Tuesday, August 4, 2009

At least he's honest.

It's hard to say exactly how much higher my blood pressure is as a direct result of conservative's naivete and dissembling but I think "somewhat" would be a good bet. So imagine my relief when somebody at the National Review of all places actually fesses up and admits to thinking that, yes, it would be better if the tail wagged the dog.

Mark Steyn actually posts a fairly reasoned argument for an awful awful position and at the same time gives you a pretty good sense of the faux tough-guy, this-man-is-an-island-by-god, fantasy world that far too many of my middle aged white male peers like to imagine they swagger around in or used to in some long lost less complicated and freer time.

As I've noted too many times there is no conservative position on health care reform beyond "No". Doesn't exist. Look for it. Oh sure there is some reflexive vague babble about vouchers and the like which may or may not be a worthwhile bit of tweaking but does exactly nothing in terms of addressing the real issues of costs, uninsured, and market failures. Exactly nothing.

Its sort of a "we don't need no stinkin' ideas" approach to problem solving.

And Steyn nails it right under the title:

"Government healthcare would be wrong even if it controlled costs"


That's who they are. Even if it is right, its wrong. Even if it helps, it hurts. That's dogma for ya, which is handy because it fills in all the pesky blanks without troubling the adherent to consider the conflicting tensions of reality.

And the great irony here is that these big bad rugged individualists are too lost in their simplistic fantasies to realize they are intellectually beholden to the same basic utopian impulse that informs socialism and communism. The idea that we can be lead to our better and more noble natures by strict adherence to an economic system is a deeply dysfunctional world view that appeals to weak minds and fearful hearts. But like I say, that's who they are and its nice to see them own up to it every now and again.


  1. "Even if it is right, its wrong. Even if it helps, it hurts."

    Yes, the world is a complicated place. "Controlling costs" is not the only measure of a government healthcare system. If you read the rest of Steyn's article, and a dozen other similar articles over the past several months, you'd see how he elaborates on that point. There are much bigger issues than controlling costs.

  2. Yes indeed, Mark.

    Like, oh, the not QUITE trivial matter that in the first place this "controlling" costs is almost always a white lie, and that many Euro governments HIDE their costs by outsourcing and transferring some of the heavy lifting to private concerns, AND then there is the thorny issue of lost productivity in the rationing and wait times at that nice young Dr. Man's office.

    ..and that fact that in the US the sharpest increases in care cost are from.....yeah-ya guessed it....MEDICARE and MEDICAID...

    And then we have the most thorny thing of all; the very change in the relationship of government rationing as a way of dictating life habits of the regular Joe.

  3. PS--

    I like your self-portrait, DAMMIT.

    Better to be a moose in the headlights than a deer.

    Down in my neck o the woods we tote guns, though. So, just a heads up on the costume.

  4. Even if it helps, it hurts. That's dogma for ya, which is handy because it fills in all the pesky blanks without troubling the adherent to consider the conflicting tensions of reality.

    He didn't say it would ever help--because it won't.

    He said it was wrong even in the best of all scenarious--because it IS.

    The argument for Euro-Canadian health care is one that would assume government has the power, the ability, and the right to control just about...well...any aspect of your life.

    Which it WOULD have to do in order to make the numbers fit, the promises "work", and the math add up to something more than a Chinese fire drill of zeros on the actuarian tables.

    If you HAD read Steyn, rather than some "Steyn's a doofus" precis, you'd see he's addressed the philosophical error of turning the people into nanny-state addicts and the role of government as the intoxicating state dope pusher.

    Why not just have government reimburse my night out on the town? New studies suggest reckless sex and alcohol have benefits that outweigh the inevitable costs of beer bellies, the VD clinic, and heart murmurs.

    And surely government could help us out by paying for our kids education totally, and buying us computers and cell phones and dinners!

    Pouring wine out of someone else's bottle is always a thrill--but where does it end?

    A good peek at the Euro glop, and indolence and stupor our "allies" find themselves in is evidence of this, if nothing else.

    When government runs healthcare and not research teams and doctors, it becomes THE focus of life.

    Perfect for a nation of expensive hypochondriacs like Americans already are.

  5. Mark makes a good point that there are other issues in play than controlling costs but its worth pointing out that the Right has failed utterly over the course of several decades to address those issues as well. They have no approach other than to reflexively spew free market trickle down cliches that have never worked as advertised and have abdicated a seat at the grown up table as a consequence.

