Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Earth Day" Links

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8403&news_iv_ctrl=1084
On Earth Day, Remember: If Environmentalism Succeeds, It Will Make Human Life Impossible, by Michael Berliner

http://www.cnbc.com/id/18229338
Video debate on CNBC "Power Lunch"

Peter Schwartz, former chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Michael Ewall, director of the Energy Justice Network, squared off on "Power Lunch."

Schwartz counters that the corporate move to green is "cowardly appeasement" to environmentalists, who want to protect nature from humanity not for humanity's benefit.
Ewall calls ethanol "a false solution" adding that wind and solar power are better sources for transportation. Schwartz simply says let the "free market produce the kind of energy people want to buy."

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyid=2007-04-17T223135Z_01_N17419452_RTRUKOC_0_US-WEATHER-HURRICANES-SHEAR.xml&src=rss&rpc=22
Global warming may spur wind shear, sap hurricanes. I wonder if Al Gore will promote this?

http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070417/OPINION01/704170313
Global Warming activists urged to focus on Earth Day rallies and ignore snow as it "piles up outside of our windows" and Quote of the Month honors:

"Data show our earth is getting warmer at a clip that concerns expert scientists. What the future holds for us is unknown, though there is something we can do about it." [So, we don't know what's going to happen, but let's do something about it, huh?]

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?JServSessionIdr006=hhn25xpak1.app7a&page=NewsArticle&id=14505&news_iv_ctrl=1221
California to Energy Producers: Not in Our State
Thursday, April 19, 2007 By: Alex Epstein

Irvine, CA--After an intense four-year struggle, Australian energy company BHP Billiton's attempt to build a Liquefied Natural Gas facility off the coast of California has been effectively killed by the state's Lands Commission, which voted 2-1 that its "Environmental Impact Report" was unsatisfactory.

"When we in California experience our next energy crisis--or the next time we complain about our exorbitant gas and electric bills--we should remember the fate of BHP Billiton," said Alex Epstein, a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. "That company wanted to build a plant that could satisfy up to 15 percent of Californians' energy needs--a plant that did everything possible to maximize safety and minimize pollution. And what did it get in return? Nearly half a decade of obstruction from California's endless constellation of environmental bureaucracies--and seething opposition from environmental groups that oppose every single practical form of energy production, from coal to oil to gas to nuclear power. The message California sends to any would-be producers of plentiful energy is obvious: Not in Our State.

"California and many other states are riddled with laws based on environmentalist hostility toward industrial energy. These laws must be replaced with a respect for property rights and an appreciation for the incomparable value that is industrial energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are the lifeblood of our civilization; without them, the average American's food, clothing, shelter, and medical care would be impossible. And, contrary to claims that we must abandon fossil fuels to protect against alleged weather disasters caused by global warming, fossil fuels are vitally necessary to build the buildings and power the technologies that protect us from dangerous weather.

"The anti-industrial mentality of environmentalists must be rejected, in word and in law, by everyone who truly cares about human life."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Follow up on Theodicy

Here are some links apropos of my last post "Theodicy". The first 3 links are philosophical in nature and the last is a book link by a guy I saw on CNN that I liked. From the description of Arum's book , it looks like a good analysis of the concrete history of how teachers have lost disciplinary tools through decades of bad court decisions. The first link is Peikoff's fascinating lecture theorizing that schizophrenia is a recent phenomena related to modern philosophy's attack on reason.

("Modernism and Madness", Dr. Leonard Peikoff, 1993) Is there a connection between schizophrenia—"the low point of the human mind"—and culture—"the height of human achievement"?
http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=LP28M


("What To Do About Crime", Dr. Leonard Peikoff, 1995) Is crime a philosophical phenomenon? Seeking a rational explanation for the epidemic of crime, Dr. Peikoff takes the approach of a scientific researcher: he examines the essential characteristics of typical criminals—and inductively identifies their common principles.
http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=LP29M

("Postmodernism", Dr. Robert Garmong) Postmodernism is the dead-end of the Kantian war on reason and is the driving force behind today's nihilistic collectivist movements. Postmodernism openly and brazenly rejects the need for reason, logic and values. Dr. Garmong shows how it arose, philosophically, and its destructive effects on literature, architecture and politics. This course will help arm you to understand and combat the evils that are tearing apart Western civilization today.
http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CG68M


(Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority, Richard Arum, 2005)
Reprimand a class comic, restrain a bully, dismiss a student for brazen attire--and you may be facing a lawsuit, costly regardless of the result. This reality for today's teachers and administrators has made the issue of school discipline more difficult than ever before--and public education thus more precarious. This is the troubling message delivered in Judging School Discipline, a powerfully reasoned account of how decades of mostly well-intended litigation have eroded the moral authority of teachers and principals and degraded the quality of American education.

Richard Arum and his colleagues also examine several decades of data on schools to show striking and widespread relationships among court leanings, disciplinary practices, and student outcomes; they argue that the threat of lawsuits restrains teachers and administrators from taking control of disorderly and even dangerous situations in ways the public would support.
http://www.amazon.com/Judging-School-Discipline-Crisis-Authority/dp/0674018141/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-5215117-4468858?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176938709&sr=8-1

Monday, April 16, 2007

Theodicy

Throughout the coverage of the massacre in Virginia the one recurring theme is that we can not generalize about the cause, i.e., according to the pundits, every recent massacre must be analyzed independently without reference to any underlying similarities or possible facts that could help explain the reasons why yet another man chose to gun down innocent people in a mad rage.

Ironically, I believe this refusal to generalize is symptomatic of the underlying cause why such massacres occur but more on that later.

