Conservatives breathe the same air as progressives; they drink the same water. They fly the same planes and they eat the same food.
It would stand to reason that conservatives are just as concerned as liberals about longevity, avoiding toxins, safety in our skies and avoiding food poisoning.
Yet conservative are willing, even anxious, to reduce or eliminate the regulations that we have to protect ourselves from illness, injury, or even death. They cite the burdens of regulations and taxes on businesses as reasons why our economy is in neutral at best, as the job market continues to stagnate.
Maybe they know something that progressives don’t. In their view, businesses, left to their own devices, will take all necessary steps to protect both their workers and their customers. If this means not polluting our lakes, rivers and streams with toxic effluents, they will take whatever measures are necessary. If this means ensuring that the food we eat is safe, they will test the meats, fruits, vegetables we eat to ensure that no unwanted bacteria or viruses are present.
Perhaps what conservatives know and progressives don’t is that all citizens, particularly those in business, and most particularly those running mega-businesses, are kind, gentle, altruistic individuals. Yes, they want to make a profit, but not at the expense of the public good.
What conservatives don’t like is the imposition on their freedom from government regulations, no matter how noble the purpose of the regulations might be. It’s like one adult being told by another to drive safely. Why say it? The driver already knows it.
There are some of us who even flaunt rules when we think that they are unnecessary or just plain silly. If we see a message in a theater with a high-amp sound system telling us to be quiet during the movie, we may be inclined to carry on a conversation, because the movie is assaulting us with excessive decibels.
So, if the conservatives are right, at least in theory, in their contention that even reasonable regulations are not needed because those whom they impact already know what to do, then maybe progressives should back off and eliminate some or all of these regulations. It would cut costs, humanize relations between competing groups, and perhaps most importantly, affirm the basic “goodness” of humankind.
On the other hand, if government eliminates regulations and private industry shows a lack of regard for public safety, then conservatives have a choice to make. They can join progressives in supporting necessary regulations to protect us from harm. Or they can follow the option expressed by Rep. Ron Paul in the “Tea Party” debate on Sept. 13. We can live with whatever results the free market provides us. Ron Paul, who is a physician, felt that it was more important for a seemingly healthy thirty-year-old to have the right to not buy health insurance than it is for him or her to be treated in a hospital for a serious injury. If recovery could come only after emerging from a six-month coma, then the market would say, “Tough luck; you could have chosen to buy insurance, but you didn’t.” You die, and the market wins.
One of the key characteristics of progressives is empathy. We are uncomfortable with and pained by the thirty-year-old dying because he or she hadn’t purchased insurance in a free market system. There is something greater to us than the sanctity of the free market.
So, if conservatives can provide convincing evidence that the private sector has a conscience that cares for others as effectively as regulations do, then I’ll join them in their efforts to de-regulate America. However, if left to its own devices, the private sector shows little regard for the health and safety of others, then I’ll remain committed to my support of regulations. Of greater importance is, if in the face of evidence that deregulation leaves people unnecessarily at risk, will conservatives accept the necessity of regulations. If the answer to that is yes, then I’ll believe in the integrity of the current anti-regulation mantra expressed by conservatives.