My enlightening dinner with Blue State liberals

Dinner party

I had the opportunity the other day to dine with a collection of Blue State liberals.  It was enlightening, not because I actually learned anything from them, but because I learned about them.  It was also a reminder of how far I’ve traveled ideologically, because I used to be one of them.  Looking at them, I don’t regret my journey.

Most of the evening, of course, was idle chitchat, without any political ramifications.  Inevitably, though, politics and ideological issues cropped up.  I’ll just run down a few topics.

Antisemitism in higher education:

I was told in no uncertain terms that Columbia University cannot be antisemitic because it’s in New York.  My offer to produce evidence to support my thesis was rebuffed.  For those of you who, unlike Blue State liberals, feel that facts are valuable, these links support my contention that, New York address notwithstanding, Columbia is in thrall to Palestinian activists and BDS derangement:

100 Columbia professors demand divestment from Israel

Professors preach antisemitism from the Columbia pulpit

Columbia professor Joseph Massad, a one man antisemitism machine

Columbia students delighted at the opportunity to dine with Ahmadinejad

And of course, there’s simply the fact that Columbia is one of the more ideologically Left schools, although that wouldn’t have bothered my dinner companions.

The effect of taxes on investment:

One of my dinner companions is a successful investment analyst.  I asked him if he’d been hearing about any effects flowing from the Obamacare medical device tax.  “No, of course not.  It’s — what?  — a two percent tax.  That’s not going to make a difference to anybody.”  Again, my offer of contrary data was rejected, because it was obviously Fox News propaganda, never mind that it’s not from Fox News.  Stephen Hay, at Power Line, neatly summarizes a Wall Street Journal article predicated on actual investment data:

Today in my Constitutional Law class I’ll be taking up the famous case of McCulloch v. Maryland, the bank case from 1819 in which Chief Justice John Marshall observed that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy,” which immediately set my mind to thinking about . . . Obamacare.  Obamacare’s medical device tax—a tax not on profits remember, but on revenues—is doing its destructive work already.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that “Funding Dries Up for Medical Startups,” noting that “Investment in the medical-device and equipment industry is on pace to fall to $2.14 billion this year, down more than 40% from 2007 and the sharpest drop among the top five industry recipients of venture funding.”  It seems we have to relearn every few years (such as the luxury boat tax of 1990, swiftly repealed when it killed the boat-building industry) the basic lesson that Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan taught us: tax something and you get less of it.  Especially when you tax it like Obamacare, where the tax significantly reduces the after-tax return to investors.

When a 2% tax is on after-tax returns, and it targets a specific industry, surprisingly it does make a big difference to people.  Right now, the difference is at the investment level, but soon it will be at the consumer level, as consumers are less likely than ever before to see life-changing inventions such as the insulin pump or the cochlear implant.

American healthcare compared to other Western countries:  Everybody agreed that America has the worst health care compared to those countries with socialized medicine.  Britain doesn’t count, my fellow dinners told me, because it’s “chosen” to offer bad health care.  My attempts to talk about freedom of choice, market competition, declining government revenue, cost-based decisions to deny treatment to whole classes of patients, etc., were rudely brushed aside.  “That’s just Fox News propaganda.”  Likewise, the liberals also dismissed as “Fox News propaganda” my statement that the studies they’re relying on have as their metric availability of coverage, rather than quality of outcome. I therefore wasn’t surprised when they equally rudely dismissed me when I said that a recent study showed that America has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world.

Since I know that you’d never be that rude, let me just quote Avik Roy, who actually studies the numbers:

It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.


The problem, of course, is that there are many factors that affect life expectancy. One is wealth. It’s gross domestic product per capita, and not health-care policy, that correlates most strongly to life expectancy. Gapminder has produced many colorful charts that show the strong correlation between wealth and health.


If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

[chart omitted]

U-S-A! U-S-A! What’s just as interesting is that Japan, the country that tops the overall life expectancy tables, finished in the middle of the pack on cancer survival.

I’m not doing justice Roy’s article with these snippets, so I urge you to read the whole thing.  Suffice to say that my companions were uninterested in data that ran counter to their narrative.

The racist inside every liberal:  My dinner companions did concede that culture is a factor in health care, although they stopped short of admitting (as they should have) that a country as diverse as America will never be able to counter cultural differences with socialized medicine.  (Or, rather, they couldn’t admit that it would take overwhelming government coercion to do so.)

One of the guests described a patient with a treatable disorder — i.e., one that could be controlled with a carefully regimented plan of medicine and treatment — who was too disorganized to follow the treatment.  As a result, this person ended up in the emergency room one to two times a month, at great cost to the system.  The healthcare provider finally hired a minimum wage worker to remind the patient to take the medicines and to drive the patient to the hospital.  Another guests said, “Black, right?”  The person who told the story said, “I can’t tell you that, but probably.”  They snickered companionably over the fact that blacks are just too dumb to care for themselves.

Another way of looking at it, though, was that this patient did fine:  The patient didn’t have to fuss with drugs (and their side-effects), got emergency treatment on an as-needed basis, and ended up having a dedicated employee to detail with the finicky little details of disease maintenance.  Who’s snickering now?

