Thursday, November 3, 2011

Poutine, Philosophy, and Parallel Polity

A few days ago, during one of my routine trips around the blogosphere, as I occasionally do, I found myself at the blog, Parallel Polity, written by the always thought-provoking "AM." In particular, I was intrigued by his post Get the flab of the state off my dinner plate! about the issue of government regulations and the healthiness of food.

In particular, AM was commenting on a National Post article about a recent decision to ban unhealthy foods from a Quebec arena (and the subsequent repeal of that ban).

AM, as he is often wont to do, used the columnist's argument as a case for smaller government and less regulation. Given that in Canada we have universal healthcare, the argument often goes that protecting the health of the nation's citizens is a matter of government interest since it will effect the shared cost of caring for an unhealthy populace. AM, and the NP columnist, instead argue that our love of fatty foods and our rejection of government bodies' attempts to legislate same is actually an argument against universal healthcare.

It is an interesting idea, and one that I thought got to the root of why I so often find myself arguing with things AM posts, despite the fact that we both generally agree in our shared enthusiasm for belittling the stupid. What I realized was that I tend to think that the government ought to attempt to help its citizens as much as possible and I realized that my point of view presupposes that people are essentially stupid. That is, to me, in a world where people are stupid enough to attempt to eat KFC Double-Downs for dinner every night, maybe someone should step up and say, hey, idiot, your heart is going to explode.

Similarly, in a world where there are people dumb enough to name their children Bristol or Trig, perhaps we should think twice before giving the general population the ability to buy all manner of firearms.

And, in light of recent events, in a world where corporate greed has caused world financial markets to crumble, perhaps the government ought to enact stricter regulations to try to stop the bleeding.

I thought I had similarly figured out that AM's point of view--himself a very logical and learned person--optimistically assumed that people are actually smart enough to make decisions for themselves.

I was wrong, however, as AM clarified in the comments of his post and, instead, it seems AM leans toward a sort of cultural Darwinism whereby these dummies should be allowed to suffer their own stupidity rather than be forced to submit to the [potential] stupidity of those in government.

In terms of the recent financial crisis, I assume AM's line of thinking goes that foolish governing is part of what got us here in the first place so it's silly to assume that more government can get us out (I also assume that AM will tell me if I am misrepresenting his point of view here).

Either way, it's an interesting split and I would argue one that is fairly relevant given today's current financial crisis, the tea baggers, and the growing 99% movement.

Certainly both of these movements seem less than perfect. The tea baggers seem blissfully unaware that they are paradoxically lobbying for less government at home and more government intervention abroad; unaware that in their quest for freedom from government they're simply handing over the reigns of their own fate to corporations that continue to fuck them on a daily basis

The "99%" likewise seems stuck in some sort of hypocritical paralysis, shunning big business while toting iPhones and organizing their movement through social media, screaming for change with little suggestion as to what that change might be.

But at the heart of both movements seems to be a notion of government intervention, the ability of the market to correct itself, and trust in government.

Current political unrest in North America all seems to hinge on the question as to whether you feel like the government should and does have your best interests at heart and therefore you  put your faith in government, or whether you hope you're among those strong enough to survive, and advocate that the government steps back and trust things to sort themselves out.

It's a difficult and unpleasant choice really. Essentially, to be happy with either requires a person to be somewhat naive. One way of thinking puts faith in government and assumes that they'll continue to do what's best for the general public. But the other point of view suggests we place faith in the market or privatization and trust that it will naturally tend toward what is best for serving the general public's needs.

Frankly, while both points of view are a little scary, I've realized that I prefer to put my faith in the system that at least presumes to allow me some choice as to who is in charge, by voting.

What do you think?

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