The Publius Manifesto

I have been thoroughly enjoying my debate with “Publius” in the comments to my recent post on Jay Severin’s conception of socialism. Publius’s most recent comments are so extensive that I prefer to respond to them point by point rather than lumping my entire response into an additional comment.

I applaud Publius for his or her willingness to engage in debate. Few Severin fans seem to be willing or able to do this. Publius’s comments are indented. My responses are not.

Direct government provision of goods and services should be done based on the overarching ideals of the US Constitution not socialism.

How can you be sure that these are mutually exclusive? As you later point out, the word “socialism” was not introduced until the mid-19th century. The United States were founded in opposition to monarchy, not socialism. Which part(s) of the US Constitution do you consider to be an explicit rejection of state ownership and/or control of the production and/or distribution of goods and services? Or are you operating with a different definition of socialism in mind?

Remember, what I said about the “fallacy of false cause” or non-sequitur. More specifically your using the “fallacy of the undistributed middle”. The logic goes like this …

(1) all men are humans,
(2) Women are humans,
(3) Therefore all women are men. Which is clearly false.

Funny, that logic reminds me of something a certain radio talk show host has said repeatedly. “(1) Not all Muslims are terrorists. (2) But all terrorists have been Muslims.” Jay never bothered to continue to “Therefore, (3),” probably because there is no logical conclusion to be made there. (Not to mention that #2 is false.) But I digress.

Now let us apply it to our argument.

(1) all government provided goods and services are socialist.
(2) The FBI (or the military) is a government provided good.
(3) Therefore the FBI (or the military) must be a socialist program.

Which is clearly false. Why? Because local militias and the military are instituted based on the ideals of the US Contitution, which by the way, predates the advent of socialism.

Actually, that is NOT the argument that the caller Chris was trying to make. In fact, he was arguing something of the opposite:

(1) Government-controlled police and fire services are GOOD. They are NOT unconstitutional or anti-American.
(2) Government-controlled police and fire services fit the definition of socialism.
(3) Therefore, programs that fit the definition of socialism can ALSO be good, constitutional, and consistent with American ideals.
(4) Consequently, programs that involve government in health care, even if they fit the definition of socialism, are not necessarily bad and should not be rejected in principle. Rather, objections should be limited to specific aspects of the programs.

Unless Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels rented a time machine and went back in time and adviced our Founding Fathers to ignore Adam Smith and John Locke and abandon the ideals of life, liberty, and property.

I don’t know what you’re getting at with that last sentence.

Unfortunately, no one really pays attention to the US Constitution, especially the politicians and bureaucrats who run this country. So you’re not alone in that regard.

The preamble is not binding law? What? Maybe if you’re from Cuba. If it’s not binding law, then why is it that courts have often cited it to try several cases. Do some research on it. It is an introduction to the “Supreme law of the land” i.e. the Constitution of the United States. It, in fact, captures the spirit of the US Constitution. And since it is the “supreme law of the land” you take it in its entirety not just pieces of it.

Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905). Mr. Justice Harlan delivered the opinion of the court. “Although that preamble indicates the general purposes for which the people ordained and established the Constitution, it has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the government of the United States, or on any of its departments. Such powers embrace only those expressly granted in the body of the Constitution, and such as may be implied from those so granted. Although, therefore, one of the declared objects of the Constitution was to secure the blessings of liberty to all under the sovereign jurisdiction and authority of the United States, no power can be exerted to that end by the United States, unless, apart from the preamble, it be found in some express delegation of power, or in some power to be properly implied therefrom.”

On the subject of, what’s constitutional and what’s not. Since when did I say that it’s unconstitutional to provide assistance to earthquake victims, or to build levees and dams. We do that now.

You didn’t say that, but I asked you to explain the difference between government involvement in public safety and government involvement in public health. In response, you cited the preamble to the Constitution and said “In other words, the government set up by “the people” is responsible for insuring the general populace from direct intentional harm brought about by enemies both foreign and domestic. This is why ‘we the people” establish local militias (i.e. national guard), the military, and local police.” My point was that the government is ALSO responsible for insuring the general populace against harm from natural disasters and can legally do things like infrastructure improvements. Government provision of goods and services is not limited by the Constitution to fighting wars and crime. Agreed?

Besides, how can you write a constitution that protects the citinzenry from events (i.e. non-entities). An earthquake is an event, an epidemic is an event. We can have the best emergency responders in the world. But how would that prevent an earthquake? Heck, we could have the most efficient government run healthcare system (ha … ha … ha, again) in the world but how would that stop a world wide epidemic. An epidemic is a malady, you can only hope to contain it, but it will not stop until it has ran its course. Think swine flu. Furthermore, I only used the preamble in this instance in the general sense, not in a particular sense. Are you that narrow minded that you fail to see that? Lastly, my interpretation of the Constitution is not incongruent with the provision of these type of services, it does, in fact promote it.

Again, the point here is that government involvement in public health is really no different from government involvement in public safety. Government can’t prevent earthquakes but it can enforce building codes and zoning laws to mitigate the damage that an earthquake might cause. Government can’t control the behavior or bacteria or viruses, but it can enact policies that reduce the likelihood of the rampant spread of disease. Agreed?

Socialism is not doomed to failure. Tell that to the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Cambodia and Laos. Christ, Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB apparatchik from old Russia, was warning us about extensive government intervention. If that’s not a warning shot fired across the bow of the ship, then what is?