The power that maintains slavery:  One of the people at the dinner was a student studying American history.  The curriculum had reached the Civil War.  The student asked a good question:  “I don’t get how the slaves let themselves stay that way.  After all, they outnumbered the whites.”  Good point.  The liberal dinner guests started mumbling about systems, and complexity, and psychology.  And I do mean mumbling.  They didn’t offer data.  They just mouthed buzzwords such as “it’s complex,” or “you have to understand the system,” or “well, there’s a psychology there.”  I interrupted:  “The slave owners were armed.  The slaves were denied arms.  The side with weapons, even if it’s smaller in number, wins.”  To my surprise, none of the liberals in the room had anything to add.

The food was good and my dinner companions were periodically interesting and charming, so the dinner wasn’t a total loss.  Nevertheless, I found dismaying the arrogant ignorance that powers their engines.  All I could think of was my own blog’s motto:  “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”  That was my dinner in a nutshell.

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  • Simplemind

    The side with weapons, even if it’s smaller in number, wins.”  To my surprise, none of the liberals in the room had anything to add.
    A delightful coda to your insightful comment above would have been to point out that the NRA was actually founded post civil war by two Union Generals for the express purpose of preventing Black Americans from being disarmed in the South.    Your liberal co diners would not have been able to keep their dinner down.
    It is a deeply rooted in all of us to appreciate the fallen nature of existence and to desire a better world.  It seems however, a unique reaction of progressives to imagine the world as they want it to be and then act upon their imagination as if it were reality.  

  • Charles Martel

    Snickering at blacks “who are too dumb to care for themselves” shows incredible ingratitude. After all, if liberals didn’t have blacks on the Democratic plantation to look down upon, what other basis would they have for feeling superior?  

  • Michael Adams

    Actually, startlingly, many slaves did indeed own guns. Archeological digs behind the sites of old slave quarters, for example, turn up dozens of worn out gun parts.  Most slaves were rural, and had to provide their own food.  Game is still a part of the diet in the rural South, more so a  hundred and fifty years ago.  In 1863, the Louisiana legislature, worried about an insurrection, passed a bill to disarm the slaves. Since rural areas are delightfully anarchistic, few weapons were actually seized.
    What kept slaves in place was the old security versus insecurity balance. Very bad things could happen in slavery, but the worst was being sold away from friends and family. Running away could produce the same very sad result. The young adult/adolescent who was strongest and most able to run away was the one who would have been leaving parents and, soon enough, small children. About twenty years ago, my friend Lillie and I were in a Bible study group, doing the Book of Exodus. When we got to the part about Moses asking Pharaoh for leave to take his people three days’ journey into the desert to worship their God, another member of the group hooted with laughter at the very idea that Pharaoh would allow such a thing. I explained, and Lillie, the great grand daughter of slaves, fully understood, that every slave got up in the morning and made his peace with life and got on with living it. The slave-owning individuals and corporations understood that it was in their interest not to interfere with that peace. Fogel and Engermann, in Time on the Cross found that this understanding of the balance was common enough, that selling slaves away, for example, was fairly rare, because it led to  slaves running away, trying to get to or back to the lost loved one.
    The reason that this is important is the same reason that Conservatives always have for learning history, to understand the present, and try for a better future. We are not, as Marx had it, “wage slaves.” The choice to work or starve is there for everyone who does not steal his food from someone else. Rather, we need always to understand what really keeps us in bad situations, most notably jobs, but also academic programs, Leftist communities, to cite a couple of other examples. Usually, we are held in place because we love people.  My reason for working at a job that is not always fascinating or even pleasant is that it is the difference in my wife and children living in a pleasant and comfortable house or under a bridge. Strategies for improvement always have to begin with the basics of why.  Since I do not plan to gain my freedom by ceasing to love, I have to find a way for us to be comfortable, all together, but elsewhere, with lower housing costs and taxes. My guess would be that Book’s anchor would be the children’s schools, and now, of course, their friends.  Understanding the real weights holding us in place is the beginning of gaining our freedom.

  • Murray Lawrence

    In 1960, my father spent a month in Soviet Russia with his sister and other members of his family that had survived  the genocides of Hitler and Stalin. When he returned, he tried to tell his old lefty cronies what he had seen and heard while he was there. He told me that none of them believed anything that he said. I asked him what he thought of their response and what could possibly account for it. All he said was, “I can’t blame them. I used to be blind myself.”

  • Murray Lawrence

    Anything that he said about the Soviet regime, of course.

  • Gringo

    My own blog’s motto:  “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”
    Which reminds me of one of my first apostasies from the liberal catechism. Some 3 decades ago, after working in Latin America, I enrolled in grad school. I was discussing income taxes with my roommate. I said that with the high inflation in the ’70s and early ’80’s, you could be kicked up into a higher tax bracket without any real change in income. [Pre Reagan tax reform.] “That’s a very right-wing thing to say,” was the response of my roommate. Of course, at that stage in his life he had never had to pay much in the way of income tax.  These days he  is a Studies professor, so you know he hasn’t done much evolving in his political views.
    I thought to myself, if  logically dealing with the facts is labeled right-wing, so be it.
    Interesting that many of the Blue State Liberals came up with “Fox News propaganda” to dismiss arguments. Of course, the NYT, MSNBC, and the like never dish out propaganda. Just the facts, ma’am. Yeah.

