Some Against the Grain readers felt that the approach to this story was balanced and impartial, while others felt it was a neon billboard for the GOP. Nevertheless, despite any political perceptions, most of you said that the person who knows what is best for you is you.
Before equating "Self Interest Rightly Understood" as "We know what's best for you", I would suggest you take a few hours to read Democracy in America by De Tocqueville. It amazes me that so-called pundits can pontificate without having the slightest clue about what they're talking about. I guess ignorance is bliss.
I read with interest your discussion on negative and positive liberty. While I agree with your fears of totalitarianism that may fruit from the expression of positive liberty by powerful interests, many of your remarks struck me as unfair to Democrats.
It seems to me it is not that easy untangle negative freedom from positive freedom. You cite regulation of what we eat and drink as an example of positive freedom, because some expert has the freedom to impose this regulation on a manufacturer. But this may also be viewed as negative freedom - the freedom to be free from dangerous food and drink. Which type of freedom it is depends on whether you are food maker or a food consumer. For a consumer to be free, a manufacturer may have to have its positive freedom curtailed. Seems to me the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans will tend to let consumers beware to protect the freedom of the manufacturers. Sure, ultimately the marketplace may sort out any conflict and eventually a provider of safe food may emerge, but how much sickness or death should we be willing to tolerate before the marketplace can work its magic?
Is freedom a zero sum game? Must I take away some of your freedom so that I can be more free? Sometimes, yes. This is what we do with criminals. In situations where freedom is zero sum, politicians must then make the best partition they can. It is not fair to characterize such political solutions as being elitist or totalitarian. More often than not, in a democracy, it is a solution arrived at by honestly weighing competing interests.
You seem to forget that in a democracy, when Congress, and its delegated agencies, imposes regulations, those regulations are the product of democratic will. They are not imposed by cabal of elites. If people impose rules upon themselves, is there really a danger of totalitarianism? If anything, the last five years of complete Republican control of government has brought us closer to totalitarianism than any other time in my memory. And you're afraid of Democrats?
Excellent article Mr. Meyer. To have something like that come from a major media outlet is refreshing. I think it's fairly clear that our classic liberal values stand under threat of complete annihilation. I liked to think the United States of America was the one country that "got it," but it seems to be a dieing philosophy, even among republicans. The idea that others want to have control over aspects of my life, and that they have the right to, is repulsive to me. There have been many times I've been tempted to vote democrat, but without fail phrases like "for the common good" and other socialist tinged idioms reared their ugly heads and turned me away. How did such lazy, arrogant thought become mainstream in this nation?
Excellent article! It exhibits an objectivity that I have come not to expect from CBS and other "mainstream media" sources. And it nails authoritarian systems such as Communism, something else unexpectected from CBS.
Recently I watched a piece which showed people standing in lines waiting for food. One such line was in a small southern Ohio community. It occurred to me that the majority of those in that line voted for George Bush; twice. Not because he had done so much to enhance their "American dream," but because he had supported the "Defense of Marriage" act.
My response, like E.J.s, was that these folks had not "properly understood" their own self interest. You and I know that Karl Rove and company will be selling something in the Republican party's interest this fall.
Your articles keep surprising me – in several respects. I'm definitely a conservative and I just expect anything from CBS to be very slanted in favor of the Democrats and against the Republicans, but your writing is not like that. While I agree that there are tendencies in both parties to say I know what's best for you it seems to me that on balance the Democrats temperament is much stronger in that regard than that of the Republicans. An example would be 'The Great Society' vs. 'No Child Left Behind'. For the Democrats it's a driving force, for the Republicans it's a mistake that many of them freely admit.
Things must be changing at CBS News – this isn't the CBS News that I've known and disliked for years. It reminds me of the first time I saw a Nun smile, or a Black driving a VW Beetle instead of a used big Cadi. It's a sign of significant change taking place – perhaps hopeful change.
Republican policies that echo the voices of positive liberty include public religiosity, laws to have the state and not individuals control abortion, No Child Left Behind and the conquering of Iraq in the name of bringing Iraqis the freedom they didn't know they wanted.
Democrats are more likely to want to regulate what you eat and drink, dismiss the property rights that are infringed by taxation, declare that economic goals are rights or entitlements, and try to legislate more economic equality.
Pardon me Miss, but I think your slip is showing. Your two paragraphs above show your editorial position with crystal clarity. You spend a lot of time talking of paternalism and then make the statement that giving abortion control to states instead of individuals is positive liberty. Huh? Isn't that politicians knowing what is best for you? Your other right wing positives are the ridiculous NCLB and bringing Iraqis freedom they didn't know they wanted. Again, huh?
What are the democrats' positives? You don't list any. It seems that political paternalism is any position you disagree with, i.e. democratic positions and even looming failures such as NCLB and Iraq are positives.
Just one more point if I may; we invaded Iraq to bring them liberty? Wasn't that reason number 5 or 6. Didn't we invade to keep WMD's from Saddam's friend Osama? Are you having trouble keeping the lies straight? Can you no longer see mushroom clouds? I keep hearing about the liberal media, but I can't seem to find it.
Good article. You are one of the few reasons I go the CBS website for news and insight. I just wish I could figure out why some of the other editors at CBS think it is the role of the government to set and control fuel prices.
Keep up the good work though. I mean it.
I'm stunned. This is a very honest appraisal of the philosophical differences between the parties and hence, the nation. I became a more loyal Republican over the years after I realized that 90% of journalists leaned Democrat, and therefore most news was presented with that particular worldview. For the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com to have written this gives me hope that all is not lost in the Main Stream Media. Keep up the balanced work!
Great essay. It restores one's faith in the media. The question is, what do we fear most, the GOP's desire to regulate our morals or the Dem's desire to take our economic liberty? The answer is both, unfortunately.
James J. Linnane
Much of the left's socialist thinking boils down to, "I am smart, you are stupid." And, I'm going to use government to force stupid you to live your life according to my smart ideas.
If you still want to send in an e-mail, you'll have to read a real column to find the address.