The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

We don't need to be Canada, or Belgium

Yesterday, my wife went down into the District of Columbia to straighten out some problems involving her unemployment insurance benefits, and I accompanied her at her request. (There had been some problems that could not be handled by phone or online, and she was advised to come in and take care of the situation in person.) After we found the correct office, we waited while a clerk there dealt with the two persons ahead of us, in Spanish, which was evidently a language she was fluent in. When it got to my wife, we went in and it was absolutely clear that she was somewhat short of fluent in English. There were a number of points in the discussion where my wife had difficulty in communicating some point to her; fortunately, perhaps because I have had somewhat more experience trying to communicate with people whose English was weak, I was able to facilitate the communication, and my wife, afterward, thanked me effusively for making things work so she got the benefits due her. (The problem was not the usual bureaucratic problem of someone who insists that if you don't follow the letter of the procedures, you're out of luck; this clerk genuinely seemed willing to help once we could get across the information we were trying to provide.)

But then I was surprised to hear my wife complain that an employee of the Government of the District of Columbia, a subdivision of the United States, ought to be able to work with clients in English. She didn't like the idea that she might have lost money she was entitled to just because she could not express herself in Spanish, making her feel like a foreigner in her own native country. I could hardly disagree with her. She was expressing opinions I have held for decades, but which she had tended to disagree with — she had, for example, not agreed with my support for the group, started by S. I. Hayakawa many decades ago, called “U. S. English,” which advocated making English our official language.

I guess it took exposure to the consequences of U. S. English's not accomplishing their program to make her see why we need to do something. Seeing what has gone on in countries like Belgium and Canada brought me to these beliefs, but it took the fear of loss of money she was entitled to to make her see the point.

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