  • Navy Bob

    The medical device tax is particularly harmful because it is based on gross revenues.  So a small company with one or two products that is just getting started and making no money,  probably losing money, still has to pay a 2% tax on the sales of their new medical device.  Is it any wonder the WSJ reports funding is drying up for those type of companies?

  • Ymarsakar

    You should think of yourself as a spy, Book, an infiltrator. I don’t think we need people challenging their views so much as feeding us the inside info on what their plans are and what their propaganda defenses are.
    That will give us all a better look at how the enemy thinks and how to counter act their zombies.

  • David Foster

    Murray Lawrence…Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, had some insightful observations about this phenomenon:
    Koestler on closed systems

  • Charles Martel

    Ymarsakar, Book was in with a group of upper middle-class liberals who let NPR, Jon Leibowitz, and the New York Times do their thinking for them. She was not seated among members of an elite leftist power clique. I think it’s obvious that the people she dined with have no plans that involve anything beyond duckspeaking, and that their defenses against propaganda consist of “I can’t hear you!” There’s really nothing any more sophisticated to them than that.

  • David Foster

    The slaveowners were armed: they also controlled communications (writing) and transportation (horses), hence, they  could concentrate forces against any localized outbreak of slave resistance….it was much more difficult for slaves to coordinate their activities.

  • Murray Lawrence

    David Foster – Thanks. One of the best studies of closed systems of thought that I have found is Eric Voegelin’s little book on science, politics, and gnosticism. That may be the title, in fact. 

  • erisguy

    An enlightened citizenry is a myth. The real outcome of an education, especially at an elite school, is posturing, posing, and smugness: a new nobility. With any luck, we’ll have a French-style or Soviet-style revolution, because we have abandoned the American one.

  • Earl

    Bookworm, you’re “a better man” than I am to sit there for the entire meal and conversation.
    I cannot IMAGINE spending time with groups of morons of the type you describe.  I’m not nearly so good at keeping my mouth shut as you are, I guess.  It’s really difficult to hear c**p being served up and to say little in refutation.
    It’s a character flaw, I suspect…and it has resulted in a certain number of people who don’t want me around.  Somehow, I don’t miss them much.

  • Bill C

    If you ever decide to have a dinner with people who follow your blog I hope to be included in the invitation. 

  • Bill C

    BTW.  Your story reminded me of this movie.

  • Ymarsakar

    “There’s really nothing any more sophisticated to them than that.”
    It’s precisely because they are not spiritual leaders and propaganda generators, that it is important to collect information from the bottom up. The sophistication is in the data analysis and gathering methods. A highly trained operative or spiritual cult leader like Obama, can utilize deception protocols. Those at the bottom merely regurgitate what’s actually going on in their organization and will have a higher likelihood of presenting accurate data.
    When scientists conduct experiments on rats, they do not expect the rats to process the medicine, variables, and give them the right conclusion.

  • Danny Lemieux

    To borrow from Iowahawk, Liberals all know how to bark on command like well-trained circus seals, but that doesn’t mean that their utterances represent anything of substance.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Small Dead Animals has a superb link to Ben Shapiro (Breitbart) giving solid advice on “How to argue with Liberals”.
    I think that he is right: one needs to frame their opponent RIGHT AWAY! For Liberals, my reaction to being calling names like homophobe, racist, mysogenist, Tea Partier…etc. ..(OK, the last one is tongue in cheek) is to label them demagogues.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Sorry, “misogynist”

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  • Ymarsakar

    “but that doesn’t mean that their utterances represent anything of substance.”
    Data analysis and intel gathering does not always depend upon things of substance. It can use society, social engineering, rumors, and what people believe.
    It is a very narrow perspective to think a war requires substantiation of rumors for there to be an effect on the battlefield. The concept of a debate is in correct, in so far as it applies to a war. Because those two are very different conceptual foundations.
    As for slaves owning weapons, it was the commonly accepted practice that black slaves killing or harming a white person would be put down like rabid dogs. Thus it didn’t matter if they had guns or not in terms of what society thought of their behavior. Even if they were to use it in self defense or defense of their white master, if they harmed a white while doing so, they would have to be put down as a dangerous animal. Slavery’s problem wasn’t unequal distribution of power or rights, but the fact that humans weren’t recognized as being human. From it, flowed all else. Including disarmament, unequal treatment, and the war itself to liberate the slaves (still unfinished).
    One of the things Britain did was ban guns for self defense, but allowing it on the thin pretext that hunting would be okay. Thus reducing British subjects to little more than slave labor. You can hunt when you are told to by your master, but you cannot protect your life or anyone else’s. It’s not the policy itself that was the problem (Singapore and Japan both ban guns and blades and do so more effectively on a per capital level). It’s the fact that the regimes in Britain started treating humans as slave labor and livestock.