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Ben Stein on ruining American Enterprise

16 Dec 2002 by

Ben Stein gives us 12 ways to ruin American Enterprise. Here’s a snippet:

Make it a general rule that anyone with more money than a plaintiff is responsible for anything harmful that a plaintiff does. Promulgate the pitiful joke that Americans are hereby exempt from any responsibility for their own actions — so long as there are deep pockets around to be rifled.

There’s plenty of material in this article to become SvN’s most popular post. Have at it.

70 comments so far (Post a Comment)

16 Dec 2002 | Bill Brown said...

I'm not a fan of Ben Stein (his vilification of Milken was absurdly ad hominem), but I think he makes some good points—though he also makes some trite ones, too.

The threat of lawsuit is a powerful deterrent to innovation. Look at the private airplane industry and think of what it could have been if massive lawsuits didn't bring it down in its early stages and stifle it to this day such that only the fabulously wealthy can afford it.

Actually, I think he is positively spot on throughout. I am definitely going to print this out.

16 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

His points are valid, but there are certainly some extreme points that could stand to use a bit of 'how about we meet in the middle?' thinking. It's Ben Stein, so he's obvoiusly pushing a few buttons on the left. ;o)

I think the running theme of the article is tort reform?

In response to the socialized medical system, here's a differing POV worth a read:

A letter from Italy

16 Dec 2002 | Dave said...

Well, as the father of a special need child, I took real exception to this:

"Allow schools to fall into useless decay. Do not teach civics or history except to describe America as a hopelessly fascistic, reactionary pit. Do not expect students to know the basics of mathematics, chemistry and physics. Working closely with the teachers' unions, make sure that you dumb down standards so that children who make the most minimal effort still get by with flying colors. "

I could easily argue that the inforcement of silly standards is ruining *education* for students. I live in Mass, and work for a (large) school system, so I have a little first hand experience of which I speak. Schools here are *heavily* influenced to remove art and music teaching sacrificed for the all-mighty MCAS score (thats the comprehensive testing MA gives to students). How influenced? When you buy a house, the town's MCAS scores are usually mentioned (assuming they are high) in the first 5 minutes (and assuming you are in your 20s to 40s).

Teachers routinely complain about having to "teach to the test". I've seen it in action. Its drilling of rote facts & the same problem solving techniques over and over again. You are required to pass the examination for graduation. MA gives a "certificate" if you can not pass the exam. Special needs children must take the exam as well.

Now, do not get me wrong. I personally was in the top of my class, and this does not seem "outrageous", but look into the impact for someone perhaps not as "gifted" as yourself. The military required a high school diploma, and MA is handing out "certificates"? Which is more important, that a person with significant mental problems can be self-sufficient, or knows the years of the Spanish-American war?

The imposition of standards like these, without a view towards giving children a *desire* to learn, and instead testing on materials that are readily accessable from reference books will help destroy America's ability to innovate, one of the things that has put us at the top of the economic world...

16 Dec 2002 | Dave said...

.. and, to follow up to my rant, let me say that I agree with much of the article. Obviously, this was meant to stimulate some controversy. Personally, I am one of those people who try & save, although I have long gotten over any feelings of envy.

I'm curious on his statements in regards to immigration. Would anyone happen to have birth rate trends at their fingertips? Personally, I think lower US birthrates will result in the need for the "import" of domestic labor workers, as he said, a "suicidal" policy...

16 Dec 2002 | pb said...

Off Topic: Does anyone actually use Amazon One-Click Shopping? I cannot imagine that buyers are comfortable completing an order without seeing any of the order, payment, tax and shipping details. Is One-Click really better than Two-Click? I'd be surprised if more than 3% of Amazon's orders are performed via One-Click.

16 Dec 2002 | SU said...

I think this bit speaks the most to the decline of American culture:

Sneer at hard work and thrift. Encourage the belief that all true wealth comes from skillful manipulation and cunning, or from sudden, brilliant and lucky strokes that leave the plodding, ordinary worker and saver in the dust. Make sure that society's idols are men and women who got rich from being sexy in public or through gambling or playing tricks, not from hard work or patience. Make the citizenry permanently envious and bewildered about where real success comes from.

More than anything, I feel like we've all let consumerism and star-worship take over in this country. What are we doing with our free time (or even our time at work)? We're using it to shop, read about the already-famous between the covers of In Style Magazine, and plot the course of our own celebrity via "reality TV" shows. All the while getting fatter and fatter...

If our time is so valuable, why are we mortgaging it for the short-term gains of consumerism and the false-hope of celebrity?

16 Dec 2002 | Don Schenck said...

Morals ... it all comes down to morals.

