Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Medical Mission Creep: "An Epidemic of Meddling"

At Reason, by Jacob Sullum.

[HT: S. rex]


Blogger The Mystic said...

That is one broken-ass link.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's supposed to be:


5:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I also subscribe to Reason, BTW.

Funny how both left and right have their libertarian leanings, but neither can stomach libertarianism, each for their own reasons.

Pure libertarianism of the Reason (Ayn Rand?) stripe rejects the community in favor of the individual.

Left and right in this country are both communitarian in divergent ways, one economic, the other social.

Which is why nobody's a libertarian...

1:20 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, it's largely my libertarian leanings that made me a liberal--and I've always had trouble understanding libertarians who side with conservatives/Republicans.

One of my libertarian friends offers the following fairly lame reason: If taxes are low, I'll still have my money, and then I can leave the country if things get really bad.

I guess my inclination is to think that civil rights are more important than money. But the more meddlesome the leftier left becomes, the less it's about civil rights and the more it's about...god knows what. *Ressentiment* maybe...

10:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Ressentiment would be as good a guess as any.

Libertarians side with the GOP more often because it's not about money, it's about freedom. Control my money, control me. The Sullum article shows what happens when the economics of our health care becomes a state matter---quit smoking, wear a helmet, put down that doughnut!

The funny thing is, it's the left that tends toward seeing life in material terms, yet don't see the libertarian perspective.

5:20 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

What do you mean by "seeing life in material terms"? Also, what do you mean by saying "control my money"? Taxes?

8:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You keep asking for it, don't you? You lie in wait for me in every comments section and don't even bother to hide your knife. You reject every gesture of good will and take every parry as an attack. You have something to say about libertarianism? Say it, and leave me out of it, man.

For anybody else who's interested in the subject, Hayek's Road to Serfdom is often considered the seminal text. Here are the Cliffs Notes.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TVD, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people are out to get you :)

10:29 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Damn, just asking for some clarification. Precision is a necessary thing.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

TVD, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people are[n't] out to get you :)

The story of poor Richard Nixon's life, DA.

But he was nuts...

11:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm small potatoes. Take it up with Hayek, Grasshopper. The world awaits.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


See, it's worse for the state to deny you your civil rights than to tax you a little too much.

Conservatives in general seem to be o.k. with the state telling you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, what you can say, what you can ingest, and so forth.

Not that I like someone being too eager to take my money...but I'm willing to put up with that given the only available alternative.

"control my money, control me" falsely puts the financial at the center of the universe.

Seems to me.

10:34 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Not to mention that the taxes we have are hardly akin to some sort of totalitarianistic fiscal control device...

Which is why I asked for clarification..

And got yelled at.

And cried a little.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm sorry, WS---to you it's financial, to libertarians, it's freedom. (Which indicates why there's little affinity between leftism and libertarianism.)

"Serfdom" is key here---the feudal system started when the economic burdens of Roman citizenship (not just taxes but the statism that requires them) became so odious that free men "surrendered their freehold," as one historian put it, to the local baron in exchange for protection from the government.

Imagine that. Being a serf was preferable to being "free."

As for social conservatism, it may not be as much Leviticus as Locke.

Regardless, between the lack of empathy (or apparently, even understanding) on the left for their belief in economic freedom and the fact that legal restrictions on sexual behavior and drugs have little real effect, libertarians seem to adjudge their odds are better with the right.

3:37 PM  
Blogger tehr0x0r said...

Tom all I can say is WHAT? Ok you are going to try and equate our current tax system to start of the feudal system? I don't see how you can even start to draw that conclusion. Let me start off by saying I am a strong opponent of the current tax system, I favor a national sales tax for reasons we can get into at some other time however you have gone off the deep end here. Let’s do a little review of how the Roman tax system worked...

Publicani were used to collect these taxes from the provincials. Rome, in eliminating its own burden for this process, would put the collection of taxes up for auction every few years. The Publicani would bid for the right to collect in particular regions, and pay the state in advance of this collection. These payments were, in effect, loans to the state and Rome was required to pay interest back to the Publicani. As an offset, the Publicani had the individual responsibility of converting properties and goods collected into coinage, alleviating this hardship from the treasury. In the end, the collectors would keep anything in excess of what they bid plus the interest due from the treasury; with the risk being that they might not collect as much as they originally bid.

Ok so in Rome we have a system where the tax collector places a bid on how much he is going to take. It is then his job to make sure he gets at least that much back so he makes a profit. As time went on this practice would lead to huge amounts of corruption. This corruption was a leading cause of landowners seeking protection from those with greater wealth. The American system functions nothing like this so let us call this strike one.

