Last night, the Tea Party sponsored another debate between the current GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential election, and much like last week’s Rick Perry Death Penalty Moment, this debate had its own Nightmare Moment In Which The Reality Of Our World Is Reflected Back To Us And Is Terrifying. The moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked candidate Ron Paul, who, like all of the GOP candidates, stands firmly opposed to Obama’s health care reform initiatives, which also fits in with his long-standing (and Tea Party approved) libertarianism, to consider a hypothetical question: say a young, ostensibly healthy man decides he doesn’t want to pay for health insurance but then suffers from a cataclysmic health situation that requires intensive emergency care. Who should pay for his care? At first Ron Paul simply says that this is what freedom means, that we should all be allowed to take our own risks. (Uhhh. We’ll get back to this.) Wolf Blitzer then clarifies his question by asking if we as a modern society should allow people without health care to die even though we have the means to save them. At which point THE AUDIENCE STARTS SHOUTING “YEAH!”

Oh brother.

This is getting insane! Who are these people?! Here is the thing about Ron Paul’s initial argument: I find it appealing. I’m on board with personal freedoms, and I’m also on board with there being a certain level of direct risk and responsibility to the choices you make in life. If you make a bad choice, for example to not buy health care if you don’t already have health care, then there should be some kind of consequence associated with making that choice, because it does unfairly place the burden on someone else. Would I carry that to the conclusion that people should therefore be allowed (which basically means forced) to die for their bad decision? NOPE! But let’s imagine for a second that I did believe that, which I DON’T, but pretend that I did, and that I was also in this debate hall when the question was posed: the most you could hope to hear from me would be a quietly muttered “well, maybe” under my breath. Not gurgling, hate-filled screams of “YEAH!” I mean, what even is this? (It’s also interesting to contrast this moment with the whole Death Panels thing, which was the nonsense counter-argument to health care reform that suggested this new system would decide who lived or died. But so now we are all PRO Death Panel? I’m very confused. It’s so crazy that the tea party enthusiasts don’t have a clear and consistent logical through-line to their garbage vision of a ruined world!)

This brings us back to Ron Paul’s argument that not buying health care is exactly the type of risk vs. reward scenario expressing PURE FREEDOM that his libertarianism supports. Neat! The problem with this, of course, is that it borrows the George W. Bush catch-phrase banner slogan down-with-Osama-Bin-Laden branded “FREEDOM” and uses it in the place of “ANARCHY.” I don’t mean that in a facetious or sensationalized way, I mean that libertarian philosophy quite literally represents an anarchistic distrust of the state and a desire to see it abolished. Freedom sounds nice when you think it just means that you can buy Kettle Chips in every imaginable flavor at your local bodega and stay up as late as you want. It’s not as nice when it means there’s no such thing as the fire department and if you want to have surgery you have to take competing bids from your local Organ Contractors. The reality is that we live in a world of rules that sometimes get confusing but that are, for the most part, the best attempt we’ve achieved so far at making this place as close to livable for everyone as we can. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t use some work, and I bet there are a lot of poor, disenfranchised people who might argue that it’s not so livable (although I don’t think those people are libertarians), it just means throwing the baby out with the bath water and then also throwing out the bath tub itself and hoping that it dies because the bath tub opted not to buy “Get Thrown Out Insurance” doesn’t seem like a useful step in the march towards progress.

But, OK. If that’s how Ron Paul feels, I can totally respect that. It’s a hard line to take, but I respect hard lines (that is what she said). Except, it turns out that’s not how he feels? Because after espousing on freedom and risk and responsibility (and also are you serious with this whole you were a fucking MEDICAL DOCTOR and now you’re going to be a dick about people having access to AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE? Come on, dude!) he immediately dovetails into this weird example of how before there was Medicaid the churches covered people’s medical expenses when they couldn’t afford to pay themselves. UHHHHHH. What? Can we go back to the part where you just thought everyone should die because of freedom, because that at least made sense. Having churches cover people’s unpaid medical bills is fine. Thank you, churches. But this argument basically devalues everything else that Ron Paul was saying because it means that someone ultimately DOES need to cover people’s medical bills, he just thinks it should be a church rather than Medicaid. Fine, but intellectually speaking, we’re still talking about other people shouldering the burden when someone makes a bad choice, so why would Ron Paul be the one who gets to choose which shoulder the burden falls on? He then goes on to say that we’ve lost sight of this feeling of responsibility towards each other, which a) doesn’t actually jibe with his idea that everyone should be entirely free to do whatever they want because maybe what people want is to not be responsible for or give a shit about anyone, and b) THAT IS KIND OF THE POINT OF HAVING A GOVERNMENT. Again, I am not arguing that the government is perfect because who would argue that? A lunatic. This guy:


“Don’t change a thing, government! Ya perfect!”

But the fact of the matter is that people are historically unreliable. HELLO, ADAM OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN! Haha. That is a good reference! Do you Tea Party Boyz like that bible reference?! Adam: Patient Zero of the Unreliable Virus. So, if people can’t be counted upon to help each other, we establish systems through which those needs are met anyways. There are currently more than 300 million people in America. That is an awful lot of freedom to have to deal with. In a modern society with structures in place to accommodate our outsized populations, people get the help that they need when they need it without having to bleed out while they wait to see if Ron Paul’s bake sale will raise enough money to come help them. Are their abuses to this system? Yes, there are! Is it better than no system whatsoever? Yes, it is!

It’s obviously pretty easy to just sit around and poke holes in someone else’s logic and I’m sure running for President is very hard. And at the end of the day, the thing that is the most upsetting about this Classic Debate Moment is the disgusting audience, not Ron Paul. But it actually shouldn’t be this easy to poke holes in Ron Paul’s thinking because libertarianism is pretty cut and dry. It’s often very shitty, but at least it’s usually consistent. Oh well. Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think I might not even vote for this guy!

Comments (180)
  1. Ah! And now to watch the flood of nuanced, well thought-out and not-at-all reactionary comments.

