Tuesday, April 21, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Per Capita Davis: Freedom isn’t free

JohnMott-SmithW

By
From page A4 | December 05, 2013 |

An oil company executive was asked why, if he agreed that burning fossil fuels is the major culprit in climate change, he opposed any legislation or regulation to limit that burning. His response, to summarize, was that he feared a loss of freedom, that new laws and regulations would restrict his personal choices, such as what kind of car he could own and drive.

The tension in how different people with different perspectives define “freedom” is arguably at the core of many issues, and climate change is one of them. This is not a new tension. Think back to Jimmy Carter in his cardigan sweater asking Americans, in the midst of an oil crisis, to use energy more efficiently and the outpouring of criticism in response to that modest request. To this day, he is mocked by some for that sensible and reasonable appeal to the nation.

Or remember the outrage when it was first suggested that SUVs be required to meet higher mpg standards and the shrill voices in Congress that cried foul, citing all the soccer moms who, so it was said, needed these behemoths to cart kids around. If I’m remembering correctly, the vice president at the time asserted Americans have a right to use as much energy as necessary to preserve their lifestyle.

Speaking of a cardigan, a recent article about the burgeoning electronic cigarette industry describes an ad (one of many that urge readers to “Take Back Your Freedom”) that appeals to “freedom-loving smokers who want to indulge their habit anywhere.” The ad “features a scowling granny in a cardigan saying ‘Dear Smoking Ban’ and brandishing her middle finger.”

This is a perfect illustration of the tension between “personal freedom” and regulation. Smoking, shown to cause cancer, creates huge social costs, costs that all of us absorb. Regulating the individual for the benefit of the community as a whole can make those being regulated unhappy.

In my view, there are (at least) three general principles of civil society that inform where to locate the balance point between personal freedom and the general welfare of the population as a whole.

One is that your freedom to swing your arms stops just short of the tip of my nose. More specifically, one person’s freedom does not extend to doing damage to others. This would not be so important if we were all angels, but we are not. The freedom to dump industrial waste into waterways is regulated to protect everyone’s right to clean water. The laws to protect the air and water were enacted not based on some abstract environmental theory but because the air and water were being treated as dumping grounds.

Second, freedom isn’t free. A friend of mine was a member of Up With People, a singing group of young people back in the ’60s that traveled around the country and the world extolling the virtues of democracy. One of their songs included the words: “Freedom isn’t free, you’ve got to pay the price, you’ve got to sacrifice, for your liberty.” At the time, this meant mostly that guarding freedom required a strong military and a willingness to go to war.

I think it’s safe to say no one thought of it as “freedom might require you to pay taxes to support clean air and water” or “freedom might require you, for the benefit of others, to not smoke in the workplace.” But, given the issues of today, these can certainly be viewed as reasonable extrapolations.

Third, in a world with constantly increasing population and the associated energy required to provide for the needs of that population, there are many laws and regulations that are necessary to promote the general welfare by reducing our per capita energy usage — for example, building standards for new homes, appliance efficiency standards, automobile mileage requirements, restrictions on the use of coal, a cap-and-trade system, and requirements for development of non-fossil fuel energy resources. Some might argue that these limit personal freedom, but consider the history of accomplishment of such laws and regulations.

According to a recent article by Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council, efforts to increase energy efficiency over the past 40 years resulted in the United States using less oil in 2012 than in 1973 and less total energy in 2012 than in 1999 even though the economy grew by 25 percent. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these efficiencies (required by law and regulation) are saving consumers hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Jimmy Carter was right.

Interestingly, on the other side of the political aisle, Sen. Mike Lee, a tea party favorite from Utah, has added his voice to defining what “freedom” means in America. Quoting from a recent speech: “For all America’s reputation for individualism and competition, our nation has from the beginning been built on a foundation of community and cooperation.”

Further, “Freedom means ‘we’re all in this together.’ The conservative vision for America is not an Ayn Rand novel. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Frank Capra movie: a nation of ‘plain, ordinary kindness, and a little looking out for the other fellow, too.’ ”

Mike Lee is right, too.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; his column is published on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to [email protected]

Comments

comments

John Mott-Smith

.

News

 
Woodland murder suspect claims history of abuse

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

Public forum will explore community choice energy options

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
Log cabin home is labor of love

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

The camp around the corner: Day camp benefits kids and families

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Ready to give a resident camp a try? Tips to ease the homesick blues

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Vote with your dollars at Davis Food Co-op

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
UCD study: Colorblind bilingual programs can perpetuate bias

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Davis Kids Klub offers a true summer camp

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Immigrant teens share their dreams at YIIN dinner

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Buddhist groups host SanghaFest on Saturday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

AAUW hosts Yamada speech on Tuesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Round up at the registers for Davis schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8Comments are off for this post

Free Family Bike Clinic set Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Online courses a cure-all? UCD study says think again

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

Show tunes take center stage at sing-along

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Alternatives to violence explored

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

Paws for Thought: Hero dogs go above and beyond

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Rotary Club hosts whisky tasting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Spend a morning with the mayor

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Celebrate Mexican culture at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Achievement gap to be addressed at symposium

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

Suicide awareness walk set April 25 at UC Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Tour de Cluck tickets on sale now

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Patwin is ‘Where The Wild Things Walk’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

.

Forum

Gratitude all around for the Breakfast for Heroes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
Broad new vaccination law is a must

By Tom Elias | From Page: B4

Seniors, you CAN get there from here

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
Hey, do you want that glaucoma fixed?

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5Comments are off for this post

.

Sports

DHS thunders past the Herd

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wong leads UCD charge in Big West women’s golf tourney

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD boxing club making a name on the national scene

By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS girls basketball pioneer Iten dies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils edge closer to Delta League soccer title

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
.

Features

.

Arts

Rockabilly music will fill the park Wednesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
One-man show ‘Buyer and Cellar’ brings non-stop laughter

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Hear Wealth of Nations at winery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘Frozen’ Mini-Musicals to be presented

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Baldini to conduct Camellia Symphony

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
DMTC sets auditions for ‘Evita’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Stories told at Third Space

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
UCD assistant professor to give lecture at de Young Museum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Robert Leigh Cordrey

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Ruth Rodenbeck Stumpf

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

Alice Catherine Micheltorena

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7