Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My hair cut

I have had the same barber for 20 years now. That's longer than my first marriage and still ahead of my second marriage. He's an affable guy, and we talk about lots of things: our families, trips, sports, the nature of hair, but our conversations regularly visit politics. He's firmly moderate. I never really pull out the stops like I do online or with wiseguys, so our political chats are good-natured and agreeable even as I claim to be farther to the left of anyone in the shop.

Today he was telling me about a bad boat accident in Tampa several years ago involving a major bridge that killed several people. He explained that since then whenever large commercial boats pass under the bridge they must have one particular individual, a man assigned by the federal government, on board to make sure they navigate the channel under the bridge safely. No boat can pass without him. My barber was amazed at this man's power.

I replied, "The Libertarians would not like that at all."

He looked at me quizzically. "What's a Libertarian?"

I said, "They're those people who believe that anything that the government does (sometimes with the exception of military defense) is bad. They believe that we should cut back government programs and depend on the 'free market,' which they say can take care of everything. They hate government regulations, so I'm pretty sure they would hate the idea of one g-man overseeing the navigation process."

He shook his head. "Oh, yeah. Those guys. That's just crazy. I have to tell you, I used to work in an ambulance company, and it would be total chaos if the government didn't tightly regulate the paramedics. Go over to the hospital. The medical staff will tell you it is good thing that paramedics have standards they have to follow. No way would they put up with different paramedics following different procedures."

I interrupted him, "So, would it be sort of like 'Mother, Jugs and Speed'"?

He shot back, "Yeah! Can you imagine Bill Cosby bringing in patients to VUMC? Ambulance drivers would be doing just what they needed to do to make money and that would be it. They would be cutting corners and taking risks with other people's lives. Nothing would stop them from selling drugs if they wanted to.

He segued to his current projession: "Even I'm regulated when I cut hair and I don't mind. Someone has to make sure that people are doing the right thing and not taking advantage of others just to make a buck. The free market can't make sure because its purpose is only to help us make the bucks. Who has time to make sure that every business isn't taking them for a ride?  I don't have that kind of time. That's why we elect a government: to do things we aren't able to."

I thought it was interesting that my not-so-liberal barber was able to articulate 2 or 3 activities that would break down into atavistic, avaricious chaos if a progressive government were not around to keep human flaws in check. Whenever I hear Libertarians speak they rarely address specifics, instead attacking the "nanny state" in vague generalities without any reference to the harm human beings can do other human beings outside of wicked government.

My barber is much more politically savvy.

1 comment:

  1. The agency that certifies paramedics, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, is a private organization. Most states rely on this private organization for state certification.