Bubble Wrap Society

Me, in the e-mails, elaborating on the brilliance I showed yesterday morning:

Bubble WrapIf, when we as individuals make dumbass decisions, we can expect to deal a severe injury to ourselves but to none of our neighbors — then we have the makings of a free society. If, on the other hand, our reprehensibly bad judgment poses a danger to others whenever it poses a danger to us, then our freedom is already gone. All the intermediate steps that ensue…the statist politician or advocate making his way to the microphone, imploring us to accept the next nanny-state law, the strategically-worded polls that draw pre-calculated answers saying people are oh so worried, all the canned speeches about the status quo being unacceptable, the committee votes, the floor votes, et cetera…these are nothing but inevitable and meaningless milestones, hash marks along the swing path of the wrecking ball. Once the foolishness of one can be expected to impact the welfare of the many, we aren’t free anymore, it’s all over but the shouting and the weeping.

To distill all of the above to its essentials: Our freedom isn’t measured in our freedom to be smart. It’s measured in our freedom to be jackasses. Jackasses, suffering self-inflicted wounds, but one jackass at a time. We’re losing that fast…

A great example of this is motorcycle helmet laws. This is a rarity among issues, because when most people think on it awhile, they end up agreeing with me.

Which means they think: If in our modern age it was possible to go riding without a motorcycle helmet, crash, get yourself completely messed up, and end up in horrible trouble but by engaging in such foolishness dealing no harm to anybody else…then yes, motorcycle helmet laws would be a horrible thing and we shouldn’t have ’em. Now that that ship has sailed, though, the “public” has a vested interest in your well-being whether you like it or not, and the helmet law becomes a symptom, not a cause, of what’s gone wrong with us. We are, indeed, all connected. We have, indeed, lost the modularity of our bubble-wrapping. We are just one big bubble. We’ve lost that quality where one bubble can be popped, and all adjacent bubbles remain intact. Since we’re all one bubble, yes you are going to wear your godd*mn helmet. That’s a shame, but it’s gotta be that way.
It’s a shame because everything has to work that way now. Can’t use charcoal, you grill with propane or electric or don’t grill at all. No guns in your house. Drive a smaller car. Unplug your cell phone when it’s done charging. Buy your “carbon credit vouchers.” Teach your kids to share, and keep them in the public school system (unless you’re a democrat politician who makes it harder for people to take their own kids out of the public school system…then you can do whatever you want). Every little choice we can possibly make — except for a woman deciding to end her pregnancy — is considered for the harm it might bring to “The People,” just like we’re living in Stalinist Russia.

Do you realize what we have now abandoned? In those dirty little socialist mudpuddle countries in which people all live as part of one big bubble and they’re proud of living out their lives that way, like amoebas or ants or The Borg…isolated cases of individuals or subclasses can, and are, indeed “popped” in instances of contained destruction. In his book 1984, George Orwell referred to it as “vaporizing.” They come for you in the middle of the night, no publicity, no trials, and nobody ever hears from you again. And then the Ministry of Truth wipes out your past as well.

That’s actually happened in real life. It happens in nations in which everybody is “united,” where one man lives, works, breathes, breeds, eats and sleeps for the benefit of all the others. Because that’s the kind of government action that can only be justified as “doing the work of The People.”

All of the weaknesses of a bubble-wrap society, with none of the strengths.

A true bubble-wrap society though, enjoys all of the strengths of a socialist regime but is burdened by none of the weaknesses. Back in the nineteenth century, out in the midwest where a living was a hard thing to earn and a tough thing to keep, we had a true bubble wrap society. Your closest neighbor might have been a half a mile away, maybe more. And your bubble might be popped. Bad harvest. Your cows get sick. Your kids get the flu. Your husband goes off to war and doesn’t come back.

But people pulled together and helped each other out. Laws did not compel them to do that; a community sense of decency did that. It was voluntary, but only barely, since anyone who did not partake would become a social pariah. A pariah, not a criminal. There’s an enormous difference.

Because people helped each other, out of a sense of civil decency but not a sense of civil obedience, it was infeasible for a political figure to mount a soapbox and raffle off some sales pitch for a new social program. That’s because we still had our bubble wrapping. The widow’s oldest son was dead, and he was the one who did the heavy lifting; of course you would help her out, but this didn’t have a depressing effect on your net worth because so many others would be helping too. A social program to prevent all this from happening? What’s the point. People understood back then that life was hard. If it wasn’t one thing, it would be some other thing.

But now, we are bound not by a sense of cultural decency, but by the law. So a minor disaster is thought to be an actual expense to “The People” — even to those who make too little money to have a tax liability! The politician mounts the soapbox to tell us how we need his new disaster-preventing social program, and his argument is like an acetylene torch cutting through a snowman. The deliberation is over before it’s even begun. Of course the politician is right! This other social program the politician’s dad put together…this shell game that involves some kind of “fund”…it is “stressed.” It is “at the breaking point.” Something must be done! And so now we have to be regulated. Guns. Jeeps. Meat. Fat in our food. Sodium. These choices don’t really belong to us anymore, it’s all in the interest of “The People.” And so you might be against what’s going on…but what’s the point of opposing it?

In three or four generations — one thing used to be completely pointless, now the opposite thing is what’s completely pointless. Are you beginning to comprehend the depth of this tragedy? It’s a tough thing to take in all at once, and impossible to overstate.

The most precious things you can order online, the highest value things, the fanciest hard drives and other electronic components…when they’re carried off that brown truck of happiness, you open the box and you see they are cushioned with bubble wrap. That’s because they are cushioned with something the manufacturer and seller really, really wanted to work. Bubble wrap works, because when one bubble is popped the adjacent bubbles are not.

Your freedom arrives in bubble wrap.

No bubble wrap…no freedom. Like I said, it’s already gone and you just don’t know it yet. Without the bubble wrap, it’s all over except the shouting and the weeping.

That’s what socialized medicine is really all about. That’s what all these nanny-state programs are really all about. They’re there to put us “all in the same boat,” under enforcement by the police powers of the state, so that all our residual freedoms can be easily taken away. You can’t argue with anyone where the welfare of The People is at stake, can you?

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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