Friday, August 21, 2009

Fantasy Ideology and its fallout

The following is a white paper of The Jacksonian Party.

From Lee Harris, Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology:

"Know your enemy” is a well-known maxim, but one that is difficult to observe in practice. Nor is the reason for this hard to fathom: If you are my enemy, it is unlikely that I will go very much out of my way to learn to see things from your point of view. And if this is true even in those cases where the conflict is between groups that share a common culture, how much more true will it be when there is a profound cultural and psychological chasm between the antagonists?

Yet, paradoxically, this failure to understand the enemy can arise not only from a lack of sympathy with his position, but also from a kind of misplaced sympathy: When confronted by a culturally exotic enemy, our first instinct is to understand such conduct in terms that are familiar to us — terms that make sense to us in light of our own fund of experience. We assume that if our enemy is doing x, it must be for reasons that are comprehensible in terms of our universe.

A Fantasy Ideology is one that can only determine the course of events and give policy within a limited set of mental boundaries that form up that ideology.  Al Qaeda has a belief system that includes the concept that if one good and strong deed is done, then Allah will sweep his hand out to do the remaining deeds for you and lower your enemy.  Lee Harris gives very good analysis of how that works and why, but the crux of the problem is that any fantasy ideology has within it fantastical concepts, magical concepts, that anyone without the ideology is put into a position of wondering why these people believe the world works that way when all experience demonstrates otherwise.

The premise presented by Mr. Harris is that when operating within a fantastical realm of thought that is supposed to determine how reality works, that those who get negative results do not take those results as an actual feedback to their actions, but as having missed some particular set of nuances inside the belief system that then need to be rectified.  One particular point is brought up by Mr. Harris when he examines how this plays out in America, and it is an extended quote so as to get full context of his observation when having talked with a friend about an Anti-Vietnam war rally in Washington, he disagreed with a friend about the productiveness of a disruptive event that could turn very counter-productive, his friend disagreed and that even if it was counter-productive it was good for his soul:

What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.

And what it did for him was to provide him with a fantasy — a fantasy, namely, of taking part in the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors. By participating in a violent anti-war demonstration, he was in no sense aiming at coercing conformity with his view — for that would still have been a political objective. Instead, he took his part in order to confirm his ideological fantasy of marching on the right side of history, of feeling himself among the elect few who stood with the angels of historical inevitability. Thus, when he lay down in front of hapless commuters on the bridges over the Potomac, he had no interest in changing the minds of these commuters, no concern over whether they became angry at the protesters or not. They were there merely as props, as so many supernumeraries in his private psychodrama. The protest for him was not politics, but theater; and the significance of his role lay not in the political ends his actions might achieve, but rather in their symbolic value as ritual. In short, he was acting out a fantasy.

It was not your garden-variety fantasy of life as a sexual athlete or a racecar driver, but in it, he nonetheless made himself out as a hero — a hero of the revolutionary struggle. The components of his fantasy — and that of many young intellectuals at that time — were compounded purely of ideological ingredients, smatterings of Marx and Mao, a little Fanon and perhaps a dash of Herbert Marcuse.

For want of a better term, call the phenomenon in question a fantasy ideology — by which I mean, political and ideological symbols and tropes used not for political purposes, but entirely for the benefit of furthering a specific personal or collective fantasy. It is, to be frank, something like “Dungeons and Dragons” carried out not with the trappings of medieval romances — old castles and maidens in distress — but entirely in terms of ideological symbols and emblems. The difference between them is that one is an innocent pastime while the other has proven to be one of the most terrible scourges to afflict the human race.

This concept is not unknown and was seen decades prior to the Vietnam war by another man who was examining the decline of Western Culture.  From Oswald Spengler, The Oswald Spengler Collection: Biographical Essay; Extracts From The Decline Of The West: The Hour of Decision:

We live in momentous times. The stupendous dynamism of the historical epoch that has now dawned makes it the grandest, not only in the Faustian civilization of Western Europe, but - for that very reason - in all world-history, greater and by far more terrible than the ages of Caesar and Napoleon. Yet how blind are the human beings over whom this mighty destiny is surging, whirling them in confusion, exalting them, destroying them! Who among them sees and comprehends what is being done to them and around them? Some wise old Chinaman or Indian, perhaps, who gazes around him in silence with the stored-up thought of a thousand years in his soul. But how superficial, how narrow, how small-minded are the judgments and measures of Western Europe and America! What do the inhabitants of the Middle West of the United States know of what goes on beyond New York and San Francisco? What conception has a middle-class Englishman, not to speak of a French provincial, of the trend of affairs on the Continent? What, indeed, does any one of them know of the direction in which his very own destiny is facing? All we have is a number of absurd catchwords such as "overcoming the economic crisis," "understanding of peoples," "national security and self-sufficingness," with which to "overcome" catastrophes within the space of a generation or two by means of "prosperity" and disarmament.

Spengler was coming to grips with a movement of Western Civilization that had started before his time and was gaining steam in his life.  He saw the results of the inward-looking trends of Western Civilization and in identifying those trends he sought to understand them as they play out in society.  He would examine this playing out in Germany, but the general thesis is plain across Western Culture that the insularity was leading to a belief that by giving popular catchwords or phrases that a problem could be defined, refined and then addressed all in good order.  Yet there is only the order we create in the world and it is not one that broad generalizations or categories can properly address.  The idea of a citizen being self-responsible and knowing enough of the world to make good decisions was being supplanted by one of moving decisions from the citizenry and upwards to governments.  By giving pleasing words to represent what were thought to be the problems, the citizenry was to be given a feeling that their politicians actually knew what they were doing.  That, however, led to World Wars and global ideological conflicts as those not joining in this Western inward conception of the world continued to act outside the constraints of political definition.

That latter effect he would go into, and it was one that politicians would utilize to further isolate the common man from world affairs and even the affairs of government:

Added to all this is the universal dread of reality. We "pale-faces" have it, all of us, although we are seldom, and most of us never, conscious of it. It is the spiritual weakness of the "Late" man of the higher civilizations, who lives in his cities cut off from the peasant and the soil and thereby from the natural experiencing of destiny, time, and death. He has become too wide awake, too accustomed to ponder perpetually over yesterday and tomorrow, and cannot bear that which he sees and is forced to see: the relentless course of things, senseless chance, and real history striding pitilessly through the centuries into which the individual with his tiny scrap of private life is irrevocably born at the appointed place. That is what he longs to forget, refute, or contest. He takes flight from history into solitude, into imaginary far-away systems, into some faith or another, or into suicide. Like a grotesque ostrich he buries his head in hopes, ideals, and cowardly optimism: it is so, but it ought not to be, therefore it is otherwise. We sing in the woods at night because we are afraid. Similarly, the cowardice of cities shouts its apparent optimism to the world for very fear. Reality is no longer to be borne. The wish-picture of the future is set in place of facts - although fate has never taken any notice of human fancies - from the children's Land of Do-Nothing to the World Peace and Workers' Paradise of the grown-ups.

Little as one knows of events in the future - for all that can be got from a comparison of other civilizations is the general form of future facts and their march through the ages - so much is certain: the forces which will sway the future are no other than those of the past. These forces are: the will of the Strong, healthy instincts, race, the will to possession and power; while justice, happiness, and peace - those dreams which will always remain dreams - hover ineffectively over them.

At this point we now merge Spengler and Harris, to see the passage of Western Civilization going into a mode of thought that is fantastical not only in its beginnings but in its outcomes.  The actual 'do this activity because it is a good activity' that was present before the ongoing urbanization of the West was being replaced by a fantastical conception of what man had to actually do to get good results: you just had to have good intentions and talk a good game, and let others do the hard work for you.  That is not living with reality, but a fantasy in which what is said gets magically enacted in the real world and made perfect because it had such a good start as an idea.  Narrative for your own life that you write now replaces actually living a life that is worth being narrated or written about by others.  Instead of being ground up in the urban environment where you are just one individual isolated from others within a large city by yourself and unwilling to do the hard work of actually getting to know others around you, as was done in small towns heretofore, you need only join isolated social groups that have such similar beliefs that you think, by acting across a wide-ranging physical landscape, that you are also doing that for the mental landscape and that all other areas believe just as you do.  Never mind that is one, single, individual from a farther area that believes as you do, that individual must represent 'the masses' around him.  That is how personal heroic narratives go, and so you make your struggle that 'of the people' while not actually reaching out of your limited mental confines to experience a variety of the people who just might disagree with you.

Western Civilization, Spengler's 'white culture', is part of the ongoing evaluation of how man examines himself, places himself amongst his fellow man and then uses the observed differences to inform him so as to make decisions.  What this boils down to, although Spengler could not know it, is a more generalized condition of man via his own works, that would separate man from the inherent wisdom of working with nature and understanding it.  If all of our great works are so wonderful, and they are, then why are we to die so as not to appreciate them forevermore?  By creating the works, themselves, man does that self-isolation, and to live in cities is to live in a created realm that has little attachment to nature and yet nature comes to pull man out of it as nature can only be built upon, not replaced.  This new form of man has a name to him: Homo Urbanus.

