Saturday, November 9, 2013
Although I loved my previous doctor, I had a difficult time scheduling a timely appointment with her. When I last called, I was told I’d have to wait three months to schedule a routine physical. Such delays are not unusual; many Americans—including many of my friends—are having trouble getting in to see a doctor in a timely manner (although for serious emergencies Americans almost always receive fast and excellent care).
Contrast my physical exam with that of my cat. When I called my veterinarian’s office last month, I was able to schedule my cat’s routine exam within days, and she received top-notch care, complete with detailed blood analysis. Why is it, I thought, that my cat has better access to health care than I have?
Or contrast my experience with the typical experience involving any other service industry. If you call your mechanic and ask to schedule a tune-up, and he tells you you’ll have to wait three months, you’ll say “that’s ridiculous” and go somewhere else.
Why is the service Americans get from primary care doctors often substantially worse than the service we get from our veterinarians, mechanics, dentists, eye doctors, package deliverers, and so on? Here are a few indicators:
- For decades the federal government has, through tax policies, pushed employers to provide employees with health insurance that covers not only emergencies and high-cost procedures but also routine care.
- Consequently, many Americans pay for all their health care through insurance. This setup hides costs from both patients and doctors, and it creates massive paperwork costs for the simplest doctor visits. These costs and consumptions of the doctors’ time dramatically reduce the time they are able to spend with patients.
- Through its massive Medicare welfare program, the government also largely dictates the fees that doctors can collect for their services. Because this reduces the amount of money doctors earn and burdens them with bureaucratic paperwork, many doctors are quitting, and fewer bright students are entering the field of family medicine.
- The government’s health care payments and regulations are increasingly pushing doctors into large, regimented practices in which their time with patients is further limited.
Thankfully, my story has a happy ending: I found a “concierge” family practice in my area, similar to that of Dr. Josh Umbehr (whom I interviewed for the Fall issue of TOS). The practice accepts no insurance, provides many tests at cost, and charges a relatively low monthly fee (which my wife and I pay from our Health Savings Account). I was able to schedule my physical within days, and my new doctor was able to spend a full, unhurried hour with me.
In his TOS interview, Umbehr perfectly described the sort of service I was looking for and ultimately found:
Patients want . . . better care for less money. They want better value. They want more time with their doctors. They want quality and convenience and accessibility and all the things that we’re not offering to them right now. They want their doctors to answer the phone. They want their doctors to supply their medicine. They want their doctors to sit down and spend half an hour or an hour with them and not worry about what insurance is going to pay for or not pay for.
Taxes and regulations are driving much of health care further into the morass of bureaucratic, paperwork-driven practice. If Americans want to save health care from utter catastrophe in the long run, we clearly must continue to fight for the protection of the rights of doctors, insurers, and patients.
In the meantime, concierge medicine offers a way to escape some of the worst consequences of government interference to date. If you’ve not yet inquired about concierge medicine in your area, I encourage you to do so—you might like what you find.
Posted in: Health Care
Friday, November 8, 2013
That Cass Sunstein has no idea (or chooses to misrepresent) what Ayn Rand wrote, believed, and advocated is obvious from his recent, concerted smear of Rand. Among other absurdities:
- Sunstein claims that Rand believed that “people’s happiness” has nothing do with “anything spiritual,” when in fact Rand recognized that happiness is precisely a spiritual result of the achievement of one’s values. (Rand distinguished real spiritual values from the ghosts and demons of supernaturalism.)
- Sunstein claims that Rand shared with Marx a belief in materialism—the notion that only matter exists, that consciousness and free will are a myth, and that man’s actions are driven by external forces—when in fact Rand recognized that the existence of consciousness and free will is axiomatic and that each individual must choose whether to be governed by his reasoning mind or his unchecked emotions.
- Sunstein claims that Rand created characters in her novels who were “either all good or all bad,” when in fact she populated her novels with people of mixed character (among many, see Catherine Halsey in The Fountainhead and the “wet nurse” in Atlas Shrugged) as well as with pure villains and heroes.
But Sunstein’s most egregious error is ascribing to Rand “a top-down theory . . . wielding a series of abstractions and a priori truths.” “A priori” means prior to experience or sense perception. Sunstein’s claim here is that Rand’s method consists in closing her eyes to reality and “reasoning” in a vacuum. In fact, Rand explicitly dismissed the possibility of so-called “a priori truths” and recognized that all knowledge derives from perceptual observations of reality and proceeds by means of conceptual abstractions and logical inferences therefrom. Rand defined reason as “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses”—and she built her entire philosophy, not from alleged “a priori truths,” but from perceptual observations and mental integrations of reality, history, and the requirements of man’s life on earth.
