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Death panels

Over at Richard’s blog, I occasionally discuss political issues with well-intentioned individuals whose views unfortunately combine libertarianism and paranoia. I’ve noticed that no matter how often I repeat certain well-known facts — for instance, that literally no one is proposing making it illegal to purchase health care above and beyond what their insurance (public or private) provides — they keep repeating falsehoods.

Thus, I have decided to take the opposite approach. Rather than attempting to disprove their paranoid fantasies, I’ve been pushing them even further. For instance, on the question of “death panels,” I’ve been acting as though of course liberals support this, and in fact claiming that the current “death panel” proposal is a cowardly, watered-down compromise. Here are a couple comments in that vein:

  • Personally, I’m upset that they haven’t expanded the death panel program more. [response] Well, what I’m thinking is — why limit the death panels to people who need medical treatment? That’s discrimination.
  • The death panels, unfortunately, are not likely to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to break a fillibuster — something my fellow ultra-liberals are all mourning. I’ve actually started a petition that would require everyone to report to one of the death panels every three years, with those who failed being sent to work camps in North Dakota. I talked to Ezekiel Emmanuel about this, and he thought it was wonderful and awesome and said that Obama had floated the idea to him but thought the American public wasn’t ready for it yet.

My goal is to create a kind of short circuit. In reality, though, they’ll probably just decide that I’m a patronizing asshole — just like when I used a “facts and information”-based approach. I remain convinced, however, that something other than “argument” is needed with people stuck in such paranoid fantasies, some kind of jolt that can wake them up to a point where genuine reasoning becomes possible. Conversion rather than convincing.

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August 30, 2009 - Posted by | politics

136 Comments

  1. Gulags now!

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 30, 2009

  2. I agree with you Adam, whether or not that makes me another patronizing asshole. Just off the top of my head, I think this is something that I admire about Kierkegaard and Reid. Kierkegaard obviously was doing some kind of this communication throughout his career. This is one of the aspects of his thought that keeps bringing me back to him.

    There’s probably a way to short circuit and not come off like an asshole, but, hey, I’m human.

    Comment by dave | August 30, 2009

  3. It’s easier to not talk to people.

    Comment by jms | August 30, 2009

  4. “In reality, though, they’ll probably just decide that I’m a patronizing asshole…”

    Would that be inaccurate?

    I don’t think ‘paranoid’ is a fair assessment. Government-run programs, when compared to privately run programs, have been found lacking over and over and over. That’s not paranoia…that’s pattern recognition.

    Comment by Chad | August 30, 2009

  5. Chad, you’re a moron.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 30, 2009

  6. Chad’s right, though. Think of how many have been killed by the death panels at the post office.

    Comment by voyou | August 30, 2009

  7. Chad, What you’re saying is untrue. It’s not pattern recognition, because I don’t think you’ve done any research into the question at all or even thought about the obvious counter-examples (for instance, “the government” put a man on the moon).

    I’m not sure it even counts as an opinion, because you seem to have put so little thought into it. Instead, as far as I can tell, it’s just an idea that you found conveniently laying around and that you seem to take pleasure in saying and repeating. Maybe it’s a way of being loyal to your brother, who does seem to have put in a lot of (tragically misguided) research in libertarian ideological sources. Maybe it’s a way of asserting your group identity over against those asshole patronizing liberals.

    Whatever it is, though, it has nothing to do with any attempt to understand reality. Does it make me an asshole to point this out? Maybe it does. But this is the only way I know how to approach you at this point — attempting to actually argue with you or present evidence is completely worthless. You enjoy repeating your little lines too much for me, or probably anyone else, to be able to shake your desire to repeat them.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 30, 2009

  8. Shit, Voyou’s comment shames me — I immediately dropped my proposed method once Chad showed up here!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 30, 2009

  9. The post office is one of the great examples. Everyone hates going to the post office. The UPS store is a breeze…

    “…it has nothing to do with any attempt to understand reality.”

    From the guy who prefers the systems of China, Cuba, and North Korea.

    Comment by Chad | August 30, 2009

  10. And every first-world country. You are a moron.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 30, 2009

  11. I think that going to the post office is probably better than going to your average chain pharmacy, in terms of customer service. Someone who has some special, ill-thought-out postal need gums up the works about as much as the lady who insists on getting a little cart and using a hundred coupons at Walgreens. And I’ve had plenty more problems with UPS drivers not even making a token gesture to find out if I’m home (which I always am!) than I’ve ever had with the post office. I’ve had a lot harder time dealing with Comcast than the IRS, too. Human organizations are flawed, it turns out. Sometimes they just do a bad job, and there are a lot of reasons for that — understaffing, for example, seems to be a pretty common one. It should be clear that the line between good and shitty doesn’t fall out clearly across the government/business divide, if you take three fucking seconds to think about it. But you never do take those three seconds. It’s amazing.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 30, 2009

  12. That’s why under my health plan, libertarians will be subjected to electro-shock therapy, to get them to stop repeating stupid cliches. I wouldn’t use the therapy to instill any new ones — I figure that once they’re deprived of their stupid tag-lines, they’d be pretty much forced to take the aforementioned three seconds to think. Or they could be sent to a gulag…. run by private contractors! Then they could sit down at the table and say, “Of course I’d prefer that they didn’t cut the gruel with dirt, but they’ve got to maintain their profitability! If they weren’t turning such a big profit, they wouldn’t have any incentive to come up with more effective ways to force us to work and punish us when we don’t!”

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 30, 2009

  13. Would it have been funnier if the gruel was cut with sawdust? Is there some other substance that would’ve worked better? I need feedback to get better.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 30, 2009

  14. The post office is one of the great examples. Everyone hates going to the post office.

    Bullshit. The post offices nearest to me are quick, clean, efficient, and staffed by smart, competent, even funny people who know their shit and know how to get things done. The notion that the US postal service is somehow clunky and inefficient is yet another outdated cliche relied on by idiots like you. Tell me the one about how Canadians secretly hate universal health care again.

    The UPS store is a breeze…

    Double bullshit. Which would you rather use to receive a package, UPS or USPS express mail? If you say UPS, you either never send or receive packages or you’re an idiot, because the post office will actually get your package to you, quickly and efficiently, while UPS will paste umpty-zillion stickers to your door chastising you for not being home at a time when you were, in fact, home.

    Comment by stras | August 30, 2009

  15. Or what Adam said.

    Comment by stras | August 30, 2009

  16. Where is your post office?

    Comment by Chad | August 30, 2009

  17. I don’t care from where the package comes. I don’t have to go anywhere for that (I haven’t run into your UPS problems). But if I’m sending a package, it’s a no-brainer.

    Comment by Chad | August 30, 2009

  18. But the point of this isn’t to discuss mail anyway. It’s ultimately about the role of government in our lives. You guys want more government involvement, and I want less. The examples showing why less is better far outweigh the examples showing why more is better.

