One man’s moderation is another man’s floor

Or something. I was trying to play on this saying. Not sure it worked.

Anyway, this being the official blog of the UnParty, I wanted to further explore a discussion of moderation that began with this comment by Bud:

Here are some other issues I regard as extreme:

Warrantless wire tapping
War on drugs, especially marijuana
Iraq war
Support for Green Diamond
Outlawing video poker
Blue Laws
Tax exemption for mortgage on second homes
Allowing the drilling for oil in deepwater (over 5000 ft)
Banning of abortion with exceptions for rape and incest
Expansion of nuclear power
Allowing prayer in public schools

Some folks would see some, or all, of these positions as moderate, mainstream issues. Some would find the opposite view (from mine) as the extremist position. So I’m not sure the label “extremist” is particularly meaningful.

I liked that challenge to further explore our respective concepts of moderation. I decided to set out my own thoughts, briefly, on those issues, as a political “moderate.” (Still not sure that’s the right word, but it’s the one we were using at the moment.) Here was my response, slightly edited for this separate post:

1. Warrantless wire tapping — You need to define your terms more clearly. “Wiretap” is a 20th century word that gets kind of mushy in a wireless world. I’m thinking you’re probably referring to the scanning of billions of communications in a process that is actually closer (as I understand it) to another old term (while not being at all the same thing): “traffic analysis.” Certain patterns are looked for, and if they emerge, zeroed in on. This is for me a huge gray area. If you’re referring to the kind of large-scale scanning of communications under the Patriot Act, I generally can live with it. If you’re talking about actually entering someone’s home, or even directly accessing someone’s personal computer remotely, I think the 4th Amendment kicks in and there should probably be a warrant. But at the same time, all sorts of private companies access your data remotely without a warrant, so these are things that require constant rethinking. Our political thinking hasn’t caught up with the technology.
2. War on drugs, especially marijuana — As we’ve discussed before, I disagree. All mind-altering drugs should be controlled, to some degree, including alcohol and nicotine. To the extent that we can keep out of wide circulation drugs that don’t have the same cultural foothold as alcohol, it’s a worthy goal.
3. Iraq war — I was for the invasion, like people across the political spectrum. Once committed, I couldn’t see even thinking about withdrawing until a reasonable level of stability was achieved. (If you break it, you’re responsible.) I was not in favor of the way Bush and Rumsfeld handled the situation after the actual toppling of the Ba’athist regime. I think we got back on the right course when Petraeus took over. I’m concerned and torn about the pending withdrawal.
3. Support for Green Diamond — I’m with you there, although not adamantly. It’s not something I would have done, but I was ambivalent as to whether those developers should have been allowed to try it. On the one had, it was their risk to take. On the other, there was the risk of flooding on the other side of the river and downstream — the latter outweighs the former, which is why I say I’m with you.
4. Outlawing video poker — By the end, it was such a corrupting influence on the State House that that was the only way. It had to go. I’ve explained in the past the trajectory of that issue, until it was plain to people on both sides of the political aisle that the video poker industry was incapable of being a good “citizen,” and banning it was the only solution. Everything else had been tried.
5. Blue Laws — I disagree completely. Ours was a more civilized culture when there was a day that things calmed down and commerce ceased. I realize many people across the spectrum disagree with me on this. I’ve never seen it as worth having a fight about either way, but if you ask me my preference, it’s opposed to rescinding such laws.
6. Tax exemption for mortgage on second homes — I’m with you. Frankly, I’m not entirely convinced we should have it on first homes. I wouldn’t campaign to get rid of it, though.
7. Allowing the drilling for oil in deepwater (over 5000 ft) — I don’t know how you pick that number. Seems arbitrary. Accidents can happen at 4,000 ft., too. The answer isn’t a number, it seems to me, but rather proper safeguards. Bottom line, I want drilling wherever it can be done safely (within a reasonable doubt), because our economy needs the oil until we develop alternative sources on a sufficient scale, and we desperately need to wean ourselves off unstable foreign sources.
8. Banning of abortion with exceptions for rape and incest — The only exemption for me would be the mother’s life. Only a life can balance out a life. And a life in which many other lives are already invested has precedence.
9. Expansion of nuclear power — Such expansion is essential. Our best option at this time to wean ourselves off fossil fuels (just to use transportation as an example) is to move to electric cars, and the cleanest, safest source for that electricity is nuclear. We are capable of building safe plants.
10. Allowing prayer in public schools — Ambivalent. I can’t see taking up the cudgels for either side in this debate. Just another one of those things culture warriors like to fight about, and I am neutral. Prayer in the schools is harmless, but at the same time I respect the goal of keeping public schools secular. Have prayer or don’t, society would be fine. Oh, and I assume we’re talking officially sanctioned prayer. Of course any individual or group of individuals is perfectly free to pray anywhere.

