Category Archive 'Socialism'
18 Mar 2017
Sir Samuel Luke Fildes KCVO RA, The Doctor, 1891, Tate Gallery.
In 1949, Fildes’ painting “The Doctor” (1891) was used by the American Medical Association in a campaign against a proposal for nationalized medical care put forth by President Harry S. Truman. The image was used in posters and brochures along with the slogan, “Keep Politics Out of this Picture.” 65,000 posters of The Doctor were distributed, which helped to raise public skepticism of the nationalized health care campaign. In 2008, the AMA was no longer defending the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and the independence of the Medical Profession, but was instead supporting Obamacare and the nationalization of health care.
Dr. Publius, at Ricochet, explains how all this happened.
For the medical profession, there is one ethical obligation that surpasses all others. It is the very obligation that defines a classic profession, and once it is abandoned, members of that so-called profession no longer have any claim whatsoever to any of the special regard, respect, perquisites, or considerations that commonly accrue to true professionals in our society.
Physicians have referred to this obligation as the doctor-patient relationship. Like the lawyer-client relationship and the clergy-parishioner relationship, the doctor-patient relationship is supposed to be a sacred, protected, fiduciary one, in which the patient can feel safe in disclosing private information they may not even willingly tell their spouses, and in return the doctor agrees not only to keep that information private, but also to act on that information in such a way that furthers and optimizes the individual patient’s own best medical interests, without regard to which actions or recommendations might be to the doctor’s interests — or to society’s.
The abandonment of this sacred, fiduciary obligation (honored by physicians for over 2000 years) cannot be blamed on Obamacare. It was formally abandoned years before most of us had ever heard of Mr. Obama. The doctor-patient relationship, never as pure in practice as it was in concept, began to significantly erode in the 1990s. This, of course, was the heyday of for-profit HMOs, when the insurers used extreme coercion to make certain that doctors learned who their real customers were. Doctors who did not place the payers first had their reimbursements slashed, and often found themselves excluded from panels, and therefore from access to patients. In a surprisingly short time doctors by the thousands were signing “gag clauses,” in which they agreed to withhold from patients certain information that might be adverse to the interests of the HMOs.
It would be wrong to say that doctors did not mind these things. It troubled many of them deeply. Indeed, by the turn of the millennium many members of the profession were feeling, and occasionally publicly expressing, tremendous guilt for having had to abandon their chief ethical obligation to their patients, in order to continue practicing medicine.
Faced with an ethical dilemma which was increasingly difficult for them to tolerate, an outcry arose from within the medical profession demanding that their leadership take up the problem, and do something about it. Most doctors had in mind some sort of organized action by which the profession would attempt to reclaim its ethical grounding. And so, conferences were convened, debates (of a sort) engaged in, and at last, action taken.
What doctors in the trenches failed to realize was that the physicians who dedicate their careers to leading professional organizations are almost always Progressives, because this is what Progressives do. So the action that was finally taken was the official adoption of a new set of medical ethics, which was published in 2002: “Medical Professionalism in the New Millennium: A Physician Charter. “(Annals of Internal Medicine, February 5, 2002). This document described a new ethical precept which was to be formally adopted by the medical profession. That new precept was, of course, “Social Justice.” Under the precept of social justice, doctors, in making medical decisions at the bedside, suddenly became obligated to take the equitable distribution of healthcare resources into account. Covert rationing at the bedside at the behest of payers (who presumably knew more about equitable distribution of resources than individual physicians did), was not only acceptable, and not only a positive good, but an ethical requirement.
During the intervening years this new charter of medical ethics was indeed formally adopted by virtually every medical professional organization in the world.
Adding social justice to the ethical obligations of physicians or course did nothing to ease the discrepancy between the needs the patient and the needs of the payer. But its addition at least assuaged some of the guilt of some of the doctors who chose not to think too deeply about it.
This modernized, progressive version of medical ethics was not the result of Obamacare, but it has served Obamacare well. It was a matter of mere moments before doctors noticed that it would behoove them to shift their efforts from making the insurers happy to making the government happy.
Today, when a doctor makes a medical recommendation to a patient, that patient can no longer be confident that the recommendation is truly the one the doctor believes is best for him or her. For it may instead simply represent what the doctor has decided the patient deserves, given his/her needs in relation to the needs of all the other patients in the Accountable Care Organization, the state, the country, or the world.
18 Jul 2016
Jeffrey Tucker explains that the Trump Nationalist agenda is just another version of Socialism, and that the world has seen the rise of precisely this kind of nationalist socialism before.
