Ask Auntie Pinko
Dear Auntie Pinko,
I am always amused that "liberals" (I will use the
old stereotypical left-right, liberal-conservative lingo for sake
of argument only) want the government to stay out of our bedrooms,
while "conservatives" seem to want the government in our
Yet when it comes to the rest of our house, liberals seem to
want the government in every other room - including the garage (no
SUV's, unless they are Theresa's SUVs) the kitchen (trying to sue
McDonald's for fat kids) the living room (V-chips and Tipper Gore's
PMRC) the bathroom (minimal flush toilets) and the home office (taxing
the Internet). They are even in my phone (no call lists) and garbage
Why can't the government stay out of my entire house - bedroom
Auntie is delighted to have the opportunity to revisit some of
these topics, as I think it allows me to once again highlight some
of the very best aspects of the Democratic Party and its agenda.
And I'm proud to be included under the category "liberal,"
even with all our faults.
I'm pretty certain that there's no "faultless" way to
run a nation that will please all of its citizens, so decisions
often come down to - whose faults can we live with? I'd make a strong
case for liberal faults, Jeff.
Here's a general principle that might help you understand all of
the "liberal" positions you bring up (I'll deal with the
relative merits of each in a moment):
The liberal ideal of government is to protect the maximum possible
liberty, privacy, and freedom of choice for each individual to pursue
their self-interest, while ensuring that the pursuit of our self-interest
does not conflict with, or cause harm to, our neighbors who have
an equal right to that pursuit.
It's that simple: We think everyone should have the freedom to
do what they want as long as doing so doesn't harm others.
Let's take it on a case-by-case (or, as you've put it) a room-by-room
basis, starting with the bedroom. As you point out, most liberals
agree that whatever two consenting adults do in the privacy of their
bedroom is unlikely to harm anyone but themselves.
As a liberal, I want the government to spend a certain amount
of time in your garage, because the choices you make there have
some impact on me. They affect the quality of the air I will breathe.
And they determine how dependent my nation is upon a non-renewable
fuel source that is largely under the control of people whose self-interest
often conflicts with America's. I make no apology for this, Jeff,
just as I wouldn't expect you to apologize if you had to call the
police to get me to stop emitting noxious chemical fumes from my
garage into your yard next door.
So, yes, I want the government to define certain minimum standards
that will protect the quality of the air I breathe, and reduce my
nation's dependency on oil. However, within those minimum standards,
I will fight hard for your right to choose any vehicle you want
to purchase, just as I will fight hard for my right to express personal
disapproval of your choice. My disapproval of your choice within
those minimum standards is my right, just as the choice is your
right, and I would defend both vigorously.
As a liberal, I want the government to spend a certain amount
of time in our kitchens, because the choices we make there also
have an impact on one another. I want to keep insurance rates low
(because I pay them,) and that depends on the overall health of
everyone, not just me. And I want to protect my own health by maintaining
an array of healthy food choices, even if that cuts into the profit
margins of big agribusiness, and costs me something in taxes to
have my meat inspected, and so on.
Now, would I personally file a lawsuit as a means of drawing attention
to the exploitive practices of major agribusinesses - practices
clearly linked to increased rates of obesity, a disease that has
a long-term (even permanent) and expensive (for everyone) negative
consequences? Probably not, because I don't have the money, time,
or energy to do so, and frankly I think there are better ways to
handle the situation. But we liberals will fight hard to protect
the rights of any American who feels that they have a valid grievance
against another, to seek redress for that grievance in a fair, open,
accessible, and affordable legal system.
But as Mr. Kerry has already pointed out, we will also fight hard
for the rights of the community to maintain the quality and affordability
of our justice system by penalizing those who knowingly pursue invalid
or frivolous claims for malicious purposes.
As a liberal, I want the government to spend some time in your
living room, because if you are a parent I want you to have the
option of appropriately supervising the entertainment media to which
you expose your children. Quality parenting results in quality future
citizens, and that is in everyone's self-interest. I also want the
government to ensure that your entertainment is not controlled by
a few monopolistic conglomerates who will put their profits before
their obligation to use community property (the bandwidth that belongs
to all of us) responsibly.
Of course, you are probably also aware that we liberals will fight
hard for your right as a consenting adult to consume any dreck you
find entertaining (so long as it isn't snuff films or kiddie porn)
in sufficient privacy that it won't expose others to something they'd
rather do without. This is not a claim that Mr. Ashcroft and his
merry men can match - they want the government even more restrictively
in your living room than we liberals do.
And yes, as a liberal, I definitely want the government in your
bathroom, because I live downstream from you, and the quality of
the water supply I use is directly affected by what goes on there.
I'm not aware of any liberals who want to "tax the Internet,"
Jeff. It's unlikely, because such a tax would be pretty regressive,
like property and sales taxes, and we liberals don't like them.
We prefer progressive taxes that burden everyone equitably at a
level appropriate for their ability to pay.
However, I want the government in your home office, because if
you're using it to run a spamscam on the Web, or engage in predatory
loan practices, or shill worthless penny stocks to little old ladies,
that's going to harm me or my neighbors. Keeping you safe from me
and me safe from you is what the government is all about.
As for the no call lists, as far as I'm aware they're not mandatory
for anyone. And the only people who dislike them are those unpleasant
folks who drag Auntie away from her garden to listen to a pitch
for aluminum siding. Since my house is brick, this is a singularly
profitless exercise for all concerned, so I'll happily claim liberal
"credit" for this voluntary aid to privacy, sanity, and
the freedom to enjoy one's telephone without irritating pointless
interruptions for someone else's profit. (Although, to be fair,
I think a lot of conservatives were in on this one, too.)
Yep, darn us ol' liberals, there we go again…
And since I don't want my great-grand-nieces and -nephews to drown
in piles of garbage, I'll cop to the recycling one, too. There we
go again, trying to save the planet for future generations to survive
on, even if it puts the government in your garbage today, Jeff.
Of course, perhaps that's where you think government belongs?
I'm afraid I can't agree, but thanks for asking Auntie Pinko anyway!
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