Thursday, October 7, 2010

Contagious Stupidity

Find this comic strip at:

 Non Sequitur 10/4/2010

Kent comments:

If I understand this correctly, the author of this strip is painting those who want to reduce the scope of government as stupid.  I very well could be misunderstanding it because, as someone who wants to reduce the scope of government, I must be, according to this strip, stupid.

I don’t think there are many true anarchists around most less-government groups these days.  I’m sure there are a few, but not many.  I am also certain that to those who want governments to do almost everything imaginable – which is many people these days – even modest reductions are viewed as near-anarchy.

But I would remind Wiley Miller (the author) that every time governments interfere with ordinary human decisions such as what to buy, where to buy it, who we can hire to work for us, how much we must pay them, how much schooling we decide to buy and how much to pay for it, what kind of house we live in, what kind of transportation we use – this list is almost endless – every time governments meddle in such matters, human freedom is reduced.

Government action can increase freedom.  When governments make it expensive to murder and steal, that has the effect of increasing human freedom.  When governments create stable legal rules and processes to help curb murder and theft, human freedom is increased.  In this kind of framework human beings can, and historically we see that they will, do all sorts of amazing things that will have the indirect effect of making life a little better for everyone.

But there always seem to be those who get the idea (and this is where the theory that stupidity is contagious really comes into play) that if government punishes those who murder, why not have it punish those who overeat, who eat “the wrong things” or especially those who sell “the wrong food”?  They get the idea that if government punishes theft, why not have it punish those who sell a car for “more than it is really worth”?

When these kinds of ideas are implemented, government moves from the role of freedom maintenance to the role of freedom destruction.  There is a distinct and qualitative difference between murdering your neighbor, and grilling him a hamburger he wants to eat, no matter how bad some might think hamburgers are for people.

If people are not free to make decisions some others may think are unwise, then freedom is destroyed.  When governments impose the views of some on such matters onto everyone, there is too much government.  It is very easy to have too much (and thus freedom-destroying) government.  It is very difficult to keep government working, but working within its proper bounds.

So those people with the signs in the comic strip above – even when they are a little rough around the edges, I’m glad they are there.  We need them to keep reminding us how easy it is to have too much government.

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