Here’s Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team being, on balance, pretty cool after having made a gay joke in a public forum:

Even if I don’t care about you, it doesn’t mean I’m OK with making you uncomfortable or upset with a comment that references anything  that is out of your control. That is not the person I want to be. I’m happy to pick on you if you root for the wrong team. I’m happy to pick on you if you like doing The Wave. I’m happy to pick on you for a lot of reasons. Your sexuality should never be one of those reasons.

OK, so Cuban wasn’t cool enough to avoid saying something a bit stupid and hurtful in the first place, but he’s at least sufficiently cool that he’s offered a fairly straight mea culpa. Usually, a celebrity who’s made a fool of themselves in public will respond via an infuriating non-apology apology like “I’m Sorry If You Were Offended”, or worse still “I’m Not Homophobic So Obviously I Didn’t Mean It That Way And Anyone Who’s Hurt Or Offended By What I Said Is Oversensitive Or Just Looking For Trouble. Anyway Some Of My Best Friends Are Gay”.

That second sentiment is a nasty little bear-trap I’m uncomfortably familiar with. As a relatively well-off straight white bloke I’ve gotten used to the world revolving around me. The fact that society is largely set up to help me get ahead and so much of our media is aimed straight at me has unfortunately but naturally led to a childish sense of entitlement. I’m so used to everything conforming itself to suit my perspective – films with white male leads and little or no female presence of any note, games that treat women and minorities as set-dressing – that on those occasions I’m called out on my boy-cow-leavings it’s a shock to the system and my natural reaction is to start spluttering like a bulldog chewing a nettle. It’s hard to hear that you’ve been thoughtless and the immediate knee-jerk response is denial and defensiveness. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. All we can do is try to guard against them, to listen when it’s pointed out how we’ve screwed up, to learn from that and to honestly try and make amends. When someone as prominent as Mark Cuban seemingly gets this, it genuinely brightens up my whole entire day.

But this is veering dangerously close to “Aren’t Affluent White Guys Who Are Aware Of Their Privilege The Real Heroes?”, and isn’t the real reason that Cuban’s post interested me. Here’s what I actually wanted to talk about:

I’m the last to be politically correct and the last thing I am trying to be here is politically correct. I honestly don’t give a [STUFF] what you think about me. But I think being the person I want to be includes not blurting out throw away jokes about sexuality, race, ethnicity, size,  disability or other things people  have no say in about themselves.

Now.

Some time ago I came to the conclusion that anybody who uses “politically correct” as a pejorative is someone whose opinion I’m happy to ignore. The majority of people who declare their contempt for political correctness are actually saying that they like using the n-word (and the b-word, and the three-letter f-word) more than they care that they’re making life a little bit more unpleasant for people who already have a pretty bad time of it. Worse than that, actually – they’re taking the act of being a lazy, selfish boor and trying to present it as heroic defiance of censorship and orthodoxy. They’re cravenly recasting themselves as the oppressed rather than the oppressors, seemingly unaware that there’s nothing noble about being a bully.

To make it clear – being a blinkered feckless bottom-hole isn’t a crime. And despite some people’s deeply-cherished persecution complex, nobody’s trying to make it one. Nobody’s censoring anybody. Nobody’s saying that you can’t throw those ugly, hateful words around as much as you like. Some people are just saying that on balance most of the time you possibly shouldn’t. That you should be careful how you express yourself. That the casual use of gendered, homophobic or racist epithets contributes in at least some degree to a society that makes life unfairly difficult to anyone whose face doesn’t fit the straight white male “norm”.

(Here you go, try this (language really really NSFW). And yes, I know that’s probably not the actual origin of the f-word. Way to miss the point, Obtuse Rhetorical Device Reader!)

Wow. OK. Believe it or not, that isn’t really what I wanted to talk about either. So here’s the thing that struck me about that quote by Mark Cuban:  he tries not to “[blurt] out throw away jokes about sexuality, race, ethnicity, size,  disability or other things people  have no say in about themselves.” But he doesn’t regard himself as PC, and though he totally doesn’t care what you think of him he wants to you to be absolutely, completely clear  that you really, really shouldn’t think that he’s politically correct. The thing is, as I’ve now rattled on about at tedious length,  in as much as ”political correctness” means anything it means knowing better than to blurt out jokes and jibes about things people have no say in about themselves. That’s more or less ALL it means.