Of course, the typical "access to guns" and "glorification of violence" platitudes surface as always but these are not primaries but at best minor or consequences of the real cause.

First of all, guns have been around for a long time without frequent public massacres. Second, the glorification of violence in video games and movies is a consequence not a primary. Why weren't horror stories popular during the Enlightenment? Culture reflects the prevailing ideas of a society. For example, the madness of Weimar German culture reflected the nihilism and collectivism of 19th century German philosophy which ultimately led to Nazism. The culture did not cause it (http://www.amazon.com/Ominous-Parallels-Leonard-Peikoff/dp/0452011175/ref=pd_bbs_2/103-5956256-6364622?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176775100&sr=8-2).

There is also a significant copy-cat effect influenced by modern media by I have access to this media, violent video games, and guns, but I do not copy-cat. There certainly is more to it.

The first question is despite the horror of such a crime the fact is that it is still relatively rare. Given the rarity of these rampages, is it really possible to make generalizations? My thesis is that the causes of this behavior are rampant and endemic and the "rampage" which is relatively rare is an acute manifestation of the underlying cause. For example, imagine that someone grows 100 pumpkins. Say the probability that one of the pumpkins happens to be freakishly large is 1% so the probability is 1 pumkin which would rarely result in a large pumkin. Now, imagine you grow 10,000 pumpkins. The probability of 1% applied to 10,000 is 100 pumkins. So, the probability is the same but the fact that you have so many more samples makes the actual incidences likely to be observed more frequently.

Similarly, if bad philosophy is rampant you will have more screwed up people. Not all of them will commit crimes much less insane massacres. But the more "samples" of bad out there, the more likely it is to observe the tails of the distribution.

So, what is this bad philosophy?

First, let's quote Professor Richard Rorty, a prominent American post-modern philosopher, Professor Emeritus at prestigious Stanford University:

"There is no truth, there is no such subject as philosophy, there are no objective standards by which to evaluate or criticize social and political practices. No matter what is done to the citizens of a country, therefore, they can have no objective grounds on which to protest."... "that we have not once seen the Truth, and so will not, intuitively, recognize it if we do see it. "

..."that when the secret police come, when the torturers violate the innocent, there is nothing to be said to them of the form 'There is something within you which you are betraying. Though you embody the practices of a totalitarian society which will endure forever, there is something beyond those practices which condemns you.'" (Richard Rorty's "Pragmatism and Philosophy" After Philosophy, ed. By Kenneth Baynes, James Bohman, and Thomas McCarthy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987), p.60.)

Now let's quote God:

"Thou shalt not kill."

So, the secular side represented by a Professor Emeritus at Stanford says there is nothing you can say ethically about a murderer, and the major alternative asserts without evidence or reason that you should not murder- I guess if you want into heaven or avoid hell or whatever.

This false alternative is best typified by the famous contention of Dostoevsky's character Ivan Karamazov that if God is dead, then everything is permitted or "everything is lawful."

And everyone is wondering why people are killing each other?

It's almost obvious why the modern philosophers view is not helpful, but the religious view does not help either, in fact, it is more destructive. If someone asserts that you should not kill because the pink elephants on Neptune said you shouldn't that is hardly likely to carry much weight in an advanced society. Furthermore, to the extent that the pink elephants have bad ideas (to go along with a good idea about not murdering) it will be destructive. The reference to truth without offering proof or fact (i.e., faith) is worse than saying there is no truth at all.

The rejection of reason and rational ethics by modern philosophers and religionists has resulted in the worship of mindlessness. What happens when an individual abandons his independent judgment? He turns to a group. This is the root of all collectivism which philosophically is the idea that your value and identity is determined by membership in a group, tribe, race, etc. It is the opposite of individualism and it can be seen everywhere today (and of course throughout history).

For example, it can be seen in gang violence. To what do these young men turn when they believe their mind is impotent to cope with reality? Membership in a gang gives them a feeling of power and control they lack when left to their own devices. It can be seen in multiculturalism which promotes the idea that membership in a group or ethnicity is all important (and that one culture is not better than another thanks again to post-modernism). It can be seen in the resurgence ofwhite supremacy and Nazism in Europe and America, the ethnic Balkan war, and the savage tribal wars throughout Africa. In religion, we see the mindlessness and collectivism of the fanatical Islamists in the mid-east who value only their duty and sacrifice to god and villify and threaten their mortal enemies: the Jews and the Americans and fly airplanes into buildings to mindlessly kill members of the enemy group. We see it in the ridiculous effort seeking reparations for slavery from the ancestors of the ancestors of those who held slaves as if an injustice done to one part of a collective can be made right by doling out "justice" to another part of the collective.

The glorification of violence is a consequence of mindlessness. To the extent that someone believes there mind is impotent they will turn to brute force to get what they want. How many kids in the inner city right now are dreaming of becoming educated as doctors or scientists and saving the world through intellectual achievement versus those dreaming of owning a semi-automatic weapon to rob a store and kill rival gangmembers? I would put money on the latter.
What do the intellectual leaders offer? The Richard Rorty's and the abyss of post-modernism gets transmitted from the philosophy departments, to all the humanties, to journalism, to law, to science and so on until it ultimately gets reflected in art, literature, movies, comedy, etc. and ultimately politics.

Rather than stressing individual values, reason and achievement, the intellectuals stress group identity and victimhood as history and politics are all analyzed through the "lens" of race, gender, and sexuality.

