Democrat's Privacy Push

Via Powerline and the Washington Times comes a report (or maybe a prediction) that Democrats may be preparing to use privacy as the unifying theme of their 2006 legislative agenda and reelection efforts.  This actually echos a suggestion made by Kevin Drum last year (which may be an indication that Democrats are getting smarter, if they are listening to Drum rather than Kos).

John Hinderaker thinks that this suggestion, which would link abortion and NSA surveillance, ranks as either ineffective or "downright weird".  I think it would be fabulous, but, as I wrote in response to Drum's post the first time around, it contains huge land mines for the left:

I am all for a general and strong privacy right.  I would love to see
it Constitutionally enshrined.  But liberals (like conservatives, but I
am answering Drum's question) don't want it.  They want to allow women to choose abortions, but not choose breast implants.
They want the government to allow marijuana use but squelch fatty
foods.  They don't want police checking for terrorists but do want them
checking for people not wearing their seat belts.  They want freedom of
speech, until it criticizes groups to whom they are sympathetic.  They want to allow topless dancers but regulate the hell out of how much they make.  Liberals, in sum, are at
least as bad about wanting to control private, non-coerced individual
decision-making as conservatives -- they just want to control other
aspects of our lives than do conservatives.

It just so happens a perfect example is sitting right at the top of Instapundit this morning:  Teresa Nielsen Hayden apparently takes the drug Cylert to treat her narcolepsy.  For a while, it has been known that Cylert can cause some liver trouble.  She apparently knows this, has a doctor monitor her liver health, but is willing to take this risk because she apparently is fine with accepting some risk of liver trouble in exchange for substantially improved quality of life. 

The problem is, the liberal/progressive Public Citizen group has fought hard and successfully to deny her this choice for her own body.  This type action is not an exception, but rather is fundamental to the left/Democrat agenda, i.e. We are smarter than you about making choices, and we would never risk liver disease to cure narcolepsy (though we have never lived through narcolepsy ourselves) so we are not going to allow you to make that decision for yourself.  Vioxx users, like acute-pain sufferers for whom Vioxx is really the first treatment to allow them to enjoy life again without incapacitating pain, have also been denied this choice.  So have folks who want to get breast implants, manage their own retirement (social Security) funds, ride motorcycles without helmets and drive cars without seat belts.  One case that is quite revealing is NOW's insistence that women, even
at the age of 13, have the ability and absolute right to make abortion
decisions without government intervention, but that these same women are completely incapable of making breast implant decisions so they demand that the government curtail this choice. 

But the list really goes much further.  For example, why isn't it a "private" decision when two people agree without coercion as to how much money one will provide labor or goods or services to the other.  An enormous part of the Democratic platform rests on regulating the shit out of every single facet of this type of private encounter.

Since the left considers sex absolutely beyond regulation, and commerce completely fair game for detailed government intervention, its funny when the two cross, as they did when the ACLU argued that taxation of topless dancers interfered with their freedom of expression.  Fine, but if topless dancing is expression, which it seems to be, why isn't writing a book, designing a house, making an iPod or even cooking great cheese-fries?  Commerce is all about expression, about communication, about private agreements and exchanges.  But I am pretty sure that the Democratic party does not want their privacy stance to go in these directions.

A while ago, I had a fascinating experience actually reading for myself the much-talked about Roe v. Wade decision.  Because I take the 9th amendment seriously, I wasn't struck, as conservatives are, that the judges had created a privacy right out of nowhere.  What I was struck by instead was just how narrow a line the Court tried to walk in saying that a woman's decision to have an abortion (at least in the first trimester) is beyond the reach of government, but nearly every other non-coerced decision we make is still fair game for government intrusion.  It was this distinction, between abortion and every other decision that I found compelling:

However, I hope you see the quandary in which all this leaves abortion
supporters on the left.  Much of their philosophy and political agenda
rests on this notion of "a compelling state interest" in nearly every
facet of human endeavor.  The left pushes constantly for expansion of
government regulation into every corner of our lives.  They are trying
to walk a line, a line so narrow I don't think it even exists, between
there being no state interest in 16 year old girls getting abortions
without their parents' knowledge or consent and there being a strong
state interest in breast implants, painkillers, seat belt use, bike
helmets, tobacco use, fatty foods, etc.  They somehow have to make the
case that that a woman is fully able to make decisions about an
abortion but is not able to make decisions, without significant
government regulation and intervention, about her retirement savings,
the wages she accepts for her work, her use of a tanning booth, and her
choice of painkillers. I personally think she can handle all these, and more.

