Wednesday, May 13, 2009

GK Chesteron, McIlheran, and the Fool David Brooks

"When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws." --G K Chesterton

And in that vein, McIlheran writes about custom.

I was riding on a bus the other day when my cell phone rang. My wedding vows said something about always answering that particular number, so I did.

The bus, unfortunately, was quiet, so I kept my voice low, my answers monosyllabic. Even then, I felt a little abashed about intruding on others' peace. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but I don't think so, and that's why I wonder what U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is up to.

He's up to ensuring you can't make a cell phone call in flight. DeFazio, suspecting federal regulators are about to ease up, has proposed making the Federal Aviation Administration's ban permanent. In jets' close quarters, he said, "you would have a cacophony" of telephony, and that would be trouble. There ought to be a law, he says, and other sponsors bipartisanly agreed.

So, should there be a law? No.

The 'big law' here is actually Custom--that is, the custom of self-restraint (or self-discipline) that your mother should have taught you: one does not disturb the peace except for serious reason.

McIlheran has another example of Custom at hand: shaming (!!) of miscreants by neighbors.

This is where prosecutors find low-level troublemakers on the brink of going really bad and, convicting evidence in hand, persuade the crooks to stand before neighbors to be berated. Their granny, their old pastor, the lady next door tell them how they're about to go to Waupun if they don't straighten out. Law is the backup, but what brings young men into line is social pressure. You wouldn't think this could halt a drug-dealing career, but surprisingly it does, say prosecutors who've tried the tactic elsewhere.

David Brooks proves that he is a flaming idiot when it comes to political analysis:

David Brooks wrote in The New York Times the other day that conservatives are overly focused on individual liberty, overlooking civic order and communitarian spirit. The Republican Party especially, he says, is "out of touch with the young, who are exceptionally community-oriented."

While McIlheran calls this 'rhetorical over-reach,' I simply call it BS. It is Libertarians Brooks means to criticize, not Conservatives. Libertarians have been silently cheering the Sex, Drugs, & Rock-n-Roll Revolution of the 1960's, which is the recent epitome of anti-Custom (and anti-Conservatism.)

It is Conservatism which respects Custom--the Big Law of Chesterton. Only fools attempt to re-write Custom into small laws--or attempt to un-write Custom altogether.

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