February 19, 2013

Cass Sunstein reviews "Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism."

That's a book by Sarah Conly, published by Cambridge University Press. 206 pages, $95. $95! Fortunately, we cannot be coerced to buy that. I will exercise my autonomy and refrain from buying it. I'll just read Sunstein, for free, here.
[A] significant strand in American culture appears to endorse the central argument of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty....
the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or mental, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.
Sunstein refers to social science research that shows people actually aren't very good at making decisions for themselves. We have "present bias" (and don't pay enough attention to the future), we're bad at assessing probability, and we're "unrealistically optimistic."
Until now, we have lacked a serious philosophical discussion of whether and how recent behavioral findings undermine Mill’s harm principle and thus open the way toward paternalism. Sarah Conly’s illuminating book Against Autonomy provides such a discussion....

To Mill’s claim that individuals are uniquely well situated to know what is best for them, Conly objects that Mill failed to make a critical distinction between means and ends. True, people may know what their ends are, but sometimes they go wrong when they choose how to get them....

If the benefits justify the costs, she is willing to eliminate freedom of choice, not to prevent people from obtaining their own goals but to ensure that they do so....

A natural objection is that autonomy is an end in itself and not merely a means. On this view, people should be entitled to choose as they like, even if they end up choosing poorly. In a free society, people must be allowed to make their own mistakes, and to the extent possible learn from them, rather than facing correction and punishment from bureaucratic meddlers. Conly responds that when government makes (some) decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us....
 As for Sunstein himself, he prefers a softer form of government manipulation, described in the article and in his book "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness."

83 comments:

edutcher said...

Our betters know what's best for us. This was the justification for slavery and Jim Crow - only a "talented tenth" of blacks could actually be counted upon to live successful lives.

In a related note, the CBO has announced ObamaTax will cost 29% more than estimated when Cass was ruling our lives.

bpm4532 said...

To expect each individual to make perfect decisions is not the point, it's that the aggregate set of decisions end up better for all. I guess Cass exempts himself implicitly declaring personal perfection.

Sorun said...

I heard Sunstein on a radio show many years ago (I think he appeared with Althouse). I was very unimpressed with him -- a defensive dumbass was my take. But then again, he was a lawprof at an elite school so he must be really really smart.

dbp said...

We frail nincompoops may be bad at achieving the things we want--it's science. But we do know what we want and will work toward it with variable success.

What happens when choice is taken away? We won't get what we want, we will get what our betters think we ought to want.

Temujin said...

Who's going to protect us from our 'protectors'?

Jack Wayne said...

Easy to understand Sunstein (a proxy for our government) = fascist

Temujin said...

Who's going to protect us from our 'protectors'?

Nonapod said...

These ideas are as old as humanity. The entire concept of the feudal nobility is based around the idea of a class of people who just know better than the foolish underclasses.

Jack Wayne said...

Easy to understand Sunstein (a proxy for our government) = fascist

mccullough said...

That the government is actually worse at selecting means than individuals is something neither Sunstein or Conly can accept.

edutcher said...

Didn't his current squeeze "buy" him from his wife or something like that?

If true, it tells you pretty much all you need to know about how fit he is to rule anybody's life.

chrisnavin.com said...

Be it Mill, Martha Nussbaum, Rawls, Sunstein, I have yet to find good enough reasoning to shake me from my own thinking and experience.

I remain skeptical of using the power of government to do all but more limited functions, including the rationalist, nudging, behavioral economics approach Sunstein advocates.

Given human nature (a deep debate, I know), economic scarcity, the incentives of bureaucracies, the tendency for all to accrue and expand their own power and not know their own limitations (including judges) this seems to be the wisest course.

Here's an interesting quote from a comment I got:

"Though psychology is not as politicized as some of the other social sciences, it too is sometimes driven by a Utopian vision in which changes in child-rearing and education will ameliorate social pathologies and improve human welfare. And psychological theorists sometimes try to add moral heft to arguments for connectionism or other empiricist theories with warnings about the pessimistic implications of innatist theories. They argue, for example, that innatist theories open the door to inborn differences, which could foster racism, or that the theories imply that human traits are unchangeable, which could weaken support for social programs"

virgil xenophon said...

