Should Microsoft Let This Man Die?

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    This feels like an enormous dodge to me Jason. Plenty of government programs are designed to get people back on their feet. Medicaid, for instance, is often the last resort for people who are out of work without health insurance. Rather than stumble into bankruptcy due to medical bills, they are able to climb out, get a job, and get good ol’ fashioned employer provided “insurance”. I know this because we had to go on Medicaid once, and it saved us from going deep, deep into debt. Nor did we become a “dependent class of voters” because of it. Government is not Microsoft. The two aren’t comparable entities. They serve entirely different purposes.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.D. Kain
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      says:

      Of course they are different.

      The comparison is done precisely to point up their differences. One is totemic of society; the other is the most anti-totemic institution I could think of.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        But it is not clear that the “totem”-isation of government is not justified for precisely this reason. In a constitutional convention where we wont know who we will end up as, and armed with only the two principles of justice, it is not clear that we will not create a government for some kind of social safety net. If, pace James K, there is no market for charity (in that there is nothing to clear, or that it cannot be cleared because it is almost pure externality), there seems to be a fairly salient reason to have a state with some kind of social safety net function.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Murali
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          says:

          But it is not clear that the “totem”-isation of government is not justified for precisely this reason.

          I’m not following you here. Their difference in social status is justified precisely by their difference in social status?

          If anything, this would be a difference in social status that I would reject in the initial position: “We’d like some few people to have a social status that will cause almost everyone to respect their decisions reflexively. If those people make bad decisions, you will always be able to count on a sizable chunk of the nation to support them anyway. And we’d like to make those people your totem whether you want it or not.”

          Uh, no thanks, I think I’d say.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            If once we decide in th hypothetical constitutional convention, that the principles of justice do not permit the irresponsible to die on the street, taxation to provide a social safety net just is one of the basic functions of a government, which is justified. (Given certain plausible assumptions) The question lies, not with whether we have any specific duty owards the person, but the question of what the basic structure of society is supposed to achieve vis a vis aour entitlements.

            One obvious question which I ponder is that there doesnt seem to be an abvious straightforward wy to extend the theory to cover non-ideal cases where there are irresponsible people.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Murali
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              says:

              If once we decide in th hypothetical constitutional convention, that the principles of justice do not permit the irresponsible to die on the street, taxation to provide a social safety net just is one of the basic functions of a government, which is justified.

              Yes. Which is one reason I find a guaranteed minimum income/negative income tax setup defensible, even admirable.

              What I’m challenging here is the totemic social status of government — that is, both the fact that government has the status, and the apparent presumption flowing from it, to the effect that government is more competent at providing charity.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                says:

                What I’m challenging here is the totemic social status of government — that is, both the fact that government has the status, and the apparent presumption flowing from it, to the effect that government is more competent at providing charity.

                If you grant that the government should provide some kind of social safety net, then I think it follows that viewing the issue of what to do about the uninsured architect through the lens of government provision of charity vs private provision may not be warranted. The more “natural”/logical rubric to view this issue is about more or less efficient ways to provide social safety nets.

                We can make the case that people undervalue efficiency and also underestimate the cumulative effects of miniscule improvements to growth rates, and that would make for a very powerful libertarian critiques of traditional welfare models, but the presentation of your argument would have been different.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            There is clearly a value in having a centralized institution that is incentivized to help those in need, whoever they may be. In single-party rule, this breaks down, but in competitive multi-party democracy, that is precisely the incentive of those who seek power and want to keep it: be of value to large numbers of the populace. Even governors who run on anti-government platforms end up wanting to run their social service apparatus as well as they can.

            I don’t deny that there is a certain level of pure self-respect/self-reliance that is compromised when we arbitrarily accord special status to certain institutions. Okay, that’s not nothing. But in my view we gain things: There is a guarantee of an institution seeking to provide comprehensive aid to all comers, based on their situation and nothing else; people know where to go when they need help; there are precise rules as to when they are entitled to help and how much. On top of all of that, private charity still has plenty of room to operate. This doesn’t seem mysterious to me. Do you deny there are gains from this solution to the problem of coordinating aid? Do you just hold that absent government, aid provision would just be better, it just would, darn it? What’s your argument other than just finding the idea of granting presumptive legitimacy to a permanent state distasteful?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        I agree with Kain here: your analogy aren’t an argument, it’s a statement of your position. That’s a perfectly valid function for analogy, but I simply disagree with the position.

        The charity argument just doesn’t work, by the way. Government run health care plans that cover 30-year old idiots work just fine in most of the Wesetern world. In fact, the idea that charities would work better than they do, even the more problematic examples (like the UK’s, which works pretty well, but not great), is a highly dubious empirical proposition.Report

  2. Avatar Creon Critic
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    says:

    We live in a community. Our community has pooled resources to accomplish certain goals. Deploying pooled resources to the benefit of individuals who fall on hard times or encounter especially difficult circumstances is a legitimate aim (it seems to me). It isn’t as though the American polity has a history of boundless generosity. Of America’s peers, I’d say America is the most miserly. Targeting people as “welfare queens” in Cadillacs getting t-bone steaks with food stamps, the vivid, vicious imagery directed at those in need of help (not that you did this, more the fact that this was done) shows that this country has not erred on the side of compassion. Look at the figures on child poverty, nothing to be proud of.Report

  3. Avatar NoPublic
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    says:

    Straw men aren’t alive, so they can’t be left to die.

    Society is all about trade-offs. The question is whether the aggregate value of human life and productivity and the benefits gained from having our citizens not have to worry about basic medical care are worth some cost to every citizen. Then we’re just haggling over the price and the menu of services.Report

  4. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    Charities exist to continue themselves, just as much as governmental programs. Unless they’re designed to fold up after a certain period of time (can you name one?)Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Kim
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      says:

      I believe the Gates foundation and in particular Buffet’s contributions are designed to time out 50 years after Bill and Melinda die. Buffet wants his contributions spent within 10 years. Part of this is designed to minimize the administrative expense. Of course a perpetual foundation keeps you name alive.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Kim
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      says:

      “Charities exist to continue themselves”

      This is a great point. I see the same thing with Harvard’s endowment. They cajole their alumni into donating every year and for what? So they can add another billion or two to the foundation? At their current enrollment they could fund decades of free tuition for everyone. But naturally they don’t and the letters keep coming.

      The American Cancer Society hasn’t really done much for American Cancer. They manage to spend quite a bit raising money. Notice they are NOT a non-profit corporation but a “not for profit” corp. There is a huge difference. Microsoft could have been structured as a not for profit and Bill and friends would just split all the earnings every year between them.

      ACS has over $2B in assets, they are a cancer society. To the OP’s question, why don’t they kick in money for the 30yr old with rare cancer?

      Answer? “Charities exist to continue themselves” not to do “charity”.

      Yes yes, I’m certain someone will name ONE charity that doesn’t act like this (I can only think of one myself) but your exception doesn’t disprove the Kim rule.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to wardsmith
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        says:

        Actually, some decent regulations regarding reserve amounts and how much of revenue from donations they are allowed to spend on overheads can do wonders to create efficient practices among charitable organisations.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali
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          says:

          … this assumes a level of competency on most charities on the order of Walmart. This is NOT the case. People use slide rules at charities (except the ones a friend of mine helps. he donates logistical expertise — under the table.).Report

  5. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    Microsoft would make a poor charity. I can’t say the same of Wallmart or Newegg. They’re competent logistics outfits. Just like the VA.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kim
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      says:

      Indeed, Walmart has made a name for itself as a highly competent provider of emergency relief; their efforts after Katrina were extraordinary and much appreciated by the locals.Report

  6. Avatar Ryan Bonneville
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    says:

    Two things:

    A) Microsoft is not a person, no matter what Mitt Romney says. Microsoft has no moral obligations. Its stockholders might, but that’s a different question.

    B) You assume a distinction between society and government that I reject out of hand. A democratic government just is a manifestation (one of many) of a society’s preferences, goals, values, etc. Of course, as Ron Paul would point out, so is private charity. But this notion that government is something completely different from the citizens who drive its actions is not helpful.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Bonneville
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      says:

      Suppose I were to tell you that, yes, a democratic government is just a manifestation of a society’s preferences.

      Then I note that the Microsoft is also a manifestation of society’s preferences. Which is just the same as with the government.

      It seems — barring any other grounds of differentiation — that the two have equal claims to be the preeminent charity provider and indeed the preeminent totem for our society.

      The “manifestation of preference” criterion overincludes. By a lot. So — how do you really differentiate?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Bonneville
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      says:

      Also, if Microsoft is not a person — hence without obligations — the very same may be said of government.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        I don’t think the government has moral obligations. I think we (the people – Newt) have moral obligations, and the government exists to carry them out. That is its purpose. To provide for the common good and all that. I’m pretty sure Microsoft’s articles of incorporation (or whatever) don’t direct it to do anything like that.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Ryan Bonneville
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          says:

          But perhaps the stockholders, who as individuals do have moral obligations, might be said fairly to have a moral obligation to use the resources at their disposal to aid other individuals in need. So (the argument goes), they must cause the corporation they control to divert at least some of its resources to that charitable purpose.

          The question on the floor seems to be, why does insulating that resource behind the veil of a corporation alter the moral imperative impelling a particular use of the resource? The most effective response to that seems to be to deny that the moral imperative to use the resource charitably exists in the first place, which is easier to do when the corporation becomes a separate entity with an alternative set of moral imperatives than those which act on individuals.

          More simply put, “corporations and human beings do not labor under the same set of moral imperatives.”Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Ryan Bonneville
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      says:

      Microsoft is not a person, no matter what Mitt Romney says.

      I just want to call out this misrepresentation of a perfectly reasonble thing that Mitt Romney said. Romney didn’t say that a corporation is a person. He said that, in the context of taxation, corporations are people. You can’t tax corporations without taxing people.

      But this notion that government is something completely different from the citizens who drive its actions is not helpful.

      How do you say this right after making fun of Romney for saying that corporations are people, and not have your head explode from the cognitive dissonance?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Corporations aren’t people any more than a hive is just a bunch of bees.

        Certain things are irreducible. Human sociopolitical organizations (the government, corporations, charities, your local homeowners’ association, the Red Cross) are what they are because they are collections of individuals. But the collection part is a defining characteristic.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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          says:

          You’re divorcing the phrase from the specific point it was intended to convey, and that’s not how language works. He said that one way of reducing the deficit was to raise taxes on people. A heckler yelled out “Corporations!” and Romney rightly pointed out that raising taxes on corporations is raising taxes on people. In that specific context, “Corporations are people” is a perfectly valid way of communicating that point.

          And certainly, in any context, “Corporations are people” is more correct than that shibboleth of democratic fundamentalism, “The government is us.”Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            Or as Ryan phrased it, “But this notion that government is something completely different from the citizens who drive its actions is not helpful.”Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            > And certainly, in any context, “Corporations
            > are people” is more correct than that
            > shibboleth of democratic fundamentalism,
            > “The government is us.”

            You just blew my mind.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            > A heckler yelled out “Corporations!” and
            > Romney rightly pointed out that raising
            > taxes on corporations is raising taxes
            > on people.

            The reason why this is funny is that it’s totally exactly the same, reporting income and paying taxes as a corporate entity and a private citizen.

            There is absolutely nothing about being a corporation with an accounting department, and a large set of capital assets, and outstanding credit lines, and warehouse lines, and bond liabilities, and foreign investments, and foreign income not taxable in the U.S. (but still usable as collateral!), and all the rest of that “moving money around in buckets that have different tax implications” that is in any way materially different from your average individual citizen reporting around the median income.

            Nope, no sir.Report

  7. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    says:

    I’ll just say that CreonCritic, NoPublic, and Ryan Bonneville have amply proven me right.

    What I don’t need: Patient, careful explanations that society has responsibilities.

    What I do need: Explanation of why it is proper to conflate society with government.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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      says:

      Because unlike Microsoft, everyone has a hypothetically equal say in what government can and does do. It’s a collective enterprise that takes action in the name of everyone who is a citizen of it, unlike a private company; and, also unlike a private company, i am entitled to some say in what actions it takes merely by being a citizen.Report

    • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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      says:

      First tell me where I mentioned government.

      But I’ll bite anyway even though I suspect you’re being disingenuous by asking. I’ll do so by telling stories since we like that here.

      A) A group of three friends goes to dinner. They split the check. They either each calculate their bill and toss in what is needed or one person does the math and collects the cash and pays the bill.

      B) Three friends want to buy a gift for a fourth. They pool their money and choose one of the three to purchase the gift. He does so.

      C) A town has a flood and loses their library. They solicit donations of cash and books. The mayor selects a group of three people to coordinate the effort and they do so. They are not reimbursed for their services.

      In which of these cases do we have a society and in which a government?Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to NoPublic
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        says:

        First tell me where I mentioned government.

        My point exactly! I complain about the elision between “society” and “government.” And how the latter doesn’t necessarily serve the ends of the former all that well.

        You respond by defending… society!Report

        • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          No, I defended a commune, a monarchy, a representative democracy and a dictatorship. (Not well, nor clearly, but I only threw a few seconds into the post since I assumed you were going to ignore it or miss the point entirely)

          The fact that you see voluntary participation in implicit community as social and not governmental under some circumstances but not others is interesting but fatiguing.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to NoPublic
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        says:

        And as to your three examples, I would say that each appear to have been voluntary, and that’s the real key here. Was there coercion? Not that I can see.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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      says:

      > What I don’t need: Patient, careful explanations
      > that society has responsibilities.

      Heh.

      > What I do need: Explanation of why it is proper
      > to conflate society with government.

      Is “proper” the right bar here? What about “necessary”?

      Not conflation, mind you. I’m not saying that we *ought* to conflate society with government. However, it’s certainly the case that a non-zero percentage of our populace *does*.

      Given that we live in a democratic republic, that means that sometimes people are going to invest government with some of society’s responsibilities. It comes part and parcel with the democratic republic bit.

      Whether or not it should or not is a nice discussion to have and all, but if it is the case that people keep shoehorning society’s responsibilities into government, eventually it gets very, very difficult to solve any of society’s responsibilities without resorting to government at some level. Economies of scale and whatnot; the government is the only entity big enough to get the boulder moving.

      Personally, I’d rather have society’s responsibilities executed by the entities most efficiently aligned to solve the particular responsibility. I’m on board with you there.

      I just don’t think I’m gonna get it, anytime soon.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        This strikes me as an exceptionally thoughtful reply. Still, it remains unclear to me that “society” as a whole even has responsibilities, let alone ones that it can delegate to government with any amount of transparency.

        This does not mean that starving in the street is okay. It means that I have a responsibility to do something about it. And you do to, if you agree with me.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          My problem with the idea that “society has responsibilities” is that it directly leads to such things as “food stamps only being used for healthy foods”.

          Look, if *I* have a responsibility to feed you, *YOU* have a responsibility to eat beans and rice and lean meats and you don’t get to buy Fritos and Pepsi with the money I give you for food.

          We all have responsibilities: These are yours.

          I’ll repeat myself if I say that I suspect that the War on Drugs as it exists today is a direct outcome of Johnson’s War on Poverty. I don’t mind paying for you to have a roof over your head… but you’re not going to spend your free time getting high.

          If we all have responsibilities to each other, what are the responsibilities of those receiving the benefits provided by people who fulfill their responsibilities by paying up?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            > What are the responsibilities of those
            > receiving the benefits provided by
            > people who fulfill their responsibilities
            > by paying up?

            None.

            If you feel a responsibility to help someone, go ahead. Charity comes from the heart, after all.

            If they shit on your gift, that’s just too bad.

            If you’re not prepared to have someone shit on your gift, don’t give out gifts.

            Kinda like war. If you’re not prepared to see lots of civilians die, don’t wave the flag and call out the trumpets and the drums.

            Accept the consequences of your actions. You can’t make other people accept the consequence of your actions.Report

            • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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              says:

              You can’t make other people accept the consequence of your actions.

              Is that “can’t” as in, physically not possible (or at least exteremely difficult and costly)? Or “can’t” in a moral sense of, “should not?”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.C. Gach
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                says:

                Well, both, really… at least in the case of welfare.

                If I give someone a gift because I feel a sense of responsibility to get them out of dire straits, and they don’t want to get out of dire straits (or, more accurately, they want to get drunk *more*), then there’s nothing I can do, structurally, to prevent them from doing it.

                Practically speaking, even attempting to do this (drug testing for welfare recipients!) is almost guaranteed to just add a huge cost for very little benefit, with the added bonus that I’m screwing out the false positives who deserve my charity but aren’t getting it.

                Ethically speaking, if I’m giving someone a gift conditionally, I’m demanding something of them that I’m not accepting myself: I’m demanding that they accept the consequences of my gift-giving without myself accepting the consequences of my gift-giving. That seems dicey, but when you add in the power differential it’s downright megalomaniac behavior.

                Morally speaking, if I give someone charity with the demand that they shape up, then likely I’m shorthanding. I’m giving someone some form of aid, but I’m too fishing lazy to give them the aid that they actually need. They don’t need *just* food, they need food and counseling and a place to stay and a sense of community and in the worst scenario someone who will keep picking them up when they keep taking heroin. That’s not righteous. That’s just being self-righteous. “I want to help you, but only to the extent that I’m willing to help you without inconveniencing myself too much. Oh, and I want to help other people, too, but basically mostly because I feel good about it rather than feel good doing it. So inconvenience yourself so that I don’t have to inconvenience myself in my largess”.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                So then it seems like, at least on the moral side, your problem is with inconsitant moral action, not that it’s misplaced to begin with.

                So you’re not opposed to communally administered welfare as long as it’s thorough and actively participated in?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.C. Gach
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                says:

                I’m opposed to a society where communally administered welfare (as the term is currently understood) is a necessary condition. Our society is broken; I accept that communally administered welfare is a necessary condition, because it is (whether it is a structural requirement or not, we’ve got it and it ain’t going anywhere).

                I’m opposed to the society I live in. That’s okay, it’s got other things going for it and welfare is hardly the worst thing it’s got going against it.

                I’m uncertain that you can have a globally-aware nation without a welfare component of some sort. Certainly not a democratic republic.

                Mebbe when we get Von Neumann machines rolling, the question will be moot.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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              says:

              “gifts”

              This use of the term seems to indicate a much different idea of the dynamic that exists than the one that I have.Report

          • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            My problem with the idea that “society has responsibilities” is that it directly leads to such things as “food stamps only being used for healthy foods”.

            I know we’ve run around this circle before J, but what exactly do you find harmful about this?

            What is wrong with not allowing food stamp recipiants to buy Soda or Big Macs?

            Do you see this as an abuse of the individual’s rights? Or simply laying the grounds for different kinds of abuses later one? Or some combination of both?

            If we should erect laws against killing one another because it is morally wrong to kill one another, why shouldn’t we erect laws to help poor people pay for food because it’s good to feed poor people, and also good to eat healthier foods?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.C. Gach
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              says:

              > What is wrong with not allowing food
              > stamp recipiants to buy Soda or Big Macs?

              Generally speaking, almost any attempt to quantify limits on someone who is getting welfare is going to do precisely nothing to cut down on people using their welfare (or, by proxy, the free cash that they can find because they’re on welfare) to buy or do anything they want to do that is self destructive.

              And almost any practical scheme to limit these things is going to (a) waste a lot of time and resources checking on people who would follow the rules anyway (b) not do a good job of catching the people who *wouldn’t* follow the rules anyway and (c) catch people who don’t deserve to be caught.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                Generally speaking, almost any attempt to quantify limits on someone who is getting welfare is going to do precisely nothing to cut down on people using their welfare (or, by proxy, the free cash that they can find because they’re on welfare) to buy or do anything they want to do that is self destructive.

                What is your evidence for this?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.C. Gach
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                says:

                I’ve been studying complex security systems for a long, long time. Any time you have audit, you have a security system, whatever else it’s called.

                Audit is usually done very badly. Almost universally badly, actually.

                Let me put it to you another way; I have enough domain expertise to accept this principle as a given. I don’t feel the need to defend it. If you don’t buy it, that’s certainly your right.

                I’ll throw out one of Jason’s proposed True Rebuttals and say if you can show me a demonstrated record of an audit system for welfare that has done what I say is Very Unlikely, I’ll consider revisiting this principle.

                Every potential set of rules I’ve seen to encourage people to use welfare “responsibly” is trivially circumvented (as in, it took me less than 60 seconds to come up with about three dozen ways I could get around it if I wanted to), or far too costly to be worth curtailing the problem it proposes to solve.

                If I give you money, and tell you that you can only buy milk with it, and you don’t like milk and you want beer, you’ll find the family in your housing complex that has four kids and needs milk and offer to trade a couple of gallons for a pack of smokes and a twelver of cheap beer. Total time to circumvent all of the red tape you erected to make it “impossible” for me to buy anything other than milk: maybe 10 minutes.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                “Every potential set of rules I’ve seen to encourage people to use welfare “responsibly” is trivially circumvented…”

                That’s not an argument against the concept. It’s an argument against poor implementations.

                That many mothers do not get proper nutrition during foetal development does not mean that we should stop encouraging it and instead put all our efforts into dealing with the postnatal consequences of poor nutrition.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                Again, show me a good implementation.

                I’m willing to believe one is out there, somewhere. I just have not seen this black swan, myself.