  2. At that moment last night, you pretty much had a choice, which was whether to cry, or to LOL. I chose to LOL. But this Sophie’s Choice of emotions occurs WAY more frequently than I prefer it to.

    2012 Presidential Election: Cry versus LOL.

  3. Wolf Blitzer Kill Them All (or let them die due to lack of health care)

  4. Ron Paul looks like a marionette puppet.

  5. I’m actually really pissed with Wolf Blitzer for how he couched the issue. He set up a scenario where someone who could afford health insurance chose not to and then got sick. Well guess what, Wolf. The people who can afford health care are not the ones I’m worried about! Ask the real fucking question*, which is about the tens of millions of people who don’t get insurance through their job and simply can’t afford to buy it on their own. Do we kill them off? Ask it, you simpering jackass.

    *I actually think the real real question is why we don’t socialize medicine and stop forcing people choose between death and bankruptcy, but we’re nowhere near having that conversation for real in America, so I’ll settle for the other one.

    • I was actually confused as to why it came up at all. N0bamacare addressed this problem by expanding access to low-income folks and people who can afford it but choose not to. Pending GOP doing their best to delay the implementation of the act (which they are currently doing), in 2014 we, hopefully, won’t need to ask that hypothetical question.

      As far as Paul goes, homie just doesn’t understand. But there’s something weirdly refreshing (if not horrifying) of him at least owning his point of view, as opposed to Perry who has to apologize for trying to prevent cervical cancer in young women in his state.

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    • Or the people who can get insurance through their jobs where it is subsidized for them only but not for additional family members. There is no way I could work where I work if I had a family and had to insure them. I can barely afford to put my husband on my plan (which is only slightly cheaper than him getting his own insurance, and he is self-employed).

    • This is it exactly. I changed jobs so that I could go back to school, so that I could be a better teacher. In doing so, I lost my health insurance. I decided that I would just get an individual policy through Blue Cross Blue Shield, since they were the ones who had carried me for five years at my old job (during which time I was diagnosed with a mental illness requiring medication and therapy). Here’s the kicker–despite the fact that I am literally holding a piece of paper in my hand from BCBS saying that I am granted a sort of immunity from the “preexisting condition rejection”, they rejected my application because…wait for it…I was diagnosed with a mental disorder requiring medication. That’s actually what it says. Not only that, but it’s apparently ESPECIALLY because it was diagnosed within the last two years (which, for those of you playing along at home, means that they were covering me when I was diagnosed). Yeah. Go private health care! The system works!

      In all seriousness, I’m down to my last couple of Prozac, and I’m scared. I don’t want to ever go back to where I was before it. It changed my life.

      #endtldrrant

      • I’ll say this too: I started taking Prozac at around the same time I started commenting on Videogum, and I think both of them helped me. Videogum commenting: a different kind of therapy. (I am totally 100% serious.)

      • Thanks to the healthcare reform this will be illegal starting January 2014. In the meantime, you might check this site out: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/provisions/preexisting/index.html as all states are required to have coverage in place for folks who were denied coverage (until 2014).

        • Thank you so much. See what I mean about Videogum commenting? It helps.

        • Well, crap. Says you’ve got to be uninsured for six months before you can apply. Fuck this, America. At least I have the freedom to be miserable.

          • Ah, dang. One thing I do know, is that depending on what state you live in, state health departments offer some programs temporarily for this kind of thing. Otherwise, some insurers offer small policies (for coverage of drugs etc.) that might not exclude based on pre-existing conditions. So those two options might help to bridge you to that six month period. Or you could always move to Canada!

          • *cough* Imaybeabletogetyoublackmarketprozac *cough*

          • I was uninsured for a year while studying abroad, and was then (and still am!) taking a few drugs to treat my ridiculous amounts of depression. After experimenting with a few options, the best thing I found was to have a doctor who had treated me in the past send a new prescription for a 3-month supply of meds to one of the Canadian pharmacy websites, then have those meds sent to me way on the other side of the Pacific. Somehow, that ended up being cheaper than when I’d had those same meds covered by insurance and had bought them in the US. Something similar might work for you, too, especially since every kind of Prozac will be in generic in Canada.

          • Thank you, too, amy. I left a message with my doctor to talk about my options, so I’ll keep this in mind.

            Also, FLW, I know better than to buy any more drugs from you! That Vi4gra you sent me didn’t give me longer lasting erections at all!

      • A very similar thing happened to me, only through Aetna. I have been paying out of pocket bc I realized work is steadier as a full-time freelancer. Then I changed states. Even though I have insurance, it won’t cover anything I need it for… minus breaking a leg or whatever is covered in catastrophic care (which is $35 a month to the $200 I pay now). I think I’ve spent almost $4K in the past year paying for doctor visits after the insurance decides not to cover them because of “experimental” procedures like looking at my cholesterol. Then I had the audacity to change states, specifically to one where Aetna doesn’t even offer single-payer programs (but told me they did when I researched my move). I keep applying to new programs also thinking I’m exempt from the pre-existing rejection clause as I have insurance now and have had it for almost a year. Nope. I have the money, I want to pay for insurance and I can’t get it. All because I have panic attacks and cramps.

        So I tweeted about my frustration yesterday and Aetna calls me this morning to see if they can help… and I think to persuade me to take down the tweet. I explained the problem and they were like “sorry but we can’t help with that.” Dicks.

        Also, I hope you are tapering off the Prozac. That’s very important. You don’t want to go cold turkey off an SSRI. And look up emergency psych clinics… sometimes they can give you enough to at least help you taper. Would your old doctor be able to help? I’ve had a few that were incredibly helpful when I got laid off and lost my insurance and became a freelancer — let me pay out of pocket, sliding scale, etc.

        • I called my doctor today, waiting to hear back. Until then I’ve been rationing. The emergency psych clinic is a good idea, thanks for the suggestion.

          • I have been there. I am there now. I had to call my doc in California to help me bridge the time between now and whenever I finally can find someone to see me here. Literally. Last night.

