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Yes, Mommy: A Well-Regulated State
Fred on Everything ^ | 15 September 2002 | Fred Reed

Posted on 09/15/2002 10:30:25 AM PDT by SBeck

Yes, Mommy:

A Well-Regulated State

We tell ourselves that in America we are the Free People. I wonder whether we might not better be called the Obedient People, the Passive People, or the Admonished People. I doubt that any country, anywhere, has been so regulated, controlled, and directed as we are. We are bred to obey. And obey we do.

It begins with the sheer volume of law, rules, and administrative duties. Most of the regulation makes sense in isolation, or can be made plausible. Yet there is so much of it.

Used to be if you wanted a dog, you got a dog. It wasn’t really the government’s business. Today you need a dog license, a shot card for the dog, a collar and tags, proof that the poor beast has been neutered, and you have to keep it on a leash and walk it only in designated places. It’s all so we don’t get rabies.

Or consider cars. You have to have a title, insurance, and keep it up to date; tags, country sticker, inspection sticker, emissions test. Depending where you are, you can’t have chips in the windshield, and you need a zoned parking permit. You have to wear a seatbelt. And of course there are unending traffic laws. You can get a ticket for virtually anything, usually without knowing that you were doing anything wrong.

Then there’s paperwork. If you have a couple of daughters with college funds in the stock market, annually you have to fill out three sets of federal taxes, three sets of state, and file four state and four federal estimated tax forms, per person, for a total of twenty-four. This doesn’t include personal property taxes for the country, business licenses, tangible business-assets forms, and so on.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all these laws are bad. Stupid, frequently, but evil, no. Stopping at traffic lights is probably a good idea, and certainly is if I’m crossing the street. But the laws never end. Bring a doughnut on the subway, and you get arrested. Don’t replace your windows without permission in writing from the condo association. Nothing is too trivial to be regulated. Nothing is not some government’s business.

I wonder whether the habit of constant obedience to infinitely numerous rules doesn’t inculcate a tendency to obey any rule at all. By having every aspect of one’s life regulated in detail, does one not become accustomed to detailed regulation? That is, detailed obedience?

For many it may be hard to remember freer times. Yet they existed. In 1964, when I graduated from high school in rural Virginia, there were speed limits, but nobody much enforced them, or much obeyed them. If you wanted to fish, you needed a pole, not a license. You fished where you wanted, not in designated fishing zones. If you wanted to carry your rifle to the bean field to shoot whistle pigs, you just did it. You didn’t need a license and nobody got upset.

To buy a shotgun in the country store, you needed money, not a background check, waiting period, proof of age, certificate of training, and a registration form. If your tail light burned out, then you only had one tail light. If you wanted to park on a back road with your girl friend, the cops, all both of them, didn’t care. If you wanted to swim in the creek, you didn’t need a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

It felt different. You lived in the world as you found it, and behaved because you were supposed to, but you didn’t feel as though you were in a white-collar prison. And if anybody had asked us, we would have said that the freedom was worth more to us than any slightly greater protection against rabies, thank you. Which nobody ever got anyway.

Today, the Mommy State never leaves off protecting us from things I’d just as soon not be protected from. We must wear a helmet on a motorcycle: Kevorkian can kill us, but we cannot kill ourselves. Why is it Mommy Government’s business whether I wear a helmet? In fact I do wear one, but it should be my decision.

And so it goes from administrative minutiae (emissions inspections) to gooberish Mommyknowsbestism (“Wea-a-ar your lifejacket, Johnny!”) to important moral decisions. Obey in small things, obey in large things.

You must hire the correct proportion of this and that ethnic group, watch your sex balance, prove that you have the proper attitude toward homosexuals. You must let your children be politically indoctrinated in appropriate values, must let your daughter get an abortion without telling you, must accept affirmative action no matter how morally repugnant you find it.

And we do. We are the obedient people.

