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!


Did You Know We Also Wank About Culture?

It was decided fairly early on (by BITS. In my BRAIN. BRAIN BITS.) that I felt I needed somewhere to rant about politics, and also a more whimsical, calm place where I could talk about things that are interesting to me, like culture, etc.

This isn’t because I consider culture some kind of distinct creature from politics, a “non-overlapping magisterium”, to borrow a phrase from the Æsahættr Debates. This is obviously bollocks. Politics interacts with culture at every level from the mundane to the subconscious, from the biting satire of The Thick of It and Yes, Minister to the twatty, overrated woman-baiting that is likely to be the outcome of  The Pregnant Widow, Martin Amis’ latest work. (It may be unfair to judge a book before it is written, but I read Yellow Dog, I’m owed some unfairness.) Politics is a human activity, one of the most human, and it is weaved into and throughout society. You could argue that it is society, if you don’t take the narrow view that politics is what a Scottish ex-red with a felt tip said to a posh ex-PR man with a mannequin face ad infinitum. That’s just boring.

But it’s a question of ethos. I want a place where I can witter on about whatever takes my fancy (with a focus on film, tv, books, and all cultural ephemera), where I can let my brain run free over connections and ideas, where I want to post stuff that I think is really, really cool, and I grin so widely I swallow the Cheshire Cat and all his mates.

And I want a place I can be angry, because fuck knows there’s a lot to be angry about. Our economy was fucked over by the very institutions that are meant to bring us growth. The people “in charge” become more and more divorced from what the rest of us are thinking. The morality of capitalism becomes almost as criminal and venal as it was back when companies owned towns and workers were little better than indentured servants. We have lose as much faith in the organs that counteracted the grossest indignities as those that revel in them. Our presses are run by people who think facts are expensive and news is a commodity. This shit, as they say, is fucked up.

But this is a Venn Diagram, and all things overlap. So I might get annoyed at bad art in an expressly political way (Oh Twilight, I am coming for you with a foot length of lead piping), and I might feel like there’s something political that just needs a bit of a giggle over.

It’s all a matter of taste. I like oysters, and snails. I hope you do, too.

The Erich Zann Harmonic Institute, for your perusal.

The Revolution Will Be Bloggified

Or something like that. You know how things need to be portentious or dramatic in the blogosphere, so I’m doing my bit.

This is a wordpress version of a blogspot blog, also entitled Cynicism From Concentrate, which you can view here. It is the sincere wish of the writer that this is a more long-lived blog, which the more hyperlink-happy of you will notice is a task that is Not That Hard.

Still, I try.