On that last one — if you look back at the rules that Dick Riley promulgated on this issue when he was Bill Clinton’s secretary of education, you’ll see a good, moderate response to the prayer issue. It was a response that wouldn’t be entirely satisfactory to either side in the culture war, but it was fine to a moderate.

By the way, I also thought “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a great moderate response. That also, as you recall, was a Third Way course taken by Clinton. But of course, culture warriors on both sides wanted total victory.

And on abortion, I very much appreciate the initiative by members of Congress on both sides of the issue to work together to make abortion more rare. That’s something both sides say they want, and it’s far better to work on that than to keep shouting at each other. That actually has a point to it. E.J. Dionne mentioned that in his speech the other night, by the way…

36 thoughts on “One man’s moderation is another man’s floor

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Wow. I was going to write my own response to all ten of those issues, but after reading what Brad wrote, all I need to say is “ditto” on each one of those. Does that mean I’m not to the right of Atilla the Hun, or does that mean Brad is more conservative that I previously thought? Hmmm…

  2. Gary Karr

    I’m slightly traumatized that I agree with Brad on most of these. No view on Green Diamond because I am not familiar with the issue; I am somewhat permissive on marijuana but not the other mind-altering substances that lack a cultural foothold, and I’m generally fine with rescinding Blue Laws but don’t see that as an issue worth taking up time.

  3. Doug Ross

    I agree with bud on every issue. It all comes down to a view of how much government an individual feels is necessary. I would always rather err on the side of less government intrusion.

    I’ve never used an illegal drug but I don’t think the government has made any dent in limiting the behavior. People are going to find their “high” no matter how much you try to regulate it. Synthetic marijuana, inhaling spray paint, huffing gasoline, doing whippets from whip cream cans… there is a segment of society that will always seek some form of stimulant/depressant/hallucingen. Quit wasting money trying to stop it.

    Same goes for gambling. The video poker machines don’t come to your house and take your money. No matter how you regulate it, people will find a way around it. We all know someone who bets on football every week.

    I say drop the lottery and open up the state to horse racing and casino gambling. A huge number of jobs would result from an activity people are going to do anyway. How many people would go to Myrtle Beach if there were some top end casinos?

    And don’t get me started on Blue Laws. Blue laws are about Christian church attendance. That’s it. There are so many loopholes in the law that it is beyond absurd. Only these products from this time of day to this time except in these counties. Abolish every artificial restriction on commerce.

  4. Brad

    It means maybe you should get your head checked, Bryan.:)

    Often — like at least weekly, sometimes more often — people come up to me and introduce themselves and say, “I agree (or agreed; printheads sometimes speak of me in the past tense, which is weird, but they mean well) with you most of the time, but not always.”

    I thank them, and tell them that if they agreed with me ALL of the time, I’d worry about them…

    But thanks, Bryan. Sounds like you might be UnParty material…

  5. Tim

    1. No Comment
    2. Marijuana should be decriminilized and controlled. As far as I can go on that.
    3.Green Diamond probably no longer has an economic case for the next 15 years. Then it returns as an issue.
    4.Video Poker. Outlawed, but they are still doing it. How much will enforcement cost?
    5.Blue Laws. Done. What is the evidence that we were nicer people when we couldn’t by a jacket on Sunday. Crime rates are down to record levels now. Stay home.
    6. Home Mortgage Deduction… eliminate it.
    7. Drilling in deep water is probably not cost effective without massive subsidies,… wait, we already do that for Exxon.
    8. Banning Abortion. What about if the pregnancy results in permanent serious debilitating damage to the mother, and the fetus has no head? Leave it alone. Its pure feel-good stuff, that actually hurts.
    9. Nuclear. Probably need more of it, but its a vastly government subsidized effort that can’t make it on its own. If we go with this, we need to do just as much, if not more with other energy technologies.
    10. Since when did we ban prayer in public schools? Oh, you mean enforcing prayer with the threat of punishment and public humiliation for those who choose not to. I am against that. Probably for school uniforms, though.

