The English Disease Has a Cure

TOWM’s quote of the day:

So this is the GOP’s problem going forward: people love to hate “socialism” in the abstract, but they love their benefits once they have them, and now the GOP will have to go from saving people from “socialism” to taking away benefits, and that’s a hard row to hoe.

That’s John Scalzi unwittingly highlighting THE reason it is important to oppose Socialist programs on general principle. The Republicans have taken a lot of flak in the media for “going all in” on healthcare – but I, for one, think they know what they’re doing. If you compromise on this stuff – even a little bit – you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to support it forever. This is EXACTLY why the dole is dangerous. Individual voters are unable to see the real choices before them. They only see “today I got ‘free’ money from the government, tomorrow I don’t.” It’s really, really difficult to explain the actual tradeoffs involved in a way that people will understand. Actually, it’s really, really difficult explaining to them that there are tradeoffs at all on these terms.

But tradeoffs are ubiquitous – in all walks of life, and the ability to see them is, if I’m not overstating the case, what separates successful people from the average. The ability to take short-term losses for long-term gains. Take a Chess player for example. The very first step to becoming a better Chess player – after you’ve learned the rules and some basic opening strategies – is to accept that if you’re playing anyone good, it’s eventually going to come down to you having to take a risk and sacrifice one of your pieces in the service of getting a better position. It’s not just good advice, it’s the only way to win. If you just total up the cannonical point values of everything and do whatever it takes never to lose a piece, you’ll lose the game. It’s that simple.

And it’s that simple with everything in life. If you want to get somewhere, you have to put stuff on the line. You can’t just graze. Unfortunately, lots of people are happy to do just that. They can see yesterday, and they can see today, and tomorrow for them is always someone else’s problem.

There was a sterling example of exactly this kind of thinking of Facebook today. One of my friends – a former student of mine who I used to think was pretty cool before he jumped on the Obama bandwagon like Ric Flair on Magnum T. A. – posted a link to this bit of gratuitous fallacious reasoning. For those who can’t be bothered to skim it, it’s a list of all the even mildly successful government programs we take for granted day-to-day – such as the power company, the roads, the police, etc. And so of course it concludes with the idea that since all this stuff works out ok, Socialism can’t be all that bad (it’s fair to say it implies that Socialism is therefore good). Which is a bit like Soviet citizens worrying, on the collapse of that absurd state, that there wouldn’t be any bread anymore because who would supply it if not the government? It turns out, you see, that just because the government can do something moderately functional (hey – there may have been massive queues, but by the 1970s no one was starving in the USSR), it hardly follows that the private sector can’t do it better. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the private sector can and would do it better without government interference. Now, I’m not saying there doesn’t need to be a basic framework of regulations in place; I’m not an anarchist. I’ll be the first to agree that a basic framework of “rules of the game” needs to be in place for the market to function. But it’s a long logical road from there to “the government can and should supply our basic needs,” and in fact you have to cross a couple of bombed out bridges to make it even halfway there.

Most people are Soviet citizens at heart. They see that the bread (where “bread” is any/all of electric power, roads, education, internet, etc.) comes from the government store affixed with a price tag that’s within their budget, and it never occurs to them that waiting in line is actually expensive, or that having to plan for the days you know the store will have bread is actually expensive, or that the lack of variety is expensive, or that the price that seems low, relatively speaking, merely because they can afford it, could actually, in some alternate universe capitalist paradise, be SO low that they wouldn’t even have to hardly budget for it – that they could work just one hour a day, even, and be able to afford more bread than they could possibly eat, quantities which they could actually purchase, because there was just that much available for sale. That’s everyday reality here in the USA, but Soviet citizens circa 1989 could be forgiven for not believing it if they heard it. They had no standard of comparison, you see.

Just like we don’t for electric power. Or roads. Or, now thanks to the first step down the slippery slope that we no doubt took yesterday, medical care. Now medical care is going to be one of those things like bread in the Soviet Unions – where it’s going to be inconceivable to people that they could afford it without the government’s help. In actual fact, without the government’s “help” (which currently primarily takes the form of stifling competition) we’d all be able to afford a hell of a lot more of it than we afford now. But having wrecked the healthcare market, they now want to “help” us pay the inflated prices they caused, and pretty soon people will think that without these subsidies, there’d just be no way.

So Scalzi is right. The Republicans are not going to scale back Obamacare. They’ll want to, but they won’t, and that’s because bought votes can only be unbought. It’s like kidding yourself that a blackmailer only wants this little bit and then will leave you alone. Consequently, there won’t be much to gain by voting Republican next time around. Until there’s a US Margaret Thatcher, your choices are Wilson, whose primary advantage is that he’s consistently Socialist, and Heath, who will run Socialism in a schizophrenic and damaging way but at least won’t add to the programs on the books.

Yeah, I don’t feel like playing this game either. Vote Libertarian.

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