Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bending Over Forward to Please the State

Even though the counterculture of the sixties is known more for sexuality than aggression, it nevertheless helped idself to the entire range of millennial styles. There were obvious religious elements, along with pseudo-scientific, rationalistic, Marxist, and fascist ones. 1967 and the Summer of Love can only be artificially severed from 1968 with its domestic terrorists, political paranoia, and campus mobs.

But in truth, the signs were already there, what with the race riots that had begun in 1963-'64 before really hitting stride in '67-'68.

The French Revolutionaries also believed they could begin mankind anew, in their case by eschewing everything but Reason.

But again, the pscyche is whole; one can no more sever oneself from the upper and lower vertical (unconscious and supraconscious) than one may declare that the brain can function in the absence of a beating heart. A human being is an integrated organism at every level; the parts are always subordinate to the whole, not vice versa.

Indeed, pathology -- both physiological and psychological -- can be understood as a part that doesn't know its place, and either usurps the rightful domain of other parts or ceases functioning for the benefit of the whole. My pancreas went on strike seven years ago, but it's not as if there are no implications for the rest of me.

But most diabetic patients I see act just this way (many do the same with hypertension). They live in blissful denial of their diabetes, which is why they end up with strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease in their 40s and 50s. As Homer Simpson once lamented, Why do my actions always have to have consequences!

Mendel is undoubtedly correct in highlighting "the rationalists' problem," which is the absence of any "solid ground of being and purpose to replace religious faith." Thus, in actuality, although they always talk about ends, the left really has no means to get there. Rather, they have only means, which explains quite a bit about self-styled "progressives."

For what is the end toward which the progressive believes the state to be progressing? This end doesn't actually exist; or, even if it did exist as a fantasy of some sort, it could never exist on earth.

Again, if one considers actual ends -- empirical reality -- we see that our gargantuan state and its unsustainable debt are the direct result of the application of progressive means, decade after decade. Yes, here we are, liberal paradise. Isn't it beautiful?

The ubiquitous liberal problem is that it has no intrinsic boundary, no limiting factor. Yes, it is Never Enough: liberals insist

"that the government must do more -- much more -- to help the poor, to increase economic security, to promote social justice and solidarity, to reduce inequality, and to mitigate the harshness of capitalism. Nonetheless, liberals have never answered, or even acknowledged, the corresponding question: What would be the size and nature of a welfare state that was not contemptibly austere, that did not urgently need new programs, bigger budgets, and a broader mandate? Even though the federal government’s outlays have doubled every eighteen years since 1940, liberal rhetoric is always addressed to a nation trapped in Groundhog Day, where every year is 1932, and none of the existing welfare state programs that spend tens of billions of dollars matter, or even exist. "

No liberal ever says, "okay, that's big enough. The present size of the state is perfect." Likewise, they never tell us how high taxes have to be before they are too high. After being forced by the electorate to abandon his liberal agenda, President Clinton bowed to reality and proclaimed that "the era of big government is over." But it was just resting. A new era of Bigger Government commenced on January 20, 2009, with Clinton's full-throated support. Clintonomics!

Now, two of the important modes of unconscious thought are omnipotence and omniscience. Why is this the case? Just logic. To simplify, the deep unconscious knows no clear and unambiguous boundaries, and a boundary is a limit. It also transcends -- or subtends -- linear time, and only knows the now. Add those together, and it is possible to live in a kind of boundless eternity.

I should emphasize that this is by no means inherently pathological. To the contrary, we all long to spend a little timelessness in this mode, but most of us do it in appropriate ways, e.g., religion, meditation, hobbies, family, music, cosmic blogging, sex, grog, etc.

But what if you are the type of person who is unsatisfied or cannot be satisfied with his own life? These are the most dangerous people on earth, especially when given political power. For some reason, the personal happiness -- and even identity -- of these persons is bound up with "helping" others.

Nothing wrong with that -- one cannot be human in the absence of the charitable impulse -- but this is quite different.

For just what makes a person want to force a second person to pay for something he believes a third person needs? Why do we have to radically transform our whole medical system and inconvenience millions of people, just because some vulgar community agitator thinks it's a good idea?

I understand the charitable instinct, but I do not understand the infinite self-belief -- the presumption of omniscience and omnipotence, backed by the force of state violence to impose his will. Have we any right whatsoever to imagine that the people who will administer this system will be wiser, kinder, and more moral than we are?

