by Patrick J. Buchanan – August 19, 2002
“You have no right to impose your moral values on me!”
How often have we all heard that defiant remark tossed into a blazing debate on social issues to clinch the argument? Yet, most of our laws represent the imposition of moral values on a minority.
The graduated income tax, altarpiece of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” is rooted in a moral conviction that the rich should not only pay more taxes, but a larger share of their income. Under the tithing of biblical law, all contributed the same 10 percent. Marx has prevailed.
Segregation was law rooted in the moral belief of white folks that social mixing of the races was wrong and ruinous. Busing and compulsory integration are legal and judicial reflections of the opposite belief – i.e, that integration is so great a good its claims supersede all property rights and the freedom of folks who wish to live apart.
Segregationists and integrationists both used the power of law to impose their vision of the good society on non-believers.
To see how America’s views of morality and immorality have changed, consider what was legalized, and criminalized, in the 20th century. Gambling, booze, the numbers racket and narcotics were once the preserve of Al Capone and organized crime. To transfer a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes” was to violate the federal Mann Act.
Today, states today run the numbers racket, called the lottery. Gambling is legal, and government, not the Godfather, gets the rake-off. Not only would the feds not interfere with teen-age promiscuity, the school clinic will provide a girl with birth control pills and tell her to have a good time and be sure to practice safe sex.
Doctors who did abortions used to go to prison. Abortion today is a constitutional right. Pornography could also get you prison time, but Larry Flynt today is a Hollywood icon and First Amendment hero. Narcotics remain illegal, but in Nevada an initiative to decriminalize marijuana is on the ballot and running strong. Look for the state to muscle in on this racket, too.
Liberals call this progress, milestones on mankind’s march to a better, freer, more moral society. But do liberals really believe in freedom, or have they simply substituted their own proscriptions for the old biblical ones?
Under the civil-rights laws, the property rights for which the Founding Fathers took up arms have been more severely restricted than ever they were under George III. You can no longer hire or fire whom you please. Run afoul of these laws, and not only your reputation, but your business, is gone.
You cannot sell your home to whomever you wish. Your child cannot go to the neighborhood school in some districts, it if upsets the desired racial balance. While you are free to read pornography, blaspheme and use filthy language, if you use an ethnic slur, or even show “insensitivity,” you go before the Inquisition.
In the 1950s, the middle class paid a tiny fraction of family income in federal taxes. Today, upper-middle income taxpayers pay close to 40 percent in U.S. income taxes, and when Social Security, state, property and sales taxes are factored in, more than half of all they earn. Socialism has triumphed, by another name.
Not long ago, smoking was a pleasurable minor vice indulged in by millions. Today, it is being everywhere outlawed, even though the lion’s share of tobacco-company profits go into the coffers of government, as it weeps crocodile tears for the cancer victims.
In the 1950s, cigarettes used to go for 25 cents a pack and $2 a carton. In New York City, thanks to $3.00 in taxes on every pack, they cost $7.50 a pack. In the name of helping the smoker cure his addiction, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to rob him.
Billionaire Bloomberg also wants the city council to outlaw smoking in all restaurants and bars, though in many neighborhoods, bar owners and their patrons like things as they are. Bloomberg has a problem more serious than a smoking habit. He is a blindly intolerant man who does not understand freedom, but thinks himself a great progressive. He is like the Puritans of old of whom it was said they opposed bear-bating, not because of the suffering it caused the bear, but because of the pleasure it gave the spectators.
The mayor calls smokers “crazy” and “stupid.” And given the cost to human health of the habit, the mayor has a point and a right to express it. But which is worse – those who know the risks of smoking and freely choose to smoke, or those who demonize, tyrannize and rob smokers, for indulging in a habit of which they disapprove.
The Founding Fathers knew. They put their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on the line rather than be hectored and harassed by the Michael Bloombergs across the sea. And what did these men, Washington, Madison and Jefferson, do for a living? They were tobacco farmers.