Sugar, Sugar

The Democrats may have lost the mid-term elections, but that hasn’t kept liberals from continuing to demand that the president act unilaterally (never mind Congress and all that inconvenient democracy stuff) to force more of the liberal agenda upon all of us. We have all heard about potential executive action on immigration, but there are other areas for proposed action as well.

Writing in the Washington Post, one group of four liberals urges the president to use his executive authority to develop a national food policy, by which the central government will guarantee a large list of good things for Americans, including healthy food, fair wages, compassionate treatment of animals, and reduced carbon footprint (see here). So climate change can step aside. Under the heading “food policy,” liberals can impose their will on the rest of us on just about anything, including climate change.

Voters in Berkeley, California, don’t make national policy, but no doubt the authors of the Post article would approve of the election results in that city. Berkeley voters imposed a first in the nation tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, although voters in nearby San Francisco failed to pass a soda tax of their own, probably because it required a two-thirds majority (see here). Tyranny of the majority is always easier than tyranny of a super-majority.

The rationale for attacking and taxing sugary drinks is that sugar causes obesity and diabetes, especially in children. But sugar and soda consumption among kids actually declined between 1999 and 2008 (see here). So it’s hard to see how declining sugar consumption increases obesity, given that the relationship between sugar and obesity is supposed to be direct (i.e., sugar consumption and obesity move in the same direction).

Of course, liberals ignore the sugar consumption facts in the context of a tax because the tax is expected to generate additional revenues. Unless other taxes are reduced to offset the new one (yeah, keep dreaming), liberals will have more money to spend. They won’t lose any sleep over the facts as long as the rationale sounds even marginally convincing.

The attack on sugar isn’t limited to incoherent arguments in support of taxes. Liberals obsessed with sugar are now comparing sugar with tobacco. Liberals call their opponents “anti-science,” but the dishonesty of liberal researchers makes it unwise to uncritically accept the results of studies that conveniently support the liberal agenda. It has nothing to do with the lack of a scientific outlook.

The authors of a new sugar study claim that drinking soda (and only soda that contains sugar, other sugar drinks don’t have the same effect) ages our cells and is as bad for us as smoking cigarettes. But this study and the media reports about it are so misleading that even liberal writers are offended by the journalism and the underlying science.

Daniel Engber of Slate is one liberal whose honesty might even impress Diogenes of Sinope, at least with respect to sugar. Engber finds the write-ups of the newly published paper to be shallow, insulting and “possibly injurious,” but he finds them to be less offensive than the underlying science (see here). As he puts it:

The newly published paper delivers a mishmash of suspect stats and overbroad conclusions, marshaled to advance a theory that’s both unsupported by the data and somewhat at odds with existing research in the field. Its authors are less concerned with the health effects of drinking soda than with their broader project to establish a still new and fuzzy concept—“cellular aging”—as a pole star for public health.

And the study’s authors are not amateurs. One of them is a former Nobel Prize winner, so the politicization of science in this instance is not limited to politicians or lowly party hacks. As liberals promote ideology over science in food policy and other areas, they are getting closer and closer to creating the American version of Lysenkoism (see here).

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The Desperation of Democrats

As the mid-term elections approach, it is becoming more and more depressing to consider the extent to which Democrats find it expedient to lie to voters. Some of their campaign ads and other statements are so blatantly false that one can only wonder what goes on in the minds of those who make them. The statements we hear and read about, for example, on race and gender are outrageous.

The old Google Groups forum JournoList (2007-2010), created by Wise Boy a.k.a. Ezra Klein, foreshadowed how liberals would use race to attack those opposed to Barack Obama’s liberal agenda. During the 2008 presidential campaign, certain divisive and controversial statements came to light that were made by Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor in Chicago. In response to the controversy, Spencer Ackerman suggested on JournoList that liberals pick out one or two conservatives, didn’t matter who, and call them racists. Amazing.

