Perspectives: Average citizens and self government are mutually exclusive ideas

St. George News columnist Bryan Hyde questions the idea of an "average citizen" and considers 2018 legislation proposed in Utah. | Photo by Sean Murphy / DigitalVision / Getty Images, St. George News

OPINION — It’s strange how often the phrase “average citizen” comes up in the context of a proposed new law or public policy.

It often reflects a type of conventional wisdom that places primacy on the will of someone in authority over the choices of the individual.

More often than not, this expression is supposed to reinforce the idea that some things are so inherently complex or dangerous that they must be completely subject to the control of the state.

For instance, it’s been used a lot in the past couple of weeks by groups and individuals pushing for various new gun control schemes. Certain firearms, we’re told, have no place in the hands of “the average citizen.”

It also came up when Rep. Ken Ivory introduced House Bill 416 this year to the Legislature. The bill, if passed, would change Utah law to allow motorists to safely proceed against a red light, after coming to a complete stop and when there is no oncoming vehicular, bicycle or pedestrian traffic.

In both cases, the term “average citizen” is invoked to justify the need to implement or maintain government control out of the fear that, somehow, bad things may happen. It’s a not-so-subtle admonition that each of us remember that our place in society is more akin to children than self-governing adults.

It’s a more civilized way of telling us to shut up and do what we’re told.

The craziest part is that so many adults go along with this patronizing attitude without ever questioning why.

When gun control advocates claim that so-called “weapons of war” should be off limits to the average citizen, they’re implicitly trying to make the case that the state should have a monopoly on force. Of course, this conveniently ignores the fact that, throughout human history, no one has killed with greater abandon or efficiency than governments which obtained an absolute monopoly on force.

Since the citizenry is the ultimate repository of power from which legitimate government draws its lawful authority, it’s fitting that the citizenry be capable of restraining an oppressive government, when necessary.

TJ Martinelli, writing for the Tenth Amendment Center, explains:

Whether people are comfortable with the truth or not, the reality is our rights are ultimately preserved either through the use of force or under the threat of violence. Everyone responds to incentives, including governments. A government that knows its citizens have the means to rise up and abolish it if it gets out of line behaves differently than the government which rules over disarmed citizenry who must comply no matter what.

If there is to be an open and honest debate about this subject, we’d be wise to approach the subject as adults, with a focus on actual data, as Delegate Nicholas Freitas suggested recently in Virginia. See the video of his comments here.

Likewise, the objections to Ivory’s proposed change to Utah’s red light law have met with deep concern that allowing citizens to exercise their judgment will lead to traffic chaos.

Keep in mind that nothing in Ivory’s bill suggests that people ignore traffic signals. It simply clarifies that, after stopping and ascertaining that it is safe to proceed, a motorist could lawfully go through a red light.

Such a clarification would free up traffic cops to go after those who are genuinely creating unsafe driving conditions by not having to pull over those who safely proceeded through a red light, after stopping. How hard is that?

Unfortunately, we’re now several generations into the kind of mental conditioning that has led too many to believe that an average citizen is incapable of safely using his or her judgment without the official prompting of the state.

Ben Sasse, in writing about the vanishing American adult, describes what made America a great nation in its earliest years:

In a nation in which creed was not handed down from on high, Americans developed a tremendous capacity for self control. Their culture was unique, entirely new and, yet, not made from whole cloth. Americans were free to draw on the legacy of the past as they saw fit, to worship as they chose, to read, speak and publish as they pleased. It was a nation of adults governing themselves by means of their reason and conscience.

It wasn’t omnipresent government or the efforts of micro-managing bureaucracies that led to America’s greatness, it was our capacity for self government. We once knew and defended our inalienable rights.

Today, we find ourselves begging to be treated as perpetual children by the growing nanny state. Instead of acting as adults, we run to the state, as imaginary victims, and implore it to be our protector and master.

Can we blame those authoritarians, whose controlling nature thrives on such attention, from obliging us by seeking to rule as many aspects of our lives as they can?

In this respect, none of us should aspire to be an average citizen.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • statusquo March 5, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Unfortunately, the politics of our government run schools have created the “average citizen” who cannot think as an adult.

  • No Filter March 5, 2018 at 9:29 am

    People need to be treated as children, because the majority of people can’t handle the responsibility of governing themselves, you have all seen the accident reports on this web site, people don’t even know how to use a stop sign properly or make a left hand turn. We can’t stay off our cell phones long enough to drive from one side of town to the other and you think we need less laws to protect us from ourselves, who are you kidding? This article is just a smoke screen to sneak in your right wing opinion about gun control. No amount of weapons for the “average citizen” will stop the US Government if they truly wanted to make our country a police state. We can’t fight drones and armored vehicles by using an AR-15 even if we do have a bump stock. Also you need to proof read your article a little better, because “Can blame we those authoritarians…” is not very good grammar for a writer.

    • Paul Dail Paul Dail March 5, 2018 at 9:59 am

      No Filter, thank you for your comment. I’ll let other readers potentially respond to your sentiments, but the error has been noted and changed. Thanks again.

    • comments March 5, 2018 at 11:04 am

      Filter, I agree with you that most of the general public are not very bright. I think Hyde is sounding very clownish advocating that red light law. But you leftists like to assume that big daddy gov’t is infallible and faultless. The very worst of humanity, like that degenerate murderer Cruz, also exists to a great extent in gov’t– degenerates and psychopaths abound. You leftists fail to realize that gov’t itself needs to be kept under control. And a bunch of disarmed sheep citizens can do nothing. Plus you don’t understand how a full police state would go into effect. What we’ve seen the last 20 years is a slow creeping police state.