Here's an idea: how about our government actually making itself useful by fostering the market conditions that would make the medical system more functional? As it stands, the system is so distorted that it has few meaningful price signals, and in a free market economy, price is everything. Once price no longer conveys up-to-date meaningful information, we enter an irrational and incoherent world of too much or too little of what we want and need, and at the wrong price.

A state takeover can only make this worse, not better, for no one knows the actual cost of anything in a command economy. Nor does anyone know whether it is worthwhile to do this or that. There are infinite decisions to be made, with no rational basis to make them, and each with unforeseen and unforeseeable consequences. It is why we had to pass Obamacare in order to find out what's in it (and we still don't know).

Pelosi was being unintentionally honest here, because her statement is literally true. No one can pretend to know the consequences of a 2,500+ page bill on 17% of the economy, which is in turn connected to everything else. The bill could have been 5,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 pages, but one could still never predict its impact, since the information it pretends to understand is literally infinite (Hayek's knowledge problem). The map would have to be as large as the territory, which is both impossible and redundant.

Note that freedom and inequality are two sides of the same coin. We are free because unequal, and unequal because free. If everyone were the same, it would be another way of saying that we are not free to be unique.

But in its attempt to impose equality by force, this is precisely what the left ends up doing. Thus, in the socialist brain of a liberal Democrat, there are large areas devoted to embedded groupthink, generous spending of other peoples money, and smarter-than-thou intellectual sanctimony, but mere remnants of common sense and personal responsibility.

In a command economy, we are only "free" to be what the state wishes us to be, which is no freedom at all. The state is the agent and we are the receiver; it is the manly pitcher while we must lean forward and be the passive catcher. It rewards certain thoughts and behaviors, and punishes others, which places a new and completely unjust cost on the development of individualism.

For Margaret Thatcher, this was the wickedness at the heart of leftism. I found it surprising and fascinating to discover that Thatcher had deduced her economics from moral principles. But as soon as I thought about it, I realized that the left does the identical thing, except they begin with the wrong moral principles. For someone like Paul Krugman, his economics is clearly posterior to his morality -- or, to be precise, his hate-drenched moralism.

As Berlinski explains, "socialism itself" has a corrosive effect on human nature; it has "turned good citizens into bad ones; it turned strong nations into weak ones; it promoted vice and discouraged virtue; and even when it did not lead directly to the Gulags, it transformed formerly hardworking and self-reliant men and women into whining, weak and flabby loafers." It is not a noble idea badly applied, but "an inherently wicked idea," one not susceptible to "perfecting." Rather, it works every time, only in ways unintended.

Thatcher also felt -- and this would apply to Obama's America -- that "Britain's decline was not an inevitable fate, but a punishment" (emphasis mine). No, not for those sins that preoccupy the liberal brain -- imperialism, racism, homophobia, greed, and all the rest -- but "for the sin of socialism." Thatcher:

"How could anyone expect that the idea of 'more of the same' which has nearly brought us to our knees could be seriously entertained?"

For socialism is not just "a folly, but a heresy" (Berlinski); it is actually bad theology, because it is rooted in "the belief that Man is perfectible" (Thatcher). In this naive but pernicious view, "we must do good. We know how to do good, and we have the money to do good. And that inevitably became, and you will be done good to! (Bernard Ingham, in Berlinski).

So, bend over and be done good to, comrade!

40 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

A new era of Bigger Government commenced on January 20, 2009...

I care more about goodness than fairness, but one could say that Bush did support a number of big government initiatives, including Medicare Part D, Homeland Security, and TARP. There's plenty of blame to go around. The Republican Congress bought into bringing home the bacon -- not as much as the Democrats after '06, but they are still culpable.

9/15/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Oh yes. He was no conservative.

9/15/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

A state takeover can only make this worse, not better, for no one knows the actual cost of anything in a command economy? Nor does anyone know whether it is worthwhile to do this or that. There are infinite decisions to be made, with no rational basis to make them, and each with unforeseen and and unforeseeable consequences.

This should be tattooed on the voting hand of every politician.

For someone like Paul Krugman, his economics is clearly posterior to his morality...

I used to think Krugman was just a maroon. You know, never attribute malice to that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. But he has recently made it abundantly clear that he is a twisted little beast.