Ackerman’s suggestion that liberals simply smear conservatives as racists, whether or not true, has been a staple of Democratic strategy since 2008. Rep. Charlie Rangel (yes, the tax evader is still in Congress) just three days ago compared Republicans to confederates of the Civil War era who “believe that slavery isn’t over” (see here). And two days ago, an increasingly desperate Sen. Mary Landrieu blamed racism for Obama’s unpopularity in Louisiana and the South (see here).

Not content to limit her smears to race, Landrieu also brought sexism into play, claiming that her reelection campaign is struggling because she is a woman. Landrieu’s claim is refuted by the fact that Louisiana voters have elected her to the U.S. Senate three times and elected yet another woman, Kathleen Blanco, to the governorship in 2004. The Indian ancestry of Louisiana’s current governor, Bobby Jindal, conveniently shows that the racist claim is also a lie.

Liberals often make their sexism allegations in the form of the claim that women only make 77% (or some similar number) of what men make for doing the same work (Obama pushed this point himself only a few days ago). But those who make the 77% claim know that this is only a raw number and that the pay gap disappears when other factors are taken into account. Women with the same education and work experience earn the same money as men doing the same job.

The raw pay gap is due to decisions that women make, relating to giving birth and raising children, which affects the extent to which women are continuously in the work force. We can see that liberals clearly understand this (e.g., Slate magazine) when they call for changes in the workplace to keep women at their jobs longer after having children and for men to take more time off. Liberals prefer to drag men down to achieve raw equality instead of recognizing the natural inclinations of human beings.

Candidates of both parties make a variety of questionable claims during their campaigns, but liberals’ claims seem especially egregious. Evidently, the Democrats’ theory is that some people don’t pay much attention to politics and will believe the most absurd claims about race and gender. And Democrats apparently have no compunction about telling the grossest lies, as long as they think it will win them votes. For them, expediency rules.

The lies about Republicans may work for some voters, but it seems the Democrats may have overdone it as many voters are finally getting tired of the nonsense. The Civil War and Jim Crow laws ended 150 and 50 years ago, respectfully. And the liberal Denver Post recently endorsed Cory Gardner, the Republican senatorial candidate in Colorado, and in the process slammed Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for his incessant “war on women” attacks on Gardner. It’s about time.

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Ebola Non-Heroes

In remarks made yesterday from the White House, President Obama said that healthcare workers who have treated Ebola patients in West Africa are “American heroes” who must be treated with “dignity and respect” (see here). The recent actions of two health workers, however, have been less than heroic since their return to the U.S. These two have shown little respect for their fellow Americans and seem unable to even comprehend the most basic requirements of heroism in the Ebola context.

Dr. Craig Spencer returned to New York after a stint in Guinea and bounced around the city for several days before developing symptoms that landed him in isolation at Bellevue Hospital, diagnosed with Ebola (see here). He not only behaved irresponsibly after arriving in the U.S. – subway, bowling, jogging – but he lied to investigators who needed to trace his contacts, claiming that he isolated himself in his apartment (see here). Only after detectives confronted him with his subway card and credit card charges did he tell the truth.

And then there is Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned to the U.S. after working for four weeks in Sierra Leone. Upon arrival, New Jersey officials placed her in 21-day quarantine, but released her to go home to Maine where she is under voluntary quarantine (see here). Since her return, Hickox has done nothing but complain about the quarantine, even going so far as to hire a lawyer. And yesterday during a nationally televised interview, she stated her intention to ignore the quarantine and followed that up today with a bike ride.

Spencer and Hickox are something to behold. Obama talks about the “sacrifices” that healthcare workers make when they help fight Ebola, but the administration and other liberals fail to understand that the idea of sacrifice in this instance includes more than three or four weeks treating Ebola patients. It also requires volunteers to lay low for 21 days after they return from West Africa. People like Spencer and Hickox want to do the first part of the sacrifice, but not the second.

