One of Aesop's fables involves a dog that is carrying a bone in his mouth (yes, all dogs are males in Onlooker Slowdown's world, even the female chocolate Lab that lives at his house).
The dog crosses a small creek on a log, but then looks down into the water. There he sees another dog with another bone in his mouth. That bone, to the first dog, looks bigger. So, naturally, as dogs will do, he opens his mouth to take this second bone away from this other dog. When he opens his mouth, though, he loses not only the bone in his own mouth, but also the second bone, which was really just a reflection. It disappears into the ripples.
One lesson of this story is not to be jealous, because what you envy may not even be real.
Another lesson, though, is that it doesn't make sense to complain about something you need, because you may end up losing it altogether.
Two recent news stories: one from the Carolina Journal. A preschooler took a lunch to school that had a turkey sandwich, a banana, a bag of chips, and some apple juice. An inspector was on hand to look into school lunches, and told the preschooler that her lunch did not meet nutritional guidelines. She was given a lunch from the school cafeteria (which contained fried chicken nuggets), and her mother was sent a bill at the end of the day for $1.25.
As you can imagine, Rush Limbaugh and every other conservative pundit in the nation got into a tizzy about this as soon as their production assistants were able to read the wire reports to them. Intruding into a preschooler's lunchbox? What area of our lives will government control next? Can't the government leave a preschooler alone? How is a team of agents inspecting lunches going to make the world a better place? On and on the rants went.
The second story is actually an editorial from the New York Times, about the conservative religious views of Rick Santorum. As a staunch Catholic, he stands firmly against the use of contraception and has very specific views about the proper place and purpose for sexual activity. He has made headlines recently for taking on President Obama's "theology," saying that many recent White House decisions have started to close the door on religious freedoms. Most galling to them was a recent decision to force insurers to pay for contraception, even if an employer who uses that insurer objects to contraception for religious reasons. According to columnist Maureen Dowd, Santorum "seems to have decided that electoral gold lies in the ruthless exploitation of social and cultural wedge issues. Unlike the Bushes, he has no middle man to pander to prejudices; he turns the knife himself."
So, for the Left, it's OK to inspect school lunches and send home a bill if something (which in this case turned out to be a carton of milk) is missing. One wonders what would have happened if the preschooler's mother had sent a carton of milk, only to have it spoil after a morning spent at room temperature.
And, for the Right, it's OK to inspect the personal lives of employees and make decisions about the types of health care that they can access, if the employer can claim a religious objection. Especially if that sort of health care would drive up the premiums that this particular employer has to pay.
At some point in our history, government stopped being a mechanism for things like maintaining roads and providing law and order, and it instead became a toy that whatever majority was in power would use to impose its agenda on the rest of us. If you look at all of the agencies and cabinet departments and offices and bureaus and rules and regulations that have been added since, say, 1913 (which just happens to be the year that the income tax became constitutional, thanks to the Sixteenth Amendment), and you look at the actual purpose of all of those additional mechanisms, you see billions and billions and billions in expenditures and in taxes. A lot of this money has gone to very important things, like enforcement of the Civil Rights Act and grants to private organizations who do great things to help the needy and the capture of Osama bin Laden. A lot of it has gone to amazing things, like putting a man on the moon and neutralizing the threat of the Soviet Union.
But if you want the government to solve your problems, as the Left and the Right both do, you can't object when the other side uses the government to solve its problems. If you're going to open your mouth to take away the other side's bone -- if you're going to actually do away with the parental functions which the government now performs for both sides of the political aisle -- then you lose everything. All of the nagging by that team of USDA agents (oh, and here's an interesting fact -- no one in the state government in North Carolina has been able to identify that lunch patrol officer), and all of the moralizing about things that, yes, do belong behind closed doors, until you ask the government to pay for the consequences of what you do behind those doors, will go on.
That is, until someone listens to Paul Ryan, and we start spending what we bring in, instead of trillions more, or the Chinese call all those debts in. If you want to read a cool novel about what that world might look like, by the way, with America finally crushed by its debt, check out Super Sad Love Story by the brilliant Gary Shteyngart. Onlooker Slowdown will be reviewing that soon.