Saturday, November 04, 2006

George Will, Social Engineer.

Here’s a letter I sent to Newsweek that the editors declined to publish, though they published several responses to Will's column that expressed similar sentiments:
“George Will seems to be suffering from innumeracy. If he counts the ban on Internet gambling as only Prohibition II (The Last Word, 10/22/06), then he’s in need of remedial instruction in simple counting. How could he so cavalierly omit from his reckoning the war on drugs? What more integral product of the nanny state could one summon? The real Prohibition II is the one that fills our prisons with nonviolent patients of the natural pharmacopoeia of cannabis, coca, and opium. (What was that wacky Intelligent Designer thinking?) If Will, the libertarian wannabe, is bothered by the government restricting Americans’ choices, 'ostensibly for their own good,' and the concomitant 'paternalism,' then let him champion drug legalization.”
Whatever the relative merits and demerits of the drug war, it remains the consummate test of the intestinal fortitude of those Conservatives who flaunt a doctrinaire libertarianism. These are the people who bemoan the “nanny state” and would ratchet up to the heavens their defense of the rights of the consumer and the virtues of an unfettered marketplace if ever the do-gooders succeeded in setting criminal penalties for the consumption of trans-fats or the attainment of obesity through sloth. Ironically, or hypocritically, these people argue that it is a good idea for the police to intervene if somebody imbibes a joint of cannabis. The juicy fun of watching the drug war is seeing how it forces these pseudolibertarian conservatives to defend government intrusion into the flow of capital. On moral grounds. Once they do that, they are reading from the Liberal scriptures. They might say it’s on the grounds of public health that they defend the drug war, but then let’s draw up the list of the most prevalent avoidable causes of death and injury—the government keeps such stats—and start at the top and work our way down until everything people do that causes more death and injury than drugs is also made illegal. Not many politicians will line up for that. Sure, let’s enlist government to redirect the flow of capital in the name of righteousness, to engage in “social engineering.” (For you youngsters, Conservatives brandished this term during the Reagan years to discredit as Commie the welfare, education, and healthcare policies of Liberals. Now that Conservatives are advancing their own social agendas through the mechanism of the federal government, they have excised from their vocabularies this derogatory term.) Ah, social engineering. What can we do with public monies in the name of morality? How about housing the homeless, teaching the children, and caring for the sick?

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