Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

So That's What They Were Complaining About

Sometimes people I agree with can help me understand why others disagree. In the Terri Schindler Schiavo case, a discussion of “small-government conservatives” by Mickey Kaus, a feeding-tube supporter, did that:

That's a fine argument if you're a states rights conservative. But what about those of us who aren't? Do we now have to agree with William Rehnquist's jurisprudence? I've always thought the country would be better off divided into 10 numbered sectors. State governments mainly multiply the federal bureaucracy X 50. And if state laws have created a crazy system for making life-ending decisions--a fictititious judicial hunt for the near-decedent's "wishes" guided by potentially-conflicted spouses--it's perfectly reasonable to seek a better, national solution, just as it was reasonable to blow off "states' rights" when local jurisdictions sought to discriminate against blacks. ... P.S.: Roe v. Wade is inapposite here. Roe didn't transfer authority over abortion from the state legislature to the federal legislature. It removed the issue from both state and federal legislatures--from any sort of democratic decisionmaking--and gave it to the Supreme Court. If Roe is ever overturned, will the abortion issue go back to the states? I doubt it. Federal legislation would be inevitable, and proper.

The reason to prefer state legislation to federal is not that states have rights, it's to minimize the damage done by well-intentioned bad laws. This mess was started by a Florida law that was probably passed and signed on the grounds it would prevent force feeding of terminal cancer patients. We should reform such laws a state at a time so we can see what kind of messes arise.

For example, one possible reform is to insist that the testimony of what the patient once said cannot be accepted unless the alleged witnesses all agree. In that case, a distant cousin who met the patient once could threaten to hold up proceedings until he's given a cut of the estate. Another possible reform is to insist that any family dispute must be adjudicated to preserve lives. It's then possible for someone to insist that he will become suicidally depressed unless he's given the Rolls-Royce. Yet another reform is to insist that the handicapped get state-of-the-art medical care. This is particularly problematic since enforcing it will require a bureacracy. The definition of state-of-the-art medical care might be determined by someone with a brother-in-law who's a reflexologist.

It makes far more sense to pass special-purpose bills to rescue individuals one at a time. Even if it's abused, it can't be abused on a large scale. Besides, if we were to stop every instance of a “thumb on the scale,” we'd have to ban pardons. On the other hand, pardons have been abused as well …


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