As the regulation of our behavior becomes more pervasive, so does the mechanism of enforcement grow more nearly omnipresent. In Washington, if you eat on the subway, they really will put you in handcuffs, as they recently did to a girl of twelve. In 1964 in King George County, the cop would have said, “Sally, stop that.” Arresting a child for sucking on a sourball would never have entered a state trooper’s mind.

Which brings us to an ominous observation. America is absolutely capable of totalitarianism. It won’t be the jackbooted variety, but rather a peculiarly mindless, bureaucratic insistence on conformity. What we call political correctness is an American approach to political control.

Our backdoor totalitarianism has the added charm of being crazy.

Think about it. Confiscating nail clippers at security gates, arresting the eating girl on the subway, the confiscation from an aging general of his Congressional Medal of Honor because it had points, the countless ejections from school of little boys for drawing soldiers of the Trade Centers in flames, playing cowboys and Indians, for pointing a chicken finger and saying Bang.

This isn’t intelligent authoritarianism aimed at purposeful if disagreeable ends. It is the behavior of petty and stupid people, of minor minds over-empowered, ignorant, but angry and charmed to find that they can push others around. It is the exercise of power by people who have no business having any.

And we obey. We are the obedient people.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: fredoneverything
Fred on target and loaded for bear. Fire away.
1 posted on 09/15/2002 10:30:25 AM PDT by SBeck
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To: SBeck
"1984" arrived and nobody even noticed.

Walt

2 posted on 09/15/2002 10:34:08 AM PDT by WhiskeyPapa
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To: WhiskeyPapa
More like "Blade Runner".

"You know what you are if you're not us, Decker? Little people."

3 posted on 09/15/2002 10:42:18 AM PDT by SBeck
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To: SBeck
My bad.

"Stop right where you are. You know the score pal. If you're not cop, you're little people."

And it was Deckard, not Decker.

4 posted on 09/15/2002 10:50:03 AM PDT by SBeck
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To: SBeck
the confiscation from an aging general of his Congressional Medal of Honor because it had points

Make that attempted confiscation. General Foss wasn't about to let 'em take. They're lucky he didn't beat 'em to a bloody pulp with his cane. :)

5 posted on 09/15/2002 12:18:39 PM PDT by El Gato
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To: SBeck
It wasn't always this way....... oh, for a return to the good old days, when you could speak your mind and do as you pleased as long as no one else got hurt.
6 posted on 09/15/2002 12:48:41 PM PDT by Great Dane
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To: Wolfie; Neckbone; JediGirl; steve50; philman_36; Hemingway's Ghost; headsonpikes; vin-one; ...
ping. Fred's good today
7 posted on 09/16/2002 5:43:25 AM PDT by WindMinstrel
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To: SBeck
And we obey. We are the obedient people.

That's because for many of us, life is too good. Heaven forbid if the economy really goes south . . .

8 posted on 09/16/2002 6:02:35 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
What would a bad economy have to do with our cultivated obedience?
9 posted on 09/16/2002 6:09:11 AM PDT by WindMinstrel
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To: SBeck
It is the exercise of power by people who have no business having any.

And we obey. We are the obedient people.

It starts in grade school, when you have to ask permission before using the bathroom. Start and stop thinking on command, and only about the commanded block of information. (the material being studied is irrelevent, as long as the habit of obedient thinking is mastered.)

However, the first wave of home-educated adults is hitting the scene, with millions more behind 'em. Folks not trained in habits of obedience to bureaucrats. Quite the opposite, in fact.

10 posted on 09/16/2002 6:10:05 AM PDT by TomSmedley
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To: WindMinstrel
What would a bad economy have to do with our cultivated obedience?

The article bemoans the petty oppressiveness we've come to accept as normal with a tone that suggests, to me anyway, that "we" (society) should do something about it. I submit the only time we, as a society, would actually do something about it is when we start to go hungry. As long as economic needs are being met, societies can withstand just about anything. Precipitating most world-class revolutions were dismal economic conditions---in which basic needs weren't being met.

