Those people who are most opposed to freedom are often those who are most obsessed with endlessly discussing borderline cases. In their lame attempts to "prove" that liberty and individual rights are impractical or impossible, they harp on rare occurrences or ambiguous situations and then leap the chasm of qualifications or uncertainty you might offer and proclaim, "Aha! See! Your vaunted moral code can't deal with the real world!"
(And, yes, the use of both "individual" and "rights" is redundant...but necessarily so in today's corrupt intellectual and political culture.)
These folks are so enamored of statism and collectivism -- or so fearful of freedom and personal responsibility (another technical redundancy) -- that they cling desperately to the unusual and the unique so they can obstinately refuse to recognize the obvious cases where liberty should exist.
Ayn Rand dealt with some aspects of this curious mental deficiency of fixating on the unlikely in her essay, "The Ethics of Emergencies," in The Virtue of Selfishness. As she points out there, the major (proper) goal of philosophy and morality is to provide people with a guideline for living their lives. But rather than accept and follow actually useful information, the Borderliners scramble to evade the truly practical so they can continue their eternal quest of "seeking" but never finding answers. For them, philosophy and morality are merely parlor games designed to occupy their minds and to distract from the messy details of living their lives.
While Rand focused on the deleterious effects of altruism in deciding how to deal with emergencies, e.g., should you swim out to save a drowning stranger or race into a burning building to rescue someone you don't know, the same basic mindset is evident in many other areas.
For example, when arguing the right to self-defense, pro-self-defense folks will point out that this natural right recognized and guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution is absolute, i.e., "shall not be infringed" by the State. The antigun nuts grin gleefully at this imminently reasonable and accurate statement and will always and immediately ask whether individuals should be "allowed" to own machine guns, bazookas, tanks, jet fighters, or nuclear weapons. Not for an instant will the statists accept either the fundamental fact of our right to defend our lives and property from violent criminals or the fact that a simple handgun -- at the very least -- is a proper tool for implementing that right.
If you favor privately run and financed education, the collectivists will ask what will happen to those children whose parents refuse to send them to school...and ignore the fact that nearly all parents would do everything they could to see their children learn the basics of life, just as nearly all parents desire to feed and clothe and shelter their offspring.
If you favor keeping your hard-earned money and not letting it be stolen and used for State-run welfare, the statists will ask what will happen to the crippled, er, disabled who can't work or the retarded or the mentally ill or the homeless...and ignore the reality of charity or family or personal responsibility for most of one's circumstances.
If you favor open availability of all drugs to adults without restrictions, the statists will say that drug addiction will increase and more people will die...and ignore the fact that only a handful of drug or alcohol users become addicted and that there is a substantive difference between the use and the abuse of mind-altering substances.
If you favor totally private and individual health insurance coverage, the collectivists will ask if you want those people who cannot afford insurance to die...and ignore the fact that many of those without insurance choose to do without and that the current high costs of insurance are due to the very kinds of interventions the collectivists are advocating.
If you favor individuals saving for their own retirement, the statists will ask what you'll do with those who fail to save...and ignore the fact that most people survived fine before the introduction of Social Security and could do so again if their money wasn't seized before they even received their checks.
If you favor parents deciding for themselves whether their children should wear helmets or use seat belts, the collectivists will say that we can't risk the life of a single child...and ignore the fact that very few children die simply because they were or were not wearing seat belts in cars or planes, and that mandates may result in more danger to the youngsters in question.
Constantly appealing to rare circumstances that happen infrequently and, if they do occur, affect only a miniscule percentage of people may serve to confuse the philosophically unsophisticated, but it accomplishes nothing morally useful. The anti-freedom zealots would rather place restrictions on everyone because of what might -- or might not -- happen to or be done by a tiny fraction of people.
Focus on the thousands who are murdered by handguns and call for licensing, registration, or prohibition...and ignore the millions whose lives are saved by showing or using firearms.
Focus on the relatively rare instances of improper use of chemicals and ban such useful and safe compounds as DDT and freon and common insecticides...and ignore the millions saved from malaria and the billions who benefit from plastics, household chemicals, and other man-made products.
Focus on the scattered instances of ill-considered clear cutting and sequester more millions of acres in national forests and parks...and ignore the radical increases in trees resulting from privately owned forests harvested by private companies.
Focus on unsightly roadside trash littered by a few inconsiderate drivers and mandate recycling and bottle deposits...and ignore the responsible majority who must deal with the unprofitable burdens of the eco-fascists.
Focus on the isolated incidents of school shootings and implement inane "zero tolerance" policies and declare schools "gun-free" zones...and ignore the countless millions of students who are free of violence and would benefit if teachers and others carried weapons at school.
The Borderliners believe the scarce, the seldom, the sporadic, the scattered are the essence of existence. Statistical flukes must direct and dictate all of our actions no matter how counterproductive or destructive such a strategy might be.
I can imagine these people confronted with a simple gedanken experiment. Ask them if it would be possible to determine whether a person were in Iowa or Illinois. They would furrow their brows in apparent thought then brighten when they realized that the Mississippi River formed the boundary between these two Midwestern states.
They would nod sagely and say, "If you were sitting in a boat in the middle of the river, you would be unable to tell if you were in Iowa or Illinois. It is impossible to establish a constant line upon the top of the water to demarcate one state's territory from the other's. Even if you had a GPS reader, the margin of error inherent in the measurement would render it futile to declare with certainty that you were either in Iowa or Illinois."
It would never occur to these self-delusional people that if you stood on the western shore of the Mississippi River, you would definitely be in Iowa; if on the eastern shore, Illinois. Nor would it penetrate their befogged awareness that in certain places there are solid bridges spanning the river from one state to the other; that it would be possible -- there at least -- to measure and draw a line across the roadbed to establish a line where you could straddle the border with precision.
It is this kind of mind-boggling obtuseness that the Borderliners bring to discussions of freedom and morality and politics. If in the future you should ever find yourself confronted with such self-defeating attitudes, I suggest you tell your opponent that he can take a flying leap from that bridge that he finds so impossible to imagine.
You both would be better off if he did: you, because you would be freed of his flummery, and he because a dunk in cold water might actually convince him as he swims for one shore or the other that the world is not composed solely of fuzzy borderlines.\