The rise of Fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period,” wrote Hayek, “but a necessary outcome of those tendencies.” In Hayek’s reading, the dynamic works like this. The socialists build the state machinery, but their plans fail. A crisis arrives. The population seeks answers. Politicians claiming to be anti-socialist step up with new authoritarian plans that purport to reverse the problem. Their populist appeal taps into the lowest political instincts (nativism, racism, religious bigotry, and so on) and promises a new order of things under better, more efficient rule.
Hayek’s thesis is very similar to Mises’: that the greatest threat in the world today comes from a version of socialism — a rightist socialism — cobbled together in the name of fighting authoritarianism abroad and countering leftism at home. The road to serfdom, in Hayek’s view, is paved by a blind pursuit of unified nationhood and central planning in the name of national greatness. Or, to use today’s language, “making America great again.”
Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton agree on a lot, especially on the need to protect and enlarge state power. None of them accepts any principled limits on what the state may rightfully do to the individual. Even on big issues where one might think they disagree — healthcare, immigration, and control of lands by the federal government — their positions are more alike than different. …
Most of these candidates’ supporters don’t see it that way, of course. They imagine themselves to be rebels fighting power itself, however they want to define it: Wall Street, the party establishment, the paid-off politicians, the bureaucracy, the billionaires, the foreigners, the special interests, and so on.
But notice that neither Trump, Sanders, nor Clinton attacks government authority as such. Instead they aspire to use it and grow it for their purposes. “The conflict between the Fascist or National-Socialist and the older socialist parties must indeed very largely be regarded as the kind of conflict which is bound to arise between rival socialist factions,” Hayek wrote. “There was no difference between them about the question of it being the will of the state which should assign to each person his proper place in society.”
As the campaign progress over 2015, the close relationship between right and left socialisms became more obvious. On the surface, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump represent opposite extremes. But in their celebration of the nation state as the people’s salvation — their burning calls to overthrow the existing elites and replace them with a more intense form of top-down rule — they are morally indistinguishable, and equally un-American.
Read the whole thing.
25 Apr 2016
Joel Hirst looks on as the lights begin to go off in Venezuela. That country has arrived recently at a point resembling the closing chapters of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.
All it would take is the election of one more radical Progressive democrat like Bernie Sanders and the USA could share in the full Venezuela experience.
16 Feb 2016
Johan Norberg notes that the Left loves to point out Sweden as a model of Socialism with Economic Prosperity. The problem is that all the prosperity is a legacy from an economic system which Socialism is determined to change.
Once upon a time I got interested in theories of economic development because I had studied a low-income country, poorer than Congo, with life expectancy half as long and infant mortality three times as high as the average developing country.
That country is my own country, Sweden—less than 150 years ago.
At that time Sweden was incredibly poor—and hungry. When there was a crop failure, my ancestors in northern Sweden, in Ångermanland, had to mix bark into the bread because they were short of flour. Life in towns and cities was no easier. Overcrowding and a lack of health services, sanitation, and refuse disposal claimed lives every day. Well into the twentieth century, an ordinary Swedish working-class family with five children might have to live in one room and a kitchen, which doubled as a dining room and bedroom. Many people lodged with other families. Housing statistics from Stockholm show that in 1900, as many as 1,400 people could live in a building consisting of 200 one-room flats. In conditions like these it is little wonder that disease was rife. People had large numbers of children not only for lack of contraception, but also because of the risk that not many would survive for long.
As Vilhelm Moberg, our greatest author, observed when he wrote a history of the Swedish people: “Of all the wondrous adventures of the Swedish people, none is more remarkable and wonderful than this: that it survived all of them.”1
But in one century, everything was changed. Sweden had the fastest economic and social development that its people had ever experienced, and one of the fastest the world had ever seen. Between 1850 and 1950 the average Swedish income multiplied eightfold, while population doubled. Infant mortality fell from 15 to 2 per cent, and average life expectancy rose an incredible 28 years. A poor peasant nation had become one of the world’s richest countries.
Many people abroad think that this was the triumph of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, which somehow found the perfect middle way, managing to tax, spend, and regulate Sweden into a more equitable distribution of wealth—without hurting its productive capacity. And so Sweden—a small country of nine million inhabitants in the north of Europe—became a source of inspiration for people around the world who believe in government-led development and distribution.
