Do people know what is good for them? That question was in the news recently, when an architect of the national health plan confessed that the bill that made it law was made as hard-to-understand as possible, because otherwise it would not have been passed. This man, Jonathan Gruber, also said the American people were stupid. So he was saying, in other words, that he knew better than the American people what was good for them.
Was Mr. Gruber right?
Obamacare has not delivered on its promises, such as that it would save people money, or that people could keep their doctor. And it has had unexpected negative effects.
So I’d say he was wrong.
But in general, we could ask: are there a wise few, to whom we should trust to micro-manage our lives?
My father tells me that in Israel, at the time of its founding, there were leftists that thought democracy was a bad idea – (to paraphrase) ‘how could the average person, who knows nothing – vote intelligently?’.
But how smart is the average person?
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we agree with those early leftists in Israel that economic policy or national health policy is too complicated for “Joe sixpack”.
So let us ask the same question on a very personal level.
And in this case, we see that the voters of the state of Colorado and the state of Washington voted recently to legalize marijuana. Marijuana is now understood to being people closer to psychosis, and it is bad for your lungs (like smoking) and has various other nasty effects. But is a very personal decision whether to ingest chemicals into your body or not. The people have spoken. Are the people dumb?
About 1/3 of children in the very liberal state of Massachusetts live with only one parent. Apparently many adults produce children with partners who either they don’t really like, or never intended to marry anyway. The children then spend much of their time unparented, unguided (except maybe by a local gang). If they are girls, they tend to get pregnant early, if they are boys or girls they are more likely to commit suicide..
Did the men and women who produced these children show wisdom? Judgement? Foresight?
It has been said that the women who make this decision do end up married – to the state. The state has to provide for their needs, since they can’t do it alone.
A substantial percent of the US is so overweight as to be classified as obese (the Center for Disease Control claims over 78 million). But again – what you eat, and how often you eat, and how much exercise you get is a very personal decision. Should people be trusted with that decision?
In the US, we had “prohibition,” which was an attempt to ban alcohol. There really was a big alcohol problem at the time – but was prohibition a good idea, given that gangsters arose to deliver the alcohol? I did read that prohibition reduced the alcoholism rate – so was it a complete mistake? Did people have to be rescued from themselves? (in some parts of the world, such as Gujarat in India, prohibition is still in force).
I once read (in National Review) of a young man who expressed some suicidal thoughts and so was put in a mental ward. He complained about this outrageous situation, and so he was chained to a bed. After a year, his insurance ran out, and he was let out of the hospital. You might expect that at this point he would have committed some crazy act. But nothing happened. He had never been crazy. He had just had some emotional problems. He says of that period “They wasted a year of my life.”
So can we trust the guardians who protect us from the insane, or protect the insane from themselves, to do their job correctly? In this case, obviously not.
On the other hand, many of our homeless, the people who sleep on grates in the city in the middle of winter, are mentally ill. These are people who could benefit from medication – but often they refuse to take it, because they believe the voices in their head are real, or the conspiracy to get them is real.
And do note – conspiracies do exist.(The plan to make Obamacare as opaque as possible fits the definition.)
But I digress.
The point is, that we cannot trust a few wise men to micro-manage our lives, but many of us manage to mess up our lives without any help.
It is likely that some people are more logical, more rational, and more sensible than others, but who decides who these people are? And often the people who are the most self-righteous, and the surest of themselves, and who have an answer for everything are ideologues subscribing to some variant of those same ideologies that plunged much of the last century into so much mass murder.