Replies to Readers of My Article on the Real Right to Medical Care

George Reisman's picture
Submitted by George Reisman on Wed, 2009-08-12 02:35

Replies to Readers of My Article on the Real Right to Medical Care

From a reader in Cambridge, ON, Canada:
RE:The Real Right To Medical Care....

[T]hanks for the fantastic article on real medical care vs. socialized medicine. I am writing this email because I am a young Canadian who has a socialized medical system. While I cannot argue your logic for a true free market medical care system, I did finish your piece feeling like there is one hole. Not to say the idea is flawed, by no means, but if individuals have a right to life, and had an illness that was fatal if not treated but could not afford said treatment, where does that leave doctors? You mention charity, and I'm sure to a degree that would exist, but if you were a practicing medical doctor, and knew you could save a life with a simple procedure, how many could you turn away based on cost? While I wholeheartedly agree with the principles you outline in your piece, I found it fascinating, I did get the sense that the issue was not broached for that reason. Now I realize this may only be a small percentage of the population in a truly free market, but a life is a life at the end of the day. I hope you find the time for at least a modest response, if I somehow missed you stating said circumstance in your piece, please simply direct me to said section.

Dear Reader:

Thank you for your note. The right to life is not a right to be kept alive by other people, against their will. If there were such a right, then you and I and everyone else not in poverty would have to be devoting our lives to keeping alive countless numbers of impoverished people all over the world. To the contrary, paraphrasing Ayn Rand, the right to life is the right of an individual to take all of the [peaceful, non-coercive] actions that sustain and promote his life. This understanding of the right to life is incompatible with the notion of people having a right to be kept alive at others’ expense.

Of course, people may wish to give to charity within the limit of their perceiving that doing so enhances their own lives. The funds raised through charity together with the time doctors were willing to provide to charity patients would undoubtedly be concentrated on cases in which all that was necessary were relatively simple, inexpensive procedures that would save life or limb. But this cannot be a solution for all those medical problems requiring more complex and costly treatments that are beyond the means of patients and of the willingness and ability of people to provide charity.

What the solution for these medical problems is, is economic progress, which continuously improves medical care and makes it less and less expensive, while at the same times making practically all other goods and services better and less expensive as well, thereby freeing up more income to be spent on medical care if necessary. The foundation of economic progress, of course, is individual freedom and capitalism.

Always, however, there will be some people who will die because still more and better care, that others might have provided, was beyond their reach. There is simply no way to avoid this. It’s an aspect of the fact that man is mortal.

Trying to avoid it by compelling everyone to devote his life to keeping other people alive, beyond his perception of the personal, value to his own life of doing so, destroys the incentives to produce and advance, and thus ultimately does no good to anyone.

Because of this destruction, attempts to enforce such an obligation always stop short after a time. In fact, this is what we are seeing right now in the United States in the proposed roll backs in Medicare and denial of treatment to the elderly. It’s what already has taken place in Great Britain, and, I believe, in Canada and everywhere else that medical care has been collectivized long enough.

The government simply lacks the means to provide everyone with unlimited medical care. Eventually, it has to impose limits. But its limits entail depriving people of medical care who could have afforded it, if left free to use their own resources for that purpose. Its limits entail aborting further progress in medical in order to hold down the cost of operating its collectivized system.

There are two sorts of limits to medical care. One is reality, which encompasses the state of scientific and technological knowledge, the state of capital accumulation, the resulting productivity of labor, and the relative performance of different individuals cooperating together under economic competition and the pursuit of individual self-interest. Under capitalism, as the result of the pursuit of self-interest and competition, this limit is continually pushed outward and the level of care for everyone continually improves. (See my book Capitalism, chap. 9, for further discussion of this.)

The other kind of limit to medical care is arbitrary government fiat. The government takes over medical care and it decides who is to receive care and to what extent. Under government control, the limit to medical care tends to be frozen, indeed, declining. Progress in medical care is largely prohibited as a threat to the government’s budget and decline accompanies the coming to the fore of doctors who are content to be mere tools of government policy; it also accompanies the general economic decline that results from related government policies that are hostile to capital accumulation and economic efficiency.

There’s undoubted more to be said. But I hope that these remarks serve to address the matters you raised.

Sincerely,
George Reisman

From a reader in Perth, Western Australia

Subject: stupid Samaritan patsy

"It should be obvious that such an arrangement entails the utter perversion of the right to medical care."

Dear Dr Reisman,

I find it astounding that a man who can write some many thousands of words on a topic, in apparently grammatically good English, can have the whole concept so wrong.
Altruism, empathy - those are the core concepts of society, not the market place. Health care is part of the altruistic nature of society, and it arose not out of purely commercial needs, it arose because most people on this planet have empathy for those who are sick, those who are unwell. People form collective societies for exactly that reason, to share the common burdens and chance misfortunes in life equally and fairly between those can and those who can't afford it.

I assume you are basically an anarchist with your attitude. All people are free from obligations to any other person, no matter what their circumstances. Hence the idea of Government to provide common services is unnecessary. I guess you probably believe that education should also be a purely commercial domain as well.

It scares me that you may have been teaching these attitudes to your economics students, the world is a poorer place if you have done so. Did you ever lecture or write on the economics of altruism or is it so far away from your moral centre that you can't understand the concept?

You are one of the people who left the man in the ditch for the stupid Samaritan patsy to come along and waste his good economic resources of food, water and labour on the man who for no reason of his own was in dire needs.

Your attitude may seem intellectually clever, put it is morally poor.

As a contrast, here in Australia we have fine collective system of medical care that works extremely well for the citizens of Australia. It is affordable, and we have better health care than the USA.

