Phil Magness exposes the hypocrisy, appalling bias, and plain old inability to think straight of those people who are intent on smearing the good name of my late Nobel-laureate colleague James Buchanan. A slice:
Daniel Kuehn: It’s unfair to say Keynes’s economic theories are tainted by eugenics, even though he wrote multiple essays and papers in which he explicitly placed eugenic considerations at the heart of his economic theories.
Also Daniel Kuehn: James M. Buchanan used the world “eugenic” once in the lit review section of an unpublished term paper from grad school when summarizing another guy’s article. Let me pull out my Magic MacLean Decoder Ring and explain to you how this makes him a secret eugenicist himself.
If we are to reject any cultural, scientific, or religious achievements that don’t originate with “our own” racial or ethnic traditions, why should any “white” person whose ancestors weren’t Greek study Plato? If we didn’t descend from Britons, shouldn’t we reject Newtonian physics? Why should a Jew like me have anything to do with the writings of Christian authors like Dostoyevsky?
For that matter, what business do Europeans and their North American descendants have using Arabic numerals, in view of the Arabs’ having conquered Spain and other parts of Europe a millennium ago? Or alternatively, isn’t such usage a form of illegitimate “cultural appropriation?”
In Escaping Paternalism, Rizzo and Whitman bring together their responses to the new paternalist arguments. They offer readers a lot of reasons why the new paternalism is not all it claims to be. By the end of the book, it is hard not to conclude that new “libertarian” paternalism is just the old paternalist wolf in libertarian sheep’s clothing. Critics will say this is unfair, and I’ll admit that I would much rather have Cass Sunstein nudging me toward more fruits and vegetables with a bit of choice architecture instead of having Michael Bloomberg telling me I can’t buy a Big Gulp. As Rizzo and Whitman argue, even though we are promised Cass Sunstein helping us make better choices, we almost inevitably get Michael Bloomberg telling us what we can and cannot do. “Better than outright authoritarianism” is in any case hardly a ringing endorsement; it damns the new paternalism with faint praise.
A common theme to all four novels is the need for creating order on the frontier. In each, the formal law and institutions of the state are distant and unavailable, although in Ox-Bow the sheriff is not that far away. In each story, the community provides its own law. In two cases, this ends badly. Ox-Bow closes with the narrator’s desire to leave the community in what the novel suggests is a likely fruitless effort to forget his role in hanging three innocent men; Warlock’s characters have all suffered considerable losses as a result of bringing Blaisedell to town and the town quickly fades away, leaving only the burnt out shell of its courthouse standing.
Private efforts at ordering communal life are more successful in Shane and The Searchers. In Shane it is the cattlemen, not the community, who first resorts to extra-legal violence, and Shane’s departure after his victory over the hired gunman and the rancher is his sacrifice for the community, a recognition that the violence he represents cannot stay in the civilization his efforts made possible. In The Searchers, Mart’s triumph over both the formal legal system’s indifference and Amos’ desire for revenge is a victory for love. Whatever the future holds for Mart and Debbie afterwards, the reader is given the sense that they will be alright.