The New Clarion

The New Clarion header image 2

Health Care in Canada: Chewing the Legs Off

September 2nd, 2009 by Jim May · 46 Comments · Socialized Medicine

Once more, a comment of mine takes on a life of its own and demands its own post.  This one is in response to a comment left by Greg Paulhus, one of the remaining Canadians who have yet to be disillusioned by the ongoing collapse of their socialized medical system.

In it, Paulhus attempts to claim that the stories of misery in Canada are emanating primarily from Alberta and Ontario, where there are smidgeons of private health care being permitted for the moment — so therefore, those little smidgeons of private health care must be the root of the problems there!

While Mr. Paulhus catches up on his basic logic skills, the rest of us can dig into the facts he’s evading.

But first, let us give him some credit: by trying to tell us that Ontario and Alberta don’t count anymore, he nonethless admits thereby that things really aren’t all candy-stripers and balloons in the Great White North.  Instead of telling us how nice the system is in Canada, now it’s all about how great things are in Saskatchewan!

As I am familiar with this playing field, this moving of the goalposts by Paulhus will avail him no good.  The facts on the ground must be pretty bad in Alberta and Ontario for the Canadian socialists to be chewing their own legs off in the trap like that.  Of course, what Paulhus fails to note for our non-Canadian audience is that Ontario and Alberta together contain half or so of the population.  Those are big legs.

The stories like this that I know of through personal connections and direct experience all predate the advent of that smidgeon of private medicine that is currently permitted in Ontario.  This privatization was undoubtedly prompted by the Chaoulli case in Quebec that I noted earlier; that case is only binding in Quebec at present, and yet Ontario and Alberta have since found it necessary to permit that smidgeon to order to alleviate the ongoing slow collapse (and likely Chaoulli-inspired legal consequences) of the system. This failure has been long in coming, and was thoroughly manifest long before the privatization; the latter is obviously  a *response* to the crisis, not its cause.

(I’d be interested in knowing more about what is going on in Quebec, where Chaoulli has legal force. That Paulhus fails to mention it makes it a good bet that Quebec also breaks his narrative to some extent.)

But wait, there’s more! (with apologies to Billy Mays, RIP): the “transfer payment” subsidy.

These payments are part of an interprovincial welfare program, which the federal government uses to redistribute tax wealth from the “have” provinces to the “have-not” ones. You can bet that Alberta (oil) and Ontario (manufacturing base) are “have” provinces… while Saskatchewan, the birthplace of Canadian socialism, has long been a “have-not”.

The extent to which things are medically “better” in Saskatchewan is the extent to which their system is subsidized — by Alberta and Ontario. Paulhus and his ilk are no better than those Easterners in the early ’80’s who crowed about the National Energy Program and the low gas prices it brought about… while carefully failing to look too deeply into what that cheap gas was costing Albertans.

UPDATE: well, I’d almost have lost that bet; Saskatchewan has been a relatively small net recipient of transfer payments of late, and won’t even qualify for any in 2009-2010.  Ontario and Alberta, however, remain the net losers in this deal.

46 Comments so far ↓

  • Embedded I

    Excellent Post Mr. May, especially in pointing out the logic and shifting goal-posts approach used by Paulhus. Thank-you.

    Paulhus also ignored the progression I purposely provided in the 2nd half of my post. Having access to insider information (via my MD wife at the time), enabled me to see changes in Ontario medicine a decade earlier than outsiders. Obviously my post did not provide every tidbit I knew.

    Here’s how state run health care, eventually, gets funded. In the mid-nineties, I attended a hospital admin BBQ party at the home of the relatively new hospital president. The president and admin staff were increasingly concerned about financial limitations the hospital faced. However, a Liberal government had just been elected, and a ‘friend’ of his had been appointed Minister of Health. This new president announced, with a big smile (paraphrasing), “With a little schmoozing in the right places I’m sure I can get the extra funding“.

    The president was right, he got the funding in a matter of months. That’s taxpayer money being distributed by favoritism… i.e. the Wesley Mouch School of Fairness.

    No, they did not open that closed ward, but new equipment sped up the processing of patients in a way that did provide better service for a few years. Elsewhere, other presidents, especially those not supporting the Liberals, were not so favored.

    PJTV presents a 3:15 min video look at Quebec Health Care. Whilst the health complaint Steve Crowder presents is minor, observe the comments made by the health care and secretarial staff he faces. It is not that all staff and circumstances are of that sort, but it is true that is the direction socialized health care inexorably moves.

  • Greg Paulhus

    Hmm, in responding to my comment here you haven’t really made much of a point. The fact remains that there’s a ton of objective data pointing to the conclusion that single payer government run healthcare costs less and has better outcomes for a given population. I’m a pragmatist, I don’t really care how healthcare is delivered or who delivers it. I go with whatever the evidence says is the best way to do it. Sounds to me like you’re an idealogue, you are picking and choosing facts to suit your version of reality. Sure, there’s lots of stuff that needs to be fixed in the Canadian healthcare system, but ‘socialized medicine’ has been around for a long time in a number of countries, and you can simply look at the outcomes. It’s a better way to deliver healthcare. I’d be interested to hear a logical argument against single payer healthcare, because so far you have failed to mount a decent argument.

    My point about Alberta and Ontario is simple, when you stray from a single payer system you begin to have problems. For example, medical procedures in private clinics tend to cost more in a private clinic than in the public system, but with same outcomes. So what exactly is the benefit to outsourcing procedures to a private clinic? As far as I can tell from the evidence I’ve seen, there isn’t any benefit.

