[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)
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?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.
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.
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,
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