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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Dalrymple has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal on the topic of universal health care.
If there is a right to health care, someone has the duty to provide it. Inevitably, that “someone” is the government. Concrete benefits in pursuance of abstract rights, however, can be provided by the government only by constant coercion.
People sometimes argue in favor of a universal human right to health care by saying that health care is different from all other human goods or products. It is supposedly an important precondition of life itself. This is wrong: There are several other, much more important preconditions of human existence, such as food, shelter and clothing.
Everyone agrees that hunger is a bad thing (as is overeating), but few suppose there is a right to a healthy, balanced diet, or that if there was, the federal government would be the best at providing and distributing it to each and every American.
Moreover, the right to grant is also the right to deny. And in times of economic stringency, when the first call on public expenditure is the payment of the salaries and pensions of health-care staff, we can rely with absolute confidence on the capacity of government sophists to find good reasons for doing bad things.
The question of health care is not one of rights but of how best in practice to organize it. America is certainly not a perfect model in this regard. But neither is Britain, where a universal right to health care has been recognized longest in the Western world.
Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so.
The government-run health-care system—which in the U.K. is believed to be the necessary institutional corollary to an inalienable right to health care—has pauperized the entire population. This is not to say that in every last case the treatment is bad: A pauper may be well or badly treated, according to the inclination, temperament and abilities of those providing the treatment. But a pauper must accept what he is given.
Universality is closely allied as an ideal, ideologically, to that of equality. But equality is not desirable in itself. To provide everyone with the same bad quality of care would satisfy the demand for equality. (Not coincidentally, British survival rates for cancer and heart disease are much below those of other European countries, where patients need to make at least some payment for their care.)
In any case, the universality of government health care in pursuance of the abstract right to it in Britain has not ensured equality. After 60 years of universal health care, free at the point of usage and funded by taxation, inequalities between the richest and poorest sections of the population have not been reduced. But Britain does have the dirtiest, most broken-down hospitals in Europe.
There is no right to health care—any more than there is a right to chicken Kiev every second Thursday of the month.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
[UPDATE: Wilson has added another post to this discussion. He has some good things to say about absolute versus relative poverty.]Doug Wilson has been blogging recently (here and here) about social welfare programs and how Christians should respond to them and if it is proper to take advantage of said programs. What he has to say is definitely worth thinking about...
So Christians who live in subsidized housing are part of the problem. Christians who use federal money to get their free education are part of the problem. Christians who get on Medicare so they can ding the taxpayers if anything goes wrong with their hobby of homebirthing are part of the problem. Christians on food stamps are part of the problem. Christians who use tax money to fund their mercy ministries are part of the problem. Christians who think that their health care would be more affordable for them if I paid for it are part of the problem. And just to anticipate self-serving objections, Christians who drive on roads built by the government are not part of the problem.
Those Christians who are just one more piglet scrapping for a federal teat are not going to be in the vanguard of reformation.
Here are a few random thoughts to follow up on yesterday's post about Christians entangled in the sticky mass that we are pleased to call federal helps, aids, loans, seductions, boondoggles, and entitlements.
First, I would like to reiterate what I said the outcome of this compromise actually is. I did not say that Christians who sign up for Medicare should be excommunicated or shunned. I did not say that they should be flogged. I said that entangled Christians are not and will not be in the vanguard of reformation. And that is nothing other than a simple observation that should be filed under gospel truth. Slaves who understand themselves to be slaves are pitiable. But slaves who think they are part of a "new way to freedom" don't understand the world they live in. Someone with a Ron Paul bumper sticker parked outside the Medicare office is risible.
Second, I thought of filing this post under "Retractions" instead of "Obama Nation" because of something I have overlooked in I have said or written about a portion of this on some earlier occasions, and which was very similar to what one commenter posted -- which is, "I am only going to take out what they made me pay in." But here is an argument against that angle.
The Social Security Administration is kind enough to mail me periodic statements about how much money they have extracted from me over the years. I have thought before that there would be no problem, when I become eligible for Social Security, in taking payments until that amount were reached, plus twenty percent for restitution, and to tear up the checks thereafter. But here is the flaw in that, as I see it now.
