Posts tagged Matt Yglesias

Universal health care does not mean government health care.

I’ve seen this note that I wrote a while back at ThinkProgress.org popping up here and there on the Internet. I’m glad that people have found it useful. Since it is currently locked up in a horrible Facebook-based dynamically transcluded comment thread thingy, I figured that I would re-copy and re-print here, so that the point, if it was worth making, can have a something of a real home on the Internet. The comment was in reply to a reply to Matt Yglesias’s reply to Roderick Long’s reply to a conversation between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul about healthcare policy. Roderick (rightly) thought that Paul’s answer to the questions betrayed a serious mistake about how to think about free-market healthcare. Yglesias (wrongly) thought that Roderick was encouraging libertarians to avoid the important question. A commentator called ds_at_yglesias chimed in:

If you oppose universal health care, you by definition support letting people who can’t afford health care die.

Most conservatives are socialized to not say such things in public, but of course they believe it.

—ds_at_yglesias, 15 September 2011, 7:39pm

Of course, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about saving the reputation of political conservatives. But there’s an important conceptual issue for anti-authoritarians. So I replied (emphasis added):

Maybe so. (Certainly, there are plenty of conservatives who are all too comfortable with — or even enthusiastic about — a lot of needless suffering in the world.)

But I hope that you realize that not everyone who supports universal healthcare supports government healthcare, and not everyone who opposes government healthcare opposes universal healthcare. The one might follow from the other if the only way to get universal coverage were by means of a political guarantee of coverage. But that’s not so: there are folks who oppose government healthcare because they think corporate healthcare is awesome and they don’t mind if people die; but there are also folks who oppose government healthcare because they support non-governmental, non-corporate universal coverage through grassroots social organization and community mutual aid. (See for example http://radgeek.com/gt/2007/10/25/radical_healthcare/ or the closing sections of http://www.thefreemanonline.org/headline/health-care-debate-meaningful/.)

Of course, that leaves open the question of whether they (we — I’m one of ‘em) are right about the best means for getting universal coverage. Maybe social means are inadequate; or maybe there is some reason, which has yet to be mentioned, why governmental control is preferable, as a means for getting it, to voluntary associations for mutual aid. But whether the position is right or wrong, it’s certainly not one that can be answered simply by defining it out of existence, as you do when you pretend that the only alternatives available are (1) corporate coverage of only those who can afford it; or else (2) universal coverage by means of government mandates; as if there were no (3) universal coverage by non-governmental means.

—Charles Johnson, 16 September 2011, 10:32pm

Also.

So you are in favor of personal money holes?

One of the points that I wanted to stress in my recent response to Danny Blogaduce’s recent article on left-libertarianism is that, at least as far as it touches on questions of strategy and practical politics, Blogaduce is more or less right about the kind of thing he calls libertarianism — that is, the sort of gradualist and reformist pet projects advanced by limited-statist outfits like Cato and the Libertarian Party. (The problem with his article is that he wrongly thinks that what he thinks of as libertarianism is all there is to libertarianism — an odd stance to take in an article responding to a radical Left, anti-electoralist market anarchist.)

But Yglesias is right that minimal-statist reformism, more or less necessarily, depends on an unrealizable and ultimately incoherent notion of State neutrality, and that, strategically, it also inevitable falls into the trap of trying to intervene in government policy debates while taking the basic presuppositions of that debate for granted, on the foolish belief that by doing so we will somehow be able to restrain or undermine the manipulation of that debate and that policy apparatus by the well-organized and well-funded forces that created it and that continue to rig the matches and game the system. There’s a reason why (reformist, minimal-statist) libertarians so often lose track of the subject and smother the revolutionary notion of freed markets and free association with a bunch of tax-subsidized choice programs, outsourced government monopolies, and other cockamaimey privateering schemes. If you start out by trying to take hold of a system of domination rather than resisting it, and by trying jump into a rigged debate rather than challenging the notion underlying the debate itself—where you’re allowed to file slowly away at only one of the bars of the statist cage, while leaving all the other criss-crossing bars in place, unchallenged or (more commonly) simply unmentioned—then you shouldn’t be surprised when your attempt to intervene in that debate ends up consisting of little more than No reasonable person is advocating that we are going to stop destroying money! But the American people earned that money. They have the right to decide how it should be destroyed.

When the limits of Beltway consensus policy debate are the limits on what a reasonable person can advocate, what decent people have to do is to start being unreasonable. Anything else, and you’d better just learn to love the money fires. Because that’s all you’re getting, even if you somehow managed to win.

