Vice at Your Neighborhood Barber Shop


A barber shop is just like Cheers.

OK, not everyone knows your name. (You don't go as often.) And, it's true, there's no alcohol, and members of the opposite sex are rare. But it is a chat room with a distinctive aroma where outbursts of utter asininity are welcomed with equanimity.

Won't you join me at my barber shop? The topic of the moment is victimless crime.

Some kid: What is victimless crime? How can there be a crime without a victim?

His scholarly dad: Precisely, son.

Victimless crime is usually slurred by calling it vice. These are things people do that most people think are their own business. Examples are using illegal drugs, prostitution and gambling, except gambling where government gets a cut.

Preacher: But people shouldn't be doing any of those things.

Thoughtful suburbanite: You're right (preacher). I try to keep my vices to a minimum, and, in fact, you (preacher) help me to do that. Still, I wonder how governments got even deeper into the fight against vice than religions did.

Preacher: Well, it pains me to admit this, but even a casual reader of history must realize that, as much as we protest today about the separation of church and state, they are still conjoined twins. And it pains me a lot more at how embarrassing it is for God to have governments usurp the holy work He gave His people and His churches. (Slow sigh.) Heh, heh. It's kind of like that giant sucking sound Ross Perot predicted, except this is really happening.

College man: Why can't people just mind their own business?

Yuppie: People have an urge to parent that they can't let go of, even if their children are grown. Government is an extension or tool of the urge.

Professor type: People have not only the urge to copulate, thence to parent — they also have the urge to flock. Governments (chuckle) flock us, so to speak. When you look up and see a flock of birds — a sight becoming more frequent as summer peters — reflect that the reason for that pattern is to increase the probability the other bird will be the one eaten if a predator attacks. Humans can understand that a by-product of flocking, however unintentional, is that each new member, up to a certain number, offers something — eyes, insight, genes, whatever — to increase the flock's viability. The conceit we harbor which birds can't is that we are flying to the flock's rescue. Those harboring conceits in the extreme — delusions, maybe — we call politicians.

Businessman: Here's another way of looking at it. Governments are parasites on human activity.

College man: And speaking of the professor's parasitic birds, look at the government cowbird egg laid in society's bluebird nest: cops. We don't kick 'em out of the nest, because they appeal to our urge to parent the flock. Even though we are supposedly smarter than bluebirds, we are blind to what they're doing to us and our offspring, if I have any — putting us in jail for victimless crimes.

Cop: Listen. I just do my job like you do yours. Your boss allows you to dress up occasionally like a prostitute to entrap johns, doesn't he? He provides kilts for you to wear in parades, doesn't he?

Businessman: The same place I read about government being a parasite also talked about the co-evolution of people's attitudes toward government. Both change and then change each other over time. In the beginning, police departments were organized to protect property. It was an idea that appealed to everyone. Still does today, or there wouldn't be so many private security guards and bouncers. It wasn't long after organizing, however, that police began to protect the property of their political bosses a little more zealously than everyone else's. That caused a backlash of attitudes. Then the police began to court the media and, with their help, began to exaggerate and dramatize crime statistics. Even today, we clamor for 100,000 more cops, 100,000 more cops, even though the definition of crime had to be stretched to include intrafamily affairs and victimless crimes.

Professor type: And what about all those jails? The jail/industrial complex is evolving into a Godzilla that might eventually dwarf Eisenhower's military/industrial complex.

Preacher: Come to think of it, it seems the war on drugs is just a recruiting scheme to have minorities fill those new jails.

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