Archives: July, 2008

The Church of Universal Coverage Becomes Self-Aware

I have blogged before about the “Church of Universal Coverage,” my affectionate term for those whose support for universal health insurance coverage is impervious to reason – or would be, were they to subject it to reason.  I read something today that has me wondering whether the Church might be waking up to the fact that it is indeed a religion.

The July/August 2008 issue of the journal Health Affairs contains a letter from Mitch Roob, the Indiana official who oversees Gov. Mitch Daniels’ (R) health care agenda.  Roob writes:

Like other advocates for children’s health, I have an almost religious conviction that the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is effective public policy … Although I have no empirical evidence to support the assertion that SCHIP is a beneficial and effective way to invest in children’s health, I worked to expand the program … I was not able to base this expansion on empirical evidence because there is none … The lack of actual evidence of the benefits for children is simply damning to the program … Public policymakers need more than just a conviction that SCHIP works and is worthy of public investment.  We need facts.  [Emphasis added.]

Wow.  I mean, wow

I see three possible outcomes.  One, all that cognitive dissonance causes Roob’s head to explode.  Two, the Church hierarchy dispatches its goons to burn this heretic at the stake for noticing that their god has no clothes.  Three, the Left decides “to hell with it,” admits that it has a religion, and files for tax-exempt status.

It’s Not Easy Being an Argentine Farmer

Tax Freedom Day — the day we stop working for the government and start working for ourselves — took place this year on April 23rd according to the Tax Foundation. Some people rightly complain about working for the government almost 4 full months, but if you were an Argentine farmer, you’d still have to wait more than a month and a half for such a splendid day.

A recent survey of La Nación, an Argentine daily, found out that the average farmer in that country needs to work 240 days a year to pay all his/her taxes. In some cases this figure goes up to 300 days a year. Based on these numbers, Tax Freedom Day will be “celebrated” in most Argentine farms on August 27th.

A mate will be in order.

American Patriotism = Choosing Liberty

I’ve always thought of long-time Cato ally Tim Sandefur as one of the most thoughtful libertarians in the blogosphere. This holiday weekend he did not disappoint, offering a stinging rebuke to Matt Yglesias’s blather about how America is “awesome” but would have been “even awesomer had English and American political leaders … been farsighted enough to find compromises that would have held the empire together.”

Sandefur correctly points out that the British, while now our closest friends (along with Canada, the part of British North America that did not join in revolt), in the 1770s left the colonists with no choice:

Abject submission is what you get when you try to “compromise” with those who would destroy your liberty and reduce you under absolute despotism.

He then goes on to excoriate Yglesias for elsewhere saying of the difference between liberal and conservative patriotism that “liberals do a better job of recognizing that much as we may love America there’s something arbitrary about it – we’re just so happen to be Americans whereas other people are Canadians or Mexicans or French or Russian or what have you.” Sandefur points out that these other nationalities “are based on ethnicity and chance, while American nationality is based on choice and the assent to certain basic principles that make up our nation.”

That’s exactly right: America is anything but ethnic (or other) happenstance, but instead stands for government by the principled consent of the governed, and the Founding generation’s choice of liberty over continued subjugation. Consequently, America’s patriotism (qua nationalism) is civic rather than ethnic:

What July 4th is about is to remind us that all those who stand up for freedom and refuse to “compromise” their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are brothers and sisters and at heart Americans; that all who today try to move their countries toward a fuller recognition and implementation of these principles are working hand in hand with our founders; that American nationhood is the first ever founded on anything but an arbitrary ethnic or historical basis, but on the basis of certain shared principles, principles that can be grasped by “a candid world,” and that give hope to all men for all future time.

As they say, read the whole thing.

You could argue, of course, that other new world (or immigrant) countries like Canada and Australia (or Argentina) are also not based on ethnicity, but there, quite obviously, there is no “national idea” – focusing on liberty or otherwise. Canada is constantly having national conversations on “what it means to be Canadian,” which typically fails to produce any answers beyond “well, we’re not Americans” (at least for those outside of Quebec, which has never been fully assimilated into the Canadian “nation”). And of course, many other countries that are or were based on an idea (Communism, etc.) lack the consent of the governed. Having been born in then-Soviet Russia and raised in Canada, I have all too much experience with countries lacking either a civic basis or popular legitimacy.

For what I think of the American Idea, scroll/click through this.

“Vascular Restraint”

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into an officer’s chokehold.  The choke was not used against a violent individual.  It was used against a young man who was already in handcuffs.  Suspicion of marijuana possession.  The young man quickly faints.

Video clip here.  For more on the drug war, go here.  For more about doublespeak, go here.

Voucher Valedictorian

NRO has an editorial today by that title, sharing the story of Tiffany Dunston: class valedictorian at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. and first person in her family to attend college (she’s headed for Syracuse to study biochemistry and French). As it happens, she was attending Carroll thanks to financial assistance from DC’s voucher program, and her mother couldn’t otherwise have afforded the tuition. “I started praying every day because I didn’t want to go to a neighborhood school,” Tiffany told a reporter. “I was so nervous — there was no way to know if I was going to get the scholarship.”

Actually, though, there is a way she could have known that she would get the financial assistance she needed: if Congress and the City council replaced DC’s $24,600 per pupil monopoly with a universal system of school choice.

Instead, it seems likely that the next Congress will kill the fledgling school choice program that made Tiffany’s dreams come true. Over the coming year, congressional opponents of school choice must ask themselves: is it right to steal children’s dreams to curry favor with public school employee unions?

Liberalism in China

The New Yorker reviews Beijing Coma, a novel by Ma Jian, a Chinese exile who was at the Tiananmen protests in 1989. Reviewer Pankaj Mishra says that, like Milan Kundera, Ma knows that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” He wants to make sure that the Chinese don’t forget the Tiananmen protesters and what they were protesting. Even before 1989, Ma Jian had been denounced as an example of ”bourgeois liberalism” and “spiritual pollution.”

I was particularly struck by a couple of lines in the review:

Reciting Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” to a fellow-writer, he mocked Ginsberg’s angry rejection of America. “He implies his country is not fit for humans to live in. Well, he should live in China for a month, then see what he thinks. Everyone here dreams of the day we can sing out of our windows in despair.”

In his memoir, Red Dust, published in 2002, Ma described his travels through China in the mid-1980s, in the midst of Deng Xiao-ping’s economic liberalization and before the Tiananmen crisis:

Ma Jian not only seems to have relished his own improvised life; he also appears to have embraced some of his country’s entrepreneurial exuberance. In one of the book’s many bracingly unexpected scenes, he finds himself exhorting the residents of an isolated village, “This country is changing, opening up. You can’t just stay here like vegetables. You should travel, broaden your minds. Haven’t you heard about Shenzhen Economic Zone?”

Ma Jian says his next book will be about China’s inhuman family-planning policy. It’s no wonder that his books are banned in China; if only American writers understood the liberating potential of economic freedom and the comforts of life in capitalist society as well as writers who lived under the alternative.