In an earlier post, I characterized pragmatists as “epistemological primitives”. Today I have two groups of examples to demonstrate this kind of primitivism in action.
Some time ago, Arnold Kling did so when he proposed that individual states should perhaps “experiment” with government health care — as if the experiment has never been tried before, all over the world and here in the United States at least twice (Tennesse and Massachusetts), with ample results.
Is Kling an idiot? Hell no, I wish it were only that! No, the answer is that Mr. Kling is a pragmatist. He tells us so himself:
“Suppose that instead of looking at health care policy as a means to push an ideology or score political points, we examine it from a pragmatic American vantage point. What works? What does not work?”
Kling knows all about TennCare, Massachusetts, Canada and the rest of the world. He is simply unwilling to abstract from those failures the crucial clue that perhaps there is something wrong in principle with government health care, in much the same way that there is something wrong in principle with the notion of perpetual motion machines.
And yet, while the persistent inventors of perpetual motion machines are properly regarded as the crackpots they are, pragmatists like Kling continue making the same proposals again and again, and expect to be taken seriously. Here’s David Bernstein with a “Serious Health Care Reform Proposal” (linked approvingly as “sensible” by Glenn Reynolds), all suggesting like Kling that the sensible thing to do is to ignore the available data in the burn wards and go right ahead and stick our fingers into the flame to see if it burns this time.
Some might call that insanity; I call it pragmatism.
If pragmatists were the tribesmen in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, the U.S. Constitution would be the Coke bottle. One of the absolute worst symptoms of how the primitives are destroying the artifact even as they venerate it, is the attack on the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
These two Amendments are intended to act as catch-alls; they are the most explicitly principled Amendments in the entire Bill of Rights, notwithstanding their flaws. They plainly mean that any rights not expressly enumerated in the Bill of Rights nonetheless lies outside the purview of the federal government. The Founders plainly intended to address the pernicious arguments of future pragmatists who might attempt to utilize the enumeration of rights in the Bill to claim that what is not enumerated, is fair game for the government. This was important enough for the Founders that they dedicated *two* Amendments to the task.
And that still wasn’t enough.
Here, in the comments, observe how several Leftists blithely insist that the Ninth Tenth Amendment doesn’t mean what the blog author thinks it does. One provides a link. Then watch what happens when the conversation turns to the Commerce Clause and the Raich decision.
And here, observe a good illustration of the legal doctrine that is used to defang the Ninth Amendment — as approvingly written by a conservative, Clayton Jones (who, tellingly, wrote it in response to Steven den Beste, who correctly notes: “So where most of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights were quite specific, the 9th and 10th Amendments were intended to make fundamental statements about the basic philosophy behind our government. They were intended as broad guidelines.”)
(and before any of you libertarians start smirking, note that the three men linked in the first part are all well-known for libertarian leanings).