If an officious neighbor named Smith thought that I was not to be relied upon to save for my retirement, and he came over with a gun every month and successfully took yet another "contribution" from me, promising to return it to me starting when I was 65, why would I refuse to take it when he started mailing it back to me? I know, it would be irritating in that he wasn't acknowledging he had done anything bad, but still . . . why wouldn't I take the money?
Well, I would take it, on the supposition that he had taken my money, put it gilt-edged securities, earned a tidy profit on it, and was now returning it to me. But you don't know Smith. He didn't do that. What he actually did was go on a bender every weekend, and he pretty much peed all that money down various gutters around town. And when he shows up again with a willingness to repay me, it will not be with the money he took from me. He doesn't have any of that. But he still has his gun, and he is going to go get my repayment from another, younger, more squeezable sap than I now am. Not only so, but the nature of this robbery is such that the burden on those paying into the system ten and twenty years from now will be much more grievous than what I had to put up with -- and what I have had to put up with has been pretty obnoxious.
So, if the government shows back up with your money, go ahead and take it back. But if they have to knock over a few more gas stations, shooting the occasional attendant, in order to fund their collapsing Ponzi scheme, taking that money really is problematic. Suppose, just suppose, that when it comes to the month before you are going to begin receiving checks, the president announces that he is going to save the faltering Social Security system by printing up a bazillion new dollars. That lunacy is going to land on people, and it will be more than a couple of gas station attendants. The genius of Ponzi schemes is that it pits the early victims against the later victims, instead of pitting all victims against the criminal.
Third, someone asked what difference is makes whether we participate or not. Well, in one sense it does not matter -- but only in the sense that no one raindrop believes that it is responsible for the flood. Each individual's part is miniscule, and if only one or two people change, that won't change anything. But what we want is reformation of the Church, and we want God to see us repenting, and extricating ourselves as best we can. Perhaps God will show mercy. But if we are just going along to get along, and as we go we are developing perichoretic justifications for the welfare state, then we deserve what we are going to get, good and hard.
Fourth, the entitlement mentality is pernicious, and it really does get into everything. That entitlement mentality is now increasingly common, even among Christians, and even among Christians who take it on reluctantly. When someone says that they simply cannot afford to have a child with medical costs the way they are, then why don't we respond with, "Well, don't have a child then"? That makes everybody go yikes! and they immediately say that they have scruples about the use of birth control. Okay, I'll bite. It sounds like you can't afford to get married then. It's lawful to not have children if you're not married, right? But . . . but . . . we want all the privileges of marriage, plus the privilege of our convictions about birth control, and we want someone else to pay for a chunk of it. Now, please note -- I am not saying this as big fan of birth control, as anyone who has read much of what I have written and taught about marriage and family can attest. But let me put it bluntly because we need to regain a sense of perspective. In my Bible, a prohibition of birth control is not found in the Ten Commandments, and a prohibition of stealing can be found there. We in the Church have developed ourselves some seriously dyslexic scruples. The use of birth control is the gnat. Feeding, clothing, sheltering, and educating the children you bring into the world is the camel.
Labels: Christianity, Doug Wilson, Economics, Health Care, Morality, Politics, Socialism | 6 comments
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Weekly Standard has an excellent piece on Obama's "Abortion Administration."
Why is Obama pushing ahead with such a radical abortion agenda? Since there's no way to accuse him of doing it out of poll-driven opportunism, sincere conviction becomes the most plausible motive. Sometimes the simplest, most straightforward answer makes the most sense. A president who once said he wouldn't want his daughter punished with a baby if she made a mistake is deeply committed to making free and easy access to abortion an inescapable element of American culture.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Doug Wilson has a challenging post today to Christians, warning them about the spiritual dangers of the current environmental craze.
One area of secular blindness (one of many) is their inability to see how religious they are being. Having defined religion quite narrowly as church buildings and altars, they are utterly incapable of seeing the all-pervasive and quite religious nature of their frenzies and crusades. The problem with invisible religions like this is that one cannot watch them to see if they are going bad. And so they don't.
There is less excuse for Christians -- who are not blind in this way -- for going along with any of it. If you have ever wondered how an ancient Israelite, who had been fed by manna from the sky, could possibly have been attracted to one of the Canaanite groves and high places, just look at the pressure you feel to flush the toilet less, to take shorter showers, to get a smaller car, and to go through any number of other gyrations to reduce your carbon footprint.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Dalrymple also wrote an excellent and humorous piece this week on political correctness and the idea that language determines thought (one could say that this is closely tied to the prejudice discussion in my last post).
