Thursday, October 02, 2008

Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

Over on his blog, Will Shetterly asks for some Supreme Court precedents that may have escaped Sarah Palin's attention. This one illustrates how far UU views of the differently abled and sexually active have evolved in less than a century.

“The attack is not upon the procedure but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainty is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited and that Carrie Buck ‘is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization,’ and thereupon makes the order. In view of the general declarations of the Legislature and the specific findings of the Court obviously we cannot say as matter of law that the grounds do not exist, and if they exist they justify the result. 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 tube....Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

--Famous UU and US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., writing for the Court


At October 3, 2008 at 12:02:00 AM EDT, Blogger UUpdater said...

It would be a mostly impotent stance to say that you are against eugenic sterilization since it has pretty much died out as a practice. More importantly she stated she was a federalist and the example you give would seem to indicate that the supreme court does not always have to intervene for people to eventually get it right. To really get at the heart of the question Katie Couric was after can you name a relevant supreme court decision that you would disagree with as a federalist, not just on general principle.

At October 3, 2008 at 2:52:00 PM EDT, Blogger Will Shetterly said...

Fausto, excellent quote, because it's just scary now.

Uupdater, you're asking for an extremely literalist response to Palin's failure to answer, but that's not how humans behave. People have broadened the question, and the answers are fascinating.

At October 3, 2008 at 11:23:00 PM EDT, Blogger UUpdater said...

Yes, people have "expanded" the question making it much easier to answer. Then they mock Gov. Palin for not having an answer. But showing off how smart you are by dumbing down the question is just lame.

If people were saying "Gee, politically it would have been a bone headed idea for her to mention Bush v. Gore, but ..." I would find it much more interesting. Just because a decision was bad doesn't mean it's a good idea for her to mention it. Heck, if people just posted "here's my least favorite scotus decision" with no reference to Palin I would be cool with it.

It's the "she had no answer, here's my lame answer" tone that I find annoying.

At October 4, 2008 at 8:19:00 AM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

By your criterion, UUpdater, I imagine Palin would be as eager to overturn U. S. v. Nixon (holding that the law applies to the president) as she is to overturn Roe v. Wade, if only she had heard of it.

At January 4, 2010 at 4:56:00 PM EST, Blogger Equality said...

Buck v Bell has not been "effectively" overturned. The last time it was enforced was the last time somebody called 911 to try and get help for a seizure victim. Why else would first responders often taser, beat and kill seizure victims and never be held responsible?


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