                Encouraging and mandating are two different animals, of course.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                Given your specific example:

                > That many mothers do not
                > get proper nutrition during
                > foetal development does not
                > mean that we should stop
                > encouraging it and instead
                > put all our efforts into
                > dealing with the postnatal
                > consequences of poor nutrition.

                This entirely depends upon how much each of those things cost.

                If I can up prenatal nutrition N% by doing something costing $Z, then yes it’s probably worth it.

                If the $Z would compensate for > N% in postnatal care, then it’s probably not worth it, on the other hand.

                I would guess that there is very little low hanging fruit in your example. That is, there is a small percentage of pregnant women (on welfare) for whom a small amount of low-cost persuasion is going to result in a statistically meaningful jump in prenatal nutrition.

                I imagine that encouraging postnatal nutrition has a higher amount of low hanging fruit, but probably not much higher.

                In either case, beyond a couple of visits with a nutritionist, I don’t see much in the way of controls that would meaningfully change either. Again, that’s subject to rebuttal.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                Yes, I’m aware that math exists, thank you for the demonstration.

                Don’t like that example? I’ll come up with another. The point is that “here is an instance where (thing) failed to solve all the problems” is not a complete argument unless it shows how the failure was inherent to (thing), and not simply a result of reality’s cussed insistence on things going wrong.

                Now, if you want to say “(thing) is a fragile system and many common situations will cause it to fail”, that’s a different argument.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                > Don’t like that example? I’ll
                > come up with another.

                Just point me at a real-world one and I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. I’m reasonably confident that I can do that.

                > The point is that “here is an
                > instance where (thing) failed
                > to solve all the problems” is
                > not a complete argument

                I didn’t claim that it was. I’m positing it as an axiom (given my experience), and granting a rebuttal: show me a case where I’m wrong.

                I’m saying I can’t design reasonable a security system for welfare that I can’t break. There are two possibilities: either I’m not much of a security systems designer (totally possible), or the task is impossible (or resource limited)

                If you show me a system I can’t break, then I’m not much of a security systems designer if my claim has any weight at all. If you show me a security system and I can break it, it is at least possible that the task is impossible.

                > unless it shows how the failure
                > was inherent to (thing), and
                > not simply a result of reality’s
                > cussed insistence on things
                > going wrong.

                Er, wait.

                If you’re talking about a real-world implementation of something, reality’s cussed insistence must be incorporated into the design.

                If it’s not, you’re not building a real-world system. You’re building security theater. Feel good bullshit.

                One can argue that the proposed countermeasure I detail in this thread (buy milk with your EBT and trade it for cigarettes and beer) is outside the scope of the proposed audit mechanism. That’s rank foolishness. If your audit mechanism is bypassed so easily, it’s not worth anything. It’s all where you draw the boundaries of your security system design.

                You can’t wrap welfare inside a security system design boundary that is going to prevent this sort of countermeasure. The border is too fuzzy. All you can do is make it more annoying for people to spend their welfare credits, really.

                Also, waste my freakin’ time in the grocery line when the guy in front of me has to split his order into milk / other foodstuffs covered / luxuries to pay with two types of welfare checks and cash.

                Now, if we ship all the welfare recipients onto an island, maybe. Otherwise, no.

                If you can’t keep contraband out of fishing prisons, you can’t keep cigarettes away from welfare recipients. You can’t even make it that hard.

                (edited to add): There may be a suitable trade-off with prisons to make it worth keeping most of it out. With welfare, not so much.

                A prison population is a fairly closed system filled with largely bad actors. A welfare population is a fairly open system presumably not predisposed to be quite so bad.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t know how many times I need to keep saying “an example of poor implementation is not an argument against a specific concept”. You inventing a failure scenario does not make the idea a bad one.

                I mean, it’s like you’re saying that private automobile ownership should be banned because sometimes people use cars to commit crimes. Or that people shouldn’t be allowed to purchase medications over-the-counter because sometimes they misuse them.

                “One can argue that the proposed countermeasure I detail in this thread (buy milk with your EBT and trade it for cigarettes and beer) is outside the scope of the proposed audit mechanism. That’s rank foolishness.”

                So unless we can monitor and directly control the entirety of existence, restrictions on behavior are useless wastes of time. Got it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                > I don’t know how many
                > times I need to keep saying
                > “an example of poor
                > implementation is not an
                > argument against a specific
                > concept”. You inventing a
                > failure scenario does not
                > make the idea a bad one.

                Okay, so show me an implementation of the idea that isn’t a bad one. C’mon, Duck. You gotta have at least one, right? There’s some reason why you think this is a possible outcome, yes? Or are you just picking a fight on this score to be contrary?

                I’m not saying, “I’ve never seen a black swan, ergo there aren’t any.”

                I’m saying, “I’ve studied birds for a long time, and I’ve seen nothing in the study of swans to convince me that there is a gene pairing that will express itself as a black swan. Mebbe a black chicken, but chickens ain’t swans.”

                You’re coming back with, “That’s not a proof that there can never be a black swan.”

                Well, sure it’s not. I’ve already said twice I’m not offering any such proof.

                > So unless we can monitor
                > and directly control the entirety
                > of existence, restrictions on
                > behavior are useless wastes of
                > time.

                Show me a specific restriction on behavior that doesn’t require a high level of monitoring or that isn’t trivially circumventable, in this particular problem domain.

                Any one will do.

                If you can’t, show me a specific restriction on behavior that has a measurable outcome that you regard as sufficient to call it “working”, in spite of it being circumventable. Tell me how you measure this outcome.

                After all, just the act of saying, “don’t do this” might make people not do “this”, whatever it is. Maybe you have some measure of effectiveness I’ll agree with.

                We’re talking policy here, not theory after all. What specific policy do you think can be implemented to provide a restriction on welfare behavior that you’re confident *will work*?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Reply below because the threading ran out.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to E.C. Gach
              Ignored
              says:

              … our current laws don’t let food stamp recipients spend them on Big Macs, unless they live in Urban Food Deserts, where it is impossible to buy tomatoes that aren’t on a Big Mac.
              … I think our entire structure of food support is warped and icky, and that veggies should be cheaper than they are, and meat more expensive.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Are you saying that certain areas are legally classified as Urban Food Deserts, and that food stamp recipients living in those areas are allowed to spend them at fast food restaurants, whereas food stamp recipients living in other areas are not?

                Or are you just making a snarky comment about the low quality and/or total lack of grocery stores in certain areas?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg
                Ignored
                says:

                Brandon,
                sorry, gonna quote food stamps as I knew them when I was on them (was seen as part of pay for serving America, and being paid less than min wage).

                If you are homeless and can’t cook food, there are certain restaurants that will give you a sammich for foodstamps. Otherwise, you’ll find some way to get out to a grocery store.

                was being a trifle snarky, but also wanted to make the point that McDs is not food stamps for most people.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Additionally:

                Two all-beef patties
                special sauce
                lettuce
                cheese
                pickles
                onions
                on a sesame seed bun

                Big Macs have no tomatoes.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to E.C. Gach
              Ignored
              says:

              but what exactly do you find harmful about this?

              The fact that it has directly led to such things as The War On Drugs.

              It would be better for us to argue that this is charity/largess than for us to argue that we, as a society, have a web of interconnected responsibilities. I don’t know that we are helping those we are helping to meet the responsibilities we are thrusting upon them.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          I’m perfectly fine with saying that society doesn’t have any responsibilities, but that government does. I don’t think changes your view of the position, though.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          > This strikes me as an exceptionally
          > thoughtful reply.

          Thanks. This is, in a nutshell, basically the foundational operating principle of my political thought process. If my policy preference is something that is required by my political framework, but it’s also something that is exceedingly unlikely given the operative form of government I’m running under, I’m basically fished.

          I’m fished a lot. Most of the things that I believe would produce least pessimum outcomes, let alone most optimum ones, are things that are not politically tenable. Many of *those* (to the best of my conjecture) are politically untenable less for structural problems than they are for the nature of the human beast. But that’s an aside.

          > Still, it remains unclear to me that “society”
          > as a whole even has responsibilities, let
          > alone ones that it can delegate to
          > government with any amount of
          > transparency.

          I think we’re stuck with welfare, barring total government collapse anyway (this is pretty unlikely). Likewise Medicare and Medicaid, barring a massive pandemic that wipes out 70% of the 65+ crew (this is not totally unlikely).

          I’m just trying to keep the car running while we’re flyin’ down the hill, that’s all.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki
      Ignored
      says:

      Explanation of why it is proper to conflate society with government.

      I don’t think anyone is conflating the two. In the ideal case, one emerges from the other. Insofar as basic rights are valued in society, that interest will be reflected in government. Same with impartial justice. Same, presumably, with healthcare and welfare generally. I think the problem emerges when the products of social arrangements are divorced from the social institutions that give rise to them. So, for Walzer, wealth – financial or otherwise – is inherently a product of society, and even tho that wealth may be held by individuals, individuals have no exclusive (read: anti-societal, or perhaps supra-societal) right to its use. That’s why he says that after all societal needs have been met, there isn’t any surplus to subtract from.

      Now, you like to think of government as an entity divorced from the will of the people (in some vaguely understood sense of what that means). And that’s fair enough as a limited critique. But that doesn’t define government, and it certainly doesn’t capture the purpose of government. Even on a libertarian view, government exists as an institution distinct from society, but one reflecting society’s basic interests. So even on a libertarian view, government has certain specific responsibilities to individuals determined by the ‘will of the people’.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        Its not clear that there is any such thing as “will of the people” (especially as a result of arrows theorem)

        Also, its not clear why we should care about such a thing even if there were such a thing.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
          Ignored
          says:

          Also, its not clear why we should care about such a thing even if there were such a thing.

          ??? Who’s ‘we’?

          The public relations industry seems to think there is such a thing. Politicians appear to as well. And I think they care about such a thing for very good pragmatic as well as principled reasons.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Murali
          Ignored
          says:

          Ask the French aristocracy, circa 1793.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            The thing is, I’m not wearing any culottes. If it’s going to be someone’s will, I’d rather it not be the aristocracy’s.

            If I wanted to give a reason for not following the will of the people (at least not blindly), I’d look tho the 1930s rather than the 1790s (and I don’t just mean in Germany: Spain and Italy had some will of the people issues as well). Or maybe the American South pretty much from the 17th century until the 1960s.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jason Kuznicki
      Ignored
      says:

      What is government if not society? Are corporations separate from “society?” Are unions, associations, and families separate from “society?”

      In the same way that liberals would erect a wall of separation between church and state, libertarians and other anti-government groups would erect a wall between society and state.

      But what in what ways, Jason, would you say that local society, and local government, are to any degree distinct and separate?

      Where the libertarian appears to part ways with the small r republican is at the local level, where the former sees even local community action as often illegitimate, while the republican sees it as the highest form of human cooperation and associative action.

      And yet, outside of size and distance, there is little reason why the highest level of government is in principle essentially different from its cousin at the local level. Large government comes with excess, which needs to be checked. But there is nothing necessarily nefarious about large scale cooperative deliberation and action.

      And yet by for some reason Jason, you would see the institutions of governance which society creates, administers, and participates in as essentially different, or separate form, itself?Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to E.C. Gach
        Ignored
        says:

        And yet by for some reason Jason, you would see the institutions of governance which society creates, administers, and participates in as essentially different, or separate form, itself?

        Because, unless you are living in a fairly robust deliberative democracy, society does not really create and administer the institutions of governance etc. It is at best an imprecise way of talking and would have to be carefully spelt out how this administration and participation taks place.

        The mere act of voting is not enough to get this kind of Rousseauian will of the people.Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Murali
          Ignored
          says:

          No, the mere act is not enough, but that is an argument against the people who who elect and who they elect, not the government per se.

          Jason, trying to keep them separate, seems to be indicating that they are distinct things. Government may not be representative of society, but that does not make it distinct from.

          There is also the question of, in practice vs. in principle. Surely, we might think of a world ruled by superman in which his government and the word’s society are distinct and separate. But in a country where everyone can vote, there are several deliberative bodies, and election campaigns are always going on, the fault seems to lie with the people, not their government necessarily.Report

          • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to E.C. Gach
            Ignored
            says:

            In that first part, the word distinct should be replaced with separate.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.C. Gach
              Ignored
              says:

              Government is only a subset of society. It is neither a totem of the whole, nor even an approximation of the whole. It’s a part with a specific set of functions.

              Look at it this way. Suppose I said, “The Catholic Church is society. I mean, look, it’s very obviously a part of society. Therefore it’s society!”

              It’s a fallacy of division to say that government is society.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                “Government is only a subset of society.”

                In practice, yes, but in principle, the nation has three branches of government, 50 state governments, and a constitution. Every social relation either produces one of those things, or is produced by it.

                Government, otherwise known as community organization and cooperative action, is not easily distinguished from or kept separate from “society,” i.e. the sum of a given group of people and their relations.

                We can talk of them as distinct entities in so far as we say society should produce better government, and better government help to better society, as well as society should keep government in check, and government should help govern society, but it’s unclear to me that there is some explicit way of differentiating, physically, or conceptually, the two ideas.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                In practice, yes, but in principle, the nation has three branches of government, 50 state governments, and a constitution. Every social relation either produces one of those things, or is produced by it.

                Every social relation either produces part of government or is produced by part of government?

                I’d like to think that upon reflection you might not agree with that. Or at least tell me how I explain to my children this novel theory about my relationship to them?Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                You don’t think that your role as a father affects how you participate in self-government?

                You don’t think that national, state, and local laws, as well as the Constitution, the sum of which reach into every sphere of you and your children’s existence, have a meaningful effect?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re moving the goalposts. To have an effect on something is not the same as to produce something.

                And frankly, no, I don’t think the law in any of its forms has that much affect on the relationship I have with my children. I would certainly say that you made the claim, so it’s your responsibility to demonstrate how the relationship between my children and me was “produced” by the state.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not moving anything. Effects spur causes which create further effects. Clearly government is not a thing, it’s a process, and activity. As a part of that process, you and your children both shape and are shaped by it.

                Government is the only institution that has far reaching legitimacy (within whatever group it’s constrained to/made up of). Society encompasses many things, but only some form of liberal democratic self government approximates its fullest expression. Civic dialogue and collective action both form and are formed by, for instance, your familial relationships. You view your children a certain way. Perhaps as a result you advocate some form of collective education, where you and other adults cooperate in a mutual effort to educate or have your children educated, whether in a charter, private, public, or home school environment.

                Laws governing child support affect your responsibility to your children in the event of a divorce. Child abuse laws, the existence of public parks and libraries, and regulations concerning children’s toys all affect these things.

                Now I’m not claiming that you and your kids are society. Obviously you and your family are only a part of it. But to the extent that you and they are a part of society, you and they are a part, affecting and affected by, it’s active expression.

                You’re right that you’re relationship with your children can be, and is affected by things other than what one conventionally thinks of as “the government,” and “society,” so perhaps it’s my fault for using an overbroad conception of government as the sum of our social interactions. But if society (which I take to be different from, but not separate from, government) is the sum of these social relations, it would have to include the relations of you to your kids, and they to you, and they to whoever else, etc. So I don’t think that saying that your relations with them produce and are produced by government (the expression of society) negates the fact that a large part of that has to do purely with you to them and they to you.

                This all probably sounds flighty, but the point I meant to make, and my attempt was probably unclear or incorrectly articulated, was that the presumed separation of “government” from “society,” is just that, a presumption. This part of the libertarian project crops up again and again, but is never acknowledged as such. And that’s that there isn’t some base state X where people only have liberties and government is some small, neutral, impartial, alien entity the only duty of which is to maintain the integrity of the rights that exist prior to it (the usual batch of negative rights). That formation of the state is chosen. And to the extent that it is realized in our Constitution, these choices were explicit.

                So in addressing Jason’s original question, my contention was that rather than confusing society with government, Blitzer is acknowledging the symbiotic relationship of the two and its priority over any conception of them as fundamentally separate.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                E.C.,

                Respectfully, I fundamentally disagree. I can accept “affect,” but I cannot accept “produce.” They are not the same thing, and they are not similar enough to the same thing to treat them as meaning the same thing. I won’t rebut “affect” (although I still think you need to explain how the state affects my relationship with my children, beyond making both them and me be grumpy towards each other in the morning by requiring us to get up too damned early for school), but I stand firm against “produce.”

                And just for the record, there is a long tradition of criticizing the concept that government in a meaningful sense “represents” society, and that the two are in an important sense fundamentally distinct. In fact the whole concept of “society” is so abysmally fuzzy, and the problem of thinking of it as an “it”–as though “it” had partook of intentionality in the way an individual does–that I find this kind of discussion of it to be built, at best, on vague assumptions that “we all know what it is we’re talking about, even though we can’t pin it down precisely.” Ultimately I think it’s all not very meaningful.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                James, I agree that the idea of society is “abysmally fuzzy.”

                I wonder, do you think the same of individual identity and agency? For instance that “who am I” is just as “abysmally fuzzy?”

                That’s where I see “society”, i.e. the sum of the people’s interactions: those that are direct (friends/family), or are mediated experiences (culture), as being definingly influential (for your sake) on who we conider our individual selves to be, those we see around us, and how we interact.

                There’s the individual and all of their constituent mental/physical components, and then there’s society, and all of it’s constituent cultural/social components. The individual shapes society, and is shaped by it.

                Now of course I’m talking about a society like ours, wherein even our interactions with nature, a seemingly impersonal force, are mediated by our culture and social conciousness.

                But I don’t expect you to buy any of this.

                Now in a society that approximates pretty closesly universal sufferage, and with elections at nearly every level for nearly everything, I admit that I have as many problems with the system as someone else, but I think it’s passes the democracy threshold to the point where “we the people,” are sufficiently responsible for whatever it is we get back, warts and all.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                I think it’s passes the democracy threshold to the point where “we the people,” are sufficiently responsible for whatever it is we get back, warts and all.

                I’m afraid you’ve just added a new fuzzy term, “we, the people.” Is that a synonym for society, or is it something slightly different? To me it’s just a sometimes-useful shorthand that, when examined closely, has very limited meaning. E.g., did “we, the people” elect Obama? Then apparently all those who voted against him helped elect him?

                But to the extent “we, the people,” is/are a group, I would argue that it can’t have agency, and so it cannot have responsibility. Conversely, the individual agent has intentionality and so unlike the group it can and does think, decide, choose, and act, whatever forces may affect those intentions, thoughts, decisions, choices, and actions.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                Then each person indvidually has responsibility.

                And, yes, I suppose one could make the argument that by supporting, tacitly or explicitly, the current political framework in which he was elected, even the people who voted for the other guy did on a more basic level, help elect Obama, because his election was predicated on the process having wide spread legitimacy.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Government isn’t a subset of society, it’s an artifact of it. Your shadow isn’t a subset of you but it nonetheless is shaped by the form you yourself take.

                Now if you said “The Pope is the Catholic Church” there would be some correct correlation to your argument there. Though by its own vision the Church is a collective and each member is all of it.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho in reply to E.C. Gach
        Ignored
        says:

        To the extent that any cooperation is voluntary, with nothing remotely smacking of “you do this because I said so” from anyone, that is society. Someone in the process of that claims authority above that of others in the group and the “right” to use force to back it up, that is where state begins: the power imbalance. Once someone can use force to pursue their interests, why would they care about yours?

        Local government can reflect this, and in fact has. It just doesn’t make as much of a dent because of the smaller scope — which makes it easier to directly challenge their authority in the first place.Report

  8. Avatar mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Jason–
    Torturing people in our name is not promoting the general welfare (nor does it satisfy the negative rights in the constitution.) providing medical care at reasonable rates–which private health care has not proven it can do–seems like as good a candidate as we can get

    Your argument can equally be made for privatized fire and police departments. You would be equally unlikely to convince your interlocutors.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to mac
      Ignored
      says:

      Torturing people in our name is not promoting the general welfare

      A neoconservative may tell you otherwise. With government as your representative, who are you to deny it?Report

      • Avatar superluminar in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        what does this even mean? Govt. is made up of representatives, it is not your representative! Jason, I think you’ve used this thread to try and push your ideology, but sadly it’s been at the expense of any truth regarding liberal-democratic theory. Sad to see.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to superluminar
          Ignored
          says:

          I’d just ask you to reread the Walzer quote, which I think proves that at least one very influential person does view government in the way you seem to think is unlikely.

          The fact that government is nominally made up of representatives (among others) is tangential to the real consideration here, which is that government serves as my agent.

          My contention is that it is nonsensical to think that government serves equally well as everyone’s agent, which it would have to do if it were to function as the equivalent of society, and do so justly.Report

          • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            “My contention is that it is nonsensical to think that government serves equally well as everyone’s agent, which it would have to do if it were to function as the equivalent of society, and do so justly.”

            Does society serve everyone’s agency equally? If not, why need government pass that test?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.C. Gach
              Ignored
              says:

              They have guns?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.C. Gach
              Ignored
              says:

              Less glibly; I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have a higher bar of competency for us to grant the government authorities that they don’t currently have.

              I can always write my congressman and the state insurance commissioner if I’m getting screwed by my insurance company. Might not go anywhere, but it’s a possible out.

              That’s harder to do if the government is the insurance agency.

              I’d be more willing to put up with it if the government *was* the insurance agency, in this case. Instead they’re just running around mandating that I hire one.Report

  9. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    Jason, at this point I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue. Are you an anarchist? Do you believe that government should play no role whatsoever in society?

