Because We Told You So

As a young boy growing up, I occasionally heard the refrain, “Because I told you so!”. It was usually uttered by my frustrated mother in reaction to my monosyllabic question, “Why?” Of course, she would not usually go straight to the final phrase. The conversation would go something like this:

Mom: Please clean up your room, Baxter.
Me: Why?
Mom: Because it’s a mess. You need to clean it so you can find your things when you need them.
Me: Why?
Mom: Because if you can’t find your things, you’ll be frustrated and sad.
Me: Why?
Mom: Baxter, it’s important to keep your room clean for a lot of reasons.
Me: Why?
Mom: Just clean your room!
Me: Why?
Mom: Because I told you so!

 

Now I admit that it probably wasn’t easy trying to manage a smart-ass like myself, and mom did a pretty good job of explaining the reasons using logic in a calm, thoughtful manner.

When my kids were that age, I tried to avoid falling into the BITYS trap. Like my mother, I thought that providing a logical reason for my rules would be much more lasting than simply asserting my desire for unilateral conformity. Moving straight to “Because I told you so” is a sign of bad parenting.

But isn’t that what the government people do every day? They spend all their time creating these rules. Some are based in logic (don’t hurt people, don’t take their stuff), but most are based on arbitrary ideas that, I’m sure, made sense to some bureaucrat at some point in the past.

The arbitrary nature of government rules leads to exchanges like this:

Government Bureaucrat: You can’t smoke in that bar.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because we told you so.

or

Bureaucrat: You can’t sell that Happy Meal.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because we told you so.

or

Bureaucrat: You can’t build a house on your own property next to that swamp.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because we told you so.

 

Imagine if the government bureaucrat tried to explain patiently the reasons for one of these rules. Let’s listen in to this imaginary conversation:

Bureaucrat: You can’t grow that plant.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because it’s against the law.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because some people 80 years ago thought it was dangerous.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because it threatened timber growers’ profits and made our white women want to dance with black men.

 

At this point, it’s pretty clear that the rationalization is based on something that has no relationship to logic or reason.

Human: But what do those things have to do with me?
Bureaucrat: You see, little boy, there are people who know what’s good for you better than you do, and they’ve decided that you can’t grow that plant.
Human: Why?
Bureaucrat: Because we told you so!

 

What kind of hubris does the bureaucrat possess that makes him think he can get away with this type of parental substitution? It’s easy: because the people calling themselves government have decided on their own that they belong in the role of being our parent. and we obey. They know what’s best, and enforce their rules with the threat of violence against their subjects. We obey because, like the child looking up at his sadistic father with a belt, we are scared.

At best, the government is the worst kind of parent.

At worst, this type of arrangement leads to two very different classes of people, those who rule with arbitrary laws, and those who are threatened with violence if they disobey.

Now put your hands up and walk through that x-ray machine!

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