With the constant media blitz of crime, racist cops, transgender harassment, and corporate scandal, you would think America had completely derailed. Inequality has become the popular defining measure of our society. While there is room for improvement on some fronts, America is by almost any measure one of the most tolerant, opportunity-laden and transparent nations on the face earth. You would not believe that if you picked up any major newspaper or turned on the network news, but compared to the racial divisions, class divisions and risk of citizens in other societies, America is exceptional. We have somehow transitioned national interest from maintaining ourselves as the land of the free to focus on a perception that we are the land of the oppressed.
The real tragedy of the media’s fixation on violence, crime, scandal and bigotry is the national reputation in the eyes of young Americans. In Milwaukee in 2008, at 43 years old, Michelle Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School announced, “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country “. Many young American college students echo similar sentiments from the cafeterias of some of the greatest educational institutions in the world. This loathing is not exclusive to Ivy League institutions, and is rampant in our entire education system. It follows them into the workforce, and permeates every segment of our society. Somehow, over the course of the past 50 years, we have lost the conviction that America is the bastion of freedom and the land of opportunity for the modern world.
When the rights of the few, derail the liberty of the many, it is time to consider whether or not “the few” really have cause for separate laws. There are no means by which we can protect every individual’s freedoms in every circumstance with a specific set of regulations that apply to that one person. The law is designed to provide a framework for our judiciary to make judgments about how they should apply. As we codify new laws protecting classes of people, individuals or institutions as worthy of special protection or exemption, regardless of how noble the cause, we segregate that class of people from the rest of society.
Treated differentially under the law is a recipe for enhancing the social exclusions that invariably accompany special treatments. We need to look no farther then hate crime legislation as a prime example. Why is murder treated differently depending on the racial or social opinions of a theoretically free human being? Is murder some more significant, and deserving of special punishment because an ignorant racist committed it? From politicians exempting themselves from the laws they pass to long-term subsidization of business and from the exemption of religious organizations from taxes to the special protection of individual fetishes; we can find numerous laws on the books that apply only to a small subset of the American population.
In protecting a business, we make it less subject to competition and subsequently less efficient over time. This inefficiency invariably results in underutilized resources and waste. Charles Koch and I do not agree on many social issues but his take on corporate welfare is dead on. Corporate welfare is eroding American competitiveness as surely as long-term welfare is eroding the competitiveness of the individuals receiving it. When we exempt institutions from paying taxes, we burden other productive enterprises with making up the difference, which removes resources that productive enterprises could use to create jobs and opportunity.
When we protect even the most helpless class of mentally competent, adult citizen, we do the same to our society. When we look at affirmative action, we see an entire class of American being told that since they cannot compete, they will be given an opportunity they don’t deserve. That is absolute corrosive to that individuals well being – because the reality is they can compete if we provide the opportunity to do so. Further, we deny that same seat to a potentially better-qualified candidate because they do not fall with the protected class. That is pretty far from equal treatment under the law.
Lately, we seem to be applying special circumstances to smaller and smaller subsets of the population. A high school boy who has decided to dress like a female and use the women’s bathroom is now the national rallying cry for transgender “equal rights” in Hillsboro. Why should the biological females have to share a bathroom with a biological male when our social norms dictate otherwise? If we agree that social norm is unfair, and this particular transgender boy’s request is reasonable, then the correct response is to allow the entire population of high school age children to choose to shower in a locker room of their choice rather then one associated with their biological identity.
If a restriction or subsidy does not make sense for the whole, then we need to take a thoughtful and serious look at the long-term impact on the class of people or organizations that we are segregating. The impact of ever expanding protected classes on the competitiveness of our future generation is catastrophic. Our society needs to convince the future generation of Americans that they have the confidence, strength and skills to look not to government and legislature for protection, but to look to themselves to create the world they want to live in. With every protected class, every restriction, every exempt organization, and every handout, we are chipping away at the ingenuity, creativity and work ethic that made this nation exceptional.
Our founding fathers were brilliant, but, in this case, they got it wrong: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not unalienable rights. Those concepts are incomprehensible to much of the world’s population who are simply content to avoid conflict and do only what they are told. That incomprehensibility applies to many of our citizens right here in America. What makes America Great is that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are privileges that each American has access to, and the opportunity to put to use every day of his or her life. Segregation, special treatment and exemptions are eroding the value of those ideals.
I see very little empowerment in the candidates of either party vying for leadership in the upcoming election cycle. We opportunity by empowering the American people, not by restricting and segregating us.