    Comment by Chad | August 30, 2009

  19. Would it have been funnier if the gruel was cut with sawdust? Is there some other substance that would’ve worked better? I need feedback to get better.

    Ground glass?

    Comment by ben | August 30, 2009

  20. Sawdust is always funny.

    Comment by Chad | August 30, 2009

  21. Okay, so definitely not sawdust.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 30, 2009

  22. Come on, Chad. UPS may be private sector, but is one of those diseased union companies. It’s either FedEx or Pony Express, like from when men were men.

    Comment by k-sky | August 31, 2009

  23. “It’s ultimately about the role of government in our lives. You guys want more government involvement, and I want less.”

    That’s pretty much bullshit. With regard to this health care plan people like you, who for short hand we should refer to as moral cowards, get your cake and you get to it too. The government will have very little role in your life, they are only offering a public insurance option outside of the sphere of private companies so that everyone can have coverage. The plan is more akin, but not nearly as wide-ranging, to Canada’s health care (and not the UK’s, which actually provides more care for less money, but that’s democratic socialism for you). I expect you could know this, if you cared to find out things about the world instead of repeat your brother’s own puerile tirades about “liberty”, and so calling you a moron is actually a nice thing. Because, if you’re not a moron, that means you are an evil man that knows full well you’re denying care to people who need it.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  24. Chad,

    Give up. We already know you haven’t done much serious thinking about your own opinions, unless you’ve studied up on Debreu-Sonneschein-Mantel since the last time we tussled. Oh, wait, you still don’t understand that the DSM completely undermines your opinions in a devastating way?

    Comment by burritoboy | August 31, 2009

  25. Aside from the fact that, like many others who have commented, if I actually want to receive a package (without having to drive to the store) I get it sent by the post office. And aside from the fact that waiting in line at the UPS store for my package that they failed to exert any effort at delivering is just as annoying as using the post office. And aside from the fact that at the post office, they have nifty new automatic mailing machines that let you do all the routine tasks a person goes to the post office for (buying stamps, sending priority or express mail, or shipping reasonably sized packages) so that you don’t even have to interact with humans anymore, people haven’t really addressed Chad’s original claim. He thinks government administered health insurance will be worse than privately administered health insurance. He, of course, says this without realizing that medicare, a government administered health insurance plan, is significantly more efficient than private insurance and is more positively viewed than private insurance. It’s true that there are money problems in the medicare system, but that has more to do with our generally screwed up health care system than anything else.

    Comment by Adam A | August 31, 2009

  26. Adam A,

    People only haven’t responded because they know that with Chad, who has proven that he is a moron time after time, there is not reason to waste one’s breath. So he serves as little more than a clown to amuse oneself with in order to try and distract from the real suffering and pain morons like him cause.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  27. I’ve pointed out those facts about Medicare to Chad and his brainwashed brother multiple times, and they just ignore it. Every single time.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 31, 2009

  28. Or rather, the even more disturbing fact that the Enlightenment seems to have created it’s own ideological monsters – people who believe in various aspects of the Enlightenment irrationally (i.e. people who can’t understand philosophy using various bits of Adam Smith and David Ricardo in anti-philosophic ways).

    Comment by burritoboy | August 31, 2009

  29. Just to get it out of the way, I had a great experience the last time I was at the DMV–in and out with a new ID Card inside of half an hour.

    As a counterpoint, however, I was just stunned at the energy and dynamism I encountered the last time I was in Somalia–I can’t think of a single thing that didn’t go smoothly. The market provides, and provides well–I was able to get a prepaid cell phone and a toyota with a machine gun mounted on the roof for like $60. Needless to say, it would cost me -far- more to do these things in the US, what with our increasingly sclerotic system of laws and regulations, or something.

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | August 31, 2009

  30. Comcast is a terrible example, just pointing this out, because it is quite free from the normal operations of an ideally free market. Just saying… might not want to deploy that one around clever libertarians.

    Comment by Hill | August 31, 2009

  31. And… the US Post Office is clunky and inefficient. It requires both government funding and charges for it’s services. It is patently less efficient than UPS. Again, don’t throw me in with the libertarians, but I went native with them for a while, and it does no one any good to say ridiculous things like that the US Postal service is efficient. It is not.

    Comment by Hill | August 31, 2009

  32. Also, the anecdotal story about delivery notices (which is apparently grounds for declaring someone an idiot) has nothing to do with UPS versus USPS and everything to do with the criteria for delivery specified by the shipper. I assure you that the USPS can cause every bit as much grief involving umpty-zillion stickers. Responding to unconvincing anecdote with equally unconvincing anecdote is unconvincing. The left will not win this war on the battlefield of UPS vs. USPS.

    Comment by Hill | August 31, 2009

  33. Hill, maybe going native has damaged you.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  34. I will concede that Comcast is great as long as you don’t need to get it installed, don’t need to call them on the phone, and don’t have any problems of any kind.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 31, 2009

  35. Keep assuming I haven’t studied anything because Adam says so…THAT’S relevent.

    Dismissing Medicare’s “money problems” is dismissing the entire argument against it. We say, “the system’s broken…it’s gonna be backrupt…it can’t sustain itself…it’s a bad system.”

    If you think a massive program like medicare going bankrupt is no big deal…then, well…you win.

    And I’m honestly wondering about the utopia post office mentioned by stras…

    Comment by Chad | August 31, 2009

  36. I was already damaged. I think the things I’m pointing out are fairly uncontroversial, however, and I say them just to avoid giving rabid libertarians any ducks to shoot. Getting hysterical and making claims like the USPS is efficient is not good for the Cause.

    “I mean, if you think about — if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

    -Barack Obama

    Comment by Hill | August 31, 2009

  37. Chad,

    Medicare wouldn’t go bankrupt if the US had a sensible tax system and didn’t provide an endless amount of loopholes for the richest citizens to get out of paying their share of taxes. That’s why we ignore it. Cause we want to raise taxes on the rich, because that would fix the problem. We have answers, but then there’s all these morons standing in the way of doing anything about it. And we have a President who, for some inexplicable reason, wants to work with morons like you.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  38. Hill,

    You assume that, if we crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s the libertarians would be forced to concede the point. The problem is that rational discourse gets you nowhere with these people and so action must be taken, not by consensus, but by force.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  39. We say, “the system’s broken…it’s gonna be backrupt…it can’t sustain itself…it’s a bad system.”

    And we say, “you’re making shit up, Medicare is not actually going to go bankrupt at all.” Medicare’s imminent bankruptcy has been predicted for at least the last twenty years, and it’s no nearer than it ever was.

    Also, Hill, USPS doesn’t get any government funding and hasn’t since, I think, sometime in the 80s.

