web analytics

[Hopefully this isn't too focused on health-care.  I don't wish to be dreary.]

When it comes to highlighting wingnuttery as Metavirus recently did, I’m unfortunately a poor substitute of late. I’ve become desensitized to partisan insanity. When I read that same quote several days ago—”our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today”—I did not think twice about it. Par for the crazy course, it seemed.

I’m reminded of Jane’s Law:

The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
Quite true. I’m sure most of you remember how smug and arrogant the Republican Party was when it held power. But perhaps you don’t also remember left-wing craziness during the effort to reform Social Security. And perhaps you don’t see the arrogance of Democrats today. It may be easier to shrug off your own side’s excess, but it’s there—though I hope not usually to the degree Republicans have been spewing lately.

I don’t plan on digging into this much, however.  Partly because it’s yesterday’s news, but mostly because I wish to avoid drowning in weak man arguments. The majority of the partisan blogosphere pretty much runs on weak mans. A progressive will pull some ludicrous position or quote from a conservative to ridicule with her buddies, and vice versa.  Subtext being: “of course we have to fight those people—they’re all insane!”. It becomes a snarky, smug, morale-boosting sport.  One that in the past I’ve dabbled in often—albeit from my own pox on both your houses perspective.

For more of a policy example, a couple months ago Metavirus joined others mocking Sen. DeMint’s health plan, which apparently offers a subsidy for any American who’s unhappy with their current coverage to go out and buy new care. Yes, it would serve to move us away from employer-based care, but at what cost?  As pointless wastes go, it’s right up there with Cash for Clunkers—as if the health-industrial complex deserved a stimulus. The lunacy of funding it with recovered TARP funds for “deficit neutrality” just ices the cake with sweet craziness. (The correct approach, which I advocate, is to fund subsidies by repealing the employer tax credit, and to means-test them with a low-income requirement, ala Wyden-Bennett)

Via the Dish, I see Julian Sanchez wondering about a better way to argue politics:

Consider the way our views normally evolve. We sort of hunker down in our ideological bunkers trying to fend off various attacks and challenges. Sometimes an especially forceful argument will require a modification in the fortifications—and on rare occasions, we’ll even be forced to abandon a position. Which is to say, we learn from other perspectives largely in a defensive mode, through a kind of Darwinian selection of arguments. But what if instead we tried to use the insights available from our own perspectives, not to defeat or convert the other guy, but to give his argument its best form?

This might sound like giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but even in terms of the Darwinian struggle, there’s value to being able to show how your view trumps even the optimal form of the competition. Think of chess: You can’t see your own best move unless you have some sense of what your opponent’s best response would be. But the more intriguing possibility is that a smart progressive’s good-faith reformulation of libertarianism might be something that the libertarian, too, could recognize as an improvement—and vice versa.

I would probably find it very difficult to reformulate progressivism or social conservatism in a snarkless, non-derogatory manner. But I get why it would be intellectually edifying to exercise the ability.  For my own part, I try to at least read the best of progressive and socon thought.  (Matt Yglesias. Ezra Klein. Paul Krugman. Postmodern Conservative. The American Scene.  Ross Douthat.  Daniel Larison…)  It’s useful to know where the smartest people on the other side are coming from if you actually want to have a good faith argument and aim to be more convincing than shrill.

Contra Justice Sotomayor’s posturing opponents, empathy is a very useful quality—especially when you aim to disagree constructively.  Rhetoricians call it the principle of charity.  (I’ve found Andrew Sullivan to be particularly good at this, probably due to that Harvard-via-Oxford Britishness and having to reconcile his gayness with Catholicism.)

In any event, please don’t interpret my present lack of enthusiasm for wingnut-bashing as a knock on Metavirus’ style. Ridiculing weak opponents is still good fun, and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t enjoy it

But when he asked for guest bloggers, I jumped at the chance to engage and offer some perspectives I hope are not so easy to ridicule. A little reminder that, hey, not everyone we may disagree with has to be a nut.

For instance, I’m generally against medical egalitarianism.  I don’t think adults have a positive right to health-care anymore than I think they have a positive right to food.  Life entails work, or relying on the independent charity of others. And as a libertarian I’m theoretically against all initiation of force—including charity by force.