  • comments March 5, 2018 at 10:56 am

    What comes to mind when I think about that red light law. If it went into effect I picture some redneck clown in one of those big lifted diesel pickups gunning out into traffic where there is barely enough room or actually forcing those with the right-of-way to put on their brakes. Idiots like that would ruin it for all of us. You could put a law like that into effect from like 2am to 6am where there’s basically no traffic, otherwise I’d say NO WAY. Traffic laws are already NOT ENFORCED in this town. It would just add to the circus.

    The rest of the writeup I pretty much agree with. The aspect of the gun debate not being discussed by most is how tyrannical gov’ts naturally tend to become with a fully disarmed and helpless citizenry. In a country of over 300,000,000 if some innocents get slaughtered by degenerate psychopaths every so often, well, that may be the price we have to pay for being an armed nation. In relation to our country’s population these massacres are statistically negligible, basically you wouldn’t even bother to incorporate them. Gun deaths in general are quite significant, but that’s another issue. One thing the gov’t will never be able to do is REGULATE the evil from human nature. You leftists have trouble grasping these things.

    • comments March 5, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Oh and msm will parade out a bunch of sulky, pouty, angsty teenies from florida just to evoke emotional reaction from the public and try to force fully emotion driven policy making. I’m as upset about it as anyone, but are we willing to become a nation of helpless, fearful, disarmed sheep because 17 teenies out of a nation of over 300 million lost their lives. It has to be put into perspective, and this might include putting aside the fully-emotive aspect of such events, because they are still very rare, even tho msm and social media would have you believe that your own teenies will be school-massacred at any minute. It’s what you could call media-induced hysteria.

      • No Filter March 5, 2018 at 11:50 am

        Sacrificing 17 children just so you can have the right to own a assault style gun is not worth it. You are so afraid that the government is going to come into your house and take control of everything that you are blinded to the pain and suffering these families have to deal with. The people behind this movement are not a disarm America group, they are a how do we protect our children group. We all know it won’t get fixed with gun laws alone, but if we don’t control the use of these rifles that are killing innocent children then we are no better than the ones doing the killing. We need better gun laws and more mental health doctors to help those in need. Its a big issue which needs to be addressed in multiple ways. Regarding your slow creeping police state comment, I agree we do need to keep them from taking more power by voting and holding them accountable in congress, our guns won’t stop that from happening no matter how many you own.

  • bikeandfish March 5, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Hyde once again relies on the lazy rhetoric of fear mongering to support what could be a nuanced conversation about the balancing act of personal liberty and state intervention. Hyde is a fundamentalist who tries to hide his extremism in a self-aggrandizing frame of common sense. He fails his own metric every single contribution.

    Our nation and its citizens aren’t failing most measures of maturation, a la Ben Sasse’s hypothesis (he’s clearly testing waters for higher aspirations via the book publication route). I don’t know of imaginary victims or adult children seeking help from a “nanny state”. Most individuals I know are capable of critical thinking and action that doesn’t rely on group think or government intervention. Hyde constantly relies on this false dichotomy, nanny state servants vs self actualized and self governing citizens, to foster a narrative of our alleged national path to servitude.

    What most of us know is our country is vibrant, dynamic population that is always changing (and always has) that doesn’t adhere to these simplistic narratives. We have a complicated history of trial and error that started before our founding fathers and is ongoing. We exist on a multi-axis political spectrum that that includes extremist like Hyde (and his counter part on the left and those on the Z axis) always trying to convince of our pending doom. “Believe me or face doom” rhetoric is as persistent as it is nostalgic of a non-existent past.
    We can think for ourselves and believe that the state is an appropriate and needed venue for solutions at certain times. We can challenge the state and recognize we are interdependent of our fellow citizens. And we can recognize most citizens share common goals without succumbing to the lazy appeals of pundits like Hyde.

    • comments March 5, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      I agree, bike. Some of these hyde articles are reaching the point of embarrassment. Him suggesting red lights be used like a stop sign is ridiculous, or at least supporting the law that would put that into effect. I forgot to mention the idiots in the lifted pickups failing to look out for pedestrians. It’s already enough to dodge L turners and R turners without having to worry about some idiot using the red light as a stop sign. I know these big lifted truck idiots would hardly be able to see a pedestrian in front of their hood, and that’s if they’re even looking. I wonder if hyde is one of these big diesel lifted truck clowns…

  • NotSoFast March 5, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    It’s funny how some miss the point of the article itself (right or wrong), and blame the author for not consulting them before thinking, let along doing his job bring up a topic to consider. How dare he?
    As far as waiting for a red light to change to green ( some times forever in St. George late at night) before proceeding draft recommendation , Yes folks do have the option currently of turning off the ignition, applying the brake, removing the seat belt, getting out of the vehicle-walking to the crosswalk light button- running very fast back to the car- attaching seat belt- starting the vehicle- burning rubber before the damn lite turns red again.
    I think we need additional inputs on this topic.. You think Nancy Pelosi would have valuable inputs on this subject? ( Now what were we talking about?) Oh yea, the nanny state.

    • comments March 5, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      We don’t need ANYTHING MORE IN THIS TOWN THAT ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO GO THRU EVEN MORE RED LIGHTS.

    • Lee Sanders March 6, 2018 at 1:34 am

      I hope you’re being tongue in cheek sarcastic. Otherwise you are sure full of it.

      • comments March 6, 2018 at 11:46 am

        believe me, he was being dead serious

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