That Sunstein purports to be familiar enough with Rand’s ideas to criticize them in a major media outlet and yet got such fundamental aspects of her philosophy so patently wrong—and that an otherwise-serious publication (Bloomberg) chose to publish his nonsense—is remarkable, to put it mildly. For his part, Sunstein’s own philosophy provides him with an excuse: Perhaps no one “nudged” him in the direction of intellectual honesty. As for Bloomberg’s part, perhaps their readers will “nudge” the publication economically for this breach of journalistic integrity.
- What is Objectivism?
- America Doesn’t Need a “Nudge Squad”; it Needs a Rights Squad
- Cass Sunstein and the “Second Bill of Rights” Seek to Obliterate Rights
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Posted in: Ayn Rand and Objectivism
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
In his latest op-ed for PJ Media, radiologist Paul Hsieh deciphers the left’s Newspeak regarding ObamaCare.
- Whereas Obama promised that, under ObamaCare, “If you like your insurance, you can keep it,” now defenders of the law effectively claim, “Losing your insurance is good!”
- Whereas defenders of ObamaCare once claimed, “You’ll pay less for insurance,” now they propose, “Paying more is good!”
- Whereas Obama promised, “You can keep your doctor, period,” now defenders argue, “Making you switch doctors will save you money!”
- Whereas previously the left claimed that so-called “death panels” are “right-wing crazy talk,” now we hear that death panels are necessary and good.
As Hsieh explains, the leftist tactic of making grand promises about statist policies and then rationalizing the failure of those policies is nothing new:
Many years ago, the writer Ayn Rand noticed a curious kind of backpedalling from the political Left. First, they’d claim that socialism would provide enough shoes for the whole world. But when economic reality caught up with them, and they failed to deliver on their promises, they’d turn around and claim that going barefoot was superior to wearing shoes. In modern parlance, those broken promises weren’t a bug, but a feature!
Kudos to Hsieh for exposing the left’s circus of the absurd in defense of ObamaCare.
Posted in: Health Care
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
America is becoming a society of “mutual plunder among citizens,” as described by Frédéric Bastiat, and, if we don’t change course, things will get much worse. Consider a recent editorial from Investors Business Daily (based on a news report from CNSNews.com):
At the end of 2011, the last year for which data are available, some 108.6 million people received one or more means-tested government benefit programs—bureaucratese for welfare.
Meanwhile, there were just 101.7 million people with full-time jobs, the Census data show, including both the private and government sectors.
This is a real danger for the U.S.—the danger of dependency. Anytime more people are being paid not to work than to work, it imperils our democracy. No one votes to cut his own welfare benefits. So welfare grows.
This warning echoes a classic statement (the source of which is is obscure):
A democracy . . . can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, to be followed by a dictatorship. . . .
Whenever people can vote for government to violate the rights of others by seizing their wealth for redistribution—whether through direct democracy (i.e., majority rule) or the sort of representational democracy at play in America today—the tendency is for government to continually expand such forced redistribution until the last vestiges of freedom are gone.
The way to avoid that nightmarish future is for Americans to rediscover the virtues of constitutional republicanism and to grasp and consistently defend individual rights, including the rights of each person to keep and use his wealth. The alternative to mutual plunder is the mutual recognition of and respect for individual rights.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Posted in: Welfare and Subsidies
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
ABC’s reality show Shark Tank offers a rare showcase of the character and abilities that entrepreneurs and investors cultivate to create and build businesses.
The show features entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas to five investor “sharks” and seek to negotiate financing. On past shows, entrepreneurs have sought to develop products such as a smartphone breathalyzer, gourmet pickles, and couture for canines.
Shark Tank highlights the kinds of risks entrepreneurs take and the commitments they make in order to pursue their goals. One married couple wanted to sell vegetable popsicles. The husband said, “I dropped out of law school; we moved in with my parents.” His wife added, “We spent every dime of our savings. We borrowed money from family and friends, and we even sold the diamond out of my wedding ring.”
The show also highlights the deep and broad knowledge of markets and of the entrepreneurial mindset that investors must acquire and tap in order to carefully evaluate potential investments. In an episode in which a woman is seeking investment funds for an aromatherapy spray for children, investor Robert Herjavec, a technology mogul, doubts her commitment to follow through on her ideas, noting her failure to contact Disney about the company’s potential use of her products. Herjavec tells her, “A goal is great to have but you’ve got to have a timeline. A goal without a timeline is simply a dream.”
