OPINION – One of the great challenges of helping people understand the value of personal liberty over having their lives dictated to them by others is trying to view the role of government as they do.
Part of the difficulty here is the fact that few of us spend time thinking deeply about the nature of the institution we call government. We tend to be far more focused on symptoms like certain policies or programs, but hardly anyone ever questions how the institution of government impacts our freedoms.
For instance, when the St. George City Council voted to revoke the business license of a local smoke shop, it justified its actions by saying that the store’s retailing of an arbitrarily illegal substance was a matter of public safety. That sounds awfully noble but it could be more accurately described as an oligarchy of do-gooders forcibly imposing their will upon others.
In this case, so-called “spice” regulations are simply nanny state domineering that has to invent crimes in order to expand its control over the populace. It’s about denying others the ability to make their own peaceful choices without outside interference.
This condescending embrace of Big Mother can also be felt in the grudging manner in which the state of Utah finally gave its blessing to potential users of cannabis oil for the treatment of certain medical conditions. Permits are strictly limited and require certification from a neurologist and a physician’s approval as well as a $400 tax which is described as a “fee.”
Somewhere, state legislators are deeply concerned that those suffering from a debilitating form of epilepsy might experience something more recreational than politicians are willing to allow.
Unfamiliar with Utah’s new law? Read more: New cannabis law provides hope for epilepsy sufferers
Taking this benevolent tyranny to the next level are officials in Iowa who recently sentenced a terminally ill cancer patient to prison for growing his own marijuana as part of his disease management. Like Utah, Iowa grudgingly recognizes the legally permissible use of cannabis oil for children with a rare type of epilepsy.
The common thread in each of these stories is that decent people are being denied the freedom to make their own peaceable choices. Good people, who have never thoughtfully examined the proper role of government, are among the staunchest defenders of these policies. Even if they are not outspoken supporters of such policies, their silence suggests assent.
In this manner, the well-intentioned citizenry becomes an enabler of the power-hungry opportunists that are openly hostile to liberty.
The question that must be asked is: What is government supposed to do?
As a proponent of the virtues of limited government, without which there can be no freedom, my answer is protect our God-given rights from those who would cause them measurable harm through violence or fraud. This flies in the face of how we are taught to view government from kindergarten on as the indispensable keeper of societal order.
Sometimes it’s easier to be reminded of the things government has no legitimate business doing. Charley Reese said it best:
It is not the duty of the government to protect us from large restaurant servings, trans fats, saturated fats, tobacco smoke, and books or magazines the prudish disapprove of. It is not the duty of government to make sure that parenting is easy, that no one ever offends us, and that our eyes never see a liquor ad or a Confederate flag.
It is not the duty of the government to tell me what I must eat, drink, smoke or chew. It is not the duty of the government to tell me how to rear my children. Personal health and personal safety are personal responsibilities, and the government should butt out.
Just because we disapprove of the choices that others make does not give us the right to control their lives. Unfortunately, when we urge government to limit the freedoms of others, by presuming that we know what’s best for them, we lose a measure of our own personal liberty in the process.
Government can be very masterful at convincing the public that its policies are created with only our best interests in mind. But when we look at the institution itself, it becomes very clear that government operates through force and does not allow its “customers” to decline its services.
Instead of trying to regulate the mote out of the eyes of those who peacefully use their freedoms differently than we do, we’d be better served working on the beam sticking out of our own eye.
It’s amazing how well freedom works when we focus on our own responsibilities and stop obsessing over how others use their freedom.
- City Council revokes smoke shop’s business license a second time
- New cannabis law provides hope for epilepsy sufferers
- Smoke rises over Urban Renewal, Mike’s smoke shop at City Council meeting
- On the EDge: Legalization is no longer a pipe dream
- Pending spice prosecution, cloud over smoke shop owners fighting business license revocation
Bryan Hyde is a morning commentator on Talk Radio 590 KSUB and an opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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