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Right-Wing, Left Wing and Bell Curve

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:08pm
A few random thoughts popped into my head this morning, one of which actually seemed pithy. If we placed people on a graph according to their political views, it would look probably like a bell curve. At any given time, it may skew to one side or the other, but basically the largest number of people are always at the center, assuming a normal distribution.

This is a thought exercise, so let's take it one step further. What if the vertical axis represented value and not numbers of people. What if the overall utilitarian value for a society peaked somewhere in the center? There is no reason to believe this is necessarily true and certainly no way of generating data to support or refute this argument, so this becomes a classic liberal arts proposition inviting arguments for pro and con, which are judged on the quality and integrity of the argument.

Let's look at SCHIP:

The right refutes the need, denies the existence of uninsured, points to their poor choices invoking the doctrine of personal responsibility (they screwed up, we're not bailing the out) and points to the abuse (as though a single instance of abuse, even if valid, were reason enough to dismantle the entire initiative.)

The left expands the need, demands help as an entitlement, is dismayed when natural incentives in open markets sabotage their best efforts and froth at the mouth to the point that they lose their moral high ground.

Yesterday's tirade by Pete Stark is an inexcusable descent into the worst form of political rhetoric. No matter what you may think of our lame President, the argument is that we can afford some health care coverage, given the obscene amounts we spend in Iraq. That children's heads are blown off for the President's amusement is beyond the pale.

More to the point, Pete Stark is the father of some knee-jerk regulation ( Stark Law ) that has been sadly ineffective at curbing the profit motive by inhibiting partnerships between hospitals and physicians). This is the kind of structuralist thinking that has gone by the wayside in the post-modern age, even as conservatives abuse the relativism inherent in it.

OK, I lost you. Sorry. Stark is just out of touch.

Look at the interview of David Hyman in Managed Healthcare Executive . It is smart, although not entirely accurate. Briefly

  • Small employers who are already providing coverage do so out of self-interest [i.e., the desire to retain valued employees]. It is unlikely that the Massachusetts health plan substantially changes the dynamics of that decision, particularly given the modest carrots and sticks at stake. Some employers may switch insurance, others will not. On balance what happens on the margin can affect the balance of good created over time. Only patience will tell.

  • If you start from the premise that people should only have 'good' plans as defined from an upper-middle-class perspective, you've simply assumed away the financial constraints that most of the population operates under.
I am a big proponent of additional coverage for uninsured and vulnerable populations, but if it is too expensive and too similar to what is available for wealthier individuals, then all will be lost.

It represents conservative thought at its best, albeit from Cato's libertarian perspective. Contrast that with Michael Cannon's Op-Ed at NRO (it appeared there for a day or so, I can only find it at the Cato site today). He said it was the most fun he's had writing an Op-Ed. I stopped reading at the liberal versus conservative blah blah blah.

As anyone who has read about the Prisoner's Dilemma , overall value in a non-zero-sum game is greatest with about as much collaboration as confrontation. In other words, somewhere in the center.

And Pelosi's right about Armenia and saving SCHIP.
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