What happens when man moves from nature to urban environments?  This is what Spengler addresses and the disconcerting problem is that as urban areas are created, they have a seeming facade of control to them via that creation.  Yet this urban creation does not cater to the needs of those who are there: the poor remain poor, the sick remain sick, and the needs to get basic 'services' to such people then taxes our creation that is not meant for so many to be crowded into urban environments.  The cries we hear, today, of the 'global problems' are not a reality but a reaction to our urban world being unable to cope with the needs of our own people and, thus, we recoil from it and cast about for something, anything, that we might be able to do something about so as to ignore the things we can do nothing about.  Our great works fail in many areas and our own mortality is reflected in that failure.

Those that follow politics see this play out on the Left that asserts certain future 'facts': that everyone will have affordable health care, that everyone will live in peace with each other, that our world is being destroyed by us, that we must change NOW in order to get to a perfect world.  That imperative is repeated for everything from Dreadnoughts to nuclear arms to 'population bombs' to a coming global ice age to being irradiated by nuclear reactors to the dangers of cars to the dangers of not eating right to global warming to health care: there is nothing that cannot be put off as a future 'fact' that can not be addressed NOW if you would just give up some of your liberty to those that run urban societies.  Do not bother these adherents of urban fantasy with such things as economics, human culture, manufacturing needs, limits on what can be done with medicine or the very fact that man being a creature of nature will never be perfect or perfectable, just able to be more perfect than he was.  By putting that into play and to show our advances, those who want a perfect world will then castigate you for how far we have yet to go... yet we can get there instantly if we give up our liberty, our self-identity and our worth to government.

To them.

Those that use the past to guide their decisions, who examine civilizations of all cultures, see this siren song again and again: serve Pharaoh and all will be well, be forced to unity under a warlord and all will be well, give Caesar the power to rule and all will be well, let the smart decide for you or the powerful or the politically well connected and all will be well.  Be it Agamemnon, Ramses, Alexander, Caesar, Genghis Khan, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, Castro... the idea that an entire people can be embodied in a single representative who rules arises so often in mankind's past that it is to be seen as the norm of how man works.  Yet the Enlightenment was to move us down a path away from hero worship and from belief in a perfect State and to one of imperfectable man creating imperfect works and dealing with problems as they arose.  With increasing urbanization comes the belief that we CAN control what we build, that nature CAN be made to do our bidding, and we forget the actual nature of the world and ourselves.  The grotesque fantasies of childhood are not dispelled so long as there is a belief that by dealing with WORDS you can deal with THINGS and EVENTS.  We have clear evidence over the history of mankind that trying to make future 'facts' come true, requires the most horrific of events to happen so as to make those 'facts' arrive.

We CAN make sure that the elderly are always cared for by government.  And create a system headed to insolvency that will bankrupt the Nation.

We CAN wage a 'war' on poverty.  And yet the poor are ever with us no matter how much we spend.

We CAN wage a 'war' on cancer.  And find that it is not one thing but many, many things that each need different approaches so that there is no 'silver bullet'.

We CAN have a post office for first class mail.  That now runs a deficit each quarter and needs massive subsidies to run in an inefficient manner.

We CAN give government the ability to 'regulate' our banking and currency.  Yet that has made one recession into a Great Depression and spurred on another recession to something deeper.

We CAN give government the ability to regulate corporations.  And find it was unable to do so and helped cause at least one recession if not more of them.

We CAN help people 'live the American Dream' to buy a home.  And build a corpulent bureaucracy full of political cronies who then strong-arm banks to give loans to people who don't have good credit or ANY credit at all nor the means to pay off such loans.

We CAN make drugs illegal.  And then spend billions upon billions chasing the now illegal drugs, putting small time users in jail by the truck load and giving a massive stimulus to global organized crime and terrorism.

We CAN give government the ability to tax disproportionately because it will NEVER tax the working class.  Which died as an ideal within years of the passage of that.

We CAN give government tremendous 'oversight' to the banking industry.  And find that it misses huge fraud systems by organized crime that even a decade on can not be unraveled.

We CAN give government more to do to make us better off.  And find our liberty, our lives, and our freedom threatened by so many regulations that even the regulators can not keep up with them all and YOU are at risk for breaking many, many federal regulations each and every second of every day and should probably be put in jail for your own good when you are born so you can have your life dictated to you without the niceties of faking civil society.

It is that worrying last part that makes the cycle difficult to understand, in that thinking that the words we put into regulations under law will, actually, change society and change mankind.  Instead we find ourselves coming to be not only ignorant of the proliferating regulations but coming to understand that such regulations, no matter how 'good' their ends, are not worth the means of their creation.  From that we come to accept that we, as individuals, will practice common sense when leading our lives with the understanding that all the good worded regulations are not worth learning.  From that we become criminal not from conscious intent but from not caring about the regulations and their goals.  Mankind under Homo Urbanus then moves towards Homo Criminalis:  Criminal Man. 

From Wim Bernasco, Foraging Strategies of Homo Criminalis: Lessons From Behavioral Ecology, Crime Patterns and Analysis, ECCA Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2009:

Environmental questions on how crime is enacted are perhaps regularly asked in criminology, but elaborated theories that explain behavioral variations are rare. Sometimes, routine activities theory (Cohen and Felson 1979) is used to answer such questions. According to this theory, crime arises from patterns of ordinary legal activities. When these patterns lead to motivated perpetrators and unprotected targets being present in the same place at the same time, the necessary and sufficient conditions for criminality are fulfilled, and crimes will occur. By this theory, crime is thus a question of “systematic coincidence.” An objection to this approach is that it does not take the goal-oriented behavior of many perpetrators sufficiently into account. For many of them, committing crimes is an everyday routine. Moreover, many criminals do not merely encounter unprotected targets by accident but consciously go in search of them, as is shown by the findings of many ethnographic studies (e.g., Wright and Decker 1997, 1994). Rational choice theory (Cornish and Clarke 1986) is also frequently used to answer environmental questions on crime. This theory is not concerned with criminal motivation either, but in this case because it assumes that every person is in principle prepared to commit crime. Rational choice theory regards every form of behavior as a goal-oriented choice directed toward accomplishing objectives. The point of departure is that, after weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various alternatives, a choice is made which is optimal given the aim (benefit maximization). Rational choice theory itself is abstract and requires supplementary empirical content through specification of the relevant aims and choice situations. To be able to apply rational choice theory to questions of how crime is enacted, a supplemental theory is therefore often necessary with respect to the choice situations with which individuals are confronted as they make decisions about when, where, how and against what target an offense will be committed.

An over-regulated world creates a rational choice space within it, that requires that each individual makes the best choice for themselves that is goal-oriented towards what they are doing.  As that often requires, or even demands, that regulations be broken to accomplish these activities, individuals do so: to perform legal activities in an efficient manner so as to yield best price vs cost results, the breaking of a regulation is more than just a savings point in monetary terms, but a negation of cost to the activity involved so as to yield greater gains and timeliness to the activity and transaction.  When government so believes it can control all behavior, all transactions, everything about commerce, we find that the overwhelming burden of it upon ourselves and our businesses not only does not increase accountability, but diminishes it.

From the WSJ 28 APR 2009:

Mr. Lewis has told investigators for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that in December Mr. Paulson threatened him not to cancel a deal to buy Merrill Lynch. BofA had discovered billions of dollars in undisclosed Merrill losses, and Mr. Lewis was considering invoking his rights under a material adverse condition clause to kill the merger. But Washington decided that America's financial system couldn't withstand a Merrill failure, and that BofA had to risk its own solvency to save it. So then-Treasury Secretary Paulson, who says he was acting at the direction of Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, told Mr. Lewis that the feds would fire him and his board if they didn't complete the deal.

Mr. Paulson told Mr. Lewis that the government would provide cash from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to help BofA swallow Merrill. But since the government didn't want to reveal this new federal investment until after the merger closed, Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke rejected Mr. Lewis's request to get their commitment in writing.

"We do not want a disclosable event," Mr. Lewis says Mr. Paulson told him. "We do not want a public disclosure." Imagine what would happen to a CEO who said that.

After getting the approval of his board, Mr. Lewis executed the Paulson-Bernanke order without informing his shareholders of the material events taking place at Merrill. The merger closed on January 1. But investors and taxpayers had to wait weeks to learn that the government had invested another $20 billion plus loan portfolio insurance in BofA, and that Merrill had lost a staggering $15 billion in the last three months of 2008.

This was the second time in three months that Washington had forced Bank of America to take federal money. In his testimony to the New York AG's office, Mr. Lewis noted that an earlier TARP investment in his bank had a "dilutive effect" on existing shareholders and was not requested by BofA. "We had not sought any funds. We were taking 15 [billion dollars] at the request of Hank [Paulson] and others," Mr. Lewis testified.

The government as 'regulator' turns into the government as 'strongman'.  We go from it being for the common good for all transactions in banking institutional investment to be held openly between institutions for mergers and consolidations, to having them put into secret by government fiat so as to commit the very abuses the regulatory structure was meant to eliminate.  The ease of the criminal behavior on the part of those that are supposed to ENFORCE the regulations points to that change over to Homo Criminalis: the shift from breaking minor regulations for commercial expediency to undercutting the structure of transparent transactions for government expediency.  Homo Criminalis is Homo Urbanus who is willing to undercut the very structure of regulations that allows the urban environment to prosper because it is a 'good thing to do'.  This was what Spengler was talking about when those in government who are unconnected with reality try to force 'facts' to happen.

