All of us live under certain sets of rules, regulations, and laws. Some of these rules make sense; many of them do not. People sometimes disregard the rules that make sense. Contrarily, they also sometimes assidulously obey and enforce those that don't. This might actually be funny if the end results were frequently less than amusing.
I don't believe that there are too many absolutes in this world where "acceptable" behavior is concerned. The one rule that I do consider sacrosanct is one that should be much simpler to follow than many have made it out to be, and that is this: You should do whatever you like as long as it doesn't infringe the rights of others. This, of course, covers everything from the most heinous of crimes to the merely annoying.
But there's a problem even with this simple notion. There are some people who claim infringement when all they'd need to do to avoid it would be to mind their own business. As much as some criminals seem intent on hurting others for their own personal gain, there are those who will impose almost any curtailment of liberty solely so that no one can do anything anywhere that might offend their own sensibilities. Personally, I see that as one of the greatest infringements of all.
That's not to say that I don't have my own sensibilities to be worried about. In fact, as I was enjoying a bit of shopping the other day, I took note of a few of those sensibilities which were being grievously offended at the time. Of course, once I got started on addressing all that was wrong in the world, I couldn't stop:
Extra large sizes of clothing should not have horizontal stripes .
Spandex should not come in extra large.
Parents accompanied by badly behaved children should not dine in nice restaurants.
Babies shouldn't be in movie theatres no matter what the rating of the movie happens to be.
People who spend $10 on a ticket to see a movie just so they can talk throughout the feature should not be allowed to see whatever I'm seeing.
These things, of course, are merely those things I find personally aggravating. But the obviousness of each of these "rules" got me thinking about other more serious matters. And you know what? Most of those are pretty obvious, too. Consider some issues that have tied our courts and our legislatures up in knots for years:
The Second Amendment and Gun Control
A stupid person with a gun who shoots himself or somebody else can't blame the gun. He's stupid. (Several years ago, an Ohio man said to his girlfriend, "Look at what I can do, honey!" He proceeded to put a shotgun into his mouth and manipulate the trigger with his toe. The gun was loaded. See? Stupid.)
A smart person with a gun who shoots a stupid person who is assaulting or otherwise threatening him shouldn't be blamed, and neither should the gun. The stupid person is stupid, and sometimes stupidity is a capital crime.
If someone is hurt or dies because he does something stupid, the manufacturer should not change its warning label nor should it be held liable. The stupid person is stupid. (A west coast sporting goods company was sued — and lost! — after a would-be burglar came crashing in through the skylight and broke his leg. He sued because there were no warning signs on the rooftop that suggested it might be dangerous to come in through the skylight. Stupid!)
People who do stupid things and somehow come out of the incident unscathed may be stupid enough that they don't learn from their experience and do it again without such fortunate results. No one should be blamed for this but the stupid person.
If someone brings a complaint to court believing he is not one of the above referenced stupid people, juries should decide the case on two levels: First, is the defendant liable, and if so, how much is his liability worth? If not, the jury should then decide whether or not the lawsuit was frivolous (or stupid) and, if so, impose the burden of court costs on the stupid plaintiff and — on an equal basis — his stupid attorney.
No legislation should be proposed that's longer than the Constitution itself (one of the primary problems with passage of the PATRIOT Act shortly after 9/11 wasn't the rush alone, but the fact that it was so large that copies weren't yet available — and if they had been, few would have taken the time to read all of it).
No legislation should be approved that's not specifically authorized by the Constitution; every proposed bill should cite the authorizing section of the Constitution (Congressman Ron Paul [R-TX] has said this for years, but the fact that he's both eminently sensible and completely right has fallen on deaf ears — which in and of itself says something else about the majority of those in Congress).
No one, most especially Congress, is to be made exempt from any laws.
The Bill of Rights is not an alá carte menu.
The tax code should be simple enough for a sixth grader to understand. And take note: sixth graders also understand "fair" and "unfair."
The oath to the Constitution politicians must swear on taking office should be ruthlessly enforced.
Politicians should only serve one term in a given office. Professional politicians are the ones who ensure that much of the political process stays that way. If ordinary citizens served and then went back to being ordinary citizens, I'm willing to be they'd have more care as to what they did that had an effect on ordinary citizens!
There is nothing wrong with existing (unconstitutional) federal government programs that couldn't be solved by privitization and the resulting free market competition.
If a TV show offends you, change the channel or turn it off (most recently, one NBC show was cancelled and another pulled before airing because some Christian groups didn't like the content, essentially prohibiting the rest of us from even seeing what they found objectionable).
If you're upset your child sees something obectionable on TV, why weren't you there to change the channel or turn it off?
If you believe your religion is the one true faith (and I'd hope you do, else why would you follow it?), the least you could do is respect that others probably feel the same about theirs.
Assuming other people believe that their religion is the one true faith, why would anyone who values freedom do all that he could to make them renege on their beliefs? (We all know that many Muslims apparently feel that way, but so do an unfortunate number of Christians. And while Christians don't typically blow themselves up to make their point, that doesn't make the most zealous missionaries any less anti-freedom.)
Every crime is a hate crime, or at least a total-disregard-for-you-and-yours crime. Why try to say that some murders are worse than others purely by virtue of the color of the victim as opposed to that of the killer? Worse, why suggest that some victims are somehow less important than others and that their killers deserve a lesser punishment, again purely by virtue of ethnicity?
Not everything is about you being black (or Hispanic, or gay, or female, or...)
Even if it is about you being black (or Hispanic, or...), someone else's ignorance and stupidity isn't a crime. It's not very nice, but it's still not a crime.
If someone commits a crime, they should be punished. This is true whether it had anything to be with you being black (or Hispanic, or...) or not.
Law enforcement officers who commit crimes should be jailed with those they put behind bars for doing the same thing they just got caught doing.
People who are deliberately cruel to animals should be punished by having done to them whatever they did to the animal. (An Ohio judge garnered national attention when he sentenced a woman to spend a winter night in a Cleveland area park without food or shelter after she did the same to a number of kittens — most, including me, applauded his choice of punishment.)
Rest assured, I can think of more! But the point is — and I think you'll agree — that many things are made far more complicated than they need to be by those in power. That seems to hold true no matter which of the major parties is largely in charge at the time. Of course, there are a couple of reasons my suggestions won't work, at least not right now. The first is that there's far too much of an entitlement mentality combined with far too little willingness for personal responsibility among the general public. And the second is yet another rule.
The rule I speak of was once penned with as much combined facetiousness and solemnity as I wrote all of the above, but it's proved to be one of the truest of all. In fact, it's likely more immutable than the speed of light or the constant of gravity. It's called Murphy's Law, and it states: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. I'd just like to add Lady Liberty's corrollary: And when politics and politicians are involved, it will go completely wrong, and sooner rather than later.
Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, 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