Monday, March 17, 2014

Logical Leaping Leprechauns

image from here

There’s no purpose in having Leprechauns in the title, except that it is St. Patrick’s Day, and they are dangerous tricksters, with the promise of unearned prosperity that you never get.
I was reading the Outlook (opinion) section of Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, and started reading a piece, by a local physician, that at first struck me as way more conservative than I usually find in that section. Here’s the beginning:
   In high school, I had to memorize the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. I did not understand why then, but I do now. This is essentially the mission statement for the United States. When I served on the U.S. Senate staff during the initial months of the health care reform debate in 2009, I thought that the Preamble should serve as a touchstone for proposed legislation. Given that health care reform legislation would affect every American and about one-sixth of the economy, it seemed prudent to return to first principles to justify such action.
   The Preamble begins by saying who wrote it and why. The government derives its power from the people. That power should be used continuously to improve the country that the Founders fought to free from foreign control. Establishing and preserving justice, peace, safety, well-being and liberty were all part of the role of the federal government. Implicit in the singling out of “our posterity” is the idea that this was to be a timeless arrangement that would protect us collectively and individually.
This is almost exactly right on track. We want people to do this—read the Constitution, recognize that mission statement in the Preamble, and limit government to its proper role.
But there’s a change he makes, which I didn’t catch until I read further (because I had failed to read the article title). Notice when he’s listing the roles of the federal government, he uses the term “well-being” instead of “general welfare.” He could mean the same thing I do, which I think is what the founders meant. But he doesn’t. I believe it means the federal government is limited to making laws that affect the population as a whole, rather than specific special states or groups. And those laws, according to the enumerated powers of the federal government, are designed to protect life, liberty, and property (and the freedom to pursue property/happiness as one chooses, rather than having government choose one’s profession).
So I was surprised at this very next passage in the op-ed: “How does the Preamble support health care for every American?” Um, it doesn’t. Health care is a service that can be purchased. Government’s job is to get out of the way of informed legal transactions. This is an odd question to follow the correct claim that the Preamble is the US government mission statement.
The leap of logic is revealed in the next paragraph:
That there is such inequity in the provision, access, cost and quality of health care in America is inconsistent with a just country.
So, to him, a “just country” is one in which no one can purchase more care than anyone else; they can all purchase exactly the same services regardless of resources. Social justice. Code for socialism.
That bit about “I understand the Constitution” was just a cover for “I think government’s role is really supplying everything we as a majority decide everyone ought to have.” This is FDR’s “positive rights” argument/fallacy. Commodities and services might be nice to have, but they aren’t rights. God gives us rights.
We’re born here naked, impoverished, and inexperienced. We spend our lives working our way out of that condition. But the only “entitlement” involved is the requirement that parents provide their children’s needs, teach them, and prepare them for self-sufficiency.
The government can’t “give” you a commodity or service without requiring a taxpayer to pay for it. Government isn’t allowed by the Constitution to provide any commodity, only services—and only those services that fit in the category of protecting your life (not allowing others to harm you), liberty (not allowing others to enslave you), and property (not allowing others to steal your property).
There’s nothing in there about providing “health care.” If health care were a right, then why would we pay doctors for it? They would have to provide it because it’s our right. But that would be enslaving the doctors, who should be justly compensated for their skilled services. So, in order not to enslave doctors, the government would have to pay them—and the government only gets money by taking it from taxpayers. So the taxpayers would be enslaved (forced to work without being able to keep their income) in order to pay for the health care of someone they don’t even know. Including those who don’t take care of themselves the way that taxpayer has done. Is that fair?
In his piece this doctor does say some things I agree with:
The debate I witnessed in Washington in 2009 was never based on discussing how to fulfill the mission of the United States through a different form of health care delivery. Rather, a deal was concocted that preserved the basic aspects of the system we already had with third-party support of health care payments, despite the third parties (insurers) adding nothing to the health of anyone, but reaping huge profits for bookkeeping and risk management as a means to maximize shareholder value.
He’s right; Obamacare proponents have conflated health care with health insurance, even though insurance is simply one way to pay for health services (a way that has been enlarged mainly because of government interference). There are other ways. There are health savings accounts, and concierge medicine, and self-insuring, and paying cash.
He doesn’t look at the “less government interference options,” however; he thinks Obamacare simply doesn’t go far enough. My guess is what he wants is to have the federal government do a total takeover of health care, doling out care “equally.” He hates “inequity” (different outcomes) more than he loves freedom.
If the problem is separation of payer from service receiver, then why would adding government as an additional separator help? It just adds another layer of bureaucracy (the world’s biggest bureaucracy) between service receiver and payer—with all kinds of additional decisions being made by distant bureaucrats rather than patient and doctor.
People who see only the southern hemisphere—the portion on the Spherical Model where you go back and forth between the varied tyrannies of anarchy and government control—look the wrong direction. They have an unsupportable faith in government and its intellectual elites to “do it right the next time.” They never do it right. They can’t know what I and every individual buyer of health care services knows about our particular situations, preferences, and personal finances. But they’re unwilling to trust individuals to make decisions for themselves about what services to buy and how to pay for them.
Government’s lack of trust in individual citizens is an excuse for interference that always leads to further tyranny. We limit government because we know it can’t be trusted, and we trust ourselves with the rest. 

There’s another leap of logic story I came across over the weekend. It was handled well (as usual) by Matt Walsh (“I am afraid of this indisputable pro-choice argument” from March 4, 2014). The “frightening” “irrefutable” pro-choice (pro-abortion) argument is referred to as “bodily autonomy.” A reader calling herself “Rachel” says essentially that, if a person has bodily autonomy, then a woman has a right to stop that parasitic baby’s life at any point in pregnancy. She claims that a woman gestating her own child is equivalent to being forced to be tied up in a hospital bed next to a sick person, for nine months, sharing blood with the sick person, against one’s will.
It’s not a good analogy, and Matt Walsh covers the reasons. But I’m just going to point out the leap of logic from “we have control over our own bodies,” and “after consenting to the presence of a growing child by performing the procreative act, the mother should still be allowed to kill the growing baby at any point she chooses.” That’s quite a leap.
No one forced her (in cases that aren’t rape or incest) to invite the growing baby to grow in her womb. No one forced her to share her body with a stranger; the baby inside is her own offspring. No one forced her to stay confined in a hospital bed for nine months; pregnancy will cause varying levels of limitation, but most of the time the gestating mother just goes about her life as autonomously as ever.
The choice happens before conception. After that, another life is involved, growing where he/she was invited, and where he/she belongs. A closer analogy would be: after you invite someone into your home, at any time you can kill the visitor for breaking into your home. That would not go over well in a court of law.
We’re all pro-choice. But most of us think that choice was made when engaging in the behavior that has been known, for literally thousands of years, to lead to pregnancy—so ignorance can’t be the excuse. Maybe Rachel, like Obama, thinks God was wrong to have pregnancy follow that behavior, when she wants it without consequences. Whatever. She ought to take that up with God, rather than insisting that the rest of us are wrong for wanting to protect innocent human life.
Today's lesson: don't pretend it's logic when it's just a blind leap.

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