    Comment by voyou | August 31, 2009

  40. Anthony, sure take it by force… just don’t try to take it with bad examples.

    Comment by Hill | August 31, 2009

  41. voyou,

    I’m almost positive you are wrong about the USPS receiving government funding, but I currently can’t find anything reliable to demonstrate it. There is a bevy of articles, many published since 1990, regarding various cuts and/or increases to government funding of the postal service, however.

    Comment by Hill | August 31, 2009

  42. The US government does not explicitly fund the US postal service–as I understand it’s a regulated monopoly. All first-class mail goes through the postal service, which in turn is required to provide service to everywhere in the country at reasonable rates. You can argue about whether this arrangement is ideal or not, but it’s a very different animal than, say, Amtrak, which does receive regular govt funding. It does appear the USPS can (and does) make requests for funding to cover shortfalls, but these do not account for the bulk of its revenues.

    And yeah–Medicare’s funding issues could be solved by…raising taxes. By a small amount–we’re talking single percentage points here. And that’s without any effort to reduce the cost of healthcare. It is, as always, telling that the loudest cries about the supposed looming Medicare disaster comes from those who oppose the very idea of the govt providing healthcare to those who otherwise would not have access.

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | August 31, 2009

  43. I don’t think the USPS is a bad example.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  44. I think it’s too bad the Fat Elvis stamp didn’t win.

    Comment by k-sky | August 31, 2009

  45. Adam, if you refuse to join Facebook, fine; at least install a button so I can “like” a comment thread once in a while. ;)

    Personally, I think the country would be in much better shape if we had less government in our lives and did away with libraries, state universities, fire and police departments, and municipal water treatment. Why should we all be forced to drink water pumped to us through the government’s death pipes too?

    Comment by Rebekah | August 31, 2009

  46. LESS government…not NO government.

    And problems caused by too much government solved by increasing government involvement…nah…

    Comment by Chad | August 31, 2009

  47. As a Canadian, what I enjoy about my healthcare is that about every decade I need to “apply” for a new health card (mainly just to update the photo and to ensure that I’m not dead) and I am then entitled to access the same standard of care at any hospital, clinic, or specialist of my choosing at my convenience. Hence, if I do not like the doctor I get or disagree with their diagnosis, I can see another doctor without penalty. I am not, for instance, limited in my selection of doctors on the basis of this or that insurance company running a local or regional cartel — or, for that matter, because I do not have enough money in my bank account or available on my credit card. This means that if I go into a hospital anywhere in the country with a broken bone, I am given painkillers, the bone is set, operations as necessary are performed, and I get a complete set of diagnostics — blood, imaging, etc — as necessary. Occasionally there may be a wait, but only on the following reasonable basis: someone in far worse condition than I needs to be in the MRI or CT scanner or in the operating theater. I do not need to worry that someone with a minor wound but a lot of money will not displace me from the medical care I need. If the clinic or hospital I go to cannot provide adequate care (e.g., they lack the requisite diagnostic equipment), then I know I’ll be transferred to a regional hospital that is able to do the diagnosis or procedure, at no expense to myself.

    The only disadvantage is that dental, prescriptions and psychologists (but psychiatrists are) are not covered. Another problem does come to mind: doctors, being organized as a legally recognized profession, control entrance to the medical schools and, thus, control the total number of doctors able to practice in the country.

    If Chad is such a supporter of the American system, I strongly encourage him not to make use of his private insurance next time he is sick or injured and avail himself of the services provided to those without any insurance at all. For instance, when he gets H1N1, I hope he goes to stand in line at the free clinic when it is open for one day that month in two weeks time.

    Comment by Craig | August 31, 2009

  48. Chad,

    So you get to decide what parts of government get to be involved? So, water gets through, but not medical care on the basis of what? Shitty stats that your brother feeds you? Really? Maybe you aren’t a moron and are actually just evil.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | August 31, 2009

  49. Holy fuck you guys, UPS just lost my package. For reals. (As the sender was delivering this bad news to me over the telephone, the second thought to pop into my head was, government-run package delivery KICKS YOUR PANSY ASS, UPS.)

    Anyway, a notable coincidence that I couldn’t help but share. I don’t expect it to change your mind, Chad. Especially given how dire the situation has gotten w/r/t the accessibility of the written word ever since the government takeover of libraries. Now that private book ownership has been eliminated, you have to stand in line forever to so much as get your hands on a phone book. And the rationing! The last time I was able to break through the bureaucracy and get in to my public library, the only literature available was a Sweet Valley High and a Bissell Total Floors Velocity Bagless Vacuum Manual, from like 2002. Lucky for me the SVH happened to be the one where Elizabeth is kidnapped by that crazy candy striper who cooks pancakes for her on his hot plate.

    Comment by jms | August 31, 2009

  50. i use usps for sending out packages and ups is chosen by online shops to deliver me something i bought
    our building ups guy always leaves things at my door, he knows very well that i’m always absent
    pretty convenient, both services
    but i don’t like to go to the post office, i have to re-open my package and show all the things in it, have to present my id when i use my credit card etc and i hate to stand in the lines which seems is always there

    Comment by read | August 31, 2009

  51. 51! the longest thread ever perhaps

    Comment by read | August 31, 2009

  52. I never said the American system should stay as it is…I don’t think it should. I’m saying this proposed system isn’t the answer.

    And I love the claim that because we don’t want THIS proposed system of health care, we don’t care about the poor. It’s BECAUSE we care about the poor that we don’t want this system.

    It’s the same as claiming we hate women when we’re simply trying to save babies.

    “We don’t want babies killed!”

    “You must hate women!”

    C’mon now…

    Comment by Chad | August 31, 2009

  53. buy, i meant, usps and post office are the same system i know, so it seems the difference is whether i like to interact with something manned or not, and it seems i don’t like the peopled ones

    Comment by read | August 31, 2009

  54. Privatization isn’t good enough for read. She has to have robotization.

    Comment by k-sky | September 1, 2009

  55. “And I love the claim that because we don’t want THIS proposed system of health care, we don’t care about the poor. It’s BECAUSE we care about the poor that we don’t want this system.”

    That’s the fucking stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re a fucking lying piece of shit and the worst of it is that you’re lying to yourself if you buy that line. What’s your magic solution to providing health care to the poor? Hope that the market does it? Hope that charities do it? If you think that means you care about the poor then you a moral idiot.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 1, 2009

  56. Hey, Chad, I’m poor, uninsured, and I want this system. Since your health care is going to be unaffected regardless, while my health care is what seems to be at issue here, can you please go away and fuck yourself?

    Comment by stras | September 1, 2009

  57. It’s the same as claiming we hate women when we’re simply trying to save babies.

    But dude, you do hate women.

