I'm older, but not necessarily wiser
In recent years, inspired by columnist Charlie Reese, I've used a yearend column to sample some of my political beliefs ... or heresies, depending on your point of view.
So here goes.
As I've gotten older, I've become more self-contradictory. Maybe that reflects growing confusion — or, as I believe, an increasing appreciation for life's complexity.
So I am at once a small-government libertarian on individual issues, and a big-government activist on things like environmental regulation.
On the environment, our economic model remains flawed; it still doesn't factor in the full cost of waste disposal. We allow industries to discount the cost of their product by not requiring them to fully clean up, or safely dispose of, their waste stream.
They transfer the cost to us by dumping it into the nearest river or bay, or into the air.
Or they create products laced with toxic materials that are difficult to safely dispose of — and of which we are often unaware — and leave it up to us to deal with it.
They shouldn't be able to get away with it.
But my libertarian side says government has no right to prohibit legal adults from personal, or consensual, activities like drug use or prostitution (unless it endangers others, such as DUI).
The "War on Drugs" might be the most costly, destructive conflict in history — and we're losing.
Keeping drugs illegal has corrupted entire nations (Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan, for starters), needlessly destroys lives, shattered the security of our borders, corrupts police, political and judicial systems in the United States, spawns crime, fills our prisons with non-violent "offenders," wastes hundreds of billions of dollars and created and subsidizes the drug mafias by eliminating their competition and inflating the price of their goods.
Supporters of drug prohibition say that without it we'd have addicts and drug crime. Well, we have both — plus a huge criminal infrastructure to profit off them.
End the "war" and the money we save on prisons, courts, drug interdiction, law enforcement and anti-drug foreign aid could go into education and rehab for the people who will get hooked whether drugs are legal or illegal.
For me, the "contradictions" in my view of government power always come down to this: Government's proper role is to protect us from each other, not from ourselves. Unfortunately, throughout history political power has been used to enforce the power group's vision of morality, economics, social mores, you name it.
The philosophical underpinning of the Constitution, and our form of government, was stated most plainly in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
According to the founders, governments were instituted "to secure these rights," which transcend the authority of government (or an electoral majority). But government has turned into a nanny state that goes beyond its mission of protecting us from each other, and now seeks to protect us from ourselves.
Some other views:
-- Abortion is wrong. Should it be outlawed? Here my contradictions clash. The libertarian constitutionalist says you can't tell a woman what she can do with her body; the moralist says you can in this case, because a third party is involved.
I remain conflicted.
-- Capital punishment is wrong. Being imperfect, we make mistakes, and innocent people end up on death row. Life in prison without parole is sufficient punishment for any crime, and allows judicial mistakes to be corrected.
-- Sometimes you have to go to war, but it should be the right war. Afghanistan was the right war; Iraq is the wrong one.
-- The founders intended the Second Amendment to preserve the right of Americans to bear firearms. (Check back with me when hand-held lasers arrive.)
-- I remain behind the Community Maritime Park because, although not completely what I would do there, I haven't seen a better proposal, and those behind it are successful, committed people with a track record for working to better this community.
Finally, I think it's wrong when I ask for a Coke and bourbon and they give me Pepsi ... without warning me.
There ought to be a law.