Late 19th century America was rife with social reformers arguing for the need to deal with many forms of societal distress. One of those was the concern (some would say fear) for those suffering with mental health disorders or/and developmental disorders and who were labelled as the “defective classes.” Reformers aggressively pushed for state-funded asylums and special institutions to house these individuals.
Article by Vincent Geloso and Raymond J. March from AIER.
The result was that numerous states, such as New York and Massachusetts, created a sprawling system of state institutions for the “insane and feeble-minded” (these were the labels used at the time). Most of these systems were expansions of small existing asylums. In the span of the four decades from 1870 to 1910, America’s institutionalized population increased ten-fold.
Many have hailed this as a public-spirited effort to help a vulnerable portion of the American population. To be sure, numerous social reformers did indeed exhibit genuine concern for the fate of the “insane and feeble-minded.” However, as Raymond March and I point out in a recent article in Public Choice, they also allied themselves with interest groups whose motivations were far baser: asylum physicians who saw their economic status enhanced. In the process, we get a glimpse of how government expansions are achieved.
Prior to the expansion of asylums, most care for the insane was provided by poorhouses. By virtue of catering to the destitute, these locally-funded organizations provided relief to a motley crew of people – including those who were poor by reason of their mental health. Roughly a quarter of poorhouse residents were deemed to either have a mental health disorder or a developmental disorder.
The physicians and asylum managers who worked in the previously existing asylums as well as in newly established asylums proactively lobbied state governments to transfer residents away from the poorhouses and into the asylums.
In numerous states, they were able to secure such transfers on the basis that poorhouses did not provide expert care. However, it is worth pointing out that while the care was non-medical in nature, the services provided by poorhouses were in a more familiar environment and in closer proximity to families.
More importantly, asylum physicians obtained more state funding as a result of providing more services at the expense of a competing source of care. Asylum physicians also lobbied for government restrictions on entry for private provision of care – thus further limiting any competition for their services. Essentially, asylum physicians stood to gain by securing rents produced by restraining competition for their services.
To assess the extent to which they were able to secure these rents, March and I relied on state-level institutionalization rates from 1870 to 1910 in conjunction with state-level legislation affecting entry into the medical profession. Our premise was that where the medical profession was strong enough to limit entry against established members, asylum physicians were at least equally able to restrict entry. In other words, entry barriers for medical care were a proxy for entry barriers for mental health care. Controlling for other factors such as ethnic composition, age and income, we found that entry barriers predict 32% of the increase in institutionalization between 1870 and 1910.
That is not a small proportion, but it is not a large one either. It seems to be a complementary explanation to other factors that speak to concerns for the well-being of the afflicted. Yet, this provides a key insight into the growth of government.
One theory for the expansion of governments is that of the bootleggers and Baptists. That theory is based on a historical case whereby Baptists wanted temperance laws that limited the sale of alcohol. These Baptists were motivated by genuine concern for societal welfare. Another group, sellers of illegal alcohol known as bootleggers, also wanted these temperance laws as it increased their profits. As such, bootleggers were willing to help accomplish the Baptists’ political objectives. A strange political alliance was formed!
This illustration of the adage that politics makes for strange bedfellows applies to the expansion of asylums in late 19th century America. Social reformers who genuinely cared for the insane were joined by people who stood to personally gain from the reforms. Thus, a strong (and successful) coalition for the expansion of asylums emerged.
Those who are interested in the underlying causes of the expansion of governments should do well to remember the example of American asylums. Governments can grow for seemingly noble motivations, but there is always an opportunity for self-interested groups to tag along in ways that will matter later when the time comes to assess outcomes.
‘The Purge’ by Big Tech targets conservatives, including us
Just when we thought the Covid-19 lockdowns were ending and our ability to stay afloat was improving, censorship reared its ugly head.
For the last few months, NOQ Report, Conservative Playbook, and the American Conservative Movement have appealed to our readers for assistance in staying afloat through Covid-19 lockdowns. The downturn in the economy has limited our ability to generate proper ad revenue just as our traffic was skyrocketing. We had our first sustained stretch of three months with over a million visitors in November, December, and January, but February saw a dip.
It wasn’t just the shortened month. We expected that. We also expected the continuation of dropping traffic from “woke” Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but it has actually been much worse than anticipated. Our Twitter account was banned. Both of our YouTube accounts were banned. Facebook “fact-checks” everything we post. Spotify canceled us. Medium canceled us. Apple canceled us. Why? Because we believe in the truth prevailing, and that means we will continue to discuss “taboo” topics.
The 2020 presidential election was stolen. You can’t say that on Big Tech platforms without risking cancellation, but we’d rather get cancelled for telling the truth rather than staying around to repeat mainstream media’s lies. They have been covering it up since before the election and they’ve convinced the vast majority of conservative news outlets that they will be harmed if they continue to discuss voter fraud. We refuse to back down. The truth is the truth.
The lies associated with Covid-19 are only slightly more prevalent than the suppression of valid scientific information that runs counter to the prescribed narrative. We should be allowed to ask questions about the vaccines, for example, as there is ample evidence for concern. One does not have to be an “anti-vaxxer” in order to want answers about vaccines that are still considered experimental and that have a track record in a short period of time of having side-effects, including death. One of our stories about the Johnson & Johnson “vaccine” causing blood clots was “fact-checked” and removed one day before the government hit the brakes on it. These questions and news items are not allowed on Big Tech which is just another reason we are getting canceled.
There are more topics that they refuse to allow. In turn, we refuse to stop discussing them. This is why we desperately need your help. The best way NOQ, CP, and ACM readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We are on track to be short by about $4100 per month in order to maintain operations.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. We had 5,657,724 sessions on our website from November, 2020, through February, 2021. Our intention is to elevate that to higher levels this year by focusing on a strategy that relies on free speech rather than being beholden to progressive Big Tech companies.
During that four-month stretch, Twitter and Facebook accounted for about 20% of our traffic. We are actively working on operating as if that traffic is zero, replacing it with platforms that operate more freely such as Gab, Parler, and others. While we were never as dependent on Big Tech as most conservative sites, we’d like to be completely free from them. That doesn’t mean we will block them, but we refuse to be beholden to companies that absolutely despise us simply because of our political ideology.
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They’re Trying to Shut Us Down
Over the last several months, I’ve lost count of how many times the powers-that-be have tried to shut us down. They’ve sent hackers at us, forcing us to take extreme measures on web security. They sent attorneys after us, but thankfully we’re not easily intimidated by baseless accusations or threats. They’ve even gone so far as to make physical threats. Those can actually be a bit worrisome but Remington has me covered.
For us to continue to deliver the truth that Americans need to read and hear, we ask you, our amazing audience, for financial assistance. We just launched a GiveSendGo page to help us pay the bills. It’s brand new so don’t be discouraged by the lack of donations there. It’s a funny reality that the fewer the donations that have been made, the less likely people are willing to donate to it. One would think this is counterintuitive, but sometimes people are skeptical because they think that perhaps there’s a reason others haven’t been donating. In our situation, we’re just getting started so please don’t be shy if you have the means to help.
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