by Mario Rizzo
Christopher Hitchens, the great journalist and essayist, has died. Mr. Hitchens was not always right but he often was. I saw at the Cato blog a brief piece, posted by David Boaz, that Hitchens wrote on Mayor Bloomberg’s Nanny State. (HT: Dave Johnson). It was in reaction to smoking restrictions, but could easily apply, more generally, to paternalistic legislation. My favorite part is:
The old slogan of the anarchist left used to be that the problem is not those who have the will to command. They will always be there, and we feel we understand where the authoritarians come from. The problem is the will to obey. The problem is the people who want to be pushed around, the people who want to be taken care of, the people who want to be a part of it all, the people who want to be working for a big protective brother.
I think about this almost daily as I come in contact (one way or another) with people who think they have a moral obligation (as distinct from a legal obligation) to obey every intrusive regulation that strangles us in the ordinary business of life. All because they were enacted by some legislative body or, as increasingly likely, by an unelected administrative body created by a legislative body populated by those who act as if they are the worst of us.
If more people shared a notion of the outrageousness of these intrusions (especially when you begin to view them in the aggregate and move beyond compulsory paternalism to compulsory beneficence), there could be no question of enforcing them in any “economical” way. But as things stand now, there is a collective action problem even among the many who hate these regulations.
Commentators and journalists, much less intelligent and courageous than Christopher Hitchens, often remark that Americans believe the country is moving in the wrong direction and that they feel helpless. There are many reasons for this. Let me suggest that one reason is that we have become the playthings of social planners who want to take from us all moral responsibility — except that to obey.