10/23/2004

Party hack?

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend of mine from Boston today, this friend being one of the few liberals at my college. (The majority of the students here are conservative, though not Republican; in a voter registration drive held recently, over 95% of the new voters registered independent.) The content of the conversation itself was boring enough, rehashing talking-points about the election. What was fascinating was a comment he made at the end of the discussion, after I said that nationalized health-care would be terrible for the country.

He said, "I hate talking politics with party hacks."

Now, I appreciate the general sentiment, having felt that way myself often enough. But I had told him at least three times in the previous hour or so that I am an independent. He still identified me as a "party hack," presumably for the Republican party. As I understand it, a party hack is loyal to his party above all, regardless of the ideology that the party should be advancing at the time. He will defend policies that he knows to be flawed, simply because they are proposed by his party.

I was almost immediately reminded of a story my father often tells. I no longer remember if the story happened to him, or to a friend of his, but in either event it is instructive. The subject was having a political conversation of some sort with a friend of his, who was considerably more liberal. He was making some point in opposition to the liberal program. The friend grew agitated and said, "You don't really believe that!"

My father took from this the following insight: a liberal believes that his worldview is completely self-evident, and that all people really know deep down that the liberal agenda is the right thing to do. Therefore, nobody can honestly oppose liberalism out of principle, since liberalism is right. Therefore, anyone who opposes liberalism must be doing so selfishly or dishonestly. It is impossible to legitimately hold a philosophical viewpoint opposed to liberalism, and to advocate action based on this philosophy, because such a philosophy is manifestly wrong.

Examples: the Laffer Curve is a fabrication to excuse Tax-Cuts for the Rich™; opposition to Affirmative Action makes you a racist; et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.

Therefore, for me to be advocating ideas opposed to liberalism to my liberal friend, I was by definition doing so not because I thought they were right, but because I was a "party hack."

This attitude is disturbing. I, and most conservatives, can readily accept that most liberals genuinely believe in the validity and righteousness of their views. This allows us to acknowledge that even if their methods are flawed, their hearts are in the right place, and they are generally good people in their way. But if the converse is not true—if the average liberal believes that anyone disagreeing with him is doing so from base motives—then it justifies extreme actions taken against the opposition. Stealing political signs and barricading campaign headquarters, and perhaps worse, are justified because the actions impede the advance of a dishonest agenda.

I am not a party hack. I genuinely believe that capitalism is preferable to government control, that personal responsibility is better in general than dependence on others and the growth of moral hazard, and that people exist in the world who need to be killed for the benefit of all. I do not tie these beliefs to a party platform. Republicans are just as capable of being scum as anyone else; consider Bush the Elder, who incited the Iraqi Shia and Kurds to rebellion and then hung them out to dry, to be slaughtered by Saddam. But Bush the Younger, for all his numerous flaws, has got the essentials right as far as I am concerned. And I honestly believe that too.

4 comments:

kljokjjlkjlk said...

First, I'm a liberal as well, although I avoid politics on my website. I really do appreciate your point of view. I'm also a fiscal conservative.

However, if you said that nationalized health care would be terrible for the country, then you are definitely acting like a party hack. The problem is that you must be seeing the situation in the abstract. The reality of capitalistic medicine is bleak.

We pay a lot more for worse care because we're supporting the profits and advertising and other overhead of two different industries before we pay for a doctor's visit. The two industries are insurance and health care, both run for profit. For this reason alone, socialized medicine is less expensive for the same care.

In return for these high prices, both industries work to provide the minimum service possible to get the highest return on investment. This would normally not be a problem, but this is health care, a service that is not really optional for the people who need it.

Because of the reasons stated above, curtailing lawsuits and limiting damages for negligence is not going to be that effective. It doesn't solve the root problem. Meanwhile, over 40 MILLION Americans are without health care at all. That number isn't getting any smaller.

Ask yourself this, because this is where it really hits home: Would you be willing to work into your fifties and then give up everything you ever worked for just because you got really sick? That's how the system works right now for over 40 million people.

Just sharing my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Mr. Weiler's comment: the United States has the best health care in the world to date. In countries with socialized medicine, the average person has long waits and rationed care, while those who want medical services closer to what we have pay extra for private insurance. The real problem, I believe, on the high cost of care here at home is because the other major medical consumer countries have price controls on medicine, innovative procedures, and on medical care in general. Therefore, in order to make the very high cost of research worthwhile, the drug and medical technology companies developing all of these new life saving cures come to America and charge more for their products. Could you imagine how quickly our pharmaceutical prices would drop if the Canadians, English, French, Germans, etc were paying their fair share for drugs. We are supporting the whole world. Were the United States to join Europe in socializing medical care and perscription drugs, the quality of health care world-wide would stagnate, at best. Not to mention that you might have to wait two to three months for that appendecomy you needed.

By the way, I am a life-long Democrat -- and I have an HMO.

Mastiff said...

I am troubled by medical insurance generally. This is for a few reasons:

First, if the insurance companies are running their business well, that means that on average people are paying in more than they get out. That's fine. If you want to pay extra to insure against catastrophe, you have every right to do so. But the average person would still be better served by setting aside the money they would be paying in insurance premiums in an investment account instead.

But if they do so, then the system breaks down. The insurance companies depend on the people in average or better health in order to afford treating the very few people who depend on hugely expensive treatments. If people start acting in their own best interests, the sickest members of society get left in the lurch. Speaking as one who has benefited greatly from different forms of distributed health-care costs, I am acutely aware of the difficulty here.

Second, low-deductible plans (where you pay a very low fee per visit) encourage the growth of moral hazard. People are rewarded for consuming medical care even if they do not necessarily need it, because they bear little of the cost. Given how stretched medical staffs are, this is not a good thing.

Third, insurance companies are very good at squeezing the medical provider. They negotiate discounts and delay payment for as long as they can. Before anyone takes from this an argument to nationalize health-care, remember that Medicare is the very worst at doing this. Several of the professionals I see no longer accept Medicare or Medical, because it is not worth their time or aggravation.

A national health-care system would exacerbate all of these problems. Consider the systems of Canada or the United Kingdom, both of which are driving away their doctors, and denying care to patients because they lack the resources to process them.

Mike Maller said...

Hey Mastiff, how are ya?

I have to say that you're a little limited in your doling out of damnation here. What you wrote in the following paragraph is basically true of the "true believers" of just about any ideology:

"a liberal believes that his worldview is completely self-evident, and that all people really know deep down that the liberal agenda is the right thing to do. Therefore, nobody can honestly oppose liberalism out of principle, since liberalism is right. Therefore, anyone who opposes liberalism must be doing so selfishly or dishonestly. It is impossible to legitimately hold a philosophical viewpoint opposed to liberalism, and to advocate action based on this philosophy, because such a philosophy is manifestly wrong."

The only real changes you'd need to make are in altering the words "liberal," and "liberalism" to whatever the chosen ideology is.

Aside from all that, it's pretty hard not to run across partisan hackery these days. The signal to noise ratio is pretty low this close to the election, and research, let alone political discussion is fairly well drowned out. Not that I thought much of the prospects for finding a decent political discussion a year ago. Good luck with it though.

And don't let the ad hominems get you down. :¬)