July 2nd marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act Of 1964. Discrimination was outlawed if by race, or color, or sex, or religion. Regardless of our ideology, we can all agree that this was a good piece of legislation in our nation's history, correcting obvious societal wrongs. It was a good example of...social engineering.
Recently on "790 Today," we've had a few calls about problematic examples of social engineering -- examples of government apparently going extra-far to create a desired outcome in society. Fair enough if the government is going so far as to discriminate or harm one group or another (though I don't know that some of the examples I referred to were, in my view, a bad thing -- economic priorities in Eau Claire to promote women- and minority-owned businesses are good as long as it's mainly encouragement, especially when involving two groups that have, in fact, suffered discrimination in the world of free market ownership). Yet the impression becomes that social engineering is, in and of itself, undesirable.
If one believes that the government -- or the court system -- should not work the system on behalf of one group of people, that's fine. It's the small-big government debate, and we all have our takes on proper involvement. Yet, I realized that one of the pre-eminent examples of social engineering is the Civil Rights Act Of 1964 -- the government stepping into society (mainly the South) to affect the operation of society. If one is completely opposed to social engineering, then that Civil Rights Act -- and similar legislation and court rulings over the decades and centuries -- was not the right thing to do. Again, all of us believe that they WERE the correct approach to right terrible wrongs.
Yes, every aspect of altering society needs to be kept from extreme action. However, if society cannot correct discrimination and, even, hate on its own accord, it is imperative for the government to step in to fix a clear harm to its people. Our social engineering of the 1960s made America a more-equal society. If we need government to engineer life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so be it.