The relation of language to thought has long been a philosophical puzzle, one to which no universally accepted answer has yet been given. Is language a precondition or determinant of thought, or thought a precondition and determinant of language? For myself, I incline to the latter view...
Not every one agrees, of course, and in Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell put forward the rather dismal idea that reform of language – that is to say, the imposition of certain locutions and the prohibition of others – can actually mould the content of thought, making some ideas unthinkable and others unchallengeable.
This, of course, is what politically-correct language is all about. It is certainly what its proponents hope.
I was recently the victim of a politically-correct sub-editor of a distinguished medical journal for which I write. I do not claim to have suffered inordinately as a result; at most I experienced a brief spasm of anger, leading to a slightly longer period of irritation.
On the other hand, as Burke said, liberty is seldom lost all at once; usually it is nibbled away, until – to change thinkers to Tocqueville – people become ‘a herd of timid and industrious sheep, of which the government is the shepherd.’ (It needn’t be the government that does all the shepherding, intellectual apparatchiks will do just as well.)
Therefore, at the risk of sounding and even becoming a little paranoid, and of seeing dangers to our freedom lurking everywhere, even in insignificant phenomena, it is necessary sometimes to protest at the most minor acts of arbitrary power.
[T]he change made by the sub-editor was to substitute ‘humankind’ for ‘mankind.’
My first objection to this is aesthetic. The phrase ‘whose moral commitment to the welfare of mankind’ is much more elegant than the phrase ‘whose moral commitment to the welfare of humankind.’
But my other objections to the substitution are more serious, at least if moral considerations are more important than aesthetic ones. Of course, to object to the use of the word ‘mankind’ because it is sexist is as absurd and literal-minded as to object to the word ‘person’ because it, too, is sexist: who, after all, is this ‘per’ whose son has given his name to everyone in the world? Surely, to be absolutely egalitarian between the sexes, it should be ‘peroffspring’?
Come to think of it, ‘humankind’ is also sexist, very nearly as sexist as ‘mankind,’ for it contains the world ‘man’. It should therefore, in all consistency, be changed to ‘peroffspringkind.’ Moreover, the word ‘woman’ should likewise be changed to ‘woperoffspring.’ The possibilities for language reform are almost infinite, at least in English.
Enough of satire – if only because satire these days has an inherent tendency to turn into prophecy. There are enough mad ideas in the world without my adding to them. Let us turn, then, to the meaning of this substitution.
Was the substitution by itself an example of the descent into Newspeak? It is unlikely that anyone thinks that machismo or misogyny will be much reduced by the universal and compulsory adoption of humankind in place of mankind, let alone that it will actually do so. And yet it is one manifestation of language reform that is intended first to make people afraid to say certain things, then to think them, before reaching the highest stage of thought-control: to make them unthinkable.
Things are worse in this respect, and have gone further, in America than in Britain. Reading American academic books as I quite often do, I have been struck by how common, indeed universal, the use of the impersonal ‘she’ has become. Occasionally, authors get their knickers in a twist as they try to alternate the impersonal ‘she’ and ‘he’ (incidentally, the phrase ‘she and he’ has now replaced ‘he and she,’ though to my ear the latter is more euphonious): for quite often when they try it, they do not remember whether their last impersonal pronoun was ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Incidentally, I have never heard anyone say ‘the hangperson’ instead of ‘the hangman,’ or even ‘the taxperson’ instead of ‘the taxman.’
Here an ideological obsession, cheap and silly as it is, trumps any sense of reverence towards real distinction. This is barbarism.
It is also the worst and most dangerous form of censorship. There are two kinds of censorship, the negative and positive. The negative proscribes, the positive prescribes.
As far as art is concerned, there is a lot, historically, to be said in favour of negative censorship. Most of the greatest art, certainly, has been produced in conditions of such censorship, and – as we have seen in the last thirty or forty years – an absence of even the degree of censorship that can be ascribed to self-restraint has not necessarily resulted in an improvement on the paintings of Piero della Francesca, the plays of William Shakespeare or the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Of course, there are arguments against negative censorship, but the good of art is certainly not one of them.
