The Flight Disaster That Wasn’t

Back when Flight was on screen, I got in a run-in with one of the few remaining Libertarians on my Facebook friends list. What follows is a clip from J. Neil Schulman’s article on Rational Review;

SPOILER ALERT!

…having shown in her own presentation that the cause of the problem was mechanical and the savior of the lives was Whip, she continues her interrogation of Whip by asking him to give an opinion that two empty vodka bottles found in the airliner’s trash were consumed by the flight attendant that we in the audience knows was partying with Whip the night before the flight.

At which point, rather than lie, Whip confesses to having drunk the vodka himself.

The movie ends, true to its true-confessions formula, with a redeemed Whip in prison, having confessed to his sin of piloting an aircraft drunk and coked up — more expertly than any other cold sober pilot could have done.

The one piece of salient advice that I would give to J. Neil Schulman, when it comes to writing, is that members of a hierarchical system (like a corporation) don’t tend to give jobs to outsiders who use code words like statist to describe any system that they disagree with. When you walk in with an obvious chip on your shoulder, and the attitude that you yourself can do anything faster and better than any other group of people, you’re more likely to be shown the door quickly than to be given the time of day.  Much less a job.

I went to see this move with a fellow film buff, my usual partner in crime.  The Wife doesn’t do dramas.  She’s into horror, SciFi, and action films.  She’s dragging me to Age of Ultron this week. Avengers is far more her speed than a film about a pilot who saves a plane in spite of his addictions.

Flight (2012)

The film accurately portrays what would happen to someone like Washington’s Whip Whitaker (a functioning alcoholic) in the current regulatory landscape; and I think that is why it did not meet with the kind of approval that its creators expected. The average viewer probably agrees with the sentiment that Whip Whitaker did not deserve jail time; producing a film with a very unsatisfying ending. But it was hardly a disaster in anyone’s estimation other than that of a libertarian writer attempting to tie the fictional events in the film to a real disaster and then draw the most tenuous of allegorical conclusions.

let’s put ourselves into the plot of a fictitious combined disaster movie in which after scientist Richard Feynman proves that the cause of the Challenger explosion was launching on a day colder than the shuttle’s O-rings could properly function, the chief investigator finds vodka bottles among the shuttle wreckage and spends the rest of the investigation trying to find out if any of the crew of the Challenger was drunk at the time of the launch.

Flight, while flawed, wasn’t about what Neil says it was. The pilot in question wasn’t even jailed at the end for the reason he states. The movie was a limited exploration of how we treat addicts in this country, and how we mask over the functionally addicted among us with just the kinds of platitudes that Neil offers in his counter arguments. I would be the first person (and it was my first reaction on viewing the film the first time) to say that the pilot should not have been sent to jail. Yank his license, encourage him to seek treatment, etc, sure. Jail proves nothing, except that we will punish scapegoats given the chance.

However, to suggest he merited no punishment because he was a superman able to function on a level no other person could; I think I should remind Neil that the film was a work of fiction. While I have known many functional alcoholics in my lifetime, most of whom drove drunk every day of their lives, it doesn’t mean that they would not be responsible for accidents that they might have been involved in because of their impaired capacity.

It would be amusing, for the purpose of illustration, to put some of these types to the test, to find out if they really aren’t impaired. I’d be willing to bet that they would fail the same tests that the rest of us did, at statistically predictable rates. At least it would silence the people who insist that they not be subjected to the same laws as the rest of us.

The statement in the film that Neil hung his entire argument on was something to the effect that “we put [x number] of pilots in the simulator, all of them crashed” which is a far cry from the presentation that only Washington’s character could land the plane. The factual I took from that exchange was that it was an exceedingly difficult procedure to pull off. Imagine what the guy could have done had he been sober; had he done the preflight checks that regulation requires, he might even have noticed that the plane was not ready to fly.

But he didn’t, because he was hung over from a night of partying. He then proceeded to drink while flying, trying to ease the hangover (BTW, this doesn’t work.  It just gets you drunk again) consequently he was liable for his violation of the public trust, breaking rules that he knew were in place as part of the regulations for public safety. Rules that he agreed to when he got his pilot’s license.

A libertarian would argue that there is no public trust to violate and that licensing is an infringement on individual rights. I don’t have to ‘prove’ that there is a public, or define it for the doubting individualist; it is defined in law already. Government, law, licensing.  All out there already, part of the society we inhabit. Pretending the rules don’t apply to you just gets you put in jail like the protagonist of the film, it certainly doesn’t get the rules changed to be more reasonable.

I’d happily go for a system that tests for ability rather than chemical makeup of the blood, disqualifying those on a case by case basis who cannot master the basic requirements of the job. That would be a reasonable solution to the problem of impaired capacity.  Getting that change made to the rules currently in place requires engaging the system currently in place.  It means accepting that rules made by others do have power over you in some limited fashion. It means that government has the ability to make and enforce rules, even rules that we deem unreasonable.

Personal delusions about the non-existence of the public trust just get in the way of real reform; just interfere in the enjoyment of a decent flick that illustrates some pretty glaring flaws in our legal system.  My suggestion? Leave your politics at home when you go see a movie. You might learn something.


