Initiatives smack of social engineering

Marriage police? Language police? It may be an exaggeration to describe President Bush's marriage initiative -- it's aimed at poor people -- as Big Brother getting involved in the private lives of Americans. And it may be stretching the point to say that the head of the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to sanitize the airwaves when he advocates stiffer penalties for broadcasters for profanity on television and radio.
But with personal freedoms being chipped away every day under the guise of fighting terrorism, we do worry when government starts talking about pushing marriage for poor couples and when the use of the "f" word by a rock star triggers a demand for a crackdown on broadcasters from Republicans in Congress. Such social engineering should give every American pause.
During his State of the Union address, the president justified his administration's foreign policy -- it is founded on the doctrine of pre-emption -- by talking about the desire of every human being to live free. Indeed, Bush and Republicans in Congress contend that the right to freedom is the end result of the United States' occupation of Iraq.
And yet, they see no conflict between that view of the world and the domestic initiatives they have been pushing.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Bush is considering a $1.5 billion proposal to promote marriage among low-income couples that could funnel millions into religious organizations that provide premarital and marriage counseling. Never mind that sending public dollars to religious organizations tramples the separation of church and state doctrine, but telling people -- even poor people -- how to live their lives certainly isn't our definition of freedom.
It is instructive that programs that counsel gay and lesbian couples would be excluded from the Bush marriage initiative.
Theocratic rule
Such intrusion reminds us of the theocratic rule in countries such as Iran, whose government has been harshly criticized by the United States for depriving the Iranian people of the right to live as they choose.
It's one thing to have community organizations and churches run marriage initiatives with private dollars. It's quite another to have the federal government using tax dollars to meet a goal that reflects the ideological bent of the political party in power.
In a free society, government has no business telling law-abiding citizens how to live.
Likewise, government should not overreact to what some perceive as a growing use of profanity on television and radio. To begin with, there's still a lot more clean language filling the airwaves than there is foul, but even if there happens to be more profanity in programs during times when children may be watching television, parents are in control. They can switch channels. It is not as though we don't have the freedom to choose.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell contends that the current maximum penalty, $27,500 for each occurrence, should be 10 times higher. Powell is fooling himself if he thinks that higher fines will clean up the airwaves. Television viewers and radio listeners are the arbiters of what's acceptable and what isn't. Broadcasters respond to them. That's how it should be.
The initiatives being pushed by the president and the Republican controlled Congress smack of social engineering -- a tool of dictatorial regimes around the world.