Moving to Wordpress -- Update Your Bookmarks

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I've decided to pack up my things and leave Blogger for Wordpress. You can still type in, but it will now forward to


Bainbridge on the Slippery Slope to Health Care Hell

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Just read the whole thing.


No Such Thing as "Warrantless Distrust" When It Comes to Government

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Ezra Klein laments his fellow citizens' lack of faith in the beneficence represented by the federal government's efforts to provide universal health care, going so far as to diagnose our democracy as "sick" for its faith-deficiency:

What we're seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It's distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the "institutional checks" that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government -- and by extension, their fellow citizens -- capable of.

Other liberals are also concerned that our messy political process is woefully ill-suited to provide people the programs and services they need--for heaven's sake, we can't let a little thing like people not wanting something prevent them from getting it.

Will Wilkinson does a fine job reminding Ezra why our distrust is justified. But it's important to add that, even were our distrust not so well-earned, red-faced tirades against "the man" are a healthy thing in any event. It should be a badge of honor in a limited republic for legislators to have such a terrible time passing programs and regulations. So-called sick and mindless mobs, in conjunction with the cryptic machinations of our governmental and political processes, help to limit the access by factions to the enormous power vested in the federal government.

Modern progressives have hoped to join forces with the populists, who were also enraged at the system in which they struggle while others enjoy stratospheric success. But, just as the first progressives a century ago, modern progressives are dismayed to find that the populists aren't interested in uprooting capitalism--they just want a shot at being its beneficiaries themselves. The economic bubble-bursting talk went a long way to temporarily drive populists into the progressives' tent, but the highfalutin talk about Keynesian economic theory and egalitarian redistribution of wealth will not resonate with the common "ignorant" American for long. As the town halls are showing, the honeymoon is already over.


Is There Such a Thing as "Generational Poverty" in the United States?

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Jamelle at League of Ordinary Gentlemen writes:

There are a constellation of problems – hyper-segregation, extreme inner-city poverty, the black urban underclass, hell, affirmative action – which don’t make any sense unless you have a firm grasp on the policy history of African-Americans and the federal government’s refusal to invest economically in African-American communities. Inner cities desperately need targeted programs to alleviate black unemployment and create educational and employment opportunities. But those won’t happen, in large part, because Americans simply don’t understand the role government has had in creating those problems, and the responsibility we all bear for solving them.

For what it’s worth, I don’t expect that to change; if we acknowledge the federal government’s role in creating generational black poverty, then necessarily have to acknowledge the federal government’s equally direct role in building the wealth of middle-class white America.
I don’t have the faintest idea what is meant by “generational black poverty.” The Homestead Act was in place before my ancestors got here. And at the end of all those other federal government programs, my mom found herself growing up in housing projects in Oakland. But as soon as she graduated high school at 17 she left and got a job and a couple years later married my dad, also with nothing more than a high school education, and with their respective jobs as telephone operator and mail carrier, made a nice life for themselves. I cannot jam into my brain’s belief center the notion that their being white saved them from what otherwise would have been “generational white poverty.”

There is perhaps a culture, a mindset of failure that is causing something like “generational black poverty.” And maybe that is what is meant by the author. But that is a problem that simply cannot be ameliorated by government. Particularly federal government. Granted, the federal government made quite a mess of things in its romp through two centuries of American history. But there’s no good to come from insisting the bull march back into the china shop and tidy up after itself.


Before You Lynch McCarthy As a Birther Nut...

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NRO's Andy McCarthy has taken a lot of flak for his recent article, in which he suggests that Obama not be let off the hook completely for his secret-keeping. The attacks on McCarthy seem to be largely based on misinterpreting McCarthy's piece as being something other than what it really is: a lament over the abandonment of investigative reporting.