Editor’s note. Age of Ultron (mentioned previously) was well worth the price of admission. An interestingly convoluted story about fear and what that emotion can twist you to doing in spite of your own better judgement. If Marvel has any sense they’ll keep letting Joss Whedon do what he does best for as long as he wants to keep doing it.  The man has a feel for Marvel superheroes, and it comes across in all of his films.  I’m in awe of his abilities and look forward to his next film.

All of the Avengers films have lived up to their promise of action. Most of them have delivered on interesting stories, if you are into comic book heroes. Since they are bubble gum movies (like Star Trek 2009) I see little use in plugging them in their own review articles. Go see them. They’re fun romps. In fact, you’ve probably seen them already.

I even have a list on Amazon for all the Marvel comic book movies, if you haven’t seen all of those. I have. (wikipedia list)

Driver-less Cars Need Not Equate to Starving Drivers

…which is why the need for [Universal Basic Income] for all of us to legitimately claim that we have the right to not be left to starve in the streets, is so important.

This kind of anti-progress agitating is something that just sounds ignorant. Technology will not stop. Driverless cars will happen. Shovels made fewer diggers necessary, but that doesn’t mean we should hire an army of diggers equipped with spoons. It means that maybe no one likes to dig and we’d like to have a machine do it for us. But that also doesn’t mean that people who used to dig should simply roll over and die.

Uber is just one ride-sharing app. There are several. I think writing laws to combat how Uber does business is essentially wasting time, because there really isn’t any functional way to stop people from ride-sharing. It’s going to happen, and some of those people will exchange cash for the ride.  I really don’t care about what Uber says they are doing, when faced with a full-court press against them. I didn’t care what the music-sharing software companies said back when they were under attack. When that was the case, I observed that I didn’t think making music sharing illegal was going to stop music sharing. It didn’t. There is a serious vein of Luddite running along this anti-Uber rant I keep hearing. Which is why I pointed out that shovels put people out of work too. There needs to be a reality check involved when people start screaming about loosing their jobs. Loom workers and carriage makers lost their jobs too. Shall we de-automate that process? Go back to using horses? Seems silly to me.

Uber is flouting public transport regulations, I can grant that as a premise with no qualms in hindsight. All of the new internet services disrupt the previous social structures in some significant ways. Music sharing sites destroyed corporate music systems as they existed previously. There is big money behind taxi medallion holders in NYC. I think that’s the only reason Uber is in the news at all. File sharing and corporate music was a similar situation, and the last thing we want is another DMCA that addresses cabbies. Crying for the poor taxi drivers is a front; because that’s not what it’s about. It is about gatekeepers and control, just like the music industry. There is far more music now, and better music, than there ever was when corporate gatekeepers had the lock on music. There are plenty of people (I’m one of them) who pay for things even though they don’t have to, because I know that rewarding effort is how you get more of the things you like. Robert Reich in this instance is fighting against the tide of history. It’s not been shown to be effective in any real way.

One final word. You might be able to take down Uber because they are for-profit. You cannot and will not take down the next app because it will be a grinder-like app that allows people simply to offer and accept open seats in vehicles going where they are going. That is where the demand is, and where the supply is wasted. That trade will continue in the absence of Uber and other profit-making companies.

…which is and was the point I’ve been trying to make.

Facebook status and resulting argument summarized and backdated for the blog. UBI replaces “dole” in the original post. UBI is what I meant at the time but hadn’t stumbled across that concept then, or hadn’t applied that label to the concept.

Obama Best President Since Eisenhower

In an argument on DC’s forums last year, amidst all the caterwauling, hair tearing, and general hatassery concerning the President and the upcoming elections, I proposed the following;

Barack Obama could well be considered the best President since Dwight D. Eisenhower

I said it at the time largely because I like to take a devil’s advocate position, but I also said it because I’ve become quite weary over the last 6 years listening to idiots run down the sitting President. Generally, I’m right there with them.  I mean, given the track record of U.S. presidents in recent history, it’s not hard to thrash a president and have a receptive audience. Let me run down a bit of the history of presidents over the past fifty years, just so you can get a feel for where I’m coming from.

I first started paying attention to politics when Carter was in office. I couldn’t vote back then, but I thought Carter was getting a raw deal leading up to the election of 1980. His policies weren’t anything to brag about, but the weakness of the president and the country that conservatives railed about was largely an illusion that they invented simply as a tool to use against him.  As history has demonstrated, Reagan didn’t know anything more than how to hit a mark and say a line (mostly) correctly; and people in his employ did negotiate with the Iranian hostage takers. In 1984. Again? Who knows.

Reagan’s term in office was hardly anything to brag about either; in spite of what armies of conservatives say otherwise.  Yes, it’s true, the Berlin wall fell on his watch, but that falling had almost nothing to do with US policies in the region, and everything to do with ham-handed bureaucrats behind the iron curtain, and a Soviet President elected to usher in a new era of openness demanded by the people. What Reagan should be known for, the albatross that he should wear, is Reaganomics or trickle-down economics, which has been shown to be a complete failure and has actually contributed more to economic instability than any other action committed by any other US executive in modern history.

Reagan’s real legacy is the S&L debacle, brought about by loosening regulations on financial institutions, almost exactly as predicted by people opposed to that action.  The Iran-Contra affair that I mentioned previously barely moves the needle compared to the destructiveness of Reaganomics.