How convenient..yet another argument for the "new scientific man"...we're only at 100 million dead and counting so far thru various "interrations culturelles" attempting to achieve the ultimate in "quality control," I wonder if Cass and Conly care to quess how many dead this time when the ultimate logic of their "science" is worked out..

Michael K said...

I guess Gary Becker should give back his Nobel Prize since his research suggested that people, even welfare recipients, behave rationally and in their own interest.

The explanatory model which Becker has chosen to work with is based on what he calls an economic approach, which he has applied to one area after another. This approach is characterized by the fact that individual agents - regardless of whether they are households, firms or other organizations - are assumed to behave rationally, i.e., purposefully, and that their behavior can be described as if they maximized a specific objective function, such as utility or wealth. Gary Becker has applied the principle of rational, optimizing behavior to areas where researchers formerly assumed that behavior is habitual and often downright irrational. Becker has borrowed an aphorism from Bernard Shaw to describe his methodological philosophy: "Economy is the art of making the most of life".

Sunstein must know better.

virgil xenophon said...

Shorter version of Cass & Conly?: "You will be marched to virtue at bayonet point."

chrisnavin.com said...

Michael k, you're getting close to Milton Friedman's resuscitation of monetarism and the usefulness of the rational models to explain our behavior.

Paul Krugman had a piece when Friedman passed, rejecting this view.

Krugman is also partly responsible for the return to the income inequality debate.

Palladian said...

Poor choices and mistakes and failure are also paths to enlightenment.

wholelottasplainin' said...

'The nudging will continue until you kneel and obey."

Paul Zrimsek said...

A great deal of research finds that most people are unrealistically optimistic, in the sense that their own predictions about their behavior and their prospects are skewed in the optimistic direction. In one study, over 80 percent of drivers were found to believe that they were safer and more skillful than the median driver.

I see this cited all the time; but since 50 percent of drivers are safer and more skillful than the median driver, it's not very good evidence for most people being unrealistically optimistic.

Douglas said...

Prof. Sunstein perfectly illustrates the whole problem with behavioral economics as applied by law professors. He uses behavioral economics to prove that ordinary people frequently make poor (non-rational) decisions, but then assumes, without analysis, that regulators are not subject to human frailties and consequently only make smart, rational decisions. Good luck with that!

Lydia said...

edutcher said...
Didn't his current squeeze "buy" him from his wife or something like that?

Don't know anything about that.

But he is now married to the insufferable Samantha Power, who played a big role in formulating Obama's Libya policy.

Wait a minute, maybe I should take back calling her insufferable. She did, after all, take a lot of flack for calling Hillary "a monster" back in 2008.

Paul Zrimsek said...

That said, government does have a valuable role to play in steering people away from short-sighted fecklessness-- in the same sense that Amy Winehouse had a valuable role to play in steering people away from substance abuse.

Rusty said...

Sure they're crappy choices, but they're my crappy choices.

Smilin' Jack said...

...people actually aren't very good at making decisions....when government makes (some) decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy....

Provided our government is comprised of Martians.

Jim said...

The collective will always make better decisions than the individual.

Remember, none of us is as dumb as all of us.

Amartel said...

Books That Cost Too Much: Who Are You Kidding You Cannot Be Serious

Wake Up, Asshole: Achieving More Realistic Perceptions About The Real Market Value Of Your Arguments In Favor Of A Slave State

The Colon: Where Poop Stays Until It Is Ready To Go Outside

Bruce Hayden said...

Prof. Sunstein perfectly illustrates the whole problem with behavioral economics as applied by law professors. He uses behavioral economics to prove that ordinary people frequently make poor (non-rational) decisions, but then assumes, without analysis, that regulators are not subject to human frailties and consequently only make smart, rational decisions. Good luck with that!

As pointed out above, he should know better. My memory is that he had some sort of job as regulatory czar in the early Obama Administration, and that it was an abject failure. Despite his apparent best efforts, the Obama Administration is going to go down in history as probably the least transparent and most regulatory in history. And, that was what he was supposed to be protecting the citizens against.

Revenant said...

It isn't relevant if people are good at deciding what is best for them. What is relevant is that people are better at deciding what is best for them than other people are.

traditionalguy said...

