HEALTH REFORM & PROGRESSIVE PIETY

Ever wonder why the “progressiveâ€? community is so monolithic in its support for socialized medicine? Having pondered this mystery for some time, I’m unable to avoid the conclusion that it is all about piety. Progressives favor government-run health care not because it makes sense medically or economically, but because it gives them a sense of moral superiority.

David Hogberg comments on a classic example of this phenomenon at Health Hog, where he quotes some of Ezra Klein’s smug ejaculations about those of us who refuse to imbibe generally accepted mythology surrounding the uninsured:

If you’re a denier, ask yourself: Are you really comfortable with a world in which the insurance industry is more intellectually honest than you are?

It doesn’t matter that, as Hogberg points out, the CBO, the Urban Institute and Blue Cross Blue Shield have all shown that “progressive� talking points on the uninsured are utterly without substance. If you refuse to accept them, you are a “denier� and thus morally inferior to those paragons of virtue who parrot the party line.

Comments 10

  1. David Hogberg wrote:

    Mr. Catron,

    Thanks much for the link! Please shoot me an email sometime soon: dhogberg@nationalcenter.org

    Best,
    Dave Hogberg

    Posted 01 May 2007 at 10:55 am
  2. Morris Berg wrote:

    Sir:
    Who the . . . what the . . . from exactly where does your moral indignation arise?
    You assert that Mr. Klein is using the term “denier” as a variant on ‘holocaust denier’ thereby giving him some sense of moral superiority.
    Um . . . where did you get that? I did not read it as such.
    He employs a noun that seems to accurately describe your position re: the “problem� of the uninsured (tho’ I can not tell whether you and/or he are arguing magnitude or existence).
    You then equate this term with some type of morally righteous strawman castigation that is simply not present.
    Perhaps your hyperbolic interpretation may actually reflect such a moral inferiority (or perhaps general whiny petulance).
    I would assert, however, that such as strange and sophmoric logic (�Oh so we are deniers . . . we must be holocaust deniers too . . . so we’re so awful we’re scum huh . . .well then I guess BCBS, CBO, and the Urban Institute are scum too . . . so naaa!�) actually proves Mr. Klein’s point quite well.
    Psst . . . he is attacking the inferiority of your intellectual honesty [ahem] NOT the inferiority of your morality. I can think of nothing so bereft of intellectual honesty as to take this rather literal use of the term “denier� and to then portray yourselves into the victims of some type of moral charge akin to the denial of the holocaust.
    Seriously, what is wrong with you? An intellectually honest debate would focus – for example – on the magnitude of a “problemâ€? that all parties seem to agree exists to some extent (there is some sort of “problemâ€? with our little system, heh?).
    I read him to be defending his position that (a) there is a “problem�; and (b) that subtracting the number of those who could qualify for MA or SCHIP is a disingenuous attempt at obfuscation that the insurance industry itself does not even employ.
    To do so to minimize the issue is – according to Mr. Klein – intellectually dishonest . . . much like intellectual dishonesty seen in your misplaced and generally embarrassing retort.
    I hope the irony is not lost . . .

    Posted 01 May 2007 at 1:00 pm
  3. Catron wrote:

    This is quite an interesting stream-of-consciousness prose poem. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 01 May 2007 at 2:58 pm
  4. Morris Berg wrote:

    I am glad you appreciated it. And I really thiink your satirical response is hilarious and brilliant. Obviously, you chose to ignore all of my substantive points in your “response” in order to produce an example of intellectual dishonesty so extreme as to be farcical . . . such well-crafted self-parody! Bravo!

    OR . . . you lack the rhetorical and intellectual acumen to respond otherwise.

    Regardrless . . . Bravo! It is very difficult to stack irony upon irony (intentional or not) in such a manner.

    Posted 07 May 2007 at 11:47 am
  5. Catron wrote:

    Morris, Morris, Morris,

    Your May 1st comment was really just a combination of ad hominem insults and semi-coherent grumbling. Today’s comment is not much of an improvement.

    If you have a substantive point to make, I’ll be delighted to respond in a less satirical manner.

