Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oh, snap!

Awesome quote from H.L. Mencken:

"The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic."

Very true, and this cuts both ways. Most people would like this quote when it supports their own position on an issue. If you are like me and you advocate for the legalization of drugs, for example, it would be fun to throw this quote in the face of someone who supports continuing the government bans on drugs. But this also means we should not legislate ideas that most of us support. I am sure we can all agree that discrimination based on gender, race, religion, etc. is bad, but that does not mean that we should pass laws to ban such types of discrimination. Legislation does not stop or reduce discrimination. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Rouse, Susan B. Anthony, etc. who worked to change minds are what reduces discrimination. In that regard, legislation is little more than a lagging indicator of public opinion or an indicator of the direction in which the political winds are blowing.


Michael said...

Great quote. I am not sure about legislators enacting other types of legislation, but when it comes to land use, the craziest things can happen when "the people" plan. Best example in Howard County is the exit from Route 29, coming from the south, to go to Ellicott City. At one time, one could exit directly onto Old Columbia Road that goes directly into Ellicott City. Now, to get to Old Columbia Road, one must go all the way around Long Gate Plaza - three sides of a pretty large square, with lots of traffic and traffic lights. How does that make sense? It doesn't! And we have input from "real residents" to thank!

HoCoRising said...

Isn't all of government and laws someone's ideas? Democracy itself is an idea in promotion of the "most popular" ideas. While I agree that civil leaders play the main role in de facto discrimination, the Civil Rights bills have done a tremendous amount for de jure discrimination.

If your argument is that "democracy need not effecuate every popular idea," I agree.

Freemarket said...

The answer to your first question is "yes", and that's why most of government and laws are pretty stupid. Government has legitimate cause to pass certain laws (no murder, etc.) in order to maintain a civilized society, but a large part of what they end up doing is forcing distorted ethics on everyone (no civil unions, sprinkler mandates, etc.).