Because of this corruption the Publacani became extremely rich and thus became the primary lenders for the empire. “Publicani were also money lenders, or the bankers of the ancient world, and would lend cash to hard-pressed provincials at the exorbitant rates of 4% per month or more.” Thus they were serving in two of the primary financial roles of the Empire. Again this structure does not exist in the American system. While the Federal government does set both the tax rate and the prime loan rate these actions are done by separate parts of the government (Congress sets taxes and the Federal Reserve sets loan rates) this is separated even further when private banks who have no stake in the collection of taxes make the majority of actual loans to consumers. Now we shall call this strike two.

Finally let’s focus on the more important aspect of the feudal system. Feudalism developed as a mechanism for protection, not from government, but from a lack of government. As the Roman Empire dissolved for a variety of reasons (Yes corruption in the tax system was one of them but we have already covered why that is different than in the American system) the “national” governments were no longer able to field large armies and police forces to protect the common citizens from local lawlessness and external invaders. As a result many people turned to the larger landowners who commanded significant economic power to field local forces to protect them. People turned to feudalism because they were being robbed, not by the Roman government but by the Vandals and Goths from the north. The result was the feudal system. Strike Three.

Tom, you are out.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most so-called libertarians are actually conservatives whose main sense of liberty is freedom from direct taxation and economic regulation. Look around at how well that has worked out for us; we're all "free" to work our butts off, but our major productivity gains for 30 years have gone to the top 1%. That's what comes of going toe to toe with Bill Gates. Alone.

Scratch these economic libertarians and, as WS says, you'll find a willingness to restrict what liberals think are personal choices, particularly but not exclusively with respect to sex. TVD, you even acknowledge this in passing, arguing that legal restrictions on sex and drugs have little effect. Really, how, uh, fantastical. Griswold wasn't that long ago. Homosexuality is still pretty controversial from your end of the political spectrum. Check the prisons for non-violent drug offenders at $35K a year.

What are you smoking? Oh, sorry, marijuana is not yet legal.

12:01 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I was offering why I think libertarians tend to vote right, not left. (I believe it's a fact that they do. No?)

Take the rest up with Hayek, whom no one yet has referenced. (Perhaps the link is broken-ass, but it works OK for me.) I read Reason every month and am struck by their emphasis on economic and not social liberty. Just reporting from the field here.

Me, I kinda liked West's defense of social conservatism ala Locke. (Unreferenced.) Please do disregard the Christian apology at the end, which is irrelevant, but get through the first 2/3.

TehrOxOr, I haven't even made an original argument yet. Three strikes I'm out? Haven't even stepped in the batter's box yet.

I'm just bringing y'all up to speed. Taxes are the least of it, altho TehrOxOr's offered alternate theory of the genesis of feudalism is interesting, and I'll not dismiss it out of hand. I was just offering the Conventional Wisdom.

So get off my back, OK? Geez, a guy can't catch a breath around here before the beanballs start flying.

12:18 AM  
Blogger tehr0x0r said...

Sorry, I shouldn’t say you are out because it is not you, rather it is the argument you formed and if these reasons are indeed why many libertarians vote Republican then it is also an argument for why they are wrong for doing so. Your argument taken only from what you have said in this post is as follows…

1) Financial Freedom (i.e. lower taxes) is not limited to the financial realm it is simply freedom (supported by following, flawed, statements)
2) The reason financial freedom is freedom is because of serfdom, if people are over taxed they will rather become serfs and have the protection of a richer person than try to deal with the taxes on their own
3) One of the primary reasons serfdom formed is because the Roman government overtaxed people who then give up their freedom for protection from the government.
4) Laws restricting my social freedoms, like sex and random drug laws have no real effect so these should not play into my decision process. (see below for this)
5) Thus many libertarians side with Republicans because they will have lower taxes

Now the unspoken part missing from here is that libertarians somehow think that if they vote Democrat taxes will go up and force them into serfdom. I think I have shown this is wrong in my prior post about the role of taxes in the formation of Feudalism.

As for social laws having no effect: As lovable pointed out, our jails are full of drug and non-violent sex offenders (A case in Georgia has a guy in jail for 10 years because when he was 17 he got a blow job from a 15 year old). We also have setup a system where sexual orientation affects your rights, if you are gay you have no chance to marry and thus do no have the legal protections that heterosexuals do. It would seem social laws do have a major effect.