            Word of warning… those emergency psych places fill up quickly and usually first come, first serve. Also, scary. And often expensive. People low or withdrawing from an SSRI are their best case scenarios. Just be mentally prepared to see a lot of very messed up people when you’re already on edge. And cranky nurses. Bring all your blood work or whatever you can to help them get you what you need.

            Good luck!

          • Thank God, my doctor has agreed to send in a 30-day script, which gives me time to come up with a plan B. But this thread, and the support and help and outreach you guys have extended just reminds me that if the Monsters were in charge, this would be a way better world.

      • Also, (and I’m totally on board with Insurance Companies being not allowed to pull shit like this) but you CAN appeal their decision, and if you just talk to a few people, there is a good chance one of them will understand the “OMFG are you kidding me?”-ness of the situation.

        …but at the same time Fuck BCBS, they denied me because one time in college I got drunk.

  6. I’m not joking here. Libertarians scare me. I don’t want to live in a state of nature. I am not too keen on living a life that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Ron Paul fanboying/fangirling has become as much a red flag as hearing someone list Ayn Rand as a favorite author.

    On the plus side, I save time by running away as fast as I can when these flags are raised. And all the running is keeping me in top form for when I need to lead my nonexistent son through the wasteland with our shopping cart. Yay for silver linings!

    • wait. did you just ruin the end of “The Road” for me?

    • I remember a long conversation with a libertarian friend where I tried to get him to agree that individuals should be prevented by the state to purchase anti-aircraft missiles. He would not concede the point.

      • I had a similar argument once with a fellow law student who would not admit that forming some kind of government is necessary for society to function. A LAW STUDENT!

        • “We agree!”

          - The nation of Somalia

          • Man, I have felt this way for years. Somalia has got to be the logical end state of not just Libertarianism but Right Wing Republicanism as well. Seriously, any dipshit that honestly thinks that the smaller a government is the better off the people are can go live in fucking Mogadishu.

      • I have no response to that, aside from rubbing my eyes and muttering “oh brother.” It reminds me of arguments I would have with an ex-coworker, which I thought I had irrevocably drunk away. Looks like I’ll need to call my good buddy Jim Beam for another attempt!

    • The thing about libertarians is, they’re bullshit. Ron Paul believes in freedom and liberty unless you want to have an abortion, or burn the American flag, or serve openly in the military if you’re gay. Libertarianism is just a smokescreen to hide bigotry.

      • He’s anti-abortion but he’s not for criminalizing flag burning or banning gays in the military.

        • “In 1997, Paul introduced a Constitutional amendment giving states the power to prohibit the destruction of the flag of the United States.” He since backtracked and said it should be up to the states to decide that. Same difference, as far as I’m concerned.

          He said in 2007, regarding DADT: “I think the current policy is a decent policy.”

          Here’s another gem: “Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states’ rights – rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards.”

          Again, more using the bullshit states rights argument to mask bigotry.

          • You’re grossly distorting the flag-burning amendment. He introduced the bill as a trump card to congressman that wanted to criminalize flag burning. It was his way of saying “if you’re against flag burning put it into the Constitution.” He did a similar thing with his opposition to the Iraq war.

            He changed his position on DADT and voted to repeal it. Just like he changed his position on the death penalty.

            The states rights issue isn’t something I agree with him on. I’m not trying to support him but I’m just pointing out that his stances are a little more nuanced thatn “libertarians are all bigots.”

        • But that’s what I’m saying! He USES the states rights argument to hide his bigotry. There’s something pathologically wrong with someone who hates the federal government so much that he’d effectively allow being gay to be illegal in some states on PRINCIPLE

          • Gay marriage is an issue for the states! But don’t think about repealling DOMA, we need that to protect us from the states that disagree.

          • I know we’re going around in circles but again, calling him a bigot is overly simplistic. If he was simply an anti-gay bigot he’d not change his position on DADT. He coulda easily used the cop out the other republicans used: I talked to the generals.

            I understand what you’re saying and I most certainly don’t think state’s have the right to regulate sexual behavior between consenting adults. But I don’t like demonizing everyone we don’t agree with especially when we don’t apply that level of scrutiny to everyone.

        • In the June GOP debate, Paul said if it were up to him he would not overturn DADT and that no group should have “special rights.”

      • Not sure about the bigotry but I *do* agree with the smokescreen: My friend Jay was a huge libertarian in the 90s, railing against the existence of the post office, etc. To an extreme: in our apartment he filled a closet with water, powerbars, and guns. Convinced that in our lifetime a civil war would reduce civilization to ash. But when it did, from the ruins, he and I would emerge — leaders of a ragtag band of noble survivalists, thanks to his brilliant strategic mind and my (this is what he said) “charisma”; we’d rally the remnants of humanity to our cause, and begin our specie’s long trek back to civilization. Oh and all the while endlessly skirmishing with the other micro-civilizations that sprang up to stop us. He put libertarian signs on our lawn every election and went so far as to design (in secret, but I caught him) our post-apocalypse flag.

        I tried to convince him this was idiotic. That he was actively rooting for the death of millions, including his family. He was unswayable.

        I came to understand libertarianism as a smokescreen for how small and under-utilized he felt at his job. He’d been told his whole life “In America you can be anything!” but in reality he’d become an IT gopher who spent his day cleaning mouses and resetting peoples’ passwords because they forgot them. He really wanted to be heroic instead.

        Postscript: I was actually present when his libertarianism died forever. It was on 9/11. We stayed in, with the TV on all day. A week later he began to clean all the water and powerbars out of the closet.

      • Libertarians are just Republicans who are in favour of legalizing pot.

        (A cleverer person than I came up with that definition, and I would credit them accordingly, but for the life of me, I can’t recall who it was….)

        • I found in college that most of the people who claimed libertarianism were either: 1. Really liberal but their close friends were really conservative, or 2. really conservative but their close friends were really liberal.

    • LBT, I was interested in this guy at one point. We’d been hanging out a little bit, and he seemed nice, but when I walked into his place for the first time, he had shelves of Ayn Rand. Multiple editions. And that was the end.

  7. “I hate it when you talk about politics, Gabe!” -Conservative monsters.

