The Great Soda Pop Kerfuffle 2010
Fine, I’ll go on record about whether San Francisco government workers should have their pop taken away, in case I ever have to testify about this before a Congressional committee. Nope. I don’t think this sort of grandstanding accomplishes anything, it’s irritating, arrogant, and there’s something creepy and paternalistic about employers telling their adult employees how to eat. They’ll only get my Pepsi when they pry it from my fat, diabetic fingers!
I suppose too that this relates to how we define a good life. I believe life is made sweeter by occasional indulgences. The vast majority of us will spend our lives working hard, while never becoming particularly wealthy. Personally, I’d rather live with meager means, but still have good meals with friends, an occasional drink, a regular screw, and maybe a cigarette in the evening. An associate of mine, who grew up in Milan, swears by what she calls the “Italian lunch”, which is a 1-2 hour leisurely meal, usually with a few alcoholic drinks, and sometimes a nap. This is also the norm in France, although there is a fad now for “le snacking”, or le dejeuner Americain, which is when you shove food in your mouth for ten minutes and return to work. The saying, “lunch is for losers” is characteristically American. Meanwhile, the French have a saying that a Frenchman is seldom drunk, but never entirely sober. You can imagine whose side I take.
So, I agree with the libertarian sentiments expressed here. And yet, I find quite often that I agree with libertarian ideas, while finding the tone off-putting. Maybe it’s priggish to worry about tone; however, I think we need to be able to discuss public policy in at least a moderately dispassionate way, particularly when it’s an issue like this, in which the significance is debatable. My experience with discussions about “libertarian” issues is that they quickly and inevitably devolve into an assertion that the person disagreeing about Public Policy Proposal X does so because they don’t love human freedom quite as deeply, or secretly yearn to run other people’s lives.
This isn’t just a problem with libertarians. I’ve certainly disagreed with progressives who assumed I did so because I hate women, minorities, the poor, or social justice. I’ve disagreed with Conservatives who assumed I hate the military, America, God, and good hard-working decent folks. And I don’t think Christopher Hitchens has ever gracefully disagreed with anyone. But I don’t know that I can remember having or watching a discussion with a libertarian that didn’t quite quickly devolve into psychoanalysis about the authoritarian personality of the other or mild self-righteousness. For the record, one League member/commenter who definitely comes to mind here is “Rufus F.”*
Of course, I get that libertarians (and those of us who are at least “libertarian curious”) tub thump for individual freedom: that’s the point. However, the entirety of human history has involved struggle between the needs of the individual and the needs of their community. This is not going anywhere. So, provided that we’re going to keep discussing these issues, I think it’s better to do so with the assumption that people who disagree with us have the best possible motives, instead of the worst, even if they are ultimately completely misguided. Maybe it’s better to say, “here’s why I believe what I do” instead of “here’s why you believe what you do”. Or just debate with people as if you’re trying to get them into bed; instead of trying to get them to step outside.
1. * By which I mean that this is really more of a self-criticism than it might appear at first.