  • Greg Paulhus

    To further illustrate my point, the United States spends $7,290 per capita and about 16 percent of GDP on healthcare, and that’s expected to go up to something like 19 percent in the next few years. In Canada it’s $3,678 per capita and about 10 percent of GDP, and it’s expected to stay fairly stable (most likely with a slight increase). Canada has better health outcomes in most areas. So, do you like spending more money on healthcare, or do you want to bring costs down? Aren’t you a conservative? You should want to save money, right? The lower you can get healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP, the more robust your economy will be. Don’t you want a robust economy and a fiscally conservative government? Don’t you want lower taxes? In many respects you’re arguing against yourself here. You want to talk about chewing off legs? Look in the mirror.

  • Mike

    Paulhus, how do you answer the fact that every country in the world with socialized medicine is free-riding on pharmaceutical and medical innovation generated in the United States?

  • Mike

    Also:
    “As far as I can tell from the evidence I’ve seen, there isn’t any benefit.”

    Then people wouldn’t be paying for it. Yet they are.

  • Brad Harper

    Greg, your confession of pragmatism is the most worthy and telling aspect of your entire speech. You could’ve just stopped there and spared us the boring redundancy.

    I’m skeptical of claims touting any form of superiority presented by SocialMed, but even in the very unlikely case that any are factual, they’re irrelevant in the only sense that matters – the moral context.

    You could cite every supposedly positive aspect fathomable and none would offset the immoral essence of socialized medicine.

    Suppose you could demonstrably claim increased innovation, lowered costs, and a dramatic universal increase in life expectancy – the fact remains that such a system is rooted in the wholesale encroachment of individual rights. There is no combination of practical angles that outweigh the moral essence. There is no scope of benevolence reaped by one man or one million that can justify forcefully clobbering a single right of another individual.

    Considering your blatant admission of deeming the means to achieve SocialMed as unimportant, I can’t expect the moral angle to register the faintest blip on your ethical radar. We get it… you have a desire, and you’ll claim it at any cost.

  • Greg Paulhus

    >> Suppose you could demonstrably claim increased innovation, lowered costs, and a dramatic universal increase in life expectancy – the fact remains that such a system is rooted in the wholesale encroachment of individual rights.

    How exactly does good, effective healthcare for all citizens have a negative impact on individual rights?

    You’re starting your argument from the position of ‘anything that encroaches on individual rights is bad’. But that’s just not true. Humans have to work collectively in order to survive. Your basic premise doesn’t hold up. You argue for individual rights in the extreme and yet you live under the rule of law, a collective system in which you subordinate some individual rights so that society can operate in a stable manner.

    The essence of your position is that even if a certain system, a method of doing something, is proven to be the best way possible with the best outcomes for all, that if that system encroaches on individual rights (as defined by who exactly, but that’s another argument) then you’re against it. That is the very definition of an idealogue. You’re proving my argument for me. Thanks for the assist.

  • Brad Harper

    “You’re starting your argument from the position of ‘anything that encroaches on individual rights is bad’. “

    Correct.

    “But that’s just not true. Humans have to work collectively in order to survive. “

    Incorrect. Individuals must think and act individually to survive. They can benefit from the trade and knowledge of other individuals, but only under certain conditions. Existing as prey to systemic looting by parasites is not one of those conditions.

    “Your basic premise doesn’t hold up. You argue for individual rights in the extreme and yet you live under the rule of law, a collective system in which you subordinate some individual rights so that society can operate in a stable manner.”

    Incorrect. A proper society is based on the sanctity of individual rights, not on their sacrifice. No guiding tenet of a rational, free society imposes an encroachment on legitimate individual rights.

    “The essence of your position is that even if a certain system, a method of doing something, is proven to be the best way possible with the best outcomes for all, that if that system encroaches on individual rights (as defined by who exactly, but that’s another argument) then you’re against it. “

    Correct. Utilitarianism evades the moral context.

    “That is the very definition of an idealogue. You’re proving my argument for me. Thanks for the assist.”

    Correct. Although I’m not clear as to exactly how my consistent adherence to rational principles helps your argument?

  • Mike

    Paulhus, you have no idea what Brad is talking about. Perhaps you should become better-read before you expound. You argue, by your own admission, from pragmatism, while Brad argues from principle. One of the two positions possesses what statisticians call “inevitability.” Guess which?

    I will tell you how, EXACTLY, socialized medicine has a negative impact on individual rights: the property of some individuals is expropriated to pay for services for other individuals. Period. Full stop. It would not matter if the socialized medicine worked better than America’s top hospitals at a fraction of the cost (and even proponents of SM admit it isn’t anywhere near that good). It would still be a violation of individual rights.

    You fundamentally misunderstand why governments are instituted among men and why they protect individual rights as what should be their sole purpose. Humans do not, in fact, work collectively. They work as individuals each in their own self-interest. Objectivism is not anarchy, a misrepresentation common among the liberal left and made easier because too many Libertarians give lip service to anarchy — perhaps a consequence of such philosophical blunders as considering the non-initiation principle axiomatic. It is a legitimate purpose of government to maintain a military, police, and court system, whether at national or local levels as function demands. Those things protect the individual rights of all citizens. Everything that does not fall within the scope of those functions should be left entirely to the private sector.

    Individual rights are defined by reality. Start with “existence exists” and you can work your way rationally and incontrovertibly to “every individual possesses the absolute right to his or her own life.” I’ll leave it to you to do your homework on that one because it’s going to take you some time and shatter a lot of your preconceptions.

