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Coburn: It’s the same thing. The point is you create an opportunity for you to be safe.
reason: You’re against abortion, you’re against certain types of public displays. You had a fairly controversial take on the airing of Schindler’s List when you were a congressman. In the Senate race in 2004, comments of yours made about lesbianism in public schools in Oklahoma caused a controversy.
Yet in the book, one of the things I found genuinely interesting is that you’re not walking away from any of your positions, but it seems like your attitude toward the government’s role in enforcing values is shifting. At one point you write, “Laws are pretty important, but they’re not the most important thing.” And that’s in a section where you’re talking about what the religious right needs to learn. Do you feel on a certain level that government is not the best instrument for pushing particular values throughout the society?
Coburn: It obviously isn’t, because it hasn’t done a very good job. I would answer yes. The problem comes is, what were the values that the country was based on? Whether you read The Federalist Papers or you read about our Founding Fathers, this country won’t last if it’s not seen as a moral country, as a good country. And one of the things that gives us value is that we put value into principles and character. And the character of the country, as you rationalize away standards of decency and standards of behavior, regardless of your libertarian viewpoint or not, the fact is those have consequences. And those consequences will impact the country. And the questions is, will it impact it positively or negative? The main answer to your question is, do you live a life that models the behavior that you think best represents what our Founders believed in?
reason: You talk about how the fiscal crisis is a moral crisis. And in this sense, it’s because people are not holding themselves accountable any more than they’re holding their beliefs accountable.
Coburn: That’s right. What we’ve done is undermined individual responsibility and self-reliance in this country. We didn’t mean to. But we have. And if you look at Rome, if you look at Greece, if you look at every other republic in history, they died the same way. This isn’t rocket science. Go look at what happened to them.
I’m not for undermining any more of our cultural values. I don’t have to be right, but I do have the right to stand for what I believe is right. So, and I’m willing to speak on these issues. You can carry the libertarian thought all the way down to nil, that you have no responsibility to pay any taxes. How do you have a societal form where you don’t participate? It’s great to think about but it doesn’t solve any of our real problems today. And our problems today are real. They’re coming soon. The effects of them are going to be disastrous on a large quantity of Americans. We ought to be solving them now rather than putting them off and waiting for an election to happen.