  6. Brad

    I like that phrase — “cultural foothold.”

    There’s a relative term. When I was in high school in Hawaii (Burl, back me up on this), it had such a cultural foothold that it was sort of like chewing gum: Some people smoked, some didn’t. I remember sitting on the beach at Barber’s Point one night in the summer of ’71, and there were 10 or 12 of us sitting there in a circle under the starlight, and a joint or two was going around, and I just passed when one came to me, and no one took note of it. I was to notice later, on the mainland, that people weren’t quite that cool about nonsmokers — if you passed, they thought you were a narc. Not sure whether that was the place or the time, but I think it was the place. The stuff was just so ubiquitous out there.

    But I stand by the idea that it doesn’t have ENOUGH of a cultural foothold across our whole society.

    WHOA, dude! I think I’m going to add that to my list of potential band names: Cultural Foothold…

  7. Karen McLeod

    How. About using fri. (Muslim equivalent) as the. Blue law day ? How about alternating. Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan prayers with Christian ones?

  8. Norm Ivey

    Warrantless wire tapping–seems this is the kind of thing that we accept until it affects us personally, which is a good enough reason to oppose it whether it’s traffic analysis or more focused. Still, I don’t lose sleep over it.

    War on drugs, especially marijuana–legalize pot and tax it. Raise revenues, save money, create jobs.

    Iraq war–in retrospect it was wrong, and I regret not having paid closer attention in the beginning.

    Support for Green Diamond–Isn’t this settled? Never felt passionate about it either way.

    Outlawing video poker–meh.

    Blue Laws–didn’t mind them when we had them, but I don’t miss them. I do like being able to buy beer on a Sunday.

    Tax exemption for mortgage on second homes–let me get the first one paid for, and then I’ll form an opinion. There are probably fields more fertile to plow for revenue.

    Allowing the drilling for oil in deepwater (over 5000 ft)–let ’em drill where they want, but regulate and enforce to avoid accidents. It’s their responsibility to figure out how to make money; not government’s to make sure they make money.

    Banning of abortion with exceptions for rape and incest–It’s the law of the land, and I don’t believe it will ever change. Work within the parameters you have to reduce the number of abortions–especially education.

    Expansion of nuclear power–use nuclear power, but regulate and enforce to avoid accidents. It’s their responsibility to figure out how to make money; not government’s to make sure they make money. Nuclear is non-renewable; current reserves will last 100 years or so; although there may be an enormous amount as yet undiscovered. Not sure it’s worth it from that standpoint.

    Allowing prayer in public schools–prayer is allowed in public schools. Mandatory prayer is not. We start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence. I use the moment of silence for a silent prayer. From watching my students, I think some of them do as well.

  9. Brad

    Why not Tuesday, or Thursday? Because it would be easier to get a consensus on Sunday. I’m a practical kind of guy.

    I always marvel that because a religion has embraced a practical and humane practice for keeping humans sane, we shouldn’t do it. Apparently, it would be OK if it came from sociologists or something. But because it also happened to be a tenet of Judaism, adopted in altered form by early Christians, suddenly it’s a bad idea.

    I’d be happy for you to make it any day of the week you like, if you think you can convince your community to choose that day. Friday’s fine. So is the original Sabbath, Saturday. Monday would be awesome. I just want the madness to stop, one day out of the week. It amazes me that anyone would not want something that makes so much sense.

  10. Norm Ivey

    As far as “extreme” and “moderate” are concerned, I don’t think of someone as being extreme until he refuses to see that any other view than his own can possibly be valid. If he can engage in a discussion without becoming incensed about my views, then he is a moderate regardless of where his views fall on the spectrum.

  11. Brad

    Thank you, Mr. Voltaire.

    I’m watching “Lost,” for the first time, on Netlix. Last night there was a scene featuring both Rousseau (the “French chick,” as Sawyer would have it) and John Locke.

    I figure Voltaire will have to come into it at some point…

  12. Herb

    If you take a society like Yemen, where you have legal sale of a drug (Qat) that spaces out most of the male population every day, I think it’s plain that a government has interest in protecting citizens sometimes even from themselves.

    I agree pretty much with Brad, and yes, I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea for a population to work itself to death, or to think that work is the highest value in life. Blue laws do have a place, but there’s not much that can be done if people don’t value what they’re trying to protect.