If the majority of people who denigrate political correctness do so to make themselves feel better about callous disregard for their fellow human beings, the minority denigrate the term so that it won’t be applied to them. Which is understandable, but still somewhat sad. For decades now a certain section of the media has been on a weird crusade to paint political correctness (and, not coincidentally, feminism) as sinister leftie killjoy groupthink. There have been dark hints about an armies of faceless bureaucrats making rules about what people can and can’t say, do-gooding Men In Grey who have banned Christmas and stopped children singing Baa Baa Black Sheep and stopped the BBC using the BC/AD suffixes when they talk about dates. The fact that all these stories range somewhere between gross distortion of the truth and bare-faced lies matters not even slightly – no smoke without fire, am I right? People who find the idea of moderating one’s language to prevent offence unacceptable are quick to throw out the idea of PC being an Orwellian conspiracy to control thought through controlling language. Somehow they manage to hold this opinion while simultaneously giving no credence to the idea that their choice to use inflammatory and denigrating words might be helping to shape attitudes and perpetuate inequality and prejudice.

“Political correctness” is to be honest a pretty terrible name, imprecise and vaguely sinister-sounding even before the Daily Mail and its ilk made the term so loaded and toxic that even people who practice it are desperate not to be labelled as such. The thing is, being aware of your privilege and not using it to pile on to the less well-off isn’t and shouldn’t be a left verses right thing. It’s a consideration verses cruelty thing. It’s a respect verses contempt thing. It’s a part of the solution rather than part of the problem thing.

So if “political correctness” is irredeemable let’s find a new, more descriptive, more inclusive label that everyone can get behind without recourse to equivocation and self-flagellation. My suggestion? “Basic human decency”. Who’s with me? If nothing else, it would at least bring the subtext to the surface:

“He’s lewd, rude, and definitely lacking basic human decency!”

“Basic human decency is killing free speech!”

“It’s basic human decency gone mad!”

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15 comments until now

  1. ThirteenthLetter @ 2012-03-21 05:17

    See, thing is, these calls for “basic human decency” never seem to apply to people on the same political side as those calling for decency. No problem with Bill Maher calling Sarah Palin a c*nt, or innumerable lefties attacking her children. No problem calling Republicans “terrorists” or “hostage-takers” because they want to balance the budget, or insisting that someone who doesn’t want to pay for someone else’s contraception is on a “jihad” (and by the way, isn’t that Islamophobic? Not if you’re on the left, I guess!)

    Explicitly condemn these things. Show you’re not one of the “no enemies on the left” types as you appeal for decency and civility. Then we’ll talk. Until then, I’m afraid you and your compatriots have quite thoroughly burned those bridges over the last ten years.

  2. Bill Maher throwing the nastiest possible gendered insult around? Not cool. Explicitly condemned, if you’re really going to insist on the most pompous and self-important language possible. Same goes for that grandstanding idiot Michael Moore calling Rush Limbaugh a w****, as it goes. You can call Limbaugh hateful, you can call him a misogynist, you can call him a hypocrit – and you really should call him all those things – so with all those options what sort of dope resorts to cheap woman-hating epithets? Dudes. You are NOT HELPING.

    “Terrorists” and “hostage takers” just sounds like political hyperbole to me, in the same stripe as anyone to the left of Atilla The Hun being described as a communist hippy tree-hugger. It’s not helpful, everyone involved should probably grow the hell up and knock it the hell off but it’s not actually what I’m talking about here.

    And yes, describing something as a “jihad” is racist on its face. However, if you’re alluding to what I presume you’re alluding to then you’re aware that nobody is TRYING to get you to “pay for someone else’s contraception”, right? They’re trying to make sure that insurance companies – not the government – continue to provide contraception to people who are paying them for health cover.

    Now.

