Saturday, June 2, 2012
The Inalienable Right to Stupidity
There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the Rights that we have in this country as human beings and as citizens of this great nation (in fact, more than there usually is after NYC's Mayor Bloomberg decided to try and save New Yorkers from large soft drinks). Some are worthy, some are even inspiring; but some are tedious and boring, some are simply bogus, and some could even be considered rather far-fetched.
No discussion of Rights in this country of course, is ever possible without first mentioning "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" (or Property, depending on whether you go with Jefferson's original, or the sanitized version that ended up on parchment) that has come to define the message in the Declaration of Independence. While this was certainly a sound base to build upon, by the time the Founding Fathers had gotten around to writing the Constitution, many of the same people who signed the Declaration had become rather cynical about what would happen to their Rights when having to replace the looser Articles of Confederation with the stronger central government outlined in this new document. They were wary and distrustful of the amount of power now being place in the hands of that new government. (Pretty smart guys those Founding Fathers.)
In spite of the reassurances of some of the finest minds in the nation at the time as to the limits and restraints placed by that Constitution on this new federal government in "The Federalist Papers", they wanted written guarantees as to Rights that would be protected before signing on the dotted line. A list of twenty such rights was handed back to the nation by James Madison (Jefferson couldn't help, as he was in France at the time), twelve of which were voted on, and ten later passed to became the first ten Amendments to this new Constitution and came to be known as the "Bill of Rights".
With all due respect to the efforts of 'The Father of the Constitution', who I suspect is now whirling like a dervish during his dirt nap when considering some of the feeble attempts put forward masquerading as Rights in this country, I am shocked ... shocked I tell you, by the big one that even he apparently missed. I'm not sure for example, that 'affordable housing', 'a living wage', or 'free contraception' would have made any list that he would have submitted to Congress (even if it had been available). Having just gone through a war with the greatest empire of his time over the Rights they believed that they were entitled to 'by their Creator' ... and won it, I doubt that he would have been amused by such mundane concepts, let alone submit them for serious consideration. In so doing however, he was in fact denying the people of this country the one fundamental Right that even the Declaration's troika failed to list .... The Right to Stupidity.
Come on now, admit it. We're all falling back on this Right far more times than any of us would like to admit (and far more than the ten listed in the Constitution). Have you bungee jumped lately or jumped out of an airplane with nothing between you and certain death but an over-sized handkerchief? How about ordering that triple cheeseburger with the large fries (you know, the kind that makes your cholesterol go up before the first bite)? Smoke two packs of cigarettes a day for thirty years and still don't think you're setting yourself up for lung cancer? Drink a quart of vodka every week, but you aren't concerned about the condition of your liver? Hitting the tanning booth three times a week, but aren't worried about those new freckles that you're getting? How about when you told one of your friends that despite all the warnings, you were still convinced that you'd get your money back out of Social Security? See, there you go ... Stupidity.
You know, quite a lot of stupidity that we deal with today has to do with government in one way or another. After all, it's government that tells us that with each new law or regulation, it can protect us from evil banks, greedy corporations, and predatory merchandisers; and we all know that that's just plain stupid. Don't get me wrong, I'm not objecting if the government wants to check out the hot dog factory from time to time to make sure that it hasn't become a science experiment. Nor am I upset that if they want to check to make sure that the teddy bear I just gave my grandchild isn't stuffed with material used to clean up hazardous or radioactive waste. I'm even OK with a few rules for those in the stock market to make sure that they're not lining their pockets with my money while trading off of inside information. It defies all logic and reason however, for government to think that we're stupid enough to believe that it can protect us from our own stupidity. (OK, that issue may still be up for grabs...)
The truth of the matter is that if members of this and previous Congresses, along many of the recent occupants of the White House hadn't kept bailing individuals, corporations, and foreign countries from the results of their moronic actions, perhaps there would be less stupidity in the US, if not the world today. At the very least, making them pay in full for the stupidity of their actions would have resulted in a 'thinning of the herd' that would probably have raised the average and collective IQ in this country considerably.
Of course maybe the real consideration here is that government simply doesn't like having competition. It doesn't take an Einstein to look at the imbecilic nonsense committed in Washington DC on a daily basis and come to the conclusion that they would prefer a monopoly on stupidity; and that based on their fear of competition they will do all in their power (no matter how stupid it appears) to reduce the number of players in the game.
The hard truth however, is that with or without government intervention we will remain the constant victims of our own stupidity. (Are you paying attention Mayor Bloomberg?) One could even make the case that continued efforts to protect us from our ill-advised behaviors will in fact increase them through a half-witted (though often astonishingly creative) push back against increasing government interference in the exercise of this fundamental Right.
One might even go so far as to say that a government consisting of professional politicians wishing to serve as our elected officials should be wary of tampering with the inalienable right to stupidity, and should instead be celebrating it. What other hope do they have in the never-ending quest for a return to their well-paid positions than to count on the stupidity of the American voter.