See also:

Shorter Bonaduce

The Danny Bonaduce of the Blogosphere responds to Roderick’s Cato Unbound article on left-libertarianism in Politics Compromises the Libertarian Project:

The central point of Roderick Long’s essay seems completely correct to me—powerful actors in society seek to use their power in order to manipulate the state apparatus to get what they want. Corporations are powerful actors in our society, and they want money. Thus, what corporations are after in politics is political action that gets them money and whether or not this coincides with the dictates of a purist laissez faire vision is a matter of mere happenstance.

In what I find a puzzling move, Long thinks that the main upshot of this is to cast doubt on the legitimacy of castigating libertarians as corporate stooges. I would say the real upshot is to cast doubt on the cogency of the libertarian enterprise. Thinkers affiliated with the libertarian movement have had many smart things to say on individual topics, but the overall concept of a state apparatus that simply sits on the sideline watching the free market roll along is impossibly utopian. People are going to try to manipulate the state to advance their own ends.

Well, I certainly agree with that.

That’s part of the reason I’m a market anarchist, not a Constitutionalist or a minimal-statist. And, while I can speak only for myself, last I checked, that’s why Roderick is a market anarchist, too.

But DBOB is puzzled, apparently because it hasn’t occurred to him that a libertarian might envision forms of social organization (and forms of resistance to corporatism) outside of the political apparatus, and so he concludes that libertarianism offers no realistic proposals for resisting corporate power-grabs and big business’s domination of the public policy space. Apparently disarming your enemy doesn’t count as a realistic or desirable strategy; Yglesias prefers to shoot first and ask questions later. And, he figures, as long as everyone’s going to be going around robbing each other anyway, we all ought to get together and get some of it while the getting’s good.

As far as political strategery goes, Yglesias’s article is perfectly correct as a critique of what he calls libertarianism—that is, the sort of thing engaged in by soft limited-govermentalist outfits like Cato or the Libertarian Party. (Whether it’s morally acute is quite another matter; not having any realistic way of achieving anti-robbery goals is no reason to jump wholeheartedly into counter-robbery instead, unless you think that the desirability or undesirability of particular political-economic end states overrules any consideration of the propriety of the means by which you promote or avoid them. Maybe Yglesias thinks that; but he’s given no argument in favor of it.)

But be that as it may, his complaints of utopianism seem strangely selective. As Yglesias himself points out, Cato is hardly alone in its failure to achieve practical results: American progressives aren’t doing all that great a job of resisting corporate power or stopping the government from sticking its hands into workers pockets for the benefit of endangered capitalists, landlords, and moneylenders. He then uses this as an opportunity to praise the Institute for Justice and to throw out a recruitment pitch for libertarian allies in Progressive causes. But what he seemingly fails to consider is that maybe the problem isn’t with a lack of numbers, but rather with the toolkit itself—that those tools are really traps, which end up enveloping and smothering any attempt at realizing your primary goals in the tremendous secondary effort required just to be able to wield them.

In Anarchy, there is another way. If we stop trying to build the structures envisioned by the Left using the tools of the ruling class, and if we refocus our efforts on achieving our goals by means of people-powered organizing, voluntary association, grassroots mutual aid, and person-to-person solidarity, then workers can get what we need through free markets and free association. When the things that matter most in our lives are the things that we make for ourselves, each of us singly, or with many of us choosing to work together in voluntary associations, there will be no need to waste years of our lives and millions or billions of dollars fighting wars of attrition with back-room king-makers or trying to keep erstwhile friends in office on the right track—because we will not need to get any of the things that they are trying to hoard. When we expect the State to limit itself through the very process that gives it power, or when we go after the State’s patronage, politics makes prisoners of us all. But freedom means that when the powers that be try to rope you along for something stupid, or try to snuff out something brilliant, we can turn around, walk away, and do things for ourselves—whether they like it or not.

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Friday Random Ten: subversive lazy linking edition

Like the Holy Roman Empire, this Friday Random Ten is neither Friday, nor Random, nor Ten. But it is (I think) a good idea; thanks to Random Thoughts and to Trish Wilson for it. Here’s the idea: you’ve probably all heard of the Friday Random Ten music game. This is sort of like that, except that it’s ten links. The links go to ten worthy posts by webloggers outside of the usual club of folks you link to. Why? Because weblogging, and political weblogging in particular, is interesting and fun and increasingly important but it’s also got a tendency to be inbred and clubby. Most of us are not atop the A-list “dominant link hierarchy,” but we participate in it, and if we don’t try to break up the cartel a bit, who will? The Danny Bonaduce of the blogosphere? I think not. So here’s mine:

  1. When it comes to the hand-wringing and the bloviating over the Left’s attitude towards feminism, abortion, and sexuality, media girl 2005-02-24: Not negotiable puts it better than I could in just three sentences:

    What a lot people — mostly men — don’t seem to understand is that women’s control over our own bodies is not negotiable. We are not slaves. We are not breeding machines to be regulated and controlled by the government.