So, Dr Reisman, I think you need to look at the poor, the unemployed, those born with impediments such as lower intelligence, mental or physical disabilities and try to apply your huge mind to putting yourself into their position. It is probably difficult for you to do so, but should you be successful, you will hopefully feel remorse for your shockingly selfish position on health care.

Dear Reader:

Altruism is a philosophy of misery, suffering, poverty, and the hatred of man for man. It is the philosophy that ruled the Dark Ages and underlay such accompaniments as the Iron Maiden, the rack, and burning people alive at the stake.

Civilization is founded on the philosophy of egoism and recognition of the individual's right to the pursuit of his own, selfish happiness and the corollary recognition that the means of accomplishing this is voluntary, peaceful social cooperation under the division of labor. The gains from the division of labor give to each individual a rational self-interest in the existence of other people and in their individual freedom and right to the pursuit of their own happiness. This is the arrangement that progressively increases the supply of goods and services and improves life for everyone. (For elaboration, see Ludwig von Mises's Socialism and my Capitalism.)

Under this arrangement—i.e., capitalism—the individual comes to regard other people with benevolence, because their existence improves his existence. In such conditions, people are prepared, within limits, to help others who suffer through no fault of their own. Thus, they help victims of earthquakes, floods, and all other natural disasters. They help people who cannot help themselves, including those who are stuck in a ditch. But that is not their primary goal or, as a rule, a major goal. It is secondary and rests upon their pursuit of their own happiness.

In contrast, when altruism prevails, each individual must regard all other individuals as a source of loss and misery. Their existence is a constant claim against his wealth and time and thus against his ability to enjoy his life. In such circumstances, the individual easily reaches the conclusion that he would be better off if those others did not exist. He would then be free of the burdens they impose.

Historically, the United States was characterized by the individual’s freedom to pursue his own happiness (a basic right enumerated in our Declaration of Independence). Thus, not surprisingly, it was also known for the goodwill and benevolence of its citizens. In contrast, the Dark Ages and the Soviet Union, two leading exemplars of altruism, were known for their hatred and barbaric treatment of human beings. What results from the prevalence of altruism is conveyed in a widely told story in the Soviet Union. It was the story of the Russian who is asked by God to wish for something that he would like God to do for him, on the understanding that whatever God does for him, he will do twice as much for his neighbor. After hearing this offer, the Russian asks that God pluck out one of his eyes, so that his neighbor can lose both eyes. (The story was reported by Hedrick Smith, in his book The New Russians, New York: Random House, 1990, p. 204.)

So much for altruism.

George Reisman

P. S. For elaboration on the contrasting natures of egoism and altruism, see the writings of Ayn Rand, in particular, Atlas Shrugged and The Virtue of Selfishness.

P.P.S. Concerning education, I believe that it should be stricly private. Schools would be legally free to operate on a commercial or non-commercial basis, as they chose. Individual would be free to support non-commercial schools and to provide scholarships for students attending for-profit schools. The main thing is that the government should not be allowed to attempt to improve students' minds on a foundation of pointing a gun at anyone's head, such as unwilling taxpayers, unwilling parents, and unwilling students.

Finally, I am not an anarchist but a supporter of government that is limited to the defense of the rights of the individual against the initiation of physical force, including fraud.

*George Reisman's replies to readers are copyright © 2009, by George Reisman. George Reisman, Ph.D. is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute. His web site is www.capitalism.net and his blog is www.georgereisman.com/blog/. A pdf replica of his book can be downloaded to the reader’s hard drive simply by clicking on the book’s title Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics and then saving the file when it appears on the screen. The book provides an in-depth, comprehensive treatment of the material discussed in this post and of practically all related aspects of economics.


That

Leonid's picture

"The answer, in New Zealand anyway, is DOCTORS..."

They are doctors by training, but they don't practice medicine, they don't treat actual patients. They are government employees and act in accordance with government's guidelines and financial politics. Yet they issue voluminous instructions how to treat patients whom they never saw or examined. Practice of medicine is always unique experience; two patients with the same disease may require different treatment. Each and every case requires an effort of thinking creative independent doctor whose mind is free of government’s restrictions or coercion. Socialized medicine turned this kind of doctors to extinct species. And in any case, even if decent doctors give sound advice, the decision is always made by the government (who may or may not use this advice) and executed on the point of gun.

What???

Kasper's picture

Doctors don't have to make any professional decisions in regard of their patients' treatment since everything is prescribed by government.

Who advises the government what to approve and what not to?
Who implements the advice, researches, modifies and feeds back to the government over the treatment success?

The answer, in New Zealand anyway, is DOCTORS...

The original sin of socialized medicine

Leonid's picture

The original sin of socialized medicine is that it allows people to avoid responsibility. And when I say "people" I mean both patients and doctors. Patients don't have to worry about how to foot their medical bills; don't have to make any provisions in form of saving or insurance for possible health care spendings in the future. They don't even have to take proper care on their own health by modifying their life style. Why to bother? Somebody somehow sometime will pay. Doctors don't have to make any professional decisions in regard of their patients' treatment since everything is prescribed by government. They cannot use any established treatment without government approval or introduce the new one if government doesn't allow them to do so. In fact government takes over from doctors the treatment process. One can only imagine what kind of doctors would agree to practice medicine under these conditions and which kind of medicine they will practice. However patients, like writers from Australia and Canada, shouldn't complain. That what they are asking for.

terynclarke

Leonid's picture

"Whoever calls for "mandatory volunteerism"-doesn't realize that this is oxymoron. Or maybe he does, but doesn't care. This is for the "good of the people", isn't it? For the sake of this case everything, any contradiction, any defeat of logic and common sense goes!

Approaching...

Ross Elliot's picture

...middle age, surely Eye

Superb post,

Mark Hubbard's picture

Superb post, Terynclarke.

Against such a succintly put argument, the case for socialised health-care is shown in its true, shabby dishonesty.