  8. so the whole Terry Schiavo thing….that was just because she was insured?

  9. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Yes. The bad guys have the guns, and the police keep them from shooting you at will.

      I’m not saying we should blindly endorse everything government does, but what’s your point? We should have no government? That we should settle our disputes without a previously agreed upon common arbiter? I would like to hear about what anarchism means to you and how it could be a workable philosophy around which to build a society, because I’ve never heard someone do that ever.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • Good God, man. We vest power in an authority because, whether you believe it or not, it provides stability. The ability to pool resources to tackle problems on a large scale requires that we have a set of ground rules and a means for enforcing them. It’s not just about situations where someone commits a crime and is punished. It’s about other things too. Imagine a world where you wanted to start some kind of venture, but lacked the resources to realize your goal on your own. You plan it to the smallest detail, and bring on investors to act as your partners. What keeps them from ignoring their obligations to you and just stealing your idea? A contract. But what makes that contract enforceable? The courts. Are they doing violence by forcing someone to honor their agreements?

          And I have one other question for you, which I mean in the least offensive way possible. How old are you?

          • If you want to “start a venture” you clearly are corporatist scum. Down with ventures!

            But seriously, I don’t think Gabe was necessarily equating Libertarianism with the specific politics of leftist Anarchism. He was just saying that in their mutual rejection of government, they are both stupid and naive worldviews.

          • 39 & hilariously enough make my living as an accountant [the only commie accountant I know].

            And you are completely missing the point. Do you think we vest power in authority? Not to mention your above example of contracts requires a notion of private property, which, per my previous comment, is the fundamental problem.

          • Anarchism doesn’t ‘reject’ government. It simply dispels the illusion that government is justified in its violence. Anarchism is a diagnostic worldview, not an active one. This is where the misunderstandings arise. As I said in a previous comment, if you want to start discussions as to things we could actively do to build a free society, perhaps we should be discussing things like the problem private property absolutism [which the government exists to enforce].

          • You should have a talk with these guys about how Anarchism is simply diagnostic and isnt supposed to be active.

          • Why do anarchists drink coffee?

            Because proper tea is theft. hahahaha!

            Seriously though, I hope you are not saying you are a communist and an anarchist, because those two things can’t exist side-by-side.

          • Upvoted for the use of “Good God, man.”

          • Seriously though, I hope you are not saying you are a communist and an anarchist, because those two things can’t exist side-by-side

            Actually, it’s called anarcho-syndicalism…

          • anarcho-syndicalists are the worst kind. Anarchists are always under 25, and if they are older, they have family money.

        • I actually think that a concept of private property is inevitable, because I believe that an eventual scarcity of resources is inevitable. While one could dispose of notions of private property in a well run society with abundant resources, shortages of food/water/land etc. would eventually cause people to seek to carve out their own space with resources which were under control. And humans being what they are, I find it hard to imagine that once it began you would be able to stamp it out.

          So because I see it as inevitable, and because I believe humans are at some basic level always going to look out for themselves and those closest to them, I think that a communistic world view is basically a non-starter. It would be just another set of rules to be enforced while waiting for people to reject them entirely and take what they feel they are entitled to. Now, we have a system that (is supposed to, to be clear this is not a defense of everything we do at all) seeks to regulate what is probably inevitable rather than prevent it from existing. Not perfect, but you’d have to admit we’ve gotten a surprisingly long and stable run out of it.

          • emmagoldgum.com: gabe’s new leftist politics site.

          • I think the belief in human nature is entirely cynical. Humans are as they become – that is the defining principal of reason & rational activity. We already live in a world where scarcity could be a non-starter & if we simply agreed to work scientifically together, we could make that a permanent situation. Unfortunately, the hoarders among us not only hold the reins of power, but control the media and our educational institutions – so this belief in both human ‘nature’ and the inevitability of scarcity are constantly reinforced.

            If we’re going to survive as a species, we really need to start addressing these issues.

    • Ah, yes, Emma Goldmun. Tragically underrated cousin of Emma Goldman.

    • That monopoly on violence is also the reason we can enforce contracts and have an economy based on law instead of who you know (like places such as Somalia) and have police to stop bad guys from killing you.

      • Exactly – government exists to enforce private property rights. That is precisely the problem. Private property absolutism and its current economic manifestation is going to result in our extinction as a species… I thinks we as human beings need to start discussing these things, and, you know, perhaps make some plans.

        • so if a woman is raped, what is your solution as to what should be done? vigilante justice? there is an actual need for safety that the goverment provides. Private property has nothing to do sexual crimes, nor many motives for murder and other person on person crime.

          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • but whatever “means to deal with violent crime” that society would come up with would be a government. Whether a roving band of community enforcers or a council or whatever. You are describing different forms of government.

            And I would backtrack very quickly from what you said about rape. You just implied that rape is a crime only because it is the misuse of property. If that’s not the correct interpretation you need to clarify.

        • You just implied that rape is a crime only because it is the misuse of property.

          No, actually I said I would be interested in seeing if the reason it was initially enforced as a crime in the west as a property crime. I would imagine under Islamic law it is & wouldn’t be surprised if that was initially the case in the west as well.

          What do you think needs to be done about violent crime? Is the purpose of ‘dealing with it’ to punish or to prevent? I believe that it is the latter & that it can be primarily ‘dealt with’ by having an egalitarian society.

          • just a brief overview – and then I’ll let you have the last word (unless you have a typo! I’ll be all over that!)

            punishment, prevention, rehabilitation, education… there are many things to do about crime, and they are not mutually exclusive.

            Punishment/Justice are interesting concepts that can be argued extensively – see: the death penalty debate last week – I’ll just say that wagging your finger at someone and saying “hey, stop molesting children” probably won’t work.

            Prevention – one of the primary faults of your theory is that it requires a brand new set of people who haven’t already been skewed by the current system. Whether people do bad things do to nature or nurture, we know they will still do them. You can’t move to the type of society you are describing with corrupted people or it won’t work. And everyone is corrupt in some way (even if that corruption would be wanting personal property)

            one of the ways you prevent crime is to have a police force. This police force is part of the government. Even if you ‘privatize’ the police, you’re really making the business a part of the government, not separating the government out to business.

