Difference leads to conflict only if people start to mind each other’s business. ‘Live and let live’ is the only sure way to get along. As soon as you depart from that principle, in favor of ‘I am my brother’s keeper,’ you not only lose your privacy and your freedom. You lose your ability to live at all. Every war ever fought, civil or international, would never have occurred if people had simply left their neighbors alone.
Believe me, I don’t want to offer a simple solution for war, a sure path to world peace. We are wired not to leave each other alone, since humans are strongly social creatures. We cannot live a solitary existence. Therefore we have to figure out how to deal with conflicts that arise from living together. Still, ‘live and let live’, among people who want fraternity but not murder, forms the only social foundation we know will work.
If we crave security and freedom – security of living with people we trust, and freedom to live without interference from others – why do we not gravitate toward institutions that embody live and let live principles? Do we need to dominate others in order to achieve security? Do we perceive control of others as necessary for our own freedom? Or do we just believe a certain degree of control yields benefits we should not forego?
If we crave security and freedom – security of living with people we trust, and freedom to live without interference from others – why do we not gravitate toward institutions that embody live and let live principles?
Thoroughgoing adherence to these principles would mean that no one exercises authority over anyone else, except by voluntary contract. This statement does not deal with the problem of crime. It addresses only the matter of authority. People who commit aggressive acts, you might say, voluntarily place themselves under social authority for punishment. By definition, aggressive acts violate the principle of live and let live. Every society has to deal with the issue of aggression.
Outside of aggressive acts, social interaction still comprehends a wide field of activity where people can decide whether or not they want to mind someone else’s business. If you tell people they cannot buy a sugary drink that weighs more than twenty ounces, that is minding someone else’s business. If you let live, people can consume whatever they like, and take responsibility for the consequences. No one supervises their bodies or their souls, nor does the question of uninvited intervention ever arise.
Face the Nation interviewed Kellyanne Conway about the Hatch Act, and what she does for a living.
FN: So how are things at the White House lately?
KC (smiling): A little frazzled. You know the Donald likes to keep us jumping.
FN: You call him ‘the Donald’?
KC: He likes that nickname.
FN: But it’s his real name!
KC: Not when you put the in front of it.
FN: So how did you get into so much trouble over Roy Moore?
KC: You tell me. Since when is a presidential spokesperson not supposed to talk about politics?
FN: What do you think made this case different?
KC: People don’t like child molesters.
FN: Do you believe that’s what it comes down to? Accusations that Roy Moore molested teenage girls?
KC: Well look, I comment on political matters every day. That’s why the president wants me on his staff. He has his Twitter account, he has me and Sarah, and who knows how many other sad sacks to speak for him. That’s what we do. Most of the time we don’t talk about specific candidates, but then we haven’t had many elections during the last year. Do you think we’re not going to talk about candidates during the midterms coming up?
I comment on political matters every day.
FN: You’re right that we we’re about to enter a campaign season.
KC: The Hatch Act says you cannot use federal employment to promote a party or a candidate. That’s what people figured the Democrats were doing during the Depression. It’s intended to prevent patronage. Like Governor Blagojevich: I’ll appoint you to the Senate, and you give me a contribution to the state party. Except Blago wasn’t a federal employee.
FN: Do you think you violated the Hatch Act?
KC: Depends on how you read it. If you want to limit the president’s ability to back certain candidates, or oppose others, then you use legal tools at hand to muzzle people who speak for him.
FN: Like Obama used the Espionage Act?
KC: That’s different, of course, but a good example. If you want to muzzle whistleblowers, you charge them as spies and traitors. I guess speaking up for a child molester doesn’t count as treason.
If you want to muzzle whistleblowers, you charge them as spies and traitors. I guess speaking up for a child molester doesn’t count as treason.
FN: Does it count as patronage?
KC: The act covers more than patronage per se. Federal employees aren’t supposed to do certain things, like join the Communist Party, or make political speeches. Look at the list of recent Hatch Act cases. Harry Reid even wanted James Comey investigated for checking into Hillary Clinton’s email server. You can use a law for anything you want.
FN: Does that make the law useless?
KC: It makes the government lawless.
FN: How so?
KC: Suppose you operate in an environment where your political opponents will cook up anything they can to make you look bad. Those schemes may or may not involve legal actions. Do you suppose that creates respect for legal constraints? No, you know opponents will go after you, no matter what you do. If the Hatch Act helps to silence a White House spokesperson, of course you’ll do it.
Suppose you operate in an environment where your political opponents will cook up anything they can to make you look bad.
FN: The law’s official title is An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities. Do you think your support of Roy Moore was pernicious?
KC: If you want a situation where people who work in the White House can’t talk about political races, then picking a candidate who constantly hit on young women supplies a good example of pernicious activity. I’d say we want more freedom in our political speech than that.
FN: How do you mean?
KC: If you can’t speak up for a child molester, you can’t speak up for a presidential candidate who mishandles classified information. From there, you can’t endorse the local dog catcher if you deliver mail for the postal service. Federal employees and political races cover a lot of acreage in a democracy.
FN: So you think we should protect political speech, wherever it comes from?
KC: Of course we should. Voters should know where the president stands on an Alabama Senate race. If the president sends a representative to a television interview to tell people where he stands, shouldn’t he be able to do that?
FN: Not if it’s a pernicious activity.
KC: Politics is pernicious. You’ll have to rename the act.
FN: What do you think of An Act to Get the Donald’s Goat?
KC: The Donald’s goat is always got.
FN: Thanks for talking with us today, Ms. Conway.
KC: Thanks for having me!