… is from page 45 of the published version of James Coolidge Carter’s pioneering speech delivered on July 25th, 1889, to the annual meeting of the Virginia State Bar Association – a speech titled The Provinces of the Written and the Unwritten Law (obvious typo corrected):
And who will be found wise enough to draw the line up to which we may go with safety, but beyond which there is peril?
DBx: This bit of wisdom is broad. Who, for example, is to be trusted to extend the application of the First Amendment from its intended target, government (actually, Congress), to private entities without courting unnecessary danger? Who is to be trusted to impose unprecedented hygiene lockdowns without thereby risking the unleashing of an epidemic of tyranny? Who is to be trusted with the power (antiseptically called “industrial policy”) to override ordinary people’s private spending and investment decisions – power allegedly meant to improve overall spending and investment?
It’s child’s play to imagine and describe outcomes that are better than those that actually arise in our always-imperfect and freighted-with-the-necessity-of-tradeoffs reality. And it’s easy to imagine government-as-god bringing about these better outcomes. God, after all, knows all and will never abuse power. But we are not and never will be governed by god or gods. Yet the success of so many policies in which government exercises greater power requires that those persons charged with carrying the policies out be god-like both in mind and in motive.
Far from “following the science,” the science is ignored by giving power that should be trusted only to god to persons who propose to enrich us with industrial policy or to protect us with lockdowns. I’d say that it’s downright medieval, but I refrain out of a wish not to unduly insult our medieval ancestors.