Senator Ayn Rand

I found the following clip via Jonathan Chait at The New Republic.  It demonstrates, as Chait points out, just how philosophically deranged devotees of Ayn Rand are:

Get it?  If you believe people have a right to health care, then you believe in slavery.  It’s just that simple in a Randian mind.  And that is the dominant mind of the Republican Party these days.

Democrats need to make the 2012 election a referendum on this Randian philosophy.  They need to make it clear that a vote for a Republican is a vote for a party that has unmistakably embraced a dark and disturbing selfishness, which in the world of Ayn Rand and her followers, is a virtue.

42 Comments

  1. Libertarianism used to appeal to me because it greatly simplifies the entire role of government. But it stops sounding good as soon as you get into specifics. Libertarianism is unrealistic because of the specialized nature of civilization. By specializing, society gets the collective benefits of the engineer, the accountant, the journalist, the farmer, the planner, and yes, the ophthalmologist. But the cost of specialization is to accept one’s own obligation under that arrangement to provide your services to others. That obligation under our capitalist system is satisfied by earning money and paying taxes. It’s a good deal for everyone.

    America took big steps away from the Libertarian philosophy with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but clearly the majority of people want to keep them. They just don’t want to pay for them, and that amounts to stepping away from capitalist principles. Aye, there’s the rub.

    A big part of the problem is that once a “benefit” is in place it becomes an “entitlement” in people’s minds, i.e., something they are “entitled to”. Even big oil companies think that way. When the Democrat senators proposed removing subsidies for Big Oil, the companies and the GOP called it a “tax increase”. All mind games of course. Money is fungible. One man’s subsidy is another’s tax break. Thus, Big Oil earns $36B in one quarter, pays $9B in tax, collects $5B in “subsidies” and passes on the $9B to the consumer in higher price at the pump. (Competition? We don’t need no stinkin’ competition here!)

    Bottom line on all this of course is the battle over who pays and how much. It really has devolved into class warfare, with the bottom half paying no income taxes (only “payroll taxes” for entitlements) and the top tenth collecting lavish benefits and bonuses. And so far, nobody’s blinking.

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    • Jim,

      Your comment about civilization and obligation is right on.

      I would take exception to your characterization of entitlements, at least Social Security and Medicare. Most people, I think, see payments from those programs as genuine benefits, the result of paying a lifetime of taxes for a pension and medical coverage in old age. The notion of “entitlement” has two meanings, one of which is expressed in a legal (rights) context, and the other which has been created by the Right to cast beneficiaries of those programs (especially the other welfare programs) in a bad light.

      I think it is important to point out that fulfilling one’s “obligations” to our civilization “entitles” one to receive the “benefits” of fulfilling those obligations. I detect a note of negativity in your reference, although I agree completely that people need to understand that those entitlements cost more money than the people are currently paying.

      That’s the job of politicians to explain to their constituents, politicians in both parties.

      Duane

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  2. Duane,

    Brad DeLong nails Ron and Rand Paul on their inconsistent take on libertarianism.

    _______________

    When you own a hotel and bar Black people what happens if Black people comes in and sleep in the beds you call the police — functionaries of the state — and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a bus and require Black people to sit in the back and Black people sits in the front you call the police — functionaries of the state — and they take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a lunch counter and make it white-only if the Black people sit down at the lunch counter you call the police — functionaries of the state — and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass.

    Ron Paul’s belief is that the state should assist in amplifying social and political crises and injustices whenever the propertied wish to provoke them.
    ________________

    More often than not, the libertarian always knows the answer before the question is asked.

    Question: Do libertarians oppose Jim Crow laws?

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    • Juan,

      DeLong’s exercise in logic-extension is brilliant. Honestly, I had never looked at it that way: the state would have to enforce the property rights of the owner of the restaurant through force. Force. You hear that word tossed around a lot by libertarians, particularly in a taxation context. But you never hear it applied the way DeLong applies it.

      Thanks for passing that on.

      Duane

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  3. Duane, you comment above on a “note of negativity” regarding my previous comment about “entitlements”. You are right, and then you put your figurative finger on the problem, i.e,, that the “benefits” are not equivalent to people’s input.

    There is of course no way to make an “insurance’ program fair to everyone, whether it be Social Security or a commercial life insurance policy, and yet people argue constantly about the issue of fairness in big government insurance programs. (One person may pay on a policy for one year and another for 50 years before dying. No fairness in that.)

    I do agree with Duane to this extent: By virtue of fairness and having paid into the government programs, people should be entitled to participation. I am simply saying that the entitlement should not include the right to receive more than the programs can afford, simply because it’s not the same kind of contract as regular life insurance. As we have posted before, they are like legal Ponzi schemes and the pyramid has started to collapse.