But Ronald Reagan was popular and was elected to two terms.  His popularity even earned his Vice-President, an almost unknown political animal named George Herbert Walker Bush, a term as President. [Listen to Bagman and hear how he helped Spiro Agnew avoid prosecution, and then sought out Spiro Agnew’s advice on how to beat governor Dukakis.] But the damage done by Reaganomics continued to plague the nation, and not even a short, victorious, righteous war to stymie the aggression of a Middle Eastern dictator could secure him a second term in office.

As a peacenik, someone opposed to war in general if not in principle, George H.W. Bush’s willingness to go to war didn’t earn any points with me.  None of the things his successor said or did made me believe he was any different.  Bill Clinton’s term in office benefitted from the investment of the LBJ administration in space technology, in the form of microchips that were finally small and powerful enough to drive the information technology revolution that we are in the middle of; which makes his term in office seem halcyon in hindsight. But his willingness to involve the US in every correct world event (with the exception of Rwanda. Which he says he wishes he’d gotten involved in as well) lobbing missiles like they were footballs at every hotspot on the globe, provided the grist for the mill of anti-American sentiment around the world.

Packing a bomb which exploded on 9-11.  That’s the takeaway that history will draw from this era, the post-post WWII decades. When the US fumbled the ball handed to it by the old-world European powers, and let someone else take up the lead internationally (who that will be remains in question) the election of Bush II will not be remembered for what Al Gore supporters would like it to be remembered for, but for the results of America being asleep at the wheel internationally almost since the end of the Vietnam war.

Bush II didn’t steal the election, he simply won it on a technicality. So he got to be the guy in charge on the day when the buzzards came home to roost.  The saying roughly goes we get the best enemies money can buy and we made the enemies who attacked us on 9-11; both figuratively and in reality.  We trained a good number of terrorists to resist the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, including some who later worked for Al Qaeda, possibly even OBL himself. The administration was warned but ignored those warnings, and then set about fighting a war that would end up being the longest in US history, and arranged for that war to occur based on false evidence.  In the process the Bush II administration destroyed American credibility on the world stage (whatever was left of it) torturing innocent people who just happened to be in a warzone at the wrong time.

To finish off his term, Bush II (prefer W? Use that) also failed to act on the looming financial crisis (also about which he was warned) and consequently handed the election of the next President to the Democrats, who could have run the proverbial yellow dog, and it would have won.  If it hadn’t been for Sarah Palin’s circus show, there wouldn’t have been anything of interest about the election of 2008.

With that as a backdrop, you can imagine what I thought of Barack Obama going into his first term.  Don’t get me wrong, I voted for him in the primary in a vain (?) effort to throw the election his way instead of towards Hillary Clinton (I have no use for political dynasties) but I voted straight Libertarian for my last time in that general election. Held my nose and voted for a Republican in Libertarian clothing.

But Obama pretty much did what he promised.  Oh, I know, he cratered on a lot of things that privacy advocates and conspiracy mongers think he should have taken a hard line on.  But he has tried ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without looking too ridiculous in the process; and no matter how much saber rattling the Conservatives do, the anarchy currently afoot in Syria/Iraq doesn’t amount to much in the scheme of things unless you happen to have business there.  Happen to live there (if you do, you have my sympathy. But do you really want to help Bashar Assad stay in power?  Really?) The Syrian revolution managed to win the Republicans seats in the midterms, blowing out the possibility of a more productive congress in 2015, but in the end they remain on the wrong side of history.

Why, you ask? Why are they on the wrong side of history?  Why would Obama be considered a good President? Because the general trends are predictive and obvious.  I tripped over them even if you, dear reader, did not.

Since the Cold War ended and we blithely went on unchanging in or priorities, the Old World powers found their legs and stood on their own again.  If you want to visit countries with the highest ratings for health, productivity, happiness, etc., look no further than the old economies that hard liners in the US still wrongly dismiss.  Proof of this can be found by the ease with which Germany absorbed the poorer provinces of Eastern Germany, long held back under Soviet rule.  How the French absorb refugees into France at a rate that rivals the US.

Canada’s adoption of the Canada Health Act hasn’t proved disastrous for the Canadian economy as predicted. It’s services continue to improve at an impressive rate, leaving the US in the dust. Even Mexico City has better healthcare than we have in the US, finally making the claims of liberal agitators like Micheal Moore truthful, if only in hindsight.

The writing is on the wall, has been on the wall for sometime and US citizens apparently never noticed. Socialized medicine, for lack of a better appellation, appears to be the future.  The notion that individuals can pay for health services as needed and build the kind of infrastructure that the average person wants (emergency services, research, etc) has been effectively shown to be a pipe dream; and that systems can and do function with the amount of complexity required to provide services in a timely fashion.

Ergo we will all be charged something to provide the services we all say we want but don’t want to pay for; or rather, underestimate the cost of.  But that subject is beside the point I’m trying to make, and I don’t want to get distracted from it. This is the point.

Every President since and including FDR talked about doing something about healthcare in the US.  Every President since Truman has actively asked for and/or crafted legislation to fix the US healthcare system. Barack Obama, in the face of the stiffest opposition faced by any President in US history, helped to craft compromise legislation that at least advances the goal of universal access to healthcare for the first time in US history.  No one likes it, to be sure, but it appears to be working all the same.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is out this morning and reveals that 15.9 percent of American adults are now uninsured, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months of 2013 and has shown improvements in every major demographic group with the exception of Hispanics who did not advance.