So I found DIA’s post countering the notion of “misplaced medical egalitarianism” to be challenging. How do I draw the line? I definitely support efforts to provide treatment to children in very low-income families, for both moral and equal opportunity reasons.  And I’m for emergency services acting as an egalitarian safety net, because few of us can be bothered to make personal arrangements for such catastrophes.  This seems an appropriate role for the limited government I support.

But why am I against medical egalitarianism for, say, kidney transplants and cancer surgery?  Why not give every patient a lottery number and fund treatment through an equitable tax?

One answer is that “free” health-care is a bad incentive: people are less motivated to live healthily, because someone else will pay for all their problems like obesity and diabetes.  (Canada apparently “solves” this with long waiting lines).  But this answer is insufficient, because there are also many health problems we have no personal control over, such as genetic predispositions and birth defects.

Another is that, over time, a competitive for-profit health market produces better research, development, and investment in advanced treatments:

Source: Fraser Institute

Another answer might be the problems of regulatory capture and government-by-lobbyists.

My deepest held answer probably boils down to the same reason I oppose most welfare: individualism. People ought to be motivated to succeed for their own sake, and not to bum off the rest of society.

Metavirus recently posted a NYT op-ed arguing that “any nation as rich as ours ought to guarantee health coverage for all of its residents.”

Well, self-interest is humanity’s most powerful and effective motivator. Let’s deploy it for good rather than ill. I’m pretty sure that’s how we became so freaking rich in the first place.


Maybe we can help the poor out with subsidies, like the Swiss. At the very least, let’s find a way to ensure continuous coverage across periods of temporary unemployment. But guaranteeing the same centralized, government-paid care for every person as a positive right? A bridge too far.

Gherald filed this under: ,  
  1. schu says:

    Lets see now, I can earn 8 dollars an hour and still manage to provide shelter for me and my family, of some sort, and I can put food on the table, at least in my area, bit my insulin costs 150 dollars a vial for one type and 135 dollars a vial for the other. So I then have the right to die because I cannot afford to treat my generically inherited aliment. A rather strict interoperation of only the fit survive.

    • Gherald says:

      That doesn't qualify for Medicaid, already?

      Like I've been saying, maybe we can help the poor with subsidies so those vials would be cheaper. I just don't think care should be pre-paid.

      • schu says:

        The Medicare cost cutting program that have been put into place because the states are running out of funds require more cuts for the people on the program, and in reducing the number of people on the program.

        • Gherald says:

          Well yes there have been cuts, but that's the price of relying on taxpayers for care. You're susceptible to economic downturns just as surely as all the rest of us who pay for our own care are.

          An alternative single-payer-like system would is also susceptible. But the effect might be even worse, because there would be a greater appetite for tax hikes to preserve coverage, causing it's own problems.

          There's no magic bullet here, and I prefer the scenario where people with very low incomes may receive some subsidies but still have to take care of themselves.

  2. Metavirus says:

    a deep post. I have a particular qualm with this last bit,

    "But guaranteeing the same centralized, government-paid care for every person as a positive right? A bridge too far."

    Apparently not a bridge too far for the scores of rich, modern nations who have guaranteed their citizens at least a baseline level of coverage (including the swiss). something key that i think gets lost in the debate over the hybrid approach (i.e. public and private insurance) that the administration is pushing is that such an approach would still lead to different levels of coverage, no matter which way you slice it. the basic public option will provide a baseline of coverage below which no citizen will have to fall. however, the hundreds of million of people with, for example, retiree, government employee, disabled, or private company employee coverage will have different kinds of coverage — some better and some worse.

    guaranteeing a baseline below which people cannot fall is by no means a bridge too far, as has been proven time and time again in rich country after rich country that has ensconced this right into law. if we are truly incapable of this, our empire has fallen far indeed

  3. Metavirus says:

    and, p.s., a few things other than healthcare next plz! ;-)

    • schu says:

      The problem with moving on to another topic is that this one is pertinent to the major policy debate today. Weather we philosophize from the ivory towers of libertarianism like Gherald , or from the trenches of reality as I am, the subject in necessary. The lies and intimidation being spread from the wingnuts and the insurance agencies are fermenting a growing anger from millions of people.

