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Friday Lazy Linking

  • Unbundling Government, by Arnold Kling. EconLog (2010-06-29). This week is Secession Week at Let a Thousand Nations Bloom. I have no problems with the S word, but I also use the economic expression “unbundling.” For example, Ed Glaeser writes, In a sense, the gulf between the political attitudes of New York City and Montana can be understood… (Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)

  • The Power to Tax is the Power to Destroy. Unqualified Offerings (2010-06-30). This is actually not primarily about taxes. Or about destroying. Or about Dave Weigel. But it is an interesting point from Jim Henley about what’s new — and what’s not new — in the ethos of journalistic bloggers, and why newspapers don’t understand it. (Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)

  • apology not accepted. Dinosaur Comics (2010-06-30). “So hey did you guys hear about the G20 in Toronto last weekend? The event itself was kinda a non-event but the 1 billion dollars Canadians spent on security was kinda – insane? We built a big wall around the downtown core of the city, and the chief of police announced that there was a new secret law passed wherein anyone within 5 meters of this fence had to produce ID or be arrested. And then, after the event, he announced that he made the law up because it suited his purposes? HILARIOUS. Toronto police Chief Bill Blair, ladies and gentlemen.” (Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)

  • eye of the storm 2010-06-30 11:05:51. Captain Capitulation, Anarchoblogs (2010-06-30). one thing that occurs watching the kagan hearings: i am very glad i have not lived her life. so when they ask her about memos she wrote in the clinton admin, strategizing on avoiding a ban on partial-birth abortion, she's all like 'i was working for a president who had… (Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)

  • Parking Lots. Dorothy, Cat and Girl (2010-06-30). (Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)

  • Porkymandias. Roderick, Austro-Athenian Empire (2010-07-01). And on the pedestal these words appear: My name is Robert C. Byrd, Senator of Senators: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains: round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away. (Linked Friday 2010-07-02.)

When the State gives doctors power over their patients, the doctors’ primary loyalty will be to the power of the State, not to their patients

(Via Cheryl Cline @ der Blaustrumpf 2008-12-02: Trusting Doctors.)

The first step is that the State grants legal privileges to doctors. Or, more specifically, to those doctors who practice medicine according to the approaches favored by the government and government-backed medical guilds like the American Medical Association. These privileges for officially-approved doctors to force their competitors out of business with threats of fines, jail, or death, and thus to force captive patients to seek their services. In many countries, these privileges include a large apparatus of government-subsidized healthcare, in which government-approved doctors are paid largely, or entirely, by funds that the government has taken from unwilling taxpayers. (Healers whose practices are not officially approved by the government, obviously, receive none of these subsidies.) In some cases, they also involve the power of doctors — especially psychiatrists, or other doctors treating children, or treating adults labeled as insane or feeble-minded — to force invasive treatment on unwilling patients through the use of deception, threats, restraint, and, if necessary, outright violence.

When the government gives doctors this kind of unaccountable, legally-backed plenary power to control or coerce their patients, it converts the medical profession into a class of legally elevated and legally regulated mandarins, who expect and enjoy considerable political power through their legally-privileged professional associations and through the State apparatus itself. Since doctors enjoy special privileges over their patients, and depend on legal force rather than on their patients’ judgment to get their way, the legal privilege helps foster a culture of arrogance and entitlement. And at the same time it creates a situation where doctors depend on government power for their wealth and cultural prestige, since they depend on it to create an artificial scarcity of medical services, and to keep patients captive to the doctor’s preferred regimen. Moreover, whenever medical doctors get special political privileges over their patients, politics defines what will be counted as legitimate medicine, and so medical doctors necessarily become politicians, acting a minor faction of the ruling class, just by establishing professional standards. When those professional standards are enforced by law, State-approved doctors’ professional associations are transformed from voluntary associations into a branch of the government, and medicine is transformed from a service to the patient into an arm of State policy.

And whenever, wherever, and exactly to the extent that the State gives doctors this kind of power over their patients, and makes them instruments of State policy, State-privileged doctors will owe their primary loyalty to power of the State, not to their patients.

The results of that shift in loyalty will depend on the nature of the State that claims their loyalty. When a State is relatively restrained, or simply incompetent, doctors will still help their patients, for the most part, rather than hurting them. When a State becomes more predatory, or lethal, politically-privileged doctors will be called on to be fine-tuned instruments of the predation or the murder. Since they depend on the State, politically-privileged doctors will usually answer the call, even if it means subjecting their victim-patients to malpractice, torture, or murder. Indeed, since a more powerful and invasive hygienic or therapeutic State means more power and influence for politically-privileged doctors, many of them will not only side with and collaborate with a predatory or lethal State, but will actively urge it onwards toward ever greater atrocities, and beg to be given the responsibility for carrying them out.

