Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Free Stater In Me

The more I think about my run in with the Free Staters last Wednesday, the more I ask myself how much I believe with which they might also resonate.

I have for years believed myself to be a most unelectable man because I question certain sacred beliefs:

1/ Marriage licenses:  I am offended by the notion of a government sanctifying what should be the most personal and intimate relation two individuals have.  Why do we need the government to issue a license? Well, if there are rights which people need, like visitation rights in a hospital, if there are financial rights connected to arrangements with mortgages and joint ownership or child support, marriage streamlines all this, but you could handle all this with contracts and you do not need licenses.
The Free Staters I met also resented licenses, but they extended that resentment to licenses for barbers and fingernail cutters. There I would draw the line. Licensing is a pretty inadequate way to protect the public health, and it has often been ludicrous and structured to protect a guild more than to protect the public, but I do not want a fingernail cutter spreading MRSA or a barber spreading hepatitis and a license might be at least a wave in the direction of certifying the practitioner has a passing familiarity with risks to public health his practices might present.

2/ Legalization of prostitution: I am told Free Staters are for this.   I think we ought to do this in some way. I realize there might be problems with sex trafficking and pimps and involuntary prostitution, but I cannot see that keeping prostitution illegal has, in a real world sense, ever addressed these problems. Better to treat this as a public health problem and make sure sex workers are tested for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

3/ Legalization of drugs: Again, I'm told Free Staters want to legalize drugs. I'm not really sure what that means. I'm convinced our current "war on drugs" is stupid and ineffective. I think it might work better to legalize not just marijuana but heroin and cocaine, which could be treated as a public health problem, sold inexpensively in package stores or pharmacies along with clean needles to prevent the spread of hepatitis and HIV.  But there will always be drugs which are too lethal to be legalized: PCP, methamphetamine, Fentanyl, among many others. There will always be an illicit drug for sale. 

But what are our goals in making drugs illegal? To prevent members of the public, particularly stupid kids from using them? There is no evidence making drugs illegal reduces their use. The prevent deaths from overdoses? Again, no convincing evidence laws or drug rehabilitation programs work to prevent this.  I think we have to admit the truth, namely that we will never save the majority of dope fiends from their addictions or the consequences of these addictions. We can treat this problem as a disease to be dealt with but we cannot cure it.

4/ Foreign wars: The Free Staters I spoke with said it would be better if the United States was broken up into smaller states like New Hampshire because then we would not be big enough to wage wars around the world which have been, overall, destructive and done more harm than good.  I have often thought about this:  Since World War II what wars have the United States fought which were "the good war?" Certainly not Vietnam, or even Korea. The Gulf Wars? Were they really a good idea? Afghanistan?  Well, that helped us hunt down Osma Bin Laden, but did we really need to stay in Afghanistan for 10 years for that?  Our "Global War on Terrorism," really is no more a war than the "war on drugs" or the "war on cancer." 
We did some good in Kosovo and maybe we should have tried to do more in Rwanda, but look what happened when we tried to play policeman in Somalia.  
On the other hand, when you are facing a threat which has grown into a massive threat, like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, or in the future, possibly China or even Korea or Iran, the very size of the United States is essential. 
Were we to follow the libertarian point of view, we would have very possibly found ourselves conquered by Hitlers hordes and living in a world of High Castle dimensions.  
Having a big federal government spelled the end of the evil of slavery, so big government is not always a bad thing.
The FSP folks often argue against the most basic obligations of an individual toward a larger group. They value individual freedom to the point where it threatens group freedom or the greatest good for the greatest number: Thus, they argue people should not be forced to vaccinate their kids against polio or measles. 

Refusing to get your vaccinations is not simply a matter of your being allowed to take a risk for yourself: You put the whole society at risk if you get polio or measles or Ebola. You are a potential walking contagion. Yes, there may be risks to vaccines, but that's a risk you owe your fellow countrymen.

And then there is that question of your obligation toward your fellow man. The Free Staters say they would have stayed home during the Civil War. That makes sense in terms of their belief in insisting government not press individuals to do things those individuals don't want to do, like give up their slaves. So they would have sat home. 

I like to think I would have put on the blue and gone to fight to free the slaves. I place a higher value on that sort of freedom. You can sit home with your family, by your hearth and tell your wife and kids, "It's not my problem. I want to be left alone."  But I could not live with myself, having done that. 
The essential mindset of the Free Stater is anti-social; it is tribal at best.

I am no student of history, so I may be missing something here, but is there another nation in the planet's history which fought a civil war to free of an underclass as we did in our nation's biggest war? 

I don't believe in "American exceptionalism" except in this one respect. I think we are the only nation in the world which really did fight to make a people truly free, to emancipate a whole slave population. 

And, somehow, even though it wasn't me doing that fighting, it makes me proud to live in the nation that did that. 

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