Courtesy; Forbes “The Real Numbers On ‘The Obamacare Effect’ Are In-Now Let The Crow Eating Begin”

If the ACA, Obamacare, continues working; if we actually expand on the basics of standardized healthcare provision set down by the Obama administration, What then? When Presidents back to the time of Truman tried to get this done?

Why Eisenhower?

Because Eisenhower was the last President to put his name on a fundamental change that was positive to the US as a whole. LBJ might have done this with his Great Society, but his term was marred with Vietnam (which could have been avoided) Eisenhower managed to avoid any major conflicts, and established the Interstate system with funds Congress had given to the military.

I’m not planning on doing an exhaustive search back though 60 years of Presidential history just to make my point.  Truthfully, when I first proposed the idea, I just stated best President in our lifetimes. I was born in the age of Kennedy, and while his ending was tragic, what LBJ achieved in his name was of more importance than anything he did aside from not starting World War Three during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the grand scheme of things that is what he will be remembered for, aside from his words that took us to the moon on LBJ’s watch.

Which is really all that matters to history.

LBJ might pull a close second, even with Vietnam on his record, but that just really speaks to the lackluster nature of our leaders post-WW II, not to any high achievement on LBJ’s record.

What’s funny is, I’ve heard similar talk in the news media of late, which is why this subject came back to mind, the subject of Obama’s greatness, given the scheme of things. Obama took the shellacking of his party in stride, decided he wouldn’t sit out the last two years of his Presidency and play golf; at least not yet anyway (If you ask me he’s earned it, having taken less vacation than the last two Presidents) he took his Presidential pen in hand (something else he’s done less than recent Presidents) in order to reduce the suffering of people that were within his power to help.

It is noteworthy that every president since and including Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower has taken executive action on immigration without facing threats of lawsuits, government shutdowns, impeachment, or loss of executive authority.

GOP Lie Debunked: Every President Since Eisenhower Used Executive Authority On Immigration

The title caught my eye Every President Since Eisenhower.  Well that’s interesting.  Not a recommendation, but at least a true observation on the consistent obstinacy of houses of congress across the decades. So I went looking farther. A piece from this time last year in the New York Times lays the case out pretty well;

Mr. Obama, barring tragedy or resignation, will get to serve eight years, but his margin of victory last November was not overwhelming. He won 62 percent of the electoral vote, which ranks 16th among the 30 presidents who sought re-election after their first terms. Mr. Obama’s electoral vote percentage was better than any of the 10 first-term losers, of course — but among the 20 winners, it exceeded only James Madison in 1812, Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Harry Truman in 1948 and George W. Bush in 2004.

Contemplating Obama’s Place in History, Statistically
BY NATE SILVER
 JANUARY 23, 2013

That’s just going on percentages. Puts him in the running with Clinton, well below Eisenhower or LBJ in historical importance based on electoral percentage.

But that’s a little dry, don’t you think? Surely it means more than that, historical importance? More than the President’s popularity with the voting public?  Not necessarily.  Specifically, I have a hard time believing that Reagan will maintain his high rating (historically ranked 10th in importance) even with his overwhelming second-term victory percentages, given the looting that his administration ushered in and is only now coming to light.

Still, the cost-cutters will be hard pressed to nay-say Barack Obama’s place in history if he stays on course through the rest of his term.

You are reading that right.  Obama most conservative federal spender since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Don’t hold your breath waiting for your conservative outlets to spin this the right way, they won’t; or they will take Heritage Foundation’s tack on the subject and insist that Bush II’s war costs should be saddled on Obama. In any case, the groundwork has been laid. My work here is done.


Addendum

When I say that Obama is the best President since Eisenhower, it’s not a compliment to Obama or Eisenhower. I just want to make this point clear. It’s an observation on just how predatory our government has been in the past, continues to be at present. Imagine what US society would look like if Americans thought of themselves as not engaged in a zero-sum competition with their fellows? If we elected a government that actually focused on common welfare and not killing perceived threats to our ever-diminishing piece of the pie?

That is how Obama is different than his predecessors since Eisenhower, or at least since Carter. This is the first time the military agenda hasn’t dominated every second of the sitting Presidents time. The first time in decades that any social advancement has been registered; or more precisely, the first time the downward slide of the average American has been noted publicly.


Editor’s note, 2019. What I find amusing in this Orange Hate-Monkey hellhole we are trapped in, is that a lot of people are now saying that Obama was the best president during their lifetimes. So all the flack I got when I said the very same thing in 2014 means absolutely as little as I thought it did then. I was right, for once. We as citizens should build on this discovery, that Obama was the best president of our own experienced lives, rather than be distracted by the same-old glittery glamour of sabre-rattling and outright warfare that has come to be synonymous with US policy since WWII.

We will look back on the Obama years as a halcyon moment we should have known to cherish. Because it will be a long time before we ever have it that good again.

ABC NewsObama First Press Conference Since Trump Election – Nov 14, 2016

This office is bigger than any one person.

Barack Obama

Our Hearts Weep for You West, Texas

Yes, I KNOW that this is a cheap shot, but I simply cannot resist. On April 17th, 2013, a fertilizer storage facility exploded, killing fifteen people and injuring more than 160. The people of West deserve more than to be remembered as the point of a political meme, but this example of corporate largesse begs to be stated as bluntly as possible.