WHY call it Paternalism? It is Maternalism plain and simple.

A father will protect growing children from ousiders until they are of age to become men. That is a pro new life attitude dressed in traditional freedom clothes and long pants.

But a mother will refuse for the children to leave her for all of the excuses posited in this book. That is a pro-death attitude dressed in eternal children's clothes and short pants.

The assumption that educated folks are all as delusional as that book thinks is a serious insult.

ricpic said...

Let the Sunstein freak and the Obama freak talk long enough and they tell us in no uncertain terms what they are and what lengths they will go to to make us submit to their paradise. I guess the university credentialed don't see it because either 1) they're stupid as hell or 2) they see themselves as being fellow slave drivers.

virgil xenophon said...

"The essence of democracy," said one Justice of the Supreme Court (can't remember who, too lazy to google)"is that if the people are determined to go to Hell in a hand-basket you gotta stand back and let 'em."

virgil xenophon said...

PS: The SCOTUS quote, above came as a foot-note in one of Raoul Berger's books, but can't remember which one..

mishu said...

I believe that was Roberts based on how he ruled last summer.

mishu said...

Conly responds that when government makes (some) decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us...

When government makes decisions for you,it frees you from risking bad decisions. Therefore, it frees you to make more bad decisions. Witness people who live in Section 8 or the projects.

Bob Ellison said...

If someone buys it as a gift to you, Professor, through your Amazon portal, will that guilt you into fisking Sunstein's work for us all?

By the way, my Kindle Fire's autocorrect changed the possessive above to "Einstein's" without asking. Hmm.

Bob Ellison said...

Uh, "fisking Conly's work". Though I'd settle for either one.

Lance said...

Why wouldn't present bias, poorly assessed probability, and unrealistic optimism affect the decisions that government makes on behalf of the governed?

Doesn't present bias perfectly describe government's failure to address entitlement spending? And wow think of all the examples of government's unrealistic optimism, from Rumsfeld's and Wolfowitz' Iraq occupation plans to Obamacare.

Bob R said...

Social scientists are the best people we have for deciding successful strategies for achieving desirable goals. This is why universities in general and social science departments in particular are so famously well run.

Sarcasm aside, Mills didn't say that people would be good at making decisions for themselves, he said that they would be the BEST at making decisions for themselves. In particular, better than politicians or social scientists or any other type of scientist. Social science may think that it's big news that I have biases impair my decisions. They'd do better to examine the biases that impair politician's decision or their own.

KenK said...

Books that cost a cool hundred bucks? I think the publishers are nudging themselves right into bankruptcy.

KenK said...

Every time I see smug intellectuals, professors, think tanker, NYT columnists, show biz types I begin to understand why Mao Zhe Dong felt the only way a just and rational society was to march them all out to the countryside and let them hoe weeds and dig ditches instead of talking and writing. Good call. Probably his only one. Pol Pot handled his intellectual problem ever better. Just sayin'.

kentuckyliz said...

1. Proof Obama isn't a Christian. (We believe in free will.)
2. A really great reason to resist gun control.

EDH said...

Revenant said...
It isn't relevant if people are good at deciding what is best for them. What is relevant is that people are better at deciding what is best for them than other people are.

I had an even more modest take.

People are best at knowing what is and what is not for them.

The Godfather said...

I could adapt my Gen. 3 parody in the Rawls comments to apply here, but why bother? You don't need more proof that Sunstein and Conly are full of shit.

If anyone needed evidence that the government isn't better at making decisions for you than you are yourself, he/she need only look at the current administration -- and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that.

Granted, this proves that most of us are piss-poor at voting, but that's kind of the point: In voting we are making decisions for other people, and we do a very bad job of it.

No matter how smart we are.

Quayle said...

Conly responds that when government makes (some) decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us....

So how does it work if what concerns us most is maintaining our freedom and autonomy?

Anyone selling a life of lower personal risk is someone also selling a life of lower personal growth.

And selling a life of bland conformity.

We'll house you all in a van down by the river and feed you all with government cheese so you can each be free to express the unique and real you.

traditionalguy said...