Altruism may be OK for the reader...

terynclarke's picture

To the reader from Perth - it sounds like you are all for altruism. Good for you. How about YOU invest 12 years and $150K in training to become a physician, and you can volunteer all of your time all over the world. But, please do not speak for me. I am a highly specialized neurologist: I make complex diagnoses, I offer life saving treatments, and sometimes all I can offer is condolence. However, for the investment I made in my knowledge, I expect proper compensation. If I want to volunteer, that is my choice. Whoever calls for "mandatory volunteerism" and caps on compensation infringes on my liberty. Sorry for the grammatical errors...I get a little fired up over all of this!

Michael I was referring to Linz's...

Marcus's picture

...personal 'red decade'.

Anyway, here is some horror porn for Linz.

Just a joke! Smiling

Marcus

Michael Moeller's picture

The Red Decade was the 30's--Linz was already grown up by then. Smiling

Right to blood?

Frediano's picture

RE: The right to life is not a right to be kept alive by other people, against their will. If there were such a right, then you and I and everyone else not in poverty would have to be devoting our lives to keeping alive countless numbers of impoverished people all over the world.

Everyone needs blood. Life and death, no question about it, when you need it, you got to have it, or you die on the operating table.

We have three choices, and have largely evolved to the solution that is workable.

1] Voluntarism. This is largely the current model. Even if and when it results in shortages, we largely respond only with broad appeals for voluntary donors--even on the battlefield, where compulsion is a daily fact of life and death, ironically, voluntarism is easiest to find among that subset of sociuos.

2] Blood for money. This used to be more prevalent 30 years ago, and was OK if we want to get our blood supply from winos, drunks, addicts, and largely that part of the population that can't help but urinate in their pants while waiting in line to donate at the blood bank for their $10 or whatever. In my salad days, I used to live above a blood bank in Boston that was blood for money, and the foyer outside the blood bank always had the distinct odor of eau du alky (urine and disinfectant...)

3] Forced giving. (This is OK if we don't mind the constant screaming.)

Is our irrational fear that people will stop volunteering to donate blood leading us to advocate forced giving for this 'vitally needed resource?' What stops us?

And yet, substitute 'money' for 'blood', and suddenly, all kinds of ghoulish ideas will float in the public debate, on the topic of what people 'need' to live. Are we afraid that rational people will not support Hayek's concept of a safety-net?

If we have a 'right to blood when we need it', then who is obligated to provide that blood against their voluntary will?

It is, after all, a matter of life and death. So, where are the advocates of forced giving, and why do they only come out from under their ghoulish rocks when we discuss value proxies?

Ye olde brown-shirts

Marcus's picture

Remember how it was reported in the Guardian here that the protesters were all white supremacists and brown shirts?

Well I've never seen an elderly brown shirt before, apart from the incontinent ones Smiling

In the meantime, I've wondered if the protestors were labelled right wingers and brown shirts because they were holding up posters of Obama with a Hitler moustache?

Go figure?

Of course Linz, you don't acknowledge that the stupid youth may well grow up.

Remember the 'red decade' when you were a young Communist yourself?

MM, Babe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

but am I not allowed to ask for some reconsideration on your part? Ah well.

Darling, you're allowed to ask for whatever you like. Very rarely would I turn you down, and then only when I had a headache. Evil

CB, baby

Michael Moeller's picture

I don't take it the least bit personally. Where did you get that idea? The "ye old bastards" comment was a joke!! I simply don't think it holds water if you take a broader historical look. You're right that this is not a big issue, but am I not allowed to ask for some reconsideration on your part? Ah well.

Michael

Settle, Moeller!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Ye old bastards are always yelling at the young "To get off my lawn!!!". Time will tell yet for my generation, but yours has not exactly done a smashing job, has it?

Ah, now I get your seeming super-sensitivity to my Airhead America. I say it's worse among the young and you take it personally. Well that's just silly. I've never accused you of being an airhead. Nor have I ever argued that my generation, whatever that is, did a "smashing job." All I know is that there's an epidemic of airheadery now to which I can't think of anything comparable in my lifetime. All I have to do to encounter it is leave the house! But Michael, that's not directed at *you*!!

Now stop fretting about dumb stuff and write an op-ed!! Eye

Actually, Linz...

Michael Moeller's picture

The Sotomayor ordeal cuts in my favor. Legal realism grew out of the Progressive Era and essentially died in the 50's, although never really taking hold in formal education. I mentioned Jerome Frank in that article who was a federal judge and openly espoused the theory. By contrast, as Sotomayor became exposed, she had to disavow the her statements by lying threw her teeth during confirmation. The theory was taken a lot more seriously then as opposed to now. Sotomayor had to distance herself from the comments in order to be taken seriously in confirmation, while Frank openly promoted the theory. That's an improvement, no?

Linz, pointing to each of the areas is kind of missing my point. I would not deny, for instance, that the law is still a liberal profession, but it has been that way for a long time. That is not new. If you assert that Airhead America is a new phenomena making things worse, then the trends should be getting worse. But in many cases the trends are in the other direction, as in the legal realism thing above. In the case of economic rights, the Court is making movements toward stronger protections, which were completely eroded during the Progressive Era and New Deal Era. Again, the media is the opposite direction, and not just Fox. The popularity of books being written are in the other direction. Even in politics, the opposition to the left was much smaller in the New Deal/post-New Deal (1994 was the first time the GOP controlled Congress in 40 years) and intellectually mushy.

The young being more liberal is nothing new either. How much worse are apathetic and ignorant MTV watchers than militant and ignorant hippies running amok on college campuses? Apparently there were a lot more of them than Lindsay Perigo's as your generation is in control now and look what it is doing!! Awfully hard to blame it on the young, no? However, just as the 60's radicals were not fully representative, you might want to consider that my generation is also not a monolith of MTV watchers.