    That. Being. Said. And at the risk of shattering the beautiful hands-across-the-ocean detante we’ve got going here:

    If you don’t want contraception provided to anyone who can’t otherwise afford it, you’re either ignorant, misogynist or both. If someone is so poor that they need the government to pay for their birth control, they’re also so poor that they’re going to need the government to help bring up the children that would result from not having contraception. If you think that condoms cost the taxpayer more than a baby (which also severely curtails its mother’s ability to work and so reduces the amount of tax she can pay), then I’m afraid that’s ignorance. If you think that withholding birth control stops people having sex, I’m afraid that’s ignorance. If you think unplanned pregnancy serves a woman right for having sex, and that it’s so important to punish them that you’re willing to completely overlook the previous two points then that’s straight misogyny.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. ThirteenthLetter @ 2012-03-21 14:25

    Hey, thanks for the civil discussion. Not a lot of that around on this subject.

    “They’re trying to make sure that insurance companies – not the government – continue to provide contraception to people who are paying them for health cover.”

    That kind of palms a few cards. “Continue” implies that all insurance companies already were providing it, or were promising to do so, and had stopped in violation of their contract. But if that’s the case, well, they’re violating their contracts, and their customers should sue them for it, and that’s all. It doesn’t automatically chain to all the apocalyptic rhetoric that’s been deployed on the subject, or to somehow requiring the ALL insurers provide contraception for any reason whether or not they were already doing so. It’s also worth pointing out that the insurance companies don’t have some stash somewhere they will happily use to pay for all this contraception at no cost to any real person. They’re going to charge their customers for it, including customers who may have religious objections to funding (GIANT NEON FLASHING SIGN: not merely private citizens buying it for themselves) birth control. Nothing is “free”; a cost is being imposed here, and the people upon whom it’s being imposed may have an opinion on the matter.

    That aside, in turn: The point at which most conservatives are going to shake their heads at you and walk away muttering about PC gone mad is the bit where you characterize declining to provide contraception to everyone as misogynist. I’m also opposed to a Viagra mandate; does that make me anti-male? I’m also opposed to an oil change mandate; does that make me anti-automobile drivers? What if I don’t have an opinion on a contraception mandate in general but instead think we should eliminate the whole system of employer-based health insurance, since it’s just an artifact of FDR-era price controls anyway, and have an entirely private system where people choose an insurance plan (or not!) that provides exactly what they want? Am I anti-everyone? By wheeling out an accusation of mindless prejudice, it sounds like you’re effectively trying to put entire realms of political opinion off limits, and that’s what really gets a lot of righties about PC. Or “basic human decency,” if you will.

  4. I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of US healthcare law and practice because we’ve now wandered miles off the subject of my post and frankly I don’t feel qualified to talk about it in any significant depth. There are plenty of places where you can find that discussion, if you’re interested – the comments section here might be a decent starting point.

    If you’d read my comment again, I don’t “characterise declining to provide contraception to everyone as misogynist.” I stated that someone who doesn’t want contraception provided to anyone WHO CAN’T OTHERWISE AFFORD IT is EITHER ignorant OR misogynist. I gave an example of a SPECIFIC objection that I’d characterise as misogynist. It’s perfectly possible to object to the government providing contraception to its very poorest citizens (which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only actual public money that the US currently spends on birth control) without being misogynist. At the risk of repeating myself, it might be ignorance of the plain fact that paying for contraception is cheaper than paying for an abortion and much, much cheaper than supporting a new baby and a mother whose work prospects are now severely compromised. It might be ideological arrogance - “I believe that contraception is wrong and am going to force YOU to live by MY convictions”.

    (Incidentally, isn’t it weird that so many people bang the drum for “religious freedom” without seeming to understand that second word? But I digress.)

    That being said, like it or not contraception is a feminist issue. If you attack birth control, you’re attacking womens’ ability to control their lives, their careers and their bodies. As I’ve now hopefully made clear, it’s possible to do that without misogynist intent. But if you lay down with dogs, you shouldn’t be surprised if people start to think you’ve been itching a lot lately.

  5. ThirteenthLetter @ 2012-03-24 17:41

    I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of US healthcare law and practice because we’ve now wandered miles off the subject of my post and frankly I don’t feel qualified to talk about it in any significant depth.

    Sorry, it’s not that simple, because you are in fact wading right into a complicated issue of US healthcare law. You can’t just wave your hands and say “look, just accept that I’m right and let’s move on.”