    Posted 07 May 2007 at 1:15 pm
  6. Morris Berg wrote:

    Dave, Dave, Dave:

    [warning: if you find the following discussion to be a bit too much for you, please skip to the question at the bottom as I would appreciate a sincere answer and do not want you to dismiss my arguments as grumbly, mumbly insults simply because you fail to fully understand them].

    Let’s begin with a brief primer on the proper use of the term ad hominem: An “ad hominem insult” (which I’ll treat as “ad hominem abusive”) occurs when an attack on one’s character/personal qualities is offered as evidence against one’s position. Merely insulting someone or their arguments – though not logically persuasive – IS NOT.

    To draw a conclusion about one’s personal qualities based on the validity and structure of their arguments (e.g. “you are intellectually dishonest” or “Ezra thinks he is morally superior”) would also NOT be an ad hominem (tho’ the conclusion could then be used in an ad hominem attack on some unrelated argument).
    The veracity of any such conclusion (i.e. “Ezra thinks he is morally superior”) is a separate issue and independently open to criticism.

    My substantive point – the criticism I would like you to address – goes not to the underlying debate – but to your conclusion about the basis of “progressives” arguments:
    “Progressives favor government-run health care not because it makes sense medically or economically, but because it gives them a sense of moral superiority.”

    Now let us specifically examine the mischaracterization of Mr. Klein’s reasoning used to arrive at your conclusion which we see in the last paragraph: “If you refuse to accept [progressive talking points], you are a ‘denier’ and thus morally inferior to those paragons of virtue who parrot the party line.”

    Rather than address the flaws in the first step – “if a, then b” (b = progressives label you “denier”) – I will make this simple for you and focus on your conclusion (“thus . . . morally inferior”). This can only logically be based on a equivalence relationship between “denier” and “moral superiority”: either “b = c” or “if b, then c” (c = progressives feel you are morally inferior).

    ARGUMENT: YOUR CONCLUSION (or mischaracterization of Ezra’s argument) IS INVALID.
    The term “denier” as employed by Klein does not – on its face or by implication – equate with notions of morality or virtue. The conclusions you then generalize to the basis of “progressive” policy position is an ad hominem circumstantial based on this erroneous and baseless inference.

    Got it? Substantive enough, Dave?

    Now . . . I will admit to hypothesizing as to the strange and irrational reading of the word “denier” and what that implies about YOUR MOTIVES AND PSYCHE: overly sensitive due to some unrelated feelings of moral inferiority, whiny petulance, simplistic generalizations about “progressives,” or intellectual dishonesty (which I originally suspected). Now, however, I am leaning towards “dis-intellectual honesty” (sincere ignorance).

    Regardless, this does not have anything to do with my main criticism, which you could easily rebut by providing a satisfactory answer to this one question: HOW DOES THE USE OF THE WORD “DENIER” IN THE CONTEXT IT WAS EMPLOYED REFLECT A FEELING OF MORAL SUPERIORITY?

    I have much to say about the underlying debate; however, I find this manner of intellectual dishonesty (or “dis-intellectual honesty”) to preclude genuine and productive debate.

    Posted 08 May 2007 at 6:38 pm
  7. Catron wrote:

    HOW DOES THE USE OF THE WORD “DENIER� IN THE CONTEXT IT WAS EMPLOYED REFLECT A FEELING OF MORAL SUPERIORITY?

    The word “denier� is allusive of a vicious lunatic fringe considered morally repugnant by most sensible people. Klein is, of course, well aware of this when he uses the term to describe anyone who doubts received wisdom on the “uninsured.� He thus implies that such “deniers� are ethically suspect and that he and others who do not “deny� the party line are perforce “morally superior.�

    Posted 09 May 2007 at 1:28 pm
  8. Morris Berg wrote:

    Thank you for addressing the question clearly and honestly, but I just don’t buy it. I don’t agree the word “denier” holds such connotations, and did not take it as such. I find your interpretation and the logic used to arrive there to be a bit hysterical and odd (I feel I have had similar arguments with irrational ex-girlfriends). Of course we are pondering – and you are asserting to actually know – the intentions of one man and one word, but I am happy to have you on the record. One last point: I really don’t pay attention to holocaust deniers – not because they are morally repugnant – but because they obviously seek to trivialize or ignore reality. Undoubtedly, most are anti-semitic and perhaps use such revisionism towards more nefarious aims, but they did not actually commit the holocaust . . . they are just “stupid.” You know . . . now that you brought this up . . . the more I think about it . . . well . . . anyway.

