A governor, an ignoramus and social engineering


Does Paul LePage ever feel as if he’s being continuously dive-bombed by a rubber duck? This question was provoked by the 884th bombing run by Bill “Stuka” Nemitz on July 27. His column, “Bad call by LePage on cellphones, driving. Common sense says the two don’t mix, but tell that to the governor,” starts off in familiar fraud-mode by implying that our governor advocates driving while using a cellphone. He does not.

Following his usual custom, the Press Herald supercolumnist illuminated his advocacy for increasing government controls on the citizenry with an emotional personal anecdote. He describes how he nearly had a serious accident due to the recklessness of some boob in a pick-up truck. He saw a cell-phone in the man’s hand.

He seems to imply that if a law had prohibited using a cellphone while driving, he would have been spared a serious fright. Why would he believe this when he also believes the person was also driving over the speed limit? Does he believe that we might all benefit from a prohibition against driving while stupid?

Moving on, the Stuka dives down on this quote from the governor:  “I’m tired of living in a society where we social engineer our lives. Let our children grow up and be good adults. Let them make their own responsible decisions.”

Rising at once to the defense of an ever-growing government, Dive Bomber Bill goes to the internet for a definition of social engineering. The Oxford Dictionary explains that it’s ‘‘the use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behaviour of a society.”

“In other words,” Nemitz tells us, “social engineering is not, by definition, a bad thing.” He clearly believes it’s a good thing when governments manage social change and regulate the future development and behavior of societies by centralized planning.  “With it,” he explains, “we evolve as a society. Without it, we can easily end up in a ditch.”

If we take his words at face value, Nemitz actually believes it’s a government’s job to regulate the behavior of people not yet born. “We,” it seems, are inclined to end up in ditches unless the government plans to keep us ditch-free. Therefore, the unstated axiom here is that governments never end up in ditches. Am I being unfair?  Could it be that Nemitz has an unusual form of dyslexia—an inability to understand what he has written.

Leaving that puzzle aside, the belief in a government’s ability to plan a whole society’s evolution flies high up into the clouds of central planning. This fantasy was last in vogue when liberal intellectuals got all excited about Japanese industrial policy. Walter “Fritz” Mondale, inspired by Robert Reich, promised us an American industrial policy if elected president.

Fritz never became president. Japan sank into an endless recession. The phrase “industrial policy” is no longer heard. Friedrich Hayek, who spent a lifetime exposing the problems with central planning, received a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1975. Robert Lucas who received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1995, reached similar conclusions. Robert Heilbronner, probably the most prolific and widely read advocate of central planning in the United States, conceded that Hayek was right about the failures of central planning after the Soviet Union went belly-up.

I have no evidence, but feel an intuitive certainty that Nemitz has never read any of these authors; probably never heard of them. I know that the governor, upon whom he looks down from a great height, has read Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit.” I know this because I gave him the book.

On page eight of  “Things That Matter,” Charles Krauthammer (who once wrote speeches for Mondale) explains why he abandoned the Democratic Party:  “Modern liberalism perfectionist ambitions—reflected in its progenitor (and current euphemism) progressivism—seeks to harness the power of government, the mystique of science, and the rule of experts to shape both society and citizen to bring them both, willing or not, to a higher state of being.”

It’s worth mentioning that, when advocating planning,  Professor Heilbronner made it clear that planning and compulsion are inseparable.

If Nemitz preferred recognition as a competent columnist rather than as a predictable  propagandist, he need not agree with those who object to compulsion and  “social engineering.” It would be enough if he took the trouble to discover their objections and (this is the hard part) understand them. What he offers instead is this smug, smirking sneer: “Yet here we find ourselves once again, stuck with a governor who throws around fancy terms like a toddler plays with the heirloom china.” This from an ignoramus who researched the “fancy term” by use of an internet dictionary search.

Nemitz does not comment about LePage’s assertion that children will not grow into responsible adults if government won’t “Let them make their own responsible decisions.” This is far more crucial than his skepticism about government omni-competence.

Personal liberty cannot work without personal responsibility. Is there a method for learning personal responsibility that does not require holding the learner responsible?  I’ve never heard of one.


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