  4. Metavirus says:

    p.p.s also, as to this,

    The majority of the partisan blogosphere pretty much runs on weak mans. A progressive will pull some ludicrous position or quote from a conservative to ridicule with her buddies, and vice versa. Subtext being: "of course we have to fight those people—they're all insane!".

    I know you've been on a bit of a tear on the weak man argument thing for a while now but, to be honest, it really doesn't apply to a lot of the justified outrage over the nuclear-weapons-grade lies, misdirection and bullshit being spewed out by the GOP's Mendacity Industrial Complex lately. it is not just the fringe that is actively feeding this beast, it is "respectable" elected leaders in the Senate, RNC, House of Reps, think tanks, Fox News, ad nauseum. It has reached a level almost unimaginable to the parts of my mind that still hold on to naive notions of the inherent goodness of large swaths of humanity.

    we've reached the point where the doctors in the asylum have become the patients and the process of getting there has not been at all pretty (remember how much your beloved McCain got turned into a rabid, frothing GOP Lie Machine and remember how close our country came to having someone even stupider than GWB sitting in the White House? it's happened to nearly every powerful GOP figure at this point…)

    • Gherald says:

      My understanding is there was a fair amount of right-wing craziness during the Clinton years, but that it wasn't this bad and elected officials weren't taking part.

      My working hypothesis is that the Bush years firmly entrenched the party in unreality, and that it's going to take a lot of flailing to pull itself together. Hard to say how much or how long, though…

      But my point about weak mans is just that there are sane policy alternative that are still worth thinking about during the GOP's absence from rational discourse.

  5. Metavirus says:

    There are certainly sane policy alternatives on offer, but not from anyone in the respectable Republican leadership these days.  For an accusation of \”weak man argument\” to be true, the argument must actually be marginal and not advanced by a large portion of the opposition.  For instance, \”A specter is haunting America: the specter of profit. We have become fearful that somewhere, somehow, an evil corporation has found a way to make lots of money.\”  http://thenonsequitur.com/?tag=weak-man

    • schu says:

      And as the ivory tower debates go on, the medication is still needed, people are cutting their meds to stretch them out, eventually the disease causes a heart attack, the patent dies, and we still debate.

  6. Metavirus says:

    Relying on taxpayers for care works great in terms of the VA,Medicaid, Medicare and health insurance for govt employees. I guessthe public option is the only circumstance in our long experience with'socialized' medicine that would fail our country horribly. I've justgiven up on listening to the mainstream voices who would have screamedabout things like social security (result: works great, people loveit) and Medicare (works great, people love it) back in the day andcast around a parade of horribles like Ronald Reagan did withMedicare, saying that Medicare would bring about the downfall ofcapitalism and the installation of dirty pinko communism.Fool me once, twice, thrice: shame on you. Fool me again? Justfriggin shoot me

    • Gherald says:

      I guess that's wonderful if you ignore Medicare's massive unfunded liabilities and Social Security being the very definition of an intergenerational Ponzi scheme, which relies on illegal immigrants with fake SSNs (who don't get anything back out of the system) to sustain itself.

      Social Security and Medicare have been extremely popular. They're also fiscally unsustainable.

      • Metavirus says:

        yeah, because saying that medicare works and is very popular is the same thing as saying medicare has no problems. of course it does. however, the only fact i need to point you to is the percentage increase in per patient spending and reimbursement as compared between Medicare and the private insurance industry (hint: Medicare costs and payments have risen much less quickly than the private insurance market).

        • Gherald says:

          Well sure it's cheaper, it covers less than regular insurance. (For proof, just look at the sub program of Medicare advantage, which pays private insurers for coverage. Costs more, but has better services). But though it covers less, Medicare is given "free", that's why it's popular.

          Anyhow, we were talking about funding problems, and you said Medicare and Social Security "work great". They don't work great at all, unless popularity and the ability to sign checks are our only criteria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>