Ah, thanks for the drink. Great party, by the way. Sure. Talk to you later, Sally.
Now. Where was I? Oh, yeah.
Well, I was talking to this guy. You know. Just chatting. Being pleasant. I didn't know him from Adam. Anyway, a bunch of us were discussing the latest prescription drug coverage bill. I pointed out how much we needed it. I tell you; my parents are spending three-hundred dollars every month to pay for their medicine. It's outrageous. I'd help them out, of course, but with three kids and a wife, a mortgage, payments on my SUV, business expenses, you know, entertaining clients, keeping them happy, travel, saving for my kids' college education, yaddy-yaddy, I barely eke by every month.
So, I tell everyone to call their guys in Congress to support this bill, and this guy -- this stranger! -- pipes up and disagrees with me! He says my parents should pay their own bills, and that if they can't, I should give them money. Can you believe that? Neither did I.
I'm standing there, my mouth hanging open like I'm trying to catch a fly. I'm flabbergasted that this Neanderthal could possibly say such an outrageous thing. For a moment, I thought he was just trying to start an argument. You know. Be controversial, get me all riled up, and he'd stand there grinning while I made a fool of myself like some idiot. Having fun at my expense.
So, I look at him wide-eyed and ask him, I say, "Are you serious? I can't afford to do that. Neither can my parents. They deserve to have the government pay for their medicines. That's the only humane thing to do." I ask him, don't you care about people? You'd rather have my folks get sick and die? You'd rather have them choose between medicine and food? I mean, it's not like you can do without medicine or something. You can't just say, well, gee, I guess I won't take my medicine this month. Or, gee, I guess I won't eat today.
I'm sure this guy is kidding me, right? But, not! He's serious. Never cracks a grin for a moment.
He looks me right in the eye, and he says, "Your parents are responsible for their own lives. Not me. Why should I have to give up some of my money to help support them? If it's anyone else's responsibility, it's yours."
"Hey," I say, "I pay a lot of taxes. I deserve to receive something in return for all that money. I don't like taxes, but, well, you know what they say about death and taxes. After all, taxes are the price we pay for civilization."
This guy shakes his head and says, "Taxes are nothing more than legalized theft. Stealing. If it's wrong for one person to steal from another person, how is it okay when it's done by voting?"
"Oh, come on!" I say. "It's not stealing. We live in a democracy. We're the government, after all. We vote for these guys to represent us."
"I didn't vote to have my money stolen," he says.
Well, by now, I'm getting pretty hot under the collar. I guess the three martinis I'd drunk didn't help much, either. But, anyway, I tell him, "The people decided otherwise. This is what society wants. If you don't like it, get them to vote the other way."
"So what's moral or not is determined by majority vote? If most people want something, then it's okay?"
I think about that for a minute. I know he's just playing word games with me. Trying to trick me. So I say, "I don't know about whether it's automatically right or not, but that's what most people support. That's what voting is all about. We vote. You live with the results. Besides, morality is all subjective, anyways. You know. You can't impose your morality on other cultures."
"You're imposing your morality on me," he says. I can tell he's getting ticked, but, hey, that's fine by me. Screw him, I'm thinking.
"What a crock," I said. "Taxes are voluntary. Nobody's imposing anything on you. You can choose not to pay your taxes."
"If I don't pay," he says, "I'll go to jail. That's not a choice."
"It is so a choice," I said. "You choose between paying your taxes and going to jail."
"That's like saying I have a choice if a robber says, 'Your money or your life.'"
I shrug and say, "So? You have a choice there, too. You can choose not to give him your money. You can choose to let him shoot you."
"Well, you're right about the robber and the tax collector acting the same. You're wrong, though, to say that a 'choice' made at the barrel of a gun is a real choice."
I blink at this. "Who the hell do you think you are?" I ask. "Telling me I'm wrong!" I narrow my eyes. "Hey. Are you one of those anarchists? You hate government? Want to destroy it? Do you belong to a militia?" I draw back a bit, wondering if he's carrying a gun.
The guy's mouth twitches, so I know I've hit a nerve.
"No, I'm not an anarchist. I believe in government, but only a limited one, one that just defends my rights and protects me from criminals and foreign enemies. Like Thomas Jefferson supported."
I let my lip curl up a bit and sneer at him. "Jefferson? What a hypocrite. He owned slaves. He fathered a child with Sally Hemings. I saw it on TV. They proved it with DNA."
The guy sighs. He knows I've got him. "No, they didn't prove it," he says, stubborn-like. "But that's irrelevant to my point. My life doesn't belong to you. Neither does my property or my money. If I own them, then it's up to me to decide how to use them."
I wave a hand at this. "Oh, come on. That might be nice in theory, but let's be practical, okay? You want roads? You want police? You want armies to protect you from terrorists? You want health care? You want schools? How do you think we're supposed to pay for all that stuff unless we have taxes?"
"The free market could provide all that and cheaper," he says. "If the government --"
I interrupt this nonsense and say, "Oh, come on. The 'free market.' You one of those who measure everything by money? You worship at the God of Profit? Well, some things are more important than money. Jesus."
He gets all huffy. "I never said there weren't. I'm just telling you that when people can make free, voluntary choices, everyone benefits. Plus, it's the right thing to let people decide for themselves how to live their lives."
I laugh. "Oh, sure. In some areas. But what about drugs? You want your kids going into Drug Town and getting their cocaine and heroin off the shelves? Their crack? That stuff's dangerous. We can't let that crap float around. Druggies hurt their families. They hurt society."
He's getting madder. "I'm talking about adults," he says. "Not kids. It's like the pro-choice people. Your body. Your choice. The government has no business telling an adult what he can put in his body. It's up to each individual to choose what he will or will not do with his life."
I look at him and say, "What if he gets all high and drives his car? What if he's stoned all the time and abuses his kids?"
"Driving a car like that endangers others," he says, pretending he's patient. "No different than drinking and driving. We don't outlaw booze just because some people abuse it. Plus, an alcoholic may create an unpleasant home environment for his kids, but unless he physically harms his kids, it's none of our business."
"Wow," I said. "How callous and uncaring you are. You'd let people starve." Then it hits me. "Hey. You're one of those Libertines, aren't you? You want little kids to smoke pot and carry machine guns. You support child pornography."
He winces and says, "No. I'm a libertarian. I support freedom."
"Sure," I says. "Just let everyone do whatever the hell they want. That'd be chaos. Freedom sounds nice in the abstract, but it doesn't exist in the real world. There're laws and stuff to make sure we behave ourselves."
Then the guy really loses it. He says, "I don't believe in slavery. We're heading towards a police state, and you're standing there with your head up your..." Then he storms away.
Yeah, can you believe that guy? He wants people to make their own choices, to decide for themselves how they'll live their lives. Hooray for me and to hell with everyone else.
Exactly what I was thinking, Doris. How incredibly arrogant.