            Rehabilitation – once people have committed crime, how do you get them back into society unless there is a system in place? Not that the current corrections system works well, but a system is better than no system.

            Education – let people know ways they can lower the risks of crime and stay safe

            I have a lot more to say, but this is really just the start of a discussion I have to opt out of.

          • I’m a typo king… prolly because I tend to post before I reread what I wrote….

            This is moving into a much larger discussion that prolly isn’t appropriate for this thread. After all, I just wanted to point out to Gabe that his view of anarchism was simplistic and incorrect…

            I will just say one thing. I don’t think justice has anything to do with punishment – being the classicist I am, I adhere to the Greek polytheistic notion of justice – it is simply the balance of powers – a reconciliation to equality. For me, that doesn’t mean retribution, it means restoring health to the social order of both the perpetrator & victim. So I think the only true justice is rehabilitative justice. Unfortunately our justice system only seems to focus on retribution – which I believe is a crime in itself.

          • i wanted to add one more thing to this! it’s not just about how difficult it would be to completely remake systems because of how “corrupt” some people are, but also because oh how wildly inequitable things currently are. like it or not, government is one of the only entities powerful enough to perform redistributive functions. it’s currently not doing it to the level that i would particularly want to see or even focusing on the areas that i would like to see. as a baby economist (aka as someone who is starting to become an actual degreed doctor of the economics, not someone who studies what types of economies babies develop), i think the truly alarming thing about how our economy functions is the reproduction of geographic poverty that is also clustered around racial lines. so, when i see a bunch of white people (which is the demographic of a lot of anarchists and libertarians!) talk about how we need to eradicate governmental purview over certain economic or social spheres, i get incredibly troubled because of how positively such a rollback would affect certain populations and how negatively the rollback would affect other populations. it would almost be like- once we eradicated government, we would basically have to set up another governing body that had redistributive justice functions in order to deal with the vast inequity that exists within our current system. which is governance of some sort! but i also want to say to demonkitty that i agree with a lot of what you are saying- it’s private property rights that got us into this mess of inequality in the first place, especially the right of holding human property. but also i agree that ownership is inevitable and is actually only going to become a more onerous situation to contend with as our ecological systems start to collapse over the next 200 years.

            i am unsure if what i just tried to interject makes sense! i also want to just say that as a baby economist, i find it crazy what actual discourse focuses on in this country. it’s really misinformed and actually literally stupid most of the time and it makes me :(

          • i think the truly alarming thing about how our economy functions is the reproduction of geographic poverty that is also clustered around racial lines.

            For those that are at the top of the food chain, that’s a feature, not a quirk & it is one that has successfully been turned over to the general governing bodies of the world economic order [i.e. IMF and World Bank]. Impoverishing those in areas with vast resources is critical to prevent them from effectively complaining about the plunder of those resources. This is of course why the US, for example, strongly supported the rise of the corrupt Wahhabi order in Saudi Arabia post WWII [which incidentally spawned al queda, go figure]- keep the people poor and stupid and it’s easier to steal from them.

            Interesting that you bring up the impending decay of our ecosystems – this is one of the reasons I am being so adamant here. Capitalism is completely unsustainable. We will not survive as a species if we continue to operate the way we do. Unless we begin to think as a species [a la Marx's 'species-being'] we’re dooming ourselves to extinction.

          • and another thing! everyone who thinks that “liberty” in the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means political liberty as in liberty from oppressive governments or ideas of personal liberty in actions and behavior is wrong. liberty in the sense that the good old founding fathers that all the gop and libertarians are super necrophiliac about is liberty of private property, as in, having the right to personal ownership. the founding fathers were concerned about the rabble laying claim to the wealth they had amassed, so their terminology reflects that. so i get a kick out of the false etymology that underpins the entire philosophy that the gop/libertarians are promoting.

          • Actually the original draft of the Declaration read ‘the pursuit of property’ [per Locke] it was later changed to ‘happiness’. So, yes, our government was self-admittedly founded to protect property rights above all else.

          • capital and capitalism is super confusing, y’all! i will fully admit that i don’t even understand it very well, because the questions of level gets me all confused, ie yes we can start talking about the IMF and structural adjustments and how that has affected the labor economy of the united states, and how poverty and unemployment needs to exist at high levels in order for high capital returns, but that can get blurry as far as domestic social policies are concerned. like yes we live in an amazingly connected and somewhat fucked global economy right now, but discussion points need to be narrowly approached in order to make any headway in shifting the paradigm. as soon as anyone starts screaming about the IMF or the military industrial complex, the vast majority completely turn off to the discussion. right now i feel like we need to get rid of our old lenses through which we analyze things like the market, because things have radically changed so much since the vast majority of the economic canon was written, and since the vast majority of the social justice canon was written.

            everyone who is still remotely interested in this topic should watch my boyfriend david harvey lay down some truth about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2c0

        • So would you do away with private property? How has that worked out where they’ve tried it? Famine, mass murder, forced migration. Yeh, good idea.

          Seriously, you must be aware of the fact that if your compensation is divorced with the quality/quantity of your work, the incentive is to do shitty work. If you make the same either way why bother? Just go to the DMV to see how that works for customer service.

          If a person is not allowed to benefit from their own labor human nature is being stomped on and that always leads to bad results.

          Contracts and law enforcement are about more than just protecting private property. Others have pointed out that without rule of law there is not reliable economy. When laws are enforced one is able to have confidence that the other party in whatever deal will abide by that deal. Otherwise you would only trade with people you know. And we simply cannot grow all our own food or make our own clothing. We have to trade for that.

          So then you abolish private property? Who decides how goods are distributed? All we have to do is look at history to see how that works out. The only country that has no public property is N.Korea and they’re starving. Even the ChiComs have figured out they have to let people trade in their own interests.