    An amusing aside is that once people “solve” health care (and all social services not within the legitimate core purposes of government) by realizing it has to go to a 100% private (NOT mixed) system, it “solves” immigration as well. There is no valid argument to denying citizenship to a willing immigrant if that immigrant is willing to pay his own way. Even on a common-sense, pragmatic level, you should be able to appreciate that. In fact, even on a pragmatic level, you need only to look at the history of LASIK surgery to see what happens in medicine when a free market is largely left to go its own way. LASIK is among the least-regulated components of the medical care market in the USA. In 20 years, the price has dropped from $25k to $300 PER EYE, and efficacy has increased from 89% to 99.991% success. You seem to like stats so chew on those for a while and see what they reveal.

    You make an assumption in your original post that you are on a blog populated by conservatives. This is not the case. Objectivists are the antithesis of both liberal and conservative as they are defined today, because both would wantonly violate individual rights to effect their agendae. But just to be sure you can place it in its proper context on the “wedge issues”, since it’s clear this demographic is new to you: Objectivists are atheist, pro-choice, pro-drug-legalization, anti-censorship, anti-“spreading Democracy” empire-building. Right there it should be clear that “conservative” as you know it isn’t a part of the picture.

    In answer to your parting shot to Brad, anyone who argues from principle these days is smeared as an “ideologue” because there is no way to defeat an airtight principled argument like the one Brad just slaughtered you with above. Ad-hominem is all the pragmatists have left, and it is no surprise that it is the tool you chose to use. After all, the ends justify any means for you, don’t they?

  • Brad Harper

    “How exactly does good, effective healthcare for all citizens have a negative impact on individual rights?”

    In the same manner that a burglar providing himself with a “good, effective” bounty from my home has a negative impact on my rights.

    I regret overlooking this softball… see Mike’s answer above.

  • Bill Brown

    Greg: I pay more for my health insurance than the per capita figure you cited and probably double if you factor in what my employer pays. What I get is not what I would get on the free market because it covers procedures that I would gladly opt-out of if I could, is limited to what the state of Arizona allows my insurance company to do, and is tied to my job.

    But there’s one aspect of the free market that still remains: I can choose whether to pay that sum or not. With socialized medicine, I lose that power. I don’t care if Candians pay less than me: they get less than me automatically because they’ve got no choice in the matter. (Unless you’re including the ability to cross the border and illegally obtain American medical care, which, um, I wouldn’t include if I were you.)

    I am a human being and I should be able to determine whether, how much, and in what form I pay for medical care. That is not dependent on whether other people couldn’t afford what I pay, whether they get better care, or whether some have to do without. I know what is best for me and my family, not some central planner. The current system of health care is broken, but only insofar as it takes choice and authority from the individual. The answer is not to take more away, à la Canada.

  • Greg Paulhus

    Is it ironic that you folks would say ad-hominem attacks are all your opponents have left, but you’re actually using them on me, telling me I need to be ‘better -read’ and ‘I’ll leave it to you to do your homework on that one because it’s going to take you some time and shatter a lot of your preconceptions.’?

    I’m university-educated with degrees in English, Philosophy, and History. I’ll say that one again, Philosophy. I understand perfectly what you’re discussing. You’re just wrong, that’s all. It’s a fallacy to think humans don’t operate on the basis of collectivism. Objectivism is bullshit (in my opinion), that’s basically what it comes down to. I’ve said my piece, I’m done here. I’ll leave you existentialists to it 🙂

  • Bill Brown

    I know you’re done with this, but what fallacy indicates that “humans don’t operate on the basis of collectivism?” Is that the Fallacy of Assertion? Or Argumentum ad Because-I-Said-So? Clearly, people need other people in a modern economy due to division of labor but they trade on the basis of mutual benefit. I willingly pay (handsomely) for medical insurance because I think that the safety and security of ready health care is worth the price. But when my money is taken from me to pay for others insurance or I cannot pay for my own medical insurance, then we are no longer dealing with division of labor or free trade.

    You are equivocating on “collectivism:” it does not mean division of labor and voluntary trade—which is how humans do in fact operate. It means the group is all and the individual may be sacrificed for the good of the group. That is not how humans should operate at all.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Bill –

    Your last point reminds me of this quote:

    “You see, Miss Taggart,” said Hugh Akston, “man is a social being, but not in the way the looters preach.”

  • C.T.

    Disruptive? To the contrary, that was a valuable exchange. No better way to reveal the opposition for what they are than to get them to say it themselves.

  • Moataz

    “I’m a pragmatist, I don’t really care how healthcare is delivered or who delivers it”

    says it all really

  • Greg Paulhus

    Okay, I do have time for one last quick post. Here’s a quote you should all know, ‘collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group’. Do any of you have a family? That’s collectivism, you subjugate some individual rights in order to operate the family group successfully. And when I say collectivism I’m not talking about the twisted political definition you’re all afraid of, where the projected end result is totalitarianism. Collectivism simply means any system where humans are interdependent. Yes, it’s more complex than that, but I don’t have time for an academic discussion of philosophy. And when I say ‘fallacy’ I don’t mean it in the philosophical sense, I mean it as ‘a mistaken idea’. The interdependent nature of humans is reality, that’s the objective truth, and you should care about what is objectively true.

