Arguing personalities in the last two weeks of this election cycle seems fruitless. For every argument we make about Obama’s being a corrupt narcissist, we hear back that Palin is a moose-hunting, tongue-speaking idiot. Mention Obama’s lack of experience and you hear about Palin’s lack of experience (although I find almost charming the fact that Democrats forget in this tit-for-tat argument that Palin is only running for Vice President, while Obama is aiming for the big chair). Mention McCain’s foreign policy experience, and you get the counter argument that Biden has foreign policy experience too (once again confusing the big chair with the back seat).
(As an aside, Biden’s current foreign policy “experience” has arisen in the form of a statement that is simultaneously an invitation to the world’s mad men to attack within the first six months of Obama’s presidency, and a scare-the-bejeesuz assessment of his running mate’s problems that should panic a lot of people who honestly assessed Obama’s inexperience, but were hoping that he’d grow in the job. If there is the crisis Biden predicts, Obama had better grow really, really, really fast. But that is an aside, because it’s another personality argument about both Obama’s inexperience and his running mate’s . . . I don’t know, what’s the word? Insanity? Naivete? Self-destructive streak? Foot-in-mouth disease? Hatred for America?)
Today, I’m going to eschew the focus on personalities and instead try to think the way I did driving with my friend in the car, when I got him to nod along with me as I described the virtues of less government intervention, not more. In this regard, it’s useful to examine situations in which the government has intervened, and then to try to determine whether government intervention improved or worsened the situation — and then to try to come up with alternative solutions.
Many people believe that health care is a fundamental right, and that everyone should have unlimited access to it without being forced to pay directly. They therefore believe that, because medicine is expensive, the burden for paying for it should be spread through America, with everyone contributing to and participating in a single system. In a nutshell, the medical system they envision would be “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
It sounds delightful. The problem is that, in those countries in which universal health care is practiced (or we could honestly call it “socialized medicine”), it works only so long as the country is flush with cash. In the golden years of European socialized medicine, when the economies were singing along (helped, in significant part by the part that America made defense spending by those nations entirely unnecessary), it really did seem like a good plan. The same holds true for Canada’s golden years.
Even in the good times, though, something interesting happened: the quality of the doctors slipped. Medicine is hard, hard work. The training takes years, and the life can be very tough physically — and that doesn’t even account for the mental toll of dealing with and taking responsibility for the sick and the dying.
In America, the best and the brightest gravitate to medicine because it pays well and is (still) a respected profession. In socialized medicine countries, though, where the pay is unexciting compared to the level of time, stress, and responsibilities required to train for and practice medicine, and where a doctor is a mere government drone, not a respected professional, the quality of medical students drops.
I know this sounds like an insult to the thousands of intelligent, hard-working doctors all over Europe and Canada, but facts are facts. The prestige is gone, and with it went many of the fair haired boys who made it a “special” profession. (Speaking of boys, one of the fascinating things about Soviet medicine is that it eventually became a woman-dominated job, because the pay and status were so low that men went elsewhere.)
The real problem, though, is when an economy surfeited with government programs stops generating enough taxes to pay the bills. Then the trouble begins, because the government starts rationing care. Already back during my sojourn in England during the early 1980s, the middle class was trying to buy private insurance to step outside of the system, because people could not get anything but the most basic medical care. I had two friends whose parents were confined to wheel chairs because they were on years’ long waiting lists for artificial hips.
Today, you can open any English or Canadian paper and, on a regular basis, you’ll hear about people pulling their own teeth, people being denied treatment because they tried to get care on the open market, people being told that they have a “duty to die” because they’re an unnecessary burden on the health care system, and people from countries all over the world heading to America, not for the luxury resort treatment offered in India, but for basic, high-quality health care. It’s that last point that’s the key point. Since we’re still a competitive market, our health care providers have every incentive to get better and better and better.
I think it’s pretty clear that the open market provides the best health care, and that government controlled systems offer the worst health care — and the most scary, in that the government decides that, while all patients are equal, some patients are more equal than others. That leaves the problem of expense. Honest people will admit, however, that the expense doesn’t derive so much from the health care itself as from the layers of insurance. The answer then, is to streamline insurance. McCain has the right idea when he calls for opening more competition amongst insurers. Standardizing forms would help too — which is an idea floated by Sashi McEntee, the Republican candidate for the California State Senate.
