Human Exceptionalism

Here Comes Rule by “We the Experts”

The looming statism is perceived by its creators as a benign thing, in which “the experts” craft policy intended to help us live safer, longer, and happier lives. It’s not liberty, but hey–you can’t have everything. I call it Brussels on the Potomac because it would emulate the EU style technocracy, in which the important decisions are made behind closed doors free from pesky democratic resistance or chaos.

A book review by Cass Sunstein in the New York Review of Books illustrates what our betters in the ruling class have planned for us. Sunstein, many may recall, was until recently President Obama’s “regulations czar.”  It is also worth noting also, I think, that he supports granting animals the right to sue and giving different categories of people differing value based on “quality of life” (specifically, including age) in government cost/benefit regulatory measurements. In any event, he reviews a book called, Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, which apparently pushes the statism meme. From, “It’s For Your Own Good:”

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. Her starting point is that in light of the recent findings, we should be able to agree that Mill was quite wrong about the competence of human beings as choosers. “We are too fat, we are too much in debt, and we save too little for the future.” With that claim in mind, Conly insists that coercion should not be ruled out of bounds. She wants to go far beyond nudges. In her view, the appropriate government response to human errors depends not on high-level abstractions about the value of choice, but on pragmatic judgments about the costs and benefits of paternalistic interventions. Even when there is only harm to self, she thinks that government may and indeed must act paternalistically so long as the benefits justify the costs.

It’s good to be the Technocrat, a group that pretends to be impartial and coolly rational–but who are often highly ideological and emotionally-driven. 

What does Sunstein think about the prospect of husking individual liberty in favor of technocratic regulations enacted for “our own good?”  He gives a bow to the importance of freedom of choice and expresses a few other quibbles, but at the end of the day, he seems to agree that rule by experts is worth considering:

Notwithstanding these objections, Conly convincingly argues that behavioral findings raise significant questions about Mill’s harm principle. When people are imposing serious risks on themselves, it is not enough to celebrate freedom of choice and ignore the consequences. What is needed is a better understanding of the causes and magnitude of those risks, and a careful assessment of what kind of response would do more good than harm.

Lest you think this is all merely academic, “rule by experts” is already upon us with the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created in Obamacare to control Medicare costs. It is a super bureaucracy controlled by 15 “experts”–appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate–whose opinions would usually rule over Congressional disagreement and even, presidential veto.

There is a word for that: Unaccountability. But then, that was the whole point. And that is where we are headed if the ruling elites have their way.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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