        • I really don’t know why you’re being downvoted at all, I gotta say I feel like you’re saying reasonable things that people who claim to care about human rights and equality and all that would really be down for, if they just took that extra step and tried looking at the real roots of our real problems.

          This whole thread is seeming really hivemind-y, everyone needs to actually read the posts and think for themselves.

    • Keep fightin’ the good fight demonkitty, downvotes be dipped!

      • I could care less about the downvotes. I actually find it hilarious to see posts advocating for a free, egalitarian, sustainable society downvoted. It kind of proves my point.

      • I also think it’s really funny that someone downvoted me for pointing out the simple fact that there is a very well known and specific school of anarchism which blends anarchism and communism – in fact, it is probably the most prevalent form of anarchism in the movement today.

        I suppose I also could have also directed the poster to Marx’s Grundrisse in which he makes clear that he was an anarchist as well…

        • I think the downvotes are less about the content and more about the know-it-all wake-up-sheeple tone and attitude. Also that fact that fixating on Gabe’s minor misuse of the word anarchism because it is a philosophy you know a lot about is sort of beside the point of the post?

          I would imagine that most videogummers generally have a leftist point of view and would agree that at its base government is about maintaining a monopoly on violence and controlling power relations etc etc. I think that’s kind of a given, and while pointing it out is useful, it doesn’t really get us anywhere. As people have mentioned, there’s no path from our society to a world with no personal property. And even if there was there would be so much upheaval in the process the majority of people would not fare very well.

          It’s like if I had a realization that if people stopped caring about looks and talent I could be a movie star. That’s fine to think about and may be true, but it doesn’t really do me much good, and I’m not going to go on internet forums and hold forth on the monopoly of Hollywood by attractive people who are good at acting. Alright perhaps my metaphor is a bit weak there, but hopefully you see my point.

          Mostly though it’s just that it’s a bit annoying to get all smarter-than-thou about people and Gabe not being fully up-to-speed on very niche and specialized political philosophies.

          • I don’t think I got ‘smarter than thou’. I just said, that despite my immense respect for Gabe’s writing & the general awesomeness of this site [which I've actually read from very early on because I was introduced to 'The Hunt' by - wait for it - a prominent anarchist blog], I get really annoyed when people equate far right ideology with anarchism. It is something I see repeatedly in media and in everyday life – and something that is fundamentally incorrect.

            I tried to be slightly snarky about it, but, let’s face it, I’m no comedian. And as I was questioned about it, why not expound… The equation Gabe made is a propaganda point that has been employed for over a century against anarchist movements. It is the very idea that reiterates the structures of inequality within which we live by defining the limits to which we question them.

        • For the record I’ve not downvoted any of your comments demonkitty, I’m enjoying the back and forth to be honest. It’s a rare event for a right winger (I like to call it Classical Liberalism) such as myself get’s to argue in favor of government. We DO believe there are legitimate (if limited) functions for which we need a transparent government.

  10. No yelling “Yeah” in the history of politics can match that of Nancy “Stretch” Pelosi during an Obama State of The Union. She sits behind him with that grin stretched across her surgically enhanced face and bobs up and down like a circus seal.

    #LowestCommentBait

    • What about John Boehner sitting back there, two tanning sessions away from becoming the saddest-looking new addition to The California Raisins

  11. Good post, Gabe.

  12. I think that if right now, you started a business that sold shivs, torches, canned food and corrugated metal, you would have a thriving money* maker by 2013.

    *Money in this case would be shirt buttons.

  13. These people have ruined tea parties for me and my dolls forever. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d refuse a cup of invisible tea. Neither did my dolls. We were wrong.

  14. If I get sick and don’t have heath insurance, I’ll just use my own bootstraps and strangle myself with them! ~Libertarians, probably

  15. “A man in a hypothetical coma has the right to choose his time.” -Alcide, this audience

  16. what was that thing that patrick henry said? oh yeah…

    give me death or give me death!

  17. Many good points on what’s wrong with Ron Paul’s arguments. But he never did represent a large part of the GOP and his refusal to deal with the real world on questions like Iran are pushing him even further.

    Just as an aside, I used to work in the House of Reps for a Republican back in 1998 and his staff were like a cult. I don’t know what it is with that guy. I guess the rigid consistency of his ideology? The hill is like high school but revenge of the nerds. Dem staff don’t really hang out with GOP staff. But “Dr. Paul’s” people were just creepy. Most staff conversations were about whether or not we’ll get to go on recess on time but with them it was “Dr. Paul says. . . ” about pretty much any topic.

    Anyway, my serious point is that, his point about Churches/Charities is not necessarily wrong. It’s legit to say gov’t has a responsibility to cover these cases. But it is true that charities tend to do more when gov’t does less. In Europe and countries with generous public healthcare, the percentage people give to charity is much lower than what we do in the US. Americans are far more generous with charity than any other country. It’s an open question as to whether there’s a causal relationship between gov’t largess and charitable activity. Generally the gov’t is not very good at doing things efficiently, especially at the level of one person. Private charities are much more flexible and responsive. But the price for that is a lack of guarantee that everyone will be taken care of.

    • This is a very good (but long) article by a former Congressional staffer who retired after 28 years because of the developments in the Republican Party.

      http://www.truth-out.org/goodbye-all-reflections-gop-operative-who-left-cult/1314907779

    • The church is fading in this country, big time. (For better or worse, that’s your own opinion).
      When the gov’t shrinks, religion is not going to step up.

      • do you mean in the sense of attendance, donations to the church, or strength of character?

        (all three…)

        • All three, plus no-one is signing up to be priests anymore.
          All the priests I ever see these days, mind you Dirty Larry hasn’t been to Catholic mass in quite sometime, are all very very old and tired. AND it seems that a majority of them are coming from 3rd world countries, where this sort of stuff still very much still flies with the populace.

      • Fair enough, the “Church” may be declining but it still thrives in many places still. Oddly enough the big growth, at least in my (The United Methodist) Church the big growth is in Africa and Central/South America. Anyhoo, the churches are much stronger in the US than Europe, for example, precisely because of the anit-establishment clause of the First Amendment. Keeping the gov’t out of the Church has allowed a multitude of faiths to thrive which is partially why charitable giving is so much higher here than in Europe.