    Comment by stras | September 1, 2009

  58. Chad, just to make sure we’re on the same page, can you describe the current health care proposal to us? Just the broad outlines.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 1, 2009

  59. If you could throw in what those opposed to the proposal plan to do to help the uninsured, that would be cool too.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 1, 2009

  60. No, let’s keep it as simple as possible: what is the health care reform package that’s currently on the table, Chad?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 1, 2009

  61. Okay, obviously Chad’s not going to answer, so here is a list of consumer protections that are basically certain to make it into any version of health care reform. In addition, there would be a health insurance exchange set up where people could choose among insurers — including potentially a public option, which in most versions of the plan would only be available to people not covered by their employers. It would include both an employer mandate and a mandate for all individuals to have coverage (both enforced by fines), with subsidies for the poor to make sure that their premiums can only reach a certain percentage of their income.

    The costs would be offset by savings in Medicare spending (brought about by establishing an independent commission made up of experts, rather than having Congress tinkering with reimbursment levels as they currently do) and a small tax increase on the wealthy (most versions I’m familiar with would include simply limiting deductions or closing loopholes), making it deficit-neutral over ten years.

    So in short, it preserves employer-provided coverage as the norm and even expands it, it provides close to universal coverage largely through market mechanisms, and it’s deficit-neutral.

    Is that the plan you oppose, Chad? If so, why?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 1, 2009

  62. I’ll get back to you…I’m busy at my job…launching this bad boy:

    http://www.mnusports.com

    I wasn’t checking the weblog last night.

    I’m sure you’ll all be waiting with baited breath…

    Comment by Chad | September 1, 2009

  63. Sally, having swallowed cheese,
    Directs down holes the scented breeze,
    Enticing thus with baited breath
    Nice mice to an untimely death.

    Comment by jms | September 1, 2009

  64. By the way…if anyone should want this free health care system, it’s me. A ridiculous percentage of my mediocre paycheck goes toward health insurance…so don’t paint me as some rich douche rocket (even though it’s sort of true in a bizarre way).

    Comment by Chad | September 1, 2009

  65. Did you even fucking read the description I posted? It’s not a “free health care system.” You pay premiums, you get insurance. If that would be burdensome, the government subsidizes your premiums.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 1, 2009

  66. I didn’t read it, no. Busy…

    I will.

    Comment by Chad | September 1, 2009

  67. I may wait with bated breath. Baited breath tends to smell terrible.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 1, 2009

  68. Fuck off and die, Chad.

    Comment by stras | September 1, 2009

  69. Chad,

    If you haven’t bothered to do even the most basic research, it’s perfectly fine to admit ignorance.

    Comment by burritoboy | September 1, 2009

  70. “If so, why?”

    For the same reasons YOU like it: it gets us one step closer to single-payer, which is what Obama/Frank/etc. want, which I think is a disaster. It also restricts freedom and imposes limits and fees and penalties and requirements that will raise costs in the long run. It puts information and tasks in government hands that I don’t want in government hands.

    You brought up specifics that I oppose: “In addition, there would be a health insurance exchange set up where people could choose among insurers.” I oppose this because the choices are fixed. The insurers aren’t allowed to be different, they’ll have forced minimums and mandates, which I’m against. “It would include both an employer mandate and a mandate for all individuals to have coverage (both enforced by fines).” Obviously I oppose this. For one thing, the kind of coverage that Obama will be forcing on people is the kind that will drive health care costs up immensely, because when people use insurance to pay for EVERYTHING, they do no price shopping and they care nothing about making costs come down (because it’s not their money). Furthermore, I don’t believe that there should be any mandates on employers or individuals to have coverage. If I don’t want to offer my employees coverage, and they still want to work for me, why is that the government’s business?

    “with subsidies for the poor.” Obviously I oppose this, we don’t need to go into that.

    “The costs would be offset by savings in Medicare spending (brought about by establishing an independent commission made up of experts.” I don’t trust that one bit.

    “a small tax increase on the wealthy.” I think taxes should be lowered on the wealthy.

    “…making it deficit-neutral over ten years.” Yeah, because government has shown a great propensity to be “deficit-neutral” when it comes to big programs. Even a republican-controlled government couldn’t keep things “deficit-neutral,” so I have zero confidence that this government can.

    The American system has created over 85% of the world’s new drugs and medicines–our freedom and liberty experiment has fed more hungry, clothed more naked, and healed more sick than any system in the history of the world, and it’s not even close. Plus, the best way to end poverty is to create jobs and wealth, not give free stuff…so I want businesses and rich people to have as much money as possible to spend on building their businesses, buying things, investing in things, giving to charities, and hiring more people, which is more “caring for the poor” than what you guys talk about.

    Who does more for the poor–the person who goes to a soup kitchen once a month and tutors a poor kid once a week (which conservatives do more than liberals, by the way), or the big evil corporate CEO who provides someone with an income?

    *cringes…

    Comment by Chad | September 1, 2009

  71. You are a moron who lacks the most basic critical thinking skills and who is also apparently a moral idiot. You want to balance the budget, without raising taxes on the wealthy and so, obviously, you then have to raise taxes on the middle class. You think that the American system has created 85% of the worlds medicine, but you fail to take into account how much of that “innovation” is actually the repackaging of older drugs with slightly changed ingredients to get around patent laws. Your understanding of what liberty is nothing short of satanic and you offer some vague notions about CEO’s being charitable, and then claim that does more for the poor than the health care plans the rest of the 1st world have. You’re a fucking idiot and I really wish you’d fuck off and die and take the rest of the fucking idiots with you. Seriously, you make me fucking sick.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 1, 2009

  72. “Mud” is funnier than “dirt” because it’s (A) watered down and (B) grosser.

    Comment by Ray Davis | September 1, 2009

  73. Aahhh gotta love liberals…”those who disagree should die”…interesting moral perspective.

    “You want to balance the budget, without raising taxes on the wealthy and so, obviously, you then have to raise taxes on the middle class.” No, I want to LOWER taxes on everybody equally, like Bush did. The budget should be balanced with lowering spending, but now I’m just giving you my ACTUAL statements and beliefs, which, as you’ve shown, you have no interest in because you’re too distracted by the straw man you’ve created so tenderly.

    Comment by Chad | September 1, 2009

  74. My goal is to create a kind of short circuit. . . . I remain convinced, however, that something other than “argument” is needed with people stuck in such paranoid fantasies, some kind of jolt that can wake them up to a point where genuine reasoning becomes possible. Conversion rather than convincing.

    I think we can safely conclude that this experiment has not been a success.

