Dogmas and Government Controls

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Thomas Sowell skewers what he calls an "invincible dogma" with plenty of counterexamples before lamenting that:

However little evidence or logic there may be behind the belief that an absence of random distribution shows discrimination, there are nevertheless strong incentives for some people to cling to that belief anyway. Those who lag behind -- whether educationally, economically or otherwise -- have every incentive to think of themselves as victims of those who are more successful.

Those who want their votes have every incentive to go along, or even to actively promote that idea. So do those who want to see issues as moral melodramas, starring themselves on the side of the angels against the forces of evil. The net result is an invincible dogma -- and a polarized country.
Certainly so, but I wouldn't call the dogma "invincible": Its power derives from the more pervasive (and yet still not unconquerable) false idea that the government has the right to force people to refrain from behavior that does not actually harm others, or even to prescribe behavior.

That said, Sowell does very clearly show that improper government makes cultural change more difficult through perverse incentives. Furthermore, the use of statistics only serves to provide a scientific-looking camouflage for a government looting-cum-planning scheme: I am sure that plenty of people fall for the use of statistics as legitimate, or at least imagine that it provides some modicum of objectivity in the execution of a law that some support with good intentions. In addition to the dishonesty Sowell notes, the debate about the purpose of government we should be having is being stalled via distraction: Who cares about whether the statistical approach is warranted or being applied correctly when the whole goal -- forcing people to hire based on racial criteria -- is wrong, and differs from Jim Crow only in terms of severity and in who suffers legally-mandated discrimination at any given instant?

These dogmas are not really invincible, but they have a way of reinforcing each other culturally that will make it harder to attack the dogma that matters: that government exists for any other purpose than protecting individual rights.

-- CAV

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