The positive kind of censorship is much worse than the negative and, if it goes very far, is almost incompatible with either deep thought or good art. It co-exists with the negative form of censorship, but in addition to making some things unsayable it prescribes what must be said, in the way that any thesis on any subject whatever in the old Soviet Union was obliged to carry quotations from Lenin, showing that Lenin had come to the right conclusions years before.
There is an informal type of positive censorship (at least, I assume it is informal), as well as a formal one. For example, I have noticed of late that when American academics want to illustrate the concept of genius with a list of geniuses, they almost invariably include a sportsman. I doubt that university presses insist upon this as ‘house style,’ as it were; rather, the academics concerned fear to be accused of elitism by their peers, and elitism carries with it all manner of unpleasant political associations. In a free, or free-ish, society, there is no fear as great as that of losing caste.
The quasi-compulsory inclusion of sportsmen in lists of geniuses is not socially harmless or without effect. To suggest that a basketball player can be compared with Mozart is to put all human activities on the same level; and since some activities come easier and more naturally than others, it has the effect of reducing, indeed making quite pointless, any form of cultural aspiration. If what comes easily is as good as what comes only with deep effort, thought and intelligence, why go to any trouble? There is a Gresham’s law of culture: without a scale of values, the bad will always drive out the good.
Thus the intelligent flatter the unintelligent, without, in their hearts, meaning a word of what they say. What seems at first sight progressive is in fact deeply reactionary, in the worst possible sense: it does not permit or encourage social ascent, and changes class societies (such as capitalist democracies have always been) into caste societies.
In the meantime, I look forward (though do not expect) the time when Satan will be referred to routinely in academic books as ‘she.’ That would be one giant step for humankind.
Theodore Dalrymple (one of the greatest writers and thinkers alive, in my opinion) wrote a wonderful book two years ago entitled In Praise of Prejudice. A short but deep book, it discusses the perils of a society that pretends to ban prejudice and the necessity of certain preconceptions. I say "pretends" because no person, much less a society, is able to rid himself of prejudice. He merely trades one bias for another. For example, few people today worship any god like in ancient times. And fewer still believe in some pagan god (when was the last time you met a Baal worshiper?). But that doesn't mean that most people have ceased to worship gods, they've just rejected one for another (fitness, Americanism, or global warming come to mind). Or consider the hate crime legislation. Hate against Christianity (or other majority views or people groups) is not considered a hate crime. So in that case, prejudice is bad if it's directed against Muslims but allowable if it is directed at Christians.
This past week, Dalrymple again discussed the need for prejudice in a column for the Social Affairs Unit. Note that he is not referring to a KKK-like prejudice against black people, but more to the normal preconceptions that we unknowingly hold to every day.
This past week, Dalrymple again discussed the need for prejudice in a column for the Social Affairs Unit. Note that he is not referring to a KKK-like prejudice against black people, but more to the normal preconceptions that we unknowingly hold to every day.
The other day I happened to see a fellow-passenger reading an article in a newspaper that I had missed, about the way in which police in Britain have now started searching white people against whom they have no suspicions whatever, simply to balance the racial proportions of people searched in their efforts to prevent terrorism.
I admit that I am highly sceptical about how much of the activity carried out in the name of anti-terrorism is genuinely and necessarily connected with that end, but racial quotas can only weaken that connection further.
In this [taxi] were the usual warnings deemed necessary in taxis all over the British provinces about the amount one would have to pay if one vomited in it, how one ought to behave well because one was being recorded on camera, etc. And if these warnings were not enough, there were two police notices:
Anyone who verbally abuses or assaults the driver of this Taxi will be reported to the police and prosecuted.
Please don't be offended if your driver asks for payment before you start your journey.
So how does a driver select the people from whom he asks for payment in advance?
The answer, of course, is by means of his prejudiced understanding of the world. He looks at his potential fare and asks himself, "Is this the kind of person who might refuse to pay me at the end of the journey", or do what is known in the trade as "a runner"? And if it is, he asks for the money in advance.
Of course, his prejudiced understanding of the world, based partly on experience, partly on hearsay, and no doubt partly on personal taste or distaste, will sometimes lead him to false conclusions. A nasty-looking drunk may have every intention of paying his fare; a respectably-dressed man in a business suit might be planning to swindle or even rob him. Appearances can be deceptive, and no doubt often are.