At the outset, McCarthy does not once take up cause with Birthers--those who believe that Obama was not born on U.S. soil, and is otherwise not qualified to be President based on citizenship grounds. In fact, he states just the opposite:

The mission of National Review has always included keeping the Right honest, which includes debunking crackpot conspiracy theories. The theory that Obama was born in Kenya, that he was smuggled into the U.S., and that his parents somehow hoodwinked Hawaiian authorities into falsely certifying his birth in Oahu, is crazy stuff. Even Obama’s dual Kenyan citizenship is of dubious materiality: It is a function of foreign law, involving no action on his part (to think otherwise, you’d have to conclude that if Yemen passed a law tomorrow saying, “All Americans — except, of course, Jews — are hereby awarded Yemeni citizenship,” only Jewish Americans could henceforth run for president).
Instead, McCarthy bemoans the poverty of research done by investigative reporters whose job it is to, ahem, investigate. Burden of proof is the operative concept underlying McCarthy's point, as I take it. That is, to waive McCarthy off because he cites to questionable sources misses the issue entirely. The burden of proof does not lie in favor of the subject of a news investigation, viz., the President of the United States. Every hint, every lead, every suspicion is to be ferreted out with the zealous assumption that the fellow is a rat and a sneak and a crook ready to yield his tale of lies to that would-be case-cracker with the tenacity and contempt for public figures' privacy to go the distance and get the story, dad-gummit.

Instead, somehow the burden of proof is now shifted to those who would challenge the “official” record provided by the Administration. A formal investigation is not warranted, under this view, unless and until substantial and corroborated evidence has already been amassed. Proffering less than this with a request for further investigation is derided as crackpot paranoia fit for scorn, contempt, and general hecklery.

That’s not how this is supposed to work. No, McCarthy’s is not piece of investigative reporting. But it doesn’t purport to be. McCarthy is not an investigator or a prosecutor—he was a fine one of those already, and I doubt he would volunteer to continue doing it on an opinionator’s wage. His piece simply suggests that there are some clues here, the sort that investigative journalists used to take up and sniff down and let us know at the end whether there is anything to jump up and down about. The observation here is that there is a curious lack of interest in any such sniffing.


More on Meaning

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D.A. Ridgely had this response to my comment left to Kuznicki's post about the futility of talking about meaning in objective terms, the subject of the previous post. Here was my response:

The quote from Schumpeter captures very well my concern over value, and to some extent, meaning. I do not quite know what to make of the idea of standing on one’s convictions while doubting their validity or, worse, committing them to relativity. This is an aspect of lawyering I find particularly repulsive. And it suggests how philosophy is at once the most human and the least human endeavor: the intense scrutiny demanded by philosophy results in precious few undeniable truths; and yet the existential demands of life require impulsive commitments to innumerable simple, ready-at-hand truths.

The fascinating thing about meaning is not the answer we happen to furnish to the ultimate question, but the fact that we ask it, that we acknowledge it as “the ultimate question” of philosophy and of humanity. That very phenomenon suggests, at the least, some commonality, some universality about our nature, even when we provide vastly different personal responses to the question.

I am a theist—a non-denominational Christian. (I haven’t attended church in years, though, one of the perks of generic Christianity.) To preempt the question, yes, I do find meaning in the view of the afterlife that Christianity provides. Some, anyway. Religious doctrine about afterlife is not meant to satisfy one’s longing for meaning. I am somewhat of an existentialist: life is for the living. Meaning comes from all aspects of our experience. I think this was along the lines of Jason Kuznicki’s original point.

But where I became troubled was Jason’s rejection of the human tendency—universal, in my view—to also seek meaning by looking beyond the end of one’s own life. The suggestion that no one should need to contemplate humanity as a whole, or notions of eternity, or other implications outside the scope and control of one’s own life, strikes me as somewhat aloof. Disciplined existentialists or nihilists might be able to train themselves to ignore this part of their mind. This might be the case, at least definitionally (in practice, I tend to believe that we all have bouts, at some frequency, in which we ponder the immortality of our works and acts). Or maybe some folks truly never ever think with any intrigue about what lies outside themselves. (I would find this very hard to believe.)

