24 January 2012

Reagan is not Voldemort

So saying his name a bunch of times isn't going to make him appear nor smote your enemies in ruin.

More to the point, Reagan's legacy is very different than his actual record as a political figure. So saying his name does invoke some mythological figure to conservatives, but doesn't actually involve any actual policies. I'm beginning to realize that much of the problem with politics in this country is that it doesn't involve policy. At all. Conservatives do not take seriously the idea of governing to begin with, but they don't appear especially prone to voting in a manner that involves rejecting some of their supposed principles in any way that liberals somehow magically do not.

There's a reason I find symbolic acts among the most repulsive form of governance, and thus why appealing to the symbolism of a movement (where Reagan the man has been ignored and transformed in favor of Reagan a myth) is also deeply annoying to me. Because I actually care about what the policies are and how they affect other people. I take seriously the idea that, in a democracy, one's ability to vote implies a responsibility in understanding what their preferences when voting would actually do to others and impose on them as legal penalties or responsibilities, should those preferences become enacted as law. Most people it seems are comfortable with useless signaling that "the government" cares about a particular problem. So we get rent controls or minimum wage laws from one side and dramatic police SWAT raids on non-violent drug offenders and home poker tournaments from the other. And no actual solutions, no interest in an efficient government that uses its resources in a manner that takes account that they are somewhat limited (hence, "conservatives" pandering on yet more foolish investment into NASA moonbases and Mars missions and freely fight over expressed intentions on starting a foolish war with Iran to boot), and no public engagement on issues of government structure and power or how it uses these.

Most people are totally unaware of what the government spends money on (medicare?), and thus what it actually does (and cannot do), and so the process continues unabated. Most people are unaware of who is actually taxing them or charging them fees, and blame the most visible politicians (Congress, President), rather than their local mayor or city council or maybe the governor of a state, or more likely local and state official positions that they are only vaguely aware exist in the first place, if at all. More people call for "there ought to be a law", and ignore how that law could be mechanically used by others in ways that they did not intend, or that their intentions themselves were inconsistent and useless gestures that certainly inform others of their private preferences but fail to make a logical case for legal actions and sanctioning of others (see: gay marriage laws, counter-terrorism policies, bans on burqas and hajibs, secondhand smoke bans and now there are calls for perfume bans). Symbolism, the idea that you care about an issue enough that it should be a law, is saying something is more important than worrying about implementation, or the law's effect on the actual issue, and that we should DO SOMETHING. Very often, "something" is what you will get, rather than demanding "something that will work". 

This flaw even extends to political choices I might be more in agreement with, for example the California law attempting to legalise marijuana that appeared on the ballot was sloppily written and had some strange provisions. People couldn't be fired for failing drug tests with marijuana positives for example. I would agree we need better testing measures to do this accurately when eating poppy seed dressing or bagels can fail a test, to better assess when people are using because of the way THC works to deal with issues of intoxication while driving or working, that we should probably have some method of appealing available or to push people into rehab or treatment programmes for drug abuse as an option beneath dismissal from a company, or understand that some people have medical justifications that might be available (some forms of autism seem to be improved with manageable doses, likewise many opiate based drugs can be useful for pain management), that many companies or employers shouldn't need to bother testing their employees for this or most any other intoxicating substance (for example, we shouldn't bother testing most athletes or academics), or when they do have need, have just as much incentive to test for high levels of alcohol use (truck drivers or factory workers doing potentially hazardous physical labours), but the idea that an employer cannot and could not fire you for drug use is utterly stupid. It's a symbolic inclusion of a policy choice to suggest that drug use is totally normal and safe rather than something that people willingly can do to alter their mental state, ideally in a responsible way (eg, at home or in the mutual company of friends or family without the prospect of assaulting or harming them through such use) but which carries with it some obvious risk effect on "health" through altering one's mental state and in some cases, that of a medical addiction problem, both of which could need to be ameliorated in some way and may even pose unacceptable risks to some people. We can have no grounds for a legal quarrel with the personal choice of some to do such things as private citizens and yet still have legitimate grounds to wish to see them dismissed from our employment should they continue to do them. Focus on the simplest form, getting a narcotic drug legalised, first. That's an actual policy choice with real world impacts that actually matter for everyone (less militarized and invasive police tactics, a modest ability to reduce violence within immigration issue, legal access to a modestly safe mind-altering chemical should they wish it, ability to license to try to constrain access for minors without actual medical reasons, etc).

I want the real world impacts. Not the symbolism from coming your own political movements.
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