Thursday, February 28, 2008

When all you want is to be left alone ...

... it's hard to find a political party in America to call your own.

That was the message of Shirley's recent post in Delaware Curmudgeon and my response here.

Something about that theme wouldn't let go of me.

Libertarians (and I count Shirley among them on philosophy, not party) often emphasize minimalist constitutional government, for which we get lampooned on a regular basis by the remora feeding off the nanny state's leavings.

But the most politically radical desire we have is to be left alone.

Here's one of the experiences that crystalized for me the incredible mentality of social intrusion we've allowed to grow and fester in the former American republic:

My twins were seven when my grandson was born. Because my daughter's only health insurance was Medicaid, she was informed that she would be receiving a visit by nurse two days after she brought him home. Not that she was eligible for such a service, but that she was required to have this nurse visit to assess the conditions and quality of the care she was providing him.

The nurse arrived about 45 minutes before my twins were due to get off the bus from school. I was trying to stay in the background, not to interfere. It was feeding time, so I went out to the kitchen to get the formula ready, thinking I could stay safely out of the way while they had their little government-mandated chat.

No such luck.

Nurse Ratchett bounded up and pursued me with the intensity of Florence Nightingale looking for wounded in the Crimea.

I was warming the formula. We didn't do that for the twins. They got the stuff straight out of the refrigerator, partly because when you have multiples you'll do anything to save time, and partly because we learned by trial and error that cold formula gave my son less gas, and therefore less colic.

Today, however, I was being the dutiful grand-dad, so I stuck the bottle in the micro-wave and set it for twenty seconds.

"Absolutely not!" intoned Nurse Ratchett. "The microwave heats the liquid unevenly. The baby might get burned on a hot spot."

(I was thinking to myself, that's why you shake it afterward and then test it, you stupid bitch, but I was good grand-dad today.)

I said (calmly, I thought): "So how would you like me to warm it?"

She showed me that the proper, nanny-approved method of bottle warming was to place a cold bottle of formula in tepid water in a small sauce pot on the stove, and then turn up the heat ever so slowly to low, while gently rotating the bottle.

Like a good trustee, I complied.

Nurse Ratchett marched off in triumph with a properly warmed bottle.

The twins bounded into the house just as she was finishing up. She looked at them; she looked at me.

"You're not going to warm the bottles on the stove after I leave, are you?" she asked.

"Not on your damn life," I told her (much to my daughter's horror).

Somewhere in the bowels of the Nosey Visiting Pediatric Nurse Association I am sure there is a very negative report in my daughter's case file.

When I stop and think about it, the sheer audacity of the government's apparently deep-seated psychological need to re-parent me and my family is nothing short of breath-taking.

The government decided that I was incapable of supervising my children watching television, and insisted on placing a V-chip in every TV I can bring into my house, whether I want one or not.

The government has also decided that it needs to control the price of all the milk I buy for those children.

The government has decided that I should be treated like a drug dealer and have to sign a roster to purchase certain forms of over-the-counter cold medications.

The government decided that I could not be trusted with a lawn mower whose engine can keep running if I take my hands of the handlebars.

The government decided that it had the power to make my kids wear bicycle helmets.

If I'm dying of cancer and willing to try strange, probably ineffective medicines to save my own ass, the government gets to tell me "No."

By the same token, if I have intractable, chronic pain and want to smoke a little dope to settle my stomach and enjoy my family in the weeks I have left--guess what, I have to have the government's permission.

If I want to gamble in my own home (and the woman dealing the cards wants to take off her shirt), the government will bust down the doors and haul us all away.

The government asserts its right to track the library books I read and the websites I visit.

The government asserts the right to protect me from myself by forcing me to wear seat belts and motorcycle helmets.

The government tells me where in my car I can transport a firearm.

The government tells me it can use radar and lasers for traffic surveillance, but it also has the power to make it illegal for me to use technology that tells me when I am being watched.

The government tells me what kinds of waste I can put in my trash cans, and what kinds of light bulbs I need to burn.

The government is getting into the business of determining what can be done with my organs when I die.

The problem, you see, is that the government can't leave me alone. It's for my own good, you see. I might not feed that baby correctly, my children might careen off their bikes, I might get a head injury while driving that would cause everyone else's health care costs to go up, or I might--God forbid!--actually shoot some SOB who breaks into my home.

I become a radical whacko Libertarian because I don't accept the premise that laws and regulations should be made with the lowest common denominator in mind. I'm willing to be responsible for my life, my own safety, and that of my children. I'm willing to take the consequences of my actions or inactions, however stupid they may be.

Some days I want to run with the goddamn scissors, and--you know what?--the whole idea of the United States in the first place was that it wasn't the government's place to tell me NO.

(The visiting nurse, by the way, also got upset at me because I wouldn't take the "Free" State coupons for my daughter to get no-cost milk and cheese products for herself and my grandson. Thanks, but no thanks, I told her. We make enough money here to take care of our own. "But it's free!" she insisted. No, I told her as I shut the door in her face, it's not. Somebody is paying for it. And that somebody includes me.) (Later I realized I should have just taken the coupons and torn them up.)

Dr. Phil tells me (well, he was talking to an overweight woman who hated men without hair, but I knew it was aimed at me) that we teach people how to treat us.

That also applies to the government. As long as we have our hand out, the government will understand that we prefer heavy-handed intervention in our lives to going it alone.

Which is why Shirley can't find a political party. Because if there is no potential for patronage (think Hillary's "universal health care" present under the Winter Festival Tree), then there's no reason to vote, is there?


Alan Coffey said...

Steve, you have hit the nail on the head again.

This relates to good government also. The busier they are with this kind of crap, the less time and money they have to deal with the legitimate functions of government.

Alan Coffey said...

BTW: I use IE 7 and the text from your posts keeps disappearing. I have never seen that before.