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What Liberals Think About Conservatives The Myth of the Expert

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Fixing Government Healthcare With Your Money

by Christopher Chantrill
August 01, 2009 at 6:17 pm


LAST WEEK the president’s health care reform ran off into the ditch. This week, in a flurry of flashing lights, the Beltway wrecker will doubtless haul it back up on the legislative highway. The mainstream media will take a look and declare the it as good as new. But we all know that after you have run a car up on the sidewalk or into a ditch is is never quite the same again.

It is instructive to watch President Obama talk to the American people using center-right language about choice and incentives—“let me be clear about this.’” But he is talking not about choices and markets but about a comprehensive and mandatory administrative program of staggering complexity. It will not deliver choice and efficiency; it will not deliver more health care for more people with less money. It will further rigidify and constrain health care options and, where it subsidizes use of health care resources, run up the costs.

Some people have started to run the Wizard of Oz clip of “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” as though all this is mere family entertainment. But what is really going on is classic Leo Strauss.

Can this be true? Could the very Democrats that cast a thousand curses at the neoconservative followers of Leo Strauss really be faithful Straussians themselves?

Leo Strauss, you’ll remember, espoused the notion that leaders must speak with a forked tongue. They must communicate one message to the ordinary people and another message to their supporters. Leaders spout harmless pablum to the masses, but speak a coded, “esoteric” language to the those in the know.

So it is that President Obama tells Americans that they can keep their current health plan. But the insiders know that few insurance companies would stay in business if they were competing against a subsidized government “public option.”

President Obama talks about stopping unnecessary procedures. But the insiders read Peter Singer in The New York Times Magazine, and he tells them that rationing is the only way to go.

And the whole exercise is a classic demonstration of government trying to get out of a jam caused by administrative compulsion and subsidy—with, what else? more compulsion and subsidy.

You know how it works. Government starts a program of subsidy—in this case the subsidized Medicare program for seniors. Not surprisingly, seniors use far more medical services than they would if they were paying all the bills themselves. In fact they spend so much that they threaten to eat the rest of the rest of the federal budget. That is the meaning of the $30 trillion in unfunded Medicare liability.

So government comes up with a cunning plan. It proposes to lure non-Medicare Americans into a “public-option” health plan; then it subjects all Americans, including Medicare Americans, to the expert decisions of the comparative effectiveness research community. President Obama vaguely talks about creating “an independent group of doctors and medical experts” that will “eliminate waste and inefficiency” in Medicare. It will presumably use as its basis for decision the work of the Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research set up in the stimulus bill. The council is patterned after the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). NICE is not nice. It makes utilitarian calculations about the effectiveness of medical procedures and whether the government should pay for them.

Who knows? Maybe the president’s plan will work. Maybe Americans will bow meekly under the knout of government health compulsion. Maybe. But it is more likely that they will become very angry if they discover that their health care is to be curtailed, particularly after they were promised that nothing would change and no new taxes would be needed.

It is one thing to give Americans Social Security when few Americans enjoyed private pensions. It is one thing to give seniors Medicare when most seniors lacked health insurance. It is another thing to start meddling with health insurance when most Americans already have health insurance and are satisfied with their current arrangements.

And the president is betting against history. The record of all government programs is that, slowly but surely, they run down. The combination of bureaucratic rigidity, political chicanery, and special-interest rent-seeking creates a monster like public education. You get a huge establishment costing vast amounts of money. But year by year it delivers less and less. Until one day it runs off into the ditch. Even America’s favorite government program, manned spaceflight, has followed that trajectory. Forty years ago, a second Manhattan Project put a man on the Moon. Since then, nothing.

Most likely the president will get some sort of a bill out of Congress and declare victory. And then a few months later the think tanks will report that the Medicare unfunded liability is now the ObamaCare unfunded liability, and it just doubled from $30 trillion to $60 trillion.

Hey. It’s just your money.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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