Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shamelessly Cribbed Quote of the Day

Cheryl at A Round Unvarnish'd Tale shares this quote from C.S. Lewis, a good reminder of the dangers of spiraling do-gooderism:
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment".
Now I'm no Objectivist, and Lewis certainly wasn't either. I wholeheartedly believe in personal charity, not least because Christ was sort of big on it. But Ayn Rand does hold a sliver of truth in the potential of charity to become tyrannical, particularly charity institutionalized or nationalized. There's a strong streak of Prohibitionism in America these days, and it seems to be getting stronger; Elephant's Child is right to reference Liberal Fascism.

1 comment:

Shane said...

I largely agree - I still love reading what the libertarians at Cato are publishing, and generally prefer non-interference in other people's matters.

The main thing that still makes me a liberal who thinks that government does have a role to play in pushing health and safety because
a) current government policies of subsidies and spending promote unhealthy habits (for example, corn subsidies and sugar tariffs have spawned an industry pushing cheap HFCS as sweetener, leading companies like Coca-Cola to make the average serving size from 8 oz to 20 oz, while government subsidizes driving and discourages walking by building highways instead of mass transit and bicycle lanes)
b) In some cases the public is ignorant, misinformed, or outright deceived of some sources of harm. I can't see how the FDA's core functions can be successfully privatized. I also support laws requiring restaurant chains to publish nutrition facts and disclose their usage of trans fats, etc. In most of these cases, I'd prefer transparency over outright bans, though.
c) Some issues are just collective action problems, and pragmatically speaking, the government might be the most efficient coordinator of aggregate behavior.