But there is something wrong with this interpretation. In 1950, when Sweden was known worldwide as the great success story, taxes in Sweden were lower and the public sector smaller than in the rest of Europe and the United States. It was not until then that Swedish politicians started levying taxes and disbursing handouts on a large scale, that is, redistributing the wealth that businesses and workers had already created. Sweden’s biggest social and economic successes took place when Sweden had a laissez-faire economy, and widely distributed wealth preceded the welfare state.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
10 Jan 2016
Juan Bautista Alberdi 1810-1853
“Juan Bautista Alberdi sostenía que la Libertad produce en el hombre de a pie la angustia de la responsabilidad y por eso añora la monarquía absoluta, donde no debía decidir. Y al morir el Antiguo Régimen, se volcaba hacia el socialismo. Lo vio con 100 años de antelación.”
[Juan Bautista Alberdi argued that Liberty produces in the common man the anguish of responsibility and he therefore yearns for an absolute monarchy and no obligation to decide. Thus the death of the Ancien Regime spills over into Socialism. He saw a hundred years ahead.]
14 Oct 2015
Jim Geraghty watched last night’s democrat debate, and observes that it proved one important thing: the democrats have become an openly socialist party. The democrat road to office is based entirely on social division and class warfare.
Sure, this batch of candidates sounded like a bunch of loons. They contended socialism is mostly about standing up to the richest one percent and promoting entrepreneurs and small business; climate change is the biggest national security threat facing the nation; college educations should be free for everyone; all lives don’t matter, black lives do; Obama is simultaneously an enormously successful president in managing the economy and the middle class is collapsing and there’s a need for a “New New Deal” which is in fact an Old Old Idea, considering how FDR called for a Second New Deal in 1935. The audience in Nevada applauded higher taxes, believes that Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to answer any more questions, supports the complete shutdown of the NSA domestic surveillance program, and that Obamacare benefits should be extended to illegal immigrants. There are kindergarten classes with more realistic assessments of cost-benefit tradeoffs than the crowd watching this debate at the Wynn Las Vegas.
So yes, the candidates sounded like hard-Left, pie-in-the-sky, free-ice-cream-for-everyone, Socialist pander bears. But they do so because that is what the Democratic Party’s primary voters demand. Don’t blame them; blame the party rank-and-file that craves these promises, rhetoric, and worldview.
28 Oct 2014
Hillary Clinton’s remarkable denial that corporations create jobs in the course of a campaign speech for Martha Coackley in Massachusetts last Friday produced sufficient mockery and loud guffaws that Hillary was yesterday at pains to revise and extend her remarks.
Hillary Clinton tried her best on Monday to walk back her controversial economic body-slam from a speech on Friday, explaining away her claim that it’s not ‘corporations and businesses that create jobs.’
The talking point three days later: ‘So-called trickle-down economics has failed. I short-handed this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades.”
“Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in America and workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out – not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas.’
But the damage has been done. Conservatives have a new rally cry – ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s, you know, corporations and businesses that create jobs,’ she said – and campaign consultants will have a new advertisement drawn up if Clinton runs for president in 2016.
Alinsky-ite propagandists like Hillary decry the idea that limiting the percentage of a nation’s economic wealth confiscated and squandered by government leaves more capital available for investment and increases the likelihood that that nation’s economy will grow, and socialists smear the notion that a growing economy raises all boats by applying the derisive term “trickle-down economics.”
When people like Hillary sneer at the idea of capitalistic growth as “trickle-down economics,” they are, in fact, shamelessly denying the obvious history of their own country, the same history which Hillary herself lived through a significant piece of, right along with the rest of us.
Just compare the condition of a working-class family a hundred years ago with the condition of a similiarly-situated family today. In 1914, chances are that a working class family used an outhouse, lighted their home with a kerosene lamp, heated their home with the cookstove in the kitchen, owned no automobile, and (obviously) did not enjoy air-conditioning or computers. It’s actually pretty amazing all the stuff that has trickled down from the once-upon-a-time point when they either constituted fabulous luxuries available only to the rich, or were not yet even existing at all, to becoming routine features of the life of practically everyone.
It was remarked with a certain amount of bemusement, back in 1991, during the Los Angeles Rodney King riots, that, in America, when the poor riot, they leave air-conditioned homes, with computers and color televisions behind, and get in their cars to drive downtown in order to riot.
So-called “trickle-down economics” may not be as speedy in results as rubbing a magic lamp and making a wish, but that kind of economics really has, over just a few generations, made ordinary people richer in many ways than kings and emperors used to be.
The alternative to “trickle-down economics”, of course, is socialism. There are plenty of well-known examples as to just how effective in promoting general economic well-being all the best exemplars of Hillary Clinton’s preferred Robin Hood “Steal-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor” economic philosophy have proven: Argentina, Cuba, North Korea, the late Soviet Union.
21 Sep 2014
Dan Greenfield explains how Progressivism has changed the fundamental nature of American society.