    Comment by jms | September 1, 2009

  75. You “obviously” oppose subsidies for the poor. Presumably because then there wouldn’t be any incentive to stop being poor?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 1, 2009

  76. I don’t know if this was a thorough experiment, though — I kept on trying to reason with him!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 1, 2009

  77. I don’t believe in forced giving, and I don’t believe that subsidies help people thrive. California and Michigan are great examples of states that are ahead of the rest of the U.S. in terms of subsidizing everything and “providing for” the poor, and they’re monumentally deep in debt, losing businesses by the week, and are economically depressed with higher than average unemployment rates. I believe that government involvement hurts the poor, not helps, not to mention that I don’t believe it’s right or noble to force giving. If people want to help the poor (as I do), and they think that money to the government is the best way to do it, they are more than free to give money to the government.

    Comment by Chad | September 1, 2009

  78. As I’ve been reminding you, Chad, and you keep ignoring (because it makes your ideology look better), is that microeconomics operates differently than macroeconomics. (This is why I keep telling Chad that Debreu-Sonneschein-Mantel undermines his case, for all you economics enthusiasts out there.)

    On the micro level, it may even be valid that large subsidies to individuals may be problematic. But the government performs numerous coordination functions on the macro level that the individual agents cannot replicate in an uncoordinated fashion (i.e., there are problems one cannot solve with a market, but must solve with a bureaucracy – whether that bureaucracy is the private firm, a government or other mechanisms). Again, for all those economics enthusiasts out there, I’m challenging Robert Lucas’ microeconomic foundations of macroeconomics project.

    Chad’s arguments need to be several magnitudes more serious than they are to even begin to grapple with what he’s actually claiming. This is what all of us Platonists keep saying: the unwise man cannot recognize the wise, and that reality has considerable political effects. The unwise man is even angered by the knowledge that he himself is unwise, and thus punishes the wise man if he can.

    Comment by burritoboy | September 2, 2009

  79. What if I was to track down statistics showing that countries with generous welfare states had significantly lower poverty levels than the US? Would you concede that you must be wrong, or would you find some way to explain it away? Is retaining people’s freedom to give or not more valuable than the goal of actually improving people’s lives? Why is forcing people to contribute to the upkeep of the police and the roads so different from forcing them to contribute to maintaining an economic social safety net?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 2, 2009

  80. I’ve seen a lot of Michigan’s problems firsthand. I assure you there are plenty. I don’t think suicidal generosity would be on the first few pages of their list of problems.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 2, 2009

  81. Seconding Adam’s point–if you’re going to make an argument that subsidies hurt the poor, you -have- to address the fact that the US is not the only economy out there. Loads and loads of countries offer more generous social safety nets than the US and have demonstrably lower rates of poverty. And it’s not just the desperately poor we’re talking about–the US excels at providing for the richest 20% of the population (and is absolutely stellar at providing for the top 1%), not so much for -everyone else-.

    I’m all for a real live comparative economics discussion, but it appears all Chad wants to do is shout slogans. And make stuff up–in close to twenty years of living there, I missed the part where Michigan became a European-style social democracy. And it’s ridiculous to discuss what’s going on in California without discussing their batshit-crazy political institutions, which have nothing to do with “subsidizing everything.”

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | September 2, 2009

  82. “our freedom and liberty experiment has fed more hungry, clothed more naked, and healed more sick than any system in the history of the world, and it’s not even close.”

    If we’re going to talk about the last 40 years, I don’t think that’s true at all. If we’re going to talk about actually improving living standards, actually lifting people out of poverty, then you have to at least consider what’s been going on in East Asia (comparative economics again!), where 100s of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty thanks to systems that are orders of magnitude more state-driven than anything Chad could support.

    Finally, if libertarianism is so darn awesome, where is it? Why hasn’t it been implemented anywhere? There are lots and lots of countries out there, and apparently none of them are as “free” as Chad would like–why not? Where’s the groundswell of support for what is supposed the greatest idea in the history of thinking? False consciousness? Too much lobbying by poor people?

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | September 2, 2009

  83. Burritoboy,

    I’ve come to realize that general equilibrium analysis cannot be usefully applied to understand real life economies since it makes imprecise predictions (i.e. “Anything Goes”). And of course there is no prior reason why one should expect a real life economy to have a unique equilibrium and hence the possibility of multiple outcomes is in fact a realistic feature of the theory, with the saving grace that it is still possible to analyze local shocks.

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  84. I have no idea what any of that means…

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  85. But back to real life discussions:

    “Loads and loads of countries offer more generous social safety nets than the US and have demonstrably lower rates of poverty.” That’s debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that they have demonstrably lower rates of achievement, innovation, and success.

    “the US excels at providing for the richest 20% of the population (and is absolutely stellar at providing for the top 1%), not so much for -everyone else-.” The US doesn’t “provide” for the rich, the rich get for themselves (and then foot the vast majority of the bill for the country). Occasionally, subsidies are given, which I oppose, but the whole idea that the rich are given things is typical boring jealousy–you get much more from the rich than they get from you. Any of the rich and wealthy who are given things by the U.S. have usually already given more to the US than the rest of the country combined.

    “I missed the part where Michigan became a European-style social democracy” You must not have been there in awhile. It’s depressing, yet the government continues to expand. “And it’s ridiculous to discuss what’s going on in California without discussing their batshit-crazy political institutions, which have nothing to do with “subsidizing everything.”” Yeah, that makes sense. The reason California is bankrupt and driving out business isn’t because they spend too much and have to big of a government, it’s because of their political traditions (even if this were true, it isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the potential of government).

    “then you have to at least consider what’s been going on in East Asia (comparative economics again!), where 100s of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty thanks to systems that are orders of magnitude more state-driven than anything Chad could support.”

    Wow. Thanks for bringing that up. For one thing, the reason that China is exploding economically right now is because they’re discovering capitalism, like India. They also don’t give a crap about the environment, either, which is another reason they’re succeeding so if you want to defend them, more power to you. That said, I wonder how much you really want to defend their “state-driven” systems. I’d love to get into how they treat the “least of these.” Also, I’d love for you to visit Thailand with my brother when he goes there to adopt a child (another libertarian with no regard for the poor) and report back on how they’re being “lifted out of poverty” while their king is one of the top five richest men in the world.

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  86. “Finally, if libertarianism is so darn awesome, where is it? Why hasn’t it been implemented anywhere?” Well, it was implemented in the US, but we’re getting further away from it. Which is of course odd because every great innovation and achievement of the last century has come from private enterprise, not government.

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  87. Yes, Chad, when you admit that general equilibrium does not exist (or at minimum is not a very useful concept when applied to real macro-economies), that in turn means that it is probably not very useful to talk about Pareto optimality (at least if you want to apply Pareto optimality to any real world macro-economy). Pareto optimality (or Arrow and Debreu’s first welfare theorem) is actually what you’re relying on when you complain about government redistribution.

    Comment by burritoboy | September 2, 2009

  88. I’d love for you to visit Thailand with my brother when he goes there to adopt a child (another libertarian with no regard for the poor)

    Does your brother consider adopting a child to be a type of charity? That’s like kind of gross.

