Sentient beings may find the claim that conservatives have no interest in using the force of government to shape people’s behavior a bit amusing in light of their positions on the war on drugs, reproductive rights and a million other social issues. But just as Glenn Beck suddenly discovered the evils of centralized power when a black man became president, Republicans on the House Science & Technology Committee are claim to have rediscovered their long-dormant opposition to the government telling people what to do now that it’s the Democrats doing the telling.
As a GOP press release informs us, a bill being considered by the science committee this week would establish a “social and behavioral sciences research program” aimed at coming up with ways to encourage Americans to use less energy. While a seemingly benign if perhaps questionable use of taxpayer money, “Many Republicans at the markup fundamentally disagreed with the notion that changing Americans’ behavior is a role that the federal government should play.” Hold your laughter.
According to the press release, Florida Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart engaged in a little philosophical musing at the hearing on “the nature of the relationship between Government and the people”.
“Do we need the Federal Government to start dictating every aspect of our lives? Is there no limit to what the role of the Federal Government should be; even going to the extreme of trying to change our behavior, because the American people are not capable of turning on a light and turning it off?”
While I for one appreciate his sticking up for my god-given right to keep my incandescent bulbs on 24/7 and heat my house with open-air kitten fires, I find it odd Diaz-Balart’s fear of the federal government was nowhere to be found when he voted to pass the Military Commissions Act — granting the president the unilateral authority to strip those accused of terrorism of any right to protest their imprisonment — to ban flag burning, to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and to prohibit online gambling. Diaz-Balart has also vigorously opposed any effort to allow Americans to trade with the residents of Cuba or to travel to that country. And last I checked, he does not believe consenting adults should be allowed to imbibe in substances he disapproves of.
In other words, while he opposes the oppressive hand of big government encouraging Americans to reduce their energy use, Diaz-Balart has no problem with said government spying on its citizens without a warrant, instructing them on the morally correct ways to spend their money and free time, and dictating to them where they can and cannot travel (almost like a communist government).
Further, the idea that Republicans don’t believe in using the force of government to change Americans’ behavior is hilariously unfounded — witness the GOP’s (and the Democrats’) penchant for using the tax code as a vehicle for bribing people into choosing one particular, socially acceptable form of relationship — heterosexual marriage — and for economically discriminating against those who choose one of the scores of possible alternatives.
Hypocrisy may know no bounds in politics, but politicians could stand to be a little less brazen about it.