    Nobody is conflating society with government. Government is a piece of society with specific roles to play within society. A democratic government reflects social preferences and we argue about the extent to which it should play a role in X, Y, and Z. It’s never perfect, and almost always far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean it has no role to play.

    We decide through a messy process of representative democracy, lobbying, etc. that government should provide specific things via redistribution of resources. We don’t decide that about Microsoft. Microsoft is a company with an entirely different role to play than government. A local acting group also has a different role to play. Nor do we ask that the local gas station service the needs of the sick.

    Society is comprised of lots of things, including government. What’s the point?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.D. Kain
      Ignored
      says:

      Michael Walzer most certainly is conflating society with government, or at the very least tasking government with fulfilling all of society’s moral responsibilities, and expecting it to do the job.

      Wolf Blitzer did just the same — not a healthy person falls ill, but society must act. And by this he means government. Very, very clearly.

      I’m not an anarchist, but I do object to this view of government.Report

      • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        John Adams, ‘Happiness of society is the end of government.’

        George Washington, “The aggregate happiness of the society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government ….”Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.C. Gach
          Ignored
          says:

          And I don’t disagree. Those are likewise the ends of corporations — Microsoft wants happy customers too.

          Still, it is neither Microsoft’s nor the government’s task to provide every happiness by every means. To imagine that every one of your preferred aims and ends is justified by these quotes is to express a pious fiction.

          The key lies in Washington’s second clause: which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy — and not by giving the government whatever task we choose and assuming that, as the totem for society, it will perform particularly well.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            … microsoft wants the best profit. there are many business models that don’t lead to happy customers,t hat nonetheless lead to good profit margins.
            Ever seen a tourist restaurant? yeah, like that.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            Those are likewise the ends of corporations — Microsoft wants happy customers too.

            No. They most certainly are not. The ‘ends’ of a corporation are profits. The ‘means’ to achieve that may require happy customers, but only conditionally: if a corporation could maximize profits without making customers happy, they would still be achieving its ends.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater
              Ignored
              says:

              … careful with this. Costco’s charter is not designed to maximize profits.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater
              Ignored
              says:

              If the end to which corporations aim are profits, and the happiness of customers is at best a means towards that end, then the end to which democratic governments aim is reelection, and the happiness of voters at best a means towards that end.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg
                Ignored
                says:

                Democratic governments /= democratically elected politicians. That’s a pretty easy distinction, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s even worse. Politicians’ desire for reelection is ostensibly how the government is compelled to serve the people. I’ll grant that elected politicians don’t have absolute control over the government (judicial appointments are for life, and bureaucracy can take on a life of its own), but this just means that the government has even less incentive to serve the people than my last comment implied.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to E.C. Gach
          Ignored
          says:

          There’s nothing happy or virtuous about dependence on government — I sometimes wonder how many writing here grew up in poverty.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to MFarmer
            Ignored
            says:

            There’s nothing particularly virtuous about dependency on anybody. As for happiness, it’s pretty uncommon to meet someone who is really happy about any dependency they have on anybody else.

            Both of those things still occur, of course.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Patrick Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              Of course they occur, but we shouldn’t promote it and make systems to maintain it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to MFarmer
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ll agree with this statement to the extent that making systems to maintain it isn’t moving the problem from an existing solution that is more expensive to another solution that is cheaper.

                Then it’s worth doing even if it’s a fundamentally a bad idea, if you think it’s also an inevitable idea.

                Whether or not it is inevitable is an open question, of course.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to E.C. Gach
          Ignored
          says:

          Ah, and here I was hoping they meant the *end* of government, as in the /ending/ of government.

          But that’s just my inner anarchist talking. Because in a truly utopian society, who really wants a big government thingy hanging around?Report

      • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not an anarchist, but I do object to this view of government.

        To return to the point about pragmatism from yesterday, I’d ask you to describe your preferred alternative.

        If the idea of taxation to provide health care offends your theory of just governance, how *should* health care be provided? Does your alternative have any extant working examples for comparison?Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to DarrenG
          Ignored
          says:

          An example is an insurance policy which pays for the care, except the deductible. In a free market where competition can drive down prices, the majority can access healthcare through cash or insurance. Applying indigent care solutions to the entire nation is crazy. With indigent care, the private sector has many solutions open to it, but they need to be voluntary and organically created. I’ve written about some possible private sector solutions.Report

          • Avatar DarrenG in reply to MFarmer
            Ignored
            says:

            How does your solution get insurance to the entire population, or alternatively, what happens when those without insurance require health care?

            How does this compare to the U.S. now and before Medicare and Medicaid were created? Specifically, given that private sector insurance in the U.S. currently has the highest rate of cost inflation in the world, what would you change to reverse this trend and reduce costs (and again, bonus points for extant examples working in the real world)?Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to DarrenG
              Ignored
              says:

              decouple insurance from healthcare and employment from insurance. You shouldnt need to purchase insurance just because you see a gp for a few minutes out of a year. i.e. insurance for the big stuff only. You also shouldnt have to lose your insurance just because you change jobs.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t think that’s Mike’s preferred solution, and suspect it’s not Jason’s, either, though.

                I’m looking for what the “get/keep government out of health care” folks envision as a workable solution, preferably one that doesn’t involve people dying in the streets from treatable conditions or a “free market magic happens here” step as in #88 below.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                … it involves volutnary removal of teeth, I’m pretty sure.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t think that’s Mike’s preferred solution, and suspect it’s not Jason’s, either, though

                Part of any solution would involve the things I suggested. A lot of government regulations and interventions make insurance non-transferrable, and discourage hospitals from accepting cash up front. It is the insurance industry which has a lock in on a monopoly on payment methods for medical care that results in rising insurance costs as well as over prescription and over testing.

                Changing those aspects of the system will require a massive regulatory overhaul. I’m sure lots of libertarians would be on board with that.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                extra extra! $4000 for a sprained ankle! Big stuff only!Report

          • Avatar NoPublic in reply to MFarmer
            Ignored
            says:

            1) Privatize
            2) Organic Volunteers
            3) ???
            4) Healthcare!

            The underpants gnomes got nothing on you.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to E.D. Kain
      Ignored
      says:

      Minor quibble, but anarchists are not against government they are against coercion. Believe it or not, a great deal of thought has been spent on anarchist variants to all of the concepts we traditionally equate with government – legislative bodies, police, courts, etc. The difference between libertarians and anarchists is that the former think the most efficient implementation of these concepts is always market-based.Report

  10. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    To be honest, I think Erik did a very good job of stating his own case and a bad job of characterizing the case of the people he’s arguing against. Meanwhile, I think you did a very good job of stating your own case and a bad job of characterizing his case, which you’re ostensibly arguing against. So, I have a fairly good idea of each of your positions, but not how they answer to one another.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    But politicians want a dependent class of reliable voters.

    And billionaires want a working class of desperate peons, which is why they fund think-tanks that argue for policies ensuring they stay desperate and impoverished.

    By the way, if the question is whether Microsoft should pay taxes that help pay for health care, than is answer is “yes”. 100%.Report

  12. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m curious Jason; do you think that the laws that compel hospitals to provide treatment to the seriously ill or wounded who stumble in their doors should be repealed? If not then isn’t medical care already socialized in the US albeit very inefficiently?Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      I’ll second this call for clarification.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      Well of course it should from Jason’s perspective. It’s “coercion”.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451
        Ignored
        says:

        If I were able to implement all of my preferred policies, this measure would be unnecessary.

        An inflation-indexed guaranteed minimum income would be set that was sufficient for all people to buy health insurance, which would not be tied to employment. The insurance would cover emergency treatment. If anyone chose to go without insurance, they would have only themselves to blame.

        In that case, they could rely on private charity, I suppose, although a private charity would have to ask itself why it was subsidizing such obvious stupidity.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          Okay, I certainly find those policy proscriptions quite reasonable; though aren’t they very unlibertarian?

          Would it be accurate to say that in the absence of your preferred policies you are okay with the coerced requirement that everyone be treated or would it be more accurate to say that in the absence of your preferred policies you’d rather the coercive requirements be removed?Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          insurance that only covered emergency treatment would be simply dunderheaded. I could go to the emergency room for a “possibly broken foot/ankle” — cost $4000 (the cost of seeing my doctor for it) plus the cost of the ER personnel, the bed, and having staff cardiologists on call in case I had a heart attack.

          We’re starting UrgiCare Centers around here, because getting people to “self-sort” into “i just kinda need a doctor” versus “actual medical emergency needing immediate intervention” saves a lot of time and money.Report

  13. Avatar Tod Kelly
    Ignored
    says:

    Jason, I’m intrigued by this line of “the government is our totem of society.” My first reaction was a knee-jerk ‘No,’ because obviously it’s something that we directly tinker with all the time – it’s much more hands on than theoretical totems.

    But the more I think about it, the more profound I think this observation might be. When I think of most of the people I have known in my life to demand Govt Do Something – or for that matter, demand that Govt Must Stop do so in the form of platitudes. (Folks here are the exception, not the rule, I think.) And they rarely get their hands dirty with either the political side or – using the alternative you pointed out – the volunteerism side. When I think of these people, your comment rings really strong.

    Fascinating thought.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      This is really what I’m interested in exploring here, not my own health care policy preferences or those of others.

      I’ve written about that topic in the past, and overall, I’m not convinced that there are many giant improvements to made in health care. There definitely are some, but I don’t see it as a crisis area. (I don’t even expect Obamacare to do a whole lot, except to cost more money and be unconstitutional.)

      Here’s the key: When someone has no insurance, gets sick, and dies, no one goes around saying “Microsoft let him die.”

      Although, strictly speaking, it’s absolutely true. Microsoft was in a position to help, and it didn’t.

      People do, however, commonly go around saying “the government let him die.”

      Now it’s true that the government, like Microsoft, was in a position to help. But while that’s a necessary condition, it’s clearly not a sufficient one.

      Astoundingly, being in a position to help is not even a sufficient condition for blaming a private charity. How many people go around saying “I blame the American Cancer Society?” Most would say that that’s nonsensical.

      There seems to be an added expectation both that the government is morally obligated and — I think — that it’s more capable than most agents. I’m curious why this should be.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        If not government, who? What entity has the requisite powers and resources to accomplish massive social welfare goals? Beveridge Report level goals,

        …organisation of social insurance should be treated as one part only of a comprehensive policy of social progress. Social insurance fully developed may provide income security ; it is an attack upon Want. But Want is one only of five giants on the road of reconstruction and in some ways the easiest to attack. The others are Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

        I’d propose that only government can manage social progress on such a scale. Private charities and volunteerism certainly help, but they didn’t eradicate smallpox or desegregate public accommodations (can’t think of any Squalor or Idleness examples, but you get the picture).Report

        • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Creon Critic
          Ignored
          says:

          This, too. I think in the abstract most citizens rightly see government as a fundamentally different kind of institution from Microsoft or the American Cancer Society, and have no problem with the concept of the government being responsible for things for which we wouldn’t dream of putting in the hands of private entities.

          If you can’t wrap your head around health care being one of those things, I’d suggest national defense as a good example. We may decry the inefficiencies of the Pentagon and the choices of how our various Commanders In Chief use the military, but most of us don’t think the alternative is holding Microsoft responsible for raising and commanding an army and navy.

          Then as both Creon Critic and I have alluded to, there’s the big question of “what instead?” Even those of us who are ideologically biased against government-led solutions have problems articulating an acceptable, workable alternative, much less one that has a political path to implementation.

          It’s all well and good to say “I don’t think it’s moral/logical/efficient/useful/whatever to have government heavily involved in health care,” but unless you can show a working alternative you’re not likely to get many converts to your cause.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        Because the empirical evidence says the government does health care better (in terms of outcomes) than Microsoft, or charities, or the market by itself, in the industrialized world.

        Because access to health care is necessary to achieve any kind of equality (be it opportunity or outcome).

        Because government provided health care saves individuals (and the government) money.

        Because a whole hell of a lot of people don’t have access to health insurance, or are underinsured, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their own choices: children, people who were laid off, people who can’t get a job that provides quality insurance, people who can’t get a job that pays enough for them to purchase private insurance, etc. (it becomes very difficult, and suboptimal, to set cutoff points, for both ethical and economic reasons).

        Because the vast majority of the government’s stakeholders would benefit.

        Some of us see health care as a right. I know you don’t, but that doesn’t change the truth of the first sentence.

        The gist of the disagreement between your side and mine boils down to two things: our beliefs in the effectiveness of the market in the health care domain, and our basic theory of what the government shoudl do and how. I seriously doubt either of us is going to change our minds, because our “True Rebuttal” or whatever you called it in the previous post (I think it’s a great concept, by the way, even if I can’t remember the precise name you gave it) lie beyond the health care domain itself. It doesn’t hurt my side to point out that elsewhere, governments tend to do it better, and for less money, but someone like Jay will always come in and tell us that Arabs are constitutionally incapable of living in a democracy… er, Americans aren’t capable of single-payer health care, so that argument will never be a true rebuttal for most people who disagree with the basic ideas and values that underlie the desire for government-run health care in the first place.Report

        • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          This is excellent.

          I would also add that “free market” vs. “government-run” in health care is a false dichotomy. Most OECD countries currently use various hybrid approaches that take advantage of markets in parts of their health care system where they seem to make the most sense, while having government set the overall rules of the game and fill in gaps where markets fail. Off-hand I can’t think of any developed country other than Britain that still has a fully socialized health care system, and even they have a growing private sector for providing care above and beyond what the BHS does.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          but someone like Jay will always come in and tell us that Arabs are constitutionally incapable of living in a democracy… er, Americans aren’t capable of single-payer health care, so that argument will never be a true rebuttal for most people who disagree with the basic ideas and values that underlie the desire for government-run health care in the first place.

          I would never say that “Arabs are constitutionally incapable of living in a democracy”.

          I might say that “imposition of a democracy into the Middle East requires more husbandry than merely killing the dictator in charge”.

          I’d posit that your solution to our Health Care dilemma is analogous to capturing Saddam and then saying “Mission Accomplished”.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            Jay, I was making a joke at your expense, suggesting, in essence, that the two statements were similar. I didn’t mean to imply that you would say the former.

            My solution to Health Care in our current political system is France. If you don’t think that’s Mission Accomplished relative to what we have now, I can’t help you. France could help you, but I can’t.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
              Ignored
              says:

              And my argument is that changing a policy without changing the culture underneath is folly.

              But you’ll get to watch that in real time.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t think I will; not in my lifetime, at least. I wish I could: I like better outcomes for less.

                I should add that my true preferred system isn’t government or market-run. But I’m enough of a pragmatist to recognize that my preferred “state” isn’t going to come about anytime soon.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Jaybird, I’m gonna pick on this comment to say something that I hope doesn’t piss you off too much. It’s this: I disagree with your characterization of your own argument. Your argument, in general, is not so narrow. It ‘s manymany things, depending on the context. In this context, it’s that changing policy without changing the underlying culture is folly. Other times it’s that policy is folly. Usually, and very forcefully, your argument is that changing culture is folly. The general premise here, or conclusion, really, since the argument is circular, is that government itself is folly.

                But let’s take the current version of this argument: that changing policy without changing the underlying culture is folly? How is culture supposed to change in advance of the policy such that it will support the policy change? Well, according to you, not through dialogue with people, because presenting evidence for a policy position reduces to mere ‘affirmations of group identity’. And not of course by implementing that policy and demonstrating to other people that it’s in fact a good one by the programs and practices it creates (like Medicare or SS, for example) because that’s … well … folly. And not presumably by any other process, since … well … trying to change culture to support a policy is also folly. And you hold this view even tho the pudding of those two programs seems to have been pretty tasty for most Americans. And not, presumably, via any other means, since … well … it’s all folly. And you hold this view despite the fact that huge public relations firms spend billions of dollars a year on propaganda and media releases for the express purpose of changing culture to support/reject a policy.

                At the end of the day, here’s what I take away from your view of things: Nothing can be done! Which may be fine as a general sentiment about government. But the argument supporting it is such a tight little circle of premises and conclusions, I don’t see how it’s rationally justified. It’s also too conveniently cynical to merit much attention other than trying to show how and why this type of thinking is mistaken. And it is mistaken – if you’re trying to present it as an analysis of the interrelationship between government and society.

                If you’re just emoting, however, and saying ‘boo’ over and over, then I apologize for mischaracterizing your views.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t usually get pissed off in these discussions. For the most part, it’s similar to arguing over the quality of fast food from this restaurant vs. that one. Me being upset that you prefer the Single to the Whopper would demonstrate that I have internalized stuff (and to a degree) that would, at the very least, result in great unhappiness.

                It ‘s manymany things, depending on the context. In this context, it’s that changing policy without changing the underlying culture is folly. Other times it’s that policy is folly. Usually, and very forcefully, your argument is that changing culture is folly. The general premise here, or conclusion, really, since the argument is circular, is that government itself is folly.

                Most things are folly. Ecclesiastes talks about this. But let’s go on.

                How is culture supposed to change in advance of the policy such that it will support the policy change?

                Well, one way to do this is to hold discussions over why a policy is important. It’s not just blogs who talk about these things. The media talks about it. The debate pretty much needs to pervade and be somewhat settled in the minds of the population… and by “somewhat” I just mean, oh, 55ish percent support. Nothing overwhelming. (There are exceptions, of course… you pretty much have to be willing to send out the National Guard in those situations, though.)

                Well, according to you, not through dialogue with people, because presenting evidence for a policy position reduces to mere ‘affirmations of group identity’.

                I am a huge supporter of dialogue between people. If you think that I am not, you misunderstand my attitudes about dialogue.

                Granted, sometimes holding a particular policy position does reduce to mere affirmations of group identity… for example, remember what folks said about Dole’s plan in 1996? Remember what they said about Dole’s plan in 2010?

                If they just switch based on which team that they’re on, that’s a pretty good indicator that dialogue won’t be particularly fruitful… but I still think that it’s important for the dialogue to take place. if the population is 50ish-50ish, you don’t have to change that many minds to make it 45ish-55ish.

                Let’s face it, the folks who support/oppose Dole’s plan because Dole gave it and then opposed/supported Dole’s plan because Obama happened to be holding it are not folks whose minds are likely to be changed through dialogue.

                There are folks on the margins, though. The dialogue can help change how they think about stuff.

                And not of course by implementing that policy and demonstrating to other people that it’s in fact a good one by the programs and practices it creates (like Medicare or SS, for example) because that’s … well … folly.

                I don’t know that either of these is a particularly good policy in 2012. They may have been awesome in 1972.

                This is why it’s important to have dialogues about it.

                And you hold this view even tho the pudding of those two programs seems to have been pretty tasty for most Americans. And not, presumably, via any other means, since … well … it’s all folly.

                In any dialogue you and I would have over how tasty SS/Medicare is for most Americans, we could hammer out why that might be the case.

                We could also discuss how something (like Coca-Cola!) tasted better in the 1970’s because of the makeup of the ingredients but how the ingredient ratios (or even the ingredients themselves!) have changed since then and so, in 2012, Coca-Cola doesn’t taste as good.

                And having people point out that Hecho En Mexico Coca-Cola tastes awesome, therefore I should enjoy American Coca-Cola allows for more discussion of ingredients, policies, the Cuba Embargo…

                And you hold this view despite the fact that huge public relations firms spend billions of dollars a year on propaganda and media releases for the express purpose of changing culture to support/reject a policy.

                I think you misunderstand my view. The stuff that follows from that misunderstanding takes you places that, understandably, aren’t accurate.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            Jay, would you say the same goes for suddenly legalizing drugs?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Christopher Carr
              Ignored
              says:

              What happened when we legalized beer, wine, and liquor?

              My arguments would start around there and build around that. (There are a dozen counter-arguments against that position, of course… many, if not most, folks who enjoyed a beer on Repeal Day remembered the last time that they legally enjoyed a beer and that isn’t the case for, say, anything that we’d be talking about with regards to the WoD… but, that said, a large number of them remembered getting something to drink during the dark times of Prohibition. So they knew what they were getting into when they bought that beer. That’s just a rough draft but that’s the first counter-argument I’d address and that’s the path I’d probably wander down to counter the counter.)Report

      • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        I think this comment is largely based on an incorrect premise. Right now people largely don’t die from treatable conditions, mostly as a result of laws that make it a criminal act to deny treatment based on ability to pay.

        What we do have is health care cost inflation of an unsustainable 4-5 times baseline inflation, medical bills as the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy, and escalating effects and costs from under-treated chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma.

        For most people without access to comprehensive health insurance through their employer or through government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, it most certainly is a crisis, or can become one for them very, very quickly.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to DarrenG
          Ignored
          says:

          Medicare has so vastly distorted the free market checks and balances mechanisms for so long that looking at the statistics is like being in a house of mirrors at the carnival. A 91 yr old father of a friend has just had (conservatively) over $2million in medical expenses in a 2 month period. He’s getting wheeled from operating room to ICU to operating room. To people from countries where life is cheap (China) this is insanity squared. First because we as a nation are taking such drastic measures to save, what a month or so of life? And second because we are bankrupting our entire society to continue this lunacy.