    As for your correction — okay, fair enough, you aren’t saying that I’m necessarily evil. Perhaps I’m either stupid or evil. Frankly that doesn’t seem like much of a step up. I may disagree with your position on this issue but I’m willing to spot you the assumption that you didn’t come to it because you’re stupid or evil, despite the huge number of jackasses and ignoramuses out there who happen to share your position; please do others the same courtesy. The fact that you are apparently disinclined to ascribe good faith to those you disagree with is exactly what conservatives complain with when they mutter about PC gone mad: it ends up seeming like less politeness, and more an effort to shut down debate.

  6. I’m really not talking about US healthcare law. Neither have I asked you to “accept what I’m saying as right and just move on.” Oh, and I’ve not described you or anybody else as either “stupid” or “evil”. For someone who’s keen on open debate you seem really eager to avoid engaging with what I’m actually saying.

    Let’s recap. My initial post was about reappropriating the term for avoiding casual use of gendered insults or hate-speech. You have pretty much proved my point that using the phrase “political correctness” for this practice is impossible because the conservative media has successfully redefined that phrase as a blanket term for “anything someone on the left does that we don’t agree with”. What we’re now discussing has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness, despite your repeated and puzzling attempts to conflate the two subjects. Do you have any issue with my original assertion that it’s probably a good idea to self-moderate our choice of language so as not to reinforce underlying equalities in our society?

    Now. To repeat, I’m not going to get into the details of what US health insurance companies are paying for, should be paying for, are being asked to pay for or want to stop paying for. Not because I’m asking you to just accept my opinion on the subject but rather because I don’t have enough knowledge of the intricacies of that situation to make that conversation meaningful. Instead, I’m trying to talk about what the US government (and therefore the US taxpayer) directly funds – partly because that’s what you were initially objecting to, partly because that’s closer to the situation in the UK and so I’m more confident of my ability to discuss it without wasting your time or mine.

    So. I am coming to this discussion from the point of view that there are things a government ought to pay for. I also believe that preventing the starvation of its very poorest citizens is one of those things. If we’re at least in agreement over those two things, we can talk.

    And on the whole, I think I’m OK with the jackasses and ignoramuses who agree with me if my other option is the jackasses and ignoramuses who agree with you.

  7. Oh, and while we’re at it – do you agree that contraception ought to be available free of charge to anybody who doesn’t have the means to obtain it themselves, even if you disagree that it ought to be the government who provide it? If not, why not?

  8. ThirteenthLetter @ 2012-03-25 17:52

    Do you have any issue with my original assertion that it’s probably a good idea to self-moderate our choice of language so as not to reinforce underlying equalities in our society?

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that sentence, but if you’re implying that, say, past inequities in society mean that people holding certain not-inherently-inequitable political opinions should moderate those opinions, I can’t agree with that. The opinion of whether or not the government should fund contraception — or even whether or not contraception is moral! — has nothing inherently to do with the fact that women didn’t have the vote a hundred years ago, or suffered employment discrimination fifty years ago.

    I would agree that people should strive to be polite and respectful in political debate whether or not it has some tenuous connection to past inequities, and that certainly would include things like, say, not using various crude and offensive terms to describe one’s opponents. But to reiterate my original point, the fact that the left usually gets a free pass here means the right is going to be extremely reluctant to cooperate in this civility project.

    So. I am coming to this discussion from the point of view that there are things a government ought to pay for. I also believe that preventing the starvation of its very poorest citizens is one of those things. If we’re at least in agreement over those two things, we can talk.

    Sure, I can agree with that. For that matter, despite the comic-book portrayal of limited-government advocates in the media I doubt you’d be able to find more than a small fraction who wouldn’t agree with those sentences. The argument is over the scale and scope of what the government should do, not whether or not it should do anything at all. I personally err towards the small-scale-and-scope end of that spectrum, not so much for ideological reasons but because government programs tend to be incompetent, wasteful, and destructive, and worse, are frequently seized as tools for social engineering by people who enjoy controlling others’ behavior.

    Oh, and while we’re at it – do you agree that contraception ought to be available free of charge to anybody who doesn’t have the means to obtain it themselves, even if you disagree that it ought to be the government who provide it? If not, why not?