The dread of reality is not that it can be summed up in nice, neat catch phrases but that it can't.  When the expediency of 'we are doing this for your own good' replaces the actual and fair system of due process, you no longer have due process of law, but process to pre-defined outcomes.  And when reality does not conform to those outcomes, when bolstering the banking structure leads to unaccountable transactions and money that cannot even be FOUND that have come from the public coffers, you find that the COST of such 'facts' far outweigh any 'solution' that was meant to get to them.  That is not only in purely economic terms, although that is horrific on its own, but in social and cultural terms as this is an abrogation of trust at the highest levels of government.  As both Parties and both Presidents wanted this to happen, BOTH have demonstrated that they are untrustworthy.  If one President leaves with little trust, the next comes in picking up the exact, same methods and procedures and finds his trust eroded no end.

 

What is even deeper than the corruption of public institutions by such activities is that those pushing for the 'good ideas' that will assuredly lead to good ends, no matter what the process, have forgotten that it is the process that is to make good ends and to be satisfied with that process and its ends as they are a benefit to all of society.  This conception of wanting the good end and enacting laws to 'make it so', and becoming a personal hero because you took part in the pushing of the idea, is in harsh contrast with the previous version of heroic acts.  Laying down in front of a car to protest a war is not a heroic act to all of society, but to yourself, only: it is a narcissistic conception of hero that sees the only benefit of your actions coming to yourself, with hopes of praise from others that it was, indeed, heroic.  Unfortunately much of that praise comes from other self-oriented 'heros' who have a vested interest in giving praise so as to get praise.

Heroic deeds are done in service to an end, of course, no one would deny that.  A hero, however, does the deeds as they are related to the end, and does not allow them to become an end in, and of, themselves.  Some heroes set out on heroic journeys but find that there is a deep and grave cost to them in lost comrades, lost paths and even lost hope.  Odysseus was one such who was already a Hero of the Trojan War, a 'sacker of cities' in the grand set of conflicts that would see Troy stripped of her affiliated trade partners.  Returning a Hero from war, however, and helping to bring the Trojan War to an end, was not the end of the Heroes journey and Odysseus would find himself and his men hard put to survive the tempest ride home.  Indeed the older and wiser Odysseus would be the sole survivor of that journey: returning alone with the rest of his comrades in arms lost to destiny.  Hercules would find Goddess given madness given to him just long enough to have him kill his beloved wife and family.  Even knowing that this was not his own rage he saw that this is the rage that flesh is heir to and needed to atone for his being part man and part God.  His journey to atonement would require him to tame himself as seen in the Hydra where the passion of battle rage would defeat any who only saw red until they were exhausted and eaten by the multiplicity of heads their combat had created.  Jesus Christ would have his fate tested high and low, the problems of being a man exposed and fight through those only to have his final faith tested on the Cross: he was heroic for keeping his faith, not just in any single deed and would point out that we ALL have these problems within us.

The reasons that Heroes are universal is that they speak to the human condition writ large: they face dangers and problems so extreme that ours pale in comparison.  And yet the story of them is that they win through or die trying and that, often, achievement of the goal is not the end and it may not even be a good end.  Hercules can only find redemption in a living warrior's funeral pyre, Jesus would die on the Cross to have his eternal self revealed and Odin would be pinned to Yggdrasil and lose one eye to the crows only to be bestowed the gift seeing into the future from that empty socket even though he knew what the final destiny of the Gods was, already.  Odysseus would return to find suitors clustered at his old home, trying to get the hand of his wife in marriage after he had been presumed dead and gone.  She would be rewarded by her faith in him and his return would see the suitors put to a bloody end: there would be no other in the home of Odysseus worthy of his bow.  Each of these Gods and Men would seek out those necessary things to them and find a high, high price to pay for their fame, and we would tell stories of their works, as ours are so small how can we not find some part of us that can get through our much smaller pains and problems?

To continue on with Spengler we get the following:

But Romanticism too, with its lack of a sense for reality, is just as much an expression of rationalist arrogance as are Idealism and Materialism. They are all in fact closely related, and it would be difficult to discover the boundary between these two trends of thought in any political or social Romantic. In every outstanding Materialist a Romantic lies hidden. [3] Though he may scorn the cold, shallow, methodical mind of others, he has himself enough of that sort of mind to do so in the same way and with the same arrogance. Romanticism is no sign of powerful instincts, but, on the contrary, of a weak, self-detesting intellect. They are all infantile, these Romantics; men who remain children too long (or for ever), without the strength to criticize themselves, but with perpetual inhibitions arising from the obscure awareness of their own personal weakness; who are impelled by the morbid idea of reforming society, which is to them too masculine, too healthy, too sober. And to reform it, not with knives and revolvers in the Russian fashion - heaven forbid! - but by noble talk and poetic theories. Hapless indeed they are if, lacking creative power, they lack also the artistic talent to persuade at least themselves that they possess it. Yet even in their art they are feminine and weak, incapable of setting a great novel or a great tragedy on its legs, still less a pure philosophy of any force. All that appears is spineless lyric, bloodless scenarios, and fragmentary ideas, all of them displaying an innocence of and antagonism to the world which amounts to absurdity. But it was the same with the unfading "Youths" (J√ľnglinge), with their "old German" coats and pipes - Jahn and Arndt, even, included. Stein himself was unable to control his romantic taste for ancient constitutions sufficiently to allow him to turn his extensive practical experience to successful account in diplomacy. Oh, they were heroes, and noble, and ready to be martyrs at any moment; but they talked too much about German nature and too little about railways and customs unions, and thus became only an obstacle in the way of Germany's real future. Did they ever so much as hear the name of the great Friedrich List, who committed suicide in 1846 because no one understood and supported his far-sighted and modern political aim, the building of an economic Germany? But they all knew the names of Arminius and Thusnelda.

Those saying they have 'real world' views and then holding fantastical outlooks are substituting their fantasy of the way they wish the world should work for the way it does work.  They will tell you of all the things they support, all the changes they want, and how, really, everyone is striving towards that same end.  Without exception!  Save those nasty people who disagree with them... what is strange is that those living in this 'real world' conception are unable to put forth their own courage save in the 'I protested, I'm a hero!' way, that is neither heroic nor actually a deeply held theological nor ideological conception of how the world works.  Those who have protested war in Iraq, say, have grown quiet even though the conflict continues and grows bloody as we seek to pull out from it: they will take NO responsibility for the blood on their hands for their grand ideals and don't care if others die for their ideals because they are 'right'.  To be 'right' however, requires adult ownership and responsibility to one's beliefs and obligation to recognize that ideology has real world consequences.  Saying that Jason and the Argonauts getting the Golden Fleece is a great idea and then claiming part of their heroism for yourself is not being heroic: you have not done the hard work, suffered with the grieving, made amends for the dead, but just claim part of someone else's actions for yourself.  Leaving a war requires as much, if not more time, care and oversight so as to end it in an equitable fashion than getting INTO it required.  The United States would spend the end of 1941 to mid-1945 at war, and then would require more years to help rebuild Germany, Italy, France... and over a decade in Japan to ensure that a constitutional republic had really been established there.  And our forces are STILL not fully out of these problems and on station to continue our help DECADES later.

Thus the political Left in America is not only following a fantasy ideology but, like the Romantics in Germany, unwilling to actually toil at what they talk about.  Instead it is 'protest this' or 'march that' and 'chant the other' all the while the things that they seek to ease, poverty, sickness, corruption in politics, a better understanding between Nations, all of that can be DONE by individuals who are willing to put themselves into the fray to actually DO THE WORK.  The modern Left in America is not only unwilling to enter the fray, they criticize any who DO that and wish to put those works at an end because people actually dare, DARE to follow through on their beliefs with direct work for them.  They are all ready to 'man the barricades' and 'change society', but please don't ask them to move from their computers, coffee houses, or elite social groups to actually get their hands dirty doing any of that.  Homo Urbanus knows better because they 'know' what everyone wants.  Just don't bother them to talk with everyday people who may not agree with them to find out, as that would take actually going out into the world from their Urban environs which are self-imposed.  No matter if it is a teenager in an apartment in the heart of any major city or Theodore John Kaczynski who would write diatribes against modern society, spend long hours crafting bombs and then send those out to kill and maim innocents to prove just how deranged society was as he had spent so many hours describing.  Really, it had to be true if it would drive a nice man like him to do these things, doesn't it?

With that the Unabomber completed his cycle to Homo Criminalis deciding to impose his tracts on society via brute force of criminal activity.  What he did, instead, is show the derangement that comes with believing that mere words and great wishes describe society entire: they cannot.  To be flexible in outlook towards cultures means mutual respect of cultures, understanding the good and ills of each culture and working to improve your own while not endangering that of others.  The modern Left has no wish of that, and prefers a bland 'multi-cultural' blanket of easy to identify racial and sexual characteristics to the actual work of taking time to understand other people's, their cultures, their mores, their ethics and their moralities.  Self-sequestered into pointless 'me too' heroics, and group thinking, the Left demonstrates a form of decadence about their own cultural interests: they don't have any to judge anyone by save within their groups and identity political realms.

