Arnold Kling  

Socienics

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What do the Kelo decision and eugenics have in common? In this essay, I argue that both involve a faith in government to manage social good while overturning individual rights.


we are entitled to hope that our legislators and appointed officials mean well. We hope that they act in the public interest. However, our attitudes as voters, and the interpretation of the Constitution by our judges, should not give government officials the benefit of the doubt. They should be presumed corrupt. While we can always desire that government will make the best use of powers, we should still prepare for the worst.

Before any power is given to government, we should question what would happen if someone with whom we disagreed were able to exercise that power. What if the public school curriculum were controlled by your ideological adversaries? What if health care regulation were dominated by the interests of suppliers rather than consumers? What if "public" lands were allocated for the benefit of political campaign contributors? What if broadcast regulation were used to favor political allies? Such concerns are far from purely hypothetical.


The trend over much of the past century is toward more socienics. This is documented in a new Index of Dependency from the Heritage Foundation.

Using a benchmark index of 100 for 1980, the Dependency Index for 2004 stands at 212, a 1 percent increase over its 2003 score of 210. This increase marks the first year since 2001 that the Dependency Index has risen by less than 5 percent. Since 1980, the Index has dou­bled, increasing by 112 percent.


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TRACKBACKS (9 to date)
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The author at Indefinite Articles in a related article titled The Will Of The People writes:
    Arnold Kling writes Before any power is given to government, we should question what would happen if someone with whom we disagreed were able to exercise that power. What if the public school curriculum were controlled by your ideological adversaries? ... [Tracked on July 7, 2005 7:51 AM]
The author at Positive Externality in a related article titled Four Excellent Posts writes:
    A blog entry about four very excellent posts by Schneier, Kling, Caplan and Scheule. Covers the London bombing, good policy decisions, raising kids, and a cute anecdotal tale. [Tracked on July 8, 2005 2:26 AM]
The author at Right Mind in a related article titled Socienics writes:
    TITLE: Socienics URL: http://right-mind.us/archive/0001/01/01/34605.aspx IP: 198.206.162.134 BLOG NAME: Right Mind DATE: 07/13/2005 07:36:02 PM [Tracked on July 13, 2005 7:36 PM]
COMMENTS (5 to date)
Ian Lewis writes:

Most people want freedom for themselves and for everyone else to be controlled.

John Brothers writes:

You and I can argue this with liberals until we're blue in the face, but in general they don't believe government should be treated as corrupt first. They believe government should be treated as ethical first, and proof must be made before it is shown to be corrupt.

This isn't always true - the DOMA == fascism thing is an obvious counter-example. But most of the time, it seems like liberals see the government as extensions to the body of voters. That is to say: Government isn't a large organization of selfish individuals elected/appointed to represent us, Government is a pure expression of the will of the people.

And therefore, who can claim it is corrupt? That would obviously mean that you and I and every other voter is corrupt.

I've seen this enough times - where a liberal says 'We are the government', and then goes on to defend some statist act/law/ruling that I believe this is the philosophical point upon which they and I differ.

Randy writes:

John,

The problem is, that "we" are the government. If "I" have a problem with what "we" are doing, then "I" have two choices. I can try to change the "we" through legal or extra-legal means, or I can drop out of the "we" altogether. But regardless of my choice, the "we" still has the power - that is its nature. What you are doing, and I often do as well, is complaining about what "we" are doing. This is a form of trying to change what "we" are doing, but to be honest, its a pretty weak attempt. The truth is, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Tony writes:

Um, the Kelo decision was just a court decision. A pretty easy one at that. It was only a question of constitutional interpretation about what "public use" in the clause regarding "eminent domain" means. It didn't change the status quo and it certainly didn't grant any new power to the government.

So the subject line could be how "eminent domain in general is like eugenics", but the SCOTUS wasn't exercising any faith in government, but was just refraining to overturn a government action simply because the action disgusted them.

The whole Kelo case is blowing apart all claims of wanting a non-activist judiciary that libertarians and conservatives have been making for decades. You want a supreme court that will always rule to limit government power, and don't care about whether they follow the constitution in particular.

Chris Bolts writes:

[quote]Um, the Kelo decision was just a court decision. A pretty easy one at that. It was only a question of constitutional interpretation about what "public use" in the clause regarding "eminent domain" means. It didn't change the status quo and it certainly didn't grant any new power to the government.[/quote]

But see, for whatever reason when the Supreme Court rules on a case, it somehow becomes law. Otherwise, why in the world are people on both the left and the right gearing up to dunk Bush's Supreme Court nominee into a fiery hot tarpit if they don't like his/her position on issues?

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