Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Authoritarian Progressive Walks on the Slippery Rocks

Leave it to a philosophy major to make the case, “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.”   "Thinkers" like Sarah Conly have provided intellectual succor to dictatorships since time immemorial.

As all purveyors of tendentious clap-trap must, she begins with the strawman:
"We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life. Give us complete liberty, and, barring natural disasters, we’ll end up where we want to be. It’s a nice vision, one that makes us feel proud of ourselves. But it’s false."
Nobody believes that. Hayek wrote of the collective wisdom of societies, and how we all benefit from the knowledge of others. We also know that we are rational beings, but people act irrationally all the time. Even good people taking prudent action sometimes fail. That's life. Involving Big government just takes small, isolated mistakes and turns them into multi-billion dollar man-made disasters.
She goes on to commit philosophical malpractice by loosely paraphrasing John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle, and it's corollary to leave alone people to determine their own lives so long as they do no harm to others. Contrary to what she leads the reader to believe, Mill's principle was not predicated upon a presumption that we always know the best way to get something done. It was predicated upon the bedrock principle that each of us is sovereign over our own lives.

Sometimes we are supremely wrong and make a disaster of it, but that is a consequence of free will. And social science surveys routinely reveal that people would rather risk going down in flames flying their own plane than bumping along in a creaking government prison vessel.

So she is flat out wrong. We don't "let" people make their own decisions because of the false illusion that they always know what's best. It is because we are free, autonomous human beings, driven by our own ideas of what happiness means.

Let's take her case for government "helping us" to its logical end...

Government must stop people from having out of wedlock births. We either force the mom and dad to marry, or we throw people in jail for having illegitimate kids. The evidence is overwhelming. Children from single-parent homes are at a disadvantage, and that lasts into adulthood. They are more likely to end up poor, to commit more crimes, and to exhibit pathologies that are detrimental to a healthy society.

And the jury is in on cigarettes: They kill people. Government must outlaw them.

Lotto has got to go. It vacuums money from the pockets of poor people suffering cognitive bias, and therefore incapable of realizing they will be struck twice by lightening before they ever win the big Powerball payout.

Drugs destroy lives, but liberals are clamoring for their legalization. They need to stop it. Government must double down on drug enforcement. It's for the good of us all, dontcha know.

If government really wanted to do good, it would bring back reform schools and force every person in America to finish High School and master basic reading, writing and arithmetic. This alone would probably cut poverty by 50%.

We must also insist upon government-drafted diets, and we need to march the fatties off to exercise boot camps. It will improve their quality of life and lower health costs, which in our socialized environment, we all pay for.

So, if we're interested in government improving people's lives, we should support banning cigarettes, harshly penalizing drug use, banning out of wedlock births, and forcing everyone under pain of the law to finish high school and stay physically fit. This would do our society infinitely more good than laws banning sugary drinks or large capacity magazines.

This is the road we go down when we allow petty dictators like Michail Bloombergochev to decide what's good for us.

See also:  Don't Nudge Me There

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