There are two types of societies, production societies and rationing societies. The production society is concerned with taking more territory, exploiting that territory to the best of its ability and then discovering new techniques for producing even more. The rationing society is concerned with consolidating control over all existing resources and rationing them out to the people.
The production society values innovation because it is the only means of sustaining its forward momentum. If the production society ceases to be innovative, it will collapse and default to a rationing society. The rationing society however is threatened by innovation because innovation threatens its control over production.
Socialist or capitalist monopolies lead to rationing societies where production is restrained and innovation is discouraged. The difference between the two is that a capitalist monopoly can be overcome. A socialist monopoly however is insurmountable because it carries with it the full weight of the authorities and the ideology that is inculcated into every man, woman and child in the country.
We have become a rationing society. Our industries and our people are literally starving in the midst of plenty. Farmers are kept from farming, factories are kept from producing and businessmen are kept from creating new companies and jobs. This is done in the name of a variety of moral arguments, ranging from caring for the less fortunate to saving the planet. But rhetoric is only the lubricant of power. The real goal of power is always power. Consolidating production allows for total control through the moral argument of rationing, whether through resource redistribution or cap and trade.
The politicians of a rationing society may blather on endlessly about increasing production, but it’s so much noise, whether it’s a Soviet Five Year Plan or an Obama State of the Union Address. When they talk about innovation and production, what they mean is the planned production and innovation that they have decided should happen on their schedule. And that never works.
You can ration production, but that’s just another word for poverty. You can’t ration innovation, which is why the aggressive attempts to put low mileage cars on the road have failed. As the Soviet Union discovered, you can have rationing or innovation, but you can’t have both at the same time. The total control exerted by a monolithic entity, whether governmental or commercial, does not mix well with innovation.
The rationing society is a poverty generator because not only does it discourage growth, its rationing mechanisms impoverish existing production with massive overhead. The process of rationing existing production requires a bureaucracy for planning, collecting and distributing that production that begins at a ratio of the production and then increases without regard to the limitations of that production.
Read the whole thing.
21 Oct 2013
Adam Garfinkle, writing at The American Interest, debunks the egalitarian rhetoric used to promote federalizing health care.
[N]o one seems willing to call what is going on by its real name: class-based triage, or rationing, of medical care.
We can see this more clearly if we put these two data points together: We are slowly (or not-so-slowly) but surely moving toward a much more finely gradated class-based system of healthcare. Compared to where we were before Obamacare passed, the top is moving up and the bottom is moving down faster than ever, leaving a thinner middle where most Americans with employer-provided health insurance have typically been—somewhere in the murk between HMOs and PPOs of various descriptions. Now, those who can afford it will increasingly pay more and get more. Those who cannot afford it will pay less and get less.
Now, there is nothing surprising about this, and it’s what happens in most countries with some form of government-mandated universal health care. There are always private healthcare options in those countries, for people who can afford it, to detour around the public option. But it is not what Obamacare advertised.
Daniel Greenfield (author of the widely-admired Sultan Knish blog, responds:
Actually they will pay more and get less. When they do pay less, they will be paying more for less services. It may not be obvious to them, but the insurers will have done the math.
The problem is that triage of this sort is inevitable.
The market naturally rations products and services. There’s no way to get around that. Even in a totalitarian state with a planned economy, national health care and price controls, professionals will just go to the most rewarding fields.
And there’s always a class structure. Soviet academics lived much better than their colleagues lower down on the ladder. Meanwhile Soviet medicine was pretty terrible. The smart people were going into research and then not doing any research because the entire system was too far behind to catch up.
The more the system is tampered with, the more the middle, which is a product of the free market collapses, reverting everything back to the 99 percent and 1 percent model that the left pretends we have now. Except it’s really more like a 67%, 9% and 24% model.
ObamaCare forces more doctors to become completely inaccessible to anyone other than the wealthy. The process began with HMOs, that original ingenious plan to solve the health care problem, which instead made it more expensive and less rewarding for doctors to do business. Costs kept going up and so did health care.
This is just one of the final steps on the rung before we end up with no middle ground. This won’t just have an impact on the people in the middle, it will eventually destroy the quality of medicine in general.
There’s only so much room at the top. If the only way to really make money is by treating the rich, that requires far fewer doctors and that means there’s much less room in medicine.
Medical schools will turn out more mediocrities, Third World students who excel at rote memorization but have no interest in patient care, and the top tier of medicine will continue shrinking down. There will be some good people at the top, but their numbers will diminish with each generation.
And then American medicine will die. But you’ll always be able to go and see a Nurse Practitioner for some obesity counseling.