Shark Tank shows how entrepreneurs and investors trade for mutual advantage. Kevin O’Leary, who built a software business into a multi-billion dollar company, advises those seeking investment funds: “Show me clear[ly] how I can make money!”
In diametric opposition to the leftist slogan “You didn’t build that,” Shark Tank celebrates individual achievement, the entrepreneurial spirit, the profit motive, capitalism. May the entrepreneurs and investors on the show continue building great things and profiting enormously in doing so—and may the producers of Shark Tank continue profiting handsomely from their outstanding show.
Creative Commons Image: Randstad Canada
Posted in: Business and Economics
Sunday, November 3, 2013
I’m delighted to announce the contents of the Winter issue of The Objective Standard, which goes to press this Tuesday and will be mailed and posted in mid November.
The issue includes the following.
- My essay, “Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism,” examines libertarianism in the spirit of Frédéric Bastiat, taking into account not only what is seen, but also what is not seen. The article zeros in on the essence of libertarianism, exposes major and fundamental problems with the ideology, compares it to radical capitalism, and shows why only the latter provides viable advocacy and defense of freedom.
- “Education in a Free Society,” by C. Bradley Thompson, picks up where Thompson’s essay “The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of our Time” left off. Here Thompson asks and answers questions such as: What would a fully free market in education look like? How would it work? Would it provide quality, affordable education for all children, including those from lower-income families? If so, how?
- “Louis Pasteur: A Light That Brightens More and More,” by Ross England, surveys the life and accomplishments of this remarkable scientist, who, “once internationally revered, is now largely unknown—remembered, if at all, only for his invention of pasteurization.” England shows why “Pasteur deserves to be remembered as more than a portmanteau on the side of a milk jug,” and he proceeds to do beautiful justice to this brilliant man of reason.
- Movies reviewed in this issue are The Mark of Zorro, directed by Rouben Mamoulian; and Notorious, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (both reviewed by Scott McConnell).
- Books reviewed are Mind vs. Money: The War Between Intellectuals and Capitalism, by Alan S. Kahan (reviewed by Richard M. Salsman); The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, by David Stockman (reviewed by Robert Garmong); The Emergent Reader Series, by Laura Appleton-Smith (reviewed by Daniel Wahl); and The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves, by James Tooley (reviewed by Kevin Douglas).
As always, in addition to the articles and reviews, the issue includes a sampling of posts from TOS Blog.
Also, The Objective Standard is the perfect Christmas gift for active-minded friends and relatives. Your holiday shopping could be done in minutes—and it could enlighten your loved ones for life. Here’s what a recipient had to say about her gift subscription to the journal:
“I read Ayn Rand’s fiction years ago and loved it, but I never thought her ideas applied to the real world. Last Christmas [a friend] gave me a subscription to TOS, and I can’t tell you how clarifying it has been. From privatizing education, to economics in Atlas Shrugged, to Ayn Rand’s theory of rights—it all just makes sense. Now I’m the one giving gift subscriptions. Thank you for this marvelous journal!” —Nicole B.
Would you like to have that effect on your friends? You can. Purchase gift subscriptions today, and we’ll deliver the notices on the day of your choosing (including Christmas Day).
‘Tis the season—let’s spread reason!
Posted in: Announcements
Sunday, November 3, 2013
The Daily Caller describes a recent outrage caused by the government’s war on drugs: “On the night of June 27th, Los Angeles County deputies raided the home of Eugene Mallory and Tonya Pate,” an elderly couple. Police claimed they smelled chemicals used to produce methamphetamine, but they found no meth or meth-related items in the house. They did find some marijuana in the room of Pate’s son. According to the deputies, Mallory—an eighty-year-old man—pulled a gun on them; according to his wife, he didn’t. Either way, the police shot Mallory and killed him.
This is hardly the first time police have killed or assaulted innocent people in botched drug raids. Radly Balko has chronicled the rise of militarized police actions—spawned mostly by the “war on drugs”—in his new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop. (He summarized his findings in a recent talk.)
In the raid on Mallory’s home, police claim they were justified in killing Mallory because (they say) he pulled a gun on them. But what justified the police breaking into Mallory’s home in the middle of the night, weapons drawn? If we take seriously the principle that the only proper purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, the obvious answer is that nothing justified that action.
When people violate the rights of others in the course of producing or selling drugs—whether Ritalin or cocaine—then the government should step in. If a person damages others’ property, initiates violence, sells to children, or commits fraud, a rights-protecting government intervenes to stop and punish the rights violators. But simply possessing, growing, producing, or selling drugs to adults violates no one’s rights—and the government therefore has no proper business intervening. And this is true whether the police have probable cause of drug-related activity or, as was apparently the case with the Mallory raid, a flimsy pretext rationalized as probable cause.