16 Dec 2002 | Steve said...

There's actually a lot of good stuff there, although I'm not as ready to get rid of all the lawyers like he is. Companies - and most people - tend to respond better to the threat of something bad happening to them (like losing a lot of money) in order to do thigns right. People have to have the opportunity to have recourse when companies are truly negligent. That said, it's too easy to sue over something frivolous and get money out of it.

Regarding the immigration bit, at least he doesn't advocate slamming the doors shut, unlike Buchanan and others. Without immigration, the US would be suffering the same outlook as Europe - population growth at or below the replacement rate. Not to mention that immigrants fill a lot of jobs non-immigrants don't seem to be willing to fill.

And, anyway, most of the immigrants I've run across love the States. Very few come in with a perspective of hate.

16 Dec 2002 | Jim Jones said...

And V-O-O-D-O-O ("Anyone? Anyone?) economics (aka Reaganism) have nothing to do with the ruin of America and its enterprise.

16 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

wow. the "Letter from Italy" was pretty powerful. I´ve often wondered which is the better system: America´s or Germany´s. I remember feeling so frustrated with the mentality here at first : so social that people were stagnating (and still are). But now after being here for so long, I can´t say I like the "survial of the fittest" system in the US completely either. I still get people asking me constantly why Americans are allowed to sue at the drop of a hat? and why there are always so many bums on the streets? and why they have guns? and why they would want the death penalty? and why families are willing to move so far apart from eachother? and why Americans don´t get help from the government for thier kids´education and upbringing?

In the beginning, I felt it was very homogonous here - everything in it´s place, everything so safe. No bums, no drugs, no real social ills that I could see. My answer is that in America you have more choices and more freedoms than in a semi-socialist/democratic system such as Germany´s, but that also means that people can take advantage more. On the other hand, people here are so protected and regulated by the goverment that many have become stagnant and passive; and many are living off the system.

In Germany there are so many different roads a kid can take as far as education goes - starting at the age of 9 or 10 they can make choices about what kind of school they best fit into. education can end with 16 or 30. It´s up to you. And it´s all government supported. I like that.

The most prominant behaviors I notice when I go home to the US are consumerism and hectic lifestyles.

(btw, why does the last post or two sometimes disappear when i scroll or when I mouse over a link? I guess that´s a post for SVN remodel)

16 Dec 2002 | Cade Roux said...

Re: One-Click

Yes, always, and I even do it from my phone. You can always go in afterwards and change the shipping option to SuperSaver so the shipping is going to go to 0 anyway.

16 Dec 2002 | Cade Roux said...

Re: Ben Stein's article

He says nothing new here. Most of it I agree with, but it's not constructive and it's not forward-looking. I've read crap like this in the same old Internet chain letter postings which celebrate people who grew up in (insert favorite generation here).

I think we need to free ourself from BS like this and be able to call things like we see them. Let's not shackle ourselve to some rhetoric, but keep an open mind about the kind of world we want to build.

Why do people want to keep going back to the "good old days"? Does no one have any real vision for the future?

16 Dec 2002 | Cade Roux said...

Boy, is there a big problem with IE 6.0 rendering this page.

16 Dec 2002 | Don Schenck said...

I'd like to argue about Alisha's comment about the hectic lifestyle ... but I gotta run.

16 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"The most prominant behaviors I notice when I go home to the US are consumerism and hectic lifestyles."

That hit our family hard this year...realizing that. We're WAY too hectic and focused WAY too much on consumerism. It's tiring. So tiring.

Don...beautiful reponse ;o)

16 Dec 2002 | Cade Roux said...

Darrel, I see your point, but although my life may be more hectic than some other people (bought house, getting married, working, doing home renovations, visiting relatives, getting out XMas cards, creating wedding web site, , etc). I am far more engaged in things going on around me (politics, local events, etc.) than a lot of other people. (I don't watch TV, so maybe that's where I save all my time).

16 Dec 2002 | Chubby Pecker said...

After reading The Money and the Power by Denton and Morris, I can't help but feel that arguements should reflect reality.

SVN: Edited link to display properly

16 Dec 2002 | dsgfasdg said...

yeah, IE6 on win2k is really a mess.

16 Dec 2002 | ek said...

The weird thing about these IE problems is that they're not consistently reproducible across different machines. I see them on my XP box, but not on a Win2K box (both running IE 6.0).

Re: alisha's post, the question is; is the current German system sustainable? The signs point to no. With a steady rise in immigration and ongoing economic woes, all of Europe is in for an extremely difficult decade.

Perhaps one day in the not too distant future Turkey will be glad that it was denied entry into the EU. The entire system seems to be more about regulation than commerce or progress.

