by Jay Johansen | Jul 17, 2009
Liberals and conservatives regularly accuse each other of being undemocratic and of trying to take away people's freedoms. Few people advocate a society where there are no laws at all. I don't know of anyone who seriously says that there should be no laws against stealing or rape or murder. But clearly people have different ideas on what should be illegal and what should be viewed as the indivual's personal business.
So which would be more free, a liberal society or a conservative society?
Suppose that one group or the other won such an overwhelming victory in the next election, at all levels of government, that they were able to push through their agenda with no effective opposition from the other side. What would be legal and what would be illegal?
We could debate just how extreme the hypothetical winning group is. Among both conservatives and liberals there is a range between the moderate and the most extreme. So for this purpose, I've tried to use as the "standard" what you regularly hear from outspoken people on each side. For conservatives, I am thinking of people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. For liberals, I am thinking of Ralph Nader and Al Franken. In both cases these are people who have a wide following, so they can only be called "extremists" in a relative sense, but they are far enough out that neither group is likely to see their complete agenda turned into law anytime soon.
This list includes both things that one group or the other has already managed to make illegal, as well as things they would like to make illegal but have not succeeded at.
|Things that would be illegal if conservatives got their way||Things that would be illegal if liberals got their way|
|Stealing, rape, murder||Stealing, rape, murder|
|Using vulgar language in school (maybe)||Discussing God and religion positively in school|
|Performing abortions||Doctors or hospitals refusing to perform abortions|
|Homosexual marriage||Businesses refusing to participate in a gay marriage (bake a cake, take photos)|
|Teaching about contraception in public schools||Teaching about abstinence in public schools|
|Government-funded research in embryonic stem-cells||Government-funded research questioning global warming or evolution, maybe privately-funded research too|
|Publishing pornography||Broadcasting conservative radio programs (Fairness Doctrine)|
|Associating with suspected terrorists||Using harsh interrogation tactics on suspected terrorists|
|Entering the country illegally||Discriminating against people who have entered the country illegally|
|Harming an endangered animal|
|Owning a gun|
|Failing to wear a seat belt|
|Paying your employees too little (minimum wage)|
|Paying your employees too much (executive compensation limits)|
|Offshore oil drilling|
|Using medicine not approved by the government|
|Buying or selling soft drinks in large cups|
|Donating too much money to a political candidate|
|Using money from a business you own to support a political candidate (campaign finance laws)|
|Failing to favor minorities in hiring|
|Using incandescent light bulbs (instead of compact flourescents)|
|Driving an SUV|
|Draining a swamp on your own property (wetlands protection)|
|Selling products that have not passed a government inspection (e.g. mattress tags)|
|Owning a shower head that uses more water than approved by the government|
|Publicly criticizing politically favored groups (hate speech)|
|Cutting someone's hair without having a license from the government|
|Buying a health insurance policy that does not cover everything the government says it must cover, e.g. you must have maternity coverage even if you are a single man, and coverage for drug rehabilitation even if you do not abuse drugs and don't expect to start|
|Refusing to sell your house to a big company that wants to build a factory or a shopping center (Kelo Decision)|
|Displaying an American flag when illegal immigrants object|
|Naming a sports team after an Indian tribe or nation, with or without the agreement of those Indians|
|Bringing a butter knife or a picture of a soldier to school (zero tolerance on weapons policies)|
Can anyone suggest additions (or subtractions) for either list?
© 2009 by Jay Johansen