          The fundamental question doesn’t get asked or answered here. WHY do we feel ENTITLED to gold-plated healthcare? Thank God we don’t have immortality drugs or just imagine who would feel “entitled” to them as well. Wouldn’t matter what the drug company charged for it, the “democracy” would demand it soon enough and they’d get it too. The consequences? Well that makes for some good dystopian SciFi.Report

          • Avatar DarrenG in reply to wardsmith
            Ignored
            says:

            This still doesn’t explain the rate of cost inflation in private insurance, which is even greater than that of Medicare.

            I agree that we need to carefully examine some tough issues surrounding end-of-life care, preferably without the discussion immediately devolving into shouting about “death panels” (yeah, yeah, pure fantasy, I know), but that’s not the only thing, or even the primary thing, driving health care costs in the U.S. right now.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DarrenG
              Ignored
              says:

              I had understood Medicare to be in the driver’s seat when it came to setting prices, given its large size and how Medicare’s refusing to cover a given treatment protocol is often the end of it.

              I’d also like to associate myself with the rest of Wardsmith’s comment above.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Medicare has at best a tangential influence on private sector payments (it’s complicated; I used to write medical billing software for a living and I still don’t pretend to fully understand it).

                There’s a lot of interconnected reasons for our absurdly high cost of health care in this country, and “Medicare over-paying to over-treat dying geezers” is at worst only a small part of it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                Give it time. The boomers are just getting covered.

                Is Viagra still covered?Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t want to derail this discussion, but since this is a commonly-held belief I think it should be corrected.

                Viagra was never covered, but Medicare did screw up a few years ago and pay out a few million for boner pills:

                http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-14/medicare-illegally-paid-for-seniors-viagra-u-s-audit-says.htmlReport

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh, I didn’t have it as a belief, per se, I was just curious.

                My wife worked for a medical technology firm for a while, so I know what a pain in the ass it is to get procedures covered by Medicare.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve done two stints in medical technology myself. At the first one involving cancer research and treatment, Medicare was the bane of our existence. They were by far the worst payor to deal with.

                At the second, a distributor of compounded pharmaceuticals, Medicare was our billing department’s golden child and were the fastest and easiest payor to deal with.

                You get very different experiences with Medicare and the various private insurers depending on which services you’re providing, apparently.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                Darren, I too wrote medical billing software (actually generic billing software that we “tuned” to various industries). The formula (heuristic really) is relatively easy. Medicare makes all the rules. Medicare (by federal law) gets the best rates – always. Therefore all insurance companies key off Medicare “codes” (HCPCS and ICD’s) for procedures and reimbursement rates. Just to be safe the reimbursement has to be at least 10% higher than what Medicare would pay. The insurance companies contract with doctor groups preferentially to individual doctors, which is why insurers have their “preferred provider” lists. Doctors shoot for the highest reimbursements while insurers shoot for the lowest. Market power determines the outcome but demographics of seniors in the market sway the outcome quite a bit.

                So if you’re with an insurance company and aren’t entitled to Medicare, they pay the exact same doctors for the exact same procedures you’d get under Medicare at least 10% more than Medicare would pay. If you are entitled to Medicare the medigap insurance covers the incidentals associated with standard Medicare treatment. Seniors loved medigap insurance even before the whole Part C debacle.

                A doctor accidentally mis-coding a Medicare procedure can experience anything from delays in reimbursement to jail time. Our system intelligently popped up a pick-list to alleviate those mis-codings. I’ve seen far bigger, far more expensive systems that didn’t, which is why doctor’s offices have armies of data entry clerks toiling away. Our pick-lists also grouped intelligently by criteria and medical practice. Sold that company years ago, haven’t thought about it since although I don’t think they did as well as they should have especially in medical. Other markets seemed “easier” so they went thatta way.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                True, although the insurance companies get around the “Medicare + 10%” heuristic with a much higher rate of partial or complete denial of claims, delayed payments, bundled payments, and appeals/arbitration processes that look like something out of Orwell. Actual provider payments often fall well below Medicare, or well above, depending on the service provided.

                HIPPA also changed the “ICDs and HCPCs uber alles” part somewhat more recently.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                LOL, I’ll readily agree my knowledge on the subject is dated. Had already sold by the time HIPPA was taking effect.

                The problem is still the coding system. Procedures and diagnostics aren’t always so easily pigeon holed, especially with something as complex as human health.

                The problem is that the patient/consumer has nothing to do with the doctor/provider in an economic sense. Therefore there are no “market’ signals, nothing the “market” can do to fix this mess while the huge gov’t thumb is on the scale.

                We could talk about ways to fix it but need more room 😉Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                Completely agree that there were, and are, major problems with the coding system(s), especially for hospital in-patient stays, which are one of the big drivers of cost inflation.

                HIPPA made some good fixes to this, and it looks like the PPACA is making some more, but I think we’ve still got some work to do there.

                As a counter-factual to the “market will fix everything if the government gets out of its way” idea, I offer the state of health care in the U.S. before Medicare and Medicaid passed. There are some problems that markets aren’t particularly adept at solving, like providing health care to the elderly or the poor.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                wardsmith,
                so are you living in a place where you can’t get homeowner’s insurance? because there too, you get your market forces back!Report

              • Avatar Lyle in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Actually I would like to see an analysis, if you passed a law that all providers were to be paid only Medicare rates. It would not be allowed to charge more. What changes would be made if this law were adopted, what services would be cut?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to wardsmith
            Ignored
            says:

            Dude, anything less than gold-plated healthcare would be death panels (either the publicly named ones or the reviled HMO’s of the 90’s which were hated basically on the same principal).Report

          • Avatar DarrenG in reply to wardsmith
            Ignored
            says:

            Here’s a pretty good summary of the current (i.e. mostly pre-PPACA) health care cost picture in the U.S.:

            http://www.kaiseredu.org/Issue-Modules/US-Health-Care-Costs/Background-Brief.aspxReport

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        You can say that it is not government’s business to keep track of and care for its populace, but it has taken on that role, and is supported in it by, I think, most people. It has done a grat deal to put itself in aposition to do that with a degree of comprehensiveness. Microsoft has not done the requisite Keeping-track-of work to either be in a position to help necessarily, or to be expected to. They have not sought to create institutions that will prevent things like this from occurring. That is not what they themselves set forth as their reason for existing. If they sought to do that, they would quickly cease to function efficiently as a for-profit software producer and marketer. Government has set forth laws and apparati specifically to try to prevent people from being harmed needlessly. They frequently fail, but failure is a feature of any endeavor. Microsoft does not remotely claim to fill this function.

        I do not remotely understand how you can begin to argue yourself that Microsoft let him die as much as government would have in this scenario. The absurdity of needing to believe that reveals the precariousness of what you are overall trying to argue here.

        This is not to say that you are not right to question whether government should set out all those aims; ie seek to become our totem. But what you are doing is trying to mitigate the consequences of arguing that it should not. And it leads you to some entertaining fantasies about Microsoft.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
          Ignored
          says:

          Answer me this — did Microsoft have the resources to help?

          Of course it did.

          So why didn’t it? Because the polity doesn’t demand this of Microsoft. It does demand this of government.

          Next question: Do we have any reason to believe the government will do better? Some have answered “yes.” I find that a courageous and consistent response, even as I’m skeptical. My inclination is toward “no.”Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            No, it didn’t help because it doesn’t have the inclination or resources to do a thorough job of determining when and how much to help the many others like the first man who also need help. The government does have that inclination, and has a lot of resources with which to try to do it well.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            Also, the polity absolutely does demand that Microsoft help the man: by giving money to the government, whom it demands to help him directly. That is indisputably a demand by the polity for Microsoft to help the man in the way it lays out for Microsoft to do it.

            Yes, the polity has strange desires at times. But I actually don’t think that one is strange in the least.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
              Ignored
              says:

              Even stranger would be if I faulted them for not doing something they very clearly already were doing.

              Given that Microsoft is paying taxes, and that those taxes won’t prevent the man from dying, it’s a puzzle why you think paying taxes will save him. By merely paying taxes, Microsoft continues to let the man die!Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, since you italicized won’t, I guess that means there is no point arguing that contention, upon whose correctness the strength of this rejoinder rests entirely. So I guess I lose the argument.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m talking about the status quo, under which there remain uninsured people. Just as there will be after the full implementation of PPACA. Alternate universes exist, under which all Americans are insured through tax money, but they are not our own.Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            “So why didn’t it? Because the polity doesn’t demand this of Microsoft. It does demand this of government.”

            And that’s a mystery to you? Why? Do we elect Microsoft? People have a set of expectations of their elected government that they don’t have towards a business enterprise founded with the aim of maximixing shareholder profit.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        With regards to the totem, there is very much an undercurrent of Theodicy (or it seems to me) when it comes to The Government.

        The assumption is that the US Government is, if not omnipotent, at the very least it is “powerful enough”.

        We look at stuff like “diabetes” or “breast cancer” or whatever and come to the conclusion that there is evil in the world.

        Which immediately turns the debate into a moral debate. Will you help this man? Will you help this woman? Will you help this child?

        ARE YOU NOT GOOD???

        There is very much a conflation between “the government” and the “you” in that last part that doesn’t exist for corporations (well, at least, non-insurance corporations). I think that that has very much to do with the representative nature of the government and the fact that the person who questions the other two premises (omnipotence or, god forbid, the existence of evil) is therefore a representative of the forces who want to change the subject away from the moral discussion.

        And, of course, there’s only one reason that anyone would want to do that.

        This dynamic exists with most political arguments, I’ve seen. The person who holds position X becomes a representative of everybody who holds position X, not least the authorities who are implementing the policies.

        So we yell at the people who support the Iraq War as if they were Rumsfeld.

        We yell at the people who support the PPACA as if they were Obama.

        We question whether those who oppose any given policy are not, in fact, concern trolls.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          “Which immediately turns the debate into a moral debate. Will you help this man? Will you help this woman? Will you help this child?

          ARE YOU NOT GOOD???”

          This observation seems true of some but not others. Most people I knew in college, for example, argued in this fashion. Most people I know now would instead argue:

          What is the best way to solve a problem we as a society agree we should tackle, but no one can reasonably profit from by trying to solve?

          I’m not saying this is a Good/Right or Bad/Wrong question to answer, but I think worth acknowledging the question is being asked.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
            Ignored
            says:

            That question doesn’t assume totemic traits on the part of the government, though. If you’re lucky, you’ll wander through game theory, prisoners’ dilemmas, iterated prisoners’ dilemmas, diners’ dilemma, and the commons.

            If you’re unlucky, you’ll stumble across something invokes theodicy.

            Or maybe it’s the other way around.Report

  14. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    What’s true on a small scale may well not be true on a large scale, and practical difficulties can cut in either direction.Report

  15. Avatar Jakecollins
    Ignored
    says:

    And libertarians wonder why peiple think they’re assholes. Perhaps the OP offers a clue.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jakecollins
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree. Jason’s stating his position. I don’t see anything wrong with that. He’s not being an asshole about it in any way that I can tell. In general, I’ve found Jason to be one of the least assholish bloggers period, and not just among libertarian bloggers. And as we all know, blogs are like asshole magnets.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Jakecollins
      Ignored
      says:

      There once was a flake named Jake
      who the “ick” in the limer did take
      but the lesson was lost
      as the thought was tossed
      thirsted wisdom did not slakeReport

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        I think we’re not quite in limerick territory yet. I am realizing though that my original point has been badly misconstrued.

        It should be curious — and this cuts against conservatives as well as against liberals — that the government is endowed with a responsibility it cannot possibly fulfill. Because, perhaps, of its totemic status.

        It could be, as Chris asserts, that it’s vastly more competent in healthcare than in… well, in anything else that it ever has attempted. I’m skeptical, and yet I would find it difficult to craft a rigorous True Rejection.

        But may I suggest a True Rejection for the pro-government side here? If Obamacare doesn’t either (a) reduce healthcare costs by x percent over the next y years… or (b) increase American life expectancies above trend over the next z years…. that they will consider that government is possibly not the answer they think it is?Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          Why would we agree to that? Did this start out as a post on Obamacare? I wasn’t under that impression.

          I think we’d only agree that Obamacare was not the answer we’d only hoped it might be while acknowledging good arguments that it might not be, and always maintaining that constant tinkering would be necessary to make it work at all.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew
            Ignored
            says:

            At what point do you think you’ve got to scrap it and try again? Is there any such point?Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              Scrap what, government? Cuz that’s where Jason took the question.

              I have a feeling that Obamacare will be scrapped, for the most part, inside of three years, so I’m going to wait and see whether effectiveness measures are even relevant.

              But bottom line, I think the main provisions of Obamacare are self-justifying. Giving people aid in paying for health insurance. Buttressing Medicaid. Transferring excessive government spending on health care for the elderly to spending on health coverage for the needy. Allowing sick people to get insurance. Incentivizing healthy people to get insurance. (Even opponents of the constitutionality of the mandate concede it would be perfectly appropriate if it were explicitly a tax.)

              These things aren’t about specific health impacts, they’re about structuring the system so that it functions better for people: mostly on an economic level. I’m not going to prejudge what metrics Americans of the future should judge Obamacare by if it even still exists. I’ll just say they should assess how they feel about it when they feel it’s appropriate, and propose whatever they want to propose in that policy realm on their own behalf whenever it suits them to do it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                I can imagine, then, in a few years we’ll have one side saying, “See, according to (these measures), this thing sucks!” and the other side saying, “See, according to (these other measures) it’s the cat’s pajamas!”

                And someone will be arguing about whether or not we should be drug testing people on Obamacare assistance to make sure we’re not giving coverage to some druggie.

                Not that your position is entirely unreasonable. It’s just sort of hard to measure success for public policy proposals when “we’ll know it when we get there” is the only measurement.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s how it’s always has been, will be, and should be. Future polities make future decisions.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                You don’t think it’s a reasonable goal to try and keep them somewhat honest with the promises of the present polity?

                People are really good at changing goals to chase a rabbit down the rabbit hole.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, this is important, but it’s also important to recognize there are actors working actively to sabotage the implementation of the PPACA, and other actors working to revise or expand it, so you can’t just look at statistics in, say, 2020, and make a call on the overall success or failure of a 2010 law that’s likely to bear only passing resemblance to the actual health care system of 2020.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                People can look at proposed policies and decide for themselves if they are going to have good effects or not. Then later people can look and see if they did and act accordingly. I’m not really seeing the issue here.

                Are Obamacare’s naysayers likewise required to do public recantations in 20 years if their predictions were wrong? I’d rather people then just act according to their needs and preferences, not focus on what was said 20 years prior.

                But if you want to do a through, honest accounting of what the claims made a year and two ago by the relevant people were and focus on that, do it!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                My honest, thorough accounting will be regarded as biased.

                Generally, I’d like the people promoting the policy decision to offer their criteria, including their measurements for success.

                Hey, if they can’t, that’s no big deal. *I* have proposed policy decisions that have immeasurable outcomes.

                Generally, though, I don’t make promises about what those outcomes are gonna look like.

                But that’s just me.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, if it would in fact be biased, then where’s the problem, right? And if it wouldn’t, then what’s the problem insisting people accept it as the one to use? Forgive me if I just conclude it’s something you don’t mind using to argue with, but that you don’t actually care that much about documenting and putting into practice.

                After all, what if I just maintained as i do above, that no significant material promises were made? These policies were sold on the basis of immediate appeal: sick people really can’t get covered for what they’re sick for; too many people can’t or aren’t affording coverage, and Medicaid is too spotty as run by the states. That was the overwhelming basis of the arguments that I remember. You say yourself that you have similar proposals, for which you don’t make promises. I’m saying likewise, promises were not the currency of this debate. Jason wants them to have been; you want them to have been (though you admit you partake of the kind of argumntation I’m saying went on). Why do I need accomodate you by making promises for these policies when i want to argue for them prima facie, especially when you say you can do the same thing on other matters?

                BTW, maybe I’m full of shit and umpteen promises were made (of course they were!). But you’re free to go track them down, is all I’m saying. Me, I’m not making any freakin’ promises; I’m arguing for this thing on first impressions of the proposals (and with lots of qualifications I don’t have time for right now). Just as you say you are free to do on other issues!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Here are a handful of claims made on this very site!

                1) Preventative care instead of Emergency care. That’s a 10x savings for everything we catch, minimum. (more if a phone call prevents gangrene).
                2) Electronic Medical Records — this is permanent savings, in terms of space for paper (costly in a city) and manpower (eliminate the records department).
                3) Eliminating the large perc that’s spent on evaluating insurance, making sure that insurance will cover it, and chasing down insurance to make sure that they do cover it (“death by spreadsheet”)

                These things all seem measurable, no?

                We also have an end to rescission, the start of guarantee issue, medical loss ratios of 80% or higher, an end of the employer insurance loophole, an end to annual lifetime caps, etc.

                These things also seem measurable, no?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                This is why it matters who says what if you want to do this (and it’s totally fine if Pat does, I’m just saying he needs to do ti himself, like you do). Okay, these claims were made on this site? So who were these people and how do I know they’re not crazy? Do we just go around on the street asking people, “Hey what did YOU promise Obamacare would do?” So why do I care what these other people promised? You have to have a reason why *I* would choose to make their promises part of my future discussions about the law. Because I’m not inclined to without a reason.

                I’m still not promising anything. I’m not even promising the major provisions will functionally go into effect, even if the law stays on the books.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                So who were these people and how do I know they’re not crazy?

                The first was Kim, the second was Stillwater.

                They are both batshit insane.

                Do we just go around on the street asking people, “Hey what did YOU promise Obamacare would do?”

                Seems a stupid bunch of reasons to institute a policy, huh?

                So why do I care what these other people promised?

                If there is a reason, in theory, it’s because they are repeating reasons given them by equally, if not more, insane people who say such things because they are trying to get this policy passed.

                You have to have a reason why *I* would choose to make their promises part of my future discussions about the law.

                Such policies are the reason things changed.

                Why do things need to change?, we asked. “Because if we change things, I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car, I won’t have to worry about my rent!” came one of the answers.

                If enough people believe these things, they might vote for a policy based upon lies. Or, of course, they actually might not have to worry about gas or rent.

                It’s important to find out why people support a policy and whether this policy actually delivers what they expect it to.

                Now, there’s no reason to *CARE* about that… but, hey. I’m not telling you why you should be emotionally invested. I’m just telling you what you can expect in discussions.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                But I’m saying in a lot of these cases, the policy itself is the deliverable to those arguing for it. It’s not that that can’t be laughed out of discussion, but it is that it can be decisive nevertheless.

                So you want to basically keep track of what everyone’s implied set of deliverables for any policy change the advocate is, not just the key advocates? Do you have a mechanism for doing that, or is just a “You might get called on in class” kind of thing?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve no problem with not tying what people believe or say about the outcome of a policy to how we measure a policy.

                Was Iraq a success?
                Was Libya a success?
                Was Medicare a success?
                Is the War on Drugs a success?

                “Hey! Who gives a crap!” is a fair answer.

                Don’t be surprised if folks adopt it for other policies, though.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Dude, seriously, who do ou think is saying who gives a crap? What a ridiculous non sequitur! I’m all for assessing – just for assessing based on what makeshat might even occassionally be what was promised. i just want to resist the assumption that must guide assessmnet, or that a pre-agreed set of measures at the time adoption must define the assement on an up-or-down basis, or even just that promises made must factor at all in an assessment. By all means, if what’s important to people in 2030 is what was said 2010, fine. I just don’t think it will be and will argue that it shouldn’t be. But I’m just one person; it’s more important that what is important to people overall be included in the assessment is what’s included. And I don’t think that is going to be what Stillwater was saying in ’10.

                ‘Who gives a crap’ about whether Iraq succeeded? Honestly. You need to do better with the distorting people’s arguments thing, JB. Really.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                whoa, something got erased there.

                “I’m all for assessing – just for assessing based on what makeshat might even occassionally be what was promised.”

                This was supposed to say,

                I’m all for assessing – just for assessing based on what makes sense to the people doing the assessment at the time. That might even occasionally be what was promised. But I think mostly that is going to be and should be their own assessments of their needs and preferences at that time.

                [Should add: the assessment of past decisions is a different question, but more theoretical. IOW, in the future we’ll be debating in Congress what to do about health policy and how to conduct Iraq policy, not whether and why Obamacare should have passed and whether we should have invaded Iraq or not. Each of those pairs are analogous to each other, but are not mix-and-match analogous.]Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                There are people who said that Iraq would have *THIS* happen.

                There are people who said that Iraq would have *THAT* happen.

                Why shouldn’t we use your statement about Iraq? Here, I’ll cut and paste the relevant part and do some light substitution:

                “Okay, these claims were made on this site? So who were these people and how do I know they’re not crazy? Do we just go around on the street asking people, “Hey what did YOU promise (the Iraq war) would do?” So why do I care what these other people promised? You have to have a reason why *I* would choose to make their promises part of my future discussions about the (policy). Because I’m not inclined to without a reason.”Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I stand 15,000% behind that statement with or without the substitutions.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Because it’s an excellent counter-argument against anything (*ANYTHING*) at all.

                Someone argues that the Iraq War will result in a Civil War with 100,000 dead as an argument against the war.

                Someone argues that the Iraq War will start a democratic domino effect of revolutions across the Middle East.

                Instead of talking about their argument, you’re talking about them.

                Instead of talking about the downsides of a hundred thousand dead and a civil war or talking about the upsides of a series of revolutions… we’re instead talking about why we don’t have to talk about the downsides or upsides.