I saw a poll a couple of years back that shocked me a bit and I wish I could still find it. They polled college students on what they considered most important among a list of about 7 or 8 different issues. The environment came in last at under 10% and economic well-being came in first (at around 50% if I remember correctly).

Ye old bastards are always yelling at the young "To get off my lawn!!!". Time will tell yet for my generation, but yours has not exactly done a smashing job, has it?

Michael

Superannuated shitkickers

Ross Elliot's picture

"And unfortunately the folk displaying such magnificent anger at the Town Hall meetings—at least the ones I see—are elderly."

True, but they are a large and growing demographic. From the comfort of their mobility scooters and their retirement homes, they may yet hold those dumb cocksuckers at bay until sanity prevails.

Possible, Not Likely

Jeff Perren's picture

"the Obama supporters who are having second thoughts are doing so because Obama is not "hardline" enough; I called this possibility in comparison to the response to the weakness of the Social Democrats in Germany shortly before Hitler." [Joe]

Possible. (I usually think of the socialists who complained about Mussolini's programs.) That type was particularly upset recently over Sotomayer's refusal to tell the truth and defend her real views at her confirmation hearings. One columnist on HuffPost went so far as to say she was disqualified on that grounds alone. But how numerous are that type?

In 2009, 40% percent of respondents in Gallup surveys that have interviewed more than 160,000 Americans have said that they are either “conservative” (31%) or “very conservative” (9%). That is the highest percentage in any year since 2004.

Only 21% have told Gallup they are liberal, including 16% who say they are “liberal” and 5% who say they are “very liberal.”

I acknowledge that individuals of all self-indentified political persuasion are inconsistent, most more egregiously than a small minority. In fact, there are probably only about a dozen people in America who are completely pure; I know only two personally. (The last two sentences are exaggerations, for anyone not reading carefully.) But, to paraphrase Fred Seddon, what is the main thrust?

For, Linz: Yes, as I mentioned before, Progressives dominate the media and therefore one can expect it to be, and remain, a sewer until they no longer do. That's already happening as old-fashioned media decay and the Internet continues to eat their lunch. That those newer media tend to be run and/or dominated by younger folk offers some reason for hope. The war, I admit, is far from won and the outcome far from certain.

The question is: is that "the culture?" It's certainly a major component. I'm just as revolted as you when I turn on the TV and hear some racous commercial, or go to Virgin Records in Costa Mesa and hear the caterwauling drown out the classical (even though the latter is in a separate, glass-walled off room). But the Anti's are not the whole and the statistics suggest they may not even be the majority.

[Now I anticipate I'll get two (at least silent) objections to using statistics. Linz will think of Peikoff/Rand's admonition, confusing correlation with causation, etc. Joe will think of Han Solo ("Never tell me the odds!") :)]

Definitely

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Some Obama supporters are disillusioned that he hasn't pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan or closed Gitmo yet and that he's now signalling he'll drop government-run health insurance if that's what it takes to get some type of health reform through. And yes, many of the older crowd are fickle. If they were really alarmed about socialization of medicine they'd be demanding an end to Medicare, not protesting that it'll be cut to help fund Obama's plan. But as far as I can tell a substantial part of the rearguard revival is repairing to the Constitution, which fact is stunning. It doesn't, of course, include Airhead America.

The other possibilities

Jmaurone's picture

are that the Obama supporters who are having second thoughts are doing so because Obama is not "hardline" enough; I called this possibility in comparison to the response to the weakness of the Social Democrats in Germany shortly before Hitler.

As for the "rearguard response" from the older crowd...

"He looked at the people around him. They had cheered him today; they had cheered him by the side of the track of the John Galt Line. But tomorrow they would clamor for a new directive from Wesley Mouch and a free housing project from Orren Boyle, while Boyle's girders collapsed upon their heads. They would do it, because they would be told to forget, as a sin, that which had made them cheer Hank Reardon."

Not sayin' that's the future, just sayin'...

Data on "Airhead America"

Jeff Perren's picture

From Arthur Brooks of the AEI, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

Instead, Gallup reports that disapproval of the president's economic policies has grown to 49% in July from 30% in February. Even among the president's core supporters, young people in the 18-29 age group, his overall approval has dropped 11 points since January. [emphasis mine]
...
Most Americans see their best future in the free enterprise system when (as a March 2009 Pew Research Center poll found) 70% of respondents agree that, "people are better off in a free market economy, even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time."

Maybe young people are not quite as dumb as Linz (and I, admittedly) tend to believe.

P.S. Note on Sotomayer's confirmation. Keep in mind that the leaders of Congress - particularly among Democrats (Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Frank, Dodd, and others) - are old, sometimes very old. It ain't the young ones - Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Eric Cantor, and others, necessarily doing the most damage. Oftentimes, like those I just mentioned, they're the ones exerting the most principled opposition.

Ah, Ninc!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Let's be clear. Airhead America hasn't yet won, but it's well on the way there; it *does* pervade damn near everything. Art, academia and education, law (you wrote yourself of the scary implications of Sotomayor's judicial philosophy), the media, politics and philosophy ... that just about covers the waterfront.

Ayn Rand cited America's indomitable sense of life and exhorted, "Don't let it go." Well, it's ebbing away, corroded by the relentless assault of political correctness and dumbing down. Now, there's a rearguard revival to be sure. One positive sign you don't mention is the way Fox is creaming its lefty rivals in the ratings. Absolutely smashing them. The Dem-scum will crash in 2010 for sure, and that, Hsiekovians notwithstanding, will be a good thing. The thing that terrifies me is that Airhead America has youth on its side. It's predominantly young. Amongst the youth there are infinitely more airheads than there are Michael Moellers. That's a simple demonstrable fact.