    One more thing, if you’re adhering to Objectivism, then you shouldn’t be using the phrase ‘socialized medicine’, since that’s a biased term (and also someone else’s talking point). You should say something like ‘single payer healthcare managed by the government’.

    Finally, when I say I don’t care who delivers healthcare or how, please read the full context. It’s clear that I mean we should implement the best method, choose the best ideas. I mean we should act rationally, objectively, and in our own self interest, which is to say collectivism.

  • Grant

    Greg,

    An individual does not sacrifice his rights when he consents to cooperate with other people. Instead, he foregoes other possibilities for the sake of one particular course of action. Social interaction is, at root, just like any other action. The issue of the relative costs or benefits of that choice is just that: an issue of costs and benefits. It is not fundamental to the nature of man. Rights are.

    To treat rights as intrinsic – as you are doing – would mean that you would have to argue that when a man picks a particular valley to build his home in, he is giving up his “freedom” to build it in every other valley on Earth. That reality requires definite decisions of man in order for him to survive – that he cannot have the same house in two valleys at the same time – does not mean that his freedom is being violated.

    Reality cannot violate a man’s freedom, only other men can. The difference is that while reality does require a man to act rational, it does not require of him that if he wishes to avoid the consequences of not doing so he must share with others the products of his rationality. That “requirement” comes from other men, and other men alone. Men who do not wish to pay for the consequences of their own irrationality. To be free of this “requirement” is the only rational way in which to speak of the right to liberty – which is, not coincidentally, a requirement of the right to life.

  • Brad Harper

    Striving to redefine objective terms only obfuscates the discussion, so I’ll disregard those attempts – your interpretations are irrelevant in principle anyway.

    “The interdependent nature of humans is reality…”

    This is a fallacy driven by modern collectivist philosophy. The only interdependency prescribed by man’s nature, in existential terms, is that of a child depending on its mother (parents) for nourishment and protection until he’s old enough to assume self-sustenance. Any “interdependence” outside of that narrow prescription is (ought to be) completely volitional, and is morally valid only according to objective ethical standards. For example, an individual who enjoys a loving relationship with his parents is morally justified in caring for them to the best of his ability, and to the extent that he chooses. Alternatively, an individual who endured mental, physical, or psychological abuse from his parents owes no care, support or even association with them. There are objective standards guiding our interaction and any subsequent voluntary “interdependence” with others – mere existence is not an automatic ticket to be dependent on others. The fact that you are alive doesn’t sign me up as a dependent, nor does my existence avail me to arbitrary servitude.

    “…if you’re adhering to Objectivism, then you shouldn’t be using the phrase ’socialized medicine’, since that’s a biased term…”

    Using the phrase “Socialized Medicine” is entirely appropriate as economy of words. Continually referring to “government intervention in the field of medicine as the means to collectivist ends” is unnecessarily inefficient communication. Additionally, the socialization of health care is under a constantly evolving cloak by progressive advocates. Trendy phrases and positive spin lines, e.g., “universal” “single-payer”, are attempts to dilute the hideous nature of the scheme by disassociating it with concrete references that are colloquially linked to evil, misery and tyranny. I’d rather preserve those justly accurate references for the sake of objectivity. Would we justly refer to rape as a “single-beneficiary sexual human engagement”? – Only if the goal were to whitewash the essence.

    “I mean we should act rationally, objectively, and in our own self interest, which is to say collectivism.”

    Viewing collectivism as the means to act in one’s own self-interest drops the contexts of rights (morality) and range (practicality). Trampling the rights of others to achieve some perceived short-term gain evades the notion that anything gained at the unjust expense of others, as opposed to being rightfully earned by ones own productive efforts, is not an objective value – but the moral equivalent of theft by proxy. In the practical sense, condoning a system which might afford some a temporary gain (again at the expense of others) but will inevitably result in the stagnant misery is also not an objective value.

    Values only exist in the context of an individual. Collectivism, by its very definition, is anti-individual, and thus cannot serve as the means to achieve any objective value.

  • C.T.

    All political discussion goes down to philosophic premises. If you don’t have time for an academic discussion of philosophy, than discussion of any political issue is futile and pointless. Every thought you have ever had or will ever have is based upon your fundamental philosophic premises. If you can’t take the time to listen to someone explain the flaws in your underlying premises, don’t bother engaging them in debate. It’s simply a waste of time. Just club them over the head, which is what government authority is. You advocate for this gov’t program or that gov’t program, and it all comes down to force. So don’t bother trying to tell us “it’s for your own good, whether you like it or not.” (Or, in this case, “It’s for the good of more people than not, so you have to accept it whether you like it or not, because the ‘greater good’ outweighs your personal, selfish interests.”) I’m not your slave, no matter how many people you get to vote on it.

  • Mike

    CT,

    Your argument strikes at an issue that has been bothering me lately, and I appreciate the stimulus.

    Too often lately I have been drawn into “discussions” in which it would be simple to refute the opposing viewpoint in its totality if my opponent simply understood the philosophical basis for objective, reality-based individual rights. And so, of course, I try to explain these things, but a person looking for a pragmatic argument about, say, health care, is pretty much stone-deaf to a principled argument about it. This is evidenced clearly enough by the comment responses to Dr. Lewis’ “Health care as a right” editorial on Huffington Post. Pragmatists dismiss Lewis’ position as impractical, while altruists, in essence, dismiss him as a “big meanie.”

