Quick Roundup 167

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Interesting Comments on Socialized Medicine

Friday's post on a conservative's "market-based" proposal to "reform" the medical sector has generated some good comments.

First of all, Galileo writes an excellent answer to a conservative who complained that my call for the abolition of such programs as Medicare is "unrealistic" (as if I don't know this won't fly any time soon).

This part of it sums up the whole problem very nicely: "We have had the conservative response to the welfare state for 70+ years now." This is a very good way to begin when countering the notion that arguing about fundamental principles is "impractical".

And second, Jim May points out a post by a blogger -- she calls herself "Jane Galt" of all things -- who is (or was) supposed to be for freedom in medicine, but folded like a cheap lawn chair in November. This sentence reveals a complete lack of understanding of the fundamental difference between capitalism and state controls: "What I don't hear a lot of people addressing is what sort of system it is feasible for us to get, given the interest groups and institutions we already have."

Perhaps Arnold Kling should keep this query in mind the next time he proposes Libertarian medical experiments in the name of providing superfluous (further) evidence that socialized medicine "doesn't work".

Quick! Tell him to log on to Conservapedia!

The rather threadbare Conservapedia entry on Hell looks like it would benefit from the Pope's input.

Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI has said.
Then they can lock that entry for good since the Pope is infallible.

On a serious note, I would have to agree with Neil Boortz that Conservapedia is doing a nice job of making conservatives look foolish. However, unlike him, I offer no advice to the conservatives: just a word of thanks to founder Andrew Schlafly for helping show everyone the logical endpoint of the movement. (And Sam Harris recently explained indirectly why we shouldn't expect the conservatives to take Boortz's advice any time soon.)

And speaking of logical endpoints, the last line of that Boortz post reads like the punch line of an inside joke to this non-Libertarian. "This all sure makes me glad to be a Libertarian." Really? That reminds me of the following passage I once read, as excerpted by Peter Schwartz from Libertarian Robert Block:
[Libertarianism] allows for an amazing diversity.... We've seen priests, monogamists, family men as the fellow-Libertarians of the gays, the sado-masochists, the leather-freaks, and those into what they call "rational bestiality".... Only Libertarians could gather together the homosexual motorcycle gang, the acid-dropper fascinated by the price of silver, and the Puerto Rican nationalist immersed in the Austrian school of economics.
Gotta love that "acid dropper fascinated by the price of silver"! Perhaps if he'd read Peter Schwartz's Libertarianism: the Perversion of Liberty, he'd think twice before saying something like that. Or not.

What Modern Education Accomplishes

Lately, it seems that I have been constantly bringing up Ellsworth Toohey's admonition to not examine a folly too closely, but only to look at what it accomplishes.

Sadly, it seems the best way to understand much of what goes on in the world today. For instance:
[This proposal , by the mildly retarded] Ed [to nationalize the oil industry] is an exaggerated example of the stupidity we are up against in today's culture. Understanding capitalism requires an ability to think in higher abstractions and principles. With progressive education teaching people to think in the opposite manner, in isolated concretes that never integrate into principles, we're in big trouble. Stupidity and freedom do not mix. [bold added]
Indeed. Progressive education is how statists have managed to bottle this stuff up and sell it, in a manner of speaking. Now, even many alleged friends of capitalism cannot provide an adequate intellectual defense of it, as we have seen already. And, as Conservapedia shows, some are even trying to gain market share for their own version of stupidity.

-- CAV


: Corrected a typo.


Greg said...

Arguing for the ideal without either admitting the need for a practical bridge or presenting one to go from todays contest to tomorrows ideal will invalidate your argument to most pragmatists (most of whom claim to be open to reason).

To pragmatists ideals are some lofty goal with no attachment to reality. Objectivists do a good job of presenting the ubiquitous principled ideal with facts that support the truth of their position but often lack in showing practical ways these can possibly be implemented given todays context. I believe Ayn Rand understood this challenge and given her limited time here obviously had to focus more on the foundations of her philosophy leaving the details to others. However one example of what I’m talking about is her essay titled Tax Credits for Education http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5189 where she outlines a truly good feasible step in the right direction given today’s political context without conceding or whitewashing her moral position.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for the interesting link and for your point, although I think it is applies even more so to people who are actually rational (i.e., able to grasp principles) than to pragmatists (who would just turn around and say something like, "Yeah, Medicare should be abolished, but what about Medicaid?").

Just as we can't elaborate on first principles in great detail every time we make an argument (but can indicate what they might be), so we can't map out the way to a laissez-faire paradise every time. But we can offer "doable" proposals like Rand did within the context of working for more freedom down the road.

Greg said...

Yes and good observation about it applying to people who are actually rational, this is true and what I meant is that most professed pragmatists would claim that they are. And by presenting "doable" proposals we can help pragmatists integrate principled morality with practical results.

Gus Van Horn said...

I thought as much, but now it's completely clear for everyone else as well....

I am glad you made your comment because you helped me make a mental connection I hadn't quite completely made about the interface between intellectual and political activism, although, aside from the fact that it is still percolating, I also haven't the time to elaborate on it at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed... here in India, however socialist the government may be, it actually *does* give partial tax credits for students studying in private schools.

The motive isn't to become free-market one day, of course. It's just that the government recognises that most of its schools suck (zero infrastructure, teachers missing, kids sitting on the floor, and you thought *your* schools were bad) and that no sensible middle-class person would ever want his kids to study there.

The private schools, both old and new, have truly seized the initiative here.

Gus Van Horn said...

If I read your last sentence right, then good for India!

I'll grant you that our public schools are better physical environments for children than India's public schools, but I have a crazy feeling that teachers in India (a) take their jobs more seriously, (b) are better-educated, and (c) spend less time indoctrinating and more time teaching their pupils. Our public schools may still lose at least in that part of the comparison...

Anonymous said...

Private school teachers? Probably yes, on all three counts. At least we don't teach those "cluster" and "lattice" methods of multiplication here, a video of which you featured on your blog a couple of months ago.

The history _books_ are quite leftist, though. They are filled with such absurdities as "Imperialism is the logical conclusion to capitalism".

As I said, in most government-run schools and colleges, the teachers don't attend at all. A lot are chosen simply because of their political pull. Since the government gives "job security", they don't have to worry about anything.

Gus Van Horn said...

It's a strange world when we can, through the wonders of modern technology, compare notes so easily from opposite ends of the world on whether: (1) India's public schools are worse in some respects than those in America because the teachers do not show up at all, or (2) better, considering some of the teachers who do show up in America!

Morbid humor aside, the topic raises some interesting questions, though. (And I am not going to try to answer it off the top of my head.) For example, I think it is probably still better, if it is the case in India, for children to learn to at least think systematically about history (and acquire a decent amount of substantive data in the process), even if through a Marxist lens, than to come out with the barest smattering of un-integrated trivia as so many children seem to in America.

The whole purpose of man's mind is to conceptualize. I think that an education that merely preaches the wrong conclusions, but still builds (or at least leaves relatively untouched) a child's ability to reason is superior to one in which a child's conceptual faculty is systematically attacked.

In the former case, we have a child who has learned errors, but retains the ability to correct them on his own. In the latter case, we have errors and little hope for easy self-improvement.