The most dangerous ideas in contemporary political discourse are easily identified. While they often take hours to explain they are usually introduced in a conversation beginning with these four words: “I think we should.” If you do not yet know what I am talking about then a brief example is warranted. The following comes from a recent conversation I had with a self-identified liberal:
“I think we should provide all of our citizens with national health care. I think we should continue to provide financial security for the elderly. I think we should also have national day care. And I think we should provide a free college education for every American.”
What I have come to refer to as “I think we should” morality is not a completely bad thing. But it is, quite literally, a half-bad thing, which means it is also a half-good thing. The good half of “I think we should” morality is the “I think” part. Let me illustrate with a few examples:
* When a person says, “I think providing citizens with health care is a good idea,” there really isn’t anything wrong. The person can always find someone who needs health care. And he can take the needy to the doctor if he so desires. In fact, he can take as many of them as he wants as long as they are willing to go.
* When a person says, “I think providing financial security for the elderly is a good idea,” there is no problem. The person who says this undoubtedly knows someone who is elderly. And he is certainly free to take out his check book and write a check to that elderly person. In fact, he can take care of as many elderly people as he wants as long as they are willing to accept his generosity.
* When a person says, “I think providing day care is a good idea,” there is no problem at all. The person who says this undoubtedly knows someone who has children. And he is certainly free to take care of his friends’ children whenever he perceives that they have other responsibilities to which they must attend. In fact, he can take care of as many of his friends’ children as he wants as long as their parents are willing and have trust in his supervision.
* When a person says, “I think providing free college education is a good idea,” there is no problem at all. The person who says this undoubtedly knows someone without a college degree. And he is certainly free to send that person to college if he would like. In fact, he can spend his life savings sending other people’s kids to college if he has none of his own. I know of a woman in Mississippi who did just that. She lived modestly - largely because she scrubbed toilets for a living. But she found a way to give.
The problem with all of these wonderful sentiments is not that they begin with “I think.” The initial thought is not the problem. It is that the initial thought is followed by the two words “We should.” This is problematic because the word “we,” in reality, means “you.” In other words, the proponent of “I think we should” morality is less interested in doing charitable things than he is in forcing you to perform his charitable acts for him. And so it is appropriate to ask these two questions of anyone any time he begins to lecture you with a sentence beginning with the four words “I think we should”:
1. What are you presently doing to alleviate the problem?
2. Why should the government force others to do things you are unwilling to do yourself? It is unlikely that the person will be able to identify anything he is doing to alleviate the problem. And his answer to the other question will be that no one will do these things unless compelled by the government. In other words, he will have admitted that, in his view, government, not God, must redeem man and save him from his sins of omission.
Confronting “I think we should” morality is a good way of getting liberals to admit that they favor legislating morality. It is also a good way of getting them to admit that there is a crack in the “Wall of Separation” between Church and State. And it is just big enough to let the secular humanist creep through.