At the primary educational level, note the educational trend of not grading students objectively according to standard criteria but grading them according to how hard they tried and other non-objective criteria purportedly to bolster their self-esteem. Children are therefore taught that there are no right or wrong answers and that nothing can be their fault. All that matters is how they feel about themselves.

So what happens in a society where kids are taught that their feelings are more important than their minds and that self-esteem is arbitrary and not derived from real achievement? What happens when these same kids immersed in today's post-modern culture come to believe that their mind is impotent and the group is all? What happens when the "group" frustrates or hurts their all important feelings? Can they fall back on their value as an individual or on the realization of their ability to achieve values independently of what others think or say? No, they lash out - at the group. Other people are not individuals but simply members of a collective. The co-workers, management, the establishment, society, the jocks, the Jews, the foreigners, the rich, the Bourgeois, the Americans - pick the group that has harmed you and lash out at it.

Gang wars, ethnic wars, religious wars, and now the "rampage", are all tragic manifestations of the same root cause - the rejection of reason, individualism, and rational belief in the sanctity and inviolability of every human life.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wishing for Non-A

In a previous post, I discussed the health care crisis in moral and economic terms showing how egoism and freedom are the fundamental solution to the disaster caused by government intervention in medicine. In another post, I discussed the relationship of environmentalism, (today's primary pagan religion) to modern organized religion and compared them to the pagans and Christians of Ancient Rome. These issues are related in a fundamental way.

First, its important to reiterate the essential difference between free market medicine and socialized medicine which in principle is the essential issue underlying all economic debates between capitalism and socialism.

Those that support socialized medicine must logically support state sanctioned violence against doctors and patients.

This is absolutely true by virtue of the fact that the state must by threat of physical force (jail, execution, etc.) compel one person to pay for another persons medical care and/or compel a doctor to work against his will. In essence, they exhort the state to steal money on their behalf from others in order to pay their own bills. In addition, they demand that doctors live their life in service to their needs by either compelling their service through force and/or by not offering fair value in exchange for the doctor's services.

Under laissez-faire capitalism, physical force is banned from being initated by individuals or the state except in retaliation against those who initiates its use. Doctors and patients choose to deal with each other on terms deemed to be mutually beneficial and either party is free not to participate, i.e., a doctor may choose not to trade his services to a patient and a patient may choose not to see the doctor.

To further abstract, historically and logically what justifies the initiation of force against some for the unearned benefit of others (force which is necessitated by socialized medicine)? What ethical theory holds that self-sacrifice and self-abnegation is the "good" and that self-interest is evil? Of course, the answer is our old nemesis: altruism. In today's culture, it is the widespread acceptance of altruism as the good which justifies government intrusion into medicine despite the fact that such intrusion causes only chaos and misery. Furthermore, it is the dominance of religion and the utter bankruptcy of modern secular philosophy which perpetuates acceptance of altruism without challenge.

It is the theory of altruism as the good that needs to be challenged at its root if the wonders of modern medical science and the miraculous work of the American medical profession are to be saved.

This issue is the essence of the debate - not minutia over insurance regulations or medicare premiums. There is no free lunch. There is no magic government program that will somehow make medical care and prescription medication fall from the trees. There is no way to circumvent reality. Under socialism, either doctors must be made to work against their will or others must be made to pay the doctor on behalf of someone else. If the government runs its own hospitals then it must acquire the hospital by expropriating it by force from a private owner or by compelling funding from the public to pay for its construction. Similarly, either pharmaceutical companies must function as government agencies or someone must pay them for someone else's prescription.

Reality also dictates that the best and brightest will leave the field of medicine rather than become serfs akin to postal workers in a vast government bureacracy. This well known "brain drain" to other fields will only compound the "crisis" by reducing the supply of medical professionals.

What do those that clamor for government medicine think is going to happen? Will they pass a law to compel reality into making medicine free and doctors happy to be slaves? At least those that do support socialized medicine must be forced to admit that this is their position and be made to morally defend the states' initiation of violence against doctors and patients.

It is not a coincidence that over the last 100 years, socialism has only led only to violence, chaos, misery, and stagnation. It is not simply that it has been practiced by the wrong group of experts or somehow been corrupted. State violence is essential to socialism. How else does the state wrest control of private property or subsidize some at the expense of others? (see this sickening story for just the latest example http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070413/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/venezuela_oil_takeover_3)

In Capitalism: A Treatise On Economics (simply the best economics book ever), Dr. George Reisman eloquently, methodically and thoroughly shows how socialism leads to chaos and tyranny which I can only quote partially here (see www.capitalism.net for a pdf copy of the book or to order it):


"Socialism produces the same chaotic effects as price controls , because it destroys the same thing as price controls, namely, the one and only source of economic order and harmony in the world: private property rights and the profit motive..."

"The essential fact to grasp about socialism, which explains why it is essentially identical to price controls , is that it is simply an act of destruction. Like price controls, it destroys private owneship and the profit motive, and that is essentially all it does. It has nothing to put in their place. Socialsm in other words, is not actually an alternative economic system to private ownerhship of the means of production. It is merely a negation of the system based on private ownership..."

"The chaos of Socialism is equalled only by the tyranny of socialism. In abolishing economic freedom, socialism abolishes political freedom, In abolishing property rights, it abolishes civil rights. In a word, socialism means the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship..."

"In every instance in which socialism has actually been enacted, as ,for example, in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, Communist Cuba, and all the other communist- bloc countries, its totalitarianism has been manifest. It is only necessary to show why the violent, bloody means that have been employed to achieve socialsm and the perpetual reign of terror that follows thereafter , are no accident, but are caused by the very nature of socialism; why in other words, socialism is a thoroughly evil end, necessitating evil means for its achievment, and necessarily producing the most evil consequences."