It is high time for Americans to call for an end to this immoral “war on drugs.” Mallory should not have been killed, and nor should the next victim—or the next, or the next—in this illegitimate war share his fate.
- Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society
- Morality and Sanity Demand an End to Drug Prohibition
Posted in: Criminal Justice
Friday, November 1, 2013
An editorial in the Denver Post rightly criticizes attempts to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in various Colorado cities, but doesn’t name the fundamental under assault.
Anti-fracking activists in Lafayette seek to permanently ban oil and gas extraction, while activists in Broomfield, Boulder, and Fort Collins seek to enact five-year moratoriums on fracking.
The Post correctly notes that the bans or moratoriums would be unconstitutional, and others correctly note that they would destroy jobs and seriously stifle the production of energy in these areas. These arguments, although valid, miss the fundamental issue: the moral right of mineral owners to develop their property.
The ballot initiatives in question presume that a majority vote can revoke individual rights—in this case, the rights of mineral owners to develop their subsurface resources. But a majority vote cannot revoke rights; it can only indicate whether the majority has chosen to protect rights or to violate them.
The Post rightly argues: “Voters should kill [the measures] so a judge doesn’t have to.” More fundamentally, voters should see the measures as wrong because they violate rights—and kill them for that reason.
- Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society
- Frackers Generate Greatest Annual Increase in U.S. Oil Reserves Ever
Posted in: Property Rights
Thursday, October 31, 2013
New Jersey recently became the fourteenth state to legalize gay marriage, when Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson overturned the state’s ban on such contracts.
Governor Chris Christie, who previously vetoed a bill to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey, appealed Jacobson’s ruling to the state Supreme Court. But when the high court refused to temporarily stop gay weddings from proceeding and “suggested that [Christie] would have a difficult time winning an appeal,” Christie dropped the appeal and conceded that he would enforce “the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
The courts did not “create” a right to gay marriage, as some contend. Rights are not created by governments. Rights, as America’s founders acknowledged, exist prior to governments and are precisely what governments are properly formed to protect.
Whatever the merits or demerits of Jacobson’s legal reasoning, the court’s removal of New Jersey’s ban on gay marriage gave legal recognition to an inalienable moral right—the right of consenting adults to contract in accordance with their own judgment.
- Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society
- Message to Gov. Christie and His Critics: Gay Marriage is a Moral Right
Posted in: Gay Issues
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Monsters Inc.—the story of lovable monsters who learn to make children laugh rather than scream—is one of my favorite Pixar animated films and among my top films of any genre. I was therefore thrilled that Pixar (now owned by Disney) created a prequel, Monsters University, released this week on DVD. The new film is as wonderful as the first.
As its title indicates, Monsters University is the story of monsters who go to college in pursuit of their dreams. As with the first film, the two main characters are one-eyed Mike Wazowski and furry James P. “Sulley” Sullivan, featuring outstanding vocal performances by Billy Crystal and John Goodman, respectively. Mike and Sulley hope to become professional “scarers”—an occupation that involves scaring children in order to generate power for the monsters’ city.
As we would expect, the film portrays many of the typical aspects of college—studying and partying, the cliquish fraternity and sorority systems, intimidating college administrators, and the like—and it does so with Pixar’s well-loved and good-natured humor. As with several of its previous films, Pixar figured out how to make a film that’s equally enjoyable for children and parents.
Monsters University stands out as an exceptional film because it delivers a wonderful moral lesson for children as they begin their lives and for adults who may be looking for a change of course: the lesson of persevering in your career goals despite impediments you may face. (Spoilers follow.)
The film opens with Mike as a young boy visiting Monsters Inc., where he witnesses scarers in action and decides he wants to be a scarer when he grows up. So he works hard to get into Monsters University, then earns top marks in his classes. Meanwhile, Sulley slacks off and expects his family name and his natural scariness to carry him to success and fame.
An accident endangers both of their chances to become scarers—so they team up to compete in the Scare Games to prove themselves. Along the way, Mike learns to work effectively with others to achieve mutual goals, and Sulley learns about the importance of honesty and hard work.
In the end, with their careers on the line, Mike and Sulley figure out how to pursue their goals in a way that neither had originally anticipated.
The messages of the film are: Your life and your career matter immensely, so never give up on yourself or your goals. But to pursue your career successfully, and to overcome obstacles, you must approach it creatively.
Monsters University is a fantastic film with an important theme and laugh-out-loud fun for children and adults alike.
Posted in: The Arts
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