    Wakefield is I believe possibly confused about Medicare and Medicaid costs or at least not clear. Both have lower admin costs than private
    insurers and both have the worst risk pools possible, the very old and the very poor.

    Lots of people tote guns Wake. Check out the link to the Liberal Gun Club.

  6. The part about guns was just a joke about your headdress style here...

    And the issue with Medicare is not overall costs, but the RATE at which they are RISING.

    Having said that, though, it should be clear by now that, as John C. Goodman has written, this actuarial trick about saving money comes from the Euro habit of outsourcing much of the costs, and limiting doctor pay, in addition to coveniently (in those larger system of NHC) NOT counting lost time from work and other downers not typically seen on the books when you have waiting lines and times that put American office visits to shame for being real snoozers.

    As to the philosphical differences here about the level of government intrusion in life, so be it.

  7. ....and we might also ask one thing though, leaving the rest behind for now:

    What is so "grown up" at the kiddie table of government interference in life and government control over the primal (RE: ADULT) responsibilities of life????

    Why not have government take care of our kids while their at it?

    Oh hell, they do. My bad. It's called "public schools"---and like most government projects that have Nanny State replace moms and dads, this too is utterly atrocious, and most people on this point recognize that the gladiator-in-training-methodology of government schooling is no more adult than any other aspect of such governance. And the sour results show it.

  8. Haven't seen any evidence what ever that the RATE of cost increase in Medicare is any higher than private insures across the board when adjusted for increased #'s of enrollees, but if you've got a link or other source I'd enjoy taking a look at it.

    Mr. J Goodman notwithstanding I think costs, both hidden and overt, would hardly be an argument that favors your position.

    The intrusion argument falls flat for me. We have excellent universal coverage for the protection of private property, we call them police and firemen and if you have an argument that those government services have intruded unduly on what would otherwise be your free will I'd like to hear it. Absent a good point in that regard I find that particular line to be tilting at windmills.

    Thanks for your comments.

  9. td:

    It can be fascinating to see the arguments people come up with for more government control.

    The purpose of government is simple: to secure your rights. The purpose of government is *not* to wipe your nose, to buy you a pony or to guarantee you a happy ending. None of those are your rights. Private property is your right, in every state in the Union. Indeed, under governments where private property has not been your right, it turns out pretty much nothing else is your right either. Therefore, it could be argued that private property is not only a fundamental right but also a precondition for most other rights.

    But what if you really want "the government" (actually coercion of your fellow citizens) to wipe your nose, buy you a pony and guarantee you a happy ending? Well, you have to get creative.

    The argument that since "we have excellent universal coverage for the protection of private property" we must also guarantee everyone whatever else they want is a novel one--at least to me--but its novelty does not redeem its erroneousness.

    First, we do not actually have universal coverage for the protection of private property. We have states and localities that each in their own way provide *some* protections of private property. The federal government does not make burglary illegal. States and local governments do.

    Second, the coverage is not really "excellent". It is actually very limited. The ways in which burglary is illegal and in which someone can be punished for it are limited--probably more limited than in any other major jurisdiction on earth. Why? So as not to infringe on another of your rights: liberty.

    Third, private property is an actual right. Forcing other people to pay costs you incur is not an actual right.* So the fact that states and localities provide limited protection for your actual rights is in no way an argument for the federal government to leap over the Constitution to give you a fake "right". Arguing otherwise would seem to be the "tilting at windmills".

    *Yes, I know that sometimes people do get away with this--from welfare queens to bank bailouts--but when this happens, it is corruption, not rights, and it is justly condemned as such.

  10. I've discussed before the extent to which conservatives value property rights over personal rights and the baffling extent to which the contradictions that follow never even occur to them. Ted seems to be fitting neatly into that category.

    To clear a point of confusion on my part... when I say we have excellent universal coverage of private property I mean it in the sense that term "universal" healthcare has entered the debate. Perhaps it would have been clearer had I said single payer protection for private property. In any event the point stands unscathed.

    The deep dishonesty in Ted's argument is that the proposals on the table don't propose to buy ponies, wipe noses or dish up servings of rainbow stew. Even metaphorically. That's hysterical nonsense propagated by people who are fresh out of ideas that have to grossly overreach in order to have anything to say at all.

    Healthcare reform as it stands proposes to interject a level of competition into the marketplace that the market itself is unable to generate on its own and then let the market price itself accordingly. Period. End of story.

