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?