But the rest of humanity needs that focal point. It is one part—granted, not the whole—of the mental activity that lends overall meaning to an individual’s life.


Meaning, History, and Purpose

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Jason Kuznicki rails against "conservatives" who quest for meaningful societal accomplishment, and suggests we instead just try to forget about genetic posterity or historically relevant accomplishments, and try to just end our lives with an "exclamation point."

It’s never been quite clear to me how one can engage in such impassioned bouts that sound so, well, nihilistic. People who believe that life ends with a period (or exclamation point or whatever) don’t understand those who believe it ends with an ellipsis, and vice versa. But these kinds of speeches always leave me leaning in expecting to find out how the nihilist plans to get along without that sense of “eternal purpose” that most of the rest of us find so important. (I’m sure “nihilist” is probably inaccurate, but that’s just the point–the impulse to define oneself as “other” seems make one forget to explain exactly what kind of other.)

One of course has the right to take his ball and go home. But do go home, is my point. Don’t say there’s no meaning to anything and then carry on as if there is. At the least, propose some alternative rules for what kind of “meaning” we can possibly achieve. For my part, I often find myself in a mood where philosophy seems to have about as much meaning as a crossword puzzle. But no inspiration to do any meaningful philosophy is going to strike me with that attitude.


Good, Now I Don't Have to Say It

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Kevin Drum noted today that Medicare must be a great system since seniors seems to like it so much. The Liberty Papers got the response just right:

All that, for a Medicare Part B premium of a mere $96.40 per month. That’s roughly 1/10th of the premium my [large multinational] employer pays for my healthcare, and smaller than the additional portion I pay out-of-pocket for coverage of my wife and kids.

Does anyone think that the $96.40 premium covers the cost of insuring the average senior? I don’t think so. If it did, we wouldn’t be calling it an “entitlement” or worrying about the unfunded liabilities of Medicare going out over the next few decades. We wouldn’t be getting hit as workers with 2.9% of our incomes taken in taxes to pay for the Medicare system.

So are seniors pleased with the system they have? They get cheap premiums and adequate care, all on the backs of the taxpayers. Who wouldn’t be pleased?


Health Care and Hyper-Active Imaginations

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After reading Megan McArdle's thoughtful (as in, founded in thought) post on why a public option is wrong-headed, Ezra Klein's empassioned (as in, founded in the part of the brain outside the jurisdiction of thought) post made clear an important point about the ancillary quality of factual and intellectual rigor on the part of public option advocates:

Rather, what has kept health-care reform at the forefront of liberal politics for decades is moral outrage that 47 million of our friends and neighbors are uninsured. That medical costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. That an unemployed machinist gets screwed by fly-by-night insurance schemes while a comfortably employed banker need never worry. That the working class ends up in emergency rooms with crushing chest pains because they didn't have health insurance and didn't get prescribed cheap blood pressure medications five years before.

Could all that really be true? Surely, medical costs result in some bankruptcies. But a "leading cause"? And where are all these unemployed machinists? My grandfather and uncles were machinists. Owned a machining shop. Until it went out of business because, well, machining's not much of a viable vocation anymore. In other words, there are probably not many "unemployed machinists," rather, former machinists looking for a new line of work.

But that's not the point. If you're flailing about for a universal public option, facts and ideas aren't going to take that excess blood out of your face. The problem is an over-active imagination. The problem is the unfounded notion that private health care not only results in some flaws in our health care system, but in every flaw now or ever observed in the Western world.


Don't Feed the Bears

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Nadya Suleman and her army of 14 zombies are set to come munch on our reality-tv-addicted brains. Would if we could simply wield The Simpsons' and Paul Anka's cure for such afflictions as octo-mom and Jon & Kate...