    Now one may accept that or not and even upon acceptance one may reasonably disagree. But given the scope of the issue it is the height of intellectual dishonesty to snipe without having a better alternative and the fact of the matter is that conservatism simply does not have the means to address this issue. Never has and never will.

  11. Healthcare reform as it stands proposes to interject a level of competition into the marketplace that the market itself is unable to generate on its own and then let the market price itself accordingly. Period. End of story.

    Single payer is SINGLE PAYER.


    The real question here is not whether SOMETHING will be implemented. We know it will.

    But whether the "I favor single payer" Obama emerges, as expected in the long run, or if the strategy is to deign to say that we'll have some free market competition (most unlikely), that in turn will get crowded out of the market.

    Which is exactly the experience of Hawaii on the state level.

    This is called "distinction with little difference"

    The notion of competition is ludicrous in the first place, and sure as hell is not wanted by the main pushers of this when told to fist pumps and ACORN cheers in meetings that the main goal here is to "get rid" of private carriers.

  12. td:

    "I've discussed before the extent to which conservatives value property rights over personal rights"

    Property rights ARE personal rights, and, as already mentioned, among the most fundamental thereof. If you really care about personal rights you will defend the personal right of property. If, on the other hand, you are just posing as a defender of "personal rights" while you actually advance government rights, i.e. anti-personal rights, then you will ... well, do just as you've done above.

    "single payer protection for private property"

    Sorry, we don't have that either. As already described, each state, municipality and individual has its own way of paying for the protection of private property. There is no centralized, national system of property protection.

    "Healthcare reform as it stands proposes to interject a level of competition into the marketplace"

    Perhaps you can explain how replacing many private payers with a single government payer will "inject a level of competition into the marketplace"?

    "given the scope of the issue it is the height of intellectual dishonesty to snipe without having a better alternative"

    First, a quibble: why would the "scope" affect how "dishonest" an argument is? Either an argument is honest or it is not. The scope makes no difference. Similarly, there is nothing "dishonest" about accurately pointing out flaws. Not advancing an alternative does not make criticism dishonest. It may make the criticism less useful, but that is only if you are stuck on the idea that a national, centralized policy is somehow required. It is not.

    Which brings me to the second and the main point. A flawed status quo can still be better than a profoundly misjudged, massive government intervention in every citizen's life. To the extent there are problems in the American health care system, they are mostly where the government already intrudes.

    The government already runs Medicare and Medicaid where fraud, waste, corruption and unresponsiveness are most pronounced. Why extend that? The government already runs the VA hospitals, which are typically the dirtiest and least competent. Do we want more of that? The one form of government health care in which the US already exceeds the rest of the world is judicial intervention as medical malpractice and other tort suits where doctors face penalties they face nowhere else and plaintiffs get rewards they get nowhere else. As a result, everyone's insurance premiums are higher, doctor's practices must be more defensive and backside-covering, and in some areas doctors simply refuse to practice at all. So we in fact already have government healthcare. Less access, higher premiums and warped practices are the result.

    In short, here's the better alternative you claim to be looking for: roll back the government intrusions that already exist and already harm us.

    "deep dishonesty ... hysterical nonsense"

    Yes, we agree that there is indeed much of this about, but I will leave it to the readers to decide where it lies.

    I think my arguments are honest and in good faith. None of your name-calling persuades me otherwise. Indeed, I suspect that your resort to ad hominems results from your absence of actual arguments. But again, I leave it to readers to decide.

    Good day.


  13. Thanks for the reply Ted. I believe you views are in good faith but as with all conservative's there is no substance whatsoever with regards to healthcare.

    The private/personal rights conundrum Ted and other conservatives find themselves in is this: In fundamentally linking the two Ted and others lose sight of the fact that natural rights exist irrespective of what one owns or indeed even if one owns anything at all. Probably without intending to conservatives of this ilk end up defining personal rights entirely in materialistic terms and inherently negate their argument without realizing it.

    Couple of quick points:

    Regardless of the scope of the taxing jurisdiction there is no possible way to argue that police and fire services are not single payer and essentially all of those services are funded by taxes on the people receiving those services. That's what single payer means and Im struggling to think of examples where individuals can turn to the market to get a response to a crime or fire.

    There is no plan in place to replace private insurers. None. Its a fundamental bit of dishonesty to say otherwise. Indeed in many countries with far larger government provided health care services private insurance still thrives so the concern over that issue is manufactured and false, entirely.

