Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wishing for Non-A, The Sequel

If someone walked into a restaurant and demanded that the chef cook him a meal for free, he would be summarily dismissed. If someone walked into an auto repair shop and demanded that a car mechanic fix his car for free, he would be summarily dismissed. Perhaps even worse than demanding the service for free, imagine what would happen if you one were to walk to his neighbor's house and demand that the neighbor pay for his meal or his car repair. What if he told his neighbor, to his face, that he had a right to the meal and the car repair, and he threatened him with violence if he refused to fund his so-called "needs"? What would be the likely response?

If you think this is ridiculous, what is the difference between these scenarios and what proponents of government medicine are advocating? Do they not advocate the extortion of money from others to pay their medical bills? The only difference is that instead of directly threatening their neighbors with violence, if they do not comply, these people follow a more cowardly path. They advocate using the police power of the state to extort their victims.

Of course, such extortion, which entails the wholesale abrogation of rights - both the rights of the doctors and those who are forced to pay or comply with state regulations, relies on the justification provided by the moral theory of altruism. In other words, if someone is sick somewhere and in need, altruism holds that it is the height of moral virtue to sacrifice oneself for his benefit. This is precisely why proponents of socialized medicine, despite their advocacy of violence and force against doctors and taxpayers, are actually deemed to be "well intentioned". The idea that self-interest is evil and that sacrifice is moral results in the support of egalitarianism, which is the idea that individuals should receive equal outcomes regardless of their own character or effort. It is precisely this doctrine that Obama and his ilk seek to foist upon Americans.

Many on the right seem bewildered that Obama and his supporters would implement a plan that will only exacerbate the problems caused by government intervention in the first place - problems, known with certainty, to cause higher costs, waiting lines, bureaucratic nightmares, and the reduced quality of care. What they fail to realize is that Obama's goal is not the vitality, growth, and abundance that would result from a free market in medicine. That is because a free market in medicine, despite the fact that it would result in the best outcome for all and be consistent with individual rights, would result in unequal outcomes. Obama's goal is egalitarianism, i.e., he wants everyone to be equally miserable, and when he says he wants to do "what works", it should not be assumed that his criteria for "what works" is the same as a rational person's.

******

In a post from April 2007, I discussed the moral premises underlying socialized medicine. As I thought this post was apropos, I am reprinting it below after a few additions and some minor editing.

WISHING for NON-A
April, 2007

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 person's medical care and/or compel a doctor to work against his will. In essence, proponents of socialized medicine 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 initiated 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. If one wants something from someone else, he must offer a value in exchange or ask the other party for charity. Capitalism is a system based on the recognition of individual rights including the right to own property, and protects the producer of a value from violence and extortion. In this way, capitalism is a system of justice.

Socialism, on the other hand, is a system of profound injustice. 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 bureaucracy. 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?

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 ownership and the profit motive, and that is essentially all it does. It has nothing to put in their place. Socialism in other words, is not actually an alternative economic system to private ownership 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 socialism 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 achievement, and necessarily producing the most evil consequences."
So, 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. The notion 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?

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 "consensus" (as Obama might say) they could craft a program that this time will "work." How? Somehow.

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 a sacrifice for the earth and their socialist colleagues demanding "universal" health coverage which involves the sacrifice of the doctors or their neighbors to those allegedly in need.

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.

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

DR,

My problem with the pagans is that they act as though non-socialists revel in the fact that a=a. It is similar to pro-life advocates who imply that pro-choicers enjoy abortions.
Doctors do not spend eight years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars so that one day they can take advantage of people in need. Anti-statists aren't happy that some people are sick and can't afford treatment.
The right does an awful job of defending against this socialist rhetoric and I think it is due to a general lack of understanding caused by pagan economics taught in the universities-of which I am a victim.
In a capitalist system do you agree people's premiums would correlate with their overall health? Thus result in an incentive to exercise, quit smoking, and drink in moderation. Right now it pays to be a fat, smoking, alcholic because the system will just exthort your tri-athelete neighbor.
Your AR and GR quotes are very illuminating and important.
Thank you

Doug Reich said...

What do you mean by "pagan"?

Harold said...

I'd also like to know what is meant by "pagan economics".

Anyway, a lot of good points have been made in this article. I think those who claim that healthcare is a fundamental right should explain in fundamental terms what a right is. They should then be prepared to show how the initiation of physical force against innocent people is a legitimate exercise or expression of "rights". It'd be an interesting conversation topic.

Doug Reich said...

Harold,

Absolutely.

Instead of making the case for freedom and rights, ask a supporter of socialized medicine to justify their support of violence against innocent people.

Only once, in my experience, have I been able to get someone to admit that they explicitly support the initiation of force. Most of the time, it never occured to them that this is what their position entails.

Anonymous said...

Im using pagan as someone who wishes a was non-a. By pagan economics I mean the type of economists GR would say have no understanding of classic principles.

Doug Reich said...

anon,

First, I think your use of the term "pagan" is not accurate. The term usually applies to someone who does not acknowledge the God of the major religions. I do not understand the connection you are making. In fact, I would consider myself a "pagan" in a certain context, yet that is entirely consistent with a belief in reality. In other words, the fact that a=a or that one acknowledges that things are what they are, implies a non-religious view of the world - an objective view of reality.

I agree with your point that often the left characterizes the right as reveling in the misfortunes of others. The archetype of the evil, sadistic, businessman is a recurring theme in our culture. I actually addressed just this issue in a post

http://dougreich.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-republicans-keep-failing.html

which addresseed why those on the right are characterized this way. Ultimately, it has to do with altruism which is accepted by conservatives and which is antithetical to the justification for capitalism and free markets.

I certainly agree that premiums would be correlated to health in the same way that car insurance is correlated to one's driving history. Under socialized medicine, one does not have this incentive and that leads the state to impose "penalities" or consider laws to restrict individual behavior on the grounds that each person's health is a "cost" to society.

To see this, consider the story of the 20th Century Motor Company in Atlas Shrugged which dramatized this point. Or consider the scene in 1984 where "citizens" were required to exercise while watching the telescreens.

hope this helps.

Allen said...

Just a small point, the neighbor doesn't pay for the fat people. The fat people do or at least their employer does since they're the ones doling out health insurance in most cases.