    I don’t care one way or the other on the distinct topic of whether contraception is available free of charge to any kind of person. I strongly disagree that the government should provide it for “free,” but if some private organization wants to do it of their own volition, that’s their business.

  9. By “self-moderate your language” (or indeed “political correctness”) I simply mean “try to avoid casually using gendered, racist, homophobic or other discriminatory slurs.” The reason why I believe this is a good idea is that using, f’rinstance, the three-letter f-word as a catch-all insult reinforces the idea in both the person using the word and anyone listening that being gay is something shameful. Quite apart from that – as the Louis CK sketch I linked in the initial post beautifully describes – those words are commonly used to oppress the groups they’re aimed at and so their use can cause unnecessary distress to members of those groups.

    I’m not suggesting anyone should avoid expressing their opinion, however inequitable, immoderate or personally distasteful that opinon might be. Just to be responsible and considerate about the way they express it.

    Repeatedly bringing up that “the left get a free pass” is totally irrelevant, whether or not that’s true and whether or not someone else being a tool makes it morally OK for you to follow suit (or as it’s known in legal circles, The “But Mum, Billy Was Doing It TOO!” Defence. Speaking personally, I don’t really look to the worst excesses of the right-wing media machine for guidance as to how I should comport myself). In any case, you’re not hurting “The Left” when you use the word “f**”, you’re hurting gay people. So how does what “The Left” has or hasn’t said have any bearing on whether you should be, in Mark Cuban’s words, blurting out throwaway jokes about things people have no say in about themselves?

    (The “you” here being, to be clear, a rhetorical “you”, not actually you “you”, the person I’m talking to. You seem a decent person and I’m not implying that you call anybody anything.)

    If you think there aren’t many people roaming the Web who want No Government Whatsoever, you’ve obviously never been exposed to the full ghastly horror of Internet Armchair Libertarian Wingnuttery, and for that I can only envy you. But if you believe that government should make sure its people aren’t starving, I don’t understand how you can be against the government helping to make sure that it doesn’t have a bunch of unwanted extra mouths to feed. As I pointed out in my first comment, birth control is cheaper to provide than abortions, and much, much, much cheaper than supporting a baby and a mother whose ability to provide for it has been severely compromised. So even if you ignore the social-good aspect of contraception (which, you know, you really shouldn’t) and look at it from a pure cold-eyed dollars-and-cents perspective, free contraception for, and I’ll emphasise this again, people who otherwise could not afford it only makes economic sense. Being against paying for someone’s contraception when the other option is paying far, far more for their child doesn’t make a lot of sense on the face of it.

  10. ThirteenthLetter @ 2012-03-27 01:17

    I’m not suggesting anyone should avoid expressing their opinion, however inequitable, immoderate or personally distasteful that opinon might be. Just to be responsible and considerate about the way they express it.

    Then I believe we’re in violent agreement on this particular topic.

    So how does what “The Left” has or hasn’t said have any bearing on whether you should be, in Mark Cuban’s words, blurting out throwaway jokes about things people have no say in about themselves?

    We-e-e-e-ll, yes, one should strive to be polite regardless of how much of a jackass one’s opponent is being. However, surely it’s understandable that if the Civility Police only ever answer calls from one side of the street, the folks on the other side are going to think there’s a double standard?

    If you think there aren’t many people roaming the Web who want No Government Whatsoever…

    Oh, there’s plenty, I’ll cheerfully agree, and a lot of them have a perhaps skewed view of reality. But the thing about the internet is that it magnifies the presence of every fringe group that has lots of time on its hands and is good at shouting. Compare out-and-out anarcho-libertarians against the numbers of people who just want a generally smaller government than the U.S. has now, and they’re a small faction. The Libertarian Party generally gets less than 1% of the vote in American presidential elections, for example.