    Read the whole thing.

  2. Bitch, Ph.D. 2005-02-22: The Washington Monthly points out that it’s that time of the three months again: Kevin Drum has come down with a nasty case of QMS, and it’s made him impulsive and irrational enough to start spouting off without so much as bothering to so much as search Google for female political bloggers first. Or, as we have it from the good doctor:

    Oh look. We have another well-meaning non-sexist liberal non-discriminatory fuckwit around being all concerned about how women just don’t choose to talk about politics. Or maybe it’s that they’re innately less comfortable with the “food fight” nature of political discourse.

    Hey Drum, you moron, try doing some goddamn research before you shoot your mouth off, ok?

    How the fuck do men ever manage to succeed in any kind of intellectual endeavor without bothering to find out what the fuck they’re talking about before shooting their mouths off? Oh yeah, right, it’s the magic power of the cock. Jesus.

    Read the whole thing.

  3. Bean has a new blog (you may know her from her posts on Alas, A Blog), and in Cool Beans 2005-03-03: The Invisibility of Feminism she points to another one for the what is seen and what is not seen file. Here we have one of the countless examples of why men in the media seem able to confidently declare feminism dead once every five years or so, without the least bit of circumspection: because nobody seems to feel obligated to actually, y’know, look up feminist publications before they gather their data and start spouting off.

    Read the whole thing.

  4. Jill Walker at misbehaving.net 2005-02-27: The Debian Women Project notes the lack of women in open source development, or at least in Debian development specifically.

    Hanna Wallach posted her slides from a talk she gave on Debian Women yesterday. She showed statistics showing that 10-20% of computer science undergrads are women, and that 20-35% of IT professionals are women, and yet there are only 4-8 women among the nearly 1000 developers of the open source Debian "universal" operating system. That’s less than one percent. While Hanna mentions possible reasons briefly, her main concern in the talk is to show what is being done in Debian Women.

    It’s good to see that the topic is being addressed, and everyone’s best wishes should be with Debian Women, which seems to be off to a good running start; one can only pray that the boys will keep tabs on the organizing and action that’s going on, instead of treating everyone to a trimonthly outbreak of oblivious Where are all the female software developers? e-mails on devel mailing lists…

    Read the whole thing.

  5. Mouse Words 2005-03-05: 10 things you need to know about men demonstrates once again that shooting fish in a barrel can be damn funny if you have the talent (as Amanda clearly does).

    From iVillage and by Richie Sambora. Sambora couldn’t tell you shit about playing guitar, and he’s a guitarist. So why do we assume he knows something about being a man? As usual, we women are presumed pretty clueless when it comes to men. Men, however, know everything they need to know about us.

    We want you to be our mothers.

    Heather Locklear is a saint. And now I have the unfortunate image of her man calling her Mommy and I’m all upset.

    We don’t mind it when you dress us.

    If he asks for a sponge bath next, I hope Locklear takes a moment to remember that she is a stunning beauty who has exactly zero reason to fear that she’s headed for spinsterhood if she suddenly gave up playing Airplane in order to get her husband to eat.

    Read the whole thing.

  6. Avedon Carol 205-03-05: How you become crazy takes on the pervasive idiot notion that any ideological skew in the media, if it exists, is prima facie evidence that the media is doing something wrong and therefore needs to change:

    I have never understood why this should be a criticism of the media, anymore than it makes sense that this is a negative trait of academe; if the people who are best educated and most aware of what is going on are more liberal, maybe that’s because you have to be ignorant to swallow conservatism. What is really suggested by this “criticism” is that the alleged “bias” isn’t bias at all, it’s just a recognition of what is, and that bias is required to lean to the right of this “liberal” position. Indeed, the behavior we’re seeing from the administration is fairly explicit in that we are told that simple facts are “biased”. The news media are not supposed to tell the public the truth about anything because that would bias us against the administration. The real question is not, then, about a bias toward liberalism or conservatism, but rather a belief that “news” should make some attempt to serve the public rather than just the corporate hierarchy.

    Those people really do need reminders. They need to be told every single time they spew right-wing bull. They need to be reminded over and over that reality still holds sway for at least half of the population. Most of all, they need to be told that we’re not talking about forgetfulness and errors and “misstatements” from Condi and George and friends, we’re talking about lying, and they should call a spade a spade.