As Yoel Abells, a Toronto family doctor and medical ethicist, said of the experience in Germany under the Third Empire, and America under the United States government’s Global War on Terror:

One fact Abells found particularly disturbing was that doctors joined the Nazi Party in greater numbers than other professionals.

Almost half of all doctors were members of the Nazi Party, he said, compared with only a quarter of lawyers or musicians, and to the 9 per cent of the German population as a whole.

Joining Nazi groups, he said, was intoxicating for many doctors because of the power over life and death it gave them.

Today, Abells said, a disturbing number of doctors continue to be involved in genocidal campaigns, terrorist organizations, torture and the interrogation of prisoners of war.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine in September found that the U.S. Army continues to use doctors in its interrogation of suspected terrorists, despite every major medical association condemning the practice.

— Stuart Laidlaw, HealthZone.ca (2008-11-05): Medical atrocities did not end with Nazi era

As Cheryl Cline writes:

The collusion of the medical profession with the State is certainly nothing new. And sadly, it is not all that surprising. Intuitively, the public trusts its doctors and others perceived as public servants more than it trusts, say, its lawyers or ad men. (The popular TV show Mad Men is a perfect example of capitalization on our distrust of the capitalist-minded. Can you think of a show that would portray doctors in a similar light?) With so many people putting blind faith in government bureaucrats to foster the public good, it’s hardly surprising to see the two entities take advantage of the public's trust to merge and consolidate power.

— Cheryl Cline, der Blaustrumpf (2008-12-02): Trusting Doctors

When doctors have this unchecked power to wreak torture or death on patients — whether it’s thrust upon them by an aggressive State, or whether they collaborate with an ambitious State to get it — then you will always get atrocities. And that’s an outrage. But it should not be a surprise. It is not an abuse of power; the power itself is the abuse, and doctors will always and everywhere sweep aside their ethical obligations to patients in favor of political obedience to the State, as long as it is State power rather than patients’ consent that determines what counts as legitimate medical practice, and as long as State privilege transforms medical practice from a consensual service into a forcibly-wielded instrument of public policy — which is to say, an instrument of State power. Sometimes it happens in little, obnoxious ways (under little, obnoxious legal regimes), and sometimes it happens in big, deadly ways (under big, deadly legal regimes), but it’s been going on for a long time now, and there’s no way around it. No way, that is, except genuine freed-market medicine, the only thing that can free the medical profession from the influence of State power and to make doctors accountable to patients rather than to power. No way, that is, except to abolish all forms of political command-and-control over the practice of medicine and to let doctors return to providing nothing more, and nothing less, than a consensual, life-affirming service to willing patients.

See also:


As if deliberately setting out to taunt me, Kate Tennier of Toronto wants to coin retro-progressive as a political neologism. Lloyd Alter, also of Toronto, has come up with an accompanying survey, Are You a Retro-Progressive? With all due respect to deliberate primitivism and trend-story thinking person’s terms, I don’t think they’ve quite gotten it. So, I offer my own survey, below.

Are you a retrogressive retro-progressive?

Do you agree or disagree with the following quotations? For each that you agree with, give yourself one point.

We know enough about agriculture so that the agricultural production of the country could be doubled if the knowledge were applied. We know enough about disease so that if the knowledge were utilized, infectious and contagious diseases would be substantially destroyed in the United States within a score of years; we know enough about eugenics so that if the knowledge were applied, the defective classes would disappear within a generation.

(That’s Progressive academic Charles R. Van Hise, quoted in Paul (1995), p. 78.)

… the way of Nature has always been to slay the hindmost, and there is still no other way, unless we can prevent those who would become the hindmost being born.

(That’s notable Fabian H.G. Wells, in 1905, quoted in Paul (1995), p. 75.)

A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit — in other words social failures — would solve the whole question in one hundred years, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals, and insane asylums. The individual himself can be nourished, educated and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him, or else future generations will be cursed with an ever increasing load of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem, and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.

(That’s the noted environmentalist lawyer and author Madison Grant in his eugenicist magnum opus, The Passing of the Great Race (1916), pp. 50–51.)

Bonus question. When you see the following picture…

from a 1950s advertisement, featuring a housewife attentively mixing ingredients for baking

… do you think (a) Quaint, anti-consumerist, and ecologically responsible, or (b) an ad-man’s glossy idealization of an underlying reality of unpaid labor, soul-killing drudgery, and patriarchal control? If (a), give yourself one point. If (b), your second-wave feminism isn’t trendily retro enough for a movement that rhetorically identifies itself with the leading white male technocrats of the 1900s-1930s.

If you scored three or more, congratulations. Your beliefs are closely in line with those of the retro Progressive movement. Now that’s some of that old time religion!

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