17 Dec 2002 | Nathan said...

This summer I saw a show on TLC called Restaurants from Hell, and it made me glad to be American. The show was about outrageous suffering and even mutilation(!) caused by restaurants primarily in the UK. The worst case was an elderly lady who sat on a toilet in a pub, and had her legs and buttocks HORRIBLY burned and scarred by Drano that had been left in the bowl and on the seat. Any guesses on her awarded damages? About 5000 pounds or dollars, I can’t remember, but ridiculously low compensation for what she suffered, AND she’s having trouble collecting. Other cases on the show made it clear that plaintiffs’ settlements tended to be much lower than what an American would settle for.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the U.S. isn’t too litigation crazy, or that McDonald’s can be sued for “making” people fat, but it is nice to know that if you get hurt because of someone else’s negligence, you have a recourse.

And the “letter from Italy” about socialized medicine is nonsense. The author claims that racism and McCarthyism(!?!) are the main factors that kept the US from going with socialized medicine. How anyone could take the rest of the piece seriously is beyond me.

There are many problems with “socializing” goods and services, too many to mention here, so I’ll just use my favorite: Health care is not a “right” as many proponents of state run health care claim. Rights are limitations on government, not mandates for government action or claims to other people’s property. Everyone has a right to health care, meaning they can buy and sell health care in the marketplace, it does not mean that I have the right to force someone else to provide me with health care. We have freedom of the press and freedom of religion, does that mean that someone else should furnish me with a church and a printing press?

17 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

"Re: alisha's post, the question is; is the current German system sustainable? The signs point to no. With a steady rise in immigration and ongoing economic woes, all of Europe is in for an extremely difficult decade."

Financially sustainable? Not really. Germany is bankrupt and the whole economy seems to be in quicksand right now. At least that´s what you hear. I think the two real problems were the absorbtion of the east and the Euro. The Euro is a good thing for the long run but there is some short-term suffering already happening. I don´t agree very much with the current healthcare/retirement system. It´s too easy for undeserving people to live off of and it only works if you have a balance of young and old. Since our population is aging, it´s falling apart.

The rest of Europe has much stricter immigration regulations than Germany´s. We let basicly everyone in. There´s a lot of anger about this because most who immigrate here are refugees and aren´t allowed to work, but they´re fully supported by the government. It costs us a lot of money. But Germany won´t turn them away either - it has to do with a debt to society (although my belief is that they want people to settle here and have kids to keep the current system in tact). I personally enjoy seeing the refugees here. They´re very colorful and different and add spice to the otheriwse homogonous environment.

I think Europe as whole will do better, but Germany doesn´t look like it will solve it´s problems anytime soon.

17 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

"And the “letter from Italy” about socialized medicine is nonsense."

I think it´s extreme in it´s views but if you look at it from the view of an Italian, it´s not. Germans and Italians (and most other Europeans countries as well) both view healthcare, education and government support as a birthright. They can´t believe that America lets it´s poorer classes suffer. I hear this probably more than anything else. People get really fired up about it. But Germany is anyway in the middle of becoming more and more capitalistic and less socialistic. I´ve seen drastic changes since I´ve been here, that are frankly to my liking.

17 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

Jim Rogers has some interesting views.
Rogers, who could retire at the age of 37, is one of the worlds biggest investers. Time Magazine called him the "Indiana Jones of investing". He got very rich by prediciting the future.

"You know right now the US is the world’s largest debtor nation, for instance, many times. First you can not be the world’s largest debtor nation without being nice to the world, because you get your money, you know, the rest of the world is financing all of this debt, so if you start to get really nasty to them, somebody is going to say, "well I don’t want to lend you any money no more, I don’t want to invest in you no more". No country that has ever been in this position, has worked its way out without a crisis, without a serious crisis first."

"I am not sold out in the US by any stretch; I do move more and more of my dollars out of the US, you know gradually over time, because I see better opportunities elsewhere, that is not a negative statement, if in 1902 if you were English and you would move more and more of your money out of England, you weren't making a very smart move. England was the richest, most powerful country in 1902, but there were much better business opportunities elsewhere, the United States for instance, a lot of places."

"The West has a horrible demographic problem, we are not having any babies. I mean Europe doesn’t have any babies, just look at the demographics, the pension plans in Europe are actuary, they are all bankrupt right now, the politicians don’t admit it, aren't dealing with it because they hope they are going to be gone by that time. But look at the US: we have a terrible actuarial problem right now. The rest of the world is having al lot of babies, they are not going to have pension problems, debt problems, labour problems…They are not going to have problems of enough people buying the stuff."

"You should be standing on the strates of Gibraltar, you have the navy, the Spanish navy mainly down there shooting these people and saying, "get away, get away, get away". You should be standing there saying "come on, come on we need you". Anybody who would swim across the strates of Gibraltar, if you don’t want them in Europe they can come work for me! I guarantee you anybody who is thát ambitious and thát brave and thát enterprising can come and work for me any day of the year. You should be doing your best to get these people: first of all you need them, but second you should get them there anyway because they are really good people."