    Comment by jms | September 2, 2009

  89. Well, I’m certainly glad we can agree on Thailand’s lack of a social safety net–though isn’t that a pretty damning -criticism- of unrestrained capitalism? Like perhaps if they did a better job of addressing the inequalities in their society (through, say, a welfare state) they might have less need for foreigners to adopt their children?

    Anyway, my point about East Asia wasn’t to suggest everything about it was awesome (far from it!) just to say that the world’s fastest-growing economies have tended to adopt a form of capitalism pretty radically removed from the kind of Platonic no-government ideal you carry around. You can use scare quotes all you want, but capitalism in East Asia has always been state-driven to a large degree–there’s a whole literature on the developmental state I’d encourage you to check out if you don’t believe me. Now you could argue that perhaps things would be better there had a more laissez-faire policy been adopted, but that would require evidence, not just a blind assertion, which, seriously, is all you’ve had throughout this entire argument.

    And as for libertarianism in the US, are you really looking to the late 19th century as some kind of golden age? Like, for real? I just find that mind-boggling.

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | September 2, 2009

  90. The reason California is bankrupt and driving out business isn’t because they spend too much and have to big of a government, it’s because of their political traditions (even if this were true, it isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the potential of government).

    Actually, the political traditions that have caused the mess out here are kissing-cousins to the libertarian ideology you are dry humping to the point of chaffing. The “liberal agenda” of CA, if from anywhere at all, comes via the judiciary, and not from either the executive or legislative branches — the former consistently being a free-market Republican and the latter being hamstrung by the obstructionist tactics of a conservative minority.

    Comment by Brad Johnson | September 2, 2009

  91. Chad,

    The reason I keep calling you a moron and why you make me so angry I wish you’d drop dead is because you are just saying things. You don’t back them up with anything approaching knowledge or, for that matter, more than a few seconds of thought. The best you can do is copy and paste some shit from the internet? For someone so stupid you are really quite smug.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 2, 2009

  92. What does “unrestrained Capitalism” mean? I have an idea, but my idea has never been historically instantiated in any meaningful way.

    Comment by Hill | September 2, 2009

  93. Smugness causes such a reaction? Imagine how I feel about you supporting infant murder.

    “Does your brother consider adopting a child to be a type of charity? That’s like kind of gross.”

    Another example of a liberal turning something wonderful into something evil. Saving babies = hating women. Wanting government out of the health insurance business = hating poor people. Giving a child a home and considering it charity = gross.

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  94. Isn’t calling adopting a child charity like me saying giving to my 401(k) is charitable toward my future self? Man, I’m such a good person.

    When most people adopt or have a child, they view that as something that will reward them many times over what they give the child. I don’t recall any good parent I know ever describing devoting their lives to their children as charity.

    I’m not saying your brother isn’t a good person or won’t be a good parent, but to consider adopting a child charitable is bizarre – no matter where they were born.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 2, 2009

  95. Chad, sigh. Have you gotten what you want out of this yet? Obviously we’re all in awe of your massive intelligence and holiness. So, with that settled, go the fuck away. Why don’t you go yell at a woman in a wheelchair or shoot a doctor in church like the rest of your friends. Put your talents to good use outside the internet.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 2, 2009

  96. YOU said he considered adopting a child as charity…I never said that. My comment about adoption was a throw-in…

    I never said I was holy either.

    My friends yell at wheelchaired women and shoot doctors in church? Is that the libertarian rep?

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  97. I wonder why it is that, like some sort of apodictic law of nature, every „debate“, if you could call it that, with any libertarian turns into a sprawling semi-cogent waste of time. I believe this might be due, part in parcel with their ideological commitments, to a genuine lack of ability to reason, despite the fact that they unironically run a so-called „journal“ by this very self-same title.

    It’s astonishing.

    Comment by Bryan Klausmeyer | September 2, 2009

  98. I know you all have been waiting with your mouths full of bait for me to report back regarding my UPS package. I am happy to inform you that it in fact arrived yesterday, five days late and suboptimally though not fatally crumpled. Also, I had an appointment with the DMV today, and holy smokes that place is like a warzone.

    Because as everyone knows, irrelevant evidence is more convincing than on-point argument, I have no choice to concede that Chad must be right. Based on my experiences this week with UPS and the DMV, I conclude that private enterprise is superior to government-run programs, always and in all respects. I propose that post offices be eliminated and drivers’ licenses be sold at the supermarket. (I think they’ll be pretty cheap, once everyone figures out that they have to buy or rent every road they drive on.) Also, everyone should adopt a baby for charity. Maybe from East Asia. Getting one from South Korea or Japan would be an extra good deed, since as everyone knows, the state-drive infrastructure development after World War II has resulted in everyone over there being so much worse off now than they were 60 years ago.

    Finally, while we’re on the topic of the benefits of total laissez faire economies over government intervention, you know what’s infuriating? The stupid California government, interfering in the Angeles National Forest wildfires, with their stupid government-run fire departments. If I wanted someone to save a tree, I would pay them to do it, out of my own pocket. In fact, why do we even have public parklands? That place should have been parceled off and sold long ago. If it weren’t for government involvement, it would be paved over in concrete by now, and we wouldn’t even have these horrible socialist fires.

    Comment by jms | September 2, 2009

  99. “Well, it was implemented in the US….”

    Wait, that was the the nineteenth-century United States? The one that had a massive import tariff wall, which went up to a 57% tariff rate?
    The one that had a huge publically-financed road, railroad and canal building program?
    The one that built out a huge series of publically-financed universities in the MidWest?
    The one that was dominated for the last half of the nineteenth century by the party of “national improvements”?

    Comment by burritoboy | September 2, 2009

  100. Less government. Not no government.

    And what…you don’t think you’re already paying out of your own pocket to fight the wild fires?

    And you have a choice with UPS. They’re obligated to get better and lose fewer packages. The USPS has improved over the last 20 years because of the competition of the private companies.

    Let me ask this…I’m over here ripping on government and praising the private companies and blah blah blah. And you defend the government and make your cases, but I’m not hearing the argument against private companies. Are you anti-private or simply pro-government? Are you as anti-private as we are anti-government?

    Comment by Chad | September 2, 2009

  101. Oh jms, aren’t you just the greatest. Thanks for throwin in some laughs!

    Comment by ebolden | September 2, 2009

  102. Are you anti-private or simply pro-government?

    Pro-government.

    Are you as anti-private as we are anti-government?

    No.

