I started thinking over on the firefighters-letting-the-home-burn thread, that we have an area we can talk about and, if we don't "stick to our (usual) guns," maybe make progress. Here is the big question: are we captives of our ideology, or can we address spheres of activity from the point of view of what's appropriate to each phenomenon? A Stalin would say that the Party would handle all such things, through the apparatus of the state. An Ayn Rand would say there should be no unit other than the individual. Both fail. What do I say? I say there are phenomena that call for groups to act on behalf of their members, and that includes the notion of a society. This is, in fact, echoed by our founding fathers. Those same founding fathers were also champions of the rights of individuals. They understood that ideological purism was a danger not only in terms of an over-reaching state, but also in terms of a plutocracy; they did not specify an exchange rate for votes when they established democracy, after all. Now let's break this down a bit. I notice that in many, but far from all, cases, conservatives like the idea that our body politic should be more moral. Yet as stipulated by other conservatives - or oddly, those same ones - the reduction of every interaction to one conforming to capitalism inherently removes the moral virtue of compassion. Liberals like compassion, yet are lambasted for the notion that they will spend any amount to extend any compassion to any person. While I disagree with that assessment, I've met - infrequently - the "librul" we hear about here, who does not see any point to counting the costs of their intended largesse. My question is this: why do we assume there must be a single ideology, a single sphere of action and type of action, that must address all phenomena? For example, in the firefighting thread, it becomes evident to me that taken to an extreme, a subscription service for fire emergency service makes no sense. Everybody has the potential to need it. Why should some individuals be able to not "opt in" to it? The eventual outcome must be either (a) that most people do not pay, or (b) that before we get to that point, firemen must stand around and watch homes burn, in order to set an example and therefore guard against moral hazard. But this is all assuming that firefighting should be part of the private sector, rather than a public sphere. When we ask, as we often do, what happened to this virtue or that virtue, it is easy to point a finger at an ethnic group and call them "savages," as I have seen here repeatedly, or point at different behaviors and claim that the people engaged in those behaviors are bad and ruining the world. And of course we can claim it's all because of this or that value taught by the other side. But think a moment. There's no reason to think that more "bad" babies are born now. We all adopt attitudes having to do with a multitude of influences, but we have also always had bulwarks of society that prevent individuals with "bad" inclinations from acting out their "badness." It's never been foolproof, and frankly, crime (for example) is not actually on the increase. But we all pine for more community, or better morality, or more intellectual rigor with each passing year or decade. It would seem that we can lay this at the doorstep of whatever we don't like politically; but what can we expect, if we take the existence of a public sphere - of society itself - to be an evil to be defeated, rather than a repository of the virtues we espouse? "Community" can be encouraged, but there is no room in the private sector for such mawkish sentiment -- because the very existence of community assumes a sphere outside of private sector interaction. I am not trying to make a case for left or right, I am putting forward a way of thinking about spheres of life. And the question is, whether we should encourage public spheres, where it does not matter what you own or make? Taken to an extreme: Should you pay a fee every time you go in a church? Should they have a toll booth? Should they examine the collection plate when you drop a buck in, and say "I know you're a pretty big sinner, a buck won't do it..." Should religions go back to selling indulgences? Should parks have play-meters for kids that vend time, and doo-doo fees for dogwalkers? Should the merry-go-round and the swings have a vending device on them? Should lifeguards ask you for $X before diving in to fish you out? I don't think I'll find takers for those examples. Yet in similar cases, I see an ever-increasing rush to promote some private-sector understanding of an activity that all of us benefit from, that extend the virtues of community, and that are public goods. So, straightforwardly: Is there no room for various societal institutions our parents took as givens, things we keep around because they are good things for a society to have? Or must society only exist as an extension of private enterprise? I'd prefer thoughtful responses only. Thanks, PFnV PS, one-star guys, let 'er rip!