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Monday, February 10, 2014

Lots of little gems

A recent Michael Barone column about Obamacare is full of little gems.  First there is the subtitle:
The Washington elites who designed the law must be bewildered: Why doesn't everyone behave as they do?
I think that speaks for itself as a common state of most statists.  He then gives attention to three assumptions about the health insurance market that aren't holding up very well.

He concludes with highly relevant cultural and historical perspectives:
But policies that work well in Scandinavia or Minnesota and North Dakota won't necessarily work well in a wider United States, where a much larger proportion of people are socially disconnected.

And such policies may not work as well as they might have in the United States of the 1950s and early 1960s, in which disconnectedness was much less common. That was an America in what I call the Midcentury Moment, a period when World War II and unexpected postwar prosperity produced a conformist and (mostly) culturally homogeneous nation with low rates of divorce and single parenthood, and high rates of social connectedness. A nation accustomed to a universal military draft and wage-and-price controls, and in which increasing numbers worked for giant firms and were members of giant labor unions, probably would have been more amenable to a centralized command-and-control policy like ObamaCare than the culturally fragmented America of today.

In the long run of American history, the Midcentury Moment was just that—a moment, an exception, not the rule. We have been in some sense a multicultural nation from our colonial beginnings. The Founding Fathers, seeking to unite Puritan New England, Anglican Virginia, Dutch New York and Quaker Pennsylvania with the Scots-Irish warriors on the Appalachian frontier, determined that the federal government would impose no religious test for office and make no law regarding a religious establishment. They provided for a limited central government and a wide free-trade zone in which local cultures could prevail, local preachers could convert, and local entrepreneurs could innovate. 

ObamaCare cuts against this grain. The trouble that has resulted—from the architects' apparent failures to anticipate the behavior of fellow citizens who don't share their approach to the world, and the architects' determination to impose their mores, such as contraception coverage, on a multicultural nation—is a lesson to national policy makers, conservative as well as liberal. Govern lightly if you want to govern this culturally diverse nation well.
Not only are we culturally different from other places, we are to some extent different from ourselves.  Some of the conflicts are a continuation of the English Civil War.  Wherever you wish to place the roots of such conflict, we will not get along if there are no limits on the things we must all do together.


Anonymous said...

the architects' determination to impose their mores, such as contraception coverage

I think that's the real key here. In many (most?) ways POR-care is about imposing a pattern of behavior and lifestyle on the bitter clingers. It's not about insurance, or health care, those are just pretexts. Coercing people to conform to the architects vision of society is the actual goal.

Of course, there's no shortage of delusional views of American society, such as rigid class structure but that's just incompetence piled on top of the basic effort.

Howard said...


Yes, control, control, control seems to be the key aspect.

Hey Skipper said...

[AOG:] I think that's the real key here. In many (most?) ways POR-care is about imposing a pattern of behavior and lifestyle on the bitter clingers.

I disagree.

Socialism is, first and foremost, about equality of outcome. For example, it isn't fair that women pay more for healthcare simply because they consume more of it. It isn't fair that older people pay more for healthcare than younger people.

That isn't easy to refute, because it is axiomatically based: you can't help into which gender you are born; everyone lucky enough gets old.

So that is how they get there. Striving for equality of outcome is inevitably antagonistic to (among other things) civil institutions and freedom.

Equality of opportunity inevitably amounts to, at some point, "suck it up, buttercup."

So I'm not sure control is the key aspect, but rather the emergent result.

Which isn't a defense of the ACA, or socialism, but rather an acknowledgment that socialism, in theory, is seductive.

Too bad about the whole "in practice" thing.

Clovis e Adri said...


On "equality of opportunity", maybe you'd like to read this interview:

It can serve both sides of the issue: one could argue it shows how ludicrous are govt. interventions. Or, someone else could argue it means govt. should do much, much more.