Again, sorry my post was initially directed at you, it is the premises you argue libertarians use that are flawed.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Nice comments, t. r0x--very clear and informative.

Even though we don't seem to be in danger of anything closely similar to feudalism in the near future, maybe we could weaken the Tom/libertarian point in the following way:

"There are certain tendencies in the welfare state that, if left unchecked, will lead us down the road to surfdom. Sure, they're in check now, but Dems seem to be insufficiently aware of/worried about these tendencies...and they tend to advocate policies that will tend to fire up this big machine. And this machine have good brakes, and it's almost impossible to get it into reverse. So to play it safe, libertarians ought to vote Republican."

Hasty, but you get the idea?

3:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

What can I say in a comments section that it took Hayek an entire book to say? Hint: in the abridgement I linked to, the word "taxes" is never used. If one wants to understand libertarian view, one must engage Hayek.

Or at least Reason magazine, which largely echoes his views. In the Sullum article, which apparently only WS read, "taxes" is used only twice, tangetially, in reference to "sin" taxes.

It's not about taxes. Libertarians look at today's Europe, and say, I don't want that.

As for gay marriage, libertarians aren't big on marriage as an institution anyway and this is typical of their general indifference to the whole deal. To put it as a civil rights issue has no more currency than claiming the lives of the unborn is a civil rights issue, too. A non-starter.

As for drugs, Democrats aren't in favor of legalizing them either, so it's a push for the libertarian.

As for the genesis of the feudal system, I got my info from history books, not libertarian tracts. An opposing explanation is certainly possible as well, since none of us were there. History is rewritten every day.

And now I am going on hiatus around here, as this hasn't been good for me of late. Regards to the host, who knows where to find me.

6:00 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Debating entire books (or very lengthy internet links) is rarely possible in a blog.

Gotta narrow it down to precise, single points. I think you may be getting dismayed by my (and others') reactions to your posts because you often make many, many points per post, and they all (as most briefly stated points do) have their issues and questions regarding clarification, etc.

When you get in return a lot of criticism and questioning, from me at least, I know it's because your posts are generally very broad and cover too much area to address successfully in such a succinct manner, though you try.

So, if you think that I'm "out to get you" as you seem to, I think you're misinterpreting a lot of criticism for a broad post as a personal attack. It's not - it's just that if you post generalities and without precision, especially when you're telling people that their views are incorrect and yours are correct, you're going to get a lot of questions. No one's going to let you get away with saying things like "The funny thing is, it's the left that tends toward seeing life in material terms, yet don't see the libertarian perspective" when you're using it as a reason for your correctness and our incorrectness.

That's why posts successful in staying away from the volume of criticism your posts amass are generally medium-length but focused solely on a single, precise point. They're also generally weaker than "This is the way it is" and are stated as a belief or observation rather than being definite claims, like "it's the left that tends toward seeing life in material terms".

So, maybe in the future, to avoid having so many questions asked of your posts by me and others who don't really want to just accept that they are wrong because of x where x is vaguely put and strangely said, you could just narrow the focus of your posts.

Just a suggestion. Probably should've made it sooner. Sorreh.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Since I'm winding up my correspondence here (I occasionally get accused of some sort of cowardice when I don't reply), you and me are OK, man. It's not about that. Well, mebbe a little, but it's that I need to look skyward and stop watching my own back. That's no way to live.

See, the technique for getting anywhere in a forum like this, or any forum, is to ignore the weaker points and minor inaccuracies and focus in reply on your correspondent's strongest points, or else it dissolves into a mass of quibble. I'm sure I quibble too, but I try to pick out the most promising line of inquiry that the other fellow has. I let a lot go.

Now it seems that I'm representing a long and deep body of thought which most folks here, either due to the nature of the modern university education or through willful avoidance of National Review or First Things or Faux News have only a surface understanding of, and that surface is none too pretty.

The principled objection to gay marriage, for instance, isn't from biblical morality, but of natural law and society's stability, per the essay I linked to on Locke. You can't distill a thesis into an elevator pitch, as they call the one-sentence description of your movie here in Hollywood. All I can do under these circumstances is to point the way, leave a few clues. If one doesn't understand what I'm talking about, he must accord the courtesy that I have something in mind and am not making up wild ideas out of whole cloth. I can't "teach" anyone anything here: if you want to explore the alien world of the right, fire up the Google and the Wiki and teach yourself. (That's what I've done---what, do you think I learned any of this in school? It is to laugh.)