    Jim

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    • Jim,

      You wrote,

      As we have posted before, they are like legal Ponzi schemes and the pyramid has started to collapse.

      By “we,” you mean, of course, you.Emoticon

      Duane

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      • Well, no, I meant I and others. Anson might have been one of the others. I didn’t mean you. (Can’t you keep him on a leash? OMG.) And anyway, I did qualify the term with “legal”. As I recall, that distinction was your main objection to the term, and it was valid. But, to the extent the big entitlements relied on ever-increasing “revenue” to remain viable, and to the extent they were doomed to disappointment when the revenue decreased, I think the comparison valid.

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    • For Duane to use a violent emoticon is rare, and it bothered me. Going back I now see why. For me to call entitlement programs a “legal Ponzi scheme” was not only wrong but misleading. Those programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are the fulfillment of the nation’s collective commitment to, well, social security. We can argue about how to fund them as the demographics and the economy change, and we should, but there should be no argument about the basic commitment. People have a right to rely on them as a solid base during retirement.

      The only reason we are talking about collapse of the entitlement system now is the intransigence of the GOP to discuss raising the debt ceiling without Democrats yielding spending cuts in the “trillion dollar” range, while at the same time placing the medical spending off limits until after the election.

      The medical funding IS the problem. All other spending programs pale in comparison, and the budget problem can not be fixed without fixing Medical. If the GOP had the brass to tackle THAT problem, i.e., embrace reform that would actually reduce revenues by the medical industrial complex (which is the only way to reduce costs), then I might actually approve of their brinksmanship. But their insistence on doing one without the other is not only outrageous, it is nonsensical.

      Such is the influence of memes. I regret the use of the Ponzi comparison and will not use it in that context again. Mea culpa.

      “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses. It is an idea that possesses the mind.” – Robert Oxton Bolton

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      • Jim,

        I appreciate very much your comment. And I appreciate your willingness to go back and rethink an issue, just in case.

        Two things: I like that phrase, “medical industrial complex,” which I will duly steal. And I love that Bolton quote. I had never heard of him until I looked him up. But I like the quote because it conveys that memes are not necessarily passive units, but sometimes have a power unto themselves. Fantastic. And I really liked your post on memes, especially including “the American dream” as a prominent meme. Do you suppose such a meme is a cultural necessity for Americans?

        Duane

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        • “Do you suppose such a meme is a cultural necessity for Americans?”

          Interesting question, Duane. I would say, not a necessity but nevertheless ubiquitous in the country. I think everyone grows up with some kind of paradigm in their head, influenced by a sea of memes and an ever-evolving culture.

          You know, I can see a potential blog post in almost every meme listed. Thanks for noticing. 🙂

          Jim

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  4. I believe in maximizing freedom, but not at the cost of watching people starve in the streets. Everyone benefits from a social safety net by knowing we live in a civilized nations. The shared benefits of a social safety net is something we all are obligated to pay for. I believe health care is a right as part of that safety net.

    That said, I think Paul’s point that creating a new right in the social safety net implies a corresponding obligation to “conscript” support for it. I think his statement of implications isn’t so far off, but I disagree with the conclusion he reaches from it.

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    • Bruce,

      Yeah, well, except here’s how Rand Paul used the word “conscript”:

      With regard to the idea of whether or not you have a right to health care, you have to realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you are not only going to enslave me but the janitor at my hospital…the assistants…the nurses…

      I think you missed the utter offensiveness, not to say foolishness, of equating support for the safety net you mentioned to slavery. By the way, here are a couple of charts from a Rewrite segment on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell last week:

      As you can see, far from being slaves or conscripts, doctors, since Medicare was created in 1965, are doing OK.

      Duane

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  May 16, 2011

    To all,

    All of us know that to provide adequate health care for all Americans the cost of that care must come down, a lot. Just look at Duane’s figures showing the rapid escalation of physician incomes since 1965.

    To me that shows that once government got into paying for medical care the rich got richer and the poor got poorer at least in terms of benefiting from government payment for medical care. Duane bemoans that fact of income disparity for “corporations” but fails to recognize the income disparity between doctors and patients.

    Take a drive through almost any expensive neighborhoods in Joplin, look at the really “big” houses therein and try to guess the % of owners of those houses that are doctors. Just try North Ridge Estates off Lone Elm. Over 50% of those ESTATES are owned by physicians.

    Those homes range in size from around 20,000 sq feet “down” to about 10,000 sq feet. Now I wonder how many of the sq feet in each of those mansions was paid for with taxpayer health care dollars since 1965?

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      Exactly the point of my post, “Ice Bergs and Ice Cubes”. These Medical Mansions are, IMO, proof positive that the system is being skinned alive. Modern medicine is more about money than it is caring about people.

