dCan Conservatives Show That We Care - Road to the Middle Class - by Christopher Chantrill
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Not With My Kid You Don't The End of Socialized Medicine?

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Can Conservatives Show That "We Care?"

by Christopher Chantrill
October 24, 2007 at 4:06 pm

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LAST WEEK President Bush successfully stopped the expansion of S-CHIP into the liberal slacker classes.

After last week the creative children of well-to-do parents who would rather buy fancy cars than pay for health insurance will have to pause for a moment.

For this important ethical and moral victory the president should be celebrated forever as one of our greatest presidents.

Meanwhile the Democrats showed once again that they “cared about the children.”

Never mind that it’s all just a huge bluff.

Government is there to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic. It doesn’t do that job very well, but it’s better than the alternative.

Everything else is fluff., and very expensive fluff at that. The newly legislated fluff always looks wonderful. But after a while it always turns into rotting bureaucratic sludge.

Fluff? Health care and education are fluff? Let’s take a look at the great heads of government spending for FY 2008 on usgovernmentspending.com. The numbers are all budgeted and estimated.

United States Federal, State, and Local Government Spending
Fiscal Year 2008
Amounts in billions of dollars
Pensions: $910.0
Health Care: $916.5
Education: $836.7
Defense: $692.0
Welfare: $436.4

We are talking about all levels of government, of course.

Here’s the dirty little secret that explains why it’s mostly fluff. All that money we spend on health care and education—we don’t know if it is doing any good.

You start to get the picture from Rising Life Expectancy by James C. Riley. There are six areas for reducing mortality: “public health, medicine, wealth and income, nutrition, behavior, and education,” he writes. But researchers find it very difficult to separate out the significance of each area. One thing is certain; the importance of medicine has been greatly over-hyped. Needless to say, more research is needed.

Robin Hanson of CATO confirms Riley’s finding. He writes that we don’t have a clue about the effectiveness of health care. Although health experts know this they are nervous about telling us. Anyway we just don’t believe them.

Non-health-policy experts are probably shocked to hear my claims. Most students in my eight years of teaching health economics have simply not believed me, even after a semester of reviewing the evidence.

Here’s an example of what Hanson is talking about. RAND health insurance study in 1978-82 assigned two thousand families to various health insurance plans from free to full price. The result was inconclusive; the health of some poor families even got worse after they got free health insurance.

What is going on?

The key to understanding “health-care,” Hanson suggests, comes after the hyphen. It is all about care, not health.

[H]umans long ago evolved a tendency to use medicine to ‘show that we care,’ rather than just to get healthy.

That was the point that the Democrats were trying to make over the S-CHIP expansion. It wasn’t the money. They just wanted to show that they cared.

This is the brilliant idea that supports the welfare state. The welfare state doesn’t actually do anything; it just shows that we care.

Look at the top three heads of government spending above. If the government didn’t have its pension programs then people would just knuckle down and save some more. Families that couldn’t save enough would coalesce into multigenerational compounds.

If the government didn’t have its health programs then people would be a lot more careful about their health and their medical spending, and the overall life-expectancy in the United States probably wouldn’t change.

If the government didn’t have its education programs then people would spend their own money on education. Most parents can probably afford the three-to-four years of the schooling it takes to achieve basic literacy and numeracy. They would quickly that most children shouldn’t go to high school. Instead they should get jobs!

But how would we show that “we care?”

Arthur Brooks has shown in Who Really Cares that government charity approximately displaces private charity one-for-one. It costs more, of course, because with government charity you have to pay for all the bureaucracy and the inefficiency, not to mention the gigantic information technology systems to keep track of all those health-and-welfare programs.

Here’s an idea for young up-and-coming conservative thinkers. The current welfare state is unjust to women. It crowds out and marginalizes their natural charitable instincts and prevents them from being all they can be and demonstrating that “we care.”

In the welfare state only politicians and activists get to show that they care.

Think about it. The glorious feminist revolution has pitched women out of their local face-to-face neighborhood communities. It has converted them from caring friends and neighbors into “helping professionals.” In the old days they used to converse and network to help each other and show that they cared. Now they are stuck in gigantic social-service bureaucracies where their natural caring instincts and emotions are rigidly controlled by a huge rule-book.

How can anyone endure for a moment longer this monstrously unjust and unnatural system?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


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