Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Some people ask why we need laws on things that are ethically necessary. Why, for example, do we need welfare and insurance for all citizens? If something is truly important, won’t it be taken care of naturally? Why don’t people just donate to the causes that should be part of our societal fabric?
I read of an interesting test as to ethical behavior in our society, namely the grocery cart. Yes, the simple grocery cart, and the return corrals that we find in the parking lots. There are no laws that say that we must return shopping carts to the corrals. We know we should, and we know the benefits. Returning the carts to the corrals protects vehicles from rolling unattended carts preventing them from minor dents and scratches. It’s also a common courtesy for the people who work at the grocery story, the employees who have to collect and return the carts to the store. If they’re in the corral, it’s not necessary to hunt the down and gather them together.
Returning the carts to the corrals isn’t a benefit for the shopping cart user. In fact, it’s extra work, but just a very little extra work since the corrals are dispersed typically throughout the parking lot. It doesn’t take much effort, but chances are the person returning the cart will be careful to put the cart somewhere, even if it’s not in the corral, that it won’t damage their own car. Returning these carts is a tiny bit of work done in the name of other people, those people whose car might be scratched, and those people working in the store that has to return them. It’s truly a very minor effort but entirely for the benefit of others.
And yet, how often have we all seen shopping carts left outside of the corrals in the parking lot? Every time I go to the store there are at least a few, just lazy people who have no care for anybody but themselves and their own comfort who cannot find the time to walk those carts a few parking spots away to corral them. Ironically these are the same people who most likely would raise cane if one of those carts ever touch their vehicles. If they won’t walk a few feet for people they don’t know, why would they ever donate their money to causes that do not directly benefit them?
This is why laws are created like those that established Social Security. Collected monies help level that playing field. Suddenly everybody contributes to the good of all of us (as long as Congress doesn’t get greedy and decide to use it for themselves as they have been suggesting of late). People should care about others, and many do by donating their money and their time to great causes. But many would just as soon not, and the burdens that affect all of our society should not be shouldered just by the few of us who care.
That being said, we also have to be careful not to overdo these laws. While I’m all in favor of things like single-payer insurance and social security, what makes these work is that they’re not inspired by morals or ethics. They were designed to help deal with problems in our society, not to force morals on others. At the risk of inciting the anger of some of my readers, there is a distinct difference between laws giving freedom and those taking them. In the decision Roe v. Wade, rights were given to women, not taken away. Nobody is forced to get medical procedures by it, but it puts the power of decision into the hands of women. In more than one state, very restrictive laws have been established, the so-called “heartbeat” laws, that make termination of pregnancy illegal as early as six weeks after conception, which is often before the woman even knows that she is pregnant. These laws are often based on moral interpretations of the Bible, and intended to force these moral perspectives onto women, even in the case of rape, incest or where the life of the woman is in jeopardy as in ectopic pregnancies.
Yes, as a society we should take care of each other, but not based on religious interpretations because ours in not a theocratic society. In fact, America often stands opposed and excessively critical of theocracies like many in the middle east, and while we are quick to criticize them, there are those who would establish similar regimes in our own nation. It’s a tight rope we walk in a democracy where we take care of one another and yet hold open rights and privileges of our citizens. We must be careful where we tread.