“My right to swing my fist ends at your nose.” That’s the level of ethical reflection typical of folks who’ve replaced inherited moral wisdom with vacuous clichés promulgated by TV airheads and political gurus.
Such an argument is regularly used to justify, quite selectively, smoking bans in public parks and, in a few cases, even on city sidewalks. I point to the recent anti-smoking ordinance passed in Belmont, California, and to the debates on less severe bans in Escondido and Oceanside.
The truth of the matter is that swinging my fist within two inches of your nose would constitute, under any reasonable-person criterion, sufficient grounds for holding me liable for schnoz-endangerment. I raise this pedantic point because it emphasizes the oft-ignored fact that no clear dividing line separates the private from the public sphere.
Indeed, it only takes a little mental effort to show how most practices have public ramifications. Three activities that currently appear on the do-gooder hit list include smoking (due to health care costs and the presumed effects of second hand smoke), driving SUVs (due to their mpg ratios and environmental impact), and selling trans fat foods (due to the medical impact of obesity).
Thanks to the global warming frenzy promulgated by Al Gore’s media lackeys, almost any product with a “carbon footprint” or possible climate link (from light bulbs to cow toots) has become subject to public regulation.
Significantly, other activities with clearer public implications are treated as if they take place in an imaginary Las Vegas—and stay there. These “private” acts are behaviors whose effects media elites and other political do-gooders have little desire to scrutinize. They include alcohol consumption (whose costs in terms of traffic accidents and abuse dwarf the impact of second hand smoke), recreational drug use, recreational sex, and a specific sex act that is overwhelmingly the means for spreading HIV.
If anyone seriously wants to consider how out-of-wedlock sex, for example, has damaged the lives of children, I’d be glad to do a calculation. We can start with parental neglect, move on to education deficits, and close the books (somewhat arbitrarily) with prison costs. But, of course, we all know that people’s sex lives are “private.” Just as we’ve been told that bong use among Hollywood dimwits hurts no one.
In short, what is considered “private behavior” is largely a social construct that depends on the winds of political fashion. The size of one’s family was once considered a personal matter. Then, under the influence of ZPG fanatics, large families became a subject of public concern—if not government regulation.
On the other hand, concern about public morals has almost disappeared over the last forty years—under the absurd media-spawned assumption that “private” immoral behavior and commercial images of the same affect no one beyond the “consenting adults” involved.
Today folks panic over a whiff of second hand smoke but yawn when corporate goons prostitute the souls of ten-year-olds. The latter, we’re told, is a family affair.