The price set for copies of that delusional tome of newspeak reveals the expectation that Colleges and Political Activist Foundations will designate the book a Manual/Bible that must be distributed among the partisans of the movement with costs paid for by party donors.

That creates a funnel of funds into the hands of the party's top Propagandists.

That also creates a newspeak educated doctrine of Paternalism to be quoted as if honorable since so many copies were sold.

Synova said...

Has anyone mentioned Issac Asimov yet?

As I recall he imagined programming our robot overlords with Rules that would keep them from becoming our overlords. And then, if I'm not mistaken, the robots become philosophers and discover a "Zeroith Law" to go with the other three that allows them to hurt humans after all, if it is for the good of humanity.

I was looking those up to make sure I got them right and found this description of a story by another of the "greats."

"Jack Williamson's novelette With Folded Hands (1947), later rewritten as the novel The Humanoids, deals with robot servants whose prime directive is "To Serve and Obey, And Guard Men From Harm." While Asimov's robotic laws are meant to protect humans from harm, the robots in Williamson's story have taken these instructions to the extreme; they protect humans from everything, including unhappiness, stress, unhealthy lifestyle and all actions that could be potentially dangerous. All that's left for humans to do is to sit with folded hands."

Tim said...

Sadly, there are no shortage of miserable fools who think government, which can't even run itself well, is better running people's lives than people running their own lives.

Words fail to describe how monstrous this failure to think is; sadly, history provides nearly countless examples, which only amplify the magnitude of foolishness.

Worst of all, these people win elections.

virgil xenophon said...

I'm reminded of the story about Sen Phil Graham (R) questioning a child-hood Govt pre-K advocate during hearings when this came up the first time around in the late 70s (iirc)

Graham was making the point that no govt bureaucrat could care for his children better than he, Phil Graham could, and that tax-payer dollars should not be used to fund a brogram designed by faceless bureaucrats and carried out by teachers not related to the children. "But Sen Graham," the HHS guy replied, "we're concerned for your children's welfare just as much as you are." "Oh really, " Phil replied. "O.K., then, if you say you care about them just as much as I do, tell me their names."

LMAO!

Synova said...

"Conly responds that when government makes (some) decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us...."

This is what culture and society and socialization is for. And unlike with laws we *can* if we chose, work against those norms and expectations of society that, if we conform to them, will make our lives easier and more orderly and free us to put our available energy into what concerns us most instead of trying to order our lives from scratch.

But whatev... you break the reliance on custom and what is left but government?

Quayle said...

Quayle responds that when western culture makes (some) gender role decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us....

Quayle said...

Quayle responds that when traditional Bible-based norms make (some) sexual morality decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us....

kentuckyliz said...

The price of the book is an attempt to silence/prevent critics, who won't want to spend that much on that fascist asshole.

How much would our esteemed blogress earn if purchased through the portal?

kentuckyliz said...

I will meet all y'all down at the Chestnut Tree Cafe where we will drink a fifth of Victory Gin daily to aid in the submission of our minds and wills.

Synova said...

And the thing of it is, Quayle, that while social norms *can* be oppressive, they are more in the realm of suggestions than they are laws... though if they're also laws then, well, there you are. Government is making choices for you that are good for you.

Certainly enforcing marriage and disallowing divorce led to greater prosperity and a better life for the majority of people, particularly children. Even if a husband cheated on you, if you were the wife you could expect a roof over your head. Abandonment of responsibilities happened, but it wasn't *normal* the way it is now.

But of course, it's not *those* decisions that this person is talking about, just other ones. Perhaps how big a soda you're allowed to have or how much salt can be in your food.

furious_a said...

This...

it's that the aggregate set of decisions end up better for all.

...and also that individuals (and their aggregate) can, based on their personal experience, change course (e.g., rebalance their 401(K)s, leave California for Texas, learn new skills, divorce/remarry) more easily and effectively than vast government programs (e.g., Social Security, farm subsidies) operating under the same assumptions now as when they were created 80 years ago.

Synova said...

I can see a serious parallel between the Three Laws and the Constitution. The Constitution is meant to limit the harm that government can do and the Three Laws were meant to protect humans from robots.

The "discovery" of the Zeroith Law is like the discovery that something meant for your own good supersedes the Constitution.

furious_a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KenK said...