    Just curious, Brad, but if you do ban all abortions except what you’ve indicated (and I’m with you on this, I think), who do you criminalize? And are we prepared to incarcerate more people (whoever it is we’re talking about) if we do?

  13. Doug Ross


    You do realize there are many people doing shift work other jobs (nurses, police, firemen, etc.) who do not work Monday thru Friday, right? When do they get their mandatory blue law rest period?

    This is one of those topics where you just won’t give in. The war on this one was lost long ago. It was lost as soon as you stop to buy gas or a cup of coffee or a donut on Sunday morning. It’s an argument so full of holes in the logic that it becomes simply a case of being stubborn.

  14. Mark Stewart

    What is the “madness” you want to stop one day a week?

    Commercial enterprise? Or just certain retail purchasing? Or is it some sort of Utopian vision of a rural day of rest with the family table under the shade trees and the uncut hay swaying in the light summer breeze?

    How could anyone consider the capricious arbitraryness of the actual Blue Laws themselves as

  15. Mark Stewart

    Now this is a perfect example of the benefit of self-editing: I shifted my phone and the screen flipped and instead of hitting the “key” I wanted I hit submit instead.

    Anyway, to continue… how could anyone consider the capricious arbitrariness of the actual Blue Laws to be in any way a moderate response to modern life? The world is far too complex now; has been since at least the nineteenth century. We can’t just take, as a society, a weekly break. As individuals we can, however. So take a Sabbath break from blogging if you feel the need to recharge. But for our laws to regulate that someone can buy duct tape but cannot buy a toilet plunger before 1:30 pm (or whenever) is the height of irrational absurdity, not moderation.

  16. bud

    Capricious, arbitrary, stubborn adherence to a bygone era, religious indoctrination, antiquated, illogical, cumbersome, unenforeable, unpopular, costly, unconstitutional, barbaric, absdurd, reactionary, impractical and paternalistic. All are words and phrases used to describe the Blue Laws. And all true. Yet in many counties they persist. What a strange state we live in.

  17. Doug Ross

    “Strange that such a small, commonsense thing as taking a day off together can stir such strong, negative reactions.”

    Because that’s not what Blue Laws are. It has nothing to do with a day off together. It’s about a small window of time (coordinated to the common Christian church service schedule) when a specific set of arbitrary consumer transactions are prohibited.

    To think that we need to have legislators write laws to determine the parameters for this topic is ridculous. If you want time off, take it. If you think your neighbor needs to be prevented from buying a shirt on Sunday morning, go make your case to him.

  18. Doug Ross

    And I wonder how much effort you put into preventing The State from publishing a newspaper on Sunday’s? Did you expect people to get their hands on the Sunday opinion pages via telepathy? If you tell me you support the prohibition of sales of newspapers on Sunday, then I’ll believe you are serious about giving everyone a day of rest.

  19. bud

    It seems like the Blue Law issue has pretty much been decided by both a majority of the people and in our elected republic way. So why are we even still having this discussion? At what point does an issue have to just simply be declared “resolved” and we move on to other issues? In Richland and Charleston Counties that time has come. Lexington is close. It’s some of the smaller counties that still wrestle with this. I guess they must be inhabited by Brad clones.

  20. Steven Davis

    Maybe Brad can just start a boycott of anything sold commercially on Sunday. No running to the grocery store, no running to Walmart or the bookstore, no driving to the gas station or to Starbucks, etc… he can just sit on his front porch swing all day long whittling clothes pins for ma to use on washday (Saturday).

    Nobody forces people to buy things on Sunday. If enough people line up behind Brad, sales will go down to the point where it’s not feasible for the business to be open on Sunday. Do I see it happening, no and I don’t see Brad sitting at home all day either.

  21. Brad

    I was for eliminating the Monday paper. That would have made a lot of sense. It has little value to anyone (take a look at it), and you could give all those employees the day off.

    The Sunday paper is produced on Saturday. Actually, most of it is produced before that.

    And no, you can’t take the day off if other people are not. You just can’t. But it doesn’t surprise me that a libertarian would say that. Y’all tend to adhere to the false notion that each man is an island, and no one’s actions affect anyone else. If you live in the real, interconnected world that actual humans live in, you don’t get a day off if everything else is working.

