Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taxes: The Price We Pay For Civilization

"Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society," said legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. As students of Buck v. Bell could tell you, Holmes had a habit of being monstrously wrong, but if he's right about taxes and civilization, it's certainly worth asking whether we're getting what we pay for.

Carrie Buck a poor girl who came from a very under privileged upbringing. Dr. James Hendren Bell was on the case. The Board of Directors issued an order for the sterilization of Buck, and her guardian appealed the case to the Circuit Court of Amherst County, which sustained the decision of the Board. The case then moved to the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia.

The appellate court sustained the sterilization law as compliant with both the state and federal constitutions, and it then went to the United States Supreme Court. The plaintiff's lawyers argued that this procedure ran counter to the protections of the 14th Amendment and 5th Amendment. They contended that the due process clause guarantees all adults the right to procreate which was being violated. They also made the argument that the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment was being violated since not all similarly situated people were being treated the same. The sterilization law was only for the "feeble-minded" at certain state institutions and made no mention of other state institutions or those who were not in an institution.

On 2 May 1927, in an 8-1 decision, the Court accepted that she, her mother and her daughter were "feeble-minded" and "promiscuous," and that it was in the state's interest to have her sterilized. The ruling legitimized Virginia's sterilization procedures until they were repealed in 1974.

The ruling was written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. In support of his argument that the interest of the states in a "pure" gene pool outweighed the interest of individuals in their bodily integrity, he argued:

“ We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. ”

Holmes concluded his argument by infamously declaring that "Three generations of imbeciles are enough". The sole dissenter in the court, Justice Pierce Butler, declined to write a minority opinion.

Carrie Buck was operated upon, receiving a compulsory salpingectomy (a form of tubal ligation). She was later paroled from the institution as a domestic worker to a family in Bland, Virginia. She was an avid reader of coloring books until her death in 1983. Her daughter Vivian had been pronounced "feeble minded" after a cursory examination by ERO field worker Dr. Arthur Estabrook, thus the "three generations" of the majority opinion. It is worthy of noting that the child did very well in school for the two years that she attended (she died of complications from measles in 1932), even being listed on her school's honor roll in April 1931.

Historian Paul A. Lombardo argued in 1985 that Buck was not "feeble-minded" at all, but that she had been put away to hide her rape, perpetrated by the nephew of her adoptive mother. He also asserted that Buck's lawyer, Irving Whitehead, poorly argued her case, failed to call important witnesses, and was remarked by commentators to often not know what side he was on. It is now thought that this was not because of incompetence, but deliberate. Whitehead had close connections to the counsel for the institution and to Priddy. Whitehead was a member of the governing board of the state institution in which Buck resided, and had personally authorized Priddy's sterilization requests and was a strong supporter of eugenic sterilization.

Wow and we give this government the power to do these things. We aren't getting what we are paying for. Over 700 billion a year to interest on the national debt which is paid via income taxes to the bankers. Over 700 billion paid to fight wars which are illegal and could be avoided. Over 800 billion in Medicare and health care programs which will be increased with the new health care bill. Over 700 billion paid for social security which everyone has paid into yet our government has already spent this money. Yes this country is dead broke. Fortunately people are waking up and we the people will put a stop to this nonsensical spending. I'm really amazed at how many smart people approve of these policies.


Trader Bob said...

Great Gazoo, Chicken Wrangler, Your Mom, and Attorney Andy, you all support Nancy Pelosi and the rest of these inept bureaucrats to tell you how to live your lives. Wow and you actually believe in these philosophies which discount human action and human motivation.

Great Gazoo said...

You don't know what all of us believe, Trader Bob, except the fact that you are an idiot. Are you trying to argue in this post that we shouldn't expand health care in this country because there is a risk that the gov't will order mandatory sterilizations? You must have ridden the short bus to school. Stop accepting sound bites as truth. The single-payer system does not allow the gov't to control the care given, it only allows them to pay the bills. There would actually be much less intervention then you currently get from your for-profit private insurance company (i.e., you can't see that doctor, he's not in your network). Universal health care could be paid for tommorow out of our current spending on the military. GFY