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When Everything is Public, Then No One is Free

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On August 24, 2013 @ 5:32 pm In The Point | 11 Comments

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.


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