    I think part of the problem here is that none of y’all remember when most things shut down on Sunday — or, for that matter, when commerce ended at 5 or 6 p.m. every day. It’s so long ago that I just barely remember it myself — sort of like Winston Smith in 1984, with his bits and pieces of memory of the time before IngSoc. Things were quieter, and saner, then.

    Now, Big Market demands that we be constantly busy.

    Karen — what’s not consensus?

  22. Steven Davis

    “And I wonder how much effort you put into preventing The State from publishing a newspaper on Sunday’s?”

    Maybe that’s why he got canned… he came to the Board with the idea of saving money by dropping the Sunday edition.

  23. Brad

    Speaking of the beer on Sunday thing. I marvel that people found it hard to stay stocked up when Sundays were out of bounds. I’m one of the least-organized people you’ll ever want to meet (meaning that you may meet less-organized people, but you wouldn’t want to), and I never had the slightest problem having beer in the fridge on Sunday.

    And if I had, I wouldn’t have had the slightest trouble doing without for a day. And if you would, then the Blue Laws are not your actual problem…

    And that gets to one of the main problems here — if we really can’t defer gratification that long, what’s wrong with us? Why must everything be available to us all the time? Are we really that petty, and weak? If so, God forbid that anything arise before us that requires self-discipline.

  24. Steven Davis

    Brad, I remember those days when everything closed down on Sunday, in fact I just have to visit my small hometown to revisit those times. Is it better, nope… is it worse, nope. Actually it might be worse, because if the gas pumps act up you have to track down the owner to fix the problem.

  25. Brad

    Perhaps it will clarify things for some of you if I answer this questions of Bud’s: “So why are we even still having this discussion?”

    Because you brought it up. See your list at the top. It certainly wasn’t on my mind. But if you bring it up, I’ll tell you what I think.

    It’s interesting how, on this issue, I seem to be the only conservative — or the only reactionary, if you prefer.

    One last thought: A couple of you have referred to “the capricious arbitrariness of the actual Blue Laws.”

    Y’all do realize, of course, that the reason those laws were spotty and fragmented is that society was constantly trying to find middle ground between those who wanted the day off, and those who wanted commerce to continue unabated? That will give you Swiss cheese law. But that’s the way laws are made in a free society; there’s a lot of give and take. People who want complete consistency should try living under a despotic regime…

  26. Steven Davis

    So you’re saying Blue Laws should have been done away with back in 1937 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was initiated.

    How many jobs would be lost by imposing a nationwide Blue Law? I’d love to see someone run on that platform, just to see what would happen.

  27. bud

    Perhaps it will clarify things for some of you if I answer this questions of Bud’s: “So why are we even still having this discussion?”

    Because you brought it up.


  28. Doug Ross

    You’re skirting the Sunday paper issue, Brad. Why should a newspaper be an approved purchase on Sunday morning and not a hammer? And how do those papers make their way from the printing press to all the readers? By people WORKING on Sunday morning.

    Your view isn’t conservative. It’s archaic.

    And who’s the island here – the guy who says “If you want to buy something, go ahead.. in fact, I’ll join you!” or “It’s not hard for ME to take Sunday morning off, so I think everyone should do the same”.

  29. Doug Ross

    “People who want complete consistency should try living under a despotic regime…”

    Sorry, that’s a straw man. The absence of a law can’t be a despotic regime, can it? You’re the one supporting the cause of enforcing who can do what and when. There would be no Swiss cheese law if there wasn’t some guy trying to impose his idea of what the mice need to eat.

  30. SusanG

    I’m with you Brad — I like the idea of a common day off. And I liked when you could count on nothing much happening on Sunday. You could plan family meals and other get-togethers and know that no one would have to work. Now, everyone’s schedule is different, because there’s no day when someone doesn’t have to work. Now, I know that it was always true that SOMEBODY (for instance, emergency workers) had to work no matter what (even on Christmas). But isn’t it nice that we have holidays, for instance, where almost everyone has the day off? So, this is just a weekly holiday. It’s not about who’s forcing who to buy or not buy something — it just makes for a richer community life in general in my view. But, we’re not going back, so oh well.

  31. `Kathryn Fenner

    Well, Brad–most of us do not have an energy-hog fridge devoted to storing beer, do we?

    I remember seeing plenty of signs in Aiken stores saying “Closed Sunday/ Go to Church”–I don’t think it was the workers’ rest they were concerned with, rather the state of their souls.

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