9/15/2011 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos the millenialism, we can rest assured that in the event of the apocalypse, the free love will go on. Or at least, you'll still be able to buy a remote window seat.

9/15/2011 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/15/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Sorry for the OT (and haven't read the post yet) but..

Oh! this looks amazing:

The Mill & The Cross

Limited showtimes and places

9/15/2011 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That does look gorgeous, Rick. Wow.

9/15/2011 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

The liberal era for this political cycle began in 2000, so we can expect to see about 9 more years of expanding government, *regardless* of who we elect.

It's just a thing that American politics does. And yes, it was just resting.

With respect to medicine, one thing that always bothered me was ER medicine and billing.

So, you have a heart attack or stroke, you are rushed to the hospital, where you are hospitalized for a month. You are then stuck with a $250,000 bill that you never agreed to in the first place because you were debilitated.

How can market principles be applied to this? You always end up being stuck with bills that you never negotiated in the first place. Yes, you are alive, but you are now broke.

9/15/2011 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger katzxy said...

The map will be bigger than the territory. A lot bigger.

9/15/2011 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

JP - there are a number of issues about those circumstances which would be substantially different if the market were allowed to work with minimal government interference. And of course, it would be different in ways I cannot possibly imagine, though I like to think that the cost of emergency care and involuntary admission would be both reduced and made more reasonably payable. I could be wrong, though, and in all likelihood I'll never have the chance to find out.

The reality is as you said, and that instance among others is why we have the bankruptcy system we have. Finding oneself broke after tragedy is devastating, but at least people aren't being sent to debtor's prison or indentured servitude.

As with many things about our nation, it's the worst except for all the others.

9/15/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

And medicine is a economic rent-seeking business cartel.

There are a purposefully limited number of lucrative specialty slots, such as radiation oncology and dermatology where you can make $500,000+ a year.

Bankruptcy is a form of economic death, which results in the knowledge that you have absolutely failed as a human being and are now a worthless deadbeat.

9/15/2011 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Yes, I admit that I'm extremely jealous of the extreme financial wealth of medical specialists.

Mostly because of my hypercompetitive nature. I want to win and I do not like losing the game of life.

9/15/2011 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

It seems to me that the price is high in the emergency room due to (the problem of the lack of) pricing cues in medicine overall, so it would go down if the market informed the situation in general. Maybe I'm stating the obvious.

9/15/2011 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

The free market assumes freedom in accepting a contract.

If you are unconsous and sent to the hospital, you are then stuck with a bill to which you never consented.

It's the opposite of a free market.

9/15/2011 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/15/2011 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Those high price points are not achieved in a vacuum, not even in an isolated section of services. If there was a fully market-informed medical sector, emergency room costs would not be what they would be in an out-of-whack system of pricing (like there is now), simply because in *that* instance the patient is unconscious. Insurance drives up the cost. Like financial aid drives up the cost of tuition. The school raises the price because financial aid rises to meet the cost. My hunch is that competition would set in, so that people would make pre-arrangements with hospitals with the prices and quality that they choose. That is one thing that would drive the price down. But overall, the costs are inflated by the win-win of hospitals and insurance companies, it seems to me.

9/15/2011 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

JP-Have a maximum price you will pay tattooed to your chest.

I agree this is one situation where the free market falls apart.

Anna, good comments about pricing when a third party pays.

9/15/2011 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

The medical industry has achieved a kind of "infinite" with the emergency room system. I don't think it's that the market fails in that instance, as much as that the market hasn't accounted for it or challenged the business model. If you *get* infinite, automatic services that you are not prepared for, you will pay a cost that is probably going to be commensurate. I think hospitals and insurance industries probably bank on this little corner of the medical industry and it is probably a form of welfare underneath. The word "emergency" is suspect a lot of the time. Just some thoughts.

9/15/2011 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Anna - yes, and well said.

JP, re. bankruptcy, that's excessively harsh. DH's first job out of law school was clerking for a bankruptcy judge. The vast majority of people who came through that courtroom were neither failures as human beings, nor were they worthless deadbeats. They were decent folks who had been sucker-punched by life, either due to illness, divorce, death in the family, or quite often some combination of those elements. Not irresponsible flakes, but hard-working people, even people who thought they were prepared, until they found out otherwise. Generally, the system was able to help them, thus it was not economic death, but a second chance at responsible fiscal life.

9/15/2011 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

John, that is some good LOL.