For the last 40 years, corporations have successfully brainwashed the voters, most of whom now believe “regulation” is a bad word, and believe that governments who want to prevent corporations from maximizing their own profits, regardless of consequences, are evil. How many times have you heard the mantra that OSHA interfered with my business? Staffing and funding OSHA has been demonstrably reduced because of calls for deregulation.

Corporations are not evil any more than government is evil. However, they do exist to make profit, for themselves and for their stockholders, and they exist for no other purpose. It is up to government to ensure that corporations function within the parameters of protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of innocents who just happen to live nearby. It is long past time that we stop viewing government regulation as a bad thing. What the current US and Texas state governments needs to embrace is the notion of smart regulation, regulation that serves the higher purposes embraced by the majority of humanity. This includes protecting the environment and public safety, something wholly lacking in current Texas regulations.

The Senator from Canada and the congressional rep for West, Texas and the surrounding area have made the issue a political football because of their stands against Hurricane Sandy relief, while simultaneously asking for aid for this. This hypocrisy cries out to be corrected.

Facebook Status and related edited comments backdated to the blog. A h/t to a Facebook friend is also in order here. As of this posting (04/23/2018) changes to the regulations that lead to this disaster in West have been completely inadequate to keep another such tragedy from occurring. The state government still doesn’t know where these kinds of storage hazards exist. Roger Williams remains the representative for West, Texas and my representative here in Austin. Here’s hoping both he and Ted Cruz are replaced in the upcoming midterms. Changes made to the US regulatory codes by the Obama administration following this disaster have been weakened by the administration of the Orange Hate-Monkey.

Texas Standard, Five Years After the Explosion in West, Texas, Very Little has been Done to Prevent Another One

Thank you Aaron Burr.

If only Aaron Burr had shot Alexander Hamilton BEFORE he started the destruction of the Constitution with the first Bank of the United States, we might actually owe him thanks.

“With the aid of the doctrine of implied powers,” Rossiter wrote approvingly, Hamilton “converted the . . . powers enumerated in Article I, Section 8 into firm foundations for whatever prodigious feats of legislation any future Congress might contemplate.” He established the foundations for unlimited government, in other words.

It was Hamilton who first advocated the broadest possible interpretation of the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution so that he could make his case for corporate welfare in his 1791 Report on Manufactures. “It is . . . of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare,” he wrote. Naturally, the legislature would be eager to define every piece of special-interest legislation to be serving “the general welfare.”

Hamilton was also likely to be the first to twist the meaning of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gave the central government the ability to regulate interstate commerce, supposedly to promote free trade between the states. Hamilton argued that the Clause was really a license for the government to regulate all commerce, intrastate as well as interstate. For “What regulation of [interstate] commerce does not extend to the internal commerce of every State?” he asked. His political compatriots were all too happy to carry this argument forward in order to give themselves the ability to regulate all commerce in America.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo

So the Neocons and the Socialist Democrats have the same favorite founding father. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

I may have to pick up Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s new book, Hamilton’s Curse; should be controversial reading. Will it be a controversial as his last book The Real Lincoln? We’ll just have to see.


Editor’s note, 2019. I’m currently listening to Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Most of what I thought about Alexander Hamilton was wrong, probably because the same people who hated Abraham Lincoln also hated Alexander Hamilton, and pretty much for the same reason. It’s hard to imagine how Thomas J. DiLorenzo could be less of a scholar than he appears to be, given everything he’s said about those two men, but I’m sure he is less of a scholar than that given that he’s writing for Lew Rockwell and not some better, higher paying, establishment. Sometimes you work for independent organizations because the quality of your research is just that bad to start with.

Tytler (or Tyler) Quote; Heading for Dictatorship?

I keep running across this quote:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, and is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.

This is generally attributed to Sir Alex Fraser Tytler, but it has also been attributed to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (and many others) I’ve even seen a rather lengthy list of titles and a reference location for Sir Tytler (Scottish jurist and historian. Professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University in the late 18th Century. From the 1801 Collection of his lectures) that seems to lend credence to the subject.

It’s a quote that I like and feel sympathetic to. But…

http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html proposes that:

The truth is that despite their frequent use, the author(s) of the
above quotes are unknown. With regard to the first quoted paragraph, the Library of Congress’ Respectfully Quoted writes, “Attributed to ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER, LORD WOODHOUSELEE. Unverified.” The quote, however, appears in no published work of Tytler’s. And with regard to the second, the same book says “Author unknown. Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. Unverified.”

Yet despite this factual uncertainty, these quotes are not only frequently attributed to Tytler, but just as frequently employ his antiquity as a means of enhancing their reliability. I myself was misled for years before being informed of their “unverified” status.


Has anyone else ever researched the quote? (Snopes has a good piece on the subject as well, hats off to a fellow dancarlin.com forum user for that one) I haven’t, other than to dig far enough to find the above. There is no reference for a collection of lectures that I’ve ever seen. They could be out of print, but they should merit a reference somewhere; if indeed, Tytler is famous for saying the quote that is attributed to him.

Not even the Library of Congress can find the source for the quote, or even the true author. While many in the liberty movement feel akin to the sentiments in the quote, we do ourselves a disservice when we repeat it without knowing the true author; or on what basis we should accept his observations.