“The common people...must be led, sir, driven, pushed!” Mr. Alexander from A Clockwork Orange, 1971

furious_a said...

Conly responds that when government makes (some) decisions for us, we gain not only in personal welfare but also in autonomy, if only because our time is freed up to deal with what most concerns us...

...like, say, when EPA regulations force the closure of coal-fired power plants and the coal mines which supply them, the power plant workers and coal miners then gain the autonomy of not having to show up for work, if only because their time is thus freed to up deal with what most concerns them -- looking for new jobs so that their families can continue eating and sleeping indoors.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Since reality imposes strict constraints on universal instant gratification, Sunstein is arguing to justify population control (e.g. abortion), denigration of individual dignity (i.e. diversity), and redistributive change. The last which will necessarily be selective, since not everyone will enjoy a beachfront property in Hawaii, and mortal gods, or their oracles (e.g. Sunstein), will not degrade themselves to the level of a common mortal being.

I wonder how many people have to die, how many people have to be enslaved, to realize Sunstein's dream. The people who recognize their individual dignity will not voluntarily submit to the rule of tyrants. In the 20th century alone, the mortal gods, and their foot soldiers, terminated around 100 million lives ex utero, and delegated or coerced the termination of several hundred millions lives in utero.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why wouldn't present bias, poorly assessed probability, and unrealistic optimism affect the decisions that government makes on behalf of the governed?

The politicians are bad enough, rushing feel good legislation through without seriously investigating its expected and/or potential consequences. ObamaCare is probably the worst example in recent history, but there are plenty others.

But at least the politicians are somewhat accountable for their actions. The bureaucrats aren't, and there are a lot more of them, and in many cases, are more powerful. Sunsetein should have discovered how bad with his regulatory oversight gig with the Obama Administration.

The basic problem is that everyone has their own drives, ambitions, and ulterior motives. And, with bureaucrats, it is rarely aligned with the real good or goals of their agencies, and often runs directly counter to those people or things that their agencies want to protect or encourage.

The big thing that drives most people, in and out of government, is making a living. And, in the government, that means advancing up the pyramid, and one of the things that can make that happen quicker is to build a bigger pyramid. But, by building their own empires, they most often do it to the detriment of the goals of their agencies. And, yes, they often also want to work the least, for the most amount of money, and the best benefits. So, you have entire branches who have essentially taken on-the-job retirement, where offices close down for lunch at the most popular time for their customers, etc.

The basic problem is that these progressives seem to believe that the government can make better decisions than can the rest of us, but then employ people just as fallible, if not more so (given their inclination to go into government work, instead of the private sector), to make those decisions for the rest of us, and these fallible government employees, with all the usual human failings, including, most notably greed, do not have the personal stake or interest in the outcomes of those decisions as do those directly involved. No wonder these attempts at progressive and socialist reengineering invariably fail so miserably.

Kirk Parker said...

What a self-refuting argument!

Yes, yes, indeed it's true that people don't always make decisions that are in their best interest. But is that somehow supposed to mean that these same, flawed people can do better managing others' interests? Give me a break.

And for Prof. Sunstein--I want you to lean in real close so you don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say: FOAD! The sooner the better! Go tyrannize some other place with your fake gentle nudges and leave America alone...

JAL said...

Mmm.

The assumption is made that the government (made of people) can function (autonomously) for the best benefit of the people.

Wouldn't it seem logical that the government would attempt to make decisions which were best for -- wait for it -- the government?

So how efficient could that be? We all know how efficient the government is. And effective. And productive. And satisfying.

Kirk Parker said...

Temujin,

"Who's going to protect us from our 'protectors'?"

Why, you are! Duh.

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TMink said...

Not at all American of him. He should move to Russia with other fascists like David Duke.

Trey

KenK said...

The frame of mind these social engineer types like Sunstein have in common is an utter disregard of the individual. One person's death (or ruination, exile, physical or emotional pain) is a tragedy; a million persons death is just a statistic.

Strelnikov said...

Sure, right now you can't be forced to buy the book. But what if some genius decided to tax us if we do not buy it? Hey, presto, constitutional fascism.

Jerome said...

Mr. Sunstein needs to sit down and shut up. Someone give him a nudge.

