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Big mother

By Lady Liberty
web posted December 5, 2005

I had a nice Thanksigiving this year. I spent the afternoon with friends. We had much too much good food to eat, and we ate too much of it; after dinner, we watched a couple of good movies during which some proved to be too tired to stay awake. Later, I drove home through a light snowfall with a bag of turkey, fruit salad, pie, and other tasty leftovers on the seat beside me. I'm lucky to have such good friends with whom I can spend such a relaxing day, and I'm truly thankful for it.

One friend of mine, however, didn't have such a good day. She had to split the day between two families: hers and her husband's. Now, you'd think that that would mean two delicious dinners and twice as much good company. But what it really meant was about ten times the stress, and at least twice the resentment.

Because they were going to a second dinner, they obviously couldn't stuff themselves at the first. Various cooks were offended when their contributed dishes weren't sampled. Since they had somewhere else to be, they had to leave while others were still digesting dinner in front of the TV. Some were promptly offended when conversations had to be cut short or discussions delayed. Of course, adding insult to Thanksgiving injury, my friend didn't get any leftovers either because she had to pack up and leave before the remnants of the meal had been cleaned up (and don't even start on the idea that she left before she could help with the extensive clean-up).

Packing the family up (did I mention that kind of thing is complicated by virtue of the fact she has a toddler?) and saying thanks and good-bye took awhile. In fact, it took a little longer than expected. So by the time my friend arrived at the second family home for the second Thanksgiving dinner, she was greeted with all of the resentment that could be worked up by a house full of very hungry people who were delaying dinner until all of the guests were present. Even after everyone had eaten their fill, there was some lingering bad feeling. In fact, while other guests shared in the leftovers, my friend's family was given nothing.

The kids were tired and overstimulated adding to the stress of the day. Needless to say, that kind of experience meant that my friend and her husband were at least as offended and as resentful as the households they'd visited even as they worked to cope with getting their own home and its residents back on an even keel.

The unfortunate part of the Thanksgiving Day mess for my friend is that both families really only want the chance to spend time with their loved ones. Of course, my friends wants to spend time with both groups of relatives, too. As a result, nobody is happy, and everybody is somehow shortchanged. I can remember some less-than-festive holidays from my own past. Almost all of them were disappointing or worse not because of me or others per se, but because of somebody's expectations or demands of the rest of us. That's true even when those expectations or demands are generated out of love.

Strangely enough, there's a sort of bizarre metaphor here for big government. While people worry about Big Brother (and they should — we'll talk more about that next week), they're forgetting the very real and at least as dangerous entity I call Big Mother. That's the people and agencies of government that very earnestly want to do what's best for everybody (or at least that's what they tell us), and who concern themselves with our own good.

There are laws mandating that we wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. To be fair, there are statistics that show that wearing seatbelts and helmets is a good idea. But once the government decided that we should all have to buckle up, they took the premise further: Children have to have certain kinds of seating in motor vehicles, oftentimes different (and expensive) carseats for different ages and weights of children. In some places, bicycle helmes are not optional. Now there's even talk of prohibiting adults from smoking in cars if their children are present!

There are rules and regulations governing medication, which almost certainly began as a good thing. Standardized dosages, for example, are imperative for drug safety. But that idea engendered still more rules and regulations to the point where it can take years and many millions of dollars to get a new medication approved by the government for sale. What that means in turn is that even the sickest people who are willing to take a greater risk than you or I might consent to take are unable to do so; it means that people unfortunate enough to suffer from something uncommon enough that a drug treatment won't be a big seller aren't likely to see a treatment developed at all.

Even big programs like welfare and its offshoots (everything from food stamps to WIC, from Social Security to Medicare) were once filled with the good intentions of a government that wanted to ensure all of its citizens could have a roof over their heads and a hot meal, and that everyone could get medical care and have a comfortable (or at least not destitute) retirement. Instead, those programs have bred dependency and, as government programs are wont to do, have become too large and complex for remotely efficient management.

Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian presidential candidate in the 2004 elections, spoke about this kind of thing in a speech he gave at the National Property Rights Conference. He asked an initially skeptical audience why it is that anyone in their right mind would ever give up a comfortable existence in exchange for a far more precarious lifestyle.

Why would we, he asked, drive an old unreliable car instead of a newer model, or go to a laundromat instead of using our own washer and dryer? Why would we leave good, healthy meals behind to eat ramen noodles? What could possess us to move away from a spacious residence and a big screen color TV to an efficiency apartment and a 15" television? And yet, he said, isn't that what all of us do when we leave our parents' home and go out on our own for the first time?

Badnarik went on to tell us what we all already knew once we thought about it when he answered his own questions. The reason that we do all those things is because we're struggling to be free. Freedom, he told us, is a state we all work towards. It is the natural state of a human being. While that's inspiring, just as Mr. Badnarik intended it to be, it also has the virtue of being entirely true.

Everyone knows (or certainly pretends that they do) the damage an overprotective mother can do a child. We urge the child to stretch his own wings; we caution the mother to let the child make his own mistakes so that he can learn from them and become a decent and responsible adult. So why on earth is it that we allow our government — even encourage it — to be overprotective of its citizens?

We do it, frankly, because we're lazy, and we do it because we're scared. What if we fall down and bump our heads and mother isn't there to kiss it and make it better? What if we make a bad choice and can't go home where mother is waiting with hot chocolate and sympathy? Surely, we're not to blame! And by making somebody else responsible, we're not. Simple, isn't it?

Think for a minute how you'd look at a small child who ran to his mother for everything. Sweet, right? Now think of the same kid at age 19 or 22 doing the same thing. That's not sweet. That's sick! But there's something even worse than refusing to relenquish our dependence on a caregiver. C.S. Lewis summed it all up nicely when he said:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive... those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

What that means (for those of you who still aren't sure why an all caring government is a bad thing) is that there is no line that won't be crossed when crossing it is "for your own good." So next time you tell one of your kids or your friends to grow up, do yourself a favor and doublecheck to see if you've grown up yourself. If you have, you should have no compunction whatsoever about throwing off the security blanket Big Mother has been smothering us all with. Sure, we might lose a few perks in the process or live just a little less comfortably. But isn't that what growing up is all about?

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.

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