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Crimes Against Society

Harmless activity should not be banned.

by James Leroy Wilson
January 4, 2007

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Crimes Against Society
What if nobody wanted to become a doctor? What if the best and brightest of our youth had aspirations in law, technology, and business, but not medicine? Within a couple of decades, we would have a severe doctor shortage - with older ones retiring or dying and no one replacing them. Because of the low supply of doctors, the actual health care costs (whether paid for privately or by the government) would skyrocket. Worse, a lot of people who would otherwise have medical care would go untreated.
Something like that could happen, to some degree. Everyone agrees that our health care system is broken, and that could discourage many young people from becoming doctors. But we need doctors.
I have a solution. Beginning at a young age, and throughout their school years, children should be tested in various subjects, and those intelligent kids who seem to have potential as doctors should be sent to go to medical school and enter the medical profession. We could also "draft" other kids into other essential jobs. Those who refuse could spend their time in jail, if that's what they really want.
Some may object and talk about "freedom" and "rights," saying that we shouldn't require our young people to serve their communities. But what does "freedom" really mean if people are sick? First things first. We need doctors so that people will be "free" of disease, and in any case health care is a basic human right. Young minds that dream of being a chess grandmaster or philosophy professor are just being selfish; they have an obligation to become doctors - to serve the public good. We are free, but we are also inter-connected. Freedom doesn't mean individualism.
While I'm on the topic of social improvement, I have another idea: reform our marriage laws. A lot of our social problems are caused by bad marriages and divorce. So many people who get married are too young and immature to tie the knot, and they marry the wrong people. So I propose three things. First, no one under the age of 30 should get married. Second, individuals should only marry those who are "compatible" according to various tests and criteria. A government agency could be created to work out the details. Third, the less intelligent among us should be sterilized. Even though Hollywood likes to portray criminals as evil geniuses, most of them are actually of low intelligence. Raising the bar for who gets to have children will, over time, substantially reduce the criminal element.
Again, some naysayers and whiners will talk about "freedom" and "rights." But freedom isn't absolute, and in any case it shouldn't be abused. Sure, "do your own thing" is a seductive creed, but our actions have consequences, and society always has to pay for our bad decisions.
While we're at it, here's another idea: clean up the media and the Internet! There's a lot of false information out there. Worse, there's a lot of viciousness and lies. People are just mean to each other, and rational civil discourse is increasingly rare. Worst of all, politicians are beholden to campaign contributors, and those contributions fund misleading attack ads.
So I say clean it all up. The First Amendment is great, but freedom comes with responsibility, and if you abuse your freedom of speech, you're not worthy of having it. The Internet must be regulated, and purveyors of false information should be prosecuted. Websites should abide by certain content standards for facts, decency, and civility. And every endorsement of a candidate, or of a policy closely linked to a candidate, should be considered a contribution to that candidate and must be reported to the Federal Elections Commission.
In case you haven't figured it out, I'm not really serious about any of the above. It wasn't long ago that most readers would spot these arguments as reductio ad absurdum ("reduction to the absurd."), I'm not so sure now. What I proposed above is only different in degree from what many people advocate now. And the justifications - certain services are human rights, individualism is selfish, freedom isn't absolute, individual actions have social consequences, etc. - are very common.
Yet, forcing individuals into jobs they don't want is absurd - it's slavery. Preventing people from marrying and having children is absurd - it's totalitarian. And cracking down on free speech is absurd - it gives the government monopolistic control over information.
But those who agree that my examples are absurd must ask themselves: why do I support the draft? Why do I support the War on Drugs? Why do I support obscenity laws? Why do I want gun control and strip individuals of the right to self-defense? Why do I insist other people pay higher taxes to fund programs I think are worthwhile?
We all know of two types of crime, crimes against persons and crimes against property.When somebody physically attacks someone else, we call that a crime. And when somebody steals or destroys somebody else's property, we call that a crime. Where the slippery slope comes in is society's insistence on a third category of crime, a crime not against specific people and property, but vague, intangible crimes against society itself. These are the webs of taxes, regulations, and laws that serve no purpose but to benefit interest groups. Some interest groups seek economic advantage. Others just want satisfaction that activities they deem immoral are banned. According to them, individuals don't owe it just to themselves and their loved ones to make healthy and productive choices, they also owe society; they owe the State. And in this "democracy," if there's disagreement between the individual and the majority as to what constitutes "healthy" and "productive" behavior, the majority rules.
But if your neighbor doesn't do anybody any harm, what business is it of others if he smokes, uses drugs, owns a gun, or enjoys vulgar entertainment? If he defrauds no one, why prevent him from going into the occupation he chooses, or starts a cash-only business? If he gets sick or dies from his behavior, hey, it's his life, not yours. By the same token, why should he be compelled to pay other people's medical bills?
Crimes against society, in which no person was involuntarily harmed, violate the Golden Rule to treat other people as you would like to be treated. Individuals are forced to pay taxes for institutions they don't believe in, comply with regulations that burden them, and obey laws against harmless activities. You might not be burdened by the taxes, the regulations may not apply to you, and perhaps you are in moral agreement with the laws. Therefore, you might still think you are free. But what about others?
If you don't mind the harm the State inflicts on other people, don't start complaining when the State decides to harm you as well.
 

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Brian Mack from Grand Rapids, MI writes:
January 4, 2007
JLW as usual raises an excellent point in the opening of his article. Fforcing individuals into jobs they don't want, preventing people from marrying and having children, and cracking down on free speech are all absurd and fly in the face of a democratic society as we know it.

Unfortunately, the comparison that these examples are meant to illustrate is also extreme. Which is the crux of the issue, as I see it. Most of the dialogue that takes place in the public consciousness occurs from polar positions, with little consideration given to the differing opinion or the potential for comprimise.

Yet most real people that I know and talk to are not all black or white on these issues, but are rather somewhere on the gray scale. Why then doesn't the rhetoric reflect the struggles of this broad swath in the middle?

Crime against an individual or against a specific piece of property are easily quantified and defined as detrimental to society at large. Social issues are somewhat more difficult to value but play just as important a role in society. This is where I see the need for comprimise to be most crucial.

Therefore, guns don't need to be outlawed across the board, but reasonable restrictions on exactly what type of weapons are marketed, and to whom, is a fair comprimise. Cigarettes needn't be outlawed, but a person's rights to smoke should end where the non-smokers (including their own children) air space begins. Illegal drugs should be illegal, but the dollars poured into wharehousing drug offenders should be replaced with education and training programs designed to assist them in becoming productive and self supporting. A strong VOLUNTEER military complex should be supported along with the enforcement of the Constitutional approval of congress to engage in military action against a foreign nation.

My frustration is that the meaning of comprimise in politics has been distorted from a process of give and take toward reaching a common and reasonable middle ground, into a process of you scratch my back on this piece of legislation, and I'll let you tack on that entitlement program for your pet project.

I am not holding out much hope for gaining ground toward comprimise in this new congress, but I guess I can still dream.



James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes:
January 7, 2007
The purpose of providing the polar extremes is to challenge one's own thinking and prejudices. The issue is, what are the individual's obligations to society, and what should happen to him if he doesn't fulfill his obligations? How we answer this will determine whether public policy will go in the direction of treating the individual as a person with inherent dignity, or as a dispensible cog in a machine.



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