    Medicare/Medicaid have far far lower admin costs than private companies which is the only apples to apples comparison that exists
    and at the same time they cover the worst of all possible risk pools.

    Rolling back government intrusions.... isn't a real idea its an dogmatic knee jerk that doesn't actually do anything. Doesn't lower costs, doesn't increase coverage, doesn't create competition where none exists and doesn't stop corporations from rationing care for higher investor return. I believe conservatives are sincere about that but it points again to how completely out of ideas they are when it comes to the major issues of our future.

  14. td:

    How do you know I'm a conservative? I didn't say it. It is apparently just an assumption you make for the convenience of responding to a straw man rather than what I actually said.

    Where is the "conundrum" you refer to? I don't find myself in one. Methinks you doth protest too much. It is much easier--and rather dishonest--just to declare an argument "inherently negated" whatever that means, rather than actually explaining what's wrong with it.

    "Regardless of the scope of the taxing jurisdiction there is no possible way to argue that police and fire services are not single payer"

    Okay, how about this possible way. Where I live there is police protection from the municipality, the county and the state. Each of those jurisdictions also collects taxes to pay for it and answers to the electorate. So that makes it triple payer ... so far. The feds could get involved too if there were a bank robbery I suppose, but that hasn't happened since the 1930's. Still, you can hire your own private security, if you are dissatisfied with the three or four public sources. And then there are other private and individual property protection steps you can take, like locking your door. Think that's no big deal? Under regimes without property protection, you may indeed not have the right to deny others entry to your place.

    So there is not "no possible way". There are in fact at least as many ways as there are individuals.

    "There is no plan in place to replace private insurers. None. Its a fundamental bit of dishonesty to say otherwise."

    I will let Obama respond to that accusation for me ...


    Go ahead, check it out. I'll wait.

    Seen it?

    Okay, so where's the fundamental bit of dishonesty again?

    "Medicare/Medicaid have far far lower admin costs than private companies"

    To quote td, "if you've got a link or other source I'd enjoy taking a look at it."

    And keep in mind, fewer and fewer medical practices want to accept Medicare/Medicaid because it does not actually cover their costs. Many of the ones who do accept it are making up the shortfall by charging their privately insured clients higher amounts. So Medicare/Medicaid gets a second, invisible subsidy from the private sector. Oh, and it's still going broke soon anyway, per the CBO. So we have an expensive and corruption-ridden program that relies on hidden subsidies and is going broke anyway. And that's supposed to be the good policy?

    "Rolling back government intrusions.... isn't a real idea its an dogmatic knee jerk that doesn't actually do anything."

    Whereas your "real idea" is what exactly? I'm still trying to find out.

    "Doesn't lower costs"

    Reducing anti-medicine lawsuits doesn't lower costs? Why not?

    "doesn't increase coverage"

    If by "coverage" you mean insurance coverage, that is easy to increase. Just declare everyone to be covered by Medicare. Voila! One hundred percent coverage! But since this doesn't increase the number of doctors, the actual medical coverage people get won't change much, if at all. Whereas if you reduce the obstacles to medical practice and tolls doctors have to pay to practice so they can charge lower fees, that will increase actual medical coverage, which is the type of coverage you should be concerned about if you are truly concerned with getting people better health.

  15. We should move beyond this: Tax payer funded police or fire protection is paid for by..... taxes. Single revenue source=single payer. Perhaps we experience definitions of words in the English language differently? And do you have any specific examples of market based police or fire services that individuals can choose in lieu of their public options?

    Medicare Admin costs? http://institute.ourfuture.org/files/Jacob_Hacker_Public_Plan_Choice.pdf Googling will provide a number of other excellent studies as well.

    The Youtube link you offered is unfortunate for a number or reasons because its years old and I have to believe knowingly avoids Obama's much more pragmatic approach that he's articulated many hundreds of times in clips such as this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7wTDK-LwqE&NR=1

    And when one considers that there is nothing like single payer coverage being proposed one has to believe that you and yours either dissemble intentionally or allow yourselves to be mislead to suit your political prejudices. Either way its dishonest.

    We'd probably degree on some measure of tort reform in theory anyway but there is no way one can pretend that torts abuse accounts for anything like the massive cost increases that our endemic to our system. Its an ancillary issue at best.

    Progressives have twice now offered concrete real policies to address healthcare, if there were no real offer on the table now we'd be talking about football or something instead. So while it is reasonable to disagree with Obama's approach it is not reasonable to assert that the Right has been a responsible party in this discussion. They have not and it is because conservatism lacks the means to approach the matter intellectually which is exactly why they're left to pout and throw the sorts of tantrums we've seen of late.