What is the relationship between environmentalism, Christianity, the fall of Ancient Rome, and the health care crisis?

There is an ingenious passage from Atlas Shrugged (by Ayn Rand, 1957, p. 960-961) which ties these issues together by abstracting and reducing these arguments to philosophic essentials:



“What is the nature of that superior world to which they sacrifice the world that exists? The mystics of spirit curse matter, the mystics of muscle curse profit. The first wish men to profit by renouncing the earth, the second wish men to inherit the earth by renouncing all profit. Their non-material, non-profit worlds are realms where rivers run with milk and coffee, where wine spurts from rocks at their command, where pastry drops on them from clouds at the price of opening their mouth. On this material, profit-chasing earth, an enormous investment of virtue –of intelligence, integrity, energy, skill-is required to construct a railroad to carry them the distance of one mile; in their non-material, non-profit world, they travel from planet to planet at the cost of a wish. If an honest person asks them: ‘How?’ They answer with righteous scorn that a ‘how’ is the concept of vulgar realists; the concept of superior spirits is ‘Somehow.’ On this earth, restricted by matter and profit, rewards are achieved by thought; in a world set free of such restrictions, rewards are achieved by wishing.

“And that is the whole of their shabby secret. The secret of all their esoteric philosophies, of all their dialectics and super-senses, of their evasive eyes and snarling words, the secret for which they destroy civilization, language, industries, and lives, the secret for which they pierce their own eyes and eardrums, grind out their senses, blank out their minds, the purpose for which they dissolve the absolutes of reason, logic, matter, existence, reality – is to erect upon that plastic fog a singly holy absolute: their Wish.

“The restriction they seek to escape is the law of identity. The freedom they seek is freedom from the fact that an A will remain an A, no matter what their tears or tantrums -that a river will not bring them milk no matter what their hunger - that water will not run uphill, no matter what comforts they could gain if it did, and if they want to lift it to the roof of a skyscraper, they must do it by a process of thought and labor, in which the nature of an inch of pipe line counts, but their feelings do not - that their feelings are impotent to alter the course of a single speck of dust in space or the nature of any action they have committed.



When I read that passage for the first time, I recognized that it was a profound statement but did not entirely understand it. That all of the evil in the world was at root a desire for the world to be not what it is (or in her words that A be Non-A) is an idea so profound that it is hard to believe. Could all of the evil throughout history done by man from war to slavery to torture to every imaginable oppression of every kind really come down simply to “their Wish” for things to not be as they are. Truth is always simple in hindsight. It may take thousands of years to discover truth but once it is known it always seems simple to the point of being self-evident to the learned.

It took me years to fully appreciate and integrate the meaning of this idea and to learn why it is true. Yet, here is another example. Those that seek socialized medicine wish that reality was not what it is. They wish that medical care could be free. They wish that every time they are hurt they simply show up to a magic building with gadgets and medicines that arrived there somehow and someone cures them simply because they want it. They wish that somehow, if enough smart politicians get together with only the desire to form a "consenus" (as Obama might say) they could craft a program that this time will "work." How?

The relationship of this issue to religion must by now be obvious both epistemologically and ethically. The men wishing "to profit by renouncing the earth" or "mystics of spirit" are the religionists demanding sacrifice of our lives to god. The men wishing "to inherit the earth by renouncing all profit" ("mystics of muscle") are both the pagan environmentalists demanding that we stop producing as sacrifice for the earth and their socialist colleagues demanding "universal" health coverage and the sacrifice of the doctors to the needy or the "haves" to the "have-nots".

In a previous post, I asked if there was a rational solution to the false alternative offered by the "Mystics of Spirit" and the "Mystics of Muscle". The answer to this false alternative is a philosophy of reason, individualism, and freedom (see my links section).

And to those dreaming of heaven, a kingdom of God in the afterlife, water turning to wine, life without reason, production without freedom, production without utilization of the earth's resources, Gardens of Eden (at the perfect temperature), medicine without science, medicine without doctors who wish to be paid, pharmaceutical companies that don't work for profit, insurance companies that pay out more than they take in...

Keep wishing


p.s. I neglected an important link in my post "Why Health Care Costs are High..."
http://www.capitalism.net/gr_pamph.htm
See the link for the pamphlet "The Real Right to Medical Care Versus Socialized Medicine" by Dr. George Reisman

(It is an in depth analyis of the economics and economic history of the medical "crisis" in America caused by the government starting with wage and price controls implemented in WWII. This is a comprehensive analysis that I only touched upon in my post.)







Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why Health Care Costs Are High and the Solution

I can not imagine an area more vital to our everyday lives than the field of medicine.

Everyday we hear about the so-called health care "crisis". It appears that medical costs are high and rising, insurance premiums are high and rising out of control, drug costs are prohibitive, mal-practice insurance premium for doctors are so high that many don't even carry it anymore. Going to the doctor today usually involves long waits for appointments, frustrated waiting rooms, insurance bureacracy, revolving doctors who do not know you or your history and spend little time attending to your problem. The solution we are told is ever more government intrusion and regulation from medicare and medicaid to a prescription drug bill for seniors to insurance regulations mandating coverage to calls for "universal" health care and on and on.

Yet, does anyone ask, why there is a crisis in the first place? Presumably, if we could understand what caused this situation then perhaps we could solve it.

