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I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Freedom and Individual Rights... promoting the general welfare...

It’s a freedom thing. That’s what he said.


I was sitting in a local coffee shop this morning and a veteran of our idiocy in Vietnam was talking with the owner.


He was saying that we have forgotten what made America great. We are, in his opinion, leaving behind the rights of the individual. The freedom to live his life as he or she chooses is central to this veterans understanding of freedom.


And I agree with him, to a point. Because those rights do not exist on a one way street. They flow back and forth in both directions as much as the I-15 flows between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.


I have found that there are very few rights that we can exercise that exist in a vacuum, or in a world where the exercise of those rights will not impact others.


Let me cite a few examples.


You want to smoke? That’s 100% fine for you, but how are you going to make sure that I do not have to pay one penny for the medical care related to your desire to engage in harmful activity?


Or let me turn that one around. When does my desire to live in a smoke free world, impinge on your right to smoke when and where you choose?


Want to ride your motorcycle without a helmut or drive your car without wearing a seatbelt? How are you going to ensure that the general public will not be paying for your decision to eschew these safety options if you are in an accident?


You do not want to buy health insurance? Are you, and your family okay with medical personnel letting you die because you cannot pay your bill?


You want to claim a right to build, or own your home in a flood plain, or tornado zone? Why should I have to help bail you and your neighbors out when the inevitable disaster strikes? This is the FEMA question that comes up every year.


Even our right to practice religion exists on that big two way super highway. I wonder how many people claiming religion is under siege based on President Obama’s views on health care rose to the defense of Muslims in New York when they wanted to build a mosque at ground zero.


Clearly, the free exercise of our rights has limits, something even the Supreme Court understands as evidenced by certain limits on speech. We have free speech, but we can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.


So maybe the question is how do we decide when it is necessary, to promote the general welfare, to curtail, or put limits on those rights.


It is such a delicate balance.


What say you?

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Comments on "Freedom and Individual Rights... promoting the general welfare..."

 

Blogger BB-Idaho said ... (2:47 PM) : 

The folks that dig into our political perceptions, eg. how we view society in general and the
relationship between individual
freedom and the collective good,
seem to find correlation between
our anterior cingulate cortex or right amygdala ...
...if that makes any sense.

 

Blogger Dave Miller said ... (10:26 AM) : 

Interesting stuff, as always BB...

You find some neat, albeit, obscure items...

 

Blogger Z-man said ... (11:02 AM) : 

A thoughtful post Dave but for me it all goes in a circle. Can gov't curtail or limit our rights? of course but who curtails gov't? it kinda makes sense that everything should be curtailed in one form or another eventually. Had an interesting conversation with a Jamaican chef I used to work with and he seemed to be against age-of-consent laws, he said "who decides these things?" That's always a good question but being more traditional I replied there has to be some kind of limits so we kinda joked about it all going back in time and yeah we agreed a fetus should be off-limits but let's say legislators started going the other way on age-of-consent and giving us stuff like anything under-21 is statutory rape so who limits the right of legislators to limit us?

& who limits them?

 

Blogger Dave Miller said ... (2:06 PM) : 

And there Z-man are the issues...

If we can agree that there need to be limits/regulation, and you I believe are an exception, then we can start to figure out how to impose those regulations sensibly.

But if we spend our time demonizing one side or the other, naturally, we are left with tow competing sides.

One says that all regulation, because it comes from demons, is wrong, and the other says that without regulation, the other will always choose the lost evil options to make money...

 

Blogger Z-man said ... (7:35 AM) : 

Had the darndest time just now figuring out those you are not a robot letters, try it again. Drugs is a perfect example. Theoretically I would agree a person should have the right to use drugs but the main reason, maybe the only reason I oppose legalizing most drugs is the public safety factor. When I googled angel dust one day it's worse than I thought in that it's a drug that's fat-soluble which means long after the user stops using it those residues can be triggered off. Soap takes the extreme libertarian view on everything which sounds great in theory but worse in practice but it'd be interesting to hear his thoughts here.

