J. Peder Zane’s June 3 column “The nuances of rights, religion” was sensible. However, I disagree with his implication when he said, “No ideal is more Reaganesque than this: Americans must be able to pursue life, liberty and happiness as they define it with minimal government control.”
Republicans do not own this ideal exclusively. When liberals seek governmental solutions to problems, typically the problems arise from prior governmental controls, sponsored behavior or neglect.
Racial discrimination survived because of laws (e.g., separate but equal) and neglect of laws (e.g., vigilante lynchings). Physical property has enjoyed more legal protection than human labor (e.g., “right to work” laws, employees treated as contractors) and people’s health (e.g., unsafe working conditions, waste lagoons).
Women’s right to pursue life, liberty and happiness has been proscribed by laws, which often are proxies for some people’s religious strictures (e.g., restrictions on owning property, voting, using birth control, ending pregnancies).
Conservatives arguing reflexively against governmental controls too often turn a blind eye to harsh laws they have endorsed. None of us wants government to run our lives. So let’s be honest and debate realities, not abstractions, not cliches, not slogans.