    It becomes fatiguing to try over and over again to bring a new acquaintance down the path to understanding the principled . But how else can people be taught (and in essence learn for themselves) how to scrutinize, understand, and finally validate an objective epistemology? I was as bad as any Paulhus you like before challenging Objectivism with every fiber of my being and having to admit, upon exhaustive scrutiny, that the objective epistemology still stood up despite every argument I could craft with which to assail it. I had enough intellectual honesty to be able to see where I had been proven wrong. I think if I had been TOLD that instead of discovering it for myself, I would have dug in my heels instead of acknowledging reality.

    So how do we resolve this dilemma? Objectivism is transparent — that is, there is nothing esoteric about its principles, and every element of it is bared for individuals to see — yet too few are willing to look. Yet the kind of people who need Objectivism the most are the kind who will not look of their own accord, and who will resist most attempts by others to be persuaded to look. If a person is blind from birth, how do you explain to him what it means to see?

  • Brad Harper

    Mike, I share your frustration… Being relatively new to Objectivism (~ 6 years), I’m just now getting to the point where I’ve spent enough time in the trenches to have a good feel for who’s in the room. I think it largely comes down to one’s level of patience, energy and motivation relative to the opponents (for lack of a better term) ability to abstract and concretize principles. At least based on the interaction above, Greg Paulhus seems completely reachable. He might dig in his heels for a few years, but he *appears* capable of diligent introspection. All it takes is a single thorough analysis of the mental process involved when one unravels a faulty premise, and the whole hierarchy stands to be compromised – *if* the individual stays with it.

    Greg may not follow the meat of this conversation to its conceptual ends for years, but if he keeps an active mind, he’ll get it. On the other hand, he may resent my expression of hope and descend into pugnacious evasion forever.

    The other key consideration is location. I think we engage on our own territory, or on ally turf. Dropping an “I-bomb” in the comment section of ‘The Huffington Post’ is in most cases a waste of time. The volume alone of irrational goop is enough to neuter any hopes of fruitful dialogue. On the other hand, news sites like Digg, Fark, Reddit etc. usually have a fairly decent dwelling of individualistic minded readers that are much more likely to follow up on an appropriately rational comment.

    The main thing that inspires me to engage others, in addition to the attempt to rid the world of the cognitive cancer that threatens mine and my loved one’s existence, is that rational ethics is soooo simple. As you mentioned, nothing complex or esoteric, it’s so elegantly simple that any predominately functional mind can absorb and wrangle it – it’s of their nature.

    I’m just glad to know I’m not alone.

  • Moataz

    I sometimes wonder if pragmatists are worse off than socialists and marxists

  • Mike

    Moataz,

    They would indeed appear to be slaves to any claim of need that can be painted as a necessity du jour.

  • Greg Paulhus

    I’ve got 10 minutes to spare, and you’ve made an interesting point Brad.

    “Greg may not follow the meat of this conversation to its conceptual ends for years, but if he keeps an active mind, he’ll get it.”

    Here’s the thing. I’ve been where you are, engrossed in Objectivism and its ilk, totally sold on the concept of individual rights, a selfish bastard the likes of which you’ve probably never seen. Remember, I have a degree in philosophy, I know this stuff backwards and forwards.

    I’ve already come out the other end, realizing that Objectivism is essentially academic bullshit. It takes along time to develop empathy and realize that there are many cases where collectivism simply works better. But there’s no one system that works all the time. You’ll begin to realize that there are too many edge cases that just don’t work in your current world view. Come on Brad, you’re arguing against best practices, does that seem rational to you?

    Just a few other points:

    “I sometimes wonder if pragmatists are worse off than socialists and marxists”

    Pragmatists are free to embrace what works, and free to change our position on any issue based on reality and data. We strive to not be dogmatic. That’s actually pretty hard, because the human ego doesn’t like to be wrong, we waste a lot of effort ‘right fighting’.

    “Incorrect. A proper society is based on the sanctity of individual rights, not on their sacrifice. No guiding tenet of a rational, free society imposes an encroachment on legitimate individual rights.”

    Brad, you’ve just put limits on the rights of the individual with this statement, ‘legitimate individual rights. So, who decides what rights are legitimate and which are not?

    “Using the phrase “Socialized Medicine” is entirely appropriate as economy of words. Continually referring to “government intervention in the field of medicine as the means to collectivist ends” is unnecessarily inefficient communication.”

    Brad, even your longer description of socialized medicine has a good dose of bias. My point was you shouldn’t be inserting bias into your discussion in any way, not if you want to objectively view reality that is.

    “Viewing collectivism as the means to act in one’s own self-interest drops the contexts of rights (morality) and range (practicality). Trampling the rights of others to achieve some perceived short-term gain evades the notion that anything gained at the unjust expense of others, as opposed to being rightfully earned by ones own productive efforts, is not an objective value – but the moral equivalent of theft by proxy.”

    Once again Brad, you are basing your opinion on assumptions. You assume that collectivism must result in the trampling of individual rights. That’s just not true. Any system can be warped or perverted, but you’re making a leap here, and again I’ll point out that if you want to be strictly rational and objective, you’re not allowed to do that.

    “Values only exist in the context of an individual. Collectivism, by its very definition, is anti-individual, and thus cannot serve as the means to achieve any objective value.”

    More assumptions. Do you drink clean water from the tap in your house? How did that happen? Did you drive on a highway and obey traffic rules and regulations? Do you breath air that doesn’t make you sick? Ah, that last one isn’t quite true in the United States because your country doesn’t have strong environmental regulations that limit the rights of the individuals running energy companies, etc.