It is telling that 'identity politics' so suffuses the Left that anyone who doesn't act according to the precepts of it are then only seen in the prism of 'identity politics'.  If you disagree with a black or hispanic candidate you are dubbed: racist.  That misses the point of those who can only judge by 'race' and those who call 'racism' at every turn are, in themselves, practicing racism.  The idea that anyone else just might have a different way to view the world and politics, and accept that policy is a good way to judge character is not acceptable, as it requires the actual examination of policy and then trying to see if that is acceptable to an entire Nation.  Anyone who criticizes the modern Left on a policy basis is only judged by the Left's own inward looking prism of 'identity politics' based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion and social class.  The concept of good policy that must work across all classes, races, genders and not infringe on the rights or liberty of anyone is now apostasy to the Left: to speak of it makes you a RADICAL in their eyes, who is racist, classist, sexist and so on.

It would be funny if it weren't so lethal.

This is the politics of 'the ends justifies the means' so that any, and I do mean ANY, excuse as a good end then justifies the expansion of government, erosion of liberty, removal of freedom and vesting more and more power in National government that then can make laws and rules to cover any aspect of life from the moment you are born to the moment you die: the State will decide if you are to be born, how you are to live, and when you die.  By forcing society to 'do good' via government, the powers of government being those that we vest in it for our own security, are then turned against the people of a Nation.  There is no 'good' in that even if the ends are reached as expected. But those ends are never reached because they are unreachable objects in and of themselves.  To remove poverty we must have none that are rich and, thusly, impoverish everyone to a life of servitude in which their liberty gains them NOTHING.  Indeed, being able to prosper by one's own works is seen as an absolute threat to the modern Left that prefers to imbue government with being able to do everything good and that people just have to be restrained so that they can do good.

In putting forward so much for the State and so little for individuals, what is sought is the life of servitude, no matter how 'nice' or 'good' for all citizens.  The 'elite' will 'toil' with grand ideas that they will then force everyone ELSE to work at.  Yet it is that very elite structure now in the highest reaches of government, and it has been there for decades, that have increased the amount of regulations on us to the point where over 2/3, if not 3/4 by now, of all regulations have been enacted since 1972.  And yet we have seen no end of poverty.  Sickness is still with us.  Our infrastructure decays rapidly. Businesses find it hard to expand and grow due to regulations that put high burdens on growing so as to protect Big Business elites.  It is laughable that 'regulations' actually threaten large businesses when they are the ones able to get seats at the table to WRITE THEM no matter which party is in power.

Thus the modern RIGHT now has the problems of the modern LEFT in believing that more regulations, more laws, and more interference in the lives of individuals is a GOOD THING.  If that is merely lethal when done by one-half of the political 'spectrum' then it is FATAL to liberty and freedom when done by ALL of it.  Yet this last election demonstrates that little more than 50% of the public eligible to vote actually voted.  That 49% that didn't vote are not absent by mandate, but by choice: they purposefully stay away from the polls as they find nothing, no one, worth voting FOR.  They are not 'leaving it to the knowledgeable', but telling the 'knowledgeable' that they have NOTHING to offer these that do not vote.  Any organization that could offer even a fraction of the non-voting public a reason TO vote would swing politics in this Nation completely in ways that neither the Left nor Right can fathom.  To do that, however, takes hard work, meeting your fellow man, understanding him, and working out the basis of agreement so as to fashion a new political view that starts to bring down the edifice created by these 'modern' parties and yet stay fully in the modern world.

As neither Party seems able to do that, these days, we now must look to the people who don't show up at elections, those who are so fed up with the system that they have withdrawn their support for it.  Perhaps they have some folks willing to do things with each other so as to create a better Nation and remove the laws and regulations that have turned us into Homo Criminalis.  Because neither Party will support liberty and freedom for the common man as they both believe that by mandating the good they are actually creating it.  Instead they practice a far worse evil than mere criminality: they seek to remove the actual good behind doing good of your own free will.

There is no worse evil than that as it becomes the source of all tyranny.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two parts does not a spectrum make

The following is a white paper of The Jacksonian Party.

How bad is the 'health care reform' 'debate'?

Two items of note display just how badly stultified 'debate' is in America.

First from Instapundit's reader Quent Cordair on what he saw at the protest rally against 'health care reform' in San Francisco:

I was there all afternoon, protesting with a dozen friends from the Golden Gate Objectivists club. Even more proof that there was a disturbance in the force: from what I saw, there was only one lonely counter-protester all afternoon! She’s the one in the video, pacing the back of the crowd with the sign “Who would Jesus insure?” with “Answer: Everybody!” on the sign’s reverse. During a few minutes of silence being solemnly observed by the protesters, marking the politicians’ refusal to hear our concerns, the counter-protestor continued to frenetically march around the perimeter, chanting loudly, “Free Health Care For Everyone!” We endured her silently for awhile, until someone raised the responding chant, “Free Beer For Everyone!” The counter-protester gave up and went away. It was a good day.

The second is an article is linked by Jonah Goldberg from his Liberal Fascism site at NRO, and it goes to a blog article at the Baltimore Sun which clearly doesn't understand Godwin's Law.  The interesting part is not the article, itself, but the commentary which follows and one thing, in my mind, that is clearly missing from all 'health care reform' 'debate' that is going on today.  I will give the very broadest of overview summary of the major positions held in the commentary:

First is that government is the better 'option' for providing health care to 'everyone'.

Second is that private businesses are better able to do this and that the system, itself does not need a full scale overhaul.

 

In fact nearly all 'debates' I have seen, all commentary at blogs and what little I watch of television have these two centered in the 'debate'.  This debate is so skewed, so twisted, that a woman could hold up a basic WWJD sign and posit that GOVERNMENT is the choice of JESUS.

Now think about that for just a moment.

If you were sick and couldn't get to Jesus, would he instruct the messenger to have the sick person supplicate to the Roman Empire?

Can you even begin to imagine that?

I can't!  I'm no Christian scholar, no daily reader of the Holy Bible, nor much of a mind reader, but just based on what Jesus did and said in his life (and he could heal with just a touch, do remember that) can you imagine that he would send someone to the tender mercies of the Roman Empire for care?  It was this same Jesus who would have us render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's, and that the greatest good we can do in our lives is to take care of each other.  That is YOU caring for the sick, the poor, the needy and those who are less well off in mind, body and spirit than YOU are.

Have the State look after the medical and spiritual needs of the sick and needy?

Would Jesus really say that?

Of course he wouldn't, he wanted to make sure that people understood that the State can not do everything and that all of our Earthly works are under God's domain and that we are to understand that God does not rule directly and that we are to demonstrate our worthiness of spirit in this realm so we can receive the rewards of the next after we die.  What a horrific thing to imply, that Jesus would want the State involved in your health and the life and death decisions of your own, personal, care.  That is totally ignoring YOUR responsibility to PERSONALLY care for the poor, the sick, the needy, which demonstrate how much you actually have the good nature necessary for an easy transition to the after-life.

Beyond that, however, I examine in a personal article the major problem with the debate as it has been staged and winnowed down to a 'two choices out of all choices spectrum'.  That winnowing down does not even consider, as seen at the Baltimore Sun's commentators (at least up to a day or so ago when I first started going through the commentary) that there is a third and completely viable, low overhead, efficient and open to all means of providing health care.  Yet this third way is never, not once, talked about and our tax code is set up to create big insurance companies which can out-compete this third form of care via the spiraling of costs that goes with subsidizing care and medications via the tax code.  This third method does not have money to invest in lobbyists to get it further tax breaks because it is so efficient it can not justify getting them.  Yet that very efficiency leaves them at the mercy of a spiraling cost market with no regulator, no Congress, no President willing to sponsor legislation that will PROTECT them from these costs and LEVEL the playing field so as to encourage this third way to survive and thrive, so as to provide MORE coverage to the poor and needy.

In my article I look at other things that need to be done including tort reform to limit damages to actual costs to fix malpractice problems (even if they are disabling that person is due for the health they once had for their normal life) but without the pain and suffering awards lottery that drives up insurance costs beyond all recognition for health care providers. 

Second is to treat health care as an investment and provide vehicles so that individuals with predispositions to certain medical problems can purchase major treatments years or decades before they are needed and then have a guarantee of that procedure at a given future time when it is redeemable.  This would allow individuals to address their family history and begin the hard process of admitting they may not be young and healthy forever, but need future care.  This is a form of direct investment to the health care industry and an encouragement to sustain new and innovative research to specific problems by institutions that would be pre-funded for delivery of care.  In this way the cost of treatment will decline as better procedures are found, and the institution providing such care will now have a long-term investment stream that will be based on how well they provide services now and are preparing to provide them in the future.  This investment, like all investments, can be bought, sold and traded so that when you move you can get a fair market equivalent between what you invested in one locale versus another.