Just watching Barney Frank getting an earful at a Town Hall meeting. Hahahahahaha!

Frediano

Michael Moeller's picture

"I guess the '(not that you have)' wasn't explicit enough, and that means that it is I who does not read closely. I can live with that, this is the in-ter-net, after all."

I guess that was intended as sarcasm, but it *is* you who does not read closely because here is your full statement: "There is no way(not that you have) of resolving what you say with anything going on in the modern GOP."

Where was I talking about influence on the GOP or any of its leaders or anything else about party politics? As Jeff noted, you brought this up on your own and were essentially arguing with yourself. Please, by all means, do not let us get in the way of your conversation with yourself! Anderson Cooper's question at a GOP debate? Carville's bumper-sticker? What in Galt's name are you talking about! Both Jeff and I asked you if you are familiar with any of the writings of conservative intellectuals--you know, the actual topic being discussed--and you instead stagger on ahead with random musings on the GOP.

(BTW, this is why I did not address any of your points on the anarchism thread because they were veering off in all directions. For instance, instead of linking to a book on Amazon, you should realize that my arguments applied to civil law as the rights of the parties are at-issue. If you looked at, say, The Federal Arbitration Act, you would realize that the parties do NOT "compete" as to what the law is--the parties act within the confines of the law and decisions are binding and enforceable by the court. This is just one of many errors, but I did not much feel like engaging in debate when you are going off-the-wall about "The Paradox of Violence" and ramblings on "the mob". The point being is that if you want to discuss something you need to make a modest effort to stay on-point.)

In any event, party politics is a different animal. The US is a two-party system and politicans are naturally going to be less consistent and more of a mixed bag because they are appealing to a wide electorate. Just look at the wide differences between individual positions of the various politicians within the GOP, including the ones you named. But the politicans do not spring up out of thin air, they are elected and the education of the electorate is at the root of getting consistency from politicians. If you follow the arguments of politicians, their "talking points" are often straight from these writers/thinkers. Furthermore, as Jeff noted, this influence is reaching out to the people at tea parties, town halls, in books, newspapers, on the web, etc.--the influence is more indirect.

To give you a more concrete example, consider the lawyers on Volokh conspiracy. Eugene Volokh is Objectivist-influenced, I believe, but to what degree I am not sure. The rest of them various degrees of conservative/libertarian. They all write in legal reviews, which have a big influence on mainstream legal thinking, legal scholarship, and influence judge's decisions. This also includes amicus briefs in major cases. Volokh and Randy Barnett, in particular, get quoted and write articles for major newspapers on various legal issues, including the NY Times, the LA Times, and the Wall Street Journal. One of the lawyers on that Volokh, Ilya Somin, testified in Sotomayor's confirmation hearings on property rights, a topic usually not covered in confirmation hearings. Now, if this outreach is "Fringeville", then Main and Elm Streets are in the center of Fringeville.

I am not as nonchalant about Ron Paul as Jeff. First, he gave a terrible answer even on healthcare in the debates. The guy is busy writing over any economic crayon marks with a treasonous foreign policy permanent marker. The point is, you can find better economic arguments elsewhere without the foreign policy baggage. Apparently, Paul has procreated (in the dungeons of LewRockwell.com) and another country-bumpkin-quack-come-politican is going to carry on his foreign policy legacy. Let's just hope Rand Paul does not also procreate as, in the words of J. Oliver Wendell Holmes: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough". In any event, Paul was another off-topic issue, but noteworthy that you grasped at him as a guiding light.

Michael

CB Linz!!!

Michael Moeller's picture

You're back!! I thought I lost you for awhile there, but, alas, you have gone back to this "pollyanna" stuff. "Wishy-washy marshmallow bromides"? What bromides were those? Linz, to support your thesis, you have pointed to Oprah, Paris Hilton, Joaquin Phoenix's stupidity, Obama, yada yada. So? Dimwit celebrities have not existed before? How about the dimwit students of the 60's? They are the ones now running this country, and running it into the ground.

I urged you to take a broader, historical look if you want to convince me. Linz, if America is completely filled with airheads, I think you have a tough time explaining the wild unpopularity of almost all Obama's policies. I also think you would have a tough time explaining why there is not one liberal tract on the non-fiction bestseller lists and why the liberal MSM is collapsing before our eyes. Instead, books like Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" made the NY Times Best Seller List. How are these possible if the airhead culture is "all-pervasive"? The trends would be in the other direction.

What about your previous citation of Obama's initial popularity? Looking at it from history, it is completely overblown. FDR won 42 of 48 states in 1932. His 1936 election was the largest electoral victory in history--523 to 8. In their first elections, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I won 39, 44, 49, 44, and 40 of 50 states, respectively. Obama won 28 against the hapless McCain and riding on the wave of Bush's II unpopularity at the end of his presidency. As I said earlier, it was simply a matter of time before his personal popularity fell in line with the popularity of his policies.

Are these things I just brought up--including my last post-- mere "pollyanna" "bromides"? I don't think you have made the empirical case for "Airhead America", especially when viewed from a historical perspective. Declaring it "all-pervasive" does not make the case. I grant you that art and academia are examples, but as you know the left has dominated these arenas for a long time now and their influence there is very difficult to overturn. However, as you also know, this is not the entirety of the culture.

The same technique is used by the left when their policies become unpopular--i.e. they declare that the public is too stupid to grasp the brilliance of their socialism. That is the argument they are making now with respect to healthcare!! You are essentially taking the same premise from a different fundamental viewpoint.

(BTW, pessimism and output/action are NOT mutually exclusive, as in the case of a willing martyr. I *don't* think *you* are pessimistic, but I disagree with the "all-pervasiveness" of the airhead culture.)

