Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lack Of Freedom Can Be Measured By Lack Of Stupid

Penn Jillette wrote a WSJ commentary over the weekend that I think is very good both in its creative slant and its overarching message.  Here are some excerpts:

Having a Hummer is stupid. It's stupid to waste that much gas. It's stupid to waste that much money on gas. It's stupid to parade your insecurities on public roads. Hummers are stupid looking.

Hummers are stupid and wasteful and if they go away because no one wants to buy one, that'll be just a little sad. It's always a little sad to lose some stupid. I love people doing stupid things that I'd never do—different stupid things than all the stupid things I do. It reminds me that although all over the world we humans have so much in common, so much love, and need, and desire, and compassion and loneliness, some of us still want to do things that the rest of us think are bug-nutty. Some of us want to drive a Hummer, some of us want to eat sheep's heart, liver and lungs simmered in an animal's stomach for three hours, some us want to play poker with professionals and some of us want a Broadway musical based on the music of ABBA. I love people doing things I can't understand. It's heartbreaking to me when people stop doing things that I can't see any reason for them to be doing in the first place. I like people watching curling while eating pork rinds.

But if any part of the Hummer going belly-up are those government rules we're putting in on miles per gallon, or us taking over of GM, then I'm not just sad, I'm also angry. Lack of freedom can be measured directly by lack of stupid. Freedom means freedom to be stupid. We never need freedom to do the smart thing. You don't need any freedom to go with majority opinion. There was no freedom required to drive a Prius before the recall. We don't need freedom to recycle, reuse and reduce. We don't need freedom to listen to classic rock, classic classical, classic anything or Terry Gross. We exercise our freedom to its fullest when we are at our stupidest.

There's a lot of bad stupid around. Really bad stupid. But we can't stop the real horror by stopping just-plain-stupid stupid.
I can feel smug about my Mini Cooper's sexy 37/28/32 MPG measurements. But I don't think we should be too quick to feel happy about the stupid Hummers going away. We're all making bad choices all the time, and most of mine are way stupider than driving a Hummer. I love my freedom of stupid. I bumped into Adrien [Brody] one time and had a great talk with him, we got along great. I know Carrot Top well enough to call him "Scott." I know that they're both a lot thinner than me. They're both in a lot better shape. They eat better than me, and they can do a lot more push-ups and sit-ups. They can run farther and faster than me. So, in the near future, with us all being involved in each other's health care, Adrien and Scott might make up for their wasted gas mileage paying for my high-blood-pressure meds. If we're all getting together to stop the stupidity of driving a Hummer, will we have to stop the stupidity of eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and pie? Freedom is freedom to be stupid.

They came first for the Hummers.

Then they came for the pie.

Aside from being a lot more entertaining than me, this is precisely my point when I defend smoking on private property.  Just because it's not something I would do doesn't mean I want it to go away, especially because of government intervention.  As Jillette said, they're coming for the Hummers today, but who knows what they come for next?  It's a slippery slope, and it's inevitably only a matter of time until something you love or do is targeted.  If you don't stand up to defend the underlying principle when it's not your thing, who do you think is going to come to your defense when it is?  That's why we must defend the principle itself: freedom.  With government control of health care, virtually anything and everything will be subject to government control because it will somehow affect your health or danger level.  Thus, virtually any freedom can -- and probably will -- be restricted 'for your own good', and once that ball starts rolling downhill, it will never stop.

Hot Air adds this comment:

Why can't Washington simply allow the rational market determine the best choices for consumers? For one thing, it would mean that politicians would have a lot less to do, which would also mean special-interest groups would have a lot fewer reasons to donate cash. Politicians also feel the need to justify their existence by pointing to new ways in which they save Americans, mainly from themselves.  Both impulses have a lot to do with why nanny-statism has been mainstreamed in American political thought over the last several decades.

The bottom line is that, in addition to the obvious inherently irreconcilable problem of who gets to define 'stupid', the only way to eliminate stupid decisions is to eliminate the freedom to make stupid decisions.  Take your pick, because you can't have both.

I'll pick stupid.

There's my two cents.

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