True, as was mentioned in a Texas Public Policy Foundation newsletter recently;

While there may be disagreement on the actual author of these words, there ought to be little debate about the pernicious effects of a growing government that numbs its people to the loss of freedom and liberty as it gradually increases dependence. One need not look far to see the many instances where individuals have resigned themselves and relinquished control over important and highly personal decisions. Education is a primary example. Health care may soon be the next.
Yet dependence on government—whether conscious or unconscious—did not occur overnight. Instead, it took years of gradual growth in government’s size and scope. After all, many are unwilling to seriously protest a single small tax increase, forgetting that in the aggregate those increases become real money. Any single regulation may be passable, but it is the force of hundreds of accumulated regulations that begin to cripple an industry and even an economy. Or it is years of expectation that government provides certain services that penetrates people’s minds and softens consideration on the appropriate role of government.

Growing government becomes a powerful weapon against freedom and liberty, as people not only lose sight of those principles, but ultimately back government’s quest to expand its reach.


It’s pretty easy to see why the quote is repeated; the observation could be a truth to be feared, if not merely a myth that seems to be playing out for real right before our eyes.

Convenience Clinics & Science vs. Big Gov’t & Religion

First up, CATO Daily Podcast Regulation Blocks Convenience Clinics which skims the issue of rent-seeking medical associations making it nearly impossible to create low-cost health outlets in some states due to restrictive regulations being put in place governing the practice of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

Then you have the CATO Daily Podcast Three Parents and an Embryo (based on an article in Scientific American) which addresses the pressing issue of Religious Right interference in today’s medical research; and also begs the question “what procedures will be effectively outlawed when the government controls health care?”

Which gets us back to the issue of professional associations doing a disservice to the public because it financially benefits their members. They’ve abused the system for so many years that now the chickens are coming home to roost. A majority of their own members (like the general public) just want out of the current system.

Out of the frying pan into the fire

But consigning our health care to the champions of good bedside manner, those lovely people who staff the local DMV office, carries other penalties as well. Take the sitting president’s delusions of conversations with his god, and then give that the force of health care policy. Birth control and family planning? No longer available within the US. Stem cell research? Dream on.

Every whim of whichever lackluster executive next sees the inside of the oval office will be virtually written into health care practice with a simple executive order. How good does a single payer system sound now?

The Health care Problem Part 2

A friend of a friend responded to my rant on health care the other day, taking me to task for not being willing to hand over 1/5th of the US economy to the government and allowing those wonderful bureaucrats in Washington to finish the job they started when they first screwed up US health care by granting tax subsidies to employers who offered health insurance, way back in the 50’s. I don’t know, perhaps we should question the veracity of all the promises given by those saintly authors of such lovely things as HMO and PPO regulations (and insurance regulation in general) and all those other constraints put on health care providers as well; they were, after all, supposed to fix the health care problem, rather than make it worse.

Maybe, just maybe, we should probe a little deeper into this problem of health care, and see where the problem originates.

Reading the objections to my rant, I have to say that the problem with health care appears to originate in the opinions of average citizens. I say this because the points that are being made are generally in error; as anything beyond basic research on the ‘net will show. And yet this isn’t the first time I’ve seen these points made, which is why I’m going to take the time to rebut them.

Part of the problem with health care facts is, there aren’t a lot of easily accessible facts to go by. But I will do my best to answer the 6 points brought up by my detractor, and then perhaps pose a few questions of my own.

So here goes:

1) If our system is the best, why does a child born in IRAQ have a better chance of reaching age one than a child born in this country?

Because that isn’t the real statistic: the Wiki List of Countries by Infant Mortality Rate clearly shows that Iraq (27 / 81.5) has a much higher rate than the United States (163 / 6.3). The IMR is higher in the US than in Canada (173 / 4.8) and the other socialized systems, but it’s not that statistically significant; although the variation in rates probably relates to factors within the health care system.

2) If our system is the best, why do we have the highest percentage of our citizens on prescription drugs which treat the symptoms but not the cause?

That sounds like it comes from a “Why the US health care system sucks” brochure. There isn’t any realistic way of measuring prescription drug rates as described. I daresay that if there was, it would be higher in countries where health care is a ‘free’ service, rather than in the US where the user has to pay. There is also a wide array of methods for categorizing what is a prescription (given by a doctor after a visit) and what is simply continued treatment of the same ailment. In the US, a prescription is required for all controlled drugs, whereas in the UK if you’ve been prescribed something once, it continues to be available to you as long as your are treating the same ailment.

I’d rather have a drug that treats a symptom rather than a cause, than to go without treatment for both symptoms and cause and just be allowed to suffer; which is what happens in many countries where medical care is rationed by the state.

3) If our system is the best, why do we rank below so many countries in general health?

Again, we don’t. We rank below much of Europe (and of course, saintly Canada) and not much else. There’s a reason for this (like the IMR statistic) it’s called reallocation of service. There is a refocusing of service towards basic health functions and away from more specialized health services in the socialized systems. They can do this because the doctors work for the state, and the number of specialists is limited by state mandate.

Is this a good thing? Forcing someone to act against his own judgment is never a good thing, from where I’m sitting.

4) If our system is the best, why do most countries people live longer than we do?

Another false statistic. According to the List of Countries by Life Expectancy the US is 45th on the list. Not exactly a stellar showing, but definitely above the halfway mark; and above places like Denmark (the happiest place on earth) Ireland and Cuba (so highly touted in Sicko) We are down the list from the socialized countries of Europe (and, of course, Canada) but they are topped by some other countries that you wouldn’t think had long life expectancies, like Japan.