The folks in Scandinavia and many other Western European countries seem to be pretty happy with their models of socialism, don’t you think?

David … we do in fact have private for profit ambulance companies. They offer more services than EMS does for a better price. They will even drop you off at the hospital of your choice. No one advocates for it because no one knows exactly what the difference is. Besides, if EMS is socialized in this country, why is it that we still have to pay for EMS services. Aren’t they already funded by taxpayers. Don’t spew facts you know nothing about. You only sound ignorant and I’m assuming you aren’t.

Yes, I know we have private, for-profit ambulance companies. Where is your evidence that they are more cost-effective than government EMS? My point about government EMS, in any case, was to show that we already have government-owned provision of health care services, and while some may complain about the manner or the efficiency of those services, no reasonable people are arguing that those services are unconstitutional or “socialist.” And while some government services may be subsidized by taxes, that doesn’t mean they can’t also be subject to user fees. Think about park permits and toll roads.

When I refuted your argument about regulation, I was refuting the points that you yourself brought. My point is, why regulate private insurance companies when the bill says that the public option is so much better. It is after all designed to compete with the private option, right?! And this is, in fact, the point of pushing the bill, right? Because if it’s not better than the private option then why have it at all? Why compete?

“Why regulate private insurance companies when the bill says that the public option is so much better?” Where in the bill does it say that? My take on the bill is that it is setting up an experiment. We can have private companies and a public entity both offering health care financing services, and we’ll let the people decide which they prefer. At the same time, we’re going to put an end to some past practices of the insurance industry that have led to suffering on the part of the common citizen. We do this in the same vein that we regulate food safety, occupational safety, building codes, financial industries, and so on.

For you to over-generalize that I’m against all types of regulation is nonsensical. And for you to suggest that I’m radically anti-government is even more nonsensical. I am for limited government, and limited government does “NOT” mean no government. Why do you think I cite the US Constitution? I believe in the rule of law and the rule of government as outlined in the Constitution.

I didn’t suggest that you were radically anti-regulation or anti-government, I just wanted to make sure we could have a rational argument about this. So is it safe to assume that you think SOME regulation of the private health care financing market is legitimate? If so, where is it OK to draw the line?

My only intent was to refute the points you brought up about the bill since you challenged me. You even brought up the fact that you’re not a strong proponent of the bill. Well. guess what I just gave you another example of why this bill is so inefficient. Why go off on tangents about things not related to this discussion, you could barely challenge me on the current topic (although I would be happy to demolish your arguments about the current state of government regulations as well). Stick to the topic.

I honestly don’t know what you’re getting at.

Private vs Public schools and universities. Again apples and oranges. What does this have to do with healthcare. But I’ll oblige you. State universities are managed at the state level not the federal level. In socialism there is no such thing as a state level nor is there such a thing as free and independent states. There is only one state. And in that regard both the University of California system and UMass system will both be under the jurisdiction of the know-nothing bureaucrats in the District of Corruption .. err .. D.C. We both know this is not the case. Also, when it comes to choosing universities students prioritize degrees and ROI over tuition costs. So there’s another level of complexity to it. In other words, if an aspiring engineering student got accepted to MIT, why would he choose to go to Suffolk, when the prospects of success and ROI associated with an MIT degree is so much better. There are also issues on acceptance rates and the like. An institution like UC Berkley (a public school) is much more competitive than a Suffolk University (private). So you see, it’s not that simple.

You said “Great. Why pay twice? My tax payer dollars are already subsidizing the public option. I’ll just use the public option, I already paid for it! Screw the private option. So how is this fair competition again?” My point is that many private organizations seem to thrive even in the face of public options, so I don’t understand why people are leaping to the conclusion that the the health care reforms would push private health care companies out of business.

“Health Stamps” … minimal but tolerable level of healthcare services … what does that mean? … what is a tolerable level of healthcare? … that’s all relative, and is dependent on personal issues and circumstances. What makes you think that you and your ilk know what is good for me and my family and what level of healthcare we need. My exceptional doctor has a hard time keeping track of all of his patients’ medical conditions and he’s turning down new patients because of this … what makes you think the government can do a better job.

I had the Oregon Medicaid model in mind. We have to come to terms with the fact that it is untenable for each of us to get whatever care we or our doctors think we need on someone else’s dime. And it doesn’t matter if that dime comes from taxes or private insurance premiums. I admit, I don’t know exactly what a “tolerable level of health care services” means. But it means something like this: If a shark bites your leg off, you’re entitled to treatment that enables you to walk again, even if you don’t have a penny to your name. You are not entitled to a $1,000,000 prosthetic leg that enables you to do the 100-meter dash. However, if you happen to have $1,000,000 lying around in your bank account and choose to spend it on a prosthetic leg, you are more than welcome to pay for that fancy leg out of your own pocket. And if you and a bunch of your wealthy sprinter friends want to pool your money in advance just in case one of you has a run-in with a shark, that’s fine too – but you have to understand that you will also be paying for the broke guy’s crutches.

I have refuted all of your points but you have yet to refute mine. Are you not capable of mustering your powers of deductive reasoning? I am left with no choice but to make this assumption about your level of reasoning because you have yet to prove me wrong.

Oh? Please specify exactly which of your points remain unrefuted. I believe you have been proven wrong in a number of areas.

And although I disagree with just about everything you say, I honestly do salute you for defending your positions (unlike Jay Severin, who prefers to cut and run).

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