  16. Single payer in the parlance of the Left's advocacy means SINGLE PAYER. The management and reimbursing is done by government and at the behest and instance of government.

    Yes, taxes.

    But at that, it also means that for all practical purposes, as we've SEEN ON ALL OTHER AREAS OF THE PLANET WHERE THIS HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED, it means it is therefore ILLEGAL to move to private insurance, OR, that private insurance has been crowded out of the market by HR actuarians who think that their bottom line is helped when removing people from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, etc.

    If you want to get around this in some nations, you hop on a plane or pay the doc cash under the table and risk fines or imprisonment and heaps of trouble.

    That is not theory or conjecture, that is fact. And an ugly one at that.

    Those studies on Medicare's wonderous ways do not take into account the fact that its prescription costs are lifted in plupart by private cash transaction when you go to pharmacy, etc, or lost productivity.

    Other studies delve more into this.

    I will post a link to some more later on.

    Your last commentary about pouting is an Orwellian smirk at best. Mocking people for their concerns over a system that will increase waiting lines, times, and generally offers fewer real choices under the inevitable rationing that occurs in NHS type boondoggles.

    Yes. Progressives are ALWAYS offering us their crap. They are narcissistic and self-absorbed people who are convinced that their moral superiority must hail from the power of government.

    Thus they need to stop, because unlike the robber barons of old, the will to inflict harm has no limits when your conscience and do-gooder attitude gives a religious air to harassment of people.

    There are other financial alternatives.

    I'll give a hint:

    Imagine the cost of car insurance if the law required them to pay for new tires, DVD players, and all your oil changes and gasoline to boot.

  17. Some few thousand years ago, it seems our ancestors began giving food, shelter, and rudimentary health care to grey wolves. At least, they began giving those things, by degrees, to the tamer grey wolves that were temperamentally inclined to stay nearby and enjoy them. And over hundreds of generations, our wolves have gone to the dogs, as one can see all around.

    Food, protection from the weather, and nursing through illness are palpably good things. However, if a population is given those things freely, the members of that population slowly lose their excellence over successive generations. By their excellences, I don't mean the things that make them lovable or useful to human beings; I mean the things that would have allowed them to survive and thrive in a natural setting, without the crutch of direct or indirect human support.

    This domestication seems to be a regular process all or most of our domesticated plants and animals undergo. Consider dogs, cats, sheep, cows, wheat, and tomatoes. Our domesticated animals are fit to be sheared, eaten, or scratched on the tummy, and that's about it. And the choice is altogether ours, not theirs. Moreover, despite the environmental problems attributed to "invasive species" that have moved around the world on our ships, it seems one never hears of a scourge of wheat, tomatoes, or broccoli invading the wilds. They're unfit to live, let alone thrive, on their own. Nor will some single counterexample overturn my broad point.

    TD, I don't want our descendants to be like dogs, sheep, cows, or vegetables. Here is perhaps the most horrifying predictor of the outcome that awaits them. TD, dogs' brains are reportedly only two thirds the size of wolves' brains. I don't want our descendants to be stupid.

  18. " I don't want our descendants to be stupid."

    I'd be a good deal more concerned for the present....

  19. td:

    Everyone except you seems to know that single payer means the government.

    Google "private security firms" or "fire prevention engineering" yourself, if you are really unaware of those.

    Obama unequivocally spoke in favor of single payer. Now he doesn't. But of course in your world that makes me dishonest for noticing.

    Ah, so you must have run all the numbers on malpractice torts so you know torts are really no problem at all? Somehow, I doubt it.

    "Progressives have twice now offered concrete real policies to address healthcare"

    And those "concrete real policies" are...?

    We're still waiting to find out what these fabulous mystery policies will be...

    Well, you clearly have more time on your hands than I do, and since you're clearly avoiding putting the "Progressive" policy on the table, I'll leave you to finish off your word games however you like.

  20. Got it. Government works and freedom doesn't.

    Marxist sodden left liberal nuance. Pure collective socialist gold. Five stars. Colonel Robert Neville blogpsot com. thepeoplescube com, drsanity blogspot com, zombietime com, dissectleft blogspot com, bestobamafacts com.

  21. http://wakepedia.blogspot.com/2009/09/response-to-mr-dammitdamn-it.html