    But if you believe that government should make sure its people aren’t starving, I don’t understand how you can be against the government helping to make sure that it doesn’t have a bunch of unwanted extra mouths to feed

    My objection would exactly be that the uncontroversial statement “we shouldn’t let folks starve in the gutter” is being extended to “we should affirmatively embark on government-imposed societal planning, with all the infringements on liberty that implies, so that theoretically there will be fewer folks around to potentially starve in gutters in the future.” At the very least, that’s something worth debate over on multiple levels, not something that can be just taken as read. Perhaps it’s worth spending a little more to feed the hungry in the future, in exchange for more liberty today. Or perhaps the extra people born in the absence of government-sponsored contraception will turn out to be a boon to society instead of a burden. Or perhaps contraception is already so cheap and easy to obtain that the government doesn’t “need” to provide it.

    My position on the issue is probably a mix of all three of those. But all I’m saying, and have been saying all along really, is that there’s a legitimate argument to be had here.

  11. 1) It’s really hard to take you seriously when you’re throwing phrases like “the Civility Police” around with a seemingly straight face, especially when 2) I’ve already clearly expressed my distaste for the gendered slurs used by two prominant left-leaning commentators. Can we please knock the irrelevant, patently untrue “only one side gets censured” thing on the head?

    It’s even harder to take you seriously when you’re trying to paint an effort to ensure that women keep control of their own lives as an “impingement on liberty”. Or that unwanted children born into the worst possible situation have better odds of becoming productive citizens than perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Or that the cost of birth control is so negligable that people who are, for example, choosing between whether to eat or keep the lights on can afford it (and hey, if contraception is really that cheap then why on Earth are the insurance companies making such a fuss?). That’s not an argument, that’s just contradiction.

    OK, I’ll bite. Rather than talking in vague and sinister generalities, please explain who is specifically being oppressed by the specific policy of making birth control available to anyone who wants it but can’t (not won’t, can’t) pay for it?

  12. ThirteenthLetter @ 2012-03-28 02:26

    1) It’s really hard to take you seriously when you’re throwing phrases like “the Civility Police” around with a seemingly straight face, especially when 2) I’ve already clearly expressed my distaste for the gendered slurs used by two prominant left-leaning commentators. Can we please knock the irrelevant, patently untrue “only one side gets censured” thing on the head?

    I appreciate that you’ve criticized your own side on this and I withdraw any accusation of double standards against you. But that doesn’t by itself wipe out all the wild rhetoric (“terrorists,” “bomb-throwers,” “un-American,” courtesy of elected Democratic representatives, not to mention the cruder stuff deployed by various “entertainers”) the left has thrown around in the US over the past few years.

    It’s even harder to take you seriously when you’re trying to paint an effort to ensure that women keep control of their own lives as an “impingement on liberty”…

    But it is! You think the government should be providing contraception “free of charge,” but that just means some random stranger has to be forced to pay for it via taxation. Taxation is a necessary evil, but it is an infringement on liberty: you earned this money, it’s yours, but the taxman is rolling in and taking it away to spend it on a cause you may or may not approve of. Now, the cost of “free” contraception to each taxpayer is, admittedly, minimal. But like the man says, a billion here, a billion there, and soon you’re talking about real money. One giant infringement or a thousand small ones, they add up. We should therefore be cautious and only add to the heap when it’s really necessary.

    Or that unwanted children born into the worst possible situation have better odds of becoming productive citizens than perpetuating the cycle of poverty

    Who knows? I’m disinclined to write them off. I think it would be better to improve the rotten quality of inner-city educational systems, or to truly crack down on violence and criminality in the slums, than to just shrug and assume that everyone born at a particular address is doomed to be a burden on society and therefore the government should pre-emptively reduce their numbers.

    or that the cost of birth control is so negligable that people who are, for example, choosing between whether to eat or keep the lights on can afford it

    For people like that there are all sorts of relatively cheap things they can’t afford. Should the government provide all those things? (And while we’re at it, should the government be taxing these people, or forcing their insurance rates to go up, to pay for all this birth control?)

    (and hey, if contraception is really that cheap then why on Earth are the insurance companies making such a fuss?)

    If I demanded that you give me a dollar every week to pay for something I want, you’d probably kick up a fuss yourself even though (I’m assuming) you’d never miss the dollar.

    OK, I’ll bite. Rather than talking in vague and sinister generalities, please explain who is specifically being oppressed by the specific policy of making birth control available to anyone who wants it but can’t (not won’t, can’t) pay for it?