      I believe there are many doctors who wish they could take more interest in their patients, but the medical system we have discourages that by placing the emphasis on through-put. It dangles the lure of money by empowering patents and Big Pharma, and by failing to make the consumer care about costs.

      You know, with all the medical ads for prescription drugs on TV, ads to make us beg our doctors for the latest, greatest and most-expensive cure-in-a-pill, I have wondered what it might be like to just dispense with the doctor and make everything available over the counter, advice provided by the pharmacist. Man, wouldn’t THAT change the medical profession! Given the ads, we seem to be approaching that anyway.

      Makes quite a contrast with the historical images of doctors, doesn’t it? Images like Doc Adams on Gunsmoke, Marcus Welby, M.D., or my great grandfather who made rural rounds in Berryville, AR, sometimes for free. Ah, those were the days.

      Jim

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    • Anson,

      I find it amazing that most of the doctors I have met and talked to about politics (admittedly a small sample) are almost always Republicans who think government is too big and does too much. Many of them have complained about Medicare reimbursement rates, too. The last surgeon I talked to was a damn teapartier!

      I admit that one of the consequences of providing good medical care to folks who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it likely has helped the pocketbook of doctors, especially specialists in fields related to geezer care. But it’s a trade worth making in my opinion, although now the demographics are forcing some changes in that dynamic, at least until the baby boomers are all dead.

      As for whether those doctors in North Ridge deserve their large homes and large incomes, I only know that a primary care physician I know doesn’t make that much money and doesn’t live in a big house like that. He probably worries about many of the same things that most of us worry about. It seems to me that doctors who live in the kinds of houses you describe are the specialists. And it takes a long time to become a specialist, many of them going into huge debt to make it through. So, other than their pissing and moaning about “big government,” I don’t resent those folks making a lot of money for what they do, since if I needed heart surgery, I’d prefer to have a rich, happy doctor to a struggling, pissed off one.

      Duane

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  May 17, 2011

    To both,

    So, Duane, it is OK for a doctor to get rich off of a government system but not a defense contractor, right? Let’s assume that both do so legally which is a valid assumption to a degree I suppose. I would assume that the crooks that bilk Medicare (physicians) balance out the “tank maker” crooks.

    My point is that any time government pours $Billion per year into a system, someone is on the other end of the spout, drinking as much as possible.

    Look at Jim’s recollection of the town doctor doing his rounds long ago, recollections that I have as well. I remember a doctor beside my bed in the 40’s and early 50’s tending to my childhood diseases and giving advice to Mother as she stood beside him. Such is now a figment of anyone’s current imagination. And while that doctor was well to do in our small community, he did not live in a 20,000 sq ft mansion.

    And you are correct in my experience that most physicians complain about low Medicare rates of reimbursement as well as anger at lawyers in malpractice cases.

    The solution from the left calling for a single payer system of government for health care will NOT fix that problem in my view. If it did then communism would be far more appealing to all. We could also have a single payer system for automobiles as well, or food production, etc.

    Yes prices go down in such systems. But I never heard of people flocking to Russia to buy food, autos or medical treatment or going to China today for such commodities.

    You two might be interested in hearing a forthcoming speech I have been asked to give to a group of physicians related to medical understanding of radiological consequences to human health. There are going to be some really pissed off physicians in that audience when I finish.

    My point in that case is that physicians have become so specialized that they treat one tree while the whole forest is burning around them. They may save the “oak” tree but they have no idea what to do with all the pine trees around them.

    I know I am rambling herein, but the system stinks and I see no way for government to solve the problem. In fact the government perpetuates the problem with all its $Billions each year going down the drain.

    Anson

    Like

    • Anson,

      You know, comparing a single-payer medical system to communism is a little off-putting. I suppose I could compare our current medical system to fascism, but where does that get us?

      We have experience with single-payer systems here in America and they have been (are) successful. I don’t know what folks on your side are scared of. And, no, applying the concept of a single-payer system to food or autos is not appropriate for obvious reasons, although we do have agricultural subsidies (socialized farming) and we do have highway taxes (subsidized driving). So, you’re not far off, I suppose!

      You say our current system “stinks,” but you oppose efforts to reform it using the current private system (the Affordable Care Act) or by converting to a single-payer system. Geeze. Just exactly what do you have in mind?

      In any case, please post a video of your speech so we can see the doctors chew on your ass afterward.

      Duane

      Like

  7. Mr. Wonderful

     /  May 23, 2011

    This group, more than many, will find laffs aplenty in the story of what happens to Dragnie Tagbord, John Glatt, and the rest of the gang, ten years later:

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Atlas+Slugged+AGAIN

    Like

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