    I hope you can see that there are many areas of your life where collectivism provides benefits to the individual. When we all pool resources to ensure things like clean air, clean water, good roads, less crime, rescue services, I could go on, then that allows each individual to spend less time and resources on survival and more time on invention, innovation, etc.

    Now it simply becomes a matter of degrees whether we include healthcare in that list of ‘things that benefit all’. Your opposition to healthcare for everyone just isn’t rational.

    “You are equivocating on “collectivism:” it does not mean division of labor and voluntary trade—which is how humans do in fact operate. It means the group is all and the individual may be sacrificed for the good of the group.”

    Bill, that’s your definition of collectivism, based on fear, not based on reality.

    “I am a human being and I should be able to determine whether, how much, and in what form I pay for medical care. That is not dependent on whether other people couldn’t afford what I pay, whether they get better care, or whether some have to do without. I know what is best for me and my family, not some central planner.”

    Bill, you only have the illusion of choice and control. The insurance company will make the final decision on what procedures they will pay for and which they will not. Insurance companies make money by denying claims. Also, you don’t know what’s medically best for you or your family unless you’re a doctor, and even then the best medical outcome might be based on the consensus of a team of doctors, specialists, nurses, etc.

    And, you do pay for the healthcare of others. When millions of Americans use the emergency room as their walk-in clinic, that cost is reflected in the premiums you pay to your insurance company. Someone has to pay, so the hospitals and insurance companies pass that cost to you. You’re already paying for what you say socialized medicine will force you to pay for. Is that irony?

    “With socialized medicine, I lose that power. I don’t care if Candians pay less than me: they get less than me automatically because they’ve got no choice in the matter.”

    Bill, someone has been telling you lies about the Canadian healthcare system. I have access to any medical service I need. And it’s me and my doctor who decide, there is no central planner, the government is not involved, except to pay the bill.

    In your case Bill, the insurance company is the central planner and they will step in and limit your healthcare when it begins to eat into their profit margin.

    Your current private insurance system is far more limiting than my ‘socialized’ system.

    I understand that you’re against socialized medicine on principle, but again, that’s not rational or objective.

    Forgive any typos in this post, as I said, I only had a few minutes, I typed pretty fast.

  • Greg Paulhus

    Ah, one more quick point.

    “They would indeed appear to be slaves to any claim of need that can be painted as a necessity du jour.”

    The opposite is true, pragmatists take a very, very long term view, almost ridiculously long term, because that’s the most objective and rational way to make decisions.

  • Mike

    Paulhus, that’s not even what pragmatism is. Pragmatism is doing what works in the immediate term. Pragmatism is making a decision based on “how things are going” and “what can be done accordingly,” whether that immediate term is one hour or one day or one decade. A principled approach, meanwhile, is not fixed to any duration. For example, expropriation of wealth from an individual to pay for services for another individual is always a violation of individual rights. It is never the correct solution. Ever. No matter how good socialized medicine looks now, or how bad it might look later on down the line in better (heh) economic times. It’s still wrong ab initio.

    You just argued your way out of pragmatism. Congrats! It’s a step into a much larger world.

  • Grant

    Greg just wants to destroy words. If he can destroy the meaning of words, he can destroy the meaning of actions – and get away with anything.

  • Brad Harper

    Greg, I would continue the conversation for the purpose of pointing out the fallacies in each of your arguments, but I don’t think we could ever resolve any particular argument without several new (or repeated in different terms) misdirecting statements (including another host of supporting fallacies) being introduced. Although, I’m pretty sure all of your comments have been covered adequately throughout the posts above.

    I must mention that you’ve conveyed substantial ignorance with regards to the fundamental tenets of Objectivism. If you want to present any semblance of street-cred amongst Objectivist readers, you’d at least need to have a firm grasp of the basics – as opposed to what comes off as a cliff-notes level memorization of key words – before you could effectively argue against them. Not sure where you picked up the notions you have, but I’d suggest you check your sources and consider starting over.

    Best of luck.

  • Greg Paulhus

    Mike, I’m pretty sure you’re just mixing up your terms. What you’re describing is practicalism, not pragmatism. Who taught you that pragmatism was about the immediate and short term? That’s simply not true. But practicalism is more short term, certainly.

    Brad, again with the ad hominem attacks? That’s disappointing. C’est la vie. I realize I’ve put forth a number of uncomfortable questions that you don’t have answers for. At least think about them, there’s no harm in that.

  • Mike

    Paulhus,

    The definition of Pragmatism is: “the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value.” Of course, as my deleted posts from before mention, you have consistently failed to know the definitions of terms you use. You clearly don’t know the definition of “ad-hominem” based on your reply to Brad.

    I don’t think there is anything more to be accomplished here.

  • Bill Brown

    I’ll also stand by my earlier statement that he’s equivocating on “collectivism.” It is important to define one’s terms, especially when one uses them in an idiosyncratic manner. Collectivism is the supremacy of the group over the individual—and the ends that that inevitably entails are written in blood throughout history (in modern mixed democracies, it’s mostly written in sweat and tears).

  • Greg Paulhus

    Mike, you’ve pasted in the dictionary definition of pragmatism. I suggest you open a philosophy textbook or two.

    And, Brad is clearly saying my points are not valid because I’m ignorant. That is indeed a type of ad hominem attack. It’s probably more accurate to use the term ‘ad hominem abusive’.

    But we can agree on one thing, there is nothing more to be accomplished here. Now, ten bucks says one of you egoists posts again. You can’t resist. Your desire to put in the last word is simply too strong.

