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December 28, 2004

Posner on Religion and Public Policy

See here, and his response to comments here.  Some highlights:

  1. "I do not think we would do better to have a government run by academics, which is the implicit model of government held by political philosophers, law professors, and the like. Would we really have done better over the last half century with Presidents Stevenson, Humphrey, a second-term Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis? And haven't the universities, in their overwhelmingly liberal orientation (in most fields relating to public policy), forgotten John Stuart Mill's dictum that ideas become flabby and stale when they are not exposed to vigorous challenge?"
  2. "What is true about the United States is that certain issues agitate our legal system for religious reasons, such as abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, pornography, prayer in the public schools, public recognition of the Ten Commandments, financial support of parochial schools (as by means of a voucher system), the teaching of evolution. Yet as a result of the Supreme Court's rather heavy-handed enforcement of the Constitution, most of these issues when they get into court as so often they do are resolved as they would be by the ordinary political processes in more secular nations. The startling result is that the most salient difference, so far as the intersection of religion and public policy is concerned, between the United States and the more secular nations is that many of them have established churches! (Hume favored established churches because he thought they would deaden religion belief. He was right, at least in the Western European context.)"
  3. "When a brilliant philosopher like Rawls gets down to the policy level and talks about abortion and campaign financing and the like, you recognize a perfectly conventional liberal and you begin to wonder whether his philosophy isn't just elaborate window dressing for standard left liberalism."

Posted by Old Benjamin at 02:11 PM | Permalink


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