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« Goodbye, Kim Possible | Main | Mini-Memoir Elsewhere »

March 24, 2005

Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* City Comfort's David Sucher finds a prefab that pleases him. Guest-poster Laurence Aurbach is appalled by the winner of a recent competition for Alaska's capitol building.

* I find loose libertarianism -- of the less-interference-is-usually-better variety -- very congenial. But the hardcore variety often strikes me as the religion of a bizarro cult, and its adherents a crowd of Martians, as bugeyed with fervor about The Truth as any Marxist. Robert Locke's AmConMag takedown of hardcore libertarianism is the best one I've ever read.

* "In journalism, diversity is a club the left uses to increase the hiring of lefties," writes Debra Saunders. (Link thanks to John Ray.)

* Arnold Kling thinks that we're fooling ourselves if we think that we can reduce medical costs significantly by attacking waste and fraud. He goes on to argue that the main reason American health-care costs so much is that it's worth it. We're paying what it costs to get better health care, in other words.

* Steve Sailer's current Vdare column is a big-picture, sum-it-all-up wonder. Nice visuals too.

* One of the convictions many of the lefties I've known have been attached to is this: that, if only the True Nature of Things could be contacted and released, the Real People would emerge as the good leftists that they of course are, deep inside. This conviction may or may not reflect the facts in some countries or regions. But it strikes me as completely mistaken where heartland America is concerned. Touch the deep unconscious of a mid-American and you'll usually set free a conservative. I enjoyed reading this talk by The Economist's John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, who seem to agree with me.

* James Kunstler has long predicted that an energy crisis is about to commence. With oil at record and near-record prices, perhaps it's worth considering that he may be onto something. How much of a difference will the Bushies' recent resolution to drill for oil in Alaska make? Not much, answers Kunstler. Kunstler has written a new book about the energy situation. It'll be published very soon, and it promises to attract a lot of notice and stir a lot of debate.

* Another upcoming policy book I'm looking forward to: Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel's One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance. Sommers and Satel are two of the rare women academics who are sensible about sex and sex differences. Sommers' recent article about the Larry Summers-Harvard brouhaha is typically sensible and incisive.

* Did you know that "Star Trek"'s Leonard Nimoy is a serious art-photographer? He's also into Jewish spirituality of the Goddess sort, and you can see evidence of both passions in the photographs that he shows off at his website. Here's a soulful nude. Nimoy talks with BeliefNet here about his latest photography show.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at March 24, 2005




Comments

[Arnold Kling] goes on to argue that the main reason American health-care costs so much is that it's worth it. We're paying what it costs to get better health care, in other words.

I have a difficulty taking such arguments seriously, since the "we" who do the paying are, by and large, not the same "we" are getting the benefit. By socializing the costs of such schemes, there is no mechanism for people to directly make such cost/benefit analyses. If people want to spend their own money on health care, fine and dandy--but that's not how it works, today. And as health care spending rises at a significantly faster rate than personal incomes (which it will over the next few decades), I think the notion that "it's worth it" will come under pretty serious attack. (Worth it to whom? will be the obvious question.)

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 24, 2005 3:33 PM



Kling's argument that the doctors who get paid much more in the US do significantly better job providing service than doctors in other wealthy countries is the type of thing that could be empirically tested. I am doubtful.

I also don't like his dismissal of life expectancy as a way to evaluate health care systems. Improved life expectancy (and life quality) is what we what from a health care system.

Posted by: joe o on March 24, 2005 4:19 PM



Michael, you and I appear to agree entirely on the merits of libertarianism. I quite like the small-l brand of it but the ideologues like the Libertarian Samizdata crowd frankly give me the shits. I'm sure they would deny it but as far as I'm concerned they're no different from the hardcore ideologues of any political philosophy, and I'm frankly just baffled by anyone who takes politics that seriously.

Posted by: James Russell on March 24, 2005 11:51 PM



Marxism requires a certain amount of chaos and anarchy in order to work well.

Posted by: Hellbender on March 25, 2005 12:42 AM



beware anyone waving capital T truths, their candy is of the poisonous sort

Posted by: azad on March 25, 2005 2:41 AM



FvB -- I wonder how Kling would respond. I suspect he'd say that even if what we have is anything but a free market, it's still less socialized than the health markets in many other advanced countries. But what do I know?

Joe O -- Wasn't one of Kling's points, though, that we will be seeing the results of better treatment reflected in life-expectancy numbers, only not for a while yet?

James -- Me too. I'm honestly mystified by some people's eagerness to look to politics for solutions to much of anything. Seems to me that 99% of the time the best to be reasonably hoped for is that politicians don't screw things up too badly. I like thinking of politics as a necessary evil, and as a way of contending (hopefully, a little better rather than a little worse, but certainly imperfectly) with some of life's challenges -- and not as a way of solving much of anything. I wonder where the tendency to look to politics for what you and I would consider to be Too Much comes from. Being raised that way? Educated into it? Like I say, I'm mystified.

Hellbender -- That's a very funny line.

Azad -- What a good and compact way of saying it. I'll be stealing that line in future conversations, if you don't mind.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 25, 2005 11:01 AM



The Nimoys are important people in the art world. Susan Bay Nimoy has been an active member of the board of trustees at MOCA since 1999.

Posted by: Megan on March 25, 2005 1:55 PM



First showbiz people take over politics, then they take over the fine arts ... I wonder what's next?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 25, 2005 2:17 PM



Michael,

That is his argument but he doesn't point to any treatments or medicine that have caused this change. It is like saying that the baltimore orioles must have good baseball team because the spend so much money. I would be as happy as anyone, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Improving life expectancy is mainly done by going for the low hanging fruit; making relatively inexpensive procedures available to everyone.

Canada and Europe have just as good life expectancies as the US while paying a lot less. Getting the life expectancies up through health care is one of few things communist countries can even do well (mainly because they can pay smart people peanuts to be doctors).

It is possible that new technologies could radically increase life expectancies and thus worrying about distributional issues now is just short-sighted. These new technologies haven't been develped in the last 10 years though.

Posted by: joe o on March 25, 2005 6:15 PM






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