Third is to make donations to HSAs tax-free so as to lower the burdened cost of health care by removing the tax burden on it.  Likewise is to encourage businesses to contribute to their employees accounts on a tax free basis, letting their employees manage accounts which roll-over and grow year-to-year.   So long as money is withdrawn for health care expenses it is not taxed, at all.  This would encourage people to invest in their future health care so that when that most expensive last year of life arrives, they can PAY FOR IT.  Lower the tax burden, now, so we can lower the overall cost, later.

The last major way I look at, however, is this unmentioned way of doing things.

You know, the one that Jesus told us about?

And it is the system being ruined by modern health care even though it was once the sustaining method of providing care to the poor, the sick, the elderly and those who could not afford treatment at for-profit institutions.  It is not the way of the State or of corporations.

It is the way of Charity.

After the 2004 Christmas Tsunami, the #1 largest contributor to recovery and relief to that region was, bar none, the American People via the charitable institutions we have.  Number 2 was our government.  All others pale in comparison and even our government ran substantially behind the power of the American People to do good on their own.

The efficient hourly rate of providing services in the US government, at best, is 65%.  That is the burdened hourly rate of return for every dollar put in to the very best of government agencies, which, strangely enough, resides at that most scorned part of DoD.  That 65% represents the 65 cents on each dollar that is spent actually doing work, with the rest of the time spent on paperwork, unnecessary time spent for non-productive uses, and other overhead that eats up time, like filling out forms, going to EEO seminars and the like.  Almost every meeting could be included in that, but I would like to keep the best above 65% and the government and industry do not count them that way, by and large.

Commercial industry in the same sector provides 80% efficiency: 80 cents on the dollar is spent in productive work hours.  Remember the best of government does not hold a candle to the average of industry.  So here is a prime factor of why so many on the 'conservative' and Right want government to butt out of trying to provide health care: it is horrifically inefficient at best and the government average is 55%, meaning that delta is picked up for by the American taxpayer.

These two are at loggerheads on the Left and Right and have so turned the debate into pap that they do not look at the next most efficient form of providing care and services.

Charity has its own overhead rate analysis and that typically falls between 7-15% waste or 85-93% efficiency.  Yes United Way is corrupt and falls down to 65% but Direct Relief International is at 1%.  That latter flies materials to disaster areas on a global basis and keeps stocks of donated goods ready at a moment's notice to provide immediate and direct relief to those who are stricken by disasters.  Thus the worst of charities compares with the best of government, the average of charities out works the commercial sector and no one, literally no other institution on the planet can touch the very best and most efficient and dedicated of charities.

Period.

And yet we do not give our citizens a full tax write-off to donate to Charity.  Nor do we give a tax write-off on even a minimum wage basis for those who donate time to Charitable works.

Even with that, the American People are the largest donor to Charitable works on the planet, outstripping all governments and when you include the time spent by Americans performing Charity to their fellow citizens, there is no Nation on the planet that provides as much time, effort, and energy as the American People to helping our fellow man.  Not only at home but on a global basis.

But we discriminate and heavily AGAINST charitable donations and provide SUBSIDIES to commercial industry?

What the hell is up with that?

You would think that those on the Right who are 'good Christians' would be bellowing in outrage that we subsidize commerce and discriminate against Charity!  Yet I can't find a peep about this on the Right.

And on the Left you would think that providing no cost care to the poor and means tested care to everyone else would be the MODEL that they would push for, to show that the great good of helping our fellow man is worth supporting and that everyone pays what they can afford to get such care while the good citizens of the Nation make up the rest.  Do they do that?  NO.  They seek to tax ALL CHARITABLE DONATIONS and discriminate further in support of undermining Charity and supporting Big Businesses that would result so that they an be 'regulated' by government and become the lap dogs of government.  No good word for Charity and our personal responsibility to aid our fellow man is ever, not once, spoken of without, in the very same breath, the concept of government being stated.

This is not a 'debate' that is looking at the best ways to cut costs, seek efficient care, ensure that the poor are not burdened to get care and that everyone else pays what they can afford.

It is, instead, a debate between Big Government supporters and Big Business supporters and no one, ever, talking about our responsibility to our fellow man as a personal burden that we each must carry on our own, to demonstrate that we can, indeed, do good works and are worthy individuals who hold that care as important enough to donate time and effort to.  Both seek to shift that burden from your shoulders and put it on someone else's who will NOT do a good a job of holding the spending accountable as Charity does.  After the Christmas Tsunami of 2004 the first groups to cite waste, fraud and abuse of donated goods and money was CHARITIES who served as the watch dog on ALL the donations for the region.  They pointed out the corruption, waste and abuse of funds by large donors and recipients, and then changed their own giving ways to go to those that WOULD deliver relief without the corruption.

Charity did that.

Not governments.

Not commercial enterprises.

Charity.

Charity that actually wants to deliver goods and services to the needy at the lowest cost possible to help the greatest number possible and never have to turn away the stricken.

Just try to get anyone to say a good word about Charity and how it needs our support to thrive and benefit all our citizens.  As it helps not just those receiving such help, but those giving it who know that they are creating a stronger society by easing such burdens and doing good works for their fellow man.

I can't find that in the modern 'debate', this actually doing the things being said that are wanted to be done by those willing and able to do it.  Regulation I can find lots of.  Helping our fellow man directly?

Lotsa luck, I tellya.

Friday, August 14, 2009

One graph to rue them all

The following is a personal perspective paper of The Jacksonian Party.

I had started thinking on what the current environment of the population would mean for the elections in 2010, what with the vehemence that is being shown against House and Senate members and that so many of them are of the Incumbistani Party, which holds its head up high inside the DC Beltway and disdains the vassal State of Electistan that they really don't wish to represent but must as that is their 'duty'. The Emirs of Incumbistan are very, very cozy in their relationship with their respective parties, both of which have worked very hard to make it impossible for a new party to form on even a State to State basis, not to speak of a National basis.

As the Incumbistani do have to stand for re-election from time to time, although often in 'safe' districts that their parties have gerrymandered into existence to protect those 'safe' seats, most of that is a rubber stamp affair with those backers who get goodies from the Incumbistani government wanting to show up to continue the goody stream, while those not getting goodies feel that they are left out and, soon, unrepresented by their 'Representative' who has the vested interest of those who gain from his or her votes to get goodies to them as a higher principle than the rest of the plebians there.

From memory I had dredged up that this was a modern symptom due solely to the changes of the 'Progressive' era. Thus I dredged through my posts and found the lovely graph of the problem, itself:


Courtesy: thirty-thousand.org

And there they are!

My initial feeling was that it had been a long time since there was even a 30% turnover in Congress, and I was right. The last times that happened in the post-'Progressive' era were: 1904, 1912-1916, 1922, 1934. As the top graph's red line is percentage, the startling artifact is that all Congresses prior to 1902 had never REACHED a 70% return rate. That era of 1896 to 1902 was the one-way 'ratchet' to modern Incumbistani politics, in which America went from 'throwing the bums out' on a continual basis to 'throwing the bums back in' on a continual basis. That percentage shift is as clear as night and day where the left half never reaches up to 70% turnover and the right half rarely reaches below 70%.

That increase that temporarily went outside all historic bounds up to that point changed the political landscape of the United States in ways I have gone over before: the Senate became a directly elected body and no longer represented Statehouses in the federal government, taxation was allowed to be directly and disproportionately levied upon all the people so that the federal government could discriminate who paid how much which was previously left to the States to do, the House capped its size outside of the proportionate powers given to it in the Constitution, and the federal government got the notion that it could restrict the use of medications and criminalize them and arrest doctors for the distribution of them.

The after-effects are astounding to contemplate, in that the government changed from being the protector and care-taker of the Nation to being the dominant player in the Nation, politically. Washington, DC went from a sleepy town to a metropolitan capitol with powers resident in it that none of the signers of the Constitution could imagine, although many of the Anti-Federalists could and did imagine them and stated them quite clearly. We went from the politics of the knock-down, drag-out fights of local concern to ones of huge party machines saying to the States just how a party could form and get on the ballot in each and every State. And when a new party could manage to gasp some air, the rules were changed, yet again to deprive them of air supply. Having come from a family that supported a third party that was once on the State ballot and then lost that due to political changes from the two major parties, I can say that with confidence and the party, itself, reported this happening in more than one State. Even if you don't like socialists, their right to be on the ballot with a party should not be DENIED by any political system.

That change-over would see the federal budget go from modest means, and barely able to support a foreign war in the Philippines, to a massive, government involved complex that would support the last standing million man army in Europe after WWI and be the key part of defeating three of the most dictatorial governments in WWII and defeat the last one in the Cold War. The expense of that was and is astronomical, to gain the most powerful and robust fighting force the planet has ever seen not just once, but multiple times: WWI, WWII, Cold War with Conscription, Cold War without Conscription, and the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately that power went far beyond just defending the Nation and has put in places schemes now causing the government and the Nation to go insolvent in trying to 'help' retirees, the sick, elderly, home owners... each of these places of intervention have drained money from our economy, concentrated power into government at the highest level, and now leave the people at the mercy of the Emirs of Incumbistan who feel that a bureaucracy can actually 'fix' health care while the bureaucracy is the PROBLEM in health care.

