We all know the story. A crisis hits; a problem arises, and the American public collectively raises its hands in indignant supplication: “Do something!”, they say. And the government, of course, does something. It asks for powers over our lives that they didn’t have before in the name of fixing whatever problem we may be faced with, and in the spirit of solidarity and panic, we give that power, and become less free.
I’m not talking about economic crisis here, or natural disasters, or terrorist attacks, though the Great Recession, Hurricane Katrina, and September 11 all served as great excuses for executive power grabs (under both parties, I might add). It’s not something on which North Carolina can blame to the liberal Northeast and West Coast. No, we’ve got a log in our own eye. If we want to combat the “Do something” mindset, let’s look no farther than our own backyard.
Reports the News & Observer:
Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances. The state sheriff’s association pushed the idea Tuesday, saying the move would help them make drug arrests and curb a growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
Do we really need the sheriff’s association to save us from ourselves, any more than we need the Obama administration to save us from ourselves?
Of course, every power grab needs a sob story to identify with, regardless of how well the proposed solution will actually work. Stories of evicted hardworking homeowners justify housing controls. Pictures of drowning children justify FEMA. Stories of struggling honest small-businessmen and unemployed people justify stimulus spending. And in our case:
Bettie Blanchard, a woman from Dare County whose adult son is recovering from addiction to prescription drugs, said doctors should be required to consult the list when prescribing controlled substances. She also wants doctors to get more education on prescribing narcotics. Doctors should be required to tell patients that the medicine they are being prescribed can be addictive, she said.
All these things, including Mrs. Blanchard’s son’s story, are certainly tragic. But the first examples, the ones whose “solutions” successfully passed, were hardly remedied by their solutions. In a lot of cases they were made worse. Do we really think the government can handle this tragedy any better? Do we really want everyone who gets their wisdom teeth out on a sheriff watchlist?
If we want to live in a freer state, freer country, then the first thing that has to go is the “do something” mentality that has become our default response to problem and crisis.