In his latest Boston Globe column, Jeff Jacoby argues that a misplaced emphasis on individual rights as a solution to all problems destroys much of what holds a society together, including simple, common courtesy:
Everyone has an opinion on the passenger in Row 12 who caused an uproar on a United flight from Newark to Denver when he used a plastic bracket called the “Knee Defender” to block the woman in front of him from reclining her seat. . . .
You can’t always get what you want, to coin a phrase. That’s routinely true of public accommodations, where our experiences — travel, dining, lodging, entertainment — must be shared with other human beings, in all their not-always-congenial variety. It makes life worse for all of us when people become so obsessed with their own satisfaction that they convince themselves they have a guaranteed right to it. Common courtesy and self-control used to be esteemed as indispensable to a healthy society. But the more we rely on law and regulation to maintain social order, the less we seem to emphasize good character and values.
Most air travelers, most of the time, don’t descend into rudeness and selfishness. But as the obnoxious “I-have-a-right” mindset grows ever more entrenched, clashes like the one involving the Knee Defender are apt to proliferate…. Compromise? Consideration? Thoughtfulness? Nothing doing. For some people, the right to be a jerk trumps all.
This attitude, in my view, is also a result of the progressive/statist desire to take authority over every aspect of life, thus moving all disputes into the realm of politics and establishing the state as arbiter from which no appeal is possible.
Read the full column here: http://www.jeffjacoby.com/15298/a-right-to-recline.
Thanks for the details, Thomas.
I have only one thing to say to John and Ken: You darn shock jocks, get off my airwaves!
John and Ken are shock jocks. John mocked the caller for not having anything serious to worry about. He made the caller sound like an old fogie, the sort of man who complains about kids playing on his lawn.
Thomas–no, it wasn’t I. This must be a more common problem than I had thought. Alas and alack. Do you recall what the host may have had to say in response?
Someone called KFI-AM’s John and Ken Show last week, complaining about the same thing. Trying to drive despite so many teenagers walking in the street.
It wasn’t you who called KFI, was it?
Thanks for the excellent observations, Thomas. Here’s another example which quite annoys me: many people, largely in their teens, walk in the street in my neighborhood, even though there are sidewalks. Oftimes they walk four or five abreast. That is, of course, both dangerous and against the law, in addition to being an obvious inconvenience to others. What could motivate such rude and idiotic behavior? The public schools must be inculcating some exceedingly strange values if this is one of the results, as it surely must be.
Both libertarians and progressives insist on doing as they please. Only their rationales differ.
In the progressive California city in which I live, cyclists are always riding on sidewalks (against the law), zipping through Stop signs and red lights, while forever demanding more bike lanes, bike parks, and legal rights. Their rationale is that “bikes are green” therefore all laws SHOULD make it easier for bicycles. Hence, they ignore any law that hinders bike-riding (like obeying Stop signs — they claim it’s harder for cyclists to restart stopped bikes than it is for stopped cars.)
Many progressives do whatever they please, trying to foist their progressives laws on others, even as they break any law that isn’t “progressive” in their view.
Libertarians, of course, are known for their “you’re not the boss of me” attitude. Any law that hinders them, they likewise feel justified in breaking. Ditto many private regulations, in which case they argue that “in a true free market” they’d be able to find a business that catered to their desires. Since XYZ corp operates in (and benefits from) a Statist environment, libertarians are not morally obligated to follow XYZ corp’s regulations.
IOW, progressives behave pigs on planes because the law SHOULD allow them to. Libertarians behave as pigs on planes because the law WOULD allow them to “in a true free market.”
Notably, many progressives and libertarians are atheists. Demonstrating the truth of John Adam’s remark: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
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