So first, let's ask is there a pizza "crisis"? Is there a shoe "crisis"? Is there a car repair"crisis"? Why is it that when a market is left relatively free of government interference there seems to be almost an infinite variety of products and services offered at every price level from dirt cheap to ridiculously expensive and there seems to be plenty for everybody (except for the people that want stuff for free and even they sometimes get it)? When was the last time you called Pizza Hut for a delivery and were told that it will be delivered in 4 weeks? When was the last time you waited in line to get your car fixed and the mechanic refused to spend more than a minute working on your car?

Economically and morally, what is different in principle between someone who works on your body and someone who works on your car?

First and foremost, we must address the moral question. The economics of the health care crisis can be analyzed rather easily. Essentially, government intervention in virtually every aspect of the market causes prices to be higher than they would otherwise be on a free market (which always must be the case if reality is still there), and I will discuss this later in more detail. The more fundamental question is should the government intervene in the health care market in the first place? What justifies government intrusion into the affairs of free people exchanging value for value on an open market? Do doctors have a duty to offer their services for less than market value or for nothing? Does anyone have a "right" to medical care and if so shouldn't we ask: provided by whom (to paraphrase Ayn Rand)? Should the government take one person's money by force and give it to someone else who has not earned it and if so, why?

The answers to these questions are the essence of the problem facing the medical profession today and the answers to them are literally a matter of life and death.

For some background I quote Leonard Peikoff from his essay "Medicine: The Death of a Profession" which appears in Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought: (http://www.amazon.com/Voice-Reason-Objectivist-Thought-Library/dp/0452010462/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product/103-0384082-4600656)



"One day, when you are out of town on a business trip you wake up with a cough, muscle aches, chills, and a high fever. You do not know what it is, you start to panic, but you do know one action to take: you call a doctor. He conducts a physical exam, takes a history, administers lab tests, narrows down the possibilities: within hours he reaches a diagnosis of pneumonia and prescribes a course of treatment, including antibiotics. Soon you begin to respond, you relax the crisis is over...



We take all this completely for granted, as though modern drugs, modern hospitals, and modern doctors were facts of nature which always had been there and which will always be there. Many people today take for granted not only the simpler kinds of medical intervention , but even the wonder cures and wonder treatments that the medical profession has painstakingly devised - like the latest radiation therapy for breast cancer, or the intricate delicacy of modern brain surgery, or such a breathtaking achievement as the artifical heart implants...Most of us expect that the doctors will go on accomplishing such feats routinely, steadily removing pain thus enhancing the quality of our life while adding ever more years to its quantity. "

Referring to the grueling years of medical school and the life and death pressure that doctors work under every day he writes:



"What I personally admire most about doctors is the fact that they live this kind of life not out of any desire for altruistic self-sacrifice, but selfishly-which is the only thing that enables them to survive it. They love the field-most of them; they find the work a fascinating challenge in applied science. They are proud men, most of them, with an earned pride in their ability to observe, evaluate, act, cure. And, to their credit, they expect to be rewarded materially for their skill; they want to make a good living, which is the least men can offer them in payment for their achievements. They make their living , as a rule, by standing on their own, not as cogs in some faceless government subsidized enterprise, but as entrepreneurs in private practice. The doctors are among the last of the capitalist breed left in this country. They are among the last of the individualists that once populated this great nation."

The principle here is that doctors like anyone have a right to their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They are not slaves. Doctors offer a service and have the right to ask payment for it. They have the right to treat anyone they desire on whatever terms they can negotiate. If they choose to take charity cases that is their business. If they charge exorbitantly high prices then you are free not to pay them and to not use their service. Why should they be treated differently than you?

Could you imagine showing up at a repair garage with a broken down wreck and demanding that someone fix your car for free? Or, could you imagine demanding (not asking) that your neighbor pay to fix your car? Yet in essence, this is what proponents of government medicine are seeking. Ultimately, someone must pay the doctor. If you don't pay then someone has to pay, right? Who should pay your bill, your neighbor, a guy in another state, who? Amidst all the complicated machinations of the government bureacracy and all the endless debates about the minutia of government programs, insurance regulations and the like - really what it comes down to is the desire for a free lunch or at least a redistribution of lunches. The implication is that somehow, anyone must pay MY medical bill as long as it is not ME.

What else does "universal" health coverage mean? It means taking money from some people by force and giving it to others who have not earned it to pay their doctor bill. By what right does one demand that others pay their bill? If someone chooses to pay another persons' bill voluntarily that is fine and dandy, but what right does one have to use the threat of force (uh, that's taxes in cased you missed it) against another to make them pay their bill?

If you think in principle, you could stop here because you know the solution. Doctors and patients should be left alone to trade freely just as diners trade money to restaurants for food and movie watchers pay actors to pretend they're other people. And guess what, as economic science tells us, this will result in the most people getting the most care for the least amount of money just as is always the case in a free market in every case for every product for all humans everywhere for all time!!!! Isn't reality great?

Under capitalism, will every person get the greatest treatment everywhere all the time? No, of course not. Each person will simply get what they pay for (or are given voluntarily) and on average the most people will get the most stuff for the cheapest price. And some people will get defrauded by evil doctors and some people will take drugs that are ineffective, and some poor people will get crappy care, and on and on. The justification for capitalism is not that the most will benefit. Although it certainly is true that under capitalism the most will benefit, the justification for capitalism is that it is moral. Why? Because under capitalism individuals are left free to think, act independently, and own and trade property as our nature requires if we choose to live and want to be happy. Anything less is slavery by definition and a contradiction of man's fundamental nature as an independent, reasoning being and thus impractical. Note that our old nemesis altruism (self-sacrifice and self-denial) is the opposite of this egoist ethics and is the root of all justifications for government intervention in the economy and necessarily leads to disaster in practice.