Anyway, this issue is not really all that pertinent as far as future action goes. We've always agreed on the rest, as you laid out. I would also like to emphasize, lest I get accused of being a "pragmatist", that I don't endorse conservatism as a doctrine.

My simple point was that the conservatives are making the cases right now. Consider the connection between progressivism, fascism, and the modern left--conservatives are writting books with a lot of historical research and clear arguments. Same for a lot of other issues like Gitmo, whereas Objectivist op-eds are being written on "inclusionary zoning" (???). People like Steyn are doing it with style and flair. The conservatives are getting their hands dirty in the empirical, and improving their philosophical arguments at the same time. Objectivists are waxing philosophical with rote, formulaic arguments.

I wish Objectivists, not conservatives, that would get into the mainstream and provide a better philosophical foundation. Brook has made some inroads with TV appearances and articles in major newspapers. Tara Smith and John Lewis are doing some good research and apparently impacting academia to some degree. But for the most part, it seems to be a lot of preaching to the choir.

Michael

Herr Moeller!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz is too influenced by what he reads in the media, which give undue attention to the rotten aspects of the culture. But is this the full reality? Working in professional sphere, I submit it is not at all representative.

Hahahaha!

And I think you and Jeff are too influenced by wishy-washy pollyanna marshmallow bromides. So, ya sucks boo to you two too. Eye

As you note, Jeff, sinking into pessimism and cynicism and focusing on "Airhead America" accomplishes little, and often concedes the case.

I most certainly have not sunk into pessimism and cynicism, as the level of my activism must surely indicate. But I'm afraid Airhead America is a grim and dreadful reality which it is idle to ignore or evade. The rotten aspects of the culture are all-pervasive.

I do agree that the conservatives are not typically the evil force that the Objectivist orthodoxy makes them out to be. More, the fatwa was one of the most misguided things ever to happen within Objectivism, as I think I argued strenuously and originally at the time. It kinda goes on. The orthodoxy's press releases were far more vitriolic about Bush than they are about Obama. And the orthodoxy's voting strictures, remember, helped put Obama there. True, Obama is now riding for a spectacular fall, but it's the conservatives who will be the main architects (apart from Obama himself). And that won't be nearly as bad as the orthodoxy, or the anarchists, are making out—conservatives are not about to burn gays at the stake or impose Peikoff's dreaded theocracy—and *will* be much better than Obama.

Note, this is *not* to endorse conservatism. It's to say that a stolid, uncharismatic, dogmatically context-less, mantra-driven version of Objectivism has been/is/will always be wholly impotent in the face of it.

Non-Sequitur

Jeff Perren's picture

"I can detect no influence of 'conservative intellectuals' in 'GOP leaders.' I can detect only a desperate desire to glom back onto control of the CronyFest on the Potomac." [Frediano]

Why, I really want to know, do you insist on bringing the GOP into the discussion? Do ideas only count if they instantly convert those with the (potential) reins of power? Michael asserted that today's crop of conservative intellectuals are doing a better job of defending freedom than today's Objectivist intellectuals. He referenced some books as evidence. I pointed to some names of others to bolster the case. If I misinterpreted you, I'm happy to be corrected.

I assume you're aware that, according to John Adams:

“By what do we mean the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the Revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington. The records of thirteen legislatures, the pamphleteers, newspapers in all the colonies, ought to be consulted during that period to ascertain the steps by which the public opinion was enlightened and informed concerning the authority of Parliament over the colonies.” - John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 1815

I note you answered none of my questions about your reading habits, though. You're not required to, of course, but I find it helpful to know, since we're discussing - among other things - the issue of influence (which you, not Michael, introduced).

When a dozen leading columnists are read by thousands, perhaps millions, of self-identified conservatives - and a great many so-called liberal columnists, I'd say they have some influence. Where do you think all the energy from the Tea Parties, the Town Hall meetings, and so forth is coming from? Where do you think those participating get their arguments? I submit it's, at least in part, from those conservative intellectuals. Those voters then influence the behavior of politicians. Note, after all, it isn't chiefly the wishy-washy pols like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell that the Progressives are taking to task; it's conservative commentators. Politicians react. Intellectuals drive.

If you sense frustration, it may be because you keep straying off the subject. (By the way, you can mention Ron Paul as often as you like. He's not one of my hot buttons.)

Jeff:

Frediano's picture

re: I'm betting your error in equating "conservative intellectuals" with "GOP leaders" is not the only weakness in your view.

My what?

If pointing out that they aren't anywhere near them is 'equating' them, then sign me up, I was 'equating' them.

I can detect no influence of 'conservative intellectuals' in 'GOP leaders.' I can detect only a desperate desire to glom back onto control of the CronyFest on the Potomac.

The frustration -- not just here -- is palpable. What would happen if you and I actually disagreed about any of this?

regards,
Fred

I guess the '(not that you have)'...

Frediano's picture

...wasn't explicit enough, and that means that it is I who does not read closely. I can live with that, this is the in-ter-net, after all.

I observed what Ron Paul factually pointed out at the debate in question. If uttering his name(I just did it again!) and observing what he actually said is going to turn me into a pillar of Objectivist salt, then, well, I'll add that to my list of totally inconsequential things cluttering up my life...

And after all of this, I still don't know where of import either conservative intellectuals or Objectivists were spreading their influence among any party of power. As best as I can tell, it was neither in the GOP, and sure as Hell not the Democratic party.

If there is a third party of power that I'm unaware of in American politics, where the folks mentioned are spreading influence, it isn't apparent to me. But, I don't read that closely.