    • I’m fairly certain that because ‘charitable’ organizations already exist as government programs in most European nations, it’s citizens feel less of an obligation and/or need to donate money towards charity.

      For example, if this country had some form of government-run healthcare, I doubt US citizens would be giving money to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to help poor families pay their chemo bills due to the fact that their taxes would already be funding those procedures.

      • That’s precisely what I think the case is. The gov’t getting involved in these areas does discourage individuals from charitable behavior. I guess you see this as a neutral fact of life? It’s just kind of a bummer to me.

    • nope! private charities are not more flexible and responsive! the thing that kills me dead about these arguments about how awful and bureaucratic the government is is that nonprofits and charities are just as bureaucratic. even more so, because often they have to go through government agencies and regulations in order to perform whatever social mission they are working on. i worked in post katrina new orleans for many many years doing recovery work, and it was a total shit show- all of the orgs were in competition with each other for government and foundation funding in order to preform whatever programming was being promised, so 70% of staff time was grant writing and fundraising rather than actual fucking work, whereas entities that were direct government programs accomplished more because they had direct financial mandates rather than going through the middle man of the funder. and i think that it is very troubling to say that government should not provide health care, but churches should, since that sets off all sorts of alarm bells. plus i find it silly to say that the government shouldn’t be responsible for taking care of its citizens, but that citizens of a state should instead rely on a religious organization to provide services.

      • I was’t advocating we leave it all up to Churches, only that they played a larger role back when the Gov’t played a smaller role. It all depends on where you’re standing as far as the responsiveness of a charity. I worked with an American Church in Nicaragua that ran an orphanage and built houses, schools, gave medical treatment and taught people how to collect potable water. All of this was done 100% by donations by church members which paid for Nicaraguan staff. Some other guys bought a coffee farm and with the proceeds helped the locals take over the business for themselves.

        On the other side I worked for a Czech Church in Plzen that got almost all of it’s funding from the government. They charged me rent for my flat, kept every Korun of money I brought in for English lessons and were generally disorganized and lazy, if very nice people.

        Sounds like your experience post Katrina was at least partially a result of gov’t involvement with the NGO’s. But you know your own experience better than I do obviously. But the bottom line is any time you get a whole bunch of people together in a chaotic situation there is going to be a large number of fuckups just due to human nature/frailty.

        I do think that pretty much only the government has the ability to guarantee that everyone is taken care of. I just think they should take people’s incentives into account and recognize that just making a rule doesn’t mean people will follow it.

    • IIRC the Iowa debate correctly, it seemed like Ron Paul had a pretty good response to dealing with Iran which was to do nothing, and he also pointed out that the CIA putting the shah back in power was what caused the end of US-Persia BFF 4 Lyfe in the first place. I really think the best Middle East policy is to do less, almost nothing. The “allies” we support now will just become enemies further down the line.

  18. “Kill him!” Applause. “Churches!” Applause??? INSANITY!!!!

  19. The scariest part of the debate for me was when I agreed with something Bachman said.

    Perry’s HPV vaccine shot program should have been opt-in rather than opt-out. I agree with having the immunization provided free of charge (and I didn’t like how she played into the crazy anti-medicine people’s ideas a little) but the liability involved if there was an allergic reaction would be way too high. A parent could (rightfully) sue the state.

  20. I teach political theory, and let me say that understanding modern right-wing ideology is no easy task. I use the term “right-wing” because, even if it’s imperfect, it’s better than using the blanket term “conservative,” which really has no meaning in modern America, any more than “liberal.” What we know as conservatives in the United States are a mix of National Security State/Jingoists, Pro-Corporate Profiteers, Religious Zealots, Anti-Immigrant activists, and Libertarians (though of course this is also a disputed term). Sometimes these groups mix well – think the War on Terror, which unified those who like a strong state presence, the pro-corporate elements, and the religious zealots. At other times there is a split between those who really favor strong government and those who do not. While there are very real political interests behind these groups, with large sums of money, the general tendency of right-wing ideology is its incoherence. Or rather, the groups at the very top have particular interests that they have met, but the ideology of the members is more emotional than logical. So you get people like Ron Paul who is mostly consistent in his philosophy, and others like Rick Perry or Mitt Romney who are quite cynical about the whole thing. It can be very difficult to watch, and harder to comprehend.

    • This perfectly backs up my belief (which comes from an outsider’s perspective, as I am Canadian), that you guys are getting totally screwed by your two-party system.

      • Yep, we absolutely are.

      • Gobblegirl, I hate to quibble (as I am also Canadian) but we are getting equally screwed by our First past the post system up here. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite – it’s the liberal side that is splintered into multiple sects, despite having very similar intentions (NDP and Liberal, also Green to a very lesser effect) while there is only one Conservative party.

        Technically, we have a two-party system, except that one party is made up of three different groups, and even though Canada votes for a liberal party, the PCs get all the conservative votes, and earn the majority.

        We’re all screwed!

        • You are preaching to the choir! I wasn’t trying to be all “we’re the best nyah nyah,” I just wanted to be upfront about being outside-looking-in on US politics. First-past-the-post is an antiquated system that needs to be replaced, along with a simultaneous reworking of our attitudes towards how politicians work with/against each other in the House.

    • I’d be one of those right-wing ideologues. But I like to call my philosophy Classical LIberalism. Basically constitutional originalism. Federalist #10 is, for me, just about the most perfect explanation/defense of a federalist system of government there is.

      Cheers!

  21. I disagree with Gabe’s initial thought about personal freedoms. Yes, we all make choices and why should we suffer because of other’s stupid mistakes or decisions? Because we are a society and the function of a society is to take care of one another. Maybe this guy was uninsured because insurance costs are so high. Maybe he was going to cure cancer one day…maybe he would do nothing special. Whatever. We all make bad mistakes and I don’t think Ron Paul is on to anything here. I suppose I’m socialist or have socialist leanings though and this “libertarian” view that every man is an island solely responsible for his/her own actions AynRandian at its very worst.