Hickox claims that she feels good and shows no symptoms of Ebola. Evidently, returning health workers should simply monitor themselves and promptly present themselves at a hospital if they detect symptoms of Ebola. Of course, the line between symptomatic and asymptomatic or between contagious and noncontagious is not clear, but we’re supposed to trust Hickox to know where that line is and to do the right thing. Except that Spencer’s example shows that health workers cannot be trusted.

Administration officials claim that if we expect health workers to lay low for 21 days, fewer people will volunteer to help, but this is nonsense. Anyone truly concerned with helping others would welcome the 21-day quarantine period as part of the process. In fact, we might suspect that those who refuse the latter half of the sacrifice are less concerned with helping Ebola victims than they are with patting themselves on the back or using the experience to pad their resumes. Spencer and Hickox are arrogant and self-centered non-heroes, and we must hope they are the exception rather than the rule.

Note: According to one report, Hickox has tested negative for the Ebola virus. This fact, however, has not been repeated elsewhere, which raises questions of credibility. If a reliable test exists to clear a person sooner than 21 days after the last contact with an Ebola patient, then the quarantine period could obviously be reduced accordingly.

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The Sexiest Skinhead Alive

So now Esquire has named Penelope Cruz the Sexiest Woman Alive for 2014 (see here). She looks pretty good on the magazine’s cover, but it seems unlikely that on a planet containing more than seven billion people, a 40-year old would be the sexiest woman alive. After selecting young babes for years, perhaps Esquire is now going for the sexy older woman to make a point about Hollywood’s treatment of its older female stars (i.e., any female actor over 35).

Hollywood is mostly about looks, so actors’ ages naturally will skew young. There will always be legitimate movies about older characters, but the imbalance between older male and female actors doesn’t require Hollywood to feature more older females, but to control its obsession with older male actors who have simply gotten too old for the movies, sometimes embarrassingly so.

Current movies with actors that are too old are St. Vincent (Bill Murray, 64, but who looks at least ten years older), The Judge (Robert Duvall, 83), and Birdman (Michael Keaton, 63). And don’t forget the sequel to Dumb and Dumber starring two more aging, worn-out male actors (Jim Carrey, 52, and Jeff Daniels, 59). And let’s not even think about Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, please. Most of these actors are past retirement age and it would be nice, indeed, if they would retire.

In any event, if Esquire wanted to show its displeasure with Hollywood, Cruz was probably not the best choice or at least not at this time. After all, it was less than three months ago that Cruz and her husband, Javier Bardem, created a controversy by signing an anti-Israel open letter that called Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas “genocide”(see here). Responding with a letter of his own, actor Jon Voight (not to mention others) angrily accused Cruz and Bardem of inciting anti-Semitism worldwide.

Esquire’s actions remind me of the old Seinfeld storyline where Seinfeld keeps waiting out the marriages of Beth (played by Debra Messing) for whom he pined over several seasons (see here). After Beth’s second marriage falls apart, Seinfeld finally gets the girl only to find out that she’s a racist and anti-Semite. Seinfeld dumps her and tells Elaine that Beth left “to get her head shaved.” Esquire got its girl, but it turns out that she too has gone to get her head shaved.

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Animals And Ebola

Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for two infected priests apparently has recovered and is now free of the virus (see here). Although Romero survived Ebola, the same cannot be said of her dog, Excalibur, who wasn’t sick, but whom the authorities nevertheless put down about ten days ago. It’s too bad Excalibur had to be euthanized, but the decision was reasonable because dogs can still carry the virus even if they don’t get sick (see here).

Almost 400,000 people in Spain signed a petition to save Excalibur and, amazingly, a group of protesters actually skirmished with police when they came to take Excalibur away (see here). Let’s see, Ebola is infecting humans in Europe, Spanish unemployment stands at 25% (50% for young people), the welfare state is breaking down in Europe, and soon Iran will be in a position to point nuclear-armed missiles at Europe. And yet, the number one concern seems to be a dog. Perhaps rallying behind a dog gives people a break from their real problems.

