My thanks go to C. August at Titanic Deck Chairs, who called attention to Richard Ralston’s satirical article, “It's Time to Nationalize Grocery Stores ;).” In the article, Mr. Ralston, who is the Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, laces the chilling details of a government takeover of the food industry with tongue-in-cheek humor. His purpose is draw a parallel between the industries of food and medicine, and to demonstrate, by the sheer absurdity of the prospect, that the claims of a “right” to health care are no more valid than claims of a “right” to food.
He is correct, of course, and as I read his article, I fully grasped the implications of his scenario. I worry, though, that in this climate of unchecked government intrusions - in a culture that clamors for a kingly messiah that promises “change” in the form of a morsel of food dropped into outstretched hands - the absurdity will be missed by too many people. Anyone who values liberty is sure to get the message of Mr. Ralston’s piece, but I fear that many Americans (i.e. citizens of America, though not American in spirit) would applaud the announcement that food “is surely a right, as it is necessary for human survival. Therefore all groceries available in government commissaries will be free of charge.” Are we so very far away from this now?
In a previous post, I wrote of my misgivings about the use of reductio ad absurdum with a public that is more likely to listen to the rumblings of their stomachs than to applications of logic:
It wasn’t so long ago that I used the poor eating habits of Americans as an argument, in the form of reductio ad absurdum, to defend the tobacco industry in conversations with colleagues. My case would go something like, “People choose to smoke, so they have no one to blame but themselves for the consequences. To blame the tobacco companies is like blaming fast food restaurants for making people fat, which is ridiculous, right?” At the time, it seemed completely absurd to think that legislators would come to assail restaurants for using “trans-fats.”
Alas, in a society that has abandoned reason, a proposition that is plainly absurd one day becomes legislation the next.
When Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal in 1729, he could be certain that his sarcasm would not be lost on his audience, and the population of Ireland would not suddenly begin relieving their hunger pangs by stewing, roasting, baking, or boiling their children “in a fricasie, or a ragoust.” I have no such confidence in the general public today, for whom the most egregious violations of individual rights is palatable with scarcely any seasoning at all.