to do with forcing kids to wear helmets & knee guards when biking?  No helmet in the world is going to save your life if a ton of rolling steel hits your body.   

     

    She died of a head injury and current helmets likely would have saved her life. Unless you’re going to go full fatalist it doesn’t make sense to act as if everything is just random and precautions don’t matter. random. 

    Frankly, I don’t give a horses behind if you or any other adult old enough to make informed decisions for herself opts not to wear a helmet when biking. I’m not a big supporter of motorcycle helmet laws for the same reason. I think you’re stupid if you don’t wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, but if eating bugs means more to you than protecting your skull, enjoy the tasty insects. 

    I don’t feel the same way about kids. Not every instance of “thinking of the children” is wrong. 

     
    “Half-way decent precautions” include keeping a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher handy. The group shooting off fireworks is responsible for what the falling embers do, including putting them out. At least that’s the way we handle it at the in-laws July 4th get-togethers.  

    Way to totally miss the point. I neither said nor implied that safety precautions don’t exist. My point is that many people don’t follow them and when they don’t they often hurt other people. You’re arguing from “ain’t nobodies business if I do” about something that does tend to make itself other people’s business. 

      
    Fire is intrinsically dangerous. Using fire is part of what makes us human, and not just apes who are good at running. If you say that most people can’t handle fire and should not be (legally) trusted with it, than you are saying that most people are dumb apes and not quite human. 

     

    Fireworks are not merely fire. You know that. Stop trying to put words in my mouth. 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I hate disqus and I cannot get editing to work and why doesn’t it recognize the quote tag? Bleh. I’m getting tired of fighting with Disqus.

    Fireworks are not merely fire. You know that. Stop trying to put words in my mouth.

    Well, actually, that was one of the issues you raised, which comes down to people being careless with stuff that catches things on fire:

    the property that catches fire doesn’t always belong to the person having the fun.

  • Lori

    This is your argument? That all things which can cause something to catch on fire are equivalent and that having the opinion that not all of them are  safe is the same as saying that people are dumb apes and not quite human?

    OK. I’m done with this, because it isn’t worth the time or the energy. 

  • Miles

    I agree, I would characterise it by saying the bible is a tool of propaganda. It is a symbol, the most potent type of tool for the propagandist. It speaks to people without ever having to understand it.

    Fred is right when he says “The Bible is far too massive, messy, elliptical and sometimes confusing, contradictory, ambiguous, dull, strange, off-putting and offensive to ever function as propaganda.”

    But how many people actually read it, understand it, remember it? At least remember it enough to know that most of the catch cries, slogans, and quotes used out of it to justify some prejudice or another is out of context, contradicted or just plain made up.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X