Private Eyes

September 25th, 2010

Inspired by Christine O’Donnell’s call to arms against government intrusion in peoples’ lives, and Alhitch’s surreptitious defense thereof on Huffington Post.

 “Seeing as how Christine O’Donnell will not even get elected to the senate…and even if she did her social views will have absolutely no effect on anything we do in our private lives….shouldn’t we focus our concerns on things that government CAN dictate and, indeed, is dictating to our personal life choices?….like say…what temperature our thermostat in kept on…..or what kind of cars we drive….or how about what kind of light bulbs we use…….what foods are acceptable????… see while the left is busy flailining at imaginary boogey men….they are openly attempting to control every aspect of how other people live……to call this hypocrisy would be far too kind.” — comment on HuffPost by Alhitch 9/25/10 01:33 (read my response below)

What does it matter

If Americans get fatter and fatter?

Why try to get people to use energy efficienty

When they’re not doing so sufficiently.

Why is the government interfering

To keep our natural resources from disappearing?

What I don’t understand is why you keep telling people what they should and shouldn’t do

And then go nuts when people do the same to you.

But the government “interference” and “control” against which you rail

Compared with what you want the government to do does pale.

The government wants people, less energy to consume.

You want to dictate what someone can do in his or her bedroom.

There’s not actually much the government “makes” people do–

Mostly it’s just encouraging them to.

Much of what the government does is through incentives and education,

Which hardly makes us a socialist nation.

And even these things are determined democratically,

As opposed to your preference (theocratically).

We’ve all got values, Christine,

Just not the same ones as you and your Queen.

The difference between liberals and the Religious Right

Is that we don’t want to force others to do what’s right.

Instead, we try to use incentives and education,

And where necessary, democratically developed regulation.


Alhitch, here’s my response:

You adopt the exact same rhetoric Christine O’Donnell does (watch here doing that below), railing against “government control” of our lives. Your list is both absurd and misleading:

1) thermostat temperature — The government does not regulate the temperature at which people set their thermostats. A variety of government programs try to encourage people to set their thermostats slightly lower (in winter) or higher (in summer) so as to consume less energy, thus saving money, reducing our dependence on imported oil, and reducing pollution. What’s so nefarious about that? Or, do you support wasting energy?

2) kind of cars we drive — Ditto here. The government does not “dictate” what cars people drive. The government regulates auto manufacturers to require them to meet minimum fuel efficiency standards (actually, very loose ones, given the years of successful political lobbying by the auto industry, which is why America has some of the least efficient cars in the world and noone else wants to buy them). The government also requires manufacturers to tell car buyers how much gas their cars use, which they otherwise would not do. Again, the reason is reduced dependence on imported oil and reduced pollution.

3) light bulbs we use — Similarly, the government has recently established a standard for light bulb energy use, in order to save energy. The standard doesn’t “dictate” use of a certain type of bulb, but the end result will be to phase out inefficient incandescent bulbs, which use much more energy than compact fluorescent bulbs, last longer, and save consumers lots of money over their lifetimes. Again energy efficiency = less pollution + consumer savings.

4) foods we eat — Again, no government “dictates” here, just an attempt to encourage people to eat healthier (so that America stops being the most obese nation on earth) and to require food processors to tell people what’s actually in their food (like trans-fats, which are a major cause of that obesity, and which food processors previously kept secret). Don’t people have the right to know what they’re eating? The current push by the food industry to rebrand “high fructose corn syrup” as “corn sugar” (which they think sounds better) is an example. If it were up to them, they wouldn’t disclose their ingredients or nutritional information at all, and even when required to do so, they’re constantly trying to game the system (which the Bush Administration was happy to let them get away with) in order to reduce costs and increase profits. I don’t blame them for that, but one should acknowledge that government regulation is necessary to ensure that they don’t harm or deceive consumers in the process. And I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more comfortable looking to the government to protect public welfare than I am trusting in unregulated corporations, as you seem to prefer, in spite of evidence of what happens when you do that (asbestos table cloths, medecine that causes birth defects, dangerous chemicals in drinking water, lead-based paint, Love Canal, Three Mile Island, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, etc.).


Why should I even care if you waste energy and eat fatty foods? Shouldn’t you be able to do that if you want? That’s the libertarian reaction to almost any form of government regulation, and in some cases, it’s correct. But in the society we live in (not the sparsely settled Old West of legend), what people do does affect other people. Take energy use for example. Due to it’s economic and political power, energy use is subsidized by the government and society as a whole. In addition, energy prices do not reflect the externalities (e.g., pollution, national security costs) of energy use. So if you waste energy, it’s not only costing you extra money, it’s costing me extra money. Why not have an energy or carbon tax to reflect those externalities, you ask? We should, and Dems have been trying to implement one since Clinton. If we had implemented the BTU tax then, it would have greatly reduced or eliminated both our budget and trade deficits, but Republicans opposed it, and continue to do so.

And how about fatty food? Yes, every American pays for other people’s over-eating, in the form of uncompensated care for people without health insurance. That more than justifies the modest educational and informational programs that the government has to encourage healthy eating and informed consumer choice.

You say, Alhitch, that Christine O’Donnell’s social views (and I’m not just talking about the one everyone is making fun of) will have zero impact on national policy and our private lives, but that also is demonstrably false. The same views that she champions guided public policy under George W. Bush, as a result of which sex ed was limited to abstinence-only education (which has been proven ineffective in reducing teen pregnancy and STDs), limitations on abortions (I agree with Clinton that abortion should be safe and rare, or do you want to go back to the back alley and coat hanger days?), and an anti-gay witch hunt (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which I agree should be repealed, but which it should be acknowledged was initially implemented as a progressive measure to allow gays to serve in the military, but which the Bush Administration turned into an active witch hunt by re-defining and/or ignoring the “don’t tell” part.)

Finally, Alhitch, you say that Christine O’Donnell won’t get elected anyway so it doesn’t matter what her views are. First, the conventional wisdom also said she couldn’t win the GOP primary, and she did, so Dems can’t be complacent about the risk that she might also win the general: If we don’t mobilize against her and others like her, she/they may well be one of our new Senators. And second, many of her views are already mainstream in today’s Republican party. They represent a cancer on our great nation, and one which if not identified and excised, will just metastasize and grow, until it kills us.

So does that answer your question?


Ray in DC


Here’s Christine at the Values Voter Summit talking about all the government control of our private lives.


And here, Alhitch, is your theme music, Private Eyes by Hall and Oates.

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