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Government Philosophy – Sowell

December 28, 2010

In reading an article by Thomas Sowell today I found a couple great quotes that provide more insight into one “philosophy of government”

From 100 years ago:

Professor Roscoe Pound likewise referred to the need for “a living constitution by judicial interpretation,” in order to “respond to the vital needs of present-day life.” He rejected the idea of law as “a body of rules…

Louis Brandeis was another leader of this Progressive era chorus of demands for moving beyond law as rules. He cited “newly arisen social needs” and “a shifting of our longing from legal justice to social justice.”

As Roscoe Pound put it, law should be “in the hands of a progressive and enlightened caste whose conceptions are in advance of the public.”

This all brings up another point I’ve pondered: for being so young and potentially “post-modern”, why is it that the White House seems to push forward philosophy that is over 200 years old, inspired by Woodstock holdovers upon whose brow the berets no longer sit so jauntily?

What is more disturbing about the comment around “we need an enlightened caste” is the caste system itself is a mechanism to prevent the American dream – in India many opportunities are significantly dependent upon who you are born to and what caste/class they are in….in the USA, the harder boundaries between classes is largely anathema because it’s counter to the outcome of the “American dream”:

….the Dream is that someone born into a less fortunate situation can work hard and take advantage of opportunities to become successful and provide for a family…

While the average income may have been unchanged, that average hides the fact that the country is providing for new and better opportunities for those currently here and for those yet to come.” …. even in this “lost decade,” the U.S. affords opportunities not only for its citizens, but also for citizens of less fortunate countries.  (American Spectator)

So this gets into another question – what is government’s role when it comes to balancing the interests of different constituencies? Does rule of law apply more to some than others – or is it universal? Do we trade off the young to support the old, or vice versa?

The Democrats’ neglect of youth-friendly reforms together with their commitment to deficits amounts to what liberal budget expert Isabel Sawhill called a “double whammy” for the younger generations. “On the one hand, the programs they need are not going to be there, and on the other hand they’re going to be stuck paying the bills for the elderly population and for the deficits that we’re creating.”

So in that case, it really does become more important who you are born to than ever….it’s certainly one governing philosophy, and has some profound consequences to it.

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