NOT conniving pharmaceuticals who now sign on with money and influence to get a bill THEY like.

NOT big retail chains who sign on to the concept so they can make the cost of becoming big insurmountable by PURCHASING political support.

NOT by overseas oil companies that seem to make the same 8% profit no matter where the market is because they have to cope with a fast paced and changing marketplace that has booms and busts thus making the ability to keep experienced hands on the payroll very difficult.

NOT the doctors who now spend as much money and time for staff to fill out paperwork FOR insurance companies as they do in TREATMENT of the ill.

NOT in insurance companies who do make a profit so they can expand coverage and pay back those that invest in them with dividends (and just why don't folks pick up mutual funds that invest in them to get some of THAT money back?).

No, there is a source of these problems and they don't start in 2004, 1992, 1986, 1978, 1966, or even 1948. They start in 1942 when the system was SUBSIDIZED to convince those who were retiring due to Social Security to stay at work: it was a non-cash benefit that wasn't taxed. That's right we subsidized the retirement and then had to subsidize convincing folks to COME BACK TO WORK. Social Security you can trace back to 1934-36, right after that last big turnover in Congress of 70%.

When the President cites 'history' of how we pay for health care,he isn't going back into deep and ancient history, not back to the Founding, not back to the Reconstruction, not back to the Progressive era, nor even back to the Roaring 20s (and damn I would love to have a Chicago Typewriter!). Nope, it is recent history within the living memory of our parents and grandparents! Only to the Baby Boom and post-Boomer generations is this 'history' in that it pre-existed them.

This 'problem' starts WITH government trying to do 'good' and having it backfire on them because they paid ZERO attention to changing demographics for life expectancy when they signed the bill into law back in the '30s. The US Census had that information THEN, BTW.

Even worse is that prior to the 1940's there was no problem in health care AT ALL.

Zilch.

The 'problem' comes when you subsidize insurance and get the problem of subsidies.

European Nations went one step further and made their systems 'universal' for State run coverage and got the Tragedy of the Commons.

Prior to the post-WWII era the US had universal coverage. They got it through charitable hospitals and doctors. Local physicians who did FREE work for the poor and less well off. Pharmacists who could give price breaks to long standing customers. And because the multiple immigrant communities had their own ideas about 'health care' they also went to barbers, butchers and other tradesmen who had a dab hand at injuries and setting bones as they had been doing that for decades as part of their trade. Not as doctors, but being a doctor wasn't all it was cracked up to be and is still more of an 'art' than a 'science'. Which is why doctors 'practice' at it. In case you missed what those things doctors set up are called.

To get to that era of 'change' in the 1930's you needed an entrenched elite class in DC.

That started in the 'Progressive' movement of the late 19th and early 20th century.

It was a light switch going from government doing very little and people exercising full liberty to government taking control in people's lives and restricting liberty.

You want medical marijuana? The 'Progressives', those lovely moralists, took that right from you as they did with all medications by demonizing the worst practices with them. The would NOT allow merely telling the people of the Nation what was in their foods and medicines to be enough... yet in the few years of that the people started to move from snake oil and to better prepared foods and medications... no the idea of restricting your liberty due to the abuses of a very few was the idea across the board.

There were problems with many of those medications, yes.

Restricting the liberty of the people and throwing them in jail for the abuse of those medications was not and is not an answer. Unfortunately church groups of that era didn't want to get that involved on a personal level but wanted government to just outlaw the stuff on moral grounds. Yes get government to do your dirty work for you, and forget that YOU are the one with the moral imperative from the Creator.

Before that era there were NO national restrictions on what you could take and a damned good thing that was because many of the Civil War vets were addicted to morphine due to war injuries and nothing, then or when the restrictions went into place, would solve their pain problems. Yes to do a moral 'good' those surviving veterans were made to SUFFER.

Just like the modern Left wants to do with 'The Greatest Generation' by health care 'reform'.

You know, the folks who went overseas to kill Fascists, Nazis and Imperialists?

Gotta love how they are being called Fascists by those too young to know what Fascism is as they begin to practice it.

That all starts with that light-switch in the Congress.

Things were not all smooth and sweetcakes before it, but it sure as hell beats being berated for what you eat by food Nazis, that's for damned sure. The abuses, even the very worst of them, were never amenable to governmental power in a land where liberty is the highest value for all citizens.

Of course if you don't give a damn about liberty and love authority, then you love the modern era, no end.

Tyrants, authoritarians, despots and dictators always love power and the fellow travelers looking to give it to them.

Perhaps, just perhaps, liberty is not dead in America.

We shall see if the authoritarians, who always say they will win and that you shouldn't resist... we shall see if they are right, and we are supine sheep for the fleecing and slaughter of the lambs... or if we are a free people willing to suffer the problems of liberty so that we can use our liberty to address those same problems without the help of government.

Because that is what We say as We the People.

Soon we will learn if we should have listened to the Anti-Federalists just a bit more, and paid less attention to the erudite supporters of a system that had the readily seen problems in it that we now see manifesting themselves today.

That choice rests in you.

Do your trust a bureaucrat more than yourself?

If you don't, then just when do you say: enough is enough?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Price vs value

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."
Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892, Act III
Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)

Visiting Megan McArdle's site (h/t Instapundit) where she writes about her writing about nationalized health care and how critics are trying to paint a very narrow window for criticism while the larger objective is to get nationalized health care is interesting.  What is more interesting is that a number of commentators speak about chronic diseases and their cost.

So, having a number of chronic conditions or conditions which can complicate chronic conditions or being treated with medication that treats chronic conditions that lead to further and worse fall out from chronic conditions... do you follow that?

One chronic condition can get complicating factors from other, possible, causes and medicating to lower the risk of those separate causes then lowers the risk of further complications to the main condition down the road.  Thus you treat the others at the first sign of problems or, due to the effects of medications for those conditions, you have the medication supplied BEFORE any of those other conditions show up as they help the main condition stave off further problems.

Got it now?

Good!

Now I've had type I diabetes (previously 'Juvenile Diabetes' but it now has been demonstrated to show up independent of age and other conditions, although may have some environmental factors associated with it as seen in the Scandinavian effect of more cases showing up in late fall and winter) since 1983.  Over 25 years with it and nearly 26.  As type I is not amenable to the medications for type II, and has different symptoms with it, and is the low percentage of all types of diabetes (~10%), it has some similar and some different risk factors with it although complications run about the same direction.

Starting in the early 80's and going to the early 90's I was on NPH insulin, one injection per day.  That had crept up with a resistance to it, but that (as it turns out) is not a permanent effect.  I was switched to Lantus (glargine) which lasts longer in the blood stream, but my use of it crept up, also.  Before all this I was and am prone to infections of the upper respiratory tract, and if you have ever experienced a dual ear infection, sinus infection, pleurisy and vomiting, I know EXACTLY what you have gone through.  All at the same time.  Without modern antibiotics of the 1970's I wouldn't be here, today.

Now this all changed when I volunteered for a trial study at NIH.

You know, National Institutes of Health?

I was, relatively, well at that point but a few of my cholesterol and other numbers needed to be 'baselined' so I was taken off of one statin that was causing me to gain weight and put on another.  That all squared away I was then put through a day or so of 'how to properly maintain your blood glucose level for this study' which turned out to be a primer on how to do this for your life.  It is not that complicated, and takes about a month to finally get all the proportions worked out right so you are balancing carbohydrate net intake per meal with the proper amount of insulin to counter it, per meal, and then do a test two hours later to ensure that your glucose levels are in the preferred range.

Thus my control of my condition went from 80's understanding relatively so-so to early 2004 understanding by the top researchers on the planet.

With poor control I was getting normal and expected complications due to how long I have had the disorder.  I had three bouts of laser surgery to cauterize areas at the back of my eyes that were seeping interstitial material.  I was getting some peripheral neuropathy, mostly in my feet, but still had and have decent sensation in them.  Basically, at 20 years onwards I was doing pretty well, all things considered.  And being a government employee and having chosen a health plan, all of the complication were picked up by the plan.

Now things changed in 2004-05 as one of the medications given to me to lower my cholesterol level had truly nasty and undesired side-effects that are not well publicized but horrific for anyone getting them.  Beyond memory loss I was having sudden lapses where I could not do anything with my body but was conscious.  Lethargy was omnipresent and my stamina plummeted to almost nothing.  Starting in DEC 2004 when these problems first started to appear, they were not correlated to the study medication and the best minds at NIH got a chance to try and figure out what was going on.  My personal physician also started work on it.  My endocrinologist identified the medication and the problem immediately... that was FEB 2005 and things were getting worse as the loss of body control was happening multiple times per day.  I was taken off the medication but the problems persisted and were not getting better.  By MAY 2005 I had my primary care physician fill out the paperwork to take me off the roads and I could no longer function at work.  From MAY-JUL 2005 I went to a neurologist who had a preliminary diagnosis in JUN 2005 (after an MRI) and final diagnosis after a PET scan (which I paid for out of pocket) as I wanted the condition nailed down.