11 posted on 09/16/2002 6:42:20 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
Good point -- as long as we have our bread and circuses we'll be happy. That's accurate, really -- I know that if I weren't so well-off I'd be a much bigger pain in the tookus to our masters.
12 posted on 09/16/2002 6:44:58 AM PDT by WindMinstrel
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To: WindMinstrel
The ultimate irony, I think, is that outside of sheer despotism, the real enemy of liberty is prosperity.

13 posted on 09/16/2002 6:48:08 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Hemingway's Ghost; WindMinstrel
I agree with the tone of what you're saying, but not the entire point. I think that prosperity offers those with the ability the time and tools necessary to affect change. In times of hunger the atmosphere is ripe for revolt, true- but the aim of the revolt at that point is not to gain liberty. I think that it is only during times of plenty that the members of any society who have the requisite talent can produce the fruits of that talent, whether it be art, poetry, or liberty. The only thing lacking in times of prosperity is a clear and common focus.
14 posted on 09/16/2002 10:03:19 AM PDT by Neckbone
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To: Neckbone
How would good focus change anything? By and large the rules we live by are those of the bureaucracy; few of the really rediculous laws were passed by real lawmakers. The bureaucrats work to justify their existance (and increase their "importance") by passing more and more rules. Furthermore, they can't even be fired, so we get an increasing powerbase of self-justifying rules-makers.

What happens when you start to chip away at the powerbase of these faceless bureaucrats? They start fighting back, of course. Look at what's happening in the war on drugs -- as soon as you publically challenge it you're tarred as being "soft on crime". Try to reduce the volume of rules for, say, the highway safety administration, and you're tagged as voting in favor of vehicle rollovers. The cycle continues.

I would suggest that it doesn't matter how focused you are because of the stupidity of the populace. They don't want to think through the war on drugs -- they just want to know that Senator Bubba is working to keep thier chilluns safe. Sure, the price of cars is going up, but Congressman Joe-bob is telling them he's working to keep the highways safe.

How do you root out stuff like that?
15 posted on 09/16/2002 10:24:33 AM PDT by WindMinstrel
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
I submit the rise of the "mommy state" is very much concurrent with the political enfranchisement of the mommies. Can the differing aspirations of the sexes be denied?
16 posted on 09/16/2002 10:44:21 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Woahhs
I submit the rise of the "mommy state" is very much concurrent with the political enfranchisement of the mommies. Can the differing aspirations of the sexes be denied?

No.

Will people have an honest discussion about this?

No.

17 posted on 09/16/2002 10:48:04 AM PDT by Under the Radar
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To: Neckbone
I think that prosperity offers those with the ability the time and tools necessary to affect change.

I disagree. Prosperity hints that change isn't necessary. During times of prosperity, things work. People are satisfied. Nobody's going to risk a full belly, a comfortable lifestyle, and a bright future over fighting arcane and negligable law like the type this article mentions---over something that seems academic. All that rubbish is middle class blues at best, and the middle class blues is real luxury to most people.

Change---especially revolutionary change---only comes when the result of doing nothing is more starvation. Revolutionary change occurs when people are desperate. Well-fed, well-clothed, well-apportioned people are not desperate.


18 posted on 09/16/2002 10:51:02 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Woahhs
I submit the rise of the "mommy state" is very much concurrent with the political enfranchisement of the mommies. Can the differing aspirations of the sexes be denied?

You won't get an argument from me.

19 posted on 09/16/2002 10:51:38 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Under the Radar
I was at least hoping for a fruitful discussion on the character and identifying marks of political cognitive dissonance.
20 posted on 09/16/2002 10:55:51 AM PDT by Woahhs
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
Revolutionary change occurs when people are desperate

I absolutely agree with this statement, however I feel quite strongly that change resulting from a revolution born of starvation does not decrease the power or scope of the State, it just makes that power change hands. Historical revolutions changed government from a monarchy (because for all intents and purposes that's all there was) to something else, right? Which revolutions that occurred during times of hardship resulted in a government based in the liberties of the individual? The American Revolution was not born of starvarion, but of oppression. But how about others?