    A society is only as good as it’s weakest member…that’s what I think anyway.

  22. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • “also, Catcher in the Rye is fucking awesome. It really speaks to me in a way that nothing else ever has”

    • Paragraphs, please, or I don’t read.

    • Why does the government even need anti aircraft missles?

      Wait, what is that sound? An air raid siren? Why didn’t the libertarians in germany tell Hitler “why does the government even need airplanes to drop bombs on Britain?”.

      One of the most basic things that even a good chunk of libertarians believe is the governments job is the army. Protecting it from outside threats. It’s isolationists (so say, nuclear bombs number 11 through 1000 are overkill and not necessary, but some defense is necessary).

      What gives them authority? I believe it’s called elections. At the very least, that’s more of a direct means of being handed authorty than corporations. If the idea is that power should be in more hands, who exactly is going to enforce anti-monopoly laws? I guess we’ll just have to give money to the people we want to do that directly.

      Yes, the BEST way for the world to work is for everyone to just decide themselves how to spend their money. So, the rich get the freedom, and the poor get to die, unless the rich people decide what they want to do with their money is help poor people.

      And, of course, there are ONLY two options. Either government does nothing, or they take all your property, force you to go to war, and micromanage your diet and sex life.

  23. The only good thing I can see about all of these calls for deregulation and whatnot is that I am so much closer to my life long dream of owning a Dickensian child labour factory/orphanage that makes those god-awful Dickens Village pieces of shit that Republicans* love to put out during the holidays to make things more festive. And thanks to guys like Ron Paul, I won’t even be required to feed them. They’ll have to find their own food! But hahaha, joke’s on the orphans! They can’t find food because they’ll be too busy working FOR ME.

    *and people with bad taste and no understanding of irony. Seriously do the people who buy those things not understand that Dickens wrote about poverty and class issues and child labor and the little villages are built by poor children in villages? I asked this to a girl I know who collects those and she told me I think too much. She’s a doctor.

  24. Yeah, my initial reaction to this is that the crowd equates uninsured and medicaid with illegal immigration. So they’re cheering for dead Mexicans.

  25. Speaking as a Canadian (slowly obviously!) – we have publicly funded health care available to everyone. This, in combination with the fee per service model, has caused a glut of unessecary procedures and perscriptions. And there is a shortage of necessary services. I thought Ron Paul made some sense.

    Canada is turning away from the publicly funded model to a model that also has a private option. I live in a small province, and my mother shouldn’t have to wait 9 months to see a specialist about her knees. In the meantime, her family doc gives her cortisone shots, but their efficacy decreases the more you give them.

    Canada had a purely public model and I can tell you it did not work. Healthcare makes up about 50% of every provinces’ budget and it increases as the population ages. And the service is not stellar, particularly in smaller places. Doctors increasingly demand higher wages and the pharmeceutical industry convinces everyone that they need drugs. And the public pays – because the system is publicly funded.

    I would be cautious about adopting public health care, particularly where everyone is enthralled by drug companies, who continue to sell us drugs that we don’t need. You’ll be paying for those drugs. And the more you pay for drugs, the less money there is to pay for specialists.

    • Almost everything you state is incorrect, but it’s after 5 and i’ll be damned if i’m going to type out a cogent, point-by-point reply.

    • At least she has health insurance.

      • Yes, I do. I pay for it though my work monthly and through my income tax which is very high. The federal government takes a chunk of my income and the provincial government takes an even bigger chunk. Income tax is much higher in Canada than it is in the US, particularly in ‘have-not’ provinces. And I pay a lot, yet the service I get is sub-par. And there is no private option in my province.

        I am a left-leaning person, don’t write me off just because I have views on public health care. I feel qualified to speak on the negatives of that scenario.

        There are positives too, obviously. I just think smaller, poorer places should approach it with caution. Big cities will be ok.

        • The healthcare situation is complicated. I’ve thought more about it after I posted. I want to make clear that I was responding to what Ron Paul said, not the audience. Those people are morons. But I do think Ron Paul made some sense. The thought of a 30 year old person choosing to not buy health insurance is apalling. In Canada I have no choice. I pay for it through the nose through my income tax. And I’m ok with that. I also buy my own private insurance through work. The problem I have is that my tax money is being wasted on drugs we don’t need. At the expense of specialists and hospital beds.

          I had a family member die of cancer and it was unsettling how we were turned away by the medical system. Once the handwriting was on the wall that it was terminal, we could not get a bed in the emergency room in the hospital for all the issues that arose; constipation, nausea, dementia.

          And they told us to go to the long term facility, and we went there, but they discouraged us from going there because they had only a couple of beds and those beds should be reserved for late stage alzheimers patients.

          And I felt so angry that the healthcare system couldn’t give my family member a bit of help, after all of those years of paying in and taking care of their health and doing their best.

          So, we took the family member home. 1 month later, we were sitting up at 3 hour intervals giving morphine shots. I sat up for full nights, and I was working and I got no time off. We gave the morphine shots, and then it was over.

          And I can’t help being mad at how we did everything right and cared for others, and this is what we got in the end.

          And we payed a lot in taxes for health expenses. Everyone in my family has always worked, mostly middle class. No one has collected EI.

          I wanted somewhere else to go, another option. The panic and distress on my family member’s face as we stood in the hall, with him on a stretcher, for 2 days kills me. And he died one month later. There was no where else to go.

          I know you must all think I’m a jerk for coming against public health care, and I need to say, I am FOR public health care. My main point is to be careful: the budget goes to hospitals, drugs, and doctors’ salaries.

          In my experience, the battle is against drugs. The pharmeceutical industry is stronger in the US than it is in Canada, and my experience is that the drugs win.

          Ultimatley, we need specialists, and beds. Drugs are needed when they are needed, but the drug industry tells us that we need them so much more than we do.

          Excuse my bad grammar, but I hope I got my point across.

  26. tell it like it is Gabe.

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