    Whether Avedon’s right or not about all that (I think she’s clearly right about the media’s limitless charity for Bush administration fraudsters, probably right about some parts of reporters’ policy skew, and probably mistaken about others), the underlying point is awfully damned important: the demographic arguments that “liberal media” bloviators (and their “corporate media” comrades on the Left) aren’t enough to show anything in particular. The perverse sort of ideological identity politics that the Right especially loves these days needs to be called for what it is: pure bluff.

    Read the whole thing. (Thanks, Trish.)

    [Update 2005-03-27: Incidentally, the name is Avedon Carol, not Carol Avedon as I originally wrote. Oy. My bad!]

  7. What Is Past Is Prologue 2005-03-04: How Low Can You Go follows up with this fine look at how the Great Americans at MSNBC ensure that the tough questions get asked in spite of the fiendish plot of the liberal media hegemons:

    Then he went on to flagellate that old tired concept that everyone knows is a lie: The Vicious Liberal Media. His commentator? The resentful Ari Fleischer, clearly still smarting from his days as White House Press Secretary

  8. Clancy at CultureCat 2005-03-04: Orphan Works: Tell the Copyright Office Your Stories calls for shedding light on one of the rarely-seen but often-onerous unintended consequences of the intellectual enclosure regime: valuable works are left in limbo when you can’t find their copyright holders. I’m sure that making works completely impossible to reproduce for a good 70 years or so is really incentivizing some creative excellence. Somehow.

    Read the whole thing.

  9. Micha Ghertner at Catallarchy 2005-03-06: Small Is Beautiful points out something that you just don’t see in most discussions of prying education out of the hands of the bureaucratic State: the way that government monopolization of schools and politicized pressures constrict schools into multimillion dollar all-things-to-all-people facilities—thus forcing down the number of groups that could reasonably get a school off the ground—thus forcing them into crowded splinding-and-sorting centers for thousands of students:

    Would people want to send their kids to small, simple, less expensive schools? Would some parents drop off their kids at an individualized schooling program for a few hours, and then take them to the gym or the community center for a sports league or a friendly pick-up game with other children? Those who are satisfied with the current system of institutionalized babysitting may want to stick with the status quo. Those who would prefer a close-knit atmosphere, where everyone knows each other by name, and where the programs and costs are specially tailored to each individual student’s needs, may conclude that bigger is not always better.

    Read the whole thing.

  10. Alina at Totalitarianism Today 2005-03-01: International aid worthy of the title? reminds us of the dirty little secret about government-to-government foreign aid: when you give money to the government instead of to the people in distress, they just waste it.

  11. Voltairine de Cleyre (1907-04-28): They Who Marry Do Ill argues (under the title of a particularly delightful turn of phrase) that marriage — whether government-sponsored or wildcatted, whether religious or secular — offends against individualist principles:

    Some fifteen or eighteen years ago, when I had not been out of the convent long enough to forget its teachings, nor lived and experienced enough to work out my own definitions, I considered that marriage was a sacrament of the Church or it was civil ceremony performed by the State, by which a man and a woman were united for life, or until the divorce court separated them. With all the energy of a neophyte freethinker, I attacked religious marriage as an unwarranted interference on the part of the priest with the affairs of individuals, condemned the until death do us part promise as one of the immoralities which made a person a slave through all his future to his present feelings, and urged the miserable vulgarity of both the religious and civil ceremony, by which the intimate personal relations of two individuals are made topic of comment and jest by the public.

    By all this I still hold. Nothing is more disgustingly vulgar to me than the so-called sacrament of marriage; outraging of all delicacy in the trumpeting of private matters in the general ear. Need I recall, for example, the unprinted and unprintable floating literature concerning the marriage of Alice Roosevelt, when the so-called American princess was targeted by every lewd jester in the country, because, forsooth, the whole world had to be informed of her forthcoming union with Mr. Longworth! But it is neither the religious nor the civil ceremony that I refer to now, when I say that those who marry do ill. The ceremony is only a form, a ghost, a meatless shell. By marriage I mean the real thing, the permanent relation of a man and a woman, sexual and economical, whereby the present home and family life is maintained. It is of no importance to me whether this is a polygamous, polyandric or monogamous marriage, nor whether it is blessed by a priest, permitted by a magistrate, contracted publicly or privately, or not contracted at all. It is the permanent dependent relationship which, I affirm, is detrimental to the growth of individual character, and to which I am unequivocally opposed. Now my opponents know where to find me.

    Read the whole thing.

O.K.; that was eleven, not ten. And the eleventh isn’t exactly a blog link anyway. But I did warn you ahead of time that Friday Random Ten would be a name here, not a definite description. And if the dominant link hierarchy in the weblog world is worth breaking up, then I’d have to say that it’s also worth breaking up weblog reading with a bit of material that was written before the turn of the 21st century. Enjoy the subversion!