To stop those monsters 1-2-3
Here's a fresh new way that's trouble free
It's got Paul Anka's guarantee...
(Guarantee void in Tennessee.)

Just don't look!
Just don't look!
Just don't look!
Just don't look!
Just don't look!


Kuznicki on Health Care

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Jason Kuznicki has two very interesting and informative posts on health care over at Positive Liberty. The first takes a slightly different approach than I did here on our underlying motive in pushing for a public option--paying others to make tough moral decisions for us. The second exposes a lot of the misinformation and outright lies in the comparative talk about health care around the world. Highly recommended you read them both.


Universal Health Care: Right Idea, Wrong Species

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After reading E.D. Kain’s eminently reasonable post today, it occurred to me there is one, and perhaps only one, reason why we all don’t just drop whatever political orientation we happen to have and subscribe to the centrists’ newsletter. That reason is misanthropy; the abiding belief that, being human, we’re bound to screw it all up one way or another. Rightist wingnuts, on the one hand, would likely blow up the whole system sooner than let the other guys get their way. But on the other hand, they'll likely blow the whole system up sooner than let the other guys get their way. It’s irrational, it’s childish, but dammit, it’s honest, and holds no aspirations of erecting a system that's not as clumsy and doltish as we are. And while the leftist nutters would really like to build a better mousetrap, they're too excited and impatient to work with the buzzkill rightists to ever make it happen.

Centrists, on the other hand, threaten to ruin this balanced regime and actually provide a way for these crazy people to accomplish things—and this is not a good thing. Centrists come in and pat everyone on the head and tell us all our feelings are justified, but how swell would it be if we could compromise, and maybe you both have a point, and you can appreciate that if you don’t at least agree on x the debate is going to leave you behind, and on the other hand of course the free market and personal responsibility are good things, and look, here are some charts and graphs and a neat PowerPoint. It’s all very enlightened, and I sometimes find myself wondering why I don’t just warm up to it.

But what ever happened to that idea that man is basically evil, or at least silly and stubborn out of proportion with his meager rational faculty, and that left to his devices he will destroy himself? Or, the secular variation of same—that government is basically evil, or too silly and stubborn, and that left to its own devices, it will destroy us all? We can all appreciate pie charts and calculators, but for heaven’s sake, the housing bubble carcass is still warm—have we already forgotten that that beast was cobbled together with equations so fancy it took a pocket protector and half a dozen letters after your name to understand them? And even those guys were kind of amazed that it worked as long as it did. Numbers are not our salvation. They just give us new and horrifying ways to make us say “I wish I’d not have done that.”

And so it will inevitably go with universal health care. Again, you won’t get any wonkish predictions from me as to how precisely the thing will blow up in our faces—perhaps a smoking disaster like California’s energy “deregulation”; or perhaps a long, slow suffocation like our entitlement programs. One way or another, it’s going to go south on us.

So, although I won’t throw my hat in with the blathering, insipid wingnuts who do little other than heap unhelpful insults on the issues, they’re doing God’s work. Who else is going to take those determined little imagineers with a bloated sense of duty to “humanity” down a notch?


Health Care Rationing

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Peter Singer and Conor Clarke want to know why there is such a problem with the concept of health care rationing--that is, assessing the value of an individual's life:

If the Department of Transportation [followed the principle that it was impossible to put a dollar value on human life] it would exhaust its entire budget on road safety. Fortunately the department sets a limit on how much it is willing to pay to save one human life. In 2008 that limit was $5.8 million. Other government agencies do the same. Last year the Consumer Product Safety Commission considered a proposal to make mattresses less likely to catch fire. Information from the industry suggested that the new standard would cost $343 million to implement, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission calculated that it would save 270 lives a year — and since it valued a human life at around $5 million, that made the new standard a good value. If we are going to have consumer-safety regulation at all, we need some idea of how much safety is worth buying. Like health care bureaucrats, consumer-safety bureaucrats sometimes decide that saving a human life is not worth the expense. Twenty years ago, the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, examined a proposal for installing seat belts in all school buses. It estimated that doing so would save, on average, one life per year, at a cost of $40 million. After that, support for the proposal faded away. So why is it that those who accept that we put a price on life when it comes to consumer safety refuse to accept it when it comes to health care?
I haven't been as good a student of the health care conversation as I'd like, but I think I can take a crack at this one. We're not talking about creating a health care system from a blank slate here. We've already got a system. And it's predicated on utility. It determines the utility of covering particular individuals, the utility of paying for particular tests to diagnose symptoms, and the utility of paying for particular procedures to respond to diagnoses. And apparently we all hate this system. The galvanizing principle is the out of hand rejection of the cold, calculating, rational practice of establishing the value of a human life. It is no help to suggest that maybe we just instead give that power to a legislative subcommittee. The Dems have our ear because they've been talking as if we're all special wonderful snowflakes without whom the world can't possibly go on turning. If we wanted cost estimates, we'd just stick with the market.

Now, are we being silly? Of course. But if we're going to admit we're being silly about rationing, we may as well go the whole distance and admit we're being silly about a universal public option in the first place.


A Query for Libertarians on Moral Legislation

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Here's a puzzle for libertarians (or anyone else who wants to chime in): Assuming one takes a position against “moral” legislation against marijuana (i.e., that marijuana should not be unlawful merely on the grounds that it is “bad”), would it be much less wrong to legalize it while taxing the snot out of it?

For my part, I don’t tend to mind much that cigarettes are taxed to the hilt. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t have much problem with criminalizing cigarettes altogether. I don't think I'd vote for an initiative to do so, but it is a perfectly acceptable thing for us to vote about, at least from a constitutional point of view.

However, if you’re one to take the view that we may not, through criminalization, impose personal preferences on choices that are basically private and personal, then, to be consistent, mustn’t you also take the view that we may not do it through punitive taxation, either? The spectre of normative legislation is still present, only instead of prohibiting certain behavior, the state engages in something like selling indulgences, requiring outliers of the public sentiment to make penance for their willful deviations. Is this really any better?


What Biden Hath Wrought

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What Joe Biden began when, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he borked Judge Robert Bork, has, as Kevin Drum puts it, been taken to its reductio ad absurdum by Sotomayor's perplexing responses during the confirmation hearings:

And everybody learned their lesson from this: nominate candidates whose views are clear (no more Souters!) and then make sure they say absolutely nothing about those views (no more Borks!). Ginsburg and Breyer invented the technique, Roberts and Alito honed it, and as near as I can tell, Sotomayor has taken it to its reductio ad absurdum apex. If it's something that might come before the court in the future (and everything comes before the Supreme Court eventually), tell 'em it would be inappropriate to answer. If someone asks a more general question, say that you can't really answer in the abstract. If more details are provided, switch gears and say that you can't engage in hypotheticals. As near as I can tell, Sotomayor was barely willing to admit that she had a law degree, let alone that she had any opinions whatsoever regarding the law.
He's not exaggerating. Randy Barnett at Volokh has a mini-compilation of befuddling exchanges with Sotomayor, but here is the run-away favorite:
FEINGOLD: But what would be the general test for incorporation?


FEINGOLD: I mean, what is the general principle?

SOTOMAYOR: One must remember that the Supreme Court's analysis in its prior precedent predated its principles or the development of cases discussing the incorporation doctrine. Those are newer cases.

And so the framework established in those cases may well inform -- as I said, I've hesitant of prejudging and saying they will or won't because that will be what the parties are going to be arguing in the litigation. But it is...


SOTOMAYOR: I'm sorry.

FEINGOLD: No, no. Go ahead.

SOTOMAYOR: No, I was just suggesting that I do recognize that the court's more recent jurisprudence in incorporation with respect to other amendments has taken -- has been more recent. And those cases as well as stare decisis and a lot of other things will inform the Court's decision how it looks at a new challenge to a state regulation.
Impenetrable indeed.