All I'm trying to do with the link to Locke there is to show that objecting to gay marriage isn't just a function of being a prig and a killjoy, and that Locke, no small libertarian himself, had alloyed concerns on marriage and family.

To move away from me and conservatism, this thing on libertarianism is a fine controlled experiment: We never discussed the topic, Sullum's article. Not once. It has a lot of what the Hayek abridgement (it's quite short, actually) says. The language of "freedom," put in terms of health care, follows from FDR's Four Freedoms, "freedom from want" being the key one here. (And what I meant by seeing life in material terms is in man's physical well-being, or ordering our society based on the findings of social science surveys for, as the modern philosophers put it, "the relief of man's estate. No, I wasn't accusing lefties of being materialistic.)

And tho I personally have an empathy toward FDR liberalism, that's not the point here---it's not freedom, it's security, which Sullum and Hayek make quite clear, and Ben Franklin's quote on trading freedom for security illustrates their central thesis, although it may be out of context. (Still, a good piece of wisdom, like poetry, has multiple applications.)

The contemporary language of "rights" makes health care a "right," but to Hayek and I imagine Locke, that's inimical to liberty; it's a sophistical use of the word, and a perversion of the concept itself. (Shame on you, FDR.)

See, I thought I distilled the argument just fine when I wrote that the libertarian looks at today's Europe and says, I don't want that. One could ignore everything else I wrote and just go from there, if you prefer my shorthand to Sullum and Hayek.

But that doesn't really serve the search for truth. I'm in between you and Hayek and aiming arrows at me falls far short of the real target. What do I mean by "money?" What do I mean by "economic?" What do I mean by "freedom?" What do we mean by "rights?"

A sophist's feast---rhetorical sawdust. The truth never comes out the other end.

Now, I take a lot of time on my own blog to spell out concepts and references that I think might be unfamiliar and firm up my accuracy in locution. You are welcome there, but everyone says it's boring. My purpose here has been admittedly selfish---to roadtest my own original ideas, catch the one or two people who are already familiar with where I'm coming from, and find a reasonable objection, if any.

I don't come here with any expectation of changing anyone's mind on anything, and neither do I seek to "teach." For one thing, when Socrates did that, he was afforded a good meal and a keg of Budweiser, and even his foil Thrasymachus was good enough to play along and not fight the inquiry every step of the way.

Hey, halfway through the Republic, they become pals. Perhaps someday we will, too, Mr. Mystic; just not today. After the last few bits of business hereabouts---and our contretemps was the least of it---I feel the abyss starting to stare back into me. The, um, normal thing is step away from the cliff edge.

So, there you have it. I've taken up enough of your time, everyone else's, and mine too. Vaya con Dios, my friend, and hasta luego, mebbe.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And since I'm hogging the floor, I recently took WS' advice and distilled many comments here on the subject of AIDS and abstinence into a lengthy "thinkpiece" on my own blog. It was, admittedly, boring. But to spice it up with any more bon mots would have detracted from the gravity (graveness?) of the subject. Catch-22.

But anyone who bemoans our current 24/7 soundbite society will have at least some sympathy. We should speak seriously about the serious things, one philosopher said, but unfortunately, something more congenial is always just a click away.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom -
thanks for the link to the Hayek "cliff notes." I hadn't read Hayek in a long time. I'll miss the occasional discussion.

Mystic -
Tom's link is perfectly reasonable. It's not a whole book, it's a 10-page summary. Hardly a major chore to read. And reading it might keep you from coming unarmed to a battle of wits...

All -
it's nice to be reminded that Hayek isn't quite the absolutist libertarian he is sometimes made out to be. He is not against (hypothetically) some minimal insurance system against personal disaster or mishap. If anything, he is rather to the "left" of say, Nozick, in that regard.

He is adamantly against any arguments based on equality of outcome, but then, very few serious thinkers today make any such claim.


10:59 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

10 pages is way too much material to go over in a string of comments. If you want to pull a paragraph out of that, fine, but anything more and it's just too much.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Er, too much for what, M? Seems like a good thing to link to, IMHO.

Tom, have fun on sabbatical. I'm not buying those lame Locke arguments about marriage and natural law for a minute...and they're not the arguments that are driving the GOP, anyway. What's driving the GOP's position on marriage is primarily superstition and anti-civil-libertarian sentiments. So the question remains--how can right-thinking libertarians side up with those guys?

But the reminders on Hayek are appreciated.

8:53 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Oookay, nevermind. Guess I'm outvoted here.

Thought that 10 pages up for debate was just a little much because it contained so much material, but nevermind then.

10:52 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home