May 082013

Think for a moment about how common it is to believe that others will not act the same as you and will not do the right thing. Assume for argument that as of tomorrow all laws are abolished, repealed, and there is no police force. What would happen? Answer truthfully. Now, ask this question of 10 friends. The answer will be, overwhelmingly, chaos! Women will be raped, murder will be rampant, children will be molested, cats will mate with dogs, and the Sun will rise in the West if it rises at all. When, however, you ask them how many women they will personally rape, how many murders the will personally commit, how many children they will molest you will get the standard, “what do you mean? I won’t do any of that, it’s the other people who will.”

How perfectly superior of them to state that others will act uncivil, while they personally will be perfectly civil. Let me give an example. During a recent discussion, a friend’s wife left her phone in the restroom at a restaurant. About 10 minutes later, a lady, (the next line is the line that everyone will remember from this article…wait for it….waaiit fooorr iiiit, here it is), who happened to be black, (there, that wasn’t so bad, was it?), was walking around the restaurant asking people if they had lost their phone. When the wife noticed the lady she checked and found that her phone was missing. She went up to the lady and asked if it was a white iPhone. It was. As a gesture for returning the phone, my friend and his wife paid for the lady and her husband’s meal.

Let’s analyze this for a moment. A) Wife loses phone; B) stranger finds phone; C) stranger returns phone; and D) wife pays for stranger’s meal. What caused this? Was it law? Regulation? Force or threat? Or was it a societal norm, a compact, a mutual sympathy that drives the overwhelming majority of us to do what’s right? Penn Jillette, of the comedy/magic duo Penn & Teller, has a very interesting way of describing this phenomena. Penn states,

I believe firmly that if you pull a Ferrari up in front of a Starbucks and say to a random person, “My wife’s pregnant, I gotta run in the car with her, I gotta drive her there, my car is out there, just please take it and park it and text me at this number,” and run away, they’re not gonna steal that car. Your vast majority of people are gonna go, “Oh Jesus, I don’t know if I can drive a stick.” And they’re gonna get in there and they’re gonna do that. I think if liberals would just trust people to be better, there’s no problem with them either.

In the case of the lost phone just look at the societal goodness dripping between 2 strangers, and every bit of it without government force or a king to rule on the outcome. Returned phones, purchased meals, and people acting in a civil manner to each other is something we all appreciate. When presented with an opportunity, the overwhelming majority of people will do the right thing. But, for those who prefer government and need to control the unwashed masses, this is how that story would have played out in their minds if there were no government authority:

Wife, well there wouldn’t be a wife because people wouldn’t get married without being told to do so by some authority, but just humor me on this. Wife goes into the bathroom with a phone that she was able to loot during during a riot led by an angry mob running in the streets. While in the bathroom, Wife loses the phone, while trying to destroy the bathroom with a sledgehammer, and a dead baby that she was swinging around her head by a leg. The stranger, after killing some puppies in the alleyway behind the restaurant, goes into the bathroom and finds the phone on the floor next to the baby corpse left there by the Wife. The stranger then proceeds to make $10,000 of calls to 1-900 porn numbers, and uses the phone to threaten the President (think caller ID). The stranger then leaves the restroom and yells, at the top of her lungs, “I’m the baddest bitch in this place, I found a phone and it’s MINE and ain’t nobody here bad enough to take it from me!” Wife, seeing that it was her phone, grabs the bread knife and lunges at the stranger trying to stab her in the pancreas. All of this leads to another riot in the restaurant, where a mob amasses, spills into the streets, begins to loot…and for a happy ending to this story, the Wife is able to loot another phone during the riot.

You see, so, either way, in the end, the Wife has a phone. The only difference is that the civilized way, that is, the way we behave to each other without being forced to do so, is really kind of boring. We, as a species are really kind of boring; and, we are just like the people we think we are better than. Store your moral, ethical, and philosophical superiority securely under the seat in front of you and recognize the reality that the majority of other people will do exactly what you would do and return the phone (or pay for the meal).

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