This is also not the defining characteristic of good medicine; it has more to do with genes and climate than it does with free medical service.

5) If our system is the best, why is the rest of the free world on another system?

Because the rest of the free world isn’t as free as the name implies. Do I have to use the same argument your mother used when you were five?

If Jimmy jumped off a cliff, would you want to jump off too?

It’s a bad idea to give government that much control over our lives; and the lack luster performance of the socialized systems (which I did notice he didn’t bother to try and refute) proves the skeptics right; that rationing of available services, re-allocation of assets (doctors and nurses) from one specialty to another, and denial of service though long wait times (about 34% of Canadians complain of this) and limited areas of availability (I pointed this out in Sick(o) in America) does occur, this is the nature of single-payer managed socialized systems.

And those who can afford to come here (the US) do come here to get treatment (including Michael Moore, as Stossel pointed out) at private institutions. If the rest of the free world is better, why would that ever happen?

6) If you are POSITIVE this is the best system, come down with a long term issue and see how well you are treated when your health provider decides you are no longer a viable “asset”.

I have a long term issue. No health insurance, no job; but I do have a clear conscience. I’ve never asked someone else to sacrifice themselves for my benefit; I’ve never taken out of the pot more than what I put into it. Which is what any socialized system (all of which should be ended; school, Social Security, whatever) does; it allows the socialist maxim “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” to play out. Nowhere is this more clear than in the field of medicine. We can’t abide the idea of rich doctors and fat cat pharmaceutical companies taking more than their fair share. Therefore we will take these men of ability, and sacrifice them to the greater good, the need of the many. And since we needy can’t be bothered to pay anything for their services, we’ll draft the wealthy amongst us to pay even more taxes (and add more sacrifices to the pile) so that we can have free health care. No more do we have to worry about engaging in risky behavior…

like the objector who offered the list above. He received ‘free’ treatment for a motorcycle injury. An injury which probably could have been avoided had he chosen an alternate form of transportation. Perhaps Canada should outlaw motorcycles, it might save them a few tax dollars. I know that the US gov’t will do far more than that. Say hello to mandated diet plans and compulsory risk assessment surveys. No more cheese burgers for you, and no bungee jumping or snowboarding either. Ah, what fun it will be living in the land of the free, and the home of the federally insured.

…the all-caring nanny state will be there to pick up the tab for all those years of smoking, all those trips to Burgerhaven; whatever your poison of choice is.

Except there’s a fly in this ointment. It’s not sustainable. Like the Ponzi scheme of Social Security, There’s not enough money to pay out all the eventual claims for health care. So the state will simply decide who will get health care and who won’t, with rationing. And those without political connection will do without health care in the same way that those without money do without it now. Perhaps even more so, since the state can compel it’s servants (the doctors) not to provide service to whomever they deem unfit, even if that service is for free.

This is already happening with medicare, with doctors and patients being forbidden to come to a mutual agreement concerning services that the state has determined are not necessary. It’s happening in Canada, where citizens have been brought up on charges for trying to pay for services, and clinics have been shut down for attempting to sell services outside of the socialized system.

Obviously, Canada’s health care system is not the best; none of the metrics that can be used to measure it come to that conclusion. The US system is the best, when it comes to quality of treatment for certain illnesses; and falls on it’s face when it comes to efficiency and cost; and efficiency and cost will not be positively addressed by simply handing the system over to government. Look at the efficiency of the DMV if you doubt that.

The solution to the health care problem is educating the average citizen. It’s robbing your insurance company. It’s taking control of your health care expenditures and asking the providers hard questions. Do I really need this test? What is this going to cost? Until we know what we are paying for services, we’re never going to get a handle on the real problem, the cost of health care. And that cost will either be paid now, in person; or later, by some state official who’ll make your health care decisions for you.

Which option sounds better to you?


Editor’s note, 2019. To paraphrase my smartassed younger self, I’ll take socialized medicine for $100, Alex. The problem of healthcare in America today is that it is so much more complex and convoluted than anyone understands, even the people who work in the field or study it from outside. However, there is no way that anyone poorer than Bill Gates can pay for every cent of the healthcare they require, funding everything required to provide even the simplest of medical interventions. Much less get the intervention delivered to the sufferer before the illness kills them. That is reality, not illusion.

The Health care Problem

Health care. Again.

I got slapped so hard by people who just love the idea of Single Payer Health care systems (and I don’t care what the Wiki article says on the subject. Tax funded health care is socialized medicine. Calling it anything else is attempting to sugarcoat the pill) when I sent out my Sicko comments the other day, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find some hard evidence on the subject. Luckily I didn’t have to look too far.

CATO just happened to sponsor Health Care University 2007 about a month ago. If you listen to the podcasts, you might be shocked to learn a few things. Arnold Kling visits his article Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and discusses what does and doesn’t work in currently instituted government programs.

Suppose that instead of looking at health care policy as a means to push an ideology or score political points, we examine it from a pragmatic American vantage point. What works? What does not work? What backfires? Those are the good, the bad, and the ugly, respectively. The table below summarizes our experience in terms of three goals of health care policy: improving access to care; improving the quality of care; and lowering the cost of our health care system.

Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

A CATO scholar that thinks government can contribute positively to the health care problem? Shocking! But oddly, making very good arguments.