                Because, hey, who the hell is the person saying such things and why should I care?

                The first person is Kim. She comments here.

                The second person is Stillwater. He comments here.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s somewhat convenient to your point that that argument for the war is in fact one of the ones that the most representative and influential actors in and advising the government advocating for the invasion were indeed making. If they hadn’t been making that argument but rather other ore reasonable ones, and and Kim only Kim was the one making that argument back then, then today we would rightly pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to the fact that that outlandish argument was made (by one unknown person) or to who made it in assessing whether we should have invaded Iraq, or whether the reasons given by relevant people turned out in light of history to be ones we should have found convincing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                No, Kim and Stillwater weren’t making those arguments about the war. (I presume that both opposed the war. Not that it matters. Who are they, anyway? How do you know that they aren’t crazy?)

                They’re the ones who gave the justifications for the PPACA that I quoted a handful of comments above.

                As for your comment, let’s do a little more word substitution:

                If they hadn’t been making that argument but rather other ore reasonable ones, and and Kim only Kim was the one making that argument back then, then today we would rightly pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to the fact that that outlandish argument was made (by one unknown person) or to who made it in assessing whether we should have (passed the PPACA), or whether the reasons given by relevant people turned out in light of history to be ones we should have found convincing.

                Is that statement one worth standing by?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Iraq is your analogy, so I’m saying that in that analogy if just Kim had made a given argument for the war that happened to be a pretty off-the-wall on like positive domino revolutions, we’d likely and rightly ignore that today unless it just happened to be one Paul Wolfowitz or someone like that also made. And if Wolfowitz made it, we wouldn’t talk much about Kim making it, and I wouldn’t care that she did at all.

                Accordingly, coming back to your latest substitution exercise, which of course just applies the principle we discovered in the Iraq exercise back to the actual instance we are examining to begin with, indeed that passage is, exactly stated, the point I am trying to make about how I see the presumptive relevance of things that Stillwater of Kim may have said around here about PPACA before or shortly after it passed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                So we don’t have to deal with arguments pertaining to the upsides of policies or to the downsides of policies unless they’re made by important people?

                For my part, I don’t know any important people.

                They’re certainly not arguing in these comment threads. It’s just us.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Twenty years hence as a matter of public accounting for the law, tied to a concession hthat it should be repealed if it doesn;t meet those promises, which were the terms being discussed at the outset of the discussion? No.

                Obviously, when the policy is being debated, debates happen and you respond to what the people you’re talking with say. But unless you’re having the debate with a spokesperson or major advocate for the legislation or an expert of some kind, then no, twenty years later when you’re assessing the the law, the promises made in private conversations by average non-experts are not what should be used to guide a binding public assessment.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                When are we allowed to have an opinion on Iraq, then?

                2023?

                With luck, I’ll still be here.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                > I’m all for assessing – just for
                > assessing based on what makes
                > sense to the people doing the
                > assessment at the time. That
                > might even occasionally be
                > what was promised. But I
                > think mostly that is going to
                > be and should be their own
                > assessments of their needs
                > and preferences at that time.

                There’s nothing wrong with this.

                Without something to compare it to, you are riddled with tendencies towards confirmation bias, groupthink, rationalization, and a score other bad things.

                If I put a stick in the ground, and say, “I’m gonna throw that rock from there and hit this stick”, and I miss by ten feet, then hey, maybe that ten-foot miss is a better place for the rock to be in the first place.

                Maybe I missed intentionally, because a cute bunny popped up and hopped over to where the stick was.

                Maybe I threw the rock there because the another player cheated.

                But if there’s no stick to begin with, it’s very, very easy to say, “RIGHT THERE! That’s what I was aiming at!”

                No matter where it lands.

                Again, if you believe honestly that the guy throwing the rock in the red shirt is better than the gal in the blue shirt, for all rock throwing competitions, across all fields, and regardless of the rock, then I guess you don’t have to care.

                Me, I think they’re all wrong very often. If they can’t be held to the simple standard of aiming at the stick, I have no way of coming up to the red shirt guy and saying, “Hey, me? The guy in the green shirt? I told you, dumbass, that you were going to miss that stick by 10 feet. I even pointed to the spot right where the rock landed. Will you at least concede that for this one trial, I was right and you were wrong?”

                You can never have empirical credibility if you’re never held to meet your promises, and at least explain why the outcome was different than expected.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                But you did know which direction they proposed to throw the rock. You have eery opportunity to decide whether you want them to throw it in that direction whether or not they place a stick the distance in that direction they think they can throw it. If they turn around and throw it in another direction, you’ll be able to see that; you won’t need the stick. If what makes the difference to you is whether they can throw the roack to where they place the stick, okay, but to many other people what matters is that they’d just like the rock to be thrown in the direction that has been indicated. And they have no obligation to place the stick, especially if a critical mass of people are quite happy to simply have the rock thrown.

                You may be unhappy about this. I don’t know what to tell you if you are unhappy with no stick placement in that situation. But I don’t feel bad about it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                After 9/11, there was a *HUGE* chunk of the country that wanted us to go to war against *SOMEBODY*. Just go and kick somebody’s ass.

                And they have no obligation to place the stick, especially if a critical mass of people are quite happy to simply have the rock thrown.

                You may be unhappy about this. I don’t know what to tell you if you are unhappy with no stick placement in that situation.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Was that group really so huge? Was it their considered view? If they didn’t care in which direction we struck out, then does that make it particularly applicable to Pat’s parable in which a direction is stipulated and only the distance that can be reached is at issue?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I was going to let this difference go so as not to get bogged too down in one analogy, but since you’re pushing the Iraq analogy so hard, I have to point out now that clearly the proposed means matter. One can hardly propose war for its own sake (even if the people are crying for it!). You almost have to offer up some instrumental deliverable, some subsequent set of conditions that this horrible choice of means is for, lest you come off as a barbarian.

                On the other end of the spectrum are proposals that are simply self-justifying. The end to legally enforced segregation. No yardstick for effects should be relevant to that proposal.

                But not all proposals will be so clearly either in need or not in need of endstate yardsticks to make them even arguably defensible to anyone. Clearly, then, there must be some proposals that may or may not require yardstick promises about which we’ll have to argue. And what will be decicive is whether a given proposal is so unpopular without a set of promised conditions that it will bring about attached as to be unable to attract enough support to passa legislature. If what is being proposed, whether in isolation or in a cluster of proposals, can attract support simply by means of explaining the proposals and gaining support at first blush, I’m not sure I see what malfeasance is being perpetrated if sponsors decline to offer a set of deliverable promises that in any case can never really amount to a set of hopes, or a vain attempt to predict the future.

                War is something that should never recommend itself in this way. If a polity has come into the thrall of war fever, seeking war for its own sake, then yardsticks for its purpose are really beside the point. It will be up to leadership in that case to act with restraint and reason in fact in determining whether war is recommended by some purpose; they’ll need to make no such argument or set forth yardsticks for it to gain support for the proposal.

                One other difference: what is being proposed by way of pre-stipulated measuring sticks for domestic legislation has as its end a theoretical agreement that if those are not met, the laegislation will be deemed a failure and presumably repealed in part if not in whole, or at least fundamentally reformed.

                There is no repeal of a war. There is no undoing it. There is no reform of the lives lost. There is no fixing a broken war. We can fix broken legislation.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Mr. Drew, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like science.

                It’s not great for everything, but when it comes to Things Which Can Be Measured, it’s a good approach to follow.

                I’m of the opinion that if people actually wrote down why they want what they say I ought to vote for, and how their proposal is going to achieve that goal, and in what manner they choose to measure achievement, we’ll generally get a much better body of legislation, and a whole lot less crap. And really, I think a large portion of our legislation is just time-wasting crap.

                In IS, they call this approach “design science”. Information systems is a soft science and anyone who practices soft science usually has something of an inferiority complex about measurement. , But it involves lots of measurable things as well as lots of things like UI design that are as much art as they are science.

                But you want repeatable results, right? So you can get as artsy as you want, in your systems design. But the design itself ought to be quantifiable to a degree.

                I’m designing a knowledge management system for untrained first responders in mass emergencies. I’ve read a lot of psych and neuropsych and organizational science (e.g., Management) and other lit, plus I have 15 years experience building stuff that people use, so I have informed opinions about how it should work. But if I just build the thing and say, “Hey, it works!” I haven’t really shown much. Well, I’ve shown I know how to set up a KM system. Whoo!

                I haven’t shown that I have any particular insight into how it ought to be set up. I haven’t shown that it actually does what it’s supposed to do. I haven’t shown any root principles from other disciplines that provides a context for the design considerations. I’ve given nobody any particular reason to re-use any of the things I’ve done, other than aesthetics. Finally, if someone else builds something different to solve the same problem, there’s no way to put the two things next to each other and compare them.

                Nobody has learned anything beyond first-order learning.

                So instead, what you do is you state your assumptions. “Given that people generally act like (this – citation from psych lit) in circumstances like these (which match the circumstance I’m presumably designing for), I’m building something that looks like (this) that is usable in (that way). To show that I’m not just making all this up, I presume to test the efficacy of my system by (experimental design), where I will measure the effectiveness of a group trying to organize *without* my system (this way) vs. a group trying to organize *with* the use of my system (this same way). I will compare these results, and thus I can say that (assuming you find all of this stuff interesting and compelling), if you’re trying to build something that increases efficiency in these sorts of scenarios you might want to incorporate certain aspects of my design.”

                Then, see, someone can read what I wrote, look at what I built, see *why* it was built the way it was built, test it themselves if they want to correct for problems of generalizability, and actually engage in double-loop learning.

                If both sides took this sort of approach towards politics… you know, an actual political science approach instead of a gamesmanship approach, we might actually have some sort of basis to compare the records of the two groups and say something meaningful.

                If you don’t have some sort of falsifiability standard… if you don’t have Jason’s True Rejection clearly in mind… you have very little ability to engage in double loop learning.

                You do still get that whole confirmation bias thing, though.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Drew I agree with everything you’ve said about the Iraq War.

                I just also think that it applies to other policies. If people say “we should do X because the results will be Y and the cost will only be Z!” and the cost turns out to be 17Z and the results are .3Y, it’s fair to ask whether X was a good policy… and it’s unfair to ask “who said it would result in Y? Who said that the cost would only be Z? Crazy people?”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Sounds 100%, except that waterfall designs don’t work well. we work better using iterative processes, at least in software design.

                And I think it might be a better process for law, as well. what say thee?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                > Sounds 100%, except that
                > waterfall designs don’t work
                > well.

                Citation needed. You’re over-reaching. Ask Boeing if they want to design a control system for a military aircraft using agile methodologies.

                Yes, I’ll generally agree that waterfall designs (the traditional-style, circa IBM 360) have drawbacks in today’s systems design scene… *especially* in emergent systems behavior. Building emergent systems usually requires shifting design specifications, and traditional waterfall methodologies can be very process-heavy and thus not flexible when it comes to this sort of thing. This is a drawback of process-heavy approaches.

                You don’t have to use waterfall to have some sort of specification.

                > We work better using iterative
                > processes, at least in software
                > design.

                No, we work differently using iterative processes.

                Again, particularly when it comes to emergent design, there’s lots of reasons why this also translates to “better”. But that’s a specific case, not a general case.

                I’ve seen lots of terrible systems design using half-assed agile methodologies. Agile methodologies, used properly, still engage in double-loop learning. Most actual agile implementations in the real world skip that part, and wind up building stuff with no double-loop learning at all. They’re not using any process, and there’s no generalizable learning going on at all… they’re just engaged in Hero Programming and calling it Agile so that the boss will get out of their Hero way and leave them alone (or so that their employees will work really damn hard at solving stupid problems that crop up late in the development process because “agile” is code for “work harder, not smarter”, to the manager).

                Down the rabbit hole.

                In any event, in my opinion, we ought not to treat public policy like building games for a fickle internet-savvy audience. Leave that stuff to the private markets, they’re good at it. Treat public policy like building secure information systems for large power utilities (at least, the way they ought to have been built, not the way that they are currently built).

                (edited to add)

                Specifically to this:

                > And I think it might be a better
                > process for law, as well.
                > what say thee?

                No. Structurally speaking, it is a really bad idea to have the government start using iterative processes. They are built to be slow. Iterative processes require speed.

                You want to revamp the legislative process, then we can talk about it 🙂Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                @Pat, your example is fine but I’d have to echo Kim’s statement about cascading design. The problem in software development is trivial. All users are ID10T’s. Worse, systems analysts ask users what they want in advance and the idiot users tell them all the WRONG answers! Even when you fix the program for the ID10T users, they will invariably find a way to break something, that’s just the way they are.

                Now how does this apply to politics? Easy, all voters are ID10T’s also. Of course I’m not singling anyone out reading this. The number one best quote in Men in Black is:
                Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
                Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

                So, the problem with politics is “person” vs “people” and as I’ve just proven, “people” are dumb, panicky dangerous animals. QED

                This is more than tangentially related to the OP given that Jason picked Microsoft of all companies. Due to its monolithic status Microsoft ends up as both the enabler and disabler of software advance. Instead of writing great code from scratch, we write mediocre code that resides inside a mediocre operating system because we want to reach the widest possible market. Our government is like that. I can give real world examples but am getting claustrophobic in this narrow zone where I have to hit the reply button that’s 20 pages up. More design issues easily solved but never likely implemented.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Doh! Meant to add the multi-media version on that quote above.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Cascading design (or iterative Waterfall) is cool. It’s one of my favorite ways to build stuff, actually. Here are my assumptions. Throw-away mockup. Test. Test failed, why? Oh, bad assumption, try again. It’s double loop learning at the front end of building stuff (at the design point) instead of at the consumption end. That works fine, too.

                Look, Cockburn’s Agile is cool. XP is cool. They’re all methodologies designed to do the same things, get workable solutions for problems.

                Yes, often times the users don’t know what they want (particularly in the emergent problem space -> you’re inventing solutions to problems that you’re not sure actually exist).

                On the flip side, often times the software guys are engaged in self-delusion about what they’re doing, too. This is what you see when you see bad implementations of design methodologies – of any sort.

                > Instead of writing great
                > code from scratch, we
                > write mediocre code that
                > resides inside a mediocre
                > operating system because
                > we want to reach the
                > widest possible market.

                Sure. And there are reasons why that’s a great idea, particularly if you want to make a wage.

                It is, though, a crappy way to build secure systems of specific scope.

                > Our government is like that.

                Yeah, it is.

                It ought not to be. It ought to be the exact opposite of that. Our government ought to generally do only that which is required to solve the specific (solvable) problems that are appropriate for its scale. Whenever possible, we should demand, as the citizenry, that they align what they’re doing with the least inefficient layer of government. Match the layers of abstraction. Stop solving layer 1 problems at the application layer. Stop solving application layer problems with authentication by relying upon something at layer 3 that is itself insecure.

                You know, actually *improve* the whole fishing thing.

                If you don’t actually posit which lessons you’re trying to learn, and which problems you’re trying to solve, you’re never going to get that. Instead, you’re going to get crap flowing uphill. Once popular opinion says something is a problem and something needs to be done, the jackhammer of the federal government is the only way to go.

                Again, this is one reason why I’m perpetually frustrated -> people don’t want this. They’d rather wave a team flag.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                If you sit down with the user, and let them Learn How they’re going to use the program, just as quickly as you learn how they’ll break your program (there is always a smarter idiot), everything happens a lot faster and better.
                Again, that’s just my experience.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure.

                If you don’t have some sort of workable ground to start, though, you’ll not be clear on what actually was just broken. If the problem is that your user actually *is* an idiot… a bona-fide stone cold idiot… your problem is that you’re writing software (or building a system, which is different) for an idiot. Guess what? The success measure there is, “The idiot is happy”. The software doesn’t even need to do anything, if the idiot is happy.

                Not to mention the fact that you can’t always sit down with the user. Or you’re building something for tens of thousands of users.

                Or that you can sit down with the user and they’ll get all cheery and horray your stuff, and then six months later you get your head handed back to you when the ten other people who need to interact with the software hate it for the reasons the one user liked it.

                I can go on. Fifteen years of dealing with users has introduced me to almost every possible combination of broken expectations and bad assumptions.

                When you say, up front, “I built this to solve this problem and in this scenario it worked this way” (assuming you got all that crap *right*), then you can take the pieces and reuse them for other similar and have some possibility of having them work.

                We’re down a different rabbit hole, at this point.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                @Pat, discussing software design isn’t actually helpful except as the metaphor you’d originally intended (I think). My corollary metaphor was to show how our government operates in a similar vein to (badly) designed software. Part of the problem is the “team” changing along the way and the other (and bigger) problem is that this “company” can’t go out of business at it would (and should) if it were in the private sector.

                I think it was Kim who claimed above someplace that the government was the best suited to providing healthcare. Couldn’t disagree more. The government as “designed’ fails virtually everywhere, especially if (via your metrics discussions immediately above), the gov’t were judged by legitimate measures. Unfortunately the gov’t gets judged by “teamsmanship” measures, which have nothing to do with reality and everything to do with the 2 rule rule. Rule number 1, my team is always right. Rule number 2, when my team is wrong, rule number 1 applies.

                The other discussion is right out of MIB. What we wanted was a government of the PERSON for the PERSON and by the PERSONS, but what we got was a government of the PEOPLE for the PEOPLE and by the PEOPLE. Now go back to the definition of “people” and you see the entire problem. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, it went down the rabbit hole.

                That’s on me.Report

              • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Not that your position is entirely unreasonable. It’s just sort of hard to measure success for public policy proposals when “we’ll know it when we get there” is the only measurement.

                Sort of, yes.

                When different political factions have entirely different, and incompatible, models for defining policy success this is inevitable.

                For example, some will take government involvement as prima facie evidence of policy failure, regardless of outcome. They will always claim that the private sector, could, and would, do it better.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DarrenG
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh, sure, I agree that this is a drawback. You’re not gonna convince the unbelievers.

                But at the very least, if you say…

                In 2017, if this law is funded according to the levels as described in the bill, we will have

                * foo
                * bar
                * foobar
                * barfoo
                * pink unicorns

                And then in 2017, we have foo, bar, foobar, but not barfoo or pink unicorns… I get to turn around and say

                * What, did you get underfunded?
                ** Maybe! damn those other guys! I’ll totally not vote for them next time!

                * What, did your plan not work entirely after all?
                ** Hey, maybe that’s okay, 3-5 ain’t bad.

                * Hey, you got foo and bar from something else entirely, so you really screwed the pooch on this one!Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                “But at the very least, if you say…”

                And if no one does?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Then ten years from now I have Hard Core Democrats and Hard Core Republicans telling me that Thing Does/n’t Work For Reasons They Just Made Up that are Marginally Relevant to The Original Reason The Thing Was Designed To Solve.

                If you’re already on one of the two teams, I guess you don’t have to care.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                What’s so interesting about the original rasons a compared to reasons which you have the power to assess yourself (and accept parts of while rejecting parts of them, not just choose between them!) given in the light of observation of what actually happened? Ir eally think you’re romanticizing the importance of the initial BS that politicians use to sell stuff. All you’re going to do is end up expending the energy you should use to assess what should be done to prove something you already know to a 100% certainty: politicians are full of shit!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t think 100% of politicians are full 100% of shit.

                I think a great number of politicians actually honestly hold a great number of the beliefs that they currently profess to believe, even if those beliefs contradict what they said 5 years ago. Or two weeks ago. The mind is a very plastic gadget.

                In many cases, they may believe these things because their best interests have convinced them that these things are true, granted.

                In many cases, they may have rationalized the results of their former policy as being unintentional. Perhaps unexpected. Who could have known? Well, probably a lot of people knew. They may have trumpeted loudly about what they knew. Perhaps we should listen to them, next time.

                One perfect example of why I care about this sort of thing…

                Kennedy, McNamara, and a brain trust of very smart guys were discussing for quite some time what it would take to overthrow Castro. One of the first principles, stated early on in the beginning of the deliberations, was that Kennedy required plausible deniability. No U.S. military aircraft, that sort of thing. Everyone could surmise that the U.S. was behind it, of course, but we needed to be able to wink and grin.

                Three (or was it two, I may be misremembering) days before the invasion, the entire fishing plan was the subject of a front-page NY Times expose’.

                Now, one would think that this would be the end of the whole affair, or at least a major re-assessment. Secrecy blown, we break and forget the whole deal, or at the very least we, yanno, greatly increase our chances of success by contributing a few dozen bombers to the campaign, one of the things that several of the naysayers might have made it work. On account o’ the whole cat is out of the bag, thing.

                Nope!

                This is classic bad-decision making. We build a logic tree, with assumptions, with assessments, with plans and costs and whatnot.

                Halfway down the tree, we find that something four nodes back is costing 10 times what we thought before we started. Or it’s working half as well.

                But those were actually critical assumptions about the success.

                Now, maybe we *should* keep going. There’s nothing wrong with getting halfway through a project and deciding, holy smoke, this may be costing 10 times what we thought it would, but think about these other new things that are new that makes us think we want to keep going!

                If one of those aforementioned dudes who said, “Hey, that’s gonna cost 10 times what you think it is” is still around, maybe perhaps we may want to find out how they were able to prognosticate so accurately? Perhaps they have domain knowledge that applies? Perhaps they may come in and say, “Well, now, I was right about this 10x cost, but that other cost farther down the line that I thought was going to be 5x more is going to be less, recompute!”

