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Big and Strong?

Posted By Don Boudreaux On November 3, 2008 @ 10:32 am In Myths and Fallacies,Politics | Comments Disabled

I suffer from no romantic delusions about politics or about voting.  So I winced when I read in the lead editorial in today’s Washington Post [1] that CBS newsman Bob Schieffer recently told his viewers "Go vote.  It will make you feel big and strong."

Mr Schieffer’s attitude — and the Post‘s fawning approval of it — is not unusual.  Indeed, it’s the norm.  But this attitude toward voting is irritatingly thoughtless.

This attitude reflects the myth that political action is as noble, or even nobler, than private actions.  Much more so than if I vote, I feel big and strong when I act consistently to be a loving father, husband, son, and brother – when I help my friends and neighbors – when I perform my job well – when I pay my bills – when I save for my retirement — in short, when I take responsibility for matters that are within my control.

Ironically, though, this voting that allegedly makes us "feel big and strong" often results in government relieving us of responsibility for those things that each of us can and should control, while giving each of us an officious and inherently irresponsible say in matters that should be the exclusive private responsibility of each of our fellow citizens. 

If Mr. Schieffer, newspaper editorialists, or anyone else really wants to give me the opportunity to feel big and strong, they ought to speak out first and foremost against government policies that treat adults as irresponsible children.  I am perfectly capable of saving for my own retirement, of choosing whether or not to patronize a restaurant that permits smoking, of choosing which elements to ingest into my own body, of providing for the education of my son, of deciding what degree of driver and passenger safety I want in my automobile — indeed, of doing a great number of things that government today presumes me to be too gullible or too irresponsible or too childish to do.  And what is true of me, an ordinary adult, is true of nearly every other adult.

Government treats me as if I’m small and weak.  This fact disgusts me.

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[1] the lead editorial in today’s Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/02/AR2008110201731.html?sub=AR

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