9/15/2011 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Well with the bankruptcy, it means that you've lost what you've worked for your entire life.

So, to the extent that your goal is to make sure that your children receive assets so that they can rise above your economic class and have more meaningful and important lives, it's a profound defeat.

9/15/2011 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"But what if you are the type of person who is unsatisfied or cannot be satisfied with his own life? These are the most dangerous people on earth, especially when given political power. For some reason, the personal happiness -- and even identity -- of these persons is bound up with "helping" others."

Kind of makes you wonder... would someone whose prime motivation is to deny what is real, in favor of the dreams they'd rather dream... would they ever really want their own wishes to be realized?

How much more likely would it be that they'd immediately move their attention from the reality they've feared and despised all along, to the next, bigger, glitzier, dream they'd rather be fathered by?

"For just what makes a person want to force a second person to pay for something he believes a third person needs? Why do we have to radically transform our whole medical system and inconvenience millions of people, just because some vulgar community agitator thinks it's a good idea?"

Maybe because it offers an never-ending free pass for escaping reality. What wouldn't a thrill seeker do for such an ultimate 'E'-Ticket ride?

9/15/2011 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the emergency system, I'm certain it is so expensive precisely because there is excessive meddling both from the government and from insurance companies. Depending on the balance between medical malpractice suits on the one hand (resulting in excessive care in areas where practitioners and hospitals are most likely to be sued) and insurance pressures on the other (requirements predicated on keeping costs down no matter what), the whole situation is simply insane, and doctors are driven just as much by the amount of time they must spend on paperwork as by anything else.

I can say from personal experience that paying for medical expenses out-of-pocket is often less expensive, simply because the paperwork - and therefore the time required by the practitioner - is so much reduced.

9/15/2011 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Once price no longer conveys up-to-date meaningful information, we enter an irrational and incoherent world of too much or too little of what we want and need, and at the wrong price."

Exactly so! Prices are the sensory organs of the Free Market, when you distort or do away with them, blindness is the better possibility that might result, even worse is that walls are made to appear to be passages and chasms will appear to be staircases.

Either way, doom is waiting.

9/15/2011 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"I found it surprising and fascinating to discover that Thatcher had deduced her economics from moral principles. But as soon as I thought about it, I realized that the left does the identical thing, except they begin with the wrong moral principles. For someone like Paul Krugman, his economics is clearly posterior to his morality -- or, to be precise, his hate-drenched moralism. "

Hence the left's regard for economics as 'the dismal science' - can you imagine the horror, as a leftist, of having to simultaneously examine, and evade, in detail, the meaning of all you believe?

[shudder]

9/15/2011 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

JP - re. bankruptcy, you're just wrong.

A) "it means that you've lost what you've worked for your entire life."

Actually, it doesn't; it depends on the circumstances, but generally the idea is to help you hang onto something, in order to be able to go out and rebuild. For instance, some states have a homesteading exemption whereby your house may not be taken from you to pay debts.

As to losing everything, the same can be happen with investing, which in some ways is a far more capricious way of handling one's money than, say, sticking it in a mason jar and burying it in the back yard.

B) "to the extent that your goal is to make sure that your children receive assets so that they can rise above your economic class and have more meaningful and important lives, it's a profound defeat."

Obviously, your parents never filed for bankruptcy when you were growing up. Mine did. Yet by any measure, I have "risen above my economic class," and in fact did so with their assistance, even if it wasn't as much as they would have liked. Whether my life is more "meaningful and important" remains to be seen, but what I learned from their experience was not the defeat - real, yes - but rather determination: to pick up the pieces, to rebuild, to not wallow in mistakes but rather learn and try again. And above all, to have a little compassion for people who find themselves in over their heads. Yes, often by their own mistakes. Bankruptcy is not death, it is not permanent, and in this nation it is in no way a barrier to future success.

9/15/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"It is not a noble idea badly applied; rather, "an inherently wicked idea," one not susceptible to "perfecting." Rather, it works every time, only in ways unintended."

And socialism contains its own, ever so Just reward - having to pay for and work off every fraud you propose to practice upon your fellow man, and like a flaming sword, banishes you from the happiness that can only be experienced amidst what is good, beautiful and true. As Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I contemplate that God is just, and his justice will not sleep forever",

9/15/2011 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "So, you have a heart attack or stroke, you are rushed to the hospital, where you are hospitalized for a month. You are then stuck with a $250,000 bill that you never agreed to in the first place because you were debilitated... There are a purposefully limited number of lucrative specialty slots, such as radiati..."