So as always, a seemingly complex "economic" problem is reduced to ethics; particularly egoism: rational self-interest, individualism, freedom, happiness or altruism: self-sacrifice, collectivism, slavery, and misery.

So wait you say. Don't we have capitalism now and isn't the current "crisis" an example of a free market failure? Wasn't all this government intervention a response to this market failure? Weren't people dying and bleeding in the streets before the benevolent state began insuring the elderly and regulating the evil drug companies? Afterall you say, it is one thing to let the market work for shoes and bananas but surely with something as important as health care the government must intervene...

No, No, No, No, No,....

The present crisis is a direct function of government intervention in the health care market. As all the detail would require a treatise I will sketch the main areas hilighting the big picture problems and leave references for further research. Anyway, I believe the primary problem is moral not economic. Once the moral argument for egoism is accepted, freedom and capitalism follow logically. As to the last question above, I submit that the more important an area is to our lives the more important it is to keep the government out. I'd be fine with the government regulating Chia Pets and etch-and-sketches if they would get out of health care.

1) Let's go back to the car repair case. Imagine after your demand for free car repair is rejected by the evil, greedy car mechanic you go to the government and plead that only rich people can afford car repair and the lower class needs to have the best in auto repair. It's simply not "fair" that some can go the dealer for the latest in auto mechanic wizardry while others have to go to the neighborhood Shell station. So the government passes a bill called "car-aid" subsidizing the poor and offering a virtual blank check on service. So, now the car-aid people can bring their car in for even the slightest nick or engine noise all on Uncle Sam. And guess what, the car dealers love it because now they have more business and they start to build bigger garages with fancier machines and guess what - prices start rising because of all the new demand. This creates a "crisis" in car repair costs forcing the government to pay ever higher car-aid premiums creating a self-perpetuating spiral of costs. The government then steps in and begins regulating car mechanics with hundreds of pages of regulations and creating schedules of "approved" repairs... Ladies and gentleman, welcome medicare and medicaid.

Medicare and Medicaid started in the early 1960's with the idea of just covering the "elderly" and quickly costs quadrupled in the first 10 years to the behemoth it has become today consuming almost 25% of the entire federal budget.

2) Why do employers offer benefits instead of cash wages? Cash wages are taxed but benefits from an employer are not. In other words, if an employer pays you $30 in cash wages then he must pay payroll taxes on $30 and so do you. If you now go to buy benefits you must pay for them in after tax dollars. If he pays you $20 in cash wages and $10 in "benefits" both will only pay payroll taxes on $20. Imagine an extreme case where an employer pays only "benefits" then he would pay no payroll taxes. This tax treatment encourages and incentivises employers and their employees to find ways to compensate employees with non-cash benefits such as insurance. Such artifical demand bids up insurance premiums and creates the blank check affect for holders of policies. As employers compete for labor, they must offer "comprehensive" policies to prospective employees. (see http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4913) This would not be enough to really kill the market except for number 3.

3) As group insurance plans became more popular, the government has intervened to mandate coverage in stupid ways. For example, in Florida, group insurance plans must provide maternity coverage to all females regardless of age or fertility. Also, there is no restriction on coverage based on when one enters the plan so if someone enters 1 month before birth they must be fully coverered. In general, the more the state mandates, the higher premiums go as insurance companies simply do an actuarial calculation. If the state mandates people get $10 every time they fart, then guess what - the insurance company does the calculation and adjusts premiums accordingly.

4) This is a vicious cycle. As more employers compete to offer more comprehensive plans and government mandates on insurance companies force premiums higher, it becomes almost impossible for an individual not employed by a company offering a group policy to afford the premiums. Many employees stick with certain companies as they can not afford insurance on their own which encourages companies to offer good benefits - rather than just pay cash and let individuals get their own policies.

5) As government mandates force premiums higher, insurance companies still compete to control premiums by controlling costs through cutting doctor reimbursement rates and controlling procedures. These measures result in lower margins for doctor offices who contract with insurance companies as they get less money per patient visit. This encourages doctors to spend less time with each patient as they must now increase patient volume to make up for lost money per visit. So, artifical demand created by blank check insurance policies coupled with decreasing margins per visit results in --- shortages, waiting lines, and frustration of patients and doctors.

6) On top of this mess, our irrational legal system and a lack of caps on jury awards for malpractice leads to skyrocketing mal-practice premiums which doctors pass on to patients in the form of higher prices. In the US, there is no disincentive such as a "loser pays" rule to disincentivise lawyers from bringing mal-practice claims for even the slightest error. Doctors and hospitals are constantly being sued and the legal system is in desperate need of reform.

7) What causes drug prices to be higher than otherwise? Among other things, the FDA which is the government bureacracy charged with regulating and approving medications performs a lengthy, heavily politicized and bureacratic review process. Why is this important? Drug companies have a limited amount of time under which their patents are protected. For every one drug that works, drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on thousands that don't. That means they must recover their costs and profits on the ones that do work. A lengthy regulatory process cuts into the time during which a company has patent protection and compresses the time during which they can charge a premium for their drug before the patent ends resulting in higher prices during that recovery time. The FDA should be abolished completely and independent, private peer review organizations should takes its place to render seal of approval type industry standards. This would result in faster approvals and allow patients who choose more experimental drugs to have access to them immediately.

