Hispanic and young Libertarians are spreading the story of how NC continues to not compensate past victims of Eugenics while vast salaries, favored make-work programs remain untouched.
Studying budgets can be boring, but a budget can give good insights about the people who created it. In North Carolina’s most recent budget, compensation for victims of a past eugenics program was cut unexpectedly by the legislature. Asking why and how this last-minute decision was made reveals that this is not a one-time mistake but a symptom of a larger problematic trend. The compensation payments were cut on the grounds that the state didn’t have the money for it this year. It wasn’t cut because it was a bad idea or out of the state’s jurisdiction. It was weighed out with all the other things North Carolina wanted to do, and it lost. The state had money, the state still has lots of money, it’s just that compensating victims wasn’t a priority this year. This was cut in favor of education revamps that are now being expanded even further thanks to Governor Perdue. This fact reveals a great deal about the way that political decisions, are made. Pay increases for teachers are popular among the right people. Compensation to eugenics victims is popular on a broad level but not for the interests that drive state policy. When disperse obligations to a broad group are matched against concentrated benefits to small groups, the smaller, louder, unionized public employees will win every time. We can view this decision as a refresher in public choice theory, but there’s more to it than just the dispersed costs, concentrated benefits story. I would argue that this budget decision and the initial decision to sterilize thousands of unknowing Americans are related in another more insidious way. Both are excellent examples of the perspective through which modern legislators view their job and the way this affects their decisions.
The issue is that legislators no longer see governance as a chosen duty in which they will exert coercive force over other humans whom they will have to answer to — John Locke’s viewpoint on the matter. They see governance as a system, existing outside themselves, which they will only tweak and whose ends they will carry out — Thomas Hobbes’ formulation. This is the great myth of societal goals. Of course a variety of problems arise with this perspective of governance. This is the French Revolution view of governance rather than the American Revolution view. In France, after the fall of King Louis XVII, the revolutionaries had a grand vision of the future. The new government to be established would not be an arbitrary, human power shackled or otherwise. It would be a system. Scientific and ordered, it would pump out the right outcomes like a machine. The revolutionaries believed they could design and tweak a system of power and security until it gave them the society they wanted. Thomas Paine exemplified this viewpoint when, writing during the revolution, he outlined a tax system that he claimed would eliminate poverty in France. The individual injustices of such a system were not to be considered. It wasn’t about atomized rights, it was about aggregate results. The Americans on the other hand, thought that all government power was human power and that all government action represented an aggression against another human being, to be weighed considerably before it was wielded. Government was subject to human inefficiencies, mistakes, and moral failings. This was a power to be shackled and released only when it was needed for the defense of rights. It was not beyond or above man, it was man….