The Burden of Our Bad Ideas

Article excerpt


In the world of economics, supply-siders often employ the philosophy of "less is more" to demonstrate economic efficiency and simplicity. For example, the less money the government takes from us in taxes, the more real income we'll have remaining with which to invest in the economy, thereby creating more jobs and granting prosperity to more individuals.

And economics aside, sometimes people apply this philosophy to quality of life in general. As in, the less our lifestyle requires us to reach for that extra dollar by working longer hours or multiple jobs, the more valuable time we'll have on our hands to spend with our children, do volunteer work, or simply relax.

When it comes to taxation, the federal government increasingly employs the idea of "more is less," where Americans are taxed progressively more, amounting to the systematic reduction of the right to control our own earnings, gradually suffocating the economy by restricting the money consumers can pay back into it.

Funny thing about this government of ours, though - it seems it likes to play the "more is less" game with peoples' lifestyles, too. It goes something like this: The more government intervenes in society, the less meaningful social progress we seem to make.

From welfare subsidy and social services disability insurance to foster-care funding and sex-ed and parenting classes, the more government spending grows, so too do the social problems that spending is supposed to solve, according to Heather MacDonald's new book, "The Burden of Bad Ideas."

Heather MacDonald, a John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor to City Journal, from which most of the research for this book originates, offers critical and analytical insight into the true mentality of elite opinion that has seeped into mainstream society and thus commandeered our ability to speak candidly regarding such important issues as race and gender, and even those as seemingly indelible as historical fact.

But Miss MacDonald doesn't just stop with government. She explains how bad ideas originate and erupt into debilitating orthodoxies that infect and corrupt our law schools, schools of education, public health agencies, museums, and even entire communities.

Ours is a culture that once was capable of - even demanded - distinguishing between those in society who lived moral lives and those who did not.

Respectable families that struggled but persevered though dealt unfair cards in life once were the focus of our charity, only to find that they have been increasingly cast aside by intellectuals in favor of propping up the "victim classes" or those who have nothing to blame for their despair but their own self-destructive behaviors.

Today, we've adopted the mentality that it is "imperative not to 'stigmatize the poor,' " that our social services organizations must refrain from making "judgments" about unwed pregnant teenagers, and that racism and sexism are so prevalent in our national fabric that we've been conditioned to think that "blacks who say they are not discriminated against are in fact the most victimized of all, because they have been brainwashed into denying their oppression."

The prevalent theme throughout "The Burden of Bad Ideas" is that our most ubiquitous ideas and policies, whether generated by the federal government, teachers, lawyers, or politicians, often trade our expectations of societal responsibility and independence for compassion or the need to appease our supposed passive guilt. …