Property Ownership Is Turning into a Very Fluid Concept

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Jack Balkin has this amusing story:

The New York Times reports that found out that the publisher of Kindle versions of George Orwell's books 1984 and Animal Farm decided that it didn't want to give the rights to a Kindle version. So used its wireless connection to each Kindle to delete copies on various owners' Kindles and refunded their money. You see, because of the wireless connection, knows what books are on your Kindle and it can delete them or modify them at will.

Apparently, the irony of deleting a book about Big Brother watching you was lost on both the publisher and
They've also assumed the role of the Ministry of Truth: You own a copy of 1984. You've never owned a copy of 1984.

What's next? Is the RIAA going to somehow delete all the music I pirated before they browbeat everyone into believing it was "wrong"? (They trained me to stop downloading it, but I could never get back into the practice of paying for music again. My music collection abruptly ends around the turn of the millennium. Hence the reason I've prematurely begun referring to "what kids are listening to these days.")


Principles vs. Pragmatism

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E.D. Kain is concerned that there are not enough conservative "wonks" crunching numbers in coming up with conservative-sounding health care plans that are ready to go out of the box. That is, plans that might actually work. While I understand the concern, my fear in conservatives taking such a middle-ground position on such an extreme big-government program like health care is that it will take conservatives the rest of the distance toward utter obscurity. If results matter more than principles, then what are conservatives selling? It will have the same disappointing effect as the lame-duck Bush kicking off the bank bail outs before Obama had a chance to rub his feet all over the Resolute desk. It would have been nice if conservatives could point to some kind of break between conservative and progressive ideologies. But we can’t do that now, because Bush decided to believe wonks over conservatives.

Thus, conservatives ought not worry excessively about putting together some fantastic hybrid plan that is somehow at once pragmatic and principled. For one thing, I highly doubt such a thing exists. And for another thing, the paramount endeavor is to hold the line on the of limits on government dictated by the Constitution and first principles. That position may continue to take a beating, but someone has to keep the fire burning until the grand experimenters run back screaming from the monster they’ve created.


How Conservatives Can Begin Thinking About a Public Health Option

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Someone mentioned recently that conservatives ought not cast so many stones in the health care debate when none of them are coming up with any viable alternatives. I figured I’d use that as my cue to finally jump in and explain some of the principled ways that a conservative ought to think about health care.

Insurance: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The first problem that keeps us from intelligently discussing health care is the vocabulary. Health “insurance” is not really insurance. Insurance is how we pay for something in case some contingency in a pre-defined class of contingencies occurs. Health “insurance,” instead, means something more like pre-paid health service, or a fixed-rate health plan. The point is, regular doctor visits, properly speaking, are not part of health insurance any more than oil changes are part of auto insurance. Of course, we know what insurance is supposed to mean. Most of us have car insurance. Many of us have home insurance, or renter’s insurance. We might even have insurance on the flat screen we bought at Best Buy. So why do we insist on speaking as if our annual checkups should be included in our health insurance? To be productive with talk about public alternatives to health insurance, we need to remember what insurance means.

The Dateline Effect

The next thing to think about is what exactly we are trying to accomplish with public health care. Noting the difference between “insurance” and something more like a fixed-rate health plan, it should be pretty clear that what we are not particularly interested in making sure everyone is able to get cheap doctor visits whenever they get a sniffle. My co-pay is just $10. Had I more time and less aversion to doctor visits, I would never opt not to see the doctor. I am not interested in the least in paying more taxes so that everyone can have such whimsical access to chat with the doc. The "least among us" are not known by whether they have ready access to a Wellbutrin prescription.