Even the forms aren’t the biggest problem, though. The biggest problem (and I have good information on this owing to contacts in my life) is regulations. That is, the biggest problem isn’t too little government; it’s too much government. Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies regularly wade through up to 1,600 state and federal regulations on the way to providing medical care and reimbursement to patients. The time wasted on this is enormous and I’m willing to bet that medical care wouldn’t suffer at all, or would suffer minimally, if the vast majority of these compliance requirements were wiped out completely. Certainly the cost of sustaining a practice or an insurance company would drop drastically.
Poverty. We don’t like it and we’ll love to get rid of it. People like me think that, while it’s impossible to get rid of poverty entirely (“ye have the poor always with you“), a thriving economy, which is one that has the maximum amount of money in the market and the minimum locked in the government, is the best way to deal with poverty. Unlike economists of old (and Marxist economists of today), we don’t believe that the economy is a finite pie (and Obama gives away his economic beliefs with his constant pie references) that only has so much to go around. If that were true, we’d still be living at medieval standards. Instead, we believe that the economy has pretty much infinite flexibility and that this benefits the maximum number of people.
Now, economic freedom has to be balanced with a few things: First, it needs honesty, and the government should step in to police dishonesty in the market. This doesn’t mean making ever more regulations that can trap the unwary. It does mean revisiting our entire marketing policy, figuring out the big “do nots” and then having the government come down on those hard. Everything else is a burden, slowing the movement of money.
Second, economic freedom has to be balanced with charity and mercy. Not all people are situated to maximize market opportunities, and many people simply have hard times, whether through their own failings or through sheer bad luck. In a diverse society, with large, anonymous cities, or even small, pride-filled small towns, individual charity is a good idea but it doesn’t always have the scope necessary. I like it as a first resort, but recognize that it may fail as a last resort.
Nevertheless, providing a safety net doesn’t mean creating a lifestyle. We’ve seen welfare and the devastation it created within the African-American community. The government, rather than simply removing obstacles in the way of black success (such as discriminatory employment, education and housing practices), decided simply to give away free money. Families dissolved, illegitimacy and drug-use skyrocketed, and generations of African-Americans lost sight of ambition, family, self-respect, etc.
So again, when it comes to helping ease poverty, I believe the answer lies, first, in open markets, kept honest by an aggressive government. And as to those who, for whatever reason have been barred from the market, the answer is not simply to hand out ever-increasing amounts of money. It’s to take those same government policing skills and make the market play fair by opening up to the group on the receiving end of discriminatory practices.
Some people believe in justice for the victim; others in justice for the criminal. While I believe in redemption, I also believe it’s usually accomplished by punishment first — and here is a story that can remind you of the power of true repentance and redemption. Ayers’ relationship with Obama would be a non-story if he had followed Gerry Charlotte Phelps’ path — radicalism to repentance — rather than boasting about his crimes and demanding that America change to match his Leftism. Perhaps if he’d actually served time for the crime, as Phelps’ did, he might have come out differently. In other words, it’s hard to repent and redeem yourself if everybody tells you, the criminal, that you’re actually the victim, and none of it was your fault.
Our criminal justice system has lots of problems, and they need to be addressed, but pretending that criminals aren’t responsible for their acts isn’t a solution, it’s just another problem.
I could do the same analysis for judges (should they legislate or shouldn’t they?), abortion (is it a federally protected privacy right or a matter for local governments), etc., but I have other things that demand my attention, so I’ll leave you to think through these arguments or include them in the comments section.
What it all boils down to is the fact that the above are fundamental belief systems applied to current political issues. I believe in the free market, free speech, individual responsibility, and the dangerous inherent in big government. Even if Obama was as honest as the summer’s day is long, and had experience unmatched by others in government, I still wouldn’t vote for him, because I disagree with everything for which he stands. And even if Palin were the idiot portrayed, I’d still vote for her, because her vision of government matches mine.
It’s not about the people involved, it’s about their plans for America.
UPDATE: Zimbabwe provides a stark reminder of what happens when government decides which of its citizens are more or less equal than others, and decides to redistribute what it views as a finite economic pie.
Sadly, though, there is a possibility that Americans have become so stupid that they’re going to get a socialist government even though they wouldn’t vote for it if they had the minimal intelligence to know what’s going on. In the latest NYT/CBS poll, voters favor Obama because they think McCain will raise taxes. What are these people? Dumb as stumps?