    Comment by Cryptic ned | September 2, 2009

  103. Also, we are not as pro-child murder as you are anti-child murder.

    Comment by Cryptic ned | September 2, 2009

  104. I’m no libertarian, but this is starting to sound a little like an echo chamber for reactionary anti-libertarians.

    Comment by Hill | September 2, 2009

  105. We’re actually doing Chad a favor — we’re giving him ample opportunity to repeat the things he enjoys repeating. I view this as charity.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 2, 2009

  106. Maybe you should go to Asia and adopt a viewpoint.

    Comment by k-sky | September 3, 2009

  107. “Reactionary” anti-libertarians? Hill, dude, no one here takes this guy seriously enough to be labeled a reactionary. I view him as an object of therapy that I can heap loads of abuse and incoherent rage upon. It helps me feel after watching morons at town hall meetings yelling at a woman in a wheelchair. I mean Chad comes from a long tradition of unclear reason, so, as Adam says, it is a form of charity to let him express his misplaced fidelity to his family in the form of phrases he doesn’t understand.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  108. Why all this talk about “adoption”? What’s the government doing regulating the baby market? I call for laissez faire baby auctions, free of the tyrannical boot of the State, just like God’s own free market demands!

    Comment by stras | September 3, 2009

  109. “Are you as anti-private as we are anti-government?”

    I.E. wherein Chad reveals that he doesn’t understand that private firms are not markets, and that private firms exist to solve (or take advantage of) failures of markets.

    Comment by burritoboy | September 3, 2009

  110. Actually, driver’s licenses should be issued by car insurance companies…they’d do a much better and more efficient job, could be held more easily liable if they gave driver’s licenses to the wrong people, and have the most incentive to do a good job with it.

    I love that you guys do nothing but create straw men, cuss me out and tell me to die, respond to every point with completely out of control vitriol, and then take the moral high ground and say that I’m the one hurting the integrity of the debate.

    Your responses are textbook. Some of my conservative friends and I often compare notes, showing each other message board comments from angry liberals while saying, ‘look at how angry they get…look how it doesn’t matter how calm and fair you are, they just can’t restrain themselves from cussing and uncontrollable anger while calling us heartless and intolerant.’

    You use it for therapy, I use it to show my friends how hilariously out of control liberals get when someone disagrees with them, and how the group that claims to hate stereotyping and intolerance says my friends kill doctors and attack wheelchair women and tells me to die.

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  111. Of course it doesn’t matter how “calm” or “fair” you are, Chad. People aren’t angry with your tone, we’re angry with the stupid and evil policies you advocate. Strangely, being “calm” and “fair” doesn’t make stupidity and evil less aggravating; if anything, it makes you more aggravating, because it shows you simply don’t comprehend the criticisms that are being made of your position.

    Comment by voyou | September 3, 2009

  112. You make me angry because you advocate ideas that kill people. Do you know what a straw man is? No one has made you a straw man. And no one has made the tone of debate poor. For you to be a straw man you’d have to have deeper reasons for what you think than you have. For this to be a debate you’d have to have a position that you would change on the basis of facts and arguments. You have neither. So you and your pathetic fucking friends can get together and laugh all you want. Doesn’t make you any less stupid and/or evil.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  113. Returning to the topic of death panels, presumably the right-wing objection here is not to the “death,” but to the collective nature of “panels.” The present situation, where a single clerk of an insurance company can deny your claim and condemn you to death, is perfectly acceptable, because it preserves the primacy of individual choice.

    Comment by voyou | September 3, 2009

  114. I advocate ideas that kill people. That’s hilarious.

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  115. If you weren’t a moral idiot I would take you through the ways they do.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  116. Though, what the hell, if you’d like the tour why don’t you read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  117. I’m curious, are you one of these idiots whose upset about the President telling kids to study and not drop out of school? Or that he wasn’t really born in Hawaii?

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  118. I, for one, am totally willing to be convinced on the idea that insurance companies should issue driver’s licenses. But you’d have to, you know, actually make an argument for it–“but markets are always better” won’t cut it. Better yet, offer some examples of where it’s been implemented. If it hasn’t ever been implemented anywhere, well, then, you need to talk about why that’s so, and why we’ve all gotten it so wrong for so long–and again, “governments are evil and want to control you” isn’t acceptable. Governments privatize all sorts of things that impact people’s lives at least as much as driver licenses, so we’ll need more than that.

    Come on, Chad–a real-live policy proposal! You’ve actually mentioned a libertarian idea that, if it worked, could actually potentially make everyone’s life better (not just rich people–God Bless Them All Forever)–I didn’t think you guys were allowed to do that. I’m so gobsmacked by the whole thing that I really, truly want to hear all about it.

    Hopefully you can get it written up before Adam bans me altogether for making this thread go on any longer.

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | September 3, 2009

  119. “I’m curious, are you one of these idiots whose upset about the President telling kids to study and not drop out of school? Or that he wasn’t really born in Hawaii?”

    No. If there’s a group upset about Obama telling kids to stay in school then they deserve all your vitriol.

    And I’m not concerned about where he was born, no.

    I’ll answer Schaefer later…

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  120. Yeah, other libertarians. Glenn Beck has a “keep your kids home from school” protest saying it’s socialist indoctrination. I’m glad this sort of paranoia doesn’t go hand in hand with libertarianism for everyone who believes in it.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  121. Someone here’s British, yeah? What’s the deal with Michael Savage over there? I’ve only heard recently about him being banned, etc etc…

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  122. I live in the UK. Smith banned him for engaging in behavior that can lead to violence. I don’t think Savage was planning on coming over or anything, but the Brown government isn’t known for their great understanding of how the media works. I think she’s right, but the way they handled it was pretty shit and a bit rich considering the amount of racial tension they themselves stir up over here.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | September 3, 2009

  123. What was his potentially violence-inducing behavior? Different than any other talk radio host? (I guess I could just look this up…)

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  124. Think of the money saved by the government if driver’s licenses weren’t issued by the government but were issued by the car insurance companies, and the law served simply to make sure that there weren’t drivers on the road without licenses.

    Think of how more efficient it could be if several different companies were doing this, how people could choose which companies they went with, and how much customer service would improve if companies had an incentive to get more customers…

    The insurance companies would also do a better job of enforcing driving school graduation – they’d make sure you were good because they wouldn’t want to be sued for issuing a license to someone who couldn’t drive. And they also wouldn’t want accidents, so they’d make sure only quality driver’s got licenses.

    I don’t know why this has never been implemented before…I’m just a Sports Information Director. But c’mon…does anyone like the DMV? I always feel the need to shower upon leaving.

    I do have a real-world example of government relinquishing control of a road and it become instantly better. The 80/90 toll road in Indiana used to be acceptable when the state ran it (it wasn’t awful, but there were often big waits at the pay areas), and there was a big uproar when the governor wanted to lease it…but it happened. Within the next few months, the IPass system was installed, the rougher parts of the road were fixed, the shoulders and medians were never cleaner. It became great. Of course all that stuff could’ve been done by the government regardless…but it hadn’t in the 8 years I’d been using it prior to the leasing. There was no incentive to improve it beyond “acceptable”.

    And that’s what I as a libertarian want – greatness. I don’t think government is necessarily on the negative end of the spectrum, but it’s not great. I never said it was evil or anything either. I simply want the best, and government is never the best. I also don’t understand what’s so offensive about wanting less government. Think me an idiot, fine…whatever…but offensive?

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  125. Is this still going on? For fuck’s sake, why? I see many, many intelligent people arguing with one hopeless, dribbling idiot. Ignore Chad or ban him, and leave him alone to babble his talking points at the puppets in his playpen.

    Comment by stras | September 3, 2009

  126. You still haven’t said where your awesome post office is…

    Comment by Chad | September 3, 2009

  127. Chad, The proposal you put forward is interesting. The only problem I see is that there is no evidence that competition produces better customer service. Talking to any cell phone company on the phone is terrible, and airlines are pretty uniformly bad since being deregulated.

    The reason is that, outside the fabulously wealthy, people are apparently unwilling to pay a premium for better service and instead base their decisions on price — and customer service costs money. So I’d imagine that service at the newly privatized DMV competitors would also be bad. In fact, since the government doesn’t need to run a profit on its DMV operations, I’d imagine that the level of service at the privatized version would be even worse as the company tried to squeeze even more pennies out of it.

    In my mind, it’s actually only the government that could improve DMV service, because the government can set goals other than making money. But no one seems particularly motivated to fix this problem, because no one goes into the DMV that often.

    (The toll road was probably refurbished after the privatization as a PR move, since so many people opposed it.)

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 3, 2009

  128. With regard to your point about roads Chad, let us take two points.

    First, road provision cannot be a free market system. This is because it is not possible, for the most part, to have true competition – even Milton Friedman believed that roads could not be marketised. While you might have say, one road which is state run, and maybe a toll road as well to a certain place. But you cannot have multiple roads running so people can make a selection – there is simply not enough space. In a market, the black box making things better (supposedly) is competition – consumers/drivers vote with their feet when they feel a road is bad, too expensive, under kept etc, so there is a stong incentive for companies, if they wish to continue making a profit, to continue making a good road. Most privatised roads would be actually ‘natural monopolies’ of a specific areas. It is much like the rail system in the UK. If I want to go home, I want to go at a specific time and on a specific route. I can’t choose between companies, because there being only one track, and one train conceivably getting me there on time, I have to go on this one. So there is no market there. There could not possibly be. Plus is it not grossly inefficient, in terms of raw resources, to have six roads running to the same place, even if this were possible?

    Now, second point, the profit motive. The profit motive does not create the desire to excel or achieve ‘greatness’, but the desire to make a profit. Making a profit means keeping your costs as low as possible, so your margin, while retaining the interest of the consumer to buy these things from you. Greatness is not required, merely the impression that a product is worthy of purchase. Viewed from the perspective of profit anything that cuts costs is therefore good, even if it lowers ‘greatness’. I’ve never understood why libertarians think the profit motivation necessarily produces greatness – no it produces a product designed to make a profit, and improvements in it will generally be centred around not a drive to greatness but one to lowering costs, or perhaps entering a saturated market.

    As Adam points out above, only the government (or one might add something from the third sector) could have goals such as efficency, quality of service etc, that are not always subordinate to profit, which may and does in most situations cause efficency and quality of service to be lowered.

    Comment by Alex | September 4, 2009

  129. PS Chad you should really, as Anthony suggests, watch the film of, or read, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. Even if I accept that unrestricted free markets as a principle of organisation for the whole of a country might be good, I would still have severe doubt about the process that would have to lead to this. In almost all cases, apart from those with a strong tradition of democracy, market reforms have involved violence, torture and oppression of opposition. If you think disappearances of people in broad daylight before being thrown into jail and likely killed is a phenomena restricted to ‘communist’ countries such as the former USSR and absent from those with free markets, you should really see about the case of Argentina.

    Comment by Alex | September 4, 2009

  130. You still haven’t said where your awesome post office is

    They are in Providence, Rhode Island. Do you actually believe that I’ve made them up?

    Comment by stras | September 4, 2009

  131. What Chad should really do is fuck off, for a number of reasons:

    1. He’s transparently arguing in bad faith. See, for instance, the point where he admits, sixty-plus comments into this thread, that he hasn’t bothered to find out what the proposed reforms consist of.

    2. As a troll, he isn’t nearly interesting or entertaining enough to be worth reading. The ToS, at least, had a bit of panache.

    3. His m.o. is to project onto the posters and commenters of this blog a stock, even straw liberal position, and then respond to it with bog-standard right-wing talking points, which is doubly annoying because a number of us are not, in fact, liberals. He is essentially having a conversation with himself, albeit one interspersed with largely unread comments from lefties. This is an activity he could more effectively pursue on his own, with, say, a pair of sock puppets.

    Comment by stras | September 4, 2009

  132. “In almost all cases, apart from those with a strong tradition of democracy, market reforms have involved violence, torture and opression of opposition”

    It may even be possible that market reforms within highly inegalitarian states are economically worse than more moderate or more mixed regimes for such inegalitarian states. Neoclassical economics relies on representative agent models, and representative agents are, by definition, all the same – i.e. the most egalitarian society possible in theory – all the agents not only have the same level of wealth, they all have the same level of talents, social capital and so on.

    But, if you examine current non-democratic states, they tend to be very highly inegalitarian (particularly in Central and South America). The future results of market reforms in such places can be plausibly argued, even by fairly conventional economists, to have a large risk of simply further entrenching the already wealthy in those nations.

    Comment by burritoboy | September 4, 2009

  133. “And that’s what I as a libertarian want – greatness.”

    This may well be the most bizarre statement I’ve ever encountered. A person calls himself a libertarian – one would expect their philosophy to be something along the lines of Mills’ / Bentham’s “the greatest good for the greatest number” – note, not the greastest good SIMPLY, but for the greatest number. If you just say greatest good, that’s a Platonic thing, the precise opposite of libertarianism.

    By the way, all of lefties keep claiming me as one of your number when you’re reminding Chad he’s not actually conversing solely with liberals. I don’t believe my opinions can be readily mapped to contemporary politics, but I would say I generally fall on the Plato side of the Plato / Aristotle divide (philosopher-kings as opposed to the mixed-regime republic). A position, by the way, which indicates my openness to the ancient (and thus, “conservative”) communism of Plato, Lucian, More and so on.

    Comment by burritoboy | September 4, 2009

  134. Greatness for all…wasn’t that implied? Libertarians believe these policies will help everyone.

    Comment by Chad | September 4, 2009

  135. The problem is that they have no apparent reason for believing that.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | September 4, 2009

  136. […] The death panels, unfortunately, are not likely to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to break… […]

    Pingback by More from Kotsko « PHILOSOPHY IN A TIME OF ERROR | September 7, 2009


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