Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Other Guy's Side

Zebulon, NC

The debate over abortion has continued for many decades following Roe V Wade.  I consider myself lucky to be ambivalent on the issue and thus able to view the dispute from above.  I see the validity of the views of both sides.  It all rests on a single fact; a fetus is or is not a human being.  There is very little room for a middle ground compromise on that question.   You are either yes or no.  There can never be reconciliation between groups divided on that question.

Yesterday, after listening to the  Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast for the 80th time, I had an epiphany (i.e. epiphany. a smart-sounding word for realizing you've been practically retarded for quite some time). I realized that pro and anti government views are almost exactly analogous to the abortion issue.  The key question is: do you consider the government as our ally and trust it to act in our interests, or do you believe government to be our enemy and unworthy of trust?  I never saw that clearly before because I'm not ambivalent on that issue. I am deeply immersed the anti-government side.

The trigger to my change of heart came from listening to the "shop talk" of Stewart Baker and his partners on the podcast.  They sound very well informed, sincere, rational, and skilled at predicting the future.  Their views are one-sided but not rabid. Yet I find almost everything they say and do to be offensive.  I once referred to Baker as The Great Satan.  Why? Because I see government insiders as a bigger threat than the bad guys.   Their anti-bad-guy tactics carry anti-liberty baggage.  

I'm probably even guilty of false thinking in my zeal to oppose them.  I'm willing to fall for the trap of thinking the enemy of my enemy is my friend.   But wait! That's not true.  There really are terrorists, foreign governments and regular crooks out to harm me.  They aren't my friends.  I do want protection from bad guys, but I also feel oppressed by my protectors.

I believe that the pro-goverment side is also guilty of false thinking in their excesses of zeal and loyalty.  They think that even when they're wrong they're right because of good intentions. They think government should be trusted because they trust themselves.  They think that people who don't trust them are lunatics. Misdeeds are explained as "bad apples" that should be weeded out if only someone (not me) blows the whistle on them.   They never acknowledge how serious the injuries they cause to liberty are.  They believe that parties injured by government deserve what they get. They never admit that governmental bad behavior is systemic to the extent that some sectors do more harm than good.

The perfect poster boy for both sides is Edward Snowden.  He is either a true American hero, or a heinous criminal.   Very few people are ambivalent on Snowden.

So, am I a member of a lunatic minority?  Not at all. according to the latest Gallup Poll, 49% of Americans think as I do.  But also according to Gallup, a substantial body of Americans are more concerned with other bad guys are thus willing to give government a free pass to do whatever it takes.   Gallup Poll citations to support both views are below.

So, what is the bottom line?  What should we do about it?  I think that the two views can never be reconciled.  We must live with the split until the pendulum of public opinion swings strongly one way or the other.  In the recent past, and for the forseeable future, the pendulum is stuck at close to 50-50.

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