The 'sundry' GOP leaders I randomly pulled out of my hat were ... the three GOP front runners. Well hidden. Obscure even. I held my nose in the general election, and voted for McCain, because he earned the CIC spot. Even as I thought he was an idiot. He was, at least, an honorable idiot, who had earned the CIC spot. But, I never thought for a minute he'd actually win the election, and I believe the shortest, if painful, path back to freedom in America is to let Obama totally screw the constructivist pooch, which he is well on his way to doing. McCain would have been 4 years of Democrat-Lite me too placeholding, even if he did deserve the CIC spot.

My anarchist sympathies? I keep them well preserved, along with the clippings from when I used to beat my wife...

I voted for Clark in '80, and we ended up with Reagan. Clark's 1% was the closest any of these ideas have ever gotten out of fringeville. (I don't count Perot...) They did not get anywhere near the three GOP frontrunners this last time around. I'm not making that observation as an indictment of the ideas, I'm making them as an indictment of our electorate.

One down(the GOP), one to go. If America ping-pongs back to a rudderless GOP, interested only in their shot at running the CronyFest on the Potomac, then we're just screwed until America doesn't.

The solution, IMO, isn't to wait for some uberParty to finally get its 'run the nation/Economy' shit together. I mean, look at the pointless frustrated sniping at places just like this...

No, IMO, the solution is to encourage giant government concentrated centralized power to just FAIL, as it clearly is. It will largely devolve itself, and by necessity, roll itself back, reduce its reach. It will be painful death throes, because it will cling to power until its'fingers bleed, but this totalitarian crap never works- never- and it will just break, with or without help only determines the timescale. I suspect, America isn't going to embrace totalitarianism for long, or quietly.

With any luck, our soft fascist beast, the one that never stood down after WWII, will devolve so much that it just doesn't matter what party is residing over a bankrupt shell, a national monument to 'too big, so let Fail.' Back to being pauper state plumbers, honorably trying to keep the plumbing of state flowing, not nation runners, and sure as Hell, not 'the[sic] Economy' runners.

Frediano

Jeff Perren's picture

You may not, probably don't, know this but most major conservative intellectuals are as ticked off with the GOP as you are... and for most of the same reasons. Ditto those who read them and identify themselves as conservatives.

Have you read Quin Hillyer of American Spectator (and the Washington Times)? Do you read Jonah Goldberg on NRO? Or, even moderate conservatives who haven't entirely given up on the GOP like the Powerline trio? When was the last time you read City Journal, featuring Theodore Dalrymple, Heather MacDonald (a secular conservative, by the way), or Nicole Gelinas? Have you read any of Roger Kimball's articles at Pajamas Media?

In short, do you know what you are talking about with reference to today's conservative writers, or do you - like so many libertarians (and Objectivists) - have to reach back 20 years (or cherry pick) to establish any plausibility for your thesis? I'm betting your error in equating "conservative intellectuals" with "GOP leaders" is not the only weakness in your view.

P.S. "Where were 'conservative intellectuals' carrying the banner when that sad display was occurring?" [Frediano] They were making the same observations as you - that McCain, Romney, and especially Huckabee were all clueless disasters on the topic of individual rights and liberty - only with better reasoning to back it up. But one would have to read them to know it. Do you?

Uh, Frediano

Michael Moeller's picture

If you read closely (and you haven't) you would see I said "conservative intellectuals", not whatever sundry "GOP leaders" you feel like pulling out of a hat. I listed names and books, have you read them? You don't think Steyn and Sowell, for instance, are clear and well-reasoned, in spite of their flaws? The fact that you list Ron Paul says it all--a man willing to sell out this country's defense to any third world thugocracy, but I guess that fits right in with your anarchist sympathies.

Michael

And as moot a point...

Frediano's picture

"Quite frankly, conservative intellectuals are carrying the banner right now and blowing Objectivist intellectuals out of the water. These conservative intellectuals are openly attacking collectivism and arguing for free markets and the individual's right to his own life--making clear and well-reasoned historical connections."

... for as long as the GOP remains the closest party of power actually representing such ideas.

There is no way(not that you have) of resolving what you say with anything going on in the modern GOP.

Not when, as recently as January 2008, at the CA GOP Primary debates, the three GOP frontrunners -- McCain, Huckabee, and Romney -- all gleefully stood up and actually answered Anderson Cooper's briliiant, if loaded, question:

"Tell us why YOU are best suited to RUN THE ECONOMY."

Reagan should have been spinning in his grave. In front of his widow, no less, at his very own temple. Ron Paul spelled it out too late to do any good, incredulous, using a giant crayon, and the three front-running idiots just smirked. Ooooops. But, that wasn't a mere 'mistake' in the real-time of political debate. After this sad display, I asked a local GOP candidate for state office, what was the deal on capitulating to this 'Run the Economy' nonsense. He confided, "The phrase 'It's the Economy, Stupid!" is just such a juggernaut that the GOP can't possibly fight it, they have to run with it."

As if, the Berlin Wall actually went up in '89.

Where were 'conservative intellectuals' carrying the banner when that sad display was occurring? If Carville's stupidifying bumper sticker so overwhelmed the depths of conservative intellectualism in the GOP that they found it an un-answerable Juggernaut, then ...surely not anywhere near the leadership of the GOP.

Stick a fork in that GOP, it should be gone, deservedly so.

One down(GOP), one to go(DEMs).

The Dems are clearly screwing the pooch, but we are lost if the practical result is a return to power of the McCain, Huckabee, Romney me-too Democrate-Lite howdy-doodies.

Wherever 'conservative intellectuals' are battling Objectivists for carrying banners of anything, it is sadly far away from any party of power.

Excellent Post, Jeff

Michael Moeller's picture

I agree wholeheartedly. Linz is too influenced by what he reads in the media, which give undue attention to the rotten aspects of the culture. But is this the full reality? Working in professional sphere, I submit it is not at all representative.

