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When do rules for the common good cross the line?

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But Bloomberg cares about my cable guy's arteries. He figures New Yorkers will be better for these rules, which is the thinking behind all decisions that ultimately remove the decision making (i.e., freedom) from our lives. It is one thing to create laws that protect us from another's stupidity, but shouldn't the cable guy have the right to be stupid? Every now and then? I haven't eaten a doughnut in 20 years, but suddenly I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to hit Krispy Kreme.

These are tiny things, not terribly important, sort of like raindrops. Individually, they're not much. In combination, they become something less pleasant. Inevitably, the mind wanders to health care and other government programs that aim to do nice things for good people but in the process eliminate the options of being self-directing individuals.

This is fundamentally where Democrats and Republicans face off. At what point is the common good bad for people?

Many so-called Everyday Americans who live in the oft-maligned red states essentially are people who live in more-open spaces and, therefore, see little need or benefit for government management of their lives. The frontier may be nearly gone, but the person who prefers wider horizons will have little use for bureaucrats bearing the latest government how-to (or how-not-to) document.

Those who have opted to live in densely populated blue areas need third-party authorities to maintain order and figure they'll trade a little freedom for the convenience and cultural riches of city life.

These are completely different orientations toward life in general and the role of government specifically, and I'm not sure the two can be reconciled. City dwellers will never understand the folks who prefer the company of trees, and country folk will always resent the imperious presumptions of urbanites who think they know best.

But when the lights go out, I'm gonna light that dadgum candle.

kathleenparker@washpost.com


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