Instead, what we are after is eliminating the “Dateline effect”—gut-wrenching in-depth news-show stories about families just like yours and mine having financial ruin heaped on top of emotional ruin resulting from little Billy’s bout with terminal cancer, made all the worse by the plucky lad’s resolve to push on beyond all doctors’ predictions and cost estimates before finally reaching the end. That’s what the clamor for the public option is all about. People will still break their limbs and split their heads open and accidentally shoot their thumbs off, requiring the occasional trip to the emergency room. And if they don’t have insurance, they’ll grumble about how to pay for the services they received. But it's not going to break anybody—and, more importantly, it’s not going to make Dateline. The stories of indigents struggling to pay off a few grand in emergency room bills are not the ones that are galvanizing the move toward public health coverage. If you can’t imagine a story about it on your favorite TV news journal, it shouldn’t be covered by the public option.

The Agony of Having No One to Blame

The other benchmark driving the push for a public option is fault, or rather the lack of it. When we hear about tragic health stories, the first thing anyone does is try to place blame. It’s the natural human response. If we can identify the cause—i.e., smoked too much, drank too much, carried on so fat, visited that dubious third world country, was negligent, etc.—the whole thing becomes much less terrifyingly arbitrary. Humans are stupid and silly and repugnant, to be sure, but at least they’re predictably so. And a surprising amount of satisfaction and all-around peace with the universe can be derived through comeuppance. At any rate, once we find the loathsome culprit, we can direct our fist-shaking accordingly. And then we can forget about the whole thing and get back to Dancing with the Stars.

But things like cancer leave us feeling so unresolved, at odds with the universe. Without someone to blame, we have no way to turn the grief into indignation. After a while, that dull sense of guilt that starts to really eat at us. It’s an entirely irrational guilt, of course. But guilt, like the rest of our emotions, does not shrink at name-calling. So after shaking our fists at the sky yields no results, we turn to the next most powerful and arbitrary force known to us: government.

So long as we insist on waging this war on guilt by devising a public health care option, let’s at least limit the scope of that war to those things that are actually causing the guilt—to those ailments that are not properly attributable to the fault of some individual. The test could be quite simple:

“When you discovered your ailment, what was your response?
A. ‘D’oh!’
B. ‘That bastard!’
C. ‘Goddammit.’”

The public option only covers C; both A and B indicate there's already someone to blame—yourself or someone else—and thus the rest of us are quite capable of activating our grief-to-indignation conversion mechanisms without footing your bill.

That is the key to the whole thing, after all. This is a war on guilt, and whatever the cheapest way of beating our guilt is the way we ought to go. The best way, incidentally, is to just tell our collective guilt to go suck an egg. But since it seems we’re unwilling to do that, we should examine any public health option in terms of how well it assuages the guilt. I submit that only those ailments that are, by all accounts, arbitrary and owing to the fault of no one, should be covered by a public option.

[Cross-posted (and with lots of discussion) at League of Ordinary Gentlemen.]


Ginsburg, Abortion, and Minimizing Populations "We Don't Want Too Many Of"

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently threw out a big, savory bone to pro-life advocates by revitalizing the "isn't eugenics really behind the pro-choice agenda?" argument. Apparently, the answer is still "yes":

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.
H/T Get Religion.


Health Care Funding Not Exactly a Controlled Experiment

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From WaPo:

House Democrats agreed yesterday to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for a sweeping expansion of the nation's health-care system, proposing a surtax on the highest earners that could send the top federal tax rate toward 45 percent.

Beginning in 2011, the plan would target all income over $350,000 a year for families and $280,000 a year for individuals, Democratic sources said. The surtax would start at 1 percent, rise to around 1.5 percent for families earning more than $500,000, then step up again, to around 3 percent, for families earning more than $1 million, Democrats said.

The genius of Obama's and the Dems' plan to ram such tax hikes through now, in the midst of our economic woes, is that whatever further and heightened economic woes that are sure to follow cannot possibly be traced back to such policies. You're pretty safe setting fire to houses when a wildfire is already going on.