Government by 'Harrison Bergeron'

From pandemic relief to public schools, wealth taxes to COVID vaccines, politicians are finding bad ways to redistribute the pie.


"I like to say very bluntly: Our mission is to redistribute wealth," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday while announcing the removal of entrance standards at public schools. "A lot of people bristle at that phrase; that is in fact the phrase we need to use."

It's rare to hear Karl Marx translated so faithfully by a 21st century American politician, but alas not rare at all these days to see Kurt Vonnegut's classic short story "Harrison Bergeron" treated as not dystopian but aspirational. From vaccine dispersal to wealth taxes, from education policy to Capitol Hill's latest COVID relief package, the blunt force of government is being used to pound away at reality until "equity" is finally achieved.

On today's Reason Roundtable podcast, Peter Suderman, Matt Welch, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Nick Gillespie talk at length about the Harrison Bergeronization of American political discourse and policymaking, including the startling real-world disconnect between rhetoric and reality. Along the way, the gang also breaks down in detail the new corona bill, encourages President Donald Trump to at least commute the sentence of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, and tries to unblock Mangu-Ward's Moby Dick problem.

Audio production by Ian Keyser and Regan Taylor.

Music: "A Boy and His Dreams" by Hans Johnson.

Relevant links from the show:

"Deal Reached To Tack $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package on to Spending Bill," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"Coronavirus Stimulus Has Cost $3.6 Trillion, but Oversight Is Still Severely Lacking," by Eric Boehm

"To Mitigate Racial Inequity, the CDC Wants To Vaccinate Essential Workers Before the Elderly," by Robby Soave

"The FDA Finally Approves a Real At-Home COVID-19 Test," by Ronald Bailey

"An Anti-Racist Education for Middle Schoolers," by Robby Soave

"Public Schools Are Losing Their Captive Audience of Children," by J.D. Tuccille

"As Schools Reopen, Chicago Will Hire 2,000 Employees to Assist Students Whose Teachers Stay Home," by Robby Soave

"Presidential Pardons Offer Trump a Way to Go Out on a Positive Note," by J.D. Tuccille

"Help Reason Fight for the Unjustly Imprisoned," by Matt Welch

"Sound of Metal Creates an Entire World Out of Sound," by Peter Suderman