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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Liberalism in a nutshell

Kudos to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome for capturing the very essence of contemporary liberalism in his recent statement declaring What Must Be Done About Pit Bulls in San Francisco: "You've got dogs that literally can kill. We've seen it demonstrated. If we can't change people's behavior and make them think what's in their best interests, then that's where government comes along and becomes a bit paternalistic" (San Francisco Examiner, June 6, print edition; for some reason not available at the Examiner's Web site). If Newsome's statement had been a touchdown or field goal, I'd gladly play the statement back several times (including slow mo) to take the full measure of the event. But we're stuck with print, so we'll have to let italics and bold type make the point. Here again is the money quote:
"If we can't change people's behavior and make them think what's in their best interests, then that's where government comes along and becomes a bit paternalistic."
Perfect, bingo, yes! The primary goal of liberal activist government is to change people's behavior by making them (read: forcing them to) think what's in their "best interests." Who's best situated to determine what's in people's best interests — the people themselves? No way. Leave it to Gavin Newsome and the crew of social(ist) engineers in San Francisco city government. Here's the scary part: Newsome's a moderate in SF politics. (Don't even ask me about Chris Daly, a city supervisor who makes Kim Jong-il seem conciliatory by comparison.) The point that matters: In the worldview of the contemporary left, the end completely justifies the means. On any given issue — say, same-sex marriage — if the mayor doesn't like existing state law, he simply violates the law and authorizes the entire mechanism of city government to do the same. (Oh, goody. Care to guess what Mayor Newsome would have to say if one of his fellow mayors — say, from south of the proverbial Mason-Dixon Line — were to declare null and void all state and federal gun control laws on Second Amendment grounds?) On another issue — violent dogs — the mayor effectively declares that a virtual epidemic of violent dogs requires a new bureaucratic infrastructure. It goes without saying: No sane person felt anything short of horror at the recent mauling of a 12-year-old child by the family's pet pit bull terrier. And reasonable people can (and do) disagree about the dangers of bred-to-fight dog species. There are already laws on the books that cover bad animals badly managed and the humans who are responsible for bad outcomes. And of course that's not the relevant point. The relevant point is in bold italics above. "We reserve the right to actively use the machinery of the state — creating any new law or voiding any existing law — to advance our vision of what's in the best interests of The People." Freedom is seldom forfeited all at once, but instead by increments. We've all heard about how to cook a live frog: If the starting water's too hot, the frog will jump right out. Begin with room temperature water and slow increase the heat, degree by degree. It's not about frogs and it's not about dogs — not even really vicious dogs. In the end it's all about what Benjamin Franklin told the Philadelphia woman in 1787 who asked him what kind of government he and his fellow delegates had just created at the Constitutional Convention. "A republic — if you can keep it," Franklin replied. Philadelphia = here. 1787 = Now. You = us.