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Letter on conservatism was flawed

June 19, 2017 - 12:05am

In the recent My Turn Conservatism Explained, Part 2, I congratulate Bill Hastings for making his points without vilifying liberals while doing so. This kind of respect for the other point of view is far too scarce today. On the other hand, his points are a bit slippery themselves.

The idea that Sesame Street would have been embraced by commercial television or supported by private donors is belied by the actual history of the show. It was developed by the Children’s Television Workshop specifically because commercial television would not run such shows at the time. Now that the program has stood the test of time, any commercial production company would love to have it, provided CTW would permit running commercials for cereals, candy and toys during the broadcasts. They would not, of course.

The argument that government should allow us to make bad choices suffers from at least two flaws. Bad choices is a subjective term which includes a range of possibilities. It is obviously a bad choice to kill, injure, extort or blackmail someone. It is also a bad choice to insult, belittle or snub someone. Legal systems have had little difficulty over the centuries drawing the appropriate lines between these actions. Pointing out that it is a slippery slope does not invalidate the effort. It only shows that the task is difficult, not impossible. The state already regulates our diets by requiring that foods not be toxic. A little toxic is not acceptable.

As for reaping the rewards of one’s efforts, conservatives are far from alone in believing in this. Once again, the definition of the terms is not self explanatory. For instance, if I decide to run a retail store on Main Street, is it preventing me from reaping my rewards to expect me to pay property taxes and to collect sales or excise taxes to send to the governments? I do, after all, enjoy the safety and security that the government assures. If there should be a fire on Main Street, surely I want the Fire Department fighting that fire just as skillfully whether it is in my store or another’s. Similarly, if I am annoyed by derelicts lounging in front of my store, I might want the police to move them away. I might even want to build a fund to help derelicts restore their lives in the interest of a better community.

The argument that taxpayers are paying for birth control is misplaced. Contraceptives are now an undeniable part of women’s health choices. The question is whether they should be included in health insurance policies. If so and if we are going to permit the government to assist poor people to afford health insurance, the it becomes a moral question whether these people should be denied this benefit. Once we have agreed to permit the government to assist the poor, complaining that they choose to use birth control that you would not choose for yourself is shown up for the political tactic it is.

Finally, the tolerance comparison is simply a canard. Observing that one’s own political side is better behaved than the other only shows one’s bias. Conservatives are not immune from calling liberals bleeding hearts, soft-headed, stupid, gay-loving, tree-hugging, draft-dodging, gun-hating, egg headed, family killing, God-hating, etc. The fact that name calling happens is regrettable. But it happens on all sides.

John Sucke is a resident of Waimea

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