    In any event, I appreciate your candor. Though I do not think deniers of the holocaust get to bogart such a basic and descriptively accurate word, I will suggest a different term with the same substantive impart in order to assuage your tenderness: “Inhofe.”

    It works quite well: “If you’re a [Inhaofe], ask yourself: Are you really comfortable with a world in which the insurance industry is more intellectually honest than you are?”

    Good? Now let’s move on. I don’t speak for Mr. Klein (or “leftists” or “progressives” or the “party line” – terms that seem like pejoratives with little actual meaning). I don’t bloody care frankly. I am just sick of reading this %$@#@! Idiotic and dishonest debate; false equivalence; and other such tools of obfuscation annoy me to no end.

    Now what position are you trying to support (or rebut) these dated and irrelevant studies: CBO (1998 data – “uninsured all year long”); UI (1997 data – written in 2001 before the HMO backlash and when MA & SCHIP were much different beasts); and BCBS (2003 – once again assessing who would be eligible for the gov’t teet)?

    Are you saying healthcare is A-OK in this country or just trying poke holes in one narrow number that may or may not say anything about anything of importance?

    Honestly, I think the uninsured debacle is more of a symptom than a cause though it has much political potential to focus attention on the broader issues at play. But

    Everyone-and-their-mother seems to have a healthcare reform proposal right now, but before we begin to talk about how to get more money to pay for health care we need to ask what the hell are we paying for, why are we paying for it, is it effective (or even harmful), and most importantly, how do we know the answer to any of these questions?

    Regardless of the path or the over-reaching goal, anything that remotely resembles a “solution” will require (directly or indirectly) some very basic changes. Or to put it another way: at the end of the day, after whatever means we take to reach whatever ends we choose, a few basic – but crucial – reforms MUST necessarily occur or it will be for naught.

    Why does everyone assume more is better? It is often not. Just to make an intentionally specious, yet serious, observation: 18,000 deaths can be attributed to lack of insurance (Kaiser or RWJF?), while estimates put iatrogenic/preventable deaths at 98,000 annually (IOM, 1999). This number is 8 years old and does not include preventable deaths that occurred outside hospitals. Autopsy studies show that not only do doctors misdiagnose 40% of terminal patients but also that this error rate HAS NOT IMPROVED SINCE 1938.

    It does not matter how much (or “how” generally) you pay for snakeoil (or whether your employer does or not), if you are paying for something that does not work, buying more of it will not make you “better” in any sense of the word. Note that I use the term “snakeoil” loosely in the sense that I do not feel all medical interventions (drugs, devices, etc.) to be per se useless, but in our current system, there is no mechanism to know for sure.
    One need not delve too deeply in to the more metaphysical definition of “value” to realize that if the “free-market” is to work at all in health care, then information must – at a minimum – be much more accurate and useful than it is. Similarly, if you are a proponent of the purest version of top-down socialized medicine, then you will still need a much better understanding of the efficacy of your various treatment options than what is currently available.

    Doctors – as a profession – need to clean their house up or all of this lovely economic and political debate will really be for naught.

    Sorry for the rambling meta-systems-speak rant.

    And for the record, in no way do I feel morally superior to anyone – only intellectually superior :)

    Cheers,
    Moe

    Posted 10 May 2007 at 8:49 am
  9. Catron wrote:

    Moe, you must have the strongest metacarpals in the business. You and I agree on at least one thing: the system does indeed need reform. Thanks for your comments.

    Posted 10 May 2007 at 2:13 pm
  10. Morris Berg wrote:

    “[Y]ou must have the strongest metacarpals in the business.”

    Not to boast, but I’m not the Skokie 4-H Fair Metacarpal Blue Ribbon Champion (4 years running) because of my good looks . . . it’s really all about the conditioning.

    Cheers,
    Moe

    Posted 11 May 2007 at 10:44 am

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