"If there were six of me I would move to China right now because China is going to be the country of the 21st century. The 19th century was the century of the UK, the 20th century was the century of the US, the 21st century is going to be the century of China, you should make sure your children and grandchildren learn Chinese, if you are not going to move to China, at least make sure they learn Chinese because that will be the most important language in their lifetime."

17 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

"Health care is not a “right” as many proponents of state run health care claim. Rights are limitations on government, not mandates for government action or claims to other people’s property. Everyone has a right to health care, meaning they can buy and sell health care in the marketplace, it does not mean that I have the right to force someone else to provide me with health care."

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 25.1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

If so many people don't have any health insurance they choose to? Or they haven't decided yet which one they should choose? Or could it be they can't afford it?

17 Dec 2002 | Mr. Nosuch said...

I am wee bit tired of the premise that "These kids today are getting dumber and dumber and American culture is going in the toilet."

The people who say this comment seem to be oblivious that every generation has said that about the younger generation. It's not insightful, it's curmudgeonly. Which pretty much sums up his entire whiny article.

17 Dec 2002 | alan said...

Don't know if you know this, but if you are sick or injured, you will get treated here in the US. It's not like a hospital will turn off it's lights and lock the doors if they see you coming. I guess the difference is you are asked to pay for it - in some fashion - where in Germany or Italy I suppose you don't.

Take my friend for instance, broken back - no insurance. He owes the hospital 50 grand, but he has a very long time, low interest loan to pay for it. The flipside is that at the time of the accident he could of have had basic health coverage for a little less than $100 a month and they would have covered 70% of the cost.

If our health care system is ever socialized, how will malpractice fit in? Will you be suing the doctor or suing the government? With the state our healthcare system is in now, I can't possibly imagine the government taking control of it. If the insurance adjustors are so tight with money. I can't imagine what a state or fed level employee would be like.

Is healthcare in the US cheaper in it's current system vs a socialized system? Is a appendectomy the same price, more expensive, less expensive?

17 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

"Is healthcare in the US cheaper in it's current system vs a socialized system?"

I don't know, but if no one has to make a profit....

17 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"I’ll just use my favorite: Health care is not a “right” as many proponents of state run health care claim."

Well, who are you to say if it is or isn't? Rights are merely things that a group of people decide upon. BTW, socialized health care does NOT mean you can't still go and get your own healthcare. People always see it as an either/or thing.

I do worry when people say that not everyone should be given healthcare if they need it, but I can't force that line of thinking upon you. The letter from Italy simply points out that a lot of the world DOES think that health care is a basic human right.


"But Germany is anyway in the middle of becoming more and more capitalistic and less socialistic. "

Alisha: Do you think that is due to normal forces within, or is it in reaction to how the US is doing things?

"but if you are sick or injured, you will get treated here in the US."

And also quite possibly end up in perpetual debt.

"If our health care system is ever socialized, how will malpractice fit in? Will you be suing the doctor or suing the government?"

Very good questions, but I do think they are problems that are surmountable. We sue police for 'malpractice' don't we? We put politicians in jail. (though probably not enough... ;o)

"With the state our healthcare system is in now, I can't possibly imagine the government taking control of it."

The letter from italy basically says the same thing. Our current system isn't working all that well and if we want to change it, we need to gut it and start over.

"Is healthcare in the US cheaper in it's current system vs a socialized system? "

I obviously have no idea, but there are things that would be cheaper. Medications, for instance, are the most expensive in the US. When a government purchases it, there is no bargaining. Here's what we'll pay, take it or leave it. In the US, the pharmaceutical companies can 'work the system' and manipulate supply and demand through various buying entities.

As I've said, though, I don't think we want to REPLACE our system with socialized care, I think we want to SUPPLEMENT our system with socialized care. The private sector can still compete, but everyone should have access to the public care system if they so choose.

17 Dec 2002 | JF said...

When a government purchases it, there is no bargaining. Here's what we'll pay, take it or leave it.

Oh, that's going to lead to efficiency and innovation.

17 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"Oh, that's going to lead to efficiency and innovation."

What will? And are you saying our current system is efficient?

17 Dec 2002 | ~bc said...

Not everything in BS's manifesto was as offensive as I thought it would be. I disagree with "kids getting dumber," certainly, and I agree it's the same line of crap every "great generation" says about the one that'll be paying it's social security. Same as "god, kids' music sucks, we're all going to hell." Yet just as much crap existed in their time, and there still exists good music.

I disagree that a form of socialized medicine would lead to the downfall of civilization. Crap. God forbid we save a poor kid from a lifetime of poor health which would distract him from later going to state college and learning to cure the illness for good. Poor people can be a great resource for the next