February 23, 2010

The Progressive Nanny State and Murder for the Greater Good

Story:  The Chemist's War

I titled this post The Progressive Nanny State and Murder for the Greater Good, though provocative and some may say inflammatory for good reason.  The above linked article is illustrative of what government can and did do "For the Greater Good".  Post WWI was the start of "Progressive thinking in the united states.  We saw laws and policies that clearly violated individual rights for the "greater good" such as Federal gun control laws, welfare programs, as well as Prohibition.  No matter what the intention of these laws and policies were, the bottom line is, death to individuals, by the hand of the government action.  In this case the U.S Government Intentionally poisoned Industrial Alcohol supplies because it became frustrated with it's ineffective enforcement of alcohol sale and distribution, resulting in the death of thousands of people.

"Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people."

This is what happens when one suffers from "Group Think".  The individual is not targeted for his individual drunkard behavior, the group was targeted, the inanimate object blamed.  This is the typical convoluted logic the progressives use. Prohibition, though it was technically legal, had a total disregard for individual rights and was and is totally immoral.  10,000 poisoned and add in how many more individual ancillary deaths for a law that was eventually repealed? (Yeah that sound like it worked out just fine........< sarcasm>)

I guess it is OK to murder if you are the government and frustrated and it is for the "Greater Good". 

Found at sondrak .


  1. The government policy was to denature industrial alcohol. If individuals stole the toxic industrial solvents and sold it as hooch as the article said, don't the bootleggers bear primary responsibility for the death and disability? A moral proposition I generally accept is that no person should provide food or drug products unless they can vouch for the safety. But I guess some think that those who steal industrial chemicals and sell it to others as food are blameless?

    Would it have made sense to add a color indicator, or a warning odorant (as is done with natural gas)? Certainly. And if one moves away from a simplistic idea of morality and constructs a theory where moral agency is complex and shared among members of a system, then one can assign partial blame to both the government chemists and the bootleggers - in fact, I believe this is the correct approach.

    A real question raised by this anecdote is the limits to which someone may booby-trap their property to protect it or control its use. If I want to make gasohol for my eco-car, and I want to qualify for tax-free production of the alcohol (and I want to protect my facility from bootleggers) ... can I denature the alcohol? And what are the consequences if someone steals that denatured alcohol?

    BTW, people can still buy denatured alcohol - does this mean that the government plot is still in place? Or does it simply mean that people are a bit more cautious about what they put in their bodies today?


  2. Progressives will justify anything.

    We no longer have prohibition, It FAILED!. It was repealed. People died by the hand of the government and it's "Progressive Policies".

    Progressive Policies are destructive. Look at Detroit. It looks Like Hiroshima in '45. Due to "Progressive Policies". Dare I say Progressive Policies are as destructive over time as a Nuke? Hmmmm... Think I will dig up some photos.

    But that's getting off the track, where were we?

    Oh right, now denatured alcohol is about Taxes? So I guess the government can kill when frustrated about taxes too. Ask Randy Waver how well that worked out for him and his family over a $200 tax dispute. Pretty sure the same type of Government agents were working that case. Just how long does the list of victims need to be?

  3. So you are absolving thieves of any moral responsibility for selling stolen poison to people for use as food?

    I didn't say prohibition is all about taxes - I gave a modern example where I might choose to denature my own alcohol for tax reasons, and to deter bootlegging thieves from stealing it. And I asked if I have moral culpability if my property is stolen and someone decides to sell it with claims that it is fit for human consumption. I contend that I would have little responsibility (or none) for loss of human life in that situation - blame should fall on the people who first stole my property, and who secondly avoided responsibilities of due diligence they have when engaging in trade.

    Prohibition often fails - but not always. For example, consider the once epidemic use of absinthe (which caused hallucinations, violent behavior, impressionist painting, and permanent nerve damage). Absinthe use was effectively eliminated by a movement to prohibit its use. Modern 'absinthes' do not contain the same toxins as were commonly purveyed in the 1800s even if they have a nice green color. In the case of absinthe, we can characterize the prohibitionist actions as both effective and good.

    Detroit? An irrelevant, irrational dodge. The main driving forces behind Detroit's failure are the decentralization and fall of the American auto industry and the process of suburbanization.

    Detroit grew and prospered when the auto industry favored it, and it went into decline when they began opening new plants elsewhere and closing plants around the Motor City.

    Americans want houses that are big and new - older neighborhoods are allowed to go into decay and are abandoned unless there is a countervailing force ... for example, nearby jobs and a scarcity of available land within commuting distance encourage urban renewal. We see cities being abandoned around the country without regard to the political culture or degree of 'progressive' sentiment. It is economics ... when there is a nice house in the suburbs, with a lawn, and an interstate to make the daily commute possible, people tend to choose that option if they can afford it. And the old hood is abandoned ... maybe it will be seen as an opportunity by a less affluent group, or maybe the buildings will be allowed to return to a state of nature. Are you telling us that 'ghost-towns' in the old west are also the fruit of progressive ideology?