It seems to my unqualified eye that most result in some form of collective- what appears to be the "safest" form at the time. To each according to his need puts bread on the plate, but it's getting from each his ability that proves to be the tricky part. In the end, the State becomes even bigger and more powerful than the pre-revolutionary one.
21 posted on 09/16/2002 11:11:03 AM PDT by Neckbone
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To: Neckbone
In the end, the State becomes even bigger and more powerful than the pre-revolutionary one.

I'd suggest that's the nature of government. It always grows.
22 posted on 09/16/2002 11:18:47 AM PDT by WindMinstrel
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
the real enemy of liberty is prosperity.

Agree. People become self-indulgent and lose their edge; let their guard down.

I wish I could remember who it was that wrote (long ago), "Mankind cannot long endure prosperity."

23 posted on 09/16/2002 11:36:22 AM PDT by Steve1789
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To: WindMinstrel
I would suggest that it doesn't matter how focused you are because of the stupidity of the populace.

You have addressed the very root of the problem. The vast majority of the world population are sheep, that is true. The focus of which I spoke is the focus of talented, like-minded individuals to affect change. This is the hard part.

But what changes do you suggest? What method of governance are you suggesting is free of beaurocracy, and above all the petty crap that results from the human ego? As soon as someone has power, one of their first acts is to abuse it. What will change that?
24 posted on 09/16/2002 11:38:57 AM PDT by Neckbone
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To: WindMinstrel
I'd suggest that's the nature of government. It always grows.

Of course it does. That is the nature government, and I think it ultimately comes down to a matter of weighing advantages. We here in the US of A have a huge, plodding, inefficient beaurocracy that has for the past 226 some-odd years been churning out what has proven to be the best system of government of its size in the world. Could it be better? Hell, yes! Could it be worse? Hell, yes!
25 posted on 09/16/2002 11:44:31 AM PDT by Neckbone
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To: Neckbone
Which revolutions that occurred during times of hardship resulted in a government based in the liberties of the individual? The American Revolution was not born of starvarion, but of oppression. But how about others?

Of the big four (British, American, French, and Russian), I'd say 3 at least in theory eventually resulted in a government based on the liberties of the individual. But each was precipitated by one or more of the following forms of oppression or dischord:

- The inability of government to raise money or collect taxes
- An inept government making stupid mistakes---too much administration, favoring one economic course over another
- A shift of allegiance by the intellectuals
- A loss of self-confidence by the "ruling" elites (sympathy for the rebels, convinced system is bad/improper/converted to rebellious causes)
- A separation of political and economic power
- A rift in a system of meritocracy
- Social antagonism

The Davies J-Curve theory of revolutions descibed so that it sounds like a Public Image Ltd. song goes like this: people will accept a modest gap between "what they want" and "what they get." When the gap gest too out of whack, that's when stuff goes down. You could argue--and I certainly could---that we're approaching the Davies J-Curve point of no return in the United States today.

Also, historically most revolutions start from the left, go to the right, and then swing back to the "center." I believe an American revolution would come from the right this time.


26 posted on 09/16/2002 12:58:03 PM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Neckbone
You have addressed the very root of the problem. The vast majority of the world population are sheep, that is true. The focus of which I spoke is the focus of talented, like-minded individuals to affect change. This is the hard part.

It's a fact of life that the people who have it worst are generally the ones who won't revolt: they're too busy trying to survive. Revolutionaries come from the social elite.

27 posted on 09/16/2002 1:01:43 PM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
We are the obedient people.
Pavlovian dogs seems as appropriate and applicable as obedient people.
Some hear the bells and whistles and immediately start to drool, knowing the meal is ready for the feasting.
What feasts and what famines? Control feasts and liberty famines.

Yeah, Fred did it up right. What a dish.

28 posted on 09/29/2002 7:33:58 PM PDT by philman_36
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