In America, the “experts” are not worried about dogs infecting humans because pets have not been a “feature of Ebola spread” in Africa. And following the experts, Dallas city authorities decided to quarantine Bentley, the dog owned by the infected Texas nurse, Nina Pham. Quarantine may be appropriate, but it’s not unusual for liberal brilliance to result in a string of bad unintended consequences, so now we have to hope that saving Bentley will not be the start of a new string.

Concern about animals infecting humans is not misplaced. It generally is understood that human diseases originated in animals and jumped to the human population after humans began to domesticate animals and live in close proximity to them. Indeed, as America celebrated Columbus Day last week, we might remember that Spanish explorers brought old world diseases to the New World that unfortunately decimated 95% of the indigenous population for lack of immunity.

The native American populations lacked immunity to the diseases brought from Europe in the first place because they failed to domesticate animals on a scale that humans did in Europe and Asia. And they failed to domesticate animals because their ancestors killed off the large mammals that might have served as viable candidates for domestication.

Notwithstanding the Columbus Day critics, the Spanish explorers are not the only villains in the New World discovery story (if Asians had made first contact, the result would have been the same). And we also have to include the distant ancestors of the native American populations who were the prehistory equivalent of the buffalo hunters in 19th century America. The Spaniards may have been oppressors, but the indigenous people failed to manage their environment.

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Liberals Attacking Amazon

The success of Walmart has provoked attacks from liberals for some time, despite the benefits that Walmart provides to consumers, and now liberals are turning their attention to Amazon’s success. For example, in a recent article in The New Republic, editor Franklin Foer labels Amazon a “monopolist” that has left a “trail of destruction” in the economy and he demands nothing less than a “radical plan” to stop the company (see here).

According to Foer, Amazon, Walmart, and Google are representatives of a new “golden age of monopoly,” an age where monopolists prefer to lower prices (gasp!) rather than raise them like the big, evil corporations of the past. Although he refers to predatory pricing without offering a shred of evidence against Amazon, Foer focuses more on what he claims is Amazon’s ability to squeeze its suppliers for lower prices.

A single or dominant buyer in a market is called monopsony, not monopoly, and Foer really means to say that Amazon is a monopsonist. His fear of a single buyer, however, apparently doesn’t apply to the federal government, which is one of this nation’s largest single buyers through its financing of Medicare and Medicaid. It is more likely that government central planning would lead to greater destruction by squeezing suppliers than would private firms, but never mind.

Foer criticizes Amazon’s pricing dispute with book publishers and, gee whiz, it happens that Foer himself is an author of several books. In 1913, the progressive historian Charles Beard wrote a controversial book arguing that the economic interest of America’s founders influenced their votes at the constitutional convention. Following Beard’s lead, we might conclude that Foer’s animosity toward Amazon is fueled by his own economic interest.

Most people would agree that the American economy today is not the same as that of the late nineteenth century, but not Foer. He claims that we have been “thrust back 100 years” when antitrust enforcement was not up to the task of  controlling the corporations. Only after decades of experiments did the Great Depression and FDR provide clarity about antitrust, when the Roosevelt administration filed a number of complaints against a few “big-time” players.

Foer sees these antitrust actions as a triumph and implies that monopolistic practices of big corporations caused the Great Depression. Of course, most economists suspect that government mismanagement of the money supply and subsequent protectionist policies caused and perpetuated the Great Depression. But liberals see government as society’s savior and liberal ideology prohibits any admission of government’s role in economic decline.

Foer demands a new round of experimentation to deal with what he calls the “new reality of monopoly,” but gives few details of any plan, radical or otherwise. Evidently, one idea from liberals is for the government to strip Amazon of the power to set prices. Yeah, that sounds about right:  take away the entrepreneurial aspect of what Amazon does and turn the company into nothing more than a pipeline from supplier to consumer. Stagnation and higher prices, a classic liberal combination.

