Is California now an idiocracy?
SACRAMENTO – While trying to get the assembled, clueless staff at a phone store to tell me how to turn off an annoying e-mail alarm on my new smart phone, I was finally greeted by a manager, who declared that the phone is supposed to work that way. “So when one turns the switch to off, it’s supposed to still be on?” I asked. “Yes,” he said, noting that he can’t turn the noise off on his phone, either.
It was then I decided that, for all intents and purposes, our society has morphed into the one depicted in the 2006 comedy, “Idiocracy.” In the movie, an American slacker is transported 500 years into the future, where Americans have become complete idiots, and he is a brain trust by comparison.
My phone-store experience was the final straw after a long period observing state politics and the current election campaigns. California is about to choose its next governor based on which particular issue is more pressing:
Issue One: Should Jerry Brown’s aide (or wife) have called Meg Whitman a whore after a telephone call in which the staff forgot to hang up the phone? They used the slur after Whitman – the supposed foe of union enrichment schemes – agreed to exempt police from pension reform and then miraculously received the endorsement of a major cop union. Brown knows about selling out to unions, but the buzz centers on the w-word and Brown’s apparent insensitivity to women.
Issue Two: Should Whitman have fired her immigrant housekeeper after it became clear the woman was here illegally? I don’t get the issue. Wouldn’t it have been a bigger problem had Whitman not fired Nicky Diaz Santillan after learning about her immigration status? Diaz said, “She treated me as if I was not a human being,” which is believable, given Whitman’s personality deficit. And Diaz claims Whitman knew about her status and owes her back wages. This is a stretch and irrelevant to the continued health of our state.
Only an idiocracy would be fixated on these nonissues as we head into the final weeks of an important campaign. And it isn’t much better when it comes to the other races.
This should be a big Republican year, given that people are sick of the incompetence of a Democratic administration and Congress that understand nothing about the free market and are endlessly trying to shift power to the public sector. This gang was elected after people tired of a Republican administration and Congress that did much the same thing.
One of the few congressional Republicans in trouble is Dan Lungren, a former California attorney general who represents a district near Sacramento. In 1995, Rep. Henry Hyde criticized his friend Lungren because Lungren authored the re-enactment of civil forfeiture laws that make it easy for law enforcement to take someone’s property on the slightest pretext of criminality. He quotes Lungren bragging that forfeiture is the “lifeblood of law enforcement.” Forfeiture is a huge liberty and property-rights issue, or should be.
Yet, Lungren’s opponent, Ami Bera, is running a boilerplate left-wing campaign that never mentions this. And Bera refused my requests to talk. “He would love to talk about those issues,” his communications director said. “But we have a psychotic schedule.” Yeah, right. This is typical.
An activist group (Riverside Grassroots Redevelopment Abolitionists) that opposes abuses of government’s power to seize private property through eminent domain, sent questionnaires to statewide candidates, asking whether they agree with the state Senate motto that “the highest duty of our representatives is to protect the liberty of the people.” The group also asked whether the candidates support using eminent domain for commercial development, not just public projects. While the third-party candidates mostly answered the questions, none of the major-party candidates responded.
Why should any of these big-shot candidates respond to silly questions from some no-account group? What kind of kooks care about liberty issues and antiquated verbiage? There’s so much important stuff to do, from expanding education spending to cracking down on truancy and medical marijuana clinics?
I was talking to a Republican Assemblyman in the Capitol – his name is irrelevant because this can apply to almost any of them. He talks about the Constitution and freedom, but was adamantly against Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana. His argument: Legalization will make its use more prevalent, and it will add to the taxpayer burden to support weed-addled welfare bums. Here we see that the conservative argument is, at its core, no different than the liberal movement.
Liberals say government should mandate motorcycle and skiing helmets and other Nanny State safety devices. The taxpayers are paying the bills, they argue, so government should set the rules. Both sides are for freedom when it comes to behaviors they like and against it with regard to behaviors they don’t like. Both camps believe that government can uplift us and change our behaviors for the greater good. But all government rules are ultimately about imposing a set of beliefs on others, by force.
Which is why we end up with absurd scenes such as the one at Rawsome Foods, a health food store in Venice. As reported in July by the Los Angeles Times (and referred to this month by comedian Stephen Colbert), “With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts.” The four officers drew their guns and then found what they were looking for in the fridge: “unmarked jugs of raw milk.”
Any society where armed officers raid a store because the government doesn’t allow the sale of unprocessed milk is not really a free society. And when candidates would rather talk about nannies and who’s a whore than basic freedom issues, then that society is on the verge of becoming an idiocracy. Or maybe it has already become one and we’re just too stupid to have noticed.