Sam L. said...

But Hey! If that's what it takes, Cass is down wid dat!

Mike said...

"More and more Americans are childless by choice. But what makes sense for the individual may spell disaster for the country as a whole." link

So whose going to nudge women into having more babies?

Bruce Hayden said...

Wouldn't it seem logical that the government would attempt to make decisions which were best for -- wait for it -- the government?

Actually, the bigger problem is not that the government is making decisions better for it than for those it is making decisions for, but rather, that government bureaucrats are making decisions that are better for them, than they are for the people that they are making them for. At least you have your own enlightened self interest when making decisions that affect you and yours. The government bureaucrats often have take into account (maybe unknowingly) their own enlightened self-interest in when making those that affect you.

Truckee Man said...

So our elite betters will rule us while exempting themselves of course. Mao and Stalin and their vanguard of the proletariat never went hungry. Remind me if civil disobedience can be under the radar. e.g. not registering my defensive tools at the request of the state.

Truckee Man said...

So our elite betters will rule us while exempting themselves of course. Mao and Stalin and their vanguard of the proletariat never went hungry. Remind me if civil disobedience can be under the radar. e.g. not registering my defensive tools at the request of the state.

crosspatch said...

She's from Ingsoc, isn't she?

Abe Froman said...

Are people supposed to believe that people who sacrificed any semblance of a real life so that they could bury themselves in books and hide from the real world are somehow, more well-versed in the real world than anyone else?

jeffreyquick said...

"$95! Fortunately, we cannot be coerced to buy that."
Still in median range for an academic title. And if a government-funded library in your area (Public, state university) has bought it, you probably have been coerced into buying it.

ThomasD said...

At some point a person might unreasonably identify Sunstein as a serious threat to his or her liberty, and then shoot Sunstein in the face.

Which might not be in his or her own best interests, but might also represent an improvement in the continued liberty and autonomy of most everyone else.

Personally I wouldn't give a rat's ass what it meant for Cass Sunstein.

Steve said...

On the faculty bio page of Professor Conly, we get a glimpse of her next work:

I’ve now started on my next book, tentatively titled One: Do We have a Right to More Children? We tend to think of regulating the number of children people may have as morally reprehensible. For one thing, the right to have a family is one we often think of as sacrosanct, articulated, among other places, in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. And, we think that women have the right to control their bodies, and while this right is mentioned often in the context of the right to abortion, it may also be held to include the right to have as many children as one wants. Lastly, we think of such policies as having sanctions that are unacceptable, including forced abortions of those who become pregnant with a second child. In One, I argue that opposition to population regulation is based on a number of mistakes: that the right to have a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want; that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of punishment that is horrific. If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth to.

kiruwa said...

I think Michael Greve put it perfectly on his blog:
"“We are too fat, we are too much in debt, and we save too little for the future.” The outfit that’s supposed to fix this on Planet Sunstein is the United States government." (emphasis in original)

RJ said...

I heard Sunstein on a radio show many years ago (I think he appeared with Althouse). I was very unimpressed with him -- a defensive dumbass was my take. But then again, he was a lawprof at an elite school so he must be really really smart.

It is really hard for me to imagine how anybody at a a law school could be regarded as smart. Law school requires the opposite of smart.

John Shepard said...


"The objective theory of values is the only moral theory incompatible with rule by force. Capitalism is the only system based implicitly on an objective theory of values—and the historic tragedy is that this has never been made explicit.

"If one knows that the good is objective—i.e., determined by the nature of reality, but to be discovered by man’s mind—one knows that an attempt to achieve the good by physical force is a monstrous contradiction which negates morality at its root by destroying man’s capacity to recognize the good, i.e., his capacity to value. Force invalidates and paralyzes a man’s judgment, demanding that he act against it, thus rendering him morally impotent. A value which one is forced to accept at the price of surrendering one’s mind, is not a value to anyone; the forcibly mindless can neither judge nor choose nor value. An attempt to achieve the good by force is like an attempt to provide a man with a picture gallery at the price of cutting out his eyes. Values cannot exist (cannot be valued) outside the full context of a man’s life, needs, goals, and knowledge." “What Is Capitalism?”, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 23