 

Blogger Shaw Kenawe said ... (6:40 AM) : 

"Even our right to practice religion exists on that big two way super highway. I wonder how many people claiming religion is under siege based on President Obama’s views on health care rose to the defense of Muslims in New York when they wanted to build a mosque at ground zero."

Perfect example of some people's selective application of "religious freedom." I don't remember, say, any Catholic prelates coming to the Muslims' defense on that issue, but they were all over the place condemning Obama for the contraception non-issue.


"Clearly, the free exercise of our rights has limits, something even the Supreme Court understands as evidenced by certain limits on speech. We have free speech, but we can’t yell fire in a crowded theater."

Or, as Nugent found out, threaten the president.

 

Blogger Dave Miller said ... (10:00 AM) : 

Great thoughts Shaw...

A good friend of mine, a very devout Christian was speaking one day about sanctioned prayer in public schools.

He wondered aloud if his Christian brethren would support state sanctioned prayer in schools if those schools were not going to have Christian prayer.

For instance, in Hawai'i, it's pretty likely that the majority Buddhist population might favor the religions prayer. Or perhaps in Utah, they might favor Mormon prayer.

It is clear to me that we believe, as you noted, in protecting the rights we like, not those of others when we do not like them...

 

Blogger Z-man said ... (12:13 PM) : 

Shaw I read your recent blogpost re Ted Nugent and I can't argue w/you on that one. All I can say is he ain't my hero. He's more of a trivia question for me anyway, why not aim for Danny Bonaduce's endorsement too? Dave I think once the gov't has done the necessary limiting of our rights and freedoms and we all disagree on what those restrictions should be then it's time to limit the gov't itself otherwise you wind up with a dictatorship.

 

OpenID 5ft3 said ... (7:17 PM) : 

With regards to the mosque near ground zero, that was NOT a matter of people saying one religion cannot practice their faith, but rather them finding the placement of their mosque in poor taste, and them exercising their opinion about that; whereas our government telling Catholic institutions that they must pay for something that is against their faith is infringing on their right to practice that part of their faith ANYWHERE in the entire nation. Not even close comparisons!

 

Blogger Dave Miller said ... (11:43 AM) : 

Beth, choosing instead to focus on a small example, you failed to address the central question which is how we make those decisions.

The practical implications of the Mosque issue, while a one off event, are still significant. A large group of people decided that it would be good to limit the free expression of faith by one community.

How does a pluralistic society make those decisions?

 

OpenID 5ft3 said ... (5:23 AM) : 

It's super easy, Dave, your rights cannot infringe on my rights, that should always be the deciding factor.

That doesn't mean we cannot express our opinions on things that are happening in our lives that don't infringe on our rights, but do effect us in some way, and try to do something about it.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:35 AM) : 

Should parents who refuse to get shots for their kids, be fined, or imprisoned?
Once eliminated ailments (whopping cough, TB, etc.) are on the rise again. That is a health danger to America.
Being quarantined (ordered by the doctor backed by authorities) used to be a common practice; I doubt that would go over in today's culture.
It's probably a good thing we don't allow indoor smoking (curtailing smokers rights) but why tax that product (that income goes to a general treasury not to offset the health costs) and not tax food products that also have proven bad health effects?
It's done, because it can be done. Smokers are a minority (less than 25% of Americans smoke). In 1960 when 58% of Americans smoked; I doubt all the restrictions we have on smoking today, would have passed in 1960.
It is a fine line.
That line is usually defined by majority vote.
Inconsistent law (taxing one bad thing but not another) breeds contempt for the law.
Today's generation cares less about their fellow citizens, so they claim the right to individual freedom over what's good for the whole population.
Even if one bad habit effects other people more than another bad habit, they all raise costs for the whole population.
Their is a much larger expense to live in a Democratic (majority vote) country, than to live within a more controlling government.
It all comes down to money, which today's Americans refuse to pay compared to previous generations.
The WW II generation knew what they voted for would cost; and they taxed themselves at twice the rate we tax ourselves at.
But we still live with their programs, laws and regulations, we just don't want to pay for it.
That is a choice, but a dangerous one to America.
I, for one, don't want to live in a pre WW II America, but maybe Americans have to experience that kind of society, to chose not to.
Thanks for having a place for me to rant.

 

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