Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More religionism in public policy...

This time it's Social Security:
Elizabeth Anderson, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan, has put forward a defense of Social Security even more emphatically communitarian than Barber's. Social Security, she argues, is like "the Amish practice of community barn-raising. When a young farmer starts out on his own farm, he does not build his barn all by himself, nor does he pay others to help him build it. Instead, he enlists his community to build it without pay." Cohesion and reciprocity accomplish within the Amish community what individualism and calculations of self-interest do outside it in the raw world of capitalism.

After the vats of red and blue ink spilled since the 2004 election, it's strange to learn that some Democrats want to base social policy on the construction practices of an old-fashioned, intensely devout religious sect. Ms. Anderson misses the point when she rejects the idea that Social Security, unlike a barn-raising, depends on government coercion. "The Amish system isn't voluntary. Ever been shunned? Private associations have their own legal means of coercion."

-William Voegeli in the Opinion Journal


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