Monday, January 15, 2007

Becker and Posner take on "Libertarian Paternalism":

A libertarian paternalist is happy to accept information arguments for government regulation of behavior, but typically stresses other considerations.

Ugh. What a waste of electrons.

I think to wax legalistic about this issue or to bring Mill into it only empowers a specious debate and obfuscates the real issues. Mill had the luxury of appealing for individual freedoms in a culture that was largely monolithic and whose behavior was already circumscribed by a host of universally recognized laws. Like a Picasso or a Kandinsky, he could "push" against the dominant paradigm because there was something to push against. We have no such luxury. Our social contracts are vague and polymorphous, so Science as the final (and only unquestioned) arbiter is allowed to creep in to the discourse. But Science can make no value-based arguments, so the bait-and-switch leaves us with an impoverished arguments that gets bogged down in legal footnotes.

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