JP, respectfully, you are so full of crap.

How many times have you asked that question? Giving vent to your inner trol? Are you thinking that the answer will change because you've ignored it? Or if you reimagine the same scenario in new clothes, the reality of the matter will change to suit?

9/15/2011 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Well done Anna & Julie.
Well lol'd John.

9/15/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

As an aside, I dig that "Music for Swingers" cover. The expression on her face just cracks me up. I never knew bowling could be so dirty; it must come from handling all those balls...

(Low-swinging fruit, I know...)

9/15/2011 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Found it on this blog. Lots of cool/funny images.

9/15/2011 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Back to the post,
As Berlinkski explains, "socialism itself" has a corrosive effect on human nature

Along those lines, I've been noticing some genuinely disturbing trends of late. At Takimag, for instance: while the posts are often good and very insightful, the comments tend to swiftly degenerate into blatant and vitriolic racism. In part, it is even understandable; there is no denying, for instance, that the flash mobs committing smash and grab robberies (among other crimes) are overwhelmingly black. But the general assumption people are making (as evidenced by comments I see on virtually every news article pertaining to black crime) is that blackness = criminality.

I don't buy that. The very implication is completely dehumanizing.

What I do buy is the idea that decades of government "assistance" - in other words, a subculture of overt socialism based on race - has created an underclass of degeneracy. The fruits of that degeneracy are the violence and criminality that have been gaining so much attention. In trying to atone for the crimes of slavery and segregation, our government has "helped" black Americans right out of the values that would have allowed them to simply be Americans.

9/15/2011 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Van, which particular point did you want to argue about?

Julie: The vitrol and racism is because of the k-cycle winter/Fourth Turning. The massive debt overhang (public and private) coupled with the permanent recession is causing extreme discomfort and increasing anger. It's easy for anger to be directed into racism. Low hanging fruit, so to speak, without looking at the welfare (Savior) state as an underlying cause.

p.s. my son was nearly killed by a van tonight. Fortunately, he just has external scrapes. The bike he was riding is not so lucky.

9/15/2011 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Sorry to hear about the bike, JP, but very, very glad your boy is okay. I hope you are as well.

9/15/2011 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I am glad your son is OK, JP.

Julie said, I've been noticing some genuinely disturbing trends of late.

I was reading VDH last night as he was talking about people stealing stuff from his farm. What he is saying is rather disturbing, but he has the most insane troll, "La Raza", one could imagine. La Raza kept repeating crazy stuff about how all us old white people would be driven out and how we are doomed. The funniest thing was La Raza told them he was going to take away their Social Security and Medicare. Somebody finally asked La Raza what the invaders were going to do when they had displaced all the people who were working and paying for everything.

9/15/2011 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie, compare the clips of rioters in England with the flash mobs in Philly - the resemblance between the two is not seen at the level of the skin, but attitude within them, and yep, decades of government 'assistance' is at the heart of it.

JP, sorry to hear about your son, but glad he's ok - hopefully you know all Van's are not alike.

9/15/2011 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

JP, Glad to hear your son will be OK. Pretty terrifying to ponder what might have happened. (Don't do it too much).

Not much to add to the discussion here but I'll throw in my experience.

Our rural county is about 40% black. We are all relatively poor around here. The blacks and whites get along amazingly well (as far as I can tell, being a semi-hermit and all). I think it has to do with there being a good-sized black middle class. Much of racism is class-ism.

9/15/2011 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Theodore Dalyrmple's excellent Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass shows that it's all about values, not race.

9/16/2011 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks, Bob. I just wish more people knew that.

9/16/2011 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of emergency medicine, though, here's a taste of what doctors have to deal with, day in and day out.

"You heard it here first. This is my new name for fibro- chronic fatigue- chronic Lyme disease - systemic candidiasis - 'I know there's something wrong with me damnit' patients. You know, pussies. You know, the people you will be paying for on Obama care.... people that won't pay their doctor or ER bill but will pay for LONGINEXX penis enlarger pills or quote THIS SITE in an effort to convince me that their Axis 2 disorder is due to a tick bite thirty years ago."

9/16/2011 08:29:00 AM  

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