Further, look around at what is happening in the intellectual sphere. Conservative intellectual books are dominating the best seller lists. Books like Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism", Pestritto's "Woodrow Wilsom and the Roots of Modern Liberalism", and Folsom's "New Deal or Raw Deal?" are historically well-researched, clearly written, and well-argued. (And I appreciate your suggestions on some of these books Jeff!!). Couple these books with columns from people like Mark Steyn and Thomas Sowell.

For six years now, the Left has used Gitmo and enhanced interrogations to wage a moral war (in favor of the terrorists) and to usurp the banner of "the rule of law". Not one op-ed from Objectivist institutions on the matter, it has been left to the conservatives to wholly defend the matter. Why? Giving credit to Bush for something he did right is outside the bounds? I am sure if an op-ed was published it would explode out of proportion any flaws in the policy to make it seem as if their policies are no better than what the Left proposes to do--all driven by altruism.

Quite frankly, conservative intellectuals are carrying the banner right now and blowing Objectivist intellectuals out of the water. These conservative intellectuals are openly attacking collectivism and arguing for free markets and the individual's right to his own life--making clear and well-reasoned historical connections. They are also arguing for American self-interest in foreign policy.

One would never know that from reading Objectivist press releases and op-eds. Many of them have repaired to the mindless formula of Left= socialsim=altruism=bad, Right=Christianity=altruism=bad, therefore Left=Right=altruism=bad. The problem is, if one reads their actual writings, many intellectuals on the Right do not make arguments for the ethics of religion, much less embodying religion into law (except for abortion) with the absurd notion that they are dragging us into theocracy. Its quite clear that many, if not most, regard religion as a personal matter--and let their contradictions be theirs, I say. Should we throw them aside on that basis? Then why didn't Rand throw aside Ludwig von Mises, for instace?

What about the young'uns? At the tea part I attended, the young significantly outweighted the old. Glenn Back had a Princeton professor on awhile back taking note that the multicultural classes get about 10 people, while students are lining up by the hundreds (with waiting lists) to take his class on the Founding Fathers. This at Princeton, no less. Having just come from law school, which is generally a liberal bastion, students are considerably less left-leaning than the professors and many openly arguing for capitalism. Many students are smart and hungry.

As you note, Jeff, sinking into pessimism and cynicism and focusing on "Airhead America" accomplishes little, and often concedes the case.

Michael

Frankly ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

People on this website have heard this message over and over (at least a small core have). But there are an incredible number of people who will spout this same kind of nonsense in response to people like Prof. Reisman who they ignorantly assume they worthy of addressing in the first place. Amazingly, some of them even have the capacity to find and read his blog on the internet. The obvious is such a difficult message to convey that most of the intelligent people in the world will refuse to listen to it. With that reality how can we explain simple things like this to Lindsay's "Airhead America". I have no idea.

Frankly I haven't either. And unfortunately the folk displaying such magnificent anger at the Town Hall meetings—at least the ones I see—are elderly. Airhead America, of course, are young, Obama-voting, and deeply, deeply stupid, as well as utterly ignorant of American history.

Reisman's book should be perennially available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. It isn't available at all, because of Binswanker and Warts. Until those two anal-retentives are out of there, I'll not fully believe ARI has changed its ways.

How to Win

Jeff Perren's picture

"With that reality how can we explain simple things like this to Lindsay's "Airhead America". I have no idea."

You can't. But that doesn't necessarily supply a reason for pessimism. Those people are not the ones we need to reach. It's unlikely they're even in the majority (except in the under30 demographic, who - until recently, and probably not again - don't tend to vote), and certainly don't have the major influence on culture.

That Lindsay believes there is an Airhead America at all is owing largely to their disproportionate representation in the cultural media - films, music, even politics when it suits the Progressives to use them for that purpose. The Progressive media keep them in the limelight for the express purpose of dispiriting those Roarks (of various degrees of verisimilitude) who are being put in Toohey's vacuum chamber, in the hope their heads will explode.

Whether there's sufficient reason for optimism, it's too soon to tell. But take heart from a number of things.

1) When push came to shove, the American people stood up and said "Enough!" That they are a genuine threat to the powers that be is proved by the efforts to smear them as an unruly mob.

2) Not only are sales of Atlas Shrugged skyrocketing - 50 years after its publication, which is of course unprecedented in publishing - but all kinds of "right wing" books and sites are enjoying a very brisk business indeed.

3) There are now more people, better intellectually armed to fight Progressivism than at any time in the past 50 years.

Don't lose heart. That's exactly what they want. Speak the truth, as clearly and passionately as you can, to every single person who shows the least bit of interest in hearing it, and never let those who don't want to hear it get away with a single distortion.

If you do that, it is still quite possible that in your lifetime you will live in a country that is free once again, as it once was in my lifetime. Remember, it's your life and your freedom that's at stake. That is worth every ounce of courage and persistence you can muster, for as long as it takes.

Very interesting.

Kasper's picture

A great read. Thanks Professor Reisman and to Linz for posting it up.

People on this website have

Jason Quintana's picture

People on this website have heard this message over and over (at least a small core have). But there are an incredible number of people who will spout this same kind of nonsense in response to people like Prof. Reisman who they ignorantly assume they worthy of addressing in the first place. Amazingly, some of them even have the capacity to find and read his blog on the internet. The obvious is such a difficult message to convey that most of the intelligent people in the world will refuse to listen to it. With that reality how can we explain simple things like this to Lindsay's "Airhead America". I have no idea.

Perhaps I should notice Atlas Shugged sales on Amazon and find something to be optimistic about. Or I can be pessimistic and notice that Dr. Reisman's book seems to be out of print. This is an extremely unfortunate thing because in this book he took on almost every nonsensical modern political or economic idea in depth and from almost every angle. Ideas that are the foundation of the current American elite all the way down to the idiotic notions of most common men. He demolished everything in his path.

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