Friday, October 24, 2014
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 johnmottsmith@comcast.net

Comments

comments

John Mott-Smith

.

News

UC researchers: How low-water can our landscapes go?

By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Testimony begins in Winters murder trial

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

A-Z: Downtown Davis is the place to celebrate

By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: C1

 
Courageous Thompson tapped for cycling shrine

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Hong Kong protesters to vote on staying in streets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Cloud business lifts Microsoft’s quarterly results

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Scientists work to save endangered desert mammal

By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Host families needed for students and teachers from Mexico

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Halloween Dance set Friday for teens

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Yoga and chanting workshop planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Downtown menu: coffee, boba tea, dessert

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: C3

 
Enjoy A Taste of Capay at historic ranch

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Red-hot tunes set at Blues Harvest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Learn how to fill a cornucopia with flowers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Video highlights Props. 1 and 2

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
‘Homeopathy at Home’ program planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Celebrate origami at Davis library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Garden sale and open house features water-wise demos

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C4

Meet Poppenga at dog park Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Day of the Dead folk art class set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Flea Market planned Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Bay Bridge art project needs $4 million to keep shining

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Weir honored, a year early

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Explorit: Poison-proof your home with free lecture

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6

For a good cause

By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A6

 
Americans, internationals make connections

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

School board hopefuls discuss homework policy

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Sutter auxiliary seeks volunteers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Project Linus seeks donations

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Forum

The magic is long gone

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Water returns to its source

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

A solution to the drought

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Experience nature’s treasures

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Subs have other concerns

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
What’s next with Ebola?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

More theories on the abstention

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Rights beget responsibilities

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

.

Sports

Bump, set, playoffs: Blue Devil girls clinch spot in postseason

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggies expect a bonny meeting in Sacramento

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

DHS footballers take on Pleasant Grove

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Bye No. 2 comes at perfect time for nicked-up UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Shhh. Are Aggie women BWC’s best-kept secret?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
UCD roundup: Preseason awards roll in for Aggie hoopster Hawkins

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sharks suffer from road woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

.

Features

.

Arts

‘St. Vincent:’ Quite a character

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Rumpledethumps to play at Village Homes Performers’ Circle

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

DMTC plans ‘My Fair Lady’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to perform

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Calling all artists for upcoming show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Business

 
Car Care: Five things to ask yourself when shopping for a new vehicle

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B7

.

Obituaries

Lewis Melvin Dudman

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Ann Foley Scheuring

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, October 24, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B3