So, to the Democrats, bring on the privacy issue!  I am sure no one in the MSM will test these contradictions and certainly the Republicans don't want to go here (they are just as invested today in statism in their own way as Democrats).  But we libertarian bloggers should have a good time.

My summary post on attacks against individual decision making from both left and right is here.


  1. Joe's Dartblog:

    Playing Straight on Privacy

    Democrats' position on privacy is far from coherent, as Coyote Blog demonstrates with dozens of examples. Of course, the same is true for Republicans. The difference is that, with the exception of its religious zealots (who themselves are no better...

  2. James R. Ament:

    Excellent post! I'll probably refer to some of your views as I think through my own sense of what's wrong with the left and the right... and what it means to be reasonably libertarian.

  3. Tim Allen:

    I love this post and have re-read it several times to let it soak in. I am of the opinion that Conservative Authoritarianism stems from the belief that people are not moral enough to make decisions for themselves while Liberal Authoritarianism stems from the belief that people are not smart enough to make their own decisions.

    Liberals would fight for your right to "Death with Dignity" but the second you want to ride a motorcycle without a helmet they cry like school-girls. So the lesson I am supposed to learn is that I should be allowed to end my life but not be allowed to risk my life.

    I thought freedom and liberty were supposed to be superlatives? How is it we the people can seize our freedom and enshrine it in a document only to give it back in dribs and drabs.

  4. Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

    Hey, don't wish that lot on us. The left doesn't love Ralph Nader or Public Citizen either. Seriously -- check out Paul Krugman on the subject.

    What's bizarre is that the FDA, a major federal agency, has, during the Bush Administration, been giving Public Citizen free rein. When one of my fellow bloggers at Making Light phoned the FDA to ask how one would go about getting the Cylert ruling reversed, their first-level flak-catcher told him in so many words to go to Public Citizen, since "They have a lot of influence on FDA policy."

    That doesn't make sense. Those guys shouldn't be running the store. Public Citizen has long been known as a secretive, controversial, publicly unresponsive bunch of weirdo zealots, a wholly owned subsidiary of that greedy, destructive, vindictive, grossly irresponsibly monster of vanity, Ralph Nader.

    The extent to which the mainstream left Does Not Love Ralph Nader is way beyond the scope of this comment.

    The left has a long history of supporting diversity and personal choice in medical treatment. That's the truth. You can look it up. What's going on with Cylert is an administrative screwup on the part of the FDA, and yetanother piece of inscrutable power-tripping by Public Citizen. It's hardly the first time Public Citizen's done this. If you want to hear an interesting rant, talk to an EMT about their "needle safety" campaign.

    You'd think the federal government would want to make a drug available that keeps about 10,000 narcoleptics and who knows how many ADHD cases paying taxes rather than collecting disability.

    Finally, I just want to say that liberal/progressive politics are a real-world thing: finite, knowable, practicable, and having not a lot of resemblance to the bizarro caricature liberalism I keep hearing about from the right. There's plenty of stupidity in the world that doesn't have a thing to do with leftism. Some of it doesn't even have anything to do with the right-wingers. It's just stupidity: an intractable enough problem without dragging in partisan politics.

    Cheers --

    Teresa Nielsen Hayden

  5. The Hip and Zen Pen:

    Carnival of the Vanities #173

    Welcome to the second Carnival of the Vanities of 2006, and the second since the CoTV is under new management with HarshlyMellow. Check out last week's Carnival for all the bloggy goodness, and to read Zeuswood's philosophy about the Carnival

  6. Robert Stanton:

    The fact that you people believe tha=e Democrats to be incoherent while you are blindly following one of the stupidest most irrational and disillusioned presidents in history shows just how LITTLE intelligence the GRAND OLE PARTY really has.