Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tommy Thompson's Debate "Heresy" - Pop-Culture Orthodoxy Vs. Clear Principles

I like Tommy Thompson better than the media-anointed “top tier” Republican presidential candidates, and better than two or three of the rest. He has shown the ability to innovate and propose unique solutions, both as Wisconsin governor and as Secretary Of Health And Human Services. I suppose we should cut the man some slack, being just a politician and grasping for media air. But, I was unimpressed to learn of his support for stem cell research. It tells me that he has swallowed the buzz that embryonic stem cell research poses a unique potential for curing diseases. I would oppose it, regardless, refusing to make human life our tool. But the buzz isn’t true, besides. Other stem cells show superior promise and have demonstrated it, while embryonic stem cells have demonstrated nothing but harm.

I think all of the clatter is a ruse to establish a justification and precedent for disrespecting the sanctity of human life. Anyway, looking to read more of Thompson’s position on stem cell research, I was reminded of his recent debate controversy and aggravated by both the knee-jerk reaction and Thompson’s unimpressive scramble to correct himself for pop-culture sensibilities.

Thompson was asked in the New Hampshire debate by Wolf Blitzer about a business owner firing someone because that person was gay. Thompson’s response was the common-sense one: that that should be left to business owners. The pop-culture reflex was predictable. Comments on the Internet spoke of Thompson saying discrimination was “A-OK,” and having made an “anti-gay” statement. One spoke of a collective gasp at Thompson’s heresy. In correcting himself, Thompson blamed illness and hearing difficulty. Of course, we can’t say that that’s impossible. But, one is left with a similar scent of conformity to pop-culture orthodoxy which in this case would like to assume that government should not allow employers to set the terms of employment in their own business.

In the first place, why would people want to work somewhere where the owner dislikes people like them? Does that sound like the job you want? More likely than for securing or retaining a job, is the search for an opportunity to sue. But anyway, the implication of what Thompson said was neither that discrimination is fine or that Thompson is anti-gay. How about pro-freedom? People who want to administer a business should start their own!

It shows how distorted our thinking is that it is not obvious that an employer should determine the terms of employment at his/her own business. Whatever you and I judge to be right, it is none of our business! For myself, if I thought a gay person promised to be the best help for my business, I’d want to have that employee, though I would ask them not to make my business a display case for his/her lifestyle and keep it out of the faces of visitors and other employees. That wouldn’t be pro-gay or anti-gay. That would just be good business. But, as much as I have been informed of the practice, I would without being ugly, honestly inform that person of my belief that it is a restricting and destructive one. But, we might think it better that the issue was never raised.

In any case, the idea that government should direct the conduct of private commerce is a residue of an anachronistic and discredited presumption that government should direct social commerce. And, even more irritating than that presumption itself, is the sense that all must take the knee before such ignorant ideas. Doing so is one quick way to negatively impress me.

Larry Perrault




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