(Many doctors are now simply refusing to contract with insurance companies and going to private or VIP practices where people pay the doctor for their service directly (weird idea, huh?) and I applaud their efforts. I have participated in one directly and I can personally say that it is worth every penny. I actually paid less to the doctor in a year than I do for servicing my car and I could call them at any time, get seen with no notice, no waiting lines, etc. Hmmm.. I guess the free market does work and it is so simple. Pay the doctor and he will see you, and the freedom from bureacratic hassles and overwork makes for a healthy benevolent doctor who is eager to focus on the work they love and practice it in the way it was meant to be practiced. )

In summary, what we need is less government and more freedom. Government medicine will have the efficieny of the post office and the bedside manner of the IRS. To those that call for "universal" health coverage believing that they will obtain something for free remember that nature and reality will insure that you get what you pay for.

REFERENCES
See the link for the pamphlet "The Real Right to Medical Care Versus Socialized Medicine" by Dr. George Reisman
(In depth analyis of the economics and economic history of the medical "crisis" in America caused by the government starting with wage and price controls implemented in WWII and ending with solution of free market medicine.)
http://www.capitalism.net/gr_pamph.htm

Americans For Free Choice in Medicine
http://www.afcm.org/

op-ed and links to other articles on health care from free market perspective
http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4937

Cato Institute page with links to work on free market health care
http://www.cato.org/healthcare/index.html

Ayn Rand Institute op-eds on health care related topics
http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=media_topic_healthcare

Link to Professor Reisman's blog and free link to entirety of his magnum opus Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics
http://www.capitalism.net/

Direct link to Professor Reisman's blog with link to his self-education program in economics
http://www.georgereisman.com/blog/

Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought containing Ayn Rand's essay "How Not To Fight Socialized Medicine" and Dr. Peikoff's "Medicine: The Death of a Profession"
http://www.amazon.com/Voice-Reason-Objectivist-Thought-Library/dp/0452010462/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product/103-0384082-4600656

The Average Temperature of Eden and My New Theory of Climate Unchange

Recall this quote from the Rev. Jim Antal:

"God has given us this Eden, and our behavior is making a mess of it"

And let's not forget David Foreman from Earth First!:

"We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects . . . We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of tens of millions of acres of presently settled land."

As I have said before, religionists and/or environmentalists both explicitly or implicitly postulate an Eden wherein “man” allegedly lived in “perfect harmony” with nature and/or God which has now been defiled by man’s essential nature which is flawed and profane.

First a quick aside. What were these creatures in Eden and what was the point of their lives? To quote Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand p. 951:


"What is the nature of your guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge – he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil- he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor- he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire- he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy-all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that the myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn – it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was- that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love – he was not man."

So more to the point, what was the temperature of Eden? Scientists define standard temperature as 20 degrees C which is about 70 degrees F but I think that is a little cold so I am going to guess 74 with a slight 5-10 mph breeze and light chop. Now, apparently the weather did not change, right? It is Eden afterall. Under perfection, to what would the temperature change and why? Although, this does beg the question of what constitutes perfection since if you don’t know imperfection you would have no basis for the concept of perfection, but let’s have faith. Also, that leaves the question of how the polar bears and penguins got here but that is whole another post.

So apparently a perfect world would be one in which climate does not change. Now, that leaves open the fact that when the earth was formed over 4 billion years ago it was essentially molten and since then has not only cooled just a bit but also undergone numerous ice ages. Should we use the temperature of the earth when it was molten as part of our average temperature calculation? That would make the earth seem pretty cold right now. But that’s imperfect and profane reality so let’s get back to Eden where it was “perfect”.

Did God change the weather once man fell or was it His plan to change the weather all along? If so, we could question the theological claims of Rev. Antal since the temperature was never intended to stay the same. I am confused.

Now let me get to my theory. First the earth was molten and then we had ice ages. From 1940-1970 it was cold and the ecologists predicted global cooling. Now things have trended up and they are predicting warming yet April 2007 is tracking to be the coldest month in 113 years. Taking into account all this evidence one might be tempted to claim simply that the temperature changes a lot and people seem to adapt. But that is too simple and will garner absolutely zero funding. I am now closing in on a new theory of climate change or “unchange” based on the less rapidly oscillating temperature extremes we have experienced since the last Ice Age. I think that the evidence now shows that temperature is approaching an approximately constant value. I call this Global Thermal Homogeneity.

Global Thermal Homogeneity means that the global temperature will simply be the same. Now, you might be tempted to think that this is in perfect accordance with the Eden situation but you’re wrong. Unfortunately, anything that happens "post-fall" can only be an imperfect reflection of the Platonic form of Garden or Earth, and as always, since Man is tangentially related - it must have apocalyptic implications. Now given that the temperature will be the same, animals and plants that thrive in cooler or tropical temperatures will not survive and this will upend the entire global eco-system which somehow will lead to floods, pestilence, famine, and war between nations fighting over stuff unlike now where people don’t fight over stuff.

I urge the Pentagon and CIA to immediately stage war games to simulate the fallout and ascertain the national security implications as well as obtain lots of funding.

I realize that in light of the UN IPCC which I have dubbed the environmentalist version of the First Council of Nicaea, this could be considered heresy or even global warming “denial.” But I am willing to martyr myself to the cause.

Finally, I point out that such councils are rarely ends in themselves. The unification and definition of official orthodoxy enables proponents to take the next logical step which is the passing of laws and the fun part for the rulers - punishment for breaking them. Here is a quote from Theodosius' imperial edict following the mysterious Council of Constantinople which took place about 50 years after the First Council of Nicaea:


"We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of orthodox Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgment, they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the names of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation, and in the second the punishment which our authority, in accordance with the will of heaven, shall decide to inflict."
If current trends continue, this heretic believes that the official environmentalist decree will not take 50 years.