From then, onwards, I have been dealing with a steadily improving condition via treatment with medications that we still don't know very much about even after they were invented in the mid-1970s.  Seems fitting as my genetic background has a predisposition to the condition that the prescription medication caused to become present.  That is no hard and firm diagnosis, but it does fit all the facts and will continue to be the best-fit explanation until a better one can come along.  Turns out my own endocrinologist was thinking of putting me on that medication, anyway, because of my underlying condition.

That period from DEC 2004 to JUL 2005 saw me taking more blood tests, getting imaged multiple ways, having my heart scanned in 3D (I was interested but my lack of energy and stamina kept that to a minimum), having pins inserted into my muscles to measure them and then have them artificially stimulated (it is not as unpleasant as it sounds, but isn't pleasant, either) and until I got a neurologist who could figure it out the next thing up was a spinal tap.

Mind you, this is with the VERY BEST researchers and clinicians I could get my hands on in the DC metro area...

To go through the disability paperwork I had to fill out a raft of forms from SSN.  That was necessary for my government disability, I expected nothing, zip, zilch from SSN because I was just debilitated to the point I couldn't drive, could walk around the block, and had problems staying awake most of the day.  My lady helped me and SHE was fine!  She had problems understanding the SSN paperwork which appears to be meant to defeat anyone who does not have their full cognitive abilities to their credit which was my case at the time.  Remember, this is FOR that exact, same sort of problem, so the paperwork is made in such a way as to stymie those needing help.

Gotta love that.

My diabetes, however, was in great control!

And I was put on two non-systemic medication to address cholesterol which runs relatively high in my family.

So, from that, and trying to avoid things like dialysis by keeping my blood vessels open NOW means a raft of medications, many that can have pretty nasty side effects and a tendency towards low blood pressure... I have had nurses at NIH look at me and ask if I was actually still conscious when they took my blood pressure.  Twice.  Two different machines.  Then come back in a half hour only to find that it hadn't increased.

So, what is my annual cost to keep going?  Well, I will round and ballpark some figures.

Insurance cost: $7,800 /year

Insulin - $120/year for one on co-pay, market price $370/year

$120/year for a second type co-pay, market price $480/year

$120/year for a third type co-pay, market price $480/year

$160/year for syringes co-pay, market price $160/year

$180/year for pen needles co-pay, market price $180/year

$200/year for test strips co-pay, market price $1,560/year (I kid you not)

$45/year for lancets co-pay, market price $75/year

Hypertension - $240/year co-pay, market price $240/year (now if I take the pet version my price plummets)

Cholesterol - $240/year co-pay for the first medication, market price $340/year

$240/year co-pay for the second medication, market price $2,700/year

Neurological condition - $240 year co-pay, $800/year

Cost of medical visits varies, but I have few of them per year at this point.  A hard guess is $60/year co-pay, $600/year market

Dental costs vary widely due to my conditions and my ability to actually be conscious in a dental chair.  If I was healthier I could give an estimate on that, but I can't... the price differential due to my plan only giving partial dental coverage is generally a wash.

When I add up the numbers I come to the total cost insured, with cost of insurance: $9,765/year

Total cost without insurance: $7,985/year

Why stick with insurance?

Since I get my lady covered under this plan her costs, added in, would tend to balance things a bit, making health insurance a bargain.  It would be even more of one if we could just get to single plans, but that is not to be in our lovely world.  Shocking, but true, we could knock nearly $2,000 off our total coverage costs if we had two single plans.  Yup, divorce and re-marry!  Hey what a way to 'preserve the family'!  Thank you to the two party system for making something simple so asinine.

Plus my conditions and possible complications.

I am NOT a relatively healthy individual.  And yet just about half my net income goes towards my health.

I really do love how people make the argument, to me, that 'this is for those who are very sick', not realizing that I am very sick.

If I had federal paperwork ON TOP of all the other paperwork INCLUDING the daft SSN paperwork, I would not be here.

What I did do was ascertain the shortened life expectancy of people with my condition, the cost of long term complications, and then started planning when I was younger to deal with these problems.  My personal precautions were about half-done when the second chronic disorder was visited upon me.  Yet planning, saving, and working out how to deal with these things with the ones I love meant that I would not be a burden on them, that I would not be in poverty and that I would not need charity.  I have looked into getting a price break on some of my medications, but I am just 'too rich' for that.  Yes, take what I pay out and multiply it by 2.  That is 'too rich' in the way of income.  I do have other sources of funds, yes, but the plans I made have served me well.  I have gotten unexpected support from others, but that is extra and I am damned and duly grateful for such gifts and am not too proud to accept them... because I know I am not in the best of shape.

My life plan had not included anyone else, and I had expected to live a life alone.  That plan was adapted with changed circumstances, but the basis of preparing early for one's future meant that I had to face the basics of my condition as it was, then, and not expect a damned insurance company to pick up the tab for my costs.  Plus I did not and do not expect a single penny from SSN as it is heading towards insolvent and draining cash out of the rest of the federal budget which will sink this government like a rock heading into the abyss.

 

What is my 'solution' for 'health care reform'?

 

If you read past this, don't complain.

 

First - tort reform - Any malpractice suits are limited to actual costs to fix what wasn't done right and, yes, pay for your upkeep if the problem is permanent.  NO 'pain and suffering' awards which have become an inflator and a lottery system for juries to hand out bundles of cash that insurers have to pay, that raise the cost of insurance.  And double damages on anyone bringing a frivolous suit in attempt to win a payout lottery.

Second - remove the subsidies - Remove all tax incentives for 'health insurance'.  Why?  Because subsidized goods and services get over-utilized in an uneconomic fashion, raising costs.  What do we see?  Raising costs of health insurance and health care?  Why?  It is subsidized.

Third - incentivize health care - What the hell is that?  Here is a two-fold deal: change 'health care' from an 'insurance' system to an 'investment' system.  Instead of paying for 'coverage' you pay for 'treatment' that you may or may not immediately use.  Your 'treatment' can then be cashed in at any future time at any set institution that you invested in.  The cost is set on purchase and can even be reduced if the group providing treatment doesn't expect you to need it any time soon.  What would a triple-bypass cost 20 years before you could reasonably expect to need it?  If you paid for it NOW via investing at an institution that will guarantee the procedure (backed up with proper insurance and bonding) then you have an ironclad guarantee of service for that treatment.  Going to move?  TRADE IT.  This is an investment, after all, but one for treatment.  So if you wanted to trade it for, say, similar coverage at a facility near where you are moving to and, maybe, 3 visits over 5 years for a top notch specialist in the area and can work that trade, then you have those in trade for your previous investment.  Like bonds, if an institution goes under you are first in line for the FULL COST of the treatment when the place goes under: you are a creditor.  That is part one of incentivizing health care so you pay, now, for procedures you may not need and can then trade for ones you DO need.

Fourth - health savings accounts redux - Allow a full roll-over of money in all HSAs just like IRAs.  Allow full investment in money earning vehicles in HSAs.  Do not tax money earned in HSAs so long as they are used for medical procedures, medications, office visits, durable equipment, etc.  Set no limit on how much can be put into such accounts.  Allow employers to put money into their employees accounts TAX FREE.  Thus the employee could manage these funds towards the good end of paying for their health care (be it with or without insurance).  When employers offer job packages they can offer HSA contributions in lieu of pay or in addition to health insurance but with a lower salary.  Good long term investments will yield larger accounts, over time, and will ease the worry of skyrocketing medical costs... particularly if people decide to invest IN those providing health care.  Are health care companies and pharmaceutical companies making gonzo bucks?  That is reflected in investment portfolios, is it not?  If you invest in a portfolio, then you gain the benefit of a growing industry that will help you pay for the costs of it due to it being the one you need services from.

Fifth - there is no such thing as a 'national market' for health care - This is why we have 50 States.  You see a better arrangement in another State?  MOVE THERE.  Or write to your State representatives to see if a State to State arrangement can be made to expand coverage.  Large companies providing coverage already do this, of course, but smaller ones need protection due to the fact they address more localized markets and are better adapted to them.  When localized health care companies go under to be taken over by larger ones, the market loses competition and that is a long term worry to the citizenry and should be to the Nation as only a dog-eat-dog system at the lowest level allows larger structures to be pulled apart by innovation.  As it is the larger companies gobble up the small, shut the small facilities and leave communities without the facilities or coverage that used to be available.  Small scale inefficiency that is adapted to the small scale may have other benefits outside of 'cost maintenance': like providing any care AT ALL to a small community or sub-community in a larger population center.  If we are supposed to have 'laboratories of liberty' in our 50 States then getting a 'national market' is the last thing anyone should want.  That concentrates too much power in the hands of too few groups and individuals.  This also removes the 'tragedy of the commons' in which no one really much cares about the larger market and it then starts to stagnate because no one has the power to actually make sure it is working well at the small scale.