  4. The logical errors in your 'blame the government' arguments are suspiciously similar to those who claim that the US government is murdering people when it tries to enforce border security ... some liberal extremists believe that by blocking the easy entry points used by illegal immigrants, the government is "forcing" people to take longer, more dangerous routes and that the government is thereby morally responsible for any increase in deaths among scofflaws.

    If we subscribe to a simple, absolute, binary view of morality, then we must blame the bootlegging thieves and wetbacks. These individuals should bear responsibility for the risks they assume - whether from selling bathtub gin or from a long night-time hike in the wilds of New Mexico.

    The only way to allow for the possibility that the government policies are wrong is to accept the notion that moral liability is shared among members of a system, and that right and wrong are often not binary and absolute but may be continuous (ie, an action may be 10% wrong but 90% right).

    At minimum, this continuous/shared approach supports the idea that government should do more to consider the unintended consequences of a policy. It asserts that actions of both the government and the law-breakers are sub-optimal. It does not suggest that bootleggers should be free to steal alcohol and resell it, but it constructs causality and morality as a product of multiple actions, and suggests that liability is several.

  5. As I said "Progressives will justify anything".

    No mention of the manufacturer's having a gun to his head by the government during the production. No rational for the prohibition in the first place. No accounting of the 10,000 plus dead. The state is always right.

    Thanks for confirming my thesis Anon.

  6. So you absolve the bootleggers? They had nothing to do with the negative consequences of diverting industrial solvents for human consumption?

    And can you read? Where did I say the state is always right? Oh, I didn't. My assertion is that there were multiple moral failings, but that government alone was not the problem. It's like blaming the gun manufacturers for murder instead of the end users - If ACME chemical manufactures denatured alcohol, and a bar serves it up in your martini, would you blame ACME? I suggest that the guilt lies primarily with the people who took that poison and repackaged it as beverage alcohol.

    The simple fact is that individuals, private for profit corporations, private non-profit corporations, and public corporations (ie, government) all fail or perform sub-optimally. Simple-minded scapegoating of any of these does nothing to promote the good.

    If the makers of Vioxx hid negative data about their product and the result was over 100,000 heart attacks (which are fatal about 30% of the time), are they 3 times worse than the government actions you are condemning? Does that mean that for-profit corporations are in general 3 times worse than government? I don't think so. Generally, for-profit corporations are OK. Generally, government is OK. Sometimes, they are not. When that happens, it is good to take action to prevent a repeat of the problem. But outlawing corporations or government is an irrational 'solution' to the real problems both sometimes present.

  7. Your argument is invalid.

    It is invalad because you argue from the specific to the general an is by nature logical and irrational.

    Example: (Anon) "My second cousin Freddy's friend choked on a turnip back in '73.
    All people that have eaten turnips die eventually and even wind up with cancer. Therefore turnips are to blame for many untold deaths as well as the people who sold them. We need proper and reasonable turnip controls. It is only fair and for the common good."

    Logical arguments are made from the general to the specific.

    Example: "Men should be free to eat turnips if they want. People die from different things every day. There is no difference in the death rate between carrots or turnip or even Brussels sprout consumption. Just because you know someone that choked on a turnip does not mean the are a health hazard."

  8. >> "Your argument is invalid. It is invalad because you argue from the specific to the general an is by nature logical and irrational. ... Logical arguments are made from the general to the specific."

    Deductive logic tends to go from the general to the specific, while inductive logic tends to start with the specific and goes to the general. You should know that both are valid forms of reasoning if they are done correctly (but apparently do not). Your analogy to turnips is faulty - your syllogism involving pointy roots is obviously fallacious, the examples I provided were not.

    I guess I should not be surprised that people often dismiss the idea of statistics when statistics provides them with a picture of reality which they don't like ... and it doesn't seem to matter where on the political spectrum these type of people happen to pitch their tent.

    Unit 10-02

  9. The turnip is woefully neglected by modern science, but here is a well reasoned study that presents evidence that turnips actually do affect the incidence of breast cancer among women. The effect was highly signficant - they found a p-value that was less than 0.001, which indicates that the probability that they came to that conclusion due to random error is less than one in one thousand. Their multivariate logistic model of causation is a refreshing way to determine whether turnips cause cancer or do not. At this point, the evidence tells us they do not cause cancer - they prevent it! Women who ate the least amount of turnips had a risk of breast cancer that was 1.75x higher than those who ate the most!


    If one applies similar methods to Vioxx, one comes to the conclusion that people who took it experienced significantly more heart attacks than those who did not. No other factor explains the large difference in heart attacks between the two groups.. ie, Vioxx causes heart attacks. The manufacturer was aware of this increased rate of heart attacks caused by their product, but chose to ignore and conceal what the evidence told them.


    Unit 10-02