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More Liberal Incoherence

One can always count on Mike Wise, one of the sports columnists for the Washington Post, to provide examples of wacky liberal thinking. A few months ago, Wise not only jumped on the bandwagon to punish Donald Sterling for his thoughts, but he demanded even more by calling for an all-out purge of NBA owners. Wise actually identified four owners whose politics or occupations he dislikes and called for the NBA to strip them of their assets.

Since Donald Sterling, the liberal police state has continued to roll, going after Bruce Levenson, owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and Danny Ferry, the Hawks’ general manager. Neither of these men were on Wise’s purge list and now it seems that Wise is having second thoughts about cleansing the league of people whose thoughts and politics are unlikable, especially with respect to Danny Ferry (see here). Consistency apparently is not a priority with Wise.

Wise rationalizes his reluctance to banish Levenson and Ferry by claiming a purge would deprive us of a “deeper conversation” about important social issues. But consider Wise’s contribution to the conversation:  He mocks the idea that Levenson was only thinking of how the team could attract more white fans to games to create a more diverse crowd, and then, in his brilliance, Wise suggests that owners should try to attract fans to the game that look “more like the players on the floor.”

Before addressing Wise’s suggestion, remember that for liberals, “diversity” is achieved in any activity or institution whenever the percentage of racial and ethnic groups reflects the percentage of such groups in the general population. So, for example, if African-Americans represent 13% of the population, liberals expect that 13% of the workforce of any particular company should be African-American. The slightest disparity in these numbers, unfavorable to the group in question, causes liberals to cry discrimination.

But it’s not reasonable to think that every racial or ethnic group must be represented in every activity to the extent represented in the population at large. In all societies, disparities among groups are natural due to various geographic, demographic, and cultural reasons. But liberals can’t help themselves; they see a place for everything and everything in its place, no matter how unnatural. They are like obsessive-compulsive types who arrange the cans in their kitchen cabinets with the labels facing the same direction.

Wise sees “diversity” in NBA locker rooms, but non-blacks only account for 22% of the league’s players although they make up 87% of the general population. This is not a problem for those who understand diversity correctly (e.g., players in the NBA clearly get there on merit, not through discrimination), but under the liberal view, these numbers hardly qualify as diversity. According to liberal logic, Wise should call for the league to increase the percentage of non-black players, perhaps by implementing programs to attract more non-black kids to the sport.

But we shouldn’t hold our breath for that. Instead, Wise suggests that the Hawks’ owners and a marketing group should figure out a way to attract more black fans (to look like the players on the floor). So if Wise were to get his way, the NBA would have mostly black players on the floor and mostly black fans in the stands. Wise is calling for nothing less than the creation, in the 21st century, mind you, of a basketball version of the old Negro baseball leagues.

Liberals not only misunderstand diversity and racial and ethnic disparities in the first place by demanding proportional representation at all costs, but they can’t even follow their own logic within their mistake. They are so incoherent that they end up calling for a return to segregated sports – the very opposite of what they think they stand for. Remarkable.

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The Liberal Police State Strikes Again

Five months ago, the NBA took away Donald Sterling’s franchise because of thoughts expressed during a private telephone conversation. And now the owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Bruce Levenson, must sell his controlling interest in the team because of thoughts expressed in an email written two years ago (see here).  America’s privately operated liberal police state is on quite a roll.

Levenson’s email addressed the team’s attendance problems and questioned whether the NBA’s focus on hip-hop culture might turn away suburban whites. Which is all perfectly reasonable –  it doesn’t take a marketing genius to understand that aggressive, tattooed, loud, belligerent, and misogynistic posturing might not have universal appeal. When creating and selling a product, any legitimate marketing study would address cultural and demographic factors.

In the real world, failing to consider these factors would constitute malpractice. But in the NBA’s bizarro world, considering cultural factors is now a crime. And Levenson actually informed the league himself about the email (see here). No need for surveillance or neighborhood informants under the new repression – citizens are now intimidated to the point where they will inform on themselves. And Levenson followed up with a pathetic,  groveling confession/apology. Stalin, Mao, and Orwell’s Big Brother society couldn’t have done better.