  • Brad Harper

    “And, Brad is clearly saying my points are not valid because I’m ignorant. ”

    Actually, I implied the opposite.

    I said your points were incorrect because they assume fallacious premises, inaccurate terminology, invalid (yet creative) definitions, and widespread context dropping. Pointing out a syllogistic fallacy is not an attack on character. There was nothing ad-hominem in my replies.

    Take care.

  • Linda Morgan

    Greg Paulhus said:

    When we all pool resources to ensure things like clean air, clean water, good roads, less crime, rescue services, I could go on, then that allows each individual to spend less time and resources on survival and more time on invention, innovation, etc.

    That’s beautiful, man. Really. Pooling resources to ensure things. Allowing individuals more time for important stuff.

    It’s wondrous governance indeed that inspires such open-handed sharing and delivers — ensures — such good return.

    What planet is it on?

    Now it simply becomes a matter of degrees whether we include healthcare in that list of ‘things that benefit all’.

    I say yes! Yes! How could we not include so self-evident a boon? Likewise million — no, billion — dollar gifts on our birthdays and flying ponies, please.

  • Jim May

    Here’s the thing. I’ve been where you are, engrossed in Objectivism and its ilk, totally sold on the concept of individual rights, a selfish bastard the likes of which you’ve probably never seen. Remember, I have a degree in philosophy, I know this stuff backwards and forwards.

    There is no evidence anywhere here of familiarity with Objectivism; rather, your familiarity is merely with strawman representations thereof, and that does not count.

    As for your degree in philosophy, I suggest you get your money back. With the exception of a somewhat better level of decorum (and I do appreciate that), your points are no more substantial than the ones made by this guy.

    Evidence: in comment #3, your question: So, do you like spending more money on healthcare, or do you want to bring costs down? Aren’t you a conservative? Nobody familiar with Objectivism, whether they agree with it or not, would seriously ask if we were “conservatives”.

    Now, ten bucks says one of you egoists posts again. You can’t resist. Your desire to put in the last word is simply too strong.

    Projection. See comment #12: I’ve said my piece, I’m done here. I’ll leave you existentialists to it 🙂

    followed by comment #17 Okay, I do have time for one last quick post.

    …followed by four more comments.

    Thre is one straw man Paulhus invokes which I’ll take care of now, because it pops up quite often from conservatives and liberals alike: the idea that the alternative of individualism vs. collectivism is the issue of whether people should work together, versus whether they should work alone.

    This is shallow definition-by-nonessentials. Individualism vs. collectivism is not about teamwork vs. going it alone; it is about the moral terms upon which any collaboration of any kind is predicated..

    If individuals are free to opt in or out (i.e. to accept, reject, and set terms upon which he will collaborate) it’s a team, not a collective, and operates on the individualist moral premise regardless of the organizational structure.

    If the individual is NOT FREE to accept the terms of the organization, but is instead forced to participate, then moral sovereignty is vested in the group. That is collectivism.

    An army of volunteers operates on the individualist moral premise; an army of draftees operates on the collectivist one.

    The test of whether any given collaboration of two or more individuals is individualist or collectivist, is simply this: are individuals free to opt out of the system?

    In the case of Canada, the answer is plainly no. A Canadian is NOT FREE in regards to medicine. His liberty is abrogated on two fronts: the system is funded by taxes, and it is illegal for him to freely contract with another for medical services (except in Quebec). THAT is what makes the system “socialized” (as in socialism).

    This is the fact which blows Paulhus’ unsupported assertions of the superiority of single-payer out of the water right there: if it were so “objectively superior”, self-interested people would construct it for themselves, once rationally persuaded of the system’s superiority.

    And yet, no socialized system has ever been set up without the subjugation of the individual. coercion. This is true for socialism great and small, whether it envelopes an entire society or a single industry: the socialist must explain why their alleged goals are morally antecedent to individual rights.

  • Greg Paulhus

    Looks like three of you owe me ten bucks. Have your robots bring the money by my cave 🙂

  • kirarand

    This is so common of Objectivist discussion. Have any of you any explanation for how mean Objectivists are to each other when discussing ideas? You hurl insults left and right and while some take issue with it, what you don’t discuss is why this happens among “rational” people. Don’t you believe that there can be disagreement among rational people? Why do you have to make each other villains? And if this is how Objectivists treat each other, how would you expect the mainstream to embrace Objectivism. Where is the benevolence? Where is the love? Do you have to compete for the “most rational” prize? You “egoists”! You bad “existentialists” you! Oh, you live in a cave? How interesting. LOL. I’m very sorry but I can’t help myself. I grew up around people who speak as you do. I’m just trying to hold up a mirror but you’ll probably just throw more insults my way. Like that achieves anything. Have any of you learned from the other during this discussion or have you just competed for the (imagined) prize?

  • Mike

    kirarand,

    Based on what I’ve read of your livejournal, I’m not expecting a detached perspective on Objectivism from you. Under the circumstances, I can understand why. I’m not going to try to convince you of its merits, nor am I going to argue against your characterizations of its deficiencies. I regret that you have suffered needlessly because of how people in your life behaved.

    You see, I have suffered for reasons similar to yours. The person I loved, and who is lost to me now, fell under the brainwashing of the Mormon church. I now am… not very objective when it comes to anything LDS. This has caused strains in my relationships with lifelong friends who happen to be Mormons. They carefully avoid the subject of their faiths. They steer away from conversations that would involve religion in any way. I could very easily see myself writing a blog just like your livejournal, substituting Mormonism for Objectivism.

