This week’s controversy over a Virginia law requiring ultrasound before abortion illustrates the oft-cited inconsistency in demanding a small, non-intrusive government while at the same time mandating state interference in people’s private lives. But that apparent hypocrisy is only on the surface. The typical conservative doesn’t favor a small government. The real attitude is much narrower: Stay out of my business.
The idea that religion-influenced issues like abortion are exceptions to an overall anti-government point of view is false. Leaving aside libertarian extremists, the whole small-government attitude is a sham. Typical Americans, however they vote, want lots and lots of things from government. Lots and lots and lots of things.
We want armed forces to protect us – and to interfere overseas, with jaw-dropping frequency.
We want safety-net services when we lose our jobs, homes, or health insurance. Regulators to assure the safety of our food. A well-funded court system to punish criminals and adjudicate disputes. Protection of our borders against illegal immigration, and of our money against bank failures. Care for our military veterans. Maintenance of our highways and bridges. First responders for emergencies. Weather forecasting.
Some of us even want moon colonies.
On the local level, we want garbage pickup, sewer maintenance, street cleaning, snow removal, fire stations, public transportation, police to patrol our streets and pull speeders off the road…and schools for our children. The list goes on.
It’s easy to make fun of ignorant Americans who say things like “Government, get your hands off my Medicare!” But most of us have a basic knowledge of what government provides. We’re used to it, we like it, we want it, we need it.
Just as long as it stays out of my business.
So let’s not be scandalized by the “hypocrisy” of right-wing politicians and activists who want government control of some things (e.g. women’s bodies) but not others (e.g. “health care”). Most people want government to keep on doing pretty much what it’s been doing (albeit better) – regardless of party affiliation or stated political philosophy.
The difference is that some of us are willing to say that out loud – and to pony up the taxes.