Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blindness all around

Here in Illinois, we had a new law passed last October requiring that every child entering kindergarten have an eye exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This is in addition to state-mandated in-school tests already performed in kindergarten. This new school year will have the first students actually affected by the requirement.

And who are big supporters of this? The American Optometric Association and the Illinois Optometric Association, of course- public-spirited organizations that, by a remarkable coincidence, are composed of the very people who will be paid to perform the examinations that every young child in the state will be required to undergo.

Now, human motivations are multifaceted, and I don’t think the average optometrist thinks about it in those terms; he probably really does care about children’s eye health as well as his own income. But in a way, that’s part of the problem. You’re going to be very-hard pressed to convince me that economic self-interest did not play a significant role in the positions taken by those organizations, but the fact that most optometrists really do feel genuine concern for public health is precisely what lets them ignore other motivations that are likely shaping their opinions. The public interest cover provided to aid in rent-seeking doesn’t just serve to bamboozle the public- it is often necessary for the psychological well-being of the beneficiaries.

I’ve come to think that one of the biggest threats to liberty in this country is unthinking trust in the medical profession and the exalted demigod status the profession enjoys. I don’t think the medical profession is more self-interested than any other group, but I see no reason to think they are any less, either, and because of their high status they can get away with more. (Teachers are in an analogous position, further strengthened by the fact that they work for the public sector.) You can cloak all sorts of things as necessary for public health, and people will buy it uncritically. It allows bootlegger and Baptist-style special interest lobbying, except the bootlegger and the Baptist are the same person.

This unthinking trust also causes serious problems when the issue is not rent-seeking but nanny statism. Just as scientists love knowledge and artists love beauty, it is a natural and understandable prejudice of a doctor to consider health important above all else. That’s probably a good attitude to have when you’re cutting a tumor out of someone, but it distorts your perceptions when you look at society, law, and human existence as a whole through that lens. I think this is largely what causes the apparent indifference to freedom, personal preference, and economic considerations often seen in the policy proposals of medical organizations.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

New article at

It's been a while since I've had something there, but I've got a new article up at I hope you like it.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Markley empire grows

My apologies for the thin posting this month; I've been a bit swamped lately. There's a rather neat new Facebook feature called Blog Networks. If you have a Facebook account, come on over and join The Superfluous Man network.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Today is the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, where the United States government immolated tens of thousands of innocent people and sentenced tens of thousands more to slower but no less awful deaths by radiation sickness and cancer. Some recommended reading on the subject: Historian Ralph Raico on the circumstances of the bombing, some additional historical context from Gregory P. Pavlik, a more visceral post on the subject by Rad Geek, and some thoughts from Anthony Gregory. I can’t improve on them.

A while back, I remember some conservatives wailing/gloating about the results of some survey that showed the percentage of American Muslims who thought bombing attacks on civilians were at least sometimes acceptable; this, we were told, showed how dangerous they were. I wonder how many Americans polled today would say that the devastation of Hiroshima (or Nagasaki, or Dresden, or Tokyo) was justified. I’d be extremely surprised if it wasn’t a majority; liberals and conservatives alike are deeply invested in the idea of the Good War. It would be more even more interesting to know how many of the people shrieking about the menace of barbarous Muslims would say that burning tens of thousands of innocents alive at Hiroshima was the right thing to do- but, sadly, I suspect I have a good idea of the answer to that.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, probably the most famous anti-Communist writer of the 20th Century, is dead at 89.

His death should be an occasion for self-reflection and shame in the West. Faced with the most monstrous evil in human history, how did the leftist intellectual establishment respond? They strained every nerve to deny or conceal the horrifying truth, and when that ceased to be practical, to minimize the evil, or excuse it, or just discourage people from thinking about it.

And they succeeded. I vividly remember giving a class presentation of research paper on the crimes of Stalin in college, and not one fellow student had ever heard about it before. Quite a few of them knew about how many people Pinochet killed, but neither their teachers nor the mainstream media had ever seen fit to tell them what I told them. Mine certainly didn't; I had to learn it on my own.

Sadly, I expect Solzhenitsyn to be forgotten. The forces of amnesia are still at work. There are few Stalinists today, but there are plenty of intellectuals and opinion-shapers who would just as soon not have people think about the Left's historical record. It is they who dominate the dissemination of information, and there is little reason to think they won't win. The tens of millions of victims will go on being ignored.

But at least for a time, Solzhenitsyn made it harder for the deceivers, the dupes and whores and apologists of mass murder and despotism and slavery, to get away with it. That's surely worth something.

Rest in peace.

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