Sixth - The grotesque thing about government run anything is the inefficiencies of government, itself.  The best run of government agencies at the federal level, and I worked at it, was 65% efficient at what it did.  Yes the government, via overhead, only wasted 35% of every dollar spent!  Private industry does a much better job at 20% inefficiency, on average.  Remember the average of industry is still better than the best of government.  But if you really want to drive costs DOWN and put COMPETITION into the market there is one area that can compete with industry.  That is charity.  There are organizations that rate the amount that charities spend on overhead, and it is typically in the 7-15% range.  That is the equivalent of waste for a charity.  There are some that try to get that down to 1% via volunteers and other organized form of help that doesn't need to be paid for.  Of these three groups, which is the most efficient at providing 'health care'?  Government, industry or charity?  If you answer 'charity' then why is not the full and absolute amount donated to charity given as a tax write-off?  This, too, is a marketplace incentive, but one geared towards actually HELPING the poor get treatment.  Pharmaceutical companies could be given write-offs based on donations of modern medicines, not those that have expired, but fresh production.  Ditto to other parts of industry making durable goods and consumables used in health care.  By allowing companies to donate goods directly to charity to be used for the poor or those that cannot pay, we ALL gain greatly without any further interference by government.  Indeed local governments can give incentives in the way of property tax and other tax breaks to charitable organizations that do this work.  What is garnered are committed individuals who have the best interest of patients and the community at heart.

 

I do, indeed, want a health care system that 'works' for everyone.

One where we invest in our future infrastructure, not worry about current payments.

One where individuals are allowed to invest in themselves and their families, not one that takes money from them in taxes.

One that rewards charity to build communities so that the poor and needy are looked after by those who want to and will do their level best to cut all costs so that the money is spent ON the poor and not for profits.

To do these things requires that we change our way of viewing 'health care' as a service and treat it as an investment for ourselves, our children, our neighbors and our Nation.  You can't get that with government oversight.

But you can do that by the common citizen willing to take part to donate money and time, precious time from their lives, to charity.  Why do we penalize that instead of rewarding it? 

We are missing out on the best value around when we argue about costs.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

When civility disappears you have tyranny

I left a comment over at Mr. Z's place after seeing how those on the Left were following various marching orders for how to 'stop disruption' at town hall meetings held by Congresscritters: bus people in with the same outfits, with pre-printed pamphlets, surround the Congresscritter to 'protect' them, and then work to shout down citizens who were vocally complaining about health care, the stimulus that isn't stimulation, bail outs, not actually reading bills before passing them, expectations of the National Debt crushing the Nation, and so on.

Here is the comment verbatim, all spelling errors and such left intact for the amusement of the audience:

The mask slips on the Left and we now see organized violence, unions threatening to 'confront' people like the SEIU and disrespect of our elders by organizations purporting to support their wishes... and forget that those people are from The Greatest Generation and will not go down without a fight when opposed by tyrants be they monsters at the head of mighty nations or sweet mouthed deceivers looking to snooker them out of the very care they say they will provide.

Yes there is an 'astroturf' campaign going on... HCAN, SEIU and others are all following a script... saying the same things, intimidating their fellow citizens and seeking to end debate by their presence and closing out those who disagree with them.

If this were Bush doing that, the Left would howl in outrage over 'civil rights violations' and corruption at the highest levels of government. Instead we get the sockpuppets of repetition who are part of the campaign, itself. Those wishing to dissent are not starting this fight. That takes those wanting to intimidate, coerce and stifle debate to do that. It is clearly stated, clearly laid out and enunciated.

Not by those wishing to hold their Representatives accountable.

But by those wishing to stop speech and democracy in action.

Amazing how the Left decries 'astroturf' campaigns after committing so many in the past few decades on everything from 'global warming' (or is the PC term now 'climate change', as if the climate never changes?), 'race relations', housing, expanding 'entitlements', and doing such lovely things as attacking the character of a US General during an active military campaign. Yes the Code Pink, MoveOn, anti-war groups, global warming/climate change priests, million being marches that don't get 10% of a million... all of the usual suspects have been 'astroturfing' with Big Money backing from various individuals and corporations for years. The problem was that they got so used to that style of money-backed 'organizing' in politics that they didn't ever expect to see any other kind... and aren't able to RECOGNIZE any other kind due to the hot house theatrics the Leftist 'organizers' have been staging for decades.

The nature of American political movements is not top-down, but bottom-up.

Martin Luther King showed up a couple of years after protests were actively going on and were bolstered by men coming from the integrated Armed Forces who had fought with their fellow Americans of all races in Korea. The bottom part of racism in the south, that held by individual men of a young age, had changed due to military service post-WWII.

The Anti-Viet Nam war movement did not start out as a National scale movement, but one of isolated protests in the early to mid-1960's. The civil rights 'organizers' who moved to that venue saw success of a limited kind, and their grand idea that this would 'save lives' overseas proved to be drastically wrong with the North Vietnamese killing their way through the south, the collapse of Laos to Communism and the take-over of Cambodia by the genocidal Pol Pot. Those dominos plunked on the beach with no further to follow, but the wash of red, in blood, told a tale quite different than the lovely scenario painted by the 'activists' of how everything would just go perfectly once the US left. Well, the silence of the grave is a form of perfection, I guess, but not the one predicted.

That 'activist' generation has a lot to answer for on that, but no one ever held their feet to the fire to put forward that the ideology presented was self-serving, nihilistic and lethal to those we supported overseas and those that depended on us to hold a line we said we would hold.

That generation also got the space program gutted and then ensured that the authoritarian presence of government would stifle private space industry by limiting space access. When I hear complaints about global warming/climate change and the dangers of nuclear power, plus how industry is so very, very bad... I look back to Gerard K. O'Neill's group of engineers who had put forth a perfectly good plan to start removing fossil fuel based power stations via a system of expanding space based presence and industry. That was done from 1968-1972. Somehow the idea of expanding industry to the one, guaranteed, non-polluting basis that is still available so as to expand the economy and start getting industry moved off the planet just never did get to those who wanted to get more money spent on welfare and expand the power of government. Say, did all those billions put out in anti-poverty programs actually end poverty?

Just asking.

Wanting government to do the hard work for you misses the point that government is non-productive: it has a negative role in our economy and our lives by design. Any government that tries to get a 'positive' role seems to end up being expensive, authoritarian, expansive against personal liberty, and starts to dictate your life, your health and when you should die to you. And stifle your freedom of expression, your liberty and your pursuit of happiness to boot. I don't need to go back to the 1930's for that! I just have to see a President wanting a 'snitch list' of Americans who have the temerity to DISAGREE WITH HIM and that self-same President getting up and saying that those who 'caused the health care problem' need to shut up.

Say, that's the LEFT! They have been the #1 cause of inefficiency via government through increased regulation and encroachment on personal liberties AND productivity for decades, now. Congress, too. And the President himself, come to that.

Meanwhile 'youths' in decaying France hold more 'car-b-que' events, and that sort of thing is now spreading to Germany not on the ethnic 'youths' side but from the LEFT. In Great Britain, meanwhile, those in constant back pain don't get to have access to medication for it via 'the government plan', so that the POOR are deprived of pain relief. Why, that is just so compassionate, isn't it? And forget about defending yourself or your home in the UK: try to do that and YOU will be arrested on assault charges and tried. They disarmed the public a few years ago, the Red Mafia saw fertile fields to deploy lots of illegal automatic weapons, and the UK police, the grand, old 'Bobbies' are now in body armor and ALSO toting rifles and automatic weapons.

That worked out so well, didn't it?

All these lovely, grand, multi-culti ideals of the Left tend to wind up with property destroyed, economies in the doldrums, birth rates below sustaining levels, crime on the rise, and individuals oppressed by government in large ways and small: from their life to their health, there is no end to the 'good' government can't do.

I remember, clearly, going through university in the mid-1980's that the largest, number one, by far out distancing all other Leftist complaints, bar none, no exceptions was the following: that the American people weren't 'activist' and wouldn't join marches, etc.

And now... now... when the American people actually do start to attend meetings, rallies, and hold protests, what do we get from the Left?

Complaints that this is 'organized'!

One...

Two...

Three....

AWWWWWWWWWW!! Poor Babies!!!

You got what you wished for.

Deal with it.

The people most effected by 'health care reform'? You know the ones that are being called 'fascists' for complaining?

Yeah, as I put up above, 'The Greatest Generation'.

Amazing to think that men who had stormed the Beaches of Normandy, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Sicily... these guys who fought and killed fascists for years are being called 'fascists' by an ungrateful, wretched Left that can't appreciate just how much they have twisted the language around to protect themselves from reading history and understanding what fascism is. I am not seeing anyone in protests standing up for more government, for socialism, and for fascism.

No only those following the lock-step orders on the Left are doing that. They did, indeed, read 1984 as a training manual. That describes Europe, however, not America. When you follow socialist doctrine aimed towards limited transportation societies with a history of authoritarian regimes going back centuries, you can get Orwell. When you do that in America, however, you get Alice in Wonderland and find yourself not supporting Big Brother but the Red Queen with her races and your words meaning just whatever you want them to. Which is Duckspeak.

That winds up with 'Off with their heads', in case its been forgotten.

Yes, 1984 through the Looking Glass... what a grotesquely horrific thing these events portend.

As civility decreases on the part of the Left, we hear the voice of ordering authority.

The Big Red Queen arises.

In the most well armed civilian population on the planet.

The violence has already started from the Left.

They either step back, now, and disown the authoritarianism... or they find out just what happens in a Nation like America when the public actually DOES become active.

And it is not what they wanted, I'll tell you that right now having seen their expectations from the '80s onwards.