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Project Only the Government Could Love

Ok, so you take a computer model based on logic that reflects simplistic theories which can not possibly take into acount all known variables and use it to predict the weather for the next 100 years although studies show that weather forecasting is only 50% accurate within 24 hours. You then use the 100 year forecast to predict natural disasters and the likely reaction of nations around the earth and then stage "war games" around such scenarios. All I can say is that you know when the CIA and Pentagon get involved there is some serious funding to be milked.


http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2007/04/09/bill_ties_climate_to_national_security/?page=1
Bill ties climate to national security
Seeks assessments by CIA, Pentagon

excerpt:

In addition, some leading military thinkers, including retired Air Force General Charles Wald, have voiced support for bringing the national security bureaucracy into the debate over global warming.

The CIA and Pentagon would for the first time be required to assess the national security implications of climate change under proposed legislation intended to elevate global warming to a national defense issue.

The bipartisan proposal, which its sponsors expect to pass the Congress with wide support, calls for the director of national intelligence to conduct the first-ever "national intelligence estimate" on global warming.

The effort would include pinpointing the regions at highest risk of humanitarian suffering and assessing the likelihood of wars erupting over diminishing water and other resources.

The measure also would order the Pentagon to undertake a series of war games to determine how global climate change could affect US security, including "direct physical threats to the United States posed by extreme weather events such as hurricanes."


Monday, April 9, 2007

Lindzen Debunks Global Warming

Excellent piece in Newsweek from Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17997788/site/newsweek/

Excerpt:
April 16, 2007 issue - Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe. What most commentators—and many scientists—seem to miss is that the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes. The earth is always warming or cooling by as much as a few tenths of a degree a year; periods of constant average temperatures are rare. Looking back on the earth's climate history, it's apparent that there's no such thing as an optimal temperature—a climate at which everything is just right. The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperaturewise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Pagans vs. Christians, the sequel

"We have received from Divine Providence the supreme favour of being relieved from all error."

This could easily be the motto of climatologists engaged in forecasting the alleged affects of global warming. (Actually, it is Constantine in a letter to the Church of Alexandria.)

I have asserted on many occasions that environmentalism is a religion. There is one important distinction which is that environmentalism is a pagan religion. This is important because there is a direct parallel between philosophy and religion today and events in Ancient Rome which ultimately led to her downfall and the onset of a thousand years of hell on earth known as the Dark Ages.

To paraphrase Dr. John Lewis' lecture "Ideas and the Fall of Rome", the pagan's of Ancient Rome are today's left and the burgeoning Christians of Ancient Rome are today's religious right. Then as now, both sides are fundamentally the same in principle. They both accept the supernatural and a similar code of ethics and only differ on the minutia. In other words, both sides accept the Platonic concept of a perfect, supernatural world of which reality is only an imperfect reflection continually sullied by Man's base desires and flawed existence. Their idealism consists of sacrifice to the god(s) thereby attaining or aspiring to perfection either in this life (mostly pagan) or in the afterlife (mostly Christian).

Environmentalists idealise ascetism in order to not corrupt or defile the earth while Christians idealise ascetism (see the various Saints) as a means of living a more "godly" life. For example, environmentalist sacrifices might consist of of going without toilet paper for a year (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/22/garden/22impact.html?ex=1332216000&en=e77725051fe1a853&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss) , refraining from using man made energy, preventing development for human habitation, roads, or businesses, etc. while Christian sacrifices have more to do with roaming in the desert (Saint Anthony), sleeping on rocks, celibacy, etc.

So, the object, purpose, and nature of their sacrifices are slightly different but they both uphold sacrifice as the good.

The environmentalist god is "Gaia" or mother earth which was actually among the first pagan gods not only in antiquity but the object of some of the first known religious cave paintings dating from 60,000-70,000 years ago.

Referring to environmentalism as a "re-mapping" of judeo-christian beliefs, Michael Chrichton said:
There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability.

Let's add to this. As George Reisman pointed out:
It is customary for old-fashioned religion to threaten those whose way of life is not to its satisfaction, with the prospect of hell in the afterlife. Substitute for the afterlife, life on earth in centuries to come, and it is possible to see that environmentalism and the rest of the left are now doing essentially the same thing. They hate the American way of life because of its comfort and luxury, which they contemptuously dismiss as “conspicuous consumption.” And to frighten people into abandoning it, they are threatening them with a global-warming version of hell.

Hell is the environmentalists’ ultimate threat... literally to roast and boil the earth.

So, let's think of the above as the Environmentalist Old Testament (creation, original sin, the Law, hell, etc.).

Moving into the New Testament, I submit that Rachel Carson is the environmentalist Jesus and Al Gore is their Apostle Paul . Rachel Carson was the original "bringer" of environmentalist truth and Gore is the unoriginal yet most notable missionary in early environmentalism.

Furthermore, I submit that the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the environmentalist version of the First Council of Nicaea from AD 325 which:
was the first ecumenical conference of bishops of the Catholic Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent 'general ecumenical councils of Bishops' Synods to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodoxy— the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea)

This conference brought together the world's leading "experts" and is to said to have once and for all unequivocally determined that man is the real global warming sinner and doomed to a literal hell on earth if not stopped.

Why is it important to make such identifications? By understanding the relationship of today's ideological movements, we can look to history's "vast pallete of human events..." "To understand the future we must understand what people have thought, and done, in the past, and why. When we learn about history we can understand not only that things happen, but also why they happen, and why they will, or will not, continue to happen." (http://www.classicalideals.com/)

So what happened with the pagans and the Christians anyway and is there now a rational answer to this false alternative?

I will continue this in another post.