    If the policy is “the government pays for it,” then everyone who pays taxes is suffering a tiny slice of oppression by having their taxes raised enough to buy the contraception, plus those whose religion is opposed to contraception get to see the government forcing them to buy it. If the policy is “the insurance companies must cover it,” then a tiny slice of oppression falls on the insurance companies, now forced to follow a particular business plan, and on their customers, who might well wish to buy plans that don’t cover cheap and trivial things but have had that choice taken away and either way have to pay higher rates. And as a side issue, there’s the aspect of this being yet another little expansion of a government that is already far too large, intrusive, and controlling.

    The end of the world? No, not hardly. The harm done by this policy is not especially significant at the end of the day. But it’s worth balancing against the presumed benefits of solving what in the end is a very minor “problem.”

  13. Sigh. Yes, I think your point that the general state of political discourse is pretty regrettable on both sides of the aisle was fairly clear the first time you made it. Which was why I plainly and unambiguously agreed with you, um, the first time you made it. This is now approximately your third rephrasing of the exact same point and my third time telling you that while I agree, the current vogue for political grandstanding isn’t relevant to either a) the blog post you’re commenting on or b) the discussion about the benefits of readily available birth control.

    All of your arguments against contraception completely ignore the plain fact that not providing birth control to people who want it but can’t afford it is LESS expensive than NOT providing birth control to these people. If providing birth control is “oppressive” or an “infringement on liberty” (and Blimey O’Reilly is that ever a big “if”), then the sums clearly state that not providing is moreso. Contraception is one of those rare, beautiful cases where the smart thing to do in economic terms is also the right thing to do morally. There is literally no rational argument against making certain that everyone who wants access to birth control has it.

    So let’s hit a few of the irrational arguments, some from you, some from others.

    1) Contraception Is A Sin. Well, if that’s what someone believes then I strongly advise them not to use it.

    2) Contraception / Sex Education Encourages People To Have Sex. Science (and, you know. All of recorded human history) disagrees. But thanks for playing.

    3) If I Don’t Agree With Something The Government Shouldn’t Spend My Money On It. Well, that’s not how it works. The government’s not working to your benefit, but rather for everybody’s. I can’t stand Eastenders, but I’m not quite self-centred enough to demand the BBC stop using “my” license fee money to make it. If it makes you feel better, statistically speaking it’s literally three thousand times more likely that they’re spending “your” money to buy things that are designed to blow your fellow human beings into tiny little bits than they are spending it to try to ensure that women below the poverty line keep some measure of control over their lives and their bodies. Actually, now I come to think of it in those terms isn’t anyone objecting to government-provided contraception on religious grounds picking a really weird battle to be fighting?

    4) One Of The Children Born Because His Mother Couldn’t Get Contraception Might Cure Cancer Or Something. Yes, of course some people born into the worst possible socioeconomic circumstances will fight their way out of poverty and become, in economic terms, “productive members of society” through a combination of hard work, innate talent and incredible luck. But for most people that’s obviously not the way to bet, and to pretend otherwise is ignorant at best and outright disingenuous at worst. You Can Be Anything You Like If You Just Want It Bad Enough is the cruellest lie that Hollywood sells, simultaneously providing smug assurance to the well-off that everything they have is so very richly deserved while castigating the poor that their situation is all their own fault. This isn’t a case of “writing people off”, nobody’s saying that anyone “born in a particular address is doomed”, nobody’s saying that the “government should pre-emptively reduce” the number of people being born into poverty. All we’re talking about is giving people on the lowest economic rung the same right to decide when they want children that better-off couples already have. All we’re talking about is increasing the odds that those children WILL break the cycle of poverty. You want to increase quality of education and public order in the slums? Making sure that as many children as possible are born to parents who were actively planning to have them and are therefore are better set up to provide care and support to those children really does seem like a bloody good start. And you’d think that the religious right riding their “family values” hobbyhorse would be bang on board with that, wouldn’t you?

  14. Mr Bismarck @ 2012-04-16 15:20

    “3) If I Don’t Agree With Something The Government Shouldn’t Spend My Money On It. “

    I keep waiting for this part to show up on my tax returns. Some sort of checkbox system would be fine, so that I can choose where my tax dollars go.

  15. Tax return? You poor oppressed pantfish.

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