On visions to deal with inequality, the architects went Global. Maybe you would like to hear about this new book defending the idea of "global progressive tax on wealth":

Great, I am absolutely in favor of coercing AOG to pay more taxes in order to diminish the equality down here in Brazil. Yup!! :-)

Bret said...

"...we will not get along if there are no limits on the things we must all do together."

Divided we stand, united we fall. The founders said that about religion, ideology of governance is a type of religion. Therefore, the more we unite and centralize government, the closer we push ourselves to collapse.


On the rare chance that anyone here misses me, it's the middle of grape vine pruning season and we're working around the clock with our robotic pruner. That'll continue until approximately March 20th and I'll be pretty much unavailable for blogging and commenting until then.

erp said...

I noticed you were missing, but just assumed, as a 1%er, you were away in some exotic locale enjoying a life of luxury and ease and not worrying about the small vexations that keep the rest of us amused.

I hope you will post some photos of your amazing robot in action?

Hey Skipper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hey Skipper said...


Interesting article — thanks for pointing it out.

The problems with socialism are that equality of outcome is an anti-human goal, it produces worse outcomes the closer it gets to equality of outcome, rewards vice while penalizing virtue, and requires massive denial of freedom in the attempt.

In contrast, equality of opportunity, while (as the article points out) is also an impossible goal, the steps in its direction are towards greater simplicity, rather than compounding complexity.

It is simpler not to exclude blacks, or women, or [fill in group name here] on account of they are blacks, or women or [fill in group name here], then it is to ensure equal outcomes for all those groups. Further, emphasizing the individual instead of the collective — which eliminating groupist thinking does — produces better results: less group antagonism, and a closer approximation to meritocracy rather than a spoils system. So, true enough, equal opportunity is an unattainable goal, but it is far more attainable, and at less cost, than equality of outcome.

I had already read the Edsall column. It reconfirms my opinion that he is incapable of anything remotely approaching analytical thought (which is practically a pre-requisite to appear on the NYT op ed page), and that Piketty will choose anything to advance collectivism (that a French newspaper would find it "a political and theoretical bulldozer" must qualify as the bottom story of the day). I had already teed off on Piketty here.

In particular, this is bollocks: … when pay setters set their own pay, there’s no limit. Really? Tim Cook could set his pay at $700B per year? Well, probably not, since Apple's revenue for 2013 is around $150B. So clearly, there is some limit.

What Piketty is doing, and Edsall is slobbering over, is progressives second favorite indoor sport (behind 2-minutes hate): providing a conclusion without an argument. A pure market economy could very well have more inequality, but market economies are not zero sum games. It is entirely possible that there could be both greater inequality, and richer poor people. The unprovided argument is why to focus on inequality at the exclusion of everything else. Further unprovided is the argument that it is more moral for government to expropriate gains for which it made no effort or took no risk.

Also, this stuck out: The [ILO] reported recently that the number of unemployed grew by 5 million from 2012 to 2013, reaching nearly 202 million by the end of last year. It is projected to grow to 215 million by 2018. Besides the fact that projections are not reality, as the IPCC keeps re-proving, it is an excellent example of progressive innumeracy: the world's population increased by 75 million between 2012 and 2013. If the world's unemployment rate is a mere 7%, then it should come as no surprise there are 5 million more unemployed.

Edsall thereby proves his already sufficiently demonstrated bogosity by trotting a numerator while ignoring the denominator.

Mathematical incontinences makes it is a lot easier to be a progressive.

Hey Skipper said...

I noticed you were missing, but just assumed, as a 1%er, you were away in some exotic locale enjoying a life of luxury and ease and not worrying about the small vexations that keep the rest of us amused.

Coincidentally, I am going to be gone for a couple weeks engaged in serious work with the goal of benefitting both myself and the economy.

Hahahahahahahahaha. (Wipes tears from eyes.)

Actually, today TOSWIPIAW and I are skiving off to Costa Rica for a couple vexation free weeks.

erp said...

... taking a grateful nation's best wishes with you. Have fun and post some pictures.