When Everything is Public, Then No One is Free


In the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto takes apart an anti-conservative screed at the Washington Post (via Instapundit) But what struck me about the screed and the response to it is the use of this quote.

One can spend an entire lifetime debating the distinction between “public” and “private,” but for this post let’s use an approach from John Dewey. In “The Public and Its Problems” (1927), Dewey argued that the public is involved wherever an action between two people has consequences “that extend beyond the two directly concerned.” Given “that they affect the welfare of many others, the act acquires a public capacity.” And as such needs a public response. And conservatives reject this.

If we take this as a matter of policy, then virtually nothing is private anymore. Since every activity between two people will in some way “leak” beyond them… everything is public.

The government isn’t only in the bedroom, but in the kitchen and the living room and everywhere else. That is how we got Obamacare and there is no limit to it.

We end up in a 1984ish sphere where there is no longer a private sphere, because even the individual and his activities affect others because Carbon has been declared a pollutant and any form of consumption naturally affects others.

The Dewey quote doesn’t so much define what is public, as much as it defines everything as public. It’s not clear what if anything could then be defined as private.

In an interconnected system, everything in some way affects everyone else. The butterfly flaps its wings and China gets a thunderstorm because of Global Warming. A man eats a sandwich and deprives an African village of food and increases Medicare outlays.

This is the motive force of liberalism and it makes it utterly indistinguishable from tyranny.

When everything is a matter of public policy, then there is no room for individualism or the individual. When everything is public, no one is free.

  • Toni_Pereira

    How is it possible for someone to label himself Liberal and endorse this S**?

    • DogmaelJones1

      Because the contemporary definition of a “liberal” is a person who is a collectivist who believes that an individual is a ward of the state, the property of the “public,” answerable to all for whatever action he takes.

      • Toni_Pereira

        Well, in that case reactionaries of the world, unite!! we conservatives are the new radicals.

        • tagalog

          …or liberals in the classic sense.

        • Crazycatkid

          Uh, yeah. Did you read about the new Air Force training manuals that say exactly that?

    • tagalog

      How is it possible? It depends on what period of manipulation of the English language you choose to look at.

      At one point, a liberal was one who believes in limited government and maximizing civil rights. Edmund Burke was a liberal in that sense, as were our Founding Fathers.

      Today, a liberal is one who believes in extensive government regulation, and rights that are limited to those that appear in the Bill of Rights, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments excepted, and always subject to government limitations made in the name of reasonableness.

    • Tabitha Bliss

      This isn’t what we know as ‘classical liberalism’, but the opposite philosophy. The people that call themselves liberals now are just the same old Marxists attempting to re-brand themselves to confuse the sheeple.
      I think the relabeling began in the 40’s because of a famous quote…

      “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.”
      – Norman Thomas, American socialist – 1944 Speech

      • TheOrdinaryMan

        Your comment is correct, because what’s known as “classical liberalism”–the freedoms we enjoy under the Constitution/Bill of rights, require individual responsibility and accountability. Thomas was correct as to how the U.S. has gone down Socialism Avenue, but at some point, when enough people realize that we no longer have a functioning society, we’ll have to go back to square one and start over. If we’re still around to pick up the pieces.

  • tagalog

    Taranto’s commentary mentioned the famous case of Wickard v. Filburn, a classic Supreme Court decision that provides a pretty clear picture of what the government can call “public” (or, in the Wickard case, “interstate”) when it puts its mind to it, and how courts can endorse that government policy when they think public policy calls for it.

  • GSR

    Powerful commentary by Tarranto and Greenfield. Left-liberalism today is a “softer” version of totalitarianism with a frosting of “academic authority” thrown in on top. But I fear its too late to disband this construction. Single woman and the foreign born, i.e. “immigrants” are how elections are won. Native born, right of center, traditional Americans have lost our country.

  • http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/ Francis W. Porretto

    Greenfield, Taranto, and the author of the WP screed are all absolutely clear on what it will take to reduce Americans to total subjugation. The point not to be missed is that left-liberals mean it, are determined to press it to the limit, and will never, ever back away from their core conviction that no matter what you might prefer, and no matter what havoc and ruin their previous interferences might have wrought, they know best.

    It’s a sad degeneration for the once honorable word “liberal.”