The operators of this police state seem to understand that punishing people for speech and thoughts contradicts the values upon which America was built. Not that it bothers them much, but it doesn’t look good, so they have to fake it and speak instead of no-tolerance policies against “discrimination” or of combating “discrimination.” Such claims are rubbish, however, since the Levenson and Sterling cases obviously have nothing to do with any kind of actual discrimination.

Danny Ferry, the Hawks’ general manager has also been targeted for punishment (see here). While apparently reading from a scouting report on Luol Deng, Ferry made an ill-advised racial comment during a call with the team’s ownership group. Springing into action, the team hired an Atlanta law firm to conduct an investigation. The firm reviewed 24,000 documents, interviewed 19 people, and “read every email that Danny Ferry has ever sent” as general manager of the team.

This inquisition unearthed only one bad thought from Ferry (i.e., the comment about Deng), but that didn’t stop one of the team’s co-owners from recommending that Ferry be fired or asked to resign. The team decided not to take this advice, but to discipline Ferry instead, although he is now on an indefinite leave of absence. Perhaps re-education is in order, after which the NBA will allow a “rehabilitated” Ferry to return to the team and society. I think the league outsources rehab to the North Koreans.

Not to be outdone, the NFL has joined the party with its treatment of Ray Rice. Of course, Rice assaulted his fiancé (now his wife) and was indicted for the assault, so his action goes beyond mere thoughts and speech. As a first time offender, the district attorney offered Rice a standard deal that will require him to undergo counseling after which the charges against him will be dismissed, assuming good behavior during a probationary period.

The NFL’s original two game suspension of Rice may have been lenient, but it was based on the disposition of the criminal case so it was not entirely unreasonable. But then by retracting the original punishment and suspending Rice indefinitely, the league displayed its own oppressive inclinations that rival those of the NBA.

In dealing with Rice, the NFL created policy after the fact and applied it retroactively, and it handed down one punishment only to take it back and replace it with something more severe. One advantage of a privately operated police state is that it need not worry about concepts that restrain government, you know, things like ex post facto laws and double jeopardy.

Although the NFL’s original punishment of Rice had a reasonable basis, don’t try to tell that to liberals. Not satisfied with stripping Rice of his livelihood, liberals now seek to punish league Commissioner Roger Goodell for his original leniency. Liberals have become hysterical as the controversy is coming more and more to resemble something between a lynch mob and a witch hunt.

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The Scandinavian Welfare States

Liberals regularly heap praise on the Scandinavian countries, holding them up as models of progressive societies and suggesting that America should become more like them. Except now Emily Tamkin of Slate magazine is calling for everyone to “shut up already” about how the Nordic countries top every global ranking (see here).

Tamkin concedes that the populations of the Scandinavian countries are too small and homogeneous to serve as realistic examples of organizing other societies, not to mention that these countries possess certain cultural factors lacking in other societies. But the real reason Tamkin wants everyone to shut up is that Scandinavian countries represent the ultimate welfare state, the establishment of which she claims is unlikely to occur in the U.S. So evidently, there’s no point in talking about it.

But where exactly has Tamkin been for the last six years? Since Obama took office, the central government has taken over the financial, healthcare, and automobile (at least the northern portion of it) industries and the number of Americans receiving unemployment and disability payments and food stamps has reached record levels. An American welfare state controlled by the central government isn’t just looming over the horizon – it arrived a long time ago.

But never mind the specifics of the American welfare state. Mark Steyn has pointed out on countless occasions that the fertility rates of European countries, including the Nordic countries, are so low that in a generation or two, these ethnic populations will be greatly diminished. In fact, Steyn suggests that fertility rates in some countries are so low that the decline is essentially irreversible. Demographics will be the end of Europeans as we know them.

