On his blog Henrik Alexandersson touches upon the subject of separating personal views from politics and regulations (in Swedish only). In a post that mainly concerns whether bar owners should be allowed for themselves who they want to let in he writes (my translation):
“You must keep apart what you personally dislike and what you want the state to regulate or prohibit. Admittedly that requires you to take some responsibility and defend your views. But you can deal with that, can’t you? Rather that than having the state govern what individual citizens can do with their property.”
In Swedish debate – and as it seems in European debate – the distiction between personal views and views on what the government should do is seldom made, which is clearly troublesome. An example of the inability to understand this distinction was the case of the suggested EU commissioner Buttiglione who was basically rejected due to his too Catholic views on things like a woman’s role (and they were indeed too traditional) but who at the same time made it rather clear that he considered this to be a matter for private morale and individuals and not for the EU or national governments.
The failure to make this distinction is troublesome in at least two ways. Firstly it makes it difficult to have good discussions, especially with politicians involved, concerning issues that has the nature of private morale, ethics and what values are important. It created problems because any statement made is understood as a will to regulate things in the direction of the statement which means that certain views (generally any view that is not considered politically correct for the day) are battered down harder than they should be, because anyone holding these views is thought to be wanting to force them unto society by law rather than by debate and argument.
Secondly it is also troublesome because it moves every issue and every sort of question into the political sphere. The tendency of this is clear, and it’s obvious that we’ve already moved far in that direction: an acceptance – often even a demand – to regulate everything that enough people consider wrong or disturbing. The ban against smoking in pubs or restaurants is probably an example of this (had it concerned working conditions a regulation of toxics amounts would have been more suitable than a total ban), and talk of “fat taxes” (tax on fat food) and other such things provide further proof of a movement in this direction. What this leads to is more irresposible adults running around and complaining about things thinking it’s someone elses responsibility to take care of them. When government steps in to solve something there’s always a big risk of individual responsibility suffering, and when the natural response to fat children is to tax fat food harder rather than to expect more of the children’s parents you know something isn’t quite as it should be.
Hopefully the theme of personal views and what should be regulated is something that will be discussed more in the public debate. It is much needed.