It’s the fundamental question of America; how much government do we want? How much power should the government wield over We the People? This argument goes all the way back to July 4, 1776.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a ban on the sale of new gasoline powered automobiles by 2035, this in the car-craziest place on earth. Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and New York have said they will do the same. The push is on to move us to stage five of personal transportation: from feet to hooves to pedals to cylinders to plugs.
Then, with a heatwave threatening to deep fry us like an order of calamari, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) told us not to charge our EVs over the Labor Day Weekend because the power grid might collapse. This prompted the predictable snickers from the folks on the right who enjoy mocking electric and hybrid vehicles while bristling at being forced to buy a car not of their choice.
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of things the right is happy to ban: abortions, books, critical race theory, mask mandates and increasingly, the right to vote.
Again, how much power do you want the government to have over your life? This isn’t a simple question.
At the height of the pandemic, huge powers were usurped by governments via health agencies that dictated when, where and how we could congregate, including our places of business and even churches, synagogues and mosques. After September 11th, 2001 with the passage of the Patriot Act and the creation of the TSA under the umbrella of a new Cabinet Secretary, Homeland Security, the size and intrusiveness of government skyrocketed. In both instances the majority of Americans supported these measures as a matter of public safety. But what about banning gasoline cars and books and abortion?
What about the cornucopia of products and activities verboten by the authorities, including Cuban cigars, foie gras, lawn darts, candy cigarettes, DDT, ivory, ferrets and in California, Republicans. Okay, I made up that last one.
In red states a host of anti-LGBTQ laws have been pushed through state legislatures while activists hope to see the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and kick gay marriage back to the states.
Each of these issues and plenty of others have been debated to death over the decades. What is not debatable is the inexorable growth and scope of government control over our lives. While this is frequently stereotyped as a left/right, the reality is something else. It’s not about the power to ban, it’s mostly a fight over who gets to do the banning.
Lost in the X’s and O’s of each of these issues is the bigger issue of who should be making these decisions. The Federal Government? Sacramento? City Hall? School boards? Health departments? The Department of Transportation? The California Coastal Commission? The Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority? Lobbyists? The church? The list of empowered entities is endless, each with the ability to shape lives, hopefully for the better but frequently for the benefit of their sponsors at the expense of the public good and personal freedom.
Government is necessary and important to the maintenance of civil society and the protection of our rights. It can also be the leveler that gives the little guy a fair shot against the powerful. Yet left unchecked it can become the problem rather than the solution. We should ever be on guard against ceding our birthright freedoms regardless of the issue. For some, whatever it takes to stem climate change is worth the price in personal choice. For others, protecting their children from values antithetical to their religion or traditions trumps the 1st Amendment and “equal protection.”
I own a Chevy Volt. It runs on gas for long trips, electricity around town. I love it. I was not forced to buy it.
Doug McIntyre can be reached at: [email protected]