Immigration will fill the population vacuum in these countries, mostly by Muslims arriving from North Africa and the Middle East whose fertility rates are relatively high. Indeed, the name Mohammed apparently has been the most popular name for baby boys in Oslo for the last four years, and has now become the most popular man’s name in Oslo (see here). And the representative of Statistics Norway finds this fact to be no less than “very exciting.”

Unfortunately, Muslims don’t find assimilation to be very exciting and are reluctant to blend in, to say the least. Emily Tamkin may be impressed by the gender equality in the Nordic countries, but she can forget about gender equality as Europe says hello to sharia law. As Steyn also points out, people like him will find life somewhat tolerable under sharia, but women and gays are going to have a rough time of it.

The vaunted Nordic welfare state not only will not prevent sharia, but most likely, due to its multicultural inclinations, will actually help bring sharia about. And people like Tamkin no doubt will cheer this process, completely oblivious to what it means.

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Misrepresenting Resistance To Big Government

Aaron Carroll, one of the editors in chief of the liberal health policy blog, The Determined Statist (a.k.a. The Incidental Economist), recently boasted about co-authoring a paper about the “social contract” and health care reform in America (see here).

Carroll and his co-authors write that a misunderstanding of the social contract that underlies the founding of America is the cause of the resistance to bigger government and central planning, as reflected in resistance to Obamacare and health care reform. According to the authors, Americans believe that “government’s job is to promote individual freedom rather than promote the common good” and that Americans consider these beliefs to be mutually exclusive.

They claim such views are based on an incorrect interpretation of social contract theory put forth by John Locke way back in 1690 in his Second Treatise of Government. The authors’ solution to the resistance problem is to correct our misconceptions about Locke so that we might understand that “social welfare policies” actually fit nicely within the social contract tradition.

The idea, however, that those who oppose big government and central planning believe that freedom is incompatible with the common good is purely imaginary. In the real world, those who oppose big government tend to do so because they believe individual freedom is the means that best promotes the common good in the first place. The difference between liberals and their opponents lies in the method of obtaining the common good, not in the desire for it. The authors are simply knocking down a straw man (gee, what a surprise).

The big government approach advocated by liberals such as Carroll fits within what economist Thomas Sowell has called the “unconstrained” vision of the world (see here). The unconstrained vision stresses that man’s understanding and disposition is inherently good and “capable of intentionally creating social benefits.” Within this vision, special individuals who have progressed further than the rest of us will make social decisions on our behalf on “explicitly rationalistic grounds, for the common good.” Eventually, the rest of us will come to support these decisions.

Sowell explains that those who disagree with the liberal vision tend to take a negative view of human nature and its potential. In this “constrained” vision, human nature is egocentric and humans lack the intellectual and moral capacity to rationally plan a society for the common good. Rather, decisions are made through unplanned social processes that have evolved over generations, such as moral traditions, competitive markets, and families.

These social processes in turn create social benefits and do it better than any system of central planning. And individual freedom to choose within these processes is an integral part of society. Liberty, as Friedrich Hayek has pointed out, is an overriding moral principle of political action within this vision.

The evidence supports the view that the world works along the lines of the constrained rather than the unconstrained vision. We need only consider the natural experiments of numerous governments over the last hundred years to see how centralized government and central planning have worked out. And the results are not encouraging, to say the least.

Central planners have killed tens of millions of their own citizens and destroyed entire economies. And these results aren’t limited to the examples of the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and China in the twentieth century. More recently, we’ve seen the destruction of Venezuela during the meager fourteen years that Hugo Chavez wielded power. Even a kinder, gentler form of big government has left countries in western Europe with stagnant economies, including 25% and higher unemployment rates (over 50% for young people).

The case against central planning and for smaller government and individual freedom isn’t hard to make or understand. It doesn’t involve social contract theory so much as a proper understanding of the limits of human nature and acknowledgment that the evidence supports this understanding. But Carroll and other liberals are incapable of grasping any of this. The best they can do is set up and knock down straw men. Talk about limitations.

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