But he has little else to go by and has to make a decision very quickly. There may be more rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of one unjust man, etc., but among taxi-drivers there is more regret over one wrong judgment about such a matter than over ninety-nine duly-paid fares. And if a taxi driver failed to exercise his judgment in this way, we should feel correspondingly less sympathy for him when he was assaulted or cheated.
What the taxi driver does (and what the police obviously think he is entitled and perhaps ought to do), is what we do all the time in our daily lives. Our mistakes may be grievous ones: when I saw pictures of Mr Madoff, I thought, "What a kindly, calm, intelligent, far-seeing expression he has, just the kind of man to whom I should have liked to entrust my savings, had I known about him".
But the possibility of error should not deter us from making prejudiced judgments, for the suspension of such judgments is also a judgment of a kind, and one that is likely to be far worse in effect overall than their maintenance. Of course, no prejudice should be so strong that no evidence or experience to the contrary can change it, either about individuals or about groups of people who share certain characteristics.
The pretence that one can approach the world without prejudice is dishonest and absurd. The sleep of prejudice brings forth bureaucratic monsters. It is to go into the world without the faintest idea about where one might find the things one is looking for.
If the police really had no prejudices, the consequences for the population would be truly dreadful.
The failure to make the most obvious judgments leads to vicious absurdity. I recall the case of one young man of Indian extraction who was set upon by three young louts with a long history of violence. The young man was thoroughly respectable, as well as being self-evidently mild-mannered; but the three louts accused him of having attacked them first, an accusation so prima facie absurd that one would have thought no one could entertain it for a moment. But, in the name of equity, the police treated it as seriously as the young man's accusation against them, which was far from absurd. They charged him as well as the three louts; and offered to drop the charges only if he dropped the charges against the three louts.
That is justice in a society that claims to be without prejudice.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
The Goracle just compared himself to Winston Churchill while saying that the fight against global warming (hey Al, the science is in, global warming ended a decade ago) is equally as dangerous to this generation as the Nazis were to Churchill's generation.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Doug Wilson has an excellent piece on Sarah Palin's recent resignation.
I have been quiet about Sarah Palin for a bit, not needing my comments count to soar into the stratosphere again, but I do want to give her a little bit of free advice. If you see her, pass this on, wouldja?Personally, I'm with Mark Steyn. I think Palin is genuinely out of politics for the foreseeable future (at least, I believe she intends that to be the case). That news conference was too hastily-arranged and unorganized to be a sly political move. Palin is sick of spending her time (and her limited personal finances) on one stupid complaint after another. She wants to serve the people, not play politics.
[B]e aware that many conservatives are sympathetic to you because of your ability to set off this aforementioned derangement on the left, which is admittedly a shorter trip every day. At the same time, George W. had this same ability, and yet he was no conservative. He was a "big government conservative," which when translated means a big government liberal with some common sense left. Now that Obama is spending us into a little Bernie-Madoff-style prosperity, it appears that Bush had a goodish bit of restraint left, at least comparatively. But we don't need any more slow death conservatism, and we need to stop measuring how far right we are while tethered to the left's drunken lurches toward the far left. They are not a reliable indicator. I say this because a number of conservatives around the country are hungry for a genuinely different direction, and they know by now that the reactions of the Pie Topping Left are not a reliable guide to what that direction is.
And, by the way, if you go in a genuinely new direction, you will have two mortal enemies, the Democrats and the Republicans respectively. The Democrats will be the nastier of the two, but the Republicans will be meaner in a sly way, and far more effective.
The more conservative of them will shake their heads sadly. She could have been another Reagan, but wasn't up to it. Never mind that Reagan redivivus would have almost all of them spitting nails. They only like Reagan because he's dead now, and they will like you fine when you're dead. Ignore them. Ignore them blithely. Ignore them like you have never heard of the books they are recommending. With regard to their urgent pleas, you should have the placid countenence of a Buddhist monk reading a Far Side cartoon. Their sophisticated construct that they call a world doesn't really exist. You can learn more about the way the world actually works -- as I believe you already have -- by talking to the guy who sells elephant ears at the Nebraska State Fair.
In the meantime, study what you want. Read the kind of books that they would declare an even greater manifestation of what your problem must be. They want you to travel, so you should go places they don't want you to go. As providence would have it, you are this generation's catnip for the power elites. It is a beautiful gift. Don't waste it.