                If you don’t decide, before you start, what constitutes failure, you have nothing to revise. Ergo, you never fail. That unintended consequence, it doesn’t matter. That 120x use of the Patriot Act for drug offenses rather than terrorist acts, that’s okay. It’s just crime. You don’t want those drug guys to get away, do you, you crying ACLU dork you?

                You just go down the rabbit hole.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                This isn’t Mr. Bush giving the NSA their fucking Christmas List. Nobody got a christmas list here, except maybe the insurance companies.

                I’m certain there are empirical measure to show whether or not Obamacare “worked.” I’d say 50% adoption of EHR, combined with a quantifiable decrease of 5% of medical problems due to allergies not being communicated, would be a good start.

                That said, Obamacare doesn’t mean anyone’s Christmas List. Ergo, saying that “Obamacare has failed” essentially puts you back to square one (or zero, as you’ve essentially removed “corporate solution” from the table).

                Personally? I’d rather see 1990’s health care than Obamacare. But there’s no way in fuck the hedge funds are going to allow that. Profit uber alles. Take things one quarter at a time. No investment possible or necessary. Burning is more wealth-generating than Building.

                … god, I hate hedge funds.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                To be clear, I would not scrap the government. I’d support a modest, non-imperialist national defense, regulations that protect property — and thus the environment — plus life and the basic liberties found in the Constitution. I’d also favor a guaranteed minimum income/negative income tax system.

                Government definitely has a role to play in society, but its role is not to substitute for everything that society attempts the moment someone finds that non-governmental efforts are lacking on some dimension.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                And to be clear: I did not say that you want to scrap government. I was merely pointing out that for Pat to press me on how we might judge Obamacare by Obamacare’s performance actually redirected the issue from your question, which was whether we will judge government full stop by Obamacare’s performance.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                You gotta show me two things, on the federal level.

                One, that the problem is of the sort handled by a big, dumb, slow moving giant (there are lots of problems like this, don’t knock it); or a big bag of cash given away with no strings to a number of small, fast moving organizations (there are problems like this, too).

                Two, that the problem is credibly solvable given the problem space.

                Okay, uh, Three: that the pressure to change the problem space (should their be some – likely will be) will stay within the bounds of the solution space.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                can you please throw science in there? Basic research is critical to our continued economic health, and it won’t be done well by corporations.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ll second this. Although this is an artifact of our current tax model.

                I’d actually rather see science funding (like Social Security and Medicare), together with their current tax stream, transferred to the State level. Mostly because I don’t want reactionaries cutting off funding for stuff at the federal level.

                If Podunk doesn’t want to support GMO research, fine. We can do that basic research here in California.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                … that only works for California (9th largest economy in the world), and would impoverish my beloved current residence. I believe that pooling research dollars would work better.
                Besides, then how does the FBI/CIA/Military fund research?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                If you want to live in Vermont, and nobody in Vermont wants to fund your ability to do research, that’s rough.

                Nobody says you get to do what you want where you want to do it. Life is about tradeoffs. I’d like to summer in Montana and winter here and have my work and my research let me telecommute when it pleases me. Let me know how much of a right I have to that, wouldya?

                > I believe that pooling research
                > dollars would work better.

                Counterexample: if you like doing stem cell research, you’re probably pissed off and wish very greatly that the people in the Red states weren’t getting in the way of your goddamn research.

                If you’re working in astronomy, you probably wanted to shoot John McCain when he started talking about canceling the radio antenna array.

                If you’re working in disaster prep, you’re probably willing to go to the mat with Sarah Palin about volcano monitoring.

                How is a federal model an improvement over a federated one? Even if there are things that ought to be funded at the federal level, how does this imply that *everything* ought to be?

                > Besides, then how does the
                > FBI/CIA/Military fund
                > research?

                Within their own budget? What exactly is the FBI/CIA researching, anyway?

                Quite frankly, what does “funding DARPA at the federal level” have to do with where we fund the basic science research? What makes the NSF a better model than the CSF and the MSF and the every-other-state-SF?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                If you aren’t california, you don’t really have enough money to pay for a lot of research. I’m not saying it has to be federal, so much as pooled.
                Because FermiLab is bigger than Illinois.

                The CIA/FBI fund a lot of information science, some animal research (squirrels were a failure), and a lot of abnormal psych (though that may not so much be “research” as in “legally allowable at a research university”, and more “how do we break Mr. Leader of the Taliban?”)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Fermilab’s operating budget is $400 million a year.

                Which, ahem, is currently under attack at the federal level. By those aforementioned people who want to cut federal-level science funding. Endangering that program, in that state.

                This would seem to be a counterfactual to your premise.

                Also, Illinois has an operating budget of just over $27 billion. So, uh, no… Fermilab is not “bigger than Illinois”. You’re off by about two orders of magnitude.

                Also note: if we’re reducing the amount of money we send to the federales, the associated tax burden can fall at the state level, of course. Illinois can raise its state taxes as it takes over these functions handled by the Feds.

                And if a large capital outlay is an issue, of course a state can always ask the Feds to fund the large capital outlay, and pick up the tab for the operational costs.

                There are tons of ways that this can be handled, quite easily. Shoot, Podunk can offer a major tax cut to industries that fund basic research in their own states, for research that supports those industries. What’s not to like?

                You know, someone won a fucking Nobel prize writing about aligning economics with the proper layer of government. An actual science award. Prestigious and everything.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                citing fermilab’s website:
                Fermilab (originally the National Accelerator Laboratory) was built for $243 million in 1967-well under the appropriated funding of $250 million. The Tevatron, completed in 1983, was built for $120 million, but it took advantage of all the lab’s previously built facilities. Building an equivalent facility from scratch would cost many billions of dollars.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re clearly not getting my point, or you’re ignoring parts of it that I’ve already said twice.

                Even *if* certain types of appropriations are more appropriate at the federal level, this does not in any wise mean that they all should be.

                And there are plenty of reasons why the lion’s share of them (not necessarily in total dollars, but operationally speaking) ought not to be.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                *eyeroll* Next objection: Have you been to the national radio telescope?
                http://www.gb.nrao.edu/
                I freely admit to some amount of bias here, as my degree is in physics. But there are specific places where observations are possible, and other places where they are not. There’s a reason Arizona does Optics, ya? (and if they ever get it working, solar).

                I’d be fine with us pooling resources, where states who want to contribute put towards the general pool (that gets roughly distributed out via something reasonable).

                You can maybe call me biased, but I believe there are economies of scale inherent in concentrating research. While PA and NJ could just set something up along the border (near scranton perhaps), it would be substantially harder for PA and WA to collaborate.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                > You can maybe call me
                > biased, but I believe there
                > are economies of scale
                > inherent in concentrating
                > research.

                Wait, what?

                Okay, so how is this not an argument against moving all our research to California?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                On this:

                > But there are specific places where
                > observations are possible, and
                > other places where they are not.

                That’s fair enough. That’s still *not* the general case.

                The general case is, most research can be done most anywhere. Much research is subject to the vagaries of funding, which puts it at the mercy of a fickle voting public.

                People have a tendency to be less fickle about the stuff that they benefit from. If I live in a town that has two sources of industry: the local mill and the state U, I’m going to be more supportive of the state U than somebody who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

                Why do we put all the money in a pot and then put it in Washington where the Republicans in Wyoming have an equal say over how it gets spent over the Democrats in California? Why not… just put… the money in a pot in California, and let the Democrats there decide how to spend it? And hey, if Wyoming has a mining university (hint: they do) isn’t that a state (where there’s lots of mining) where it kinda makes more sense to research that?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                yeah, i’d be fine with giving all our money to California. But that wouldn’t happen if NY kept all its money. I don’t mind the concept of each state deciding how much to contribute to the general pool — I just think there should be a general pool.

                And shut up about people cutting their own throats! You’re speaking to a person who’s just seen education cut by 25% across the board, in a city that is funded through education. In a state that gets a lot of its money through education. I blame Pennsyltucky. (ya, me taking it a bit more personal than you meant it)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                > I just think there should be
                > a general pool.

                Okay. Why? What feature is there of a general pool that makes it better than a bunch of smaller pools?

                It seems to me that there are advantages, but they don’t outweigh the disadvantages. For example: by putting all your money in one pool, you can have a single hierarchy distribute the money, which reduces the possibility of duplication of effort. But it seems to me that this isn’t a great advantage, because the very nature of scientific research means it’s easily decoupled. One state can focus on engineering, one on physics, one on health, whatever. When two states want to coordinate on something, that’s easily doable by organizing on the two-state level. Since states are focusing presumably on the sorts of research that their constituents are more likely to support, everyone is more likely to be less pissed and generally more supportive of the stuff that’s going on in their actual state.

                The disadvantages of shoving everything up to the federal level are numerous. People get a skewed and inaccurate idea of how much money is being spent on basic research. Much of that perception can be further skewed by focused reporting (Facility In That Other State Is Spending Millions of Your Tax Dollars!). There is a lot of federal-level politiking that can be avoided entirely (the aforementioned stem cell research, reproductive health research, etc.)

                > And shut up about people cutting
                > their own throats!

                (sigh). Kim, in some areas of the country, over half the populace wants the freedom to “cut their own throat”, for some definition of “cutting your own throat”.

                When that battle is fought at that layer of abstraction, the win or loss occurs there.

                When two members of each of those 50 constituencies make up a governance body that only requires a 1/3rd “majority” to turn anything into a federal issue, this is a losing proposition for research.

                > You’re speaking to a person
                > who’s just seen education cut
                > by 25% across the board, in
                > a city that is funded through
                > education. In a state that
                > gets a lot of its money
                > through education.

                Let me ask you a question. If you’re blaming the Pennsyltucky crowd for causing your problem, why are you so resistant to the idea of removing the possibility that the Pennsyltucky crowd can influence your own state’s decisions?

                Don’t you see some disconnect, there?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                I think if you gave each state $X, that they’d be more likely to spend it on a little bit of everything. Particularly since certain fields seem predestined to get their own support. In the abscence of specialization, you have $X, which might not be enough to really fund anything more than a community college prof. And, you get certain research being discriminated against, because it’s against rather unsavory diseases (herpes?).
                The larger scale “we have $Y” to divy up seems to obscure things that have scientific merit from those who would ask “but how is it Useful To Me?”

                rest)
                … you do realize I’m from Pennsylvania, right? I don’t think the pennsyltucky folks are more than 50% of PA’s population. (voting pop different, of course).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                > I think if you gave each state
                > $X, that they’d be more likely
                > to spend it on a little bit of
                > everything.

                I’m not sure if you missed it, but I’m not really talking about giving states $X.

                I’m talking about re-aligning the tax burden at the state level, and then cutting the NSF down to perhaps a couple of folks who chair a meeting once or twice a year with all the state Science Foundations and letting the states both collect that portion of the tax burden and spend it. Federal taxes go down. State taxes go up.

                > Particularly since certain fields
                > seem predestined to get their
                > own support.

                Oh, sure. But “Sexy gets the Money” is a problem no matter how you collect the pie and slice it. One advantage of the per-state idea is that people in Wyoming probably have a different idea of Sexy than people in California. This gives us more definitions of “Sexy”, and a lower probability that this affects funding on a broad scale.

                > And, you get certain research
                > being discriminated against,
                > because it’s against rather
                > unsavory diseases (herpes?).

                I would hazard a guess that people who study herpes would have a better (not worse) chance to get funding via this sort of setup. Albeit not necessarily in the state they might like to work.

                > … you do realize I’m from
                > Pennsylvania, right?

                Hm, no, but that doesn’t precisely refute the point.

                Sure, it may come to pass that in an individual state (like California, actually), wherein the state constitution skews the “what we want to do” vs. “how we pay for it” legislative barriers, you can have all sorts of problems. In your particular state, a vocal minority may have sufficient legislative muscle to impact your research.

                But all of these problems also exist when the bucket of collected money (and the distribution method) is at the federal level, too.

                If one state wants to be reactionary and defund science research altogether, that is going to affect that state, in a less centralized scheme. Yes, that sucks if it happens to be your state.

                If one state wants to cut their budget for science to increase their public pension funding, there’s not much we can do about that, as a society.

                In fact, the way we have the rules structured, that state that wants to defund science entirely gets 2 votes out of the necessary 40 to defund science *across the whole bloody nation*. I argue that this is *far worse* than the program I’m talking about. The exception scenario; the possible failure mode, that’s worse than per-state collection and spending.

                Do you see how this is different? Can you admit that this might (at least possibly!) be better than the status quo?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                yeah, I think we’ve both been through the ideas on both sides of this, and come out the wiser for it. 😉
                You were arguing for giving control of science back to the states — I then began to argue for “pooling” voluntarily back together.

                … How much of current science budgets come through the state, I wonder? PA pays a lot to some of its main research unis (pitt and pennstate primarily)Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
            Ignored
            says:

            The reason I moved to Obamacare is that it’s what the government produced. The alternative is not imperfect free market vs. utopia. It’s imperfect free market, versus status quo, versus further government intervention.

            I’d be lying if I said the choice was easy. It’s not.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
              Ignored
              says:

              It’s what government produced on health care in 2010. All of history doesn’t point to 2010 and then flow from from it in a determinative way. Other things can still happen.

              So again: why would I agree to your proposition?Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          I don’t assert that it’s better. I observe that it is better. The empirical evidence is fairly straightforward. It is better. Why is it better? There are a lot of reasons, and I don’t think it’s the only area in which the government is better than pretty much any other option available.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Jakecollins
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t think people think libertarians are assholes. Conservatives are assholes. Liberals are pussies. Libertarians are cranks.Report

  16. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    It may also be worth asking why people consider this particular man’s life to be worth saving at such great expense, when there are children in the third world dying of cheaply treatable diseases all the time.

    From a moral perspective, the guy who just couldn’t be bothered to buy health insurance (remember that this was the premise of the question) is clearly less sympathetic than the third-world children. From a utilitarian perspective, why save one life when you can save many?

    For some reason people just value the life of the irresponsible American more than that of the innocent third-world children. I don’t think it’s racism, exactly, but I think it’s something similar. This idea that we’re going to draw a a circle around some morally irrelevant category, and everyone in that circle is one of us, and everyone outside is one of them, and therefore less important. I can’t think of a reason not to call it bigotry.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      I assumed it was a white guy.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      Nationalism lives on, m’friend.

      It’s another one of those “conditions on the ground” that I have to live with.Report

    • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      This is another case where pragmatism trumps abstract moral theory.

      Obviously, I can vote and lobby for changes to the U.S. health care system much easier than I can to the [insert random third world country here] system.

      There’s also the utilitarian argument that people suffering and/or dying from treatable injury or disease in my neighborhood affects me more negatively than people suffering at a distance.

      This is perhaps even more true in the hypothetical case of the irresponsible uninsured man, since if he gets treatment and is unable to pay (which, again, has been mandated by law here for some time), this cost is shifted on to me and everyone else who does have insurance.

      Even if you extend the hypothetical to repealing the laws that mandate treatment without regard to ability to pay, having people with untreated illnesses and injuries in my community imposes risks and costs on my family that the comparative sick third world children do not.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      BB, from one moral perspective: They are all human. They all have human dignity. They are all worth saving.

      Why is this either/or and not both/and? Why not help this uninsured person as well as people overseas? Peter Singer’s drowning child thought experiment has quite a bit of moral force. I’m not sure what you see here that excludes expanding our foreign aid budget to meet past commitments 0.7% GDP – a commitment I think made as early as the 1970’s and subsequently reaffirmed.

      Personally, I think we have all sorts of obligations, including the responsibility to protect people from crimes against humanity, responsibilities to set aside vastly more resources than at present in foreign aid, and the responsibility to “a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this [Universal] Declaration [of Human Rights] can be fully realized” (UDHR, Article 28).

      This headline stuck with me because of the American public’s perception of how much aid we give and how small a percentage of the federal budget aid actually is:

      Surprise! Americans want to ‘slash’ foreign aid – to 10 times its current size
      Americans think foreign aid is 25 percent of the budget and want it to be 10. It’s actually 1 percent. This is just one of many misconceptions about foreign aid – seen as an expensive handout that doesn’t work. But foreign aid does work. And it works as a safeguard investment for America, too.

      Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s more to “foreign aid” than money sent to corrupt dictators and corrupt democratically elected politicians and corrupt… you get my point. The other “foreign aid” is that percentage of our military budget that supports troops and arms overseas protecting our allies. That would include military bases in Japan and Germany as well as those in the Mideast and elsewhere. Then there are the gov’t backed loans to aforementioned “corrupt” folks’ countries so they can buy weapons – loans that are never repaid of course.

        The “budget” would look a lot different if we got to call spades spades.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith
          Ignored
          says:

          Anytime you want to cancel that foreign aid, Ward, sign me up.Report

        • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to wardsmith
          Ignored
          says:

          Apologies for not writing “official development assistance” in place of “foreign aid” in my comment, I thought the more informal “foreign aid” good enough.

          As for the US security umbrella and all the global public goods provided, well the US happens to benefit from those as well. Call it enlightened self interest, it gives the US great influence in every region and secures a voracious appetite for natural resources. All those years of relatively cheap gas comes at a price. (“For many resources, the United States of America is the world’s largest consumer in absolute terms. For a list of 20 major traded commodities, it takes the greatest share of 11 of them: corn, coffee, copper, lead, zinc, tin, aluminum, rubber, oil seeds, oil and natural gas. For many more it is the largest per-capita consumer.” AAAS.atlas.org)

          Note that Brandon Berg brought up help for third world children in place of the uninsured guy and it elicited a chorus of “No help from government for either thanks”. Brandon Berg raised the morality dimension, and downthread there is mention of whether we’re our brother’s keeper. Once again, responses I take as: Peter Singer who? Drowning child what? Social justice? Economic and social rights? Hey Mr. Human Rights, get off my lawn! (And some wonder why libertarianism is caricatured as “I got mine!”)

          Ok, so that may be dramatized for impact, I do have to acknowledge Jason’s repeated mention of the guaranteed minimum income/negative income tax. That is commendable. Though I think, Jason, you’ll soon have Robert Cheeks dubbing you a commie-dem. It’s just that from my perspective the US appears miserly at home and abroad. And honestly, canceling current ODA, can you honestly say the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) hasn’t done a great deal of good?Report

      • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Excellent point CC. Like you, I argue that all humankind has a responsibility to provide a number of services, funding, and support to folks both in our own state but outside of it as well.
        I am thankfully Ron Paul and his crowd has stayed around as long as he has. His position and the causes his grouping supports do a great deal to discredited their own ideology, and that moment from the debate made it vividly.Report

        • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Roland Dodds
          Ignored
          says:

          Thanks. Yes, in a way I’m also thankful for Ron Paul’s candidacy. He says some off the wall stuff, I think he said in a recent debate that sanctions were not part of diplomacy. And his comments on an Iranian nuclear capability must have non-proliferation people pulling their hair out.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Creon Critic
            Ignored
            says:

            Ron Paul believes (correctly if you ask me) that sanctions are counterproductive and punish the wrong people.Report

            • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Christopher Carr
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that sanctions, improperly designed, could punish the wrong people or that sanctions might be counterproductive in some circumstances. But sanctions are an indispensible part of diplomacy. For instance, when a UN Security Council resolution (annex) names individuals for travel bans and corporations for asset freezes, I’d say those sanctions are pretty precisely targeted. Also, sanctions against exporting dual-use technologies to countries violating their Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty commitments, again well targeted. Sanctions are one tool in the diplomatic toolbox, a crucial tool short of covert action or war.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                you should read some stuff from the Army War College. They were quite critical about sanctions working anytime, ever. And they’re a lot less batty than Paul.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                I understand there’s a literature critical of whether sanctions work. But that isn’t the challenge Chris Wallace posed to Ron Paul. Wallace quoting and questioning Paul, “’Sanctions are not diplomacy,’ you say. ‘They are a precursor to war and an embarrassment to a country that pays lip service to free trade.’”

                Sanctions are a precursor to some wars, but they can also be part of a policy of isolating a country and a cold peace – sanctions against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, or apartheid South Africa for instance. Sanctions can also slow the pace of a country seeking nuclear weapons, like attempts to stop Iran from importing centrifuge parts, thus giving crucial time for diplomatic talks to succeed (or fail). Or sanctions can act as a deterrent, even if Iran ultimately obtains nuclear weapons, others thinking of pursuing them will have to balance the end result, nuclear arms, against the headaches taken to get there, travel bans, asset freezes, etc.

                Also, teasing out the arrow of causation in whether sanctions work or not, a rather difficult task. It could be sanctions don’t work in changing targets’ policies because the problem the sanctions are up against is just that difficult to solve. Like the surgeon with a high mortality rate because they take on difficult cases, the cases of recalcitrant authoritarian regimes may be just that hard a policy problem to resolve successfully.

