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Frost/Nixon

There’s a curious compulsion within the American conservative movement to classify everything as either “conservative” or “liberal”, much like the Daily Mail’s attempts to order the natural world into things which cause cancer, and those which do not. Mostly one finds – unexpectedly, of course – that “good” things (Mom, apple pie, whichever film is most critically acclaimed at the time of writing) are conservative, and “bad” things (syphilis, plagues of locusts, BBC Three) are liberal. But really whatever is most conservative is usually that which it is tactically expedient to claim as conservative.

It’s kind of like cheerleading – prurient, unseemly, and irrelevant to the matter at hand – and it reached its’ apogee in literal cheerleading for John McCain’s campaign, where everything, from the financial crisis, to McCain not remembering how many houses he had, to being continually behind Obama in the polls, was “good news for John McCain”.

The peerless Roy Edroso links to one such attempt, with the National Review’s Charlotte Hays claiming that:

“The blizzard is definitely a force for conservatism”

Cold, potentially deadly, and mostly wind?

and not only because it has had the global-warming crowd scrambling for explanations.

Oh, of course. It’s always nice when someone says something this bone-shatteringly stupid (weather is not climate, and you cannot generalise conditions in one area to the whole world). It acts as your own personal filter; if they believe that, then it’s likely much of what they believe will probably be nonsense. This is a little unfair, but in a world where there is vast trenches of information waiting to be dredged, you need some shortcuts. Otherwise you’re just going to be bringing up a lot of muck, and precious little brass.

But wait! There’s more than just boiler-plate climate change baiting here:

The blizzard reveals something basic:  Liberals in government want to tell us what to eat, counsel us about how and when to die, and in general attempt to engineer our lives. But when reality knocks, they can’t do the basic stuff such as clearing the streets so that newborns don’t die in bloody apartment-building lobbies. Mayor Bloomberg may be receiving an unfair amount of criticism for his lackluster [sic] performance in coping with Mother Nature, given the almost unprecedented nature of the storm, but the unplowed city streets provide a metaphor for the nanny state: It can order us to do anything, but it can’t take care of the basic obligations of government.

It is a compelling philosophical argument against liberalism that it cannot save everyone all the time, apparently. It is also responsible for unforeseen extremes of weather. Despite the storm being “almost unprecedented” and criticism against Bloomberg being “unfair”, liberalism, by not using its’ Power Ring or X-Ray Vision or supreme, omnipotent clairvoyance, killed a newborn baby, because it’s spending money on poor people and safety at work and other useless fripperies. You can’t have road gritting services and unemployment benefits, apparently. That would just be ridiculous.

But at least a child is dead! It’s good news for conservatism!

Socialism for me, but not for thee.

From the mouths of libertarians, little acorns of selfishness grow into gigantic oaks of twattery.

If you’ve clicked on the link, you’ll find Matt Welch, part of a collective of motherfuckers called Reason magazine, a publication celebrating that peculiarly American ideology, libertarianism. Sometimes it can be principled, but most of the time it seems to be an excuse for being a sociopathic, selfish wanker, as we shall see here.

So Matt begins with the obvious, the thing that libertarians have tried to deny above all; American healthcare sucks, and France is awesome:

To put it plainly, when free marketers warn that Democratic health care initiatives will make us more “like France,” a big part of me says, “I wish.” It’s not that I think it’s either feasible or advisable for the United States to adopt a single-payer, government-dominated system. But it’s instructive to confront the comparative advantages of one socialist system abroad to sharpen the arguments for more capitalism at home.

For a dozen years now I’ve led a dual life, spending more than 90 percent of my time and money in the U.S. while receiving 90 percent of my health care in my wife’s native France. On a personal level the comparison is no contest: I’ll take the French experience any day. ObamaCare opponents often warn that a new system will lead to long waiting times, mountains of paperwork, and less choice among doctors. Yet on all three of those counts the French system is significantly better, not worse, than what the U.S. has now.

Slam. Fucking. Dunk. This is the obvious point, and it’s one Matt Welch makes well. The American system, the most marketised, is the one which is least satisfactory on all levels compared to all those “socialised” systems (although, of course, socialised systems vary, but even the suboptimal, like Britain’s NHS, do well in comparison with the American clusterfuck). Universal systems generally have better outcomes, for much less cost, than the American system. And lest we forget, this is a system that leaves a significant portion of its’ population unable to receive most healthcare. It is a brutal system which leaves people to die, or to live in penury for the rest of their lives.

But you could say that about capitalism in general. (And I do.) But capitalism has benefits as well. It’s Dynamic! Flexible! There’s so much choice! Yadayadayada. These claims are usually overstated, but as Welch himself notes, nowhere are they more overrated than in the health care industry. There is precious little choice; most states are dominated by one or two insurance companies. It’s tempting to say that due to the process of rescission, allowing insurance companies to reject people for pre-existing conditions (that sometimes they didn’t even know they had until they had insurance and were able to get a medical examination. Yes, that’s right.), it’s insurance companies that have the choice, not the patients.

Due to the fact that most people’s insurance is paid through their employer, it also restricts people’s ability to move between jobs, afraid to switch jobs, enhancing the natural power the employer has over the employee simply by being the one in charge of the purse strings. I’d even suggest one of the major reasons for the American workforce’s submissive, conciliatory stance towards employers is based upon the extra power that employers have as dispensers of health insurance. So there’s real drawbacks to American healthcare even if you’re looking at it from a position which does not see any problems with inequity, a position which is classically liberal.

However, despite all this, despite the fact that the health care industry is a failure even on capitalist terms, Welch swings back in favour of it over a universal health care system, like France. Why? Well, partially, it’s that curious libertarian belief that the American federal government is uniquely incompetent, so even things government does well are fucked up by it. But mostly it’s so the motherfucker doesn’t have to pay taxes:

We know that the horrific amount of third-party gobbledygook in America, the cost insensitivity, and the price randomness are all products of bad policies that market reforms could significantly improve. We know, too, that France’s low retail costs are subsidized by punitively high tax rates that will have to increase unless benefits are cut. If you are rich and sick (or a healthy doctor), you’re likely better off here. But as long as the U.S. remains this ungainly public-private hybrid, with ever-tighter mandates producing ever-fewer consumer choices, the average consumer’s health care experience will probably be more pleasing in France. […]

I’ve now reached the age where I will better appreciate the premium skill level of American doctors and their high-quality equipment and techniques. And in a very real way my family has voted with its feet when it comes to choosing between the two countries. One of France’s worst problems is the rigidity and expense that comes with an extensive welfare state.

That’s right kids! Despite the excellence of the French healthcare system, which Matt Welch enjoys because he’s able to flee the Kafkaesque, bureaucratic nightmare that is the American healthcare system, he doesn’t want to pay for it. He loves France, as long as he doesn’t have to live there and contribute. He can skip merrily on, contributing nothing but defenses for a system he doesn’t even have to deal with.

What a fucking selfish bastard, inconsistent even on his own withered libertarian principles. “I want every service! As long as I don’t have to pay for it!”. This is one of a kind of person who complains about progressive taxation because it “redistributes wealth”, bitches the need to cut the welfare state to get people to take “personal responsibility” for themselves. But the rich, the upper-middle class, never need to take personal responsibility for themselves.

How wonderful that everyone, rich and poor alike, can travel abroad and take advantage of French healthcare!