When It's None of the Government's Business

Bill Murchison

4/17/2012 12:01:00 AM - Bill Murchison
Most presidential-year debates turn out to be worthless, assuming they turn out to be actual debates. For which dreary datum there's an unbeatable reason. Presidential-year bombast isn't about policy, it's about positioning -- finding the most flattering camera angle from which to pose for the voters.

On this account, we need not pay much attention to the non-issue that has arisen out of nowhere: Obama spokeswoman's claim that Ann Romney never worked "a day in her life." The Romney campaign's riposte was that in fact Ann Romney raised five children. Doesn't that count in an age when the government does everything but breed our children? On from there to the think pieces about "Women in the Workplace and Their Tribulations."

The issue of a woman's duty or privilege, however she sees it, is the kind of issue that, as I say, involves political primping. Concerning what a woman could/would/should do to fulfill her destiny, the federal government has nothing legitimate to say, except that in 2012 the government feels entitled to say something about everything, especially things it knows nothing about and has no idea how to address.

The mark of a burly, grabby, overbearing government is the conceit that a spokeswoman for the president thinks she has title to insult the president's Republican opponent through ridiculing the life choices of the wife of said Republican opponent. Anything to win -- it's called giving you a new glimpse of the stakes in such an election.

The small, sometimes near-invisible ills pertaining to the human condition reside largely outside the purview of government. I should have said, properly reside outside the purview of government. Any government with far too little money coming in to pay for the promises it's made over the years doesn't need to be telling people about it; nor a government involved in a long-running overseas war; nor one faced with an unemployment rate of over 8 percent.

The Obama administration's idea about women isn't that their families would benefit from more efficient performance of government's constitutional concerns for public prosperity and safety. The administration's idea is that women ought to vote for Barack Obama. Hence, the failed and embarrassing attempt to ridicule Ann Romney. Better to ridicule her, perhaps, than to explain why the economy, after 39 months of Barack Obama's attentions, is firing on six out of eight cylinders.

How did it get to this point anyway, that some (likely many) in power think the definition of sex roles is the government's business? It got to this point because it seemed like good politics. The relationship between men and women -- which there was once nothing more personal and less political -- got redefined through laws and regulations meant to advance women's civil rights -- and win their votes. The problem with putting human relationships on the same level as highway building, war fighting, and industry regulating is obvious. Government might know how to fight a war, but what does it know about the comparative values of the workplace and the home, viewed as operational bases for women?

Raising children is easier, less valuable work than closing a business deal? Stability in marriage matters less, as a matter of public policy, than overseeing transportation safety? You could kind of get that impression these days.

A better impression to get would be that many of the things the federal government makes its business on aren't the federal government's business at all, except insofar as government has a duty to do none of us any harm.

Could we leave Ann Romney to get on with the business she clearly thinks more important than deciding the life choices Americans should make and presumably, the pay and perks they deserve for making them? A minor flap all this may be -- this business of how hard the lady has or hasn't worked. It gives us, all the same, an unsettling look into the souls of those who always, in every temple of power, seem to think they know what's best for us.