I was reading Dr. Suess' The Sneetches to my middle daughter recently. Only a few pages in, she said, "This is about, like, white people and black people, right?" She's clever at sussing out subtext, which is one reason why she's dangerous.
The lesson of the Sneetches is that it would be silly to distinguish ourselves with easily adjustable markings, and (implicitly) that it's just as silly to distinguish and segregate ourselves based on factors like ethnicity. But . . . does distinguishing ourselves with marking have to be bad? What if we could use markings to resolve core cultural conflicts?
I asked myself that because I was thinking of both regulatory and moral nanny-statism (inspired by reviewing past posts about San Francisco and by asshat Jeff Kropf.) How do we reconcile people who want to run other people's practical lives with people who want to run other people's moral lives and people who just want to make their own life?
I suggest iron-on patches. Or sewn, or some sort of sticker: I'm flexible.
This is kind of a riff on my old proposal for a class of citizens called grownups, but more multifaceted.
Imagine: everyone can elect to wear one of three patches. There's the Best Interests Of The Community Club, the Righteous Club, and the Independents. The Righteous could have a patch with the Cross or the Star of David or whatever. The Best Interests Of The Community Club could have a little picture of the Legislature or the Department of Health and Human Services or something. The Independents could have a patch with a handgun, bong, and picture of Ayn Rand. Folks would buy the patches and stickers and put them on their car, in their wallet, on the back of their iPhone, or wherever it's convenient.
And then they'd go out into society and be bound by the rules that their tribe decided to impose upon itself.
If you've got a Best Interests of the Community Club sticker on your car, you can't get a Happy Meal with a toy in it at McDonald's, because the wise folks who make decisions for the Best Interests of the Community Club know that those are bad for the community. And you better not walk around in public with bottled water or leather shoes if you've got a BICC patch! They'll give you a ticket. If, on the other hand, you've got a Righteous Club patch, then you can't get into an R-rated movie (excepting R-rated movies depicting the Crucifixion) and can't buy Harry Potter books, because the clergy that leads the Righteous Club has decided that those things are bad for the faithful. You've got to allow the Righteous authorities to install a filter on your web browser, too, to keep you away from harmful things. If you've got an Independents sticker, you can buy cheap plastic in your Happy Meals and watch R-rated movies to your heart's content. But you won't be able to sue for anything without a panel of Independents certifying that your position in the lawsuit is premised on an adult level of personal responsibility (reading contracts before signing them or taking your chances, exercising due care or taking your chances, having a normal person's understanding of the dangers posed by interacting with the world, etc.) and supported by both science and hard evidence. Independents cannot attempt to impose upon any other person any rule or standard of care that Independents do not impose on themselves. Independents also won't be eligible for any form of public assistance or charity.
Everyone would be free to rise up among the ranks of their own group to shape its policies. The Righteous will be able to dictate the activities of some of the citizenry, just not all of it. The wise and concerned members of the Best Interests of the Community Club will be able to achieve their regulatory utopia among their own ranks, just not among everyone. And the Independents will be able to leave each other alone without thwarting the desires of some people to escape from freedom and micromanage the affairs of (some of) their fellow citizens. We indulge some people (the BICCs and the Righteous, in different ways) in their desire to dictate not only their own destiny but the destiny of others. And we make the Independents put up or shut up — will they survive without the protections of the moron-cuddling legal system and the welfare state?
Sure, there would be some social dislocation and inter-group hostility. Sure, people would disdain members of other groups (would you sell a potentially dangerous tool to anyone but an Independent? ).
But what's that compared to giving everyone at least a slice of what they want?
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Shock, Dismay In Academia At Scorpion Acting Like Scorpion - June 28th, 2017
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017