Michael D. Tanner
talks about what doesn’t work in the health care systems around the world. Things like innovation that isn’t available anywhere else but here. That there aren’t any single payer systems that work;

When you look at single payer systems, you can divide them into two categories, those that work, and those that are actually single payer systems.

In Canada, 800,000 people are on the waiting list for treatment. In the UK today, 40% of all cancer patients never get to see an oncologist (because they die before seeing them) (The UK NHS Wiki article shows the same heavy handed bias as the other article I linked to above. I’m thinking theres a gov’t employee who is paid specifically to insure that the wiki article on NHS stays pro-NHS. If everything is so good, why are there so many articles on NHS problems on the web?) in terms of survival rates, the US ranks number one in cancer survival, the UK ranks 16th.

The government health care systems that equate to the quality of the U.S. health care systems, like in France, feature co-payment plans with co-pays as high as 40%. This is not a single payer system. In fact, it’s not much different from the system we find ourselves in here in the U.S.

The problems with the U.S. system are problems that have been beaten to death already, as far as discussion goes. Mandates don’t work (Massachusetts is a stellar example of this) percentages of uninsured motorists exceed the percentages of those people who have no health insurance, in areas where automobile insurance is mandated.

Employer provided health insurance doesn’t work. It has given rise to the problems we currently have.

Just paying for the insurance has the same problems as employer provided insurance. Those who use the service do not have to pay the costs of the service. (and will be indistinguishable from any other gov’t welfare system; e.g. demand will far exceed supply, costs will spiral, and rationing will once again be necessary) This is also not a solution.

So, what is the solution? Well, Health Care University 2007 didn’t offer one (at least in the podcasts) but I would think that for the U.S., the solution is obvious. Get the government out of health care as much as possible. At least provide tax incentives for individuals to purchase their own health care, with plenty of choices; in other words, not just incentives for health insurance, but incentives for health savings accounts. (HSA’s are extremely unpopular with insurance companies, and insurance companies are active lobbyists. Consequently, you won’t hear about them during the evening news soundbites) Remove regulations that strangle the insurance industry. If you want more, visit CATO’s voluminous Research Areas on the subject.

As someone who pays for his (and most of his families) health care costs out of pocket, I have to say that it isn’t the day to day costs that are a problem; it isn’t even the “what if you child breaks a bone?” type accidents that are a problem.

No, the problem arises when you have a chronic ailment that requires costly procedures, and most of the time these types of ailments will get your insurance (under the current system) canceled. Of what use were those $300 a month family health care coverage payments worth then?

HSA, HSA, HSA. I don’t think I can repeat that enough. Let me save that money myself, and after a few years, I won’t even need insurance coverage other than catastrophic care (which I dare you to find these days. Seriously, have you seen one?) so why would I need government assistance at all?


Editor’s note, 2019. Health Savings Accounts were a chimera.

Critics contend that low-income people, who are more likely to be uninsured, do not earn enough to benefit from the tax breaks offered by health savings accounts. These tax breaks are too modest, when compared to the actual cost of insurance, to persuade significant numbers to buy this coverage.

Wikipedia

The writing on the wall is and will always be that the cost of healthcare is more than anyone not in the 1% can afford. That is, if you live long enough to get cancer or a chronic illness. Someone has to pay for the professionals to research and create cures for the health ills of every human being, and the healthy simply don’t care about the cost of maintaining their health until they become ill. Then they go bankrupt trying to repair something that would have been more cheaply fixed had they not ignorantly broken it.

…things like, sleeping only four hours a night because insomnia keeps you awake for most of the night anyway, so why bother going to bed unless you are so tired that you almost doze off while chewing your dinner? Had I thought to look into sleep deprivation or sleep problems sooner, I might have worked a lot later in life. Believing I didn’t need a doctor to tell me what my problems were was my fool for a patient moment without having to go through all those years of residency and schooling.

To use the phrase socialized medicine is to repeat oneself needlessly. All medicine contains costs borne by the public at large. All of it. It is a classic case of an economic externality, which is why businesses toss the cost of healthcare around like a hot potato. No one wants to foot the bill, therefore everyone must be forced to foot the bill. How that cost is paid equitably, while providing access to limited facilities equitably? That is the really hard and important question. One that I am finally fully cognizant of lacking the knowledge and expertise to solve. It’s about fucking time, if I do say so myself.

NAIS vote at any moment

Adding fuel to the fire:

Section 10305, would criminalize disclosure of information from the USDA’s new proposed program, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) opening the door for harsh criminal or civil penalties on members of the public who might publish or in any way disclose information from the NAIS — even if the information had been legally obtained!

read more | digg story

The NAIS amounts to some of the dumbest regulation ever conceived by gov’t. Why do I say that? Because, like the national ID legislation (NAIS’ closest competitor in stupid regulation) it can only track the animals that are tagged. Untagged animals, the ones most likely to be diseased, cannot be tracked; and so cannot be accounted for when outbreaks do and will occur.

It’s a multi-million dollar boondoggle that will force out the more marginal small farms, and make it easier for the corporate farms to dominate markets.

It’s a waste of time and money, providing a dangerously false sense of security when it comes to food safety.

(irradiation, irradiation, irradiation. I don’t think I can say it often enough. The only way to be sure the food is safe is to kill the bacteria hiding in it. That means irradiation)

NAIS must be abandoned. That is the only sane course.

Making it a crime to expose details of the useless database only adds insult to injury.