    Deep down, in honest self-reflection, I know it’s not the LDS church’s fault. Oh, don’t get me wrong: their doctrine is made out of whole cloth like that of every other religion. (I am atheist.) But as much as I hate the LDS church’s teachings that so affected my lost love, I know that I am being irrational, that it was HER choice to live by those teachings, that it was HER choice to believe those things, and that ultimately, she could have decided otherwise, but instead chose the path she chose. Here’s the tough part: even though I know that, I still blame the Mormon church, and not her. It’s just… easier, I guess. It’s serious evasion. But I’m going to keep doing it even though I know better. I guess I just can’t bring myself to condemn a person I cared for so deeply.

    You and I are not alone in this; it’s not hard to find stories of those whose families have been torn apart by other belief systems, religious or otherwise. Heck, if memory serves, I believe Metallica frontman James Hetfield wrote some very angry songs because of his parents’ involvement in Scientology and how it affected his upbringing. Yours is the first anecdata I have ever heard of Objectivism doing this, but I’m sure your situation is entirely real to you. I hope maybe one day you’ll be able to do what I cannot: acknowledge that the real problem is your parents, not a set of philosophies that they may have studied. They had free will, and they chose to act as they did. That is their fault, and not Ayn Rand’s or any other philosopher or writer.

    In reply to your other question, I imagine the abrasiveness of persons posting here is for the simple reason that Objectivists do not consider feelings or emotions to have epistemological value. In other words, the people who care about hurt feelings aren’t the people Objectivists hope to persuade.

  • Jim May

    Kirarand: there are no Objectivists being “mean” to each other in here. Paulhus is not and never was an Objectivist.

    If your big issue is people being mean to each other, I suggest you browse Daily Kos or Free Republic and learn about how the mainstream treats each other (if you’re lucky enough to catch their comments and/or diaries before they get zapped).

    Beyond that, I would say that the give-and-take between Objectivists is simply because we are adults and we can handle it. Unlike Leftists and conservatives, we know the difference between ideas and ourselves.

    You won’t likely get much of an opportunity to see that distinction in action, however, because nearly all criticism of Objectivists is personal — case in point, that Rachel Maddow quip you seem to think merits more than dismissive attention. Nobody else would put up with that sort of horsehockey, so why do you expect that we should?

    Of course, if that’s the sort of commentary you think should be taken seriously, I have my doubts about your ability to judge such matters.

    I’m very sorry but I can’t help myself.

    I’m sorry, but you can.

  • Jim May

    In reply to your other question, I imagine the abrasiveness of persons posting here is for the simple reason that Objectivists do not consider feelings or emotions to have epistemological value.

    Objectivists consider every individual to be ultimately responsible for their own feelings. A person who forcibly injects them into any discussion and expects others to deal with them is abdicating this responsibility, and is not one to be taken seriously.

  • Mike

    Jim: I had never heard of it being evaluated that way, and I have to admit it makes perfect sense. Thank you for illuminating that for me.

    Kirarand: Yeah, I know “sharing” on the internet is generally a bad idea, but I guess your story just struck a familiar chord with me. Feel free to ignore it if you don’t think it sheds any light on your situation.

  • Grant

    Mike,

    I think you’re making a false distinction. It isn’t the Mormon Church OR you wife; it’s both. Of course you’re right that your wife is ultimately responsible for the personal consequences of her chosen beliefs – and I’m not faulting you for failing to recognize that before your misplaced dislike of the Church took hold – but had it not been there the weakness of your wife wouldn’t have been exploited.

    Substitute any other irrational belief of Mormonism, and any other individual for your wife, and it’s the same situation: a person who doesn’t know any better but could gets taken in by an ideology that not only fails to make her know (reality) better, but makes her no longer able to know any better.

    However, that still doesn’t answer the question: why was she weak?

    I say this with absolutely no intention to hurt you, but perhaps the real fact you need to learn to accept is that you were willing to love someone who wasn’t yet worthy of love. What I’m saying is, it’s not her choice to become a LDS which made you two incompatable, it was her incompatability with (inability to love) a lovable person like yourself which drove her to the Church.

    It’s interesting, just as she settled for the love of someone (God) who, because of who he is, can’t love her back (he doesn’t exist), so you settled for someone who, because of who she was, couldn’t love you. The degree is much smaller, but it seems like the same type of evasion.

  • Mike

    Grant,

    Thanks for the reply. We’ve cut pretty far off the course for this thread, so I won’t get into details, except to say that you’ve given me plenty to consider and I really appreciate your taking the time to do so.

    In fairness, I should specify (since my current wife, to whom I am happily married, reads these blogs) — the subject of my story was a woman I was engaged to marry about six years ago. Once the date was set, she abruptly became very serious about her religion — it caught me completely off guard. We broke off the engagement (and everything else) when I refused to convert, essentially.

    In hindsight I’m glad it happened because I love the relationship I am in now, but at the time it was pretty rough, and I admit it still colors my attitudes.

  • Greg Paulhus

    —–
    Oh, you live in a cave? How interesting.
    —–

    Just FYI, the robots and cave comment were two separate references from philosophy, which nobody here seemed to grok. I guess some of the people here aren’t as well read re: philosophy as they pretend to be.

  • Bill Brown

    Actually, it was more of an issue where you’re more amusing to yourself than to anyone else. Were you expecting congratulations on vague allusions to philosophical allegories? They weren’t even clever or apt.