I have sometimes tried to point out the unwholesome symbiosis of (a) the welfare state and (b) our indulgent view of crime and criminals. Both depend on an assessment of human nature in which individual responsibility is devalued, and the the state is seen as responsible for how people live. As expressed in criminal defense, this means that the defendant isn't really culpable. The state is culpable, because it failed to provide him with a good enough Head Start, or a job (regardless of his lack of interest in having one), or......well, you name it.
The following almost unbelievable story from Powerline shows that, when taken to its logical conclusion, conceptualizing citizens as infants warps beyond recognition not just the meme of the defense, but the fearsome power of prosecution.
This is one of the...most ominous, of recent headlines: Italian Seismologists Charged With Manslaughter for Not Predicting 2009 Quake. Of course, no one can predict earthquakes. No matter:
Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.
Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.
The...story quotes a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey who says that Italy's criminal prosecution "has a medieval flavor to it." Actually, you would have to go back to a more primitive era to recapture the condition of childish dependence that this story reveals. Many Europeans, and a growing number of Americans, have abandoned any pretense of looking after themselves and believe that it is the duty of the authorities--whoever they may be in a particular instance--to protect them from all harm, if not all inconvenience.