                Finally, Ron Paul bringing up free trade in reference to sanctions and Iran, like I said, non-proliferation people must be tearing their hair out. The international community emphatically does not want free trade in crucial nuclear materials, like the US does not want free trade in dual-use technology. Iranian military officials can’t just fly over to the US and order up the latest military technology, a few Joint Strike Fighters, the latest class of aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine. Nor can they use a parts list and say ship those key components (or similar components) over and we’ll build it ourselves. In addition to the licensing regime for dual-use technology, sanctions contribute to this break against technology transfers.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                likewise, shipping computers over 2MHz used to be an enormous pain. I think they might have fixed that one? years upon years later, naturally.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                Okay, I realize we’ve been talking about two different kinds of sanctions. I’m specifically thinking of the full embargo we have on North Korea, since Paul usually brings this up as an example of what he would not do in terms of diplomacy. Sanctions like those we have on North Korea are designed to cripple a nation’s economy by cutting off its resource supply. They are the modern equivalent of a siege of a castle or walled city. Targeted sanctions are totally different, and I agree with you that they are often a just and powerful tool if well-designed and implemented.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Christopher Carr
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not sure what the alternatives are for North Korea. The Clinton administration tried constructive engagement with Kim Jong-il, Clinton even considered a visit. Kim Jong-il cheated. Does Ron Paul have an approach to North Korea that particularly convinced you?Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                I actually wrote am article about this a while back if you want a long response: http://www.theinductive.com/blog/north-korea-time-out-or-a-spanking.htmlReport

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Christopher Carr
                Ignored
                says:

                Thanks for the reply. I took a look at your piece, as well as the CATO piece you linked. I’m pretty skeptical of the course you outline, I see the Agreed Framework and Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy as attempts to go down the road you describe, and they ended up with little success. Kim Jung-il’s past dishonesty and repeated saber rattling make him especially difficult to successfully negotiate with.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Christopher Carr
                Ignored
                says:

                I find Kim Jong-Il’s actions to have been supremely logical. The US balked on the Agreed Framework. I think the only way to gain leverage over North Korea is to establish normal trade relations.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Christopher Carr
                Ignored
                says:

                Didn’t North Korea cheat nearly from the start of the Agreed Framework?Report

              • No, the Contract with America swept Congress, and the U.S. failed to deliver the light water reactors the Clinton Administration had promised Kim in exchange for ending enrichment. Kim started enriching anew.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr
                Ignored
                says:

                Kim started enriching anew.

                And upped the ante after some asshat named W refused to continue negotiations. Christopher is right–the evidence showed that negotiations were successful in at least dramatically slowing down the PRK’s nuclear program. It may have only been a second-best outcome, but it beat the hell out of the outcome we got in its place.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        how much do you give to Vitamin A shots? $20 saves a child (or maybe it’s less now, haven’t looked in a while).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Creon Critic
        Ignored
        says:

        Why is this either/or and not both/and? Why not help this uninsured person as well as people overseas?

        Because there are resource constraints. You have to spend an awful lot of money on the global poor to reach the point where the best use of your marginal charity dollar is a very expensive medical treatment for a middle-class person who just couldn’t be bothered to buy health insurance.

        And this isn’t just a hypothetical. Many of the richest Americans tliterally have more money than they know what to do with, and have plans to give away most of their money either during their lifetimes or after their deaths. Taxing them has essentially zero effect on how much they personally will consume—it just means they have less money to give to charity.

        In particular, the Gates Foundation, which manages Gates’ and Buffett’s charitable giving, focuses on third-world issues. Raising taxes on Gates and Buffett in order to fund middle-class entitlements in the US is in a very real sense trading the lives of third-world children for the comfort of middle-class Americans.Report

        • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Brandon Berg
          Ignored
          says:

          There’s room for providing high quality public services to one’s population and still being more generous in terms of development assistance. I’ll warn in advance, this is not the most rigorous social science in the world, more back of the envelope top of my head pseudo-social science than methodologically considered with lit review. I fully accept I may have gotten something fundamentally wrong here and trust, will be corrected. That said, here goes.

          Compare the top ODA (as a percentage of GNI) givers to the countries ranked highest in the inequality-adjusted human development index. Ten countries appear ahead of the United States on both lists. Thus it should not be beyond the wit of man for US ODA as a percent of GNI to increase while still expending resources on raising the United States’ level of human development. Both goals are important and I don’t buy that they’re mutually exclusive. Furthermore there are other concessions the rich world can offer the developing world, pharmaceutical intellectual property concessions for instance, or drastic cuts in developed world agricultural subsidies, or some reconsideration of the developed world’s negotiating position in the Doha Round of trade talks. Resource constraints are less important in certain domains.

          Top ODA givers (ODA as a % of GNI, 2009 figures, via Wikipedia): Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Finland, UK, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Austria, Australia, new Zealand, Portugal, United states

          Inequality adjusted human development index 2010 (via Wikipedia): Norway, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, United States

          Ten countries appear ahead of the United States on both lists: Norway, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Denmark, and FinlandReport

  17. Avatar Kris
    Ignored
    says:

    Oy, this a poorly thought out post. I don’t mean to be a jerk, and I like the topic, and the author, but most of what’s written seems to be a series of red herrings. I’m not even sure if there is an argument in there. And the stuff about totems reads like a sophomore poli sci student’s essay. (Not an A one either.)

    1. Yes, Microsoft should help as many people as it can survive. We all should.

    2. It’s probably not the case that Microsoft has a morally duty to help the man, (it’s merely supererogatory.) There are a variety of reasons for this. For one, MS cannot have a duty to save everyone, simply because MS cannot save everyone. (Since ought implies can, you can’t have a duty that you can’t meet.)

    3. It’s actually quite easy for the government, which acts on our collective behalf, to save the man and everyone else in his situation. (This is proven by the fact that every major, western, moderately wealthy country has a healthcare system that will save him, paid for by comparatively small amounts of tax dollars.)

    4. Thus, there is a strong, morally relevant disanalogy between MS and a modern government, making your initial question odd, to say the least.

    5. Granted, there is a moral hazard problem here. We do have to take steps to make sure the man repays his debt, if he can in the future. Or conversely, we can mandate him to make health insurance payments in any number of ways thereby eliminating the moral hazard. If we are a progressive country, we might also transfer some wealth in this process, i..e by taxing the wealthy more to subsidize the health insurance of the poor. (This can be given any number of justifications.)

    6. Regardless of whether the gov’t is morally obligated to provide such help (I think we’ll disagree there) the gov’t is best suited to provide such assistance.

    A.) Charities and churches may be subtly biased in how they provide help to the poor. Maybe a Jewish immigrant to rural Kentucky might find it harder to get church-based aid. By the same token, others might get more aid than they need, thus making an inefficient distribution of aid likely.

    B.) Many different churches and charities would be uncoordinated unless there was one master organization. If that master organization existed, it would take on all the characteristics of a government agency, except it would be less democratic.

    C.) What country has ever done modern healthcare well without government aid and regulation?Report

  18. Avatar Lyle
    Ignored
    says:

    The fundamental question here is a very old one, am I my brothers keeper? (We know that question is at least 2000 years old). If the answer is other than all men are islands entire unto themselves, then the question becomes how much am I my brothers keeper? Of course most ethical and religious traditions would answer strongly yes. The question then becomes does government or private charity do a better job of helping?
    Now the 30 year old (and let me add another qualifier) making 75k (19% of those uninsured) and not having health insurance, is a gambler, betting that there will be no problems while uncovered.Report

  19. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    It seems to me Walzer knows what he is saying: there is no surplus until social needs have been met. You can disagree, but i don’t see any conflation there.

    Blitzer clearly meant to ask whether we should make our government policy that the government should not do anything to pay for saving this man’s life should he need it. But he said “society” instead. So why aren’t you just taking it to Blitzer? Why is it on us to answer for Blitzer?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      One trouble with Walzer is that his very first example of a social need is not feeding the starving or curing the sick — it’s Greek theater.

      Social need is defined as that which the polity chooses, even as he admits the Athenians showed no evidence of an adequate system of public health or subsistence. Still, theater.

      I find that morally bankrupt. I’m helpless to think otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m struggling to see the relevance of this observation to the rest of the discussion, TBH.

        It seems to me that the crux of this entire matter is that Wolf Blitzer is blithering idiot, and we probably could have left it at that. I’m not kidding.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        I mean, if, to an Athenian, the phrase “Should we let the theater fail?” had same the moral gravity that the question, “Should we let this man die?” may have for us, it doesn’t really change much about the arguments in this debate, does it?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        curiously enough, I’ve seen evidence of this during some times of American civilization… Now you might argue whether they MEANT to harm people in order to create venues for theater, or whether they were just racist assholes who let their feelings harm others.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        This is a pretty sneaky trick, using crappy arguments from Walzer and Blitzer and using them to hold all liberals responsible for their points, as if we all have to answer for those men.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451
          Ignored
          says:

          Michael Walzer is one of the most important liberal political theorists of our time.

          If you think his arguments are crappy, then welcome to the club. But liberalism does have to answer for them.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        Jason, going back to the book, I find that the first example is not theater, but the distribution of food before religious holidays in Jewish communities. When he talks about Greek theater (if you read the next paragraph, you will see he talks about something Greek, but not theater), he’s comparing it to public education in the Jewish and other communities. I think you’ve seriously misrepresented what he said here, but it’s been a while since I’ve read that book, so if you could provide a quotation from another part of the book that fits with your representation here, I’d appreciate it.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          I have the book in front of me as well. As you know, he structures it as a series of general discussions, each one illustrated with one or more detailed examinations of real-world examples. Chapter 3, “Security and Welfare” is structured as follows:

          1. Membership and Need
          2. Communal provision – Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries – A Medieval Jewish Community
          3. Fair Shares

          And so on. That’s why I said theater was first; it’s the first of his example sections. However, I am wrong, and you are correct to note that the Greek public provisions discussed were more extensive than theater alone, and that the first example in the section was not theater.

          I still find it horrifying that a community might say, “It’s our right to redistribute everything, not merely some surplus product, and if we choose theater while some people starve, well, that’s just fine.”

          I find nothing in Walzer that would give me a defense against this frankly obscene argument.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
            Ignored
            says:

            Hmm… but his first actual example is food distribution. Nothing he says implies that food distribution should be subordinate to theater. At least, that’s not what I’m getting from it.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris
              Ignored
              says:

              I have acknowledged my error. I will do so again here — I was wrong.

              He does not, however, give any possible criteria for critiquing a society of the type I envision: A democracy in which the majority chose theater while a minority starved. Communally validated decisions appear always to be the correct ones for him. There is no possibility of critiquing them, even if one is a member of the community. Communities are always right.Report

  20. Avatar Scott
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ll answer the question. MS should feel free to choose to let him die, as it has no moral or legal obligation to help him.Report

  21. Avatar MFarmer
    Ignored
    says:

    If government ended all welfare tomorrow, would individuals in the private sector realize and accept the role to provide assistance for those in need. I say they would, and I predict that organizations would arise which deal with need in a more pragmatic, utilitarian fashion the ideologically twisted opearators of the welfare state. Private efforts would force those who can purchase their own safety nets to purchase them, and it would efficiently address true need. Private efforts would likely be diverse, from individual help to local help to church help to large organizations which create sophisticated systems of assistance. The voluntary nature of funding and supporting private assistance would be a big boost to the American spirit, empowering a nation to act on their moral understanding, thus working to ameliorate political divisions caused by class warfare. In a practical sense, the public will come to understand it’s in everyone’s interest to fund and support private assistance, because no one knows when they might need it themselves. Just in the entertainment industry alone, which is big on charity fundraising, a steady stream of funding is possible through innovative fundraisers and marketing. In the communication age there is the advantage of quick education and inspiriation to get involved and support the cause — it would be a shot in the arm to a nation desperately looking for ways to make a difference.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to MFarmer
      Ignored
      says:

      frankly, I find this bullshit. maybe it’s because I’m selfish. but I don’t think corporations will be that stupid… to actually NOT find ways to steal our money from us, for “services rendered.”
      Pricing is in a lot of ways determined by how much money someone has, not by how much something “has to” cost.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith in reply to MFarmer
      Ignored
      says:

      A different question Mike is whether some subset of individuals currently defrauding welfare from the gov’t would feel some sense of remorse if they were taking money from those not-much-better-off than themselves.

      Of course <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuCKkOkQcHY"free money is free money. The “gov’t” is giving it to me.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
      Ignored
      says:

      There absolutely would be an uptick. But there would also be no way to even attempt to ensure anything would exist that we could even hope would be a comprehensive system of aid delivery. And I think that’s where we just come down to preferences/priorities. Some people abhor the idea of such a universal system, other abhor the idea of there not being one.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Michael Drew
        Ignored
        says:

        A system of aid delivery? The private sector that’s produced the greatest logistics in history can’t produce a system of delivery? I think you have a vision of some small charity outfit with cans of food in an old warehouse — if challenged, a sophisticated private organization could devise systems far superior to government systems — I believe this totally.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer
          Ignored
          says:

          I doubt any disbelieve the capacity of a pure libertarian system to deliver such aid. The skepticism questions rather the will. The Victorians sailed sugar, tea and spices half way round the world through sophisticated logistical distribution systems from plantation to grocer to delight the palate of the upper and middle classes but the poor still starved to death in the alleys.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer
      Ignored
      says:

      Mike, it’s possible I suppose that what you envision could come to pass but the historical record is that in the absence of large statist welfare programs; while there were private charities and the like people also generally starved and died in the streets.

      Now maybe modernity has created angels in the hearts of the modern mankind or perhaps the economics and technology of our modern society is so strong and effective that our historic willingness to give will equate to sufficient provision for the poor and unfortunate. The problem with that is merely that we have no way of knowing without it actually being tried do we?

      Which again is why I really wish libertarians had a small city or enclave someplace where they could try it out. Maybe seasteads or something?Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        while there were private charities and the like people also generally starved and died in the streets.

        Was that an organizational problem, or was it because there was less wealth overall and/or less of a felt need among society as a whole to take care of those who were struggling? There have been so many changes in our society and world in the last several decades that I don’t know how good of a guide the older state of affairs provides us for this hypothetical.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        Which again is why I really wish libertarians had a small city or enclave someplace where they could try it out. Maybe seasteads or something?
        There is a size issue to this. Even spent badly, the macroeconomic trickle effects of welfare are such that even though it is INCREDIBLY inefficient expenditure, it is expenditure and that has a multiplier effect. On the one hand, we have that segment of society that can voluntarilydonate to the less fortunate and on the other hand we have the gov’t that takes the voluntary out of the equation and then does a piss poor job of disseminating the largess.

        In truth the “government” isn’t thrilled to be caught up spending so much on social welfare programs. The politicians would be far happier if 100% of the budget were discretionary, because then the “value” of a congressional seat would be vastly higher. No mincing words here, those seats are for sale and that largess is for sale. The problem is that much of that largess is already spoken for and that severely limits the ‘favors’ left to the ‘constituent’ lobbyists.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to wardsmith
          Ignored
          says:

          So predictably systematically legally prescribed government welfare programs 1. alleviate human suffering, if inefficiently 2. have aggregate demand multiplier effects in downturns (and at other times) 3. crowd out home-constituent largess delivery aka corruption.

          Any downsides?Report

          • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Michael Drew
            Ignored
            says:

            You misread.
            1) granted
            2) granted
            3) FOSTER CORRUPTION
            4) bankrupt host society

            Downsides? See 3 and 4 aboveReport

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to wardsmith
              Ignored
              says:

              I guess you didn’t see this link’s link

              Crowding out corruption isn’t true because corruption exists throughout. Instead of corporate corruption we have individual corruption. One corp blew through $528M, which is and sounds bad, but pales compared to the $50B or so that exists in welfare fraud 1/4th. The mincing words part comes with the definition of “fraud”. If you’re on welfare and instead of receiving a $2000 check they make a computer error and you receive $20,000 and keep it, that isn’t fraud. If you tell them you have 18 kids so they send you a 20K check that is. Either way 25% of the system is broken by the government’s own admission and it is 25% of a VERY large number. Secondary income is the largest category of fraud. Even drug dealing illegally counts and income and is supposed to be reported.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        North, although I don’t entirely agree with the State’s Rights people, it is one of their claims that giving states more discretion to design their own welfare systems creates micro models to follow — one state could attampt to do as I suggest, and then we could see some results — just opt out of federal welfare and create a free market environment which has to rely on private assistance for the needy — I don’t how it could happen, but it would be interesting. The other possible scenario is financial collapse in which the nation is forced to try free market solutions, but the result of collapse would probably be authoritarian control rather than a free market. I do think many people here have a shriveled and cynical view of human nature — then they ignore this view of human nature when depending on humans in government to be better than humans in the private sector — government somehow produces the collectivist angels of humankind?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer
          Ignored
          says:

          You’ll find no assertions on my part that government perfects anything. I can’t help but notice that both the libertarian and the collectivist ideal worlds depend entirely on angelic human hearts: the collectivists on angelic administrators and the libertarians on angelic everyone else.
          I’ll happily cop to the cynicism charge but I’m somewhat of an empiricist. The only empirical outcome we can predict using the data points available (and it happens to be one that the cynical heart and the Gods of the copybook headings agree with) is that the removal of state safety nets would allow the bottom rung of the social ladder to resume their historic habit of dying from need and want. Such was the lot of that rung from earliest history running through centuries of economic growth ending generally with the implementation of coercive statist welfare safety nets.
          I will allow that maybe the economic growth or other changes in human society in the modern world might make it different this time but where’s the evidence for this proposition? I have no glee at asserting this, it’d probably be nice if it were not so but even a historical neophyte like me can look back and see the patterns. The transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age had significant economic growth but the poorest died from want. The transition from the Middle Ages to the Age of Reason had great economic growth but still the poorest died from want. The Transition from the Industrial Age to the Modern Age saw enormous economic growth and also the implementation of involuntary state enforced welfare states and though the poor suffer they generally no longer die from want. Perhaps I’m committing a correlation or causation error but it seems to me like removing safety nets would return the fall they stopped.
          Am I mis-reasoning somehow?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            ” entirely on angelic human hearts:”

            No, just decent people for the most part who become better in a free environment when their actions can have actual consequences for good. Of course, not all people are good, but most people want to help when they can, but this is about far more than flaws or virtues of individuals. The zeitgeist of a nation is important.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            I can’t help but notice that both the libertarian and the collectivist ideal worlds depend entirely on angelic human hearts:

            Dear god, how often do libertarians have to rebut this claim before people will stop making it? Libertarianism more often rests on a certainty that humans are not angelic, and thus we damn well better not give any of them the type of power inherent in governments.

            That doesn’t entirely contradict the charity story, although the two rest uneasily together, because libertarians don’t necessary believe human are demonic, hence devoid of charitable impulses, either. Rather, they tend to think that a) power corrupts, and b) the more demonic among us are the most likely to seek out power.

            But libertarianism being based on the idea that humans are naturally angelic? Take a poll, and I’ll happily put a wager on the results.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            There are thousands of examples of charity in America and around the world — even when government is taking money from people’s paychecks to fund the welfare state, charity is still alive and well. On the micro, local level, I know of many examples. There is also a plethora of evidence of corporate charity. To tap into this would expand the efforts tremendously. There has a to be a national mindset change from public welfare to private assistance, and then the challenge of following through, but I envision so many different, potential efforts and effects from this it boggles the mind, which is why no one can come up with a plan — like most great creations, it’s organic, starting with a goal, then allowing many minds to address the challenge and creating the means — innovation and creativity in a free environment are much greater than 5 year plans, or Wars on Poverty which are the efforts of a limited group like in government.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
              Ignored
              says:

              This has nothing to do with utopia or angelic human beings — that is just a rationalization to dismiss, from some people, not necessarily you. We can all think of thousands of reasons it’s risky or wouldn’t work, but once something like this inspires creative thinking, people begin thinking about how to make it happen, then the good stuff happens. I have no doubt that today’s society could make private assistance something special, something that works to help people help themselves and succeed. Many people have bad natural circumstances starting at birth, but there are paths out of those circumstances — getting more people onto the path of opportunity and successful living is good for everyone, even billionaires.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer
                Ignored
                says:

                And all of this is laudible sentiment Mike and I don’t slight you for it for a moment but it is essentially a matter of belief or faith in our collective humanity.

                Once upon a time charity was left to the private individuals and charitable forces. We know what happened during that time; we know what systems we imposed collectively to end it. I merely remain skeptical that we would not revert to form if we undid those impositions.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                > We know what happened
                > during that time

                In fairness to Mr. Farmer side of the argument, one can certainly make the case that “that time” was long enough ago that it bears little resemblance to today.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Quite so and I readily and gladly acknowledge it Pat. My point is, however, that what has changed from that era to ours; technology, economics and government; have changed for the better in previous eras to that one without leading to the poor not suffering as they did. That merely leaves me pessimistic that those same changes (though greater in magnitude) would kill the banes of poverty today if the State would merely get out of the way.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to MFarmer
                Ignored
                says:

                MFarmer,
                Mr. Billionaire wants to OWN people, literally. They likey your daughter, they take your daughter (or make you an offer you can’t refuse).
                Then they want to own your parks, because they used to be theirs.
                And then they want to be SPECIAL, to be better than you.
                The rich have never forgiven us for dishwashers and washing machines.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Kim, with affection, I have no more idea what billionaire’s today want than you do but I still think this is absured enough to object to it. I very much doubt there’s a billionair alive today (caveat: a Western world billionaire, those neanderthal arab monarchies do not count) who genuinely longs for the masses to be shoved back into the pre-industrial.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                1) you can look at the rich’s buying habits to do a reasonable analysis of their psychology.
                2) Sounds like you’ve never met one, nor worked directly for one. I know someone who has. Ergo my knowledge trumps your half-assery.
                3) Rich people who aren’t self-made require “status” to show that they are better than the rest of us hairy apes.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                (1) -> Citation, please

                (2) -> Your field of study is obviously not among the social sciences.

                (3) -> This may be true, but “status” != “ownership”.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                just to start small, you can look at the rich’s habit of buying “dead artists'” art, because it will be “unique, special” and “unable to be replicated.”
                2) nope, just worked there.
                3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102101643_pf.html

                enjoy, sucker.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Also, Patrick, it’s like you’ve never heard of The girl with the dragon tattoo. That’s a fictionalized account of a Swedish rich family (it’s about the only scandalous stuff they’ve got in sweden – and the name used in the flick is reasonably easy to backtrace).Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                So your evidence is (to summarize): rich people like to buy art that is worth lots of money; divorcing asshole with a lot of money acts like… divorcing asshole with no money would act if they had money; and a work of fiction about a billionaire loosely based on a personal account of gang rape by his teenage buddies who were not billionaires.

                Jesus Christ, Kim. Reasoning ahead of your data much?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                … you want me to continue? Take the case of killing animals “for sport”, wherein people essentially open cages, let the animal fly into an enclosed space, and then you shoot them. Ditto for allowing a scared beast to run across a narrow chute, and shooting them as they ran.

                It wasn’t about “sport” — as in the animal being able to escape, and it wasn’t about proving how good you were at shooting a moving target — because it was easy enough to shoot something with buckshot.

                It was purely about being bloodthirsty, and liking to kill things with your shiny toys.

                Remember, these are the people who have been repeatedly told that their actions have no consequences. George H.W. Bush grew up around tons of Nazis, remember. Is it any wonder that fools like Scaife think that stealing his wife’s pet is not going to wind them up in jail?

                The difference between wanting to own a whore and wanting to own say… an actress, is that one is more likely to cooperate than the other. But all people can be bought, with enough money. Not all will stay bought, but that’s a different tale.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick,
                yeah, these are the people who blackmail our elected officials (about 60% of the reps in washington).
                And most of the hi-falutin’ economists ya read (well, someone’s got a tab on each of them, if you take my meanin’ — not that it’s hard if someone’s taking rec. drugs).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                I have no idea what hunting (of any sort) is doing here, as evidence. Evidence of what? How does “being a dick about animals” translate to “wanting to own people”? Is this even prevalent behavior, of any sort? Is this some sort of angle leading to convicting the monied class of being sociopaths? (fair warning, this is a trap I’m laying for you here, with spikes at the bottom and everything)

                > Remember, these are the
                > people who have been
                > repeatedly told that their
                > actions have no consequences.

                This makes them different from non-billionaire Americans of the last two generations… how, exactly?

                > George H.W. Bush grew up
                > around tons of Nazis, remember.

                That readily explains him joining the Navy at the age of 18 after Pearl Harbor. Fucking entitled monied bastards and their Nazi sympathy!

                > Is it any wonder that fools
                > like Scaife think that stealing
                > his wife’s pet is not going to
                > wind them up in jail?

                Stealing his wife’s pet probably is just an “eff you, wife!” moment. I highly doubt that anybody is seriously going to consider that jail has anything to do with their divorce proceedings, because divorce proceedings are pretty much the poster child base activity for “people are going to act really irrational”.

                > These are the people who black-
                > mail our elected officials (about
                > 60% of the reps in washington).

                I can’t help but hear this comment in this voice:

                Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Hunting, if I’m to be honest, is in there because it’s a damn sight better sourced than my other claim — as in I can cite plenty of sources that’ll back it up, and it shows a serious lack of respect for other lives. (note I’m not bringing up foxhunting here. That, at least, is sporting.) My other claim is about as well sourced as my initial one — that is to say, I heard them from the same person, and he’s a credible witness.

                I guess I should say that not all the monied class are psychopaths (Rooney’s not, at least. And I don’t say that just because I’m a Steelers fan. He’s still on the top 3 people you don’t want to cross in PA list.). But a majority are, and that’s for a number of reasons (not the least of which because the Dark Ages culture rewarded paranoia and sociopathy in a leader). [note, when I say “monied classes” i’m exempting self-made folks like Buffett and Gates. Carnegie too, though he was a bastard.]
                What’s worse? America inherited the third sons of third sons… third stringers from the getgo… but that’s taking me far afield.

                I’ve cited here before the contention, backed up by psychologists, that a CEO is a reasonably normal career path for a psychopath.
                (does it help to note that I do know a sociopath, and that I do have some tendencies towards that myself? For goodness sakes, I was morally equivocating about infanticide!).

                Have you read game of thrones? Can’t you see Tywin sending one of his sons to be on one side, and another on a different side? This happened regularly pre-WWI, in Europe.
                Prescott was a noted Nazi sympathizer in the states.
                (I think I got the two bushes confused. again. my bad. The bush household would have had a lot of friends among the German royal nazis that got rescued after WWII).Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                … should say when I say “nazi sympathizer” I mean more or less “leader of the anti-interventionist wing in congress”, not some of the more crazy theories. remember, fascism was not viewed unfavorably among the rich… and I’m not exactly trying to Godwinize the thread — I understand why they did it, and it is not by itself evidence of sociopathy.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                > I’ve cited here before the
                > contention, backed up by
                > psychologists, that a CEO
                > is a reasonably normal
                > career path for a psychopath.

                This is the trap, thank you for falling into it 🙂

                The psychopath test as originally written was applied to a closed audience of prison inmates. Hare has written a lot of literature about psychopathy, and only just recently about psychopaths outside the criminal justice system. He’s also written a few nonfiction popular management books, based upon his research, which have a nice collection of really bad reporting attached to them. That’s to be expected, Hannibal Lecter in the Boardroom sounds like a great lead-in line, don’t it?

                If you want copies of his peer-reviewed papers, I’ll pass them along.

                Here’s the list.

                State your case, succinctly, and then build your case using peer-reviewed literature, please (hint: you can’t).

                So far we have very limited studies showing us that the vast preponderance of people who are chosen for management grooming (note the population selection problem there) are perfectly freaking normal. The mean score was 3.64 (whereas the mean score among prison inmates is 22).

                Of the abnormal ones, 3.9% (again, of the sample studied, which is obviously loaded with all sorts of potential bias) scored higher than 30 on the test, compared to 15% in the prison sample.

                Jumping to a community comparison, the corporate sample actually scored *lower* (2.17 rather than 2.67) on the adjusted mean when compared to the general population.

                The corporate sample did have a 5.9 to 1.2% “advantage” when it came to scores higher than 30.

                Now, *I* look at all that data and say two things. One, we don’t know much at this point that we can say with any degree of definitiveness, at all … and two, leadership cadres in business correlate both higher and lower on the freaky-nutty scale than the average joe on the street; there are more *less abnormal* people making up the vast majority of corporate managers, and a couple of outliers that are *more freaky* than the freaks in the general population… but certainly still *nowhere* near the spread that you see among, yanno, actual criminals.

                Oh, and of course my usual third thing: popular reporting of science is REALLY REALLY BAD.

                In any event, this doesn’t do enough heavy lifting to get you to “most billionaires are psychopaths”, which is where you need to be before you start throwing out all these blanket “they”, “them” and other group phenomena statements you’ve made, here.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Patrick, this is an awesome comment.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeowch. Obviously the sorts of people who study abnormal psychology among billionaires don’t tend towards careers in research. After all, what kind of billionaire sits in an MRI machine for an hour?

                I’m not surprised that the “management training” people aren’t pulling in many sociopaths. I’d figure for a low-ranking position, you’d want a bully instead (who better to force teh shmucks to call more people and rip them off…).

                Okay, so we’re at a bit of an impasse, as the research that has been conducted on billionaires is not getting published ($$$).

                Shall I construct an argument then? Soemone who is not sociopathic would not willingly create a system that would harm many people — or at least would not do so without thinking of the consequences, and perhaps doing something to mitigate them. I can cite numerous examples of corporate CEOs creating conditions that were certain to harm people. It may indeed be a leap of faith that they did not think of the consequences — but I think not too far of one. It is quite possible to have a surviving, even thriving company, without extracting as much profit per quarter as possible.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                … how the hell does fortune get on pubmed? srsly?
                http://bizsmarter.com/Portals/26/Jerry%20Useem%20-%20Leadership%20styles.pdf

                figured you might find this interesting…Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                > Okay, so we’re at a bit of an
                > impasse, as the research that
                > has been conducted on
                > billionaires is not getting
                > published ($$$).

                I suspect that sample populations are probably more of a pernicious problem than money, actually. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use existing research to construct an argument. It just means that we have to be very explicit about what we can say definitively, and what the limitations are (not much and a whole bunch).

                Okay, it was a sucker-punch. But I *told* you I was gonna!

                > I’d figure for a low-ranking
                > position, you’d want a bully
                > instead

                Point of fact, no you don’t. Kim, have you ever read any business literature? There’s reams of stuff on how not to hire or promote assholes, and why not.

                You can argue that this is what happens anyway, of course. But this is not what people are routinely *trained* to do.

                > Soemone who is not sociopathic
                > would not willingly create a
                > system that would harm many
                > people — or at least would not
                > do so without thinking of the
                > consequences, and perhaps
                > doing something to mitigate
                > them.

                Okay, here’s an argument I can wrap my head around without a well-formed scientific basis.

                Immediate counterexamples: every form of government ever, every organized religion, and just about any human organization bigger than 5 people that has lasted past three changes of leadership.

                Sure, people have made attempts to mitigate harm in all of those cases. Well, they’ve done it in corporations, too. I see no pervasive design of malice in corporate constructs.

                Look, I’m *not* a pro-corporate guy, aiight? I think there’s lots of problems with human organizations (generally), and in practice, in today’s socio-political-economic engine, there are particular problems that occur in corporate governance. There are likewise big problems with income disparity and wealth disparity and a host of other things that I can go on about (and have, before, elsewhere around these parts).

                But I’m not really an anti-corporate guy, either, because human organizations are inherently stuffed with flaws (see, government, too), so the question has to take into account what you’re getting out of it, generally, vs. what you’re putting into it. And for all the self-serving crud that corporations and CEOs have done since 1900, there have been a lot of public goods out the other end as well.

                There are 1,210 billionaires in the world, according to Forbes. Just looking at the list, most of these guys don’t know any of these other guys and of the ones that do, they probably don’t like each other very much. There is nothing to indicate even a likely correlation with them being mental aberrants.

                The idea that they’re acting in concert to do anything is… well, it’s not compelling.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                1) lack of research subjects indeed! (I’d also say that the research that does go on, is likely making someone a bit of money. But wallstreet has oodles of cash to throw at things.)
                2) Why, yes, I did walk into your sucker punch!
                3) You’re reading this way too much as corporations in general. It’s one thing to look at Walmart’s stolen intellectual property, on which they’ve built an empire. It’s another to talk about Joe Random Businessowner.
                4) There are severe issues with corporate boards being buddy-buddy, and everyone making sure that their friends get permanent jobs as CEOs. Pretty sure you can get that by looking at boards (or by finding some crap ceos, and watching them get transferred to and fro).

                Once you get enough cash-rich people moving in a general direction, the odds of them meeting up and knowing each other become fairly high.
                http://old.mediatransparency.org/conservativephilanthropy.php

                Now, add in that CFG is basically funneling Saudi money into American elections… and the odds of these people colluding to do something go up.

                You’ll note, in looking at those, that most of them fit the profile of “wealth preservers” not “wealth producers” — sons and daughters of actually smart people.

                We’re seeing a movement to bring back debtor’s prisons…
                http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/06/jail-for-unpaid-debt-a-reality-in-six-states-strategic-default-pushback-watch.html
                http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/07/15/americas-new-debtor-prison-jail-time-being-given-to-those-who/ [… they’re quoting scabs in this article. says something when people who don’t even pay minimum wage to their employees (and are proud of it!) are bitching about “free labor”]Report

          • Avatar wardsmith in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            @North, the “poor” in the western world are about 100 times better off than the “real” poor in the rest of the world and you know it. The only people who can manage to die of want and neglect in this country are the mentally ill and suicidal. I’ve been to much of the 3rd world, it ain’t a pretty picture out there. Those are REAL dead men in the streets, not just your dead strawmen.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to wardsmith
              Ignored
              says:

              And what strawman are you objecting to Ward? I’ve reread your complaint a couple times and still can’t figure what it is you’re objecting to so I can only assume you’ve misread me.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                Umm, this strawman: that the removal of state safety nets would allow the bottom rung of the social ladder to resume their historic habit of dying from need and want
                The /truly/ bottom rung of our society is going to die from need and want no matter how big the safety net is, because they are mentally ill and suicidal. Take a close look at your generic homeless person. Either they are “on the streets” because their boyfriend/girlfriend kicked them out (what do you call a bass player without a girlfriend? homeless), or they are batshit crazy as Jaybird so eloquently puts it. Just like the politicians claiming all the Vietnam vets were living under bridges, when there are tons of safety nets available for them. Either that was hyperbole (not unlikely) or the ones under bridges want to be under bridges and not in hospitals or wherever else their mental illness could be treated – free.

                I’ll grant another lowest rung might be illegal aliens, but they’re here trying to work and can return as easily as turning themselves in to the nearest federale. The fact they stick around points more to the bad conditions at home than their own feelings about current conditions here. I’ve been all over Mexico, I’ve seen dead people on the street in little villages (less) and big cities (often). Mexico’s safety net is the USA.

                Even with dipsticks like we’ve got running things, we’re still a mighty wealthy nation so dead folks on our streets are junkies, not dirt poor peons.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Wardsmith, that doesn’t seem to have any relation to your preceding shorter paragraph as I read it but no matter. It’s a good concern and well worth addressing.

                Even the junkies and mentally disturbed on the streets right now make not inconsiderable use of the safety nets that government provides at the very least in terms of free warm jail cells with meals as well as various other government provided (or privately provided and government subsidized) services like shelters to sleep in during especially cold nights and so on and so forth. I certainly would never claim that the current system fails no one (and I’ve been vigorously castigated by my leftward brethren for it).
                How this impacts the overall point, however, seems to me to strengthen it rather than weaken it. In our current safety-net system only the truly unhinged and addled are in significant danger of dying from want and need. We know that this was not the case prior to those safety nets being implemented despite multiple incidences of significant economic growth. My skepticism that the removal of statist welfare would result in private charities filling that gap equally or even more effectively remains, well, skeptical.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                I wish they’d use fucking jail cells. around here they use ER beds. which are fucking expensive. If only they had some sort of medical personnel in the jail, we could send them over there for a good sleep and three hots.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                Also you seem to be reading some sort of criticism of the US into this which seems unwarranted since I haven’t been levelling one. Mike and I were discussing human nature in general, not any specific nations policies.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                … not even the 8year old who died from a toothache? Our country has much more of a problem with systemic rape (see Alaska and indian reservations), imo.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Deamonte Driver had coverage. He had Medicaid.

                The problem was, depending on who you ask, whether there are enough dentists who take Medicaid in his part of town or whether he had a parent who was a good enough parent to take him to a dentist who could have helped him.

                He had coverage though.

                He didn’t die from lack of coverage.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Re-researching, it looks like the Medicaid lapsed because the mother didn’t fill out the paperwork.

                She suspects that it was mailed to her old house after she moved.

                Which is a troublesome problem, to be sure, but it’s not one where society didn’t do enough to help.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                … or, you say like I do — you had a good kid, who kept shut about a problem, because his mom had more to worry about than fixing his pesky old tooth.

                Knowing someone who illegally got jobs as a kid (was worried about his parents’ finances), I find that the most likely scenario.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                There is no perfect safety net Kim as there is no perfect anything that involves people in this real world. People will fall through the cracks. They certainly do in the more liberal western countries as well.Report

  22. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    “Okay, so show me an implementation of the idea that isn’t a bad one.”

    See, what’s going to happen here is that I’ll present something, and you’ll say “oh well OBVIOUSLY this could happen and then where would you be? (crosses arms) (smug grin)”

    Because you refuse to understand what I’m saying. You still insist that as long as you can invent a scenario where the desired result does not occur, that you’ve made an argument against a process that aspires to that result.

    “I’m not saying, “I’ve never seen a black swan, ergo there aren’t any.” ”

    True; what you are saying is “your goose-plucking system fails when it encounters a black swan, therefore we shouldn’t try to pluck geese

    “We’re talking policy here, not theory after all. What specific policy do you think can be implemented to provide a restriction on welfare behavior that you’re confident *will work*?”

    Not allowing welfare-check money to be used for certain items. “Oh but they can just trade!” Yeah, and someone can smash my window with a sledgehammer, but that’s not an argument against locking my door.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck
      Ignored
      says:

      > See, what’s going to happen here is that I’ll
      > present something, and you’ll say “oh well
      > OBVIOUSLY this could happen and then
      > where would you be?

      Okay, so you’re conceding the point? I mean, if I can that trivially poke a hole in your proposal, doesn’t that imply that your proposal is probably stupid? Sounds like you don’t think you can jump over this bar.

      > Because you refuse to understand what
      > I’m saying. You still insist that as long
      > as you can invent a scenario where the
      > desired result does not occur, that you’ve
      > made an argument against a process
      > that aspires to that result.

      Okay, you’re not conceding the point.

      Yes, that’s right. I’ve made *an* argument against *a* process that aspires to that result. Not an argument against all processes that aspire to any result.

      However, if I can keep doing that iteratively against classes of processes that aspire to certain types of results, trivially, then I’d generally argue that the class of processes has no grounds to be considered reasonably feasible.

      There is a trivial way for you to falsify this proposal: show me a system that works. “There might be one out there somewhere” is an argument for flying pink unicorns. I regard flying pink unicorns as sufficiently unlikely to disregard the possibility. I don’t feel compelled in any way to defend this position. You keep saying that I’m wrong because they might be out there.

      Okay, so give me some. Sort. Of. Evidence. To back up. Your belief. Otherwise, you’re operating on faith. If that’s the case, go ahead, I’m done here.

      > True; what you are saying is “your goose-
      > plucking system fails when it encounters
      > a black swan, therefore we shouldn’t try
      > to pluck geese”

      No, I’m not. I’m saying that *you* want a goose plucking system, but you won’t put your money where your mouth is and tell me how it works. I’m saying that it won’t work because of the nature of geese. You’re then saying that I don’t understand what you want. I perfectly understand what you want. I don’t think you can build it. And the fact that you won’t even presuppose to pro-offer a design tells me that you think I’m right, you’re just too stubborn to admit it.

      > Yeah, and someone can smash my window
      > with a sledgehammer, but that’s not an
      > argument against locking my door.

      Actually, that is an argument against locking your door if everyone carries a sledgehammer and nobody blinks twice at the sound of broken glass. Anybody who wants to break into your car who isn’t already deterred by the social opprobrium isn’t going to be deterred by a security system that doesn’t raise the barrier to the behavior any.

      Point of fact, locking your door, when those conditions cannot exist, might still be a good idea. That’s not the problem we have, though, dude, so your analogy don’t work.

      Buying a door lock that costs more than your car is still stupid. Buying a door lock that protects your car that doesn’t cost more than your car can still be stupid. Buying a door lock for a car with no roof is stupid! Buying a door lock for a car when all locks use the same key is stupid!

      Tell me *why* you think you have a reasonably secure door, and a reasonably secure key!

      Security only works when it provides sufficient deterrent, or sufficient up front cost, to render the underlying activity undesirable *enough* to shift the behavior.

      If you’re making a case for a security system, it’s up to you to put the goddamn thing on the table.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Patrick Cahalan
        Ignored
        says:

        “There is a trivial way for you to falsify this proposal: show me a system that works.”

        Let’s go back to your initialstatement.

        “[A]lmost any attempt to quantify limits on someone who is getting welfare is going to do precisely nothing to cut down on people using their welfare (or, by proxy, the free cash that they can find because they’re on welfare) to buy or do anything they want to do that is self destructive. And almost any practical scheme to limit these things is going to (a) waste a lot of time and resources checking on people who would follow the rules anyway (b) not do a good job of catching the people who *wouldn’t* follow the rules anyway and (c) catch people who don’t deserve to be caught.”

        In other words, “welfar for specific purposes will never work, and even if it does then it’ll work badly.”

        How can I possibly argue against that? Any scenario I present will either be “oh well that doesn’t work, just like I said” or “oh well that works badly, just like I said“. I mean, even in the situation where a suggested welfare system doesn’t have any cheats at all, you can retreat to “oh well everyone still has to jump through a lot of useless hoops, just like I said.”

        ****

        “Actually, that is an argument against locking your door if everyone carries a sledgehammer and nobody blinks twice at the sound of broken glass.”

        *sigh* See, this is why I refuse to engage. It’s because no matter what I do, you’ll invent some insane scenario that wasn’t part of the original discussion and say “see? SEE? This PROVES that your system DOESN’T WORK!”

        “I’m saying that *you* want a goose plucking system, but you won’t put your money where your mouth is and tell me how it works. I’m saying that it won’t work because of the nature of geese.”

        If you’re going to insist that “what if everyone has a sledgehammer and nobody cares if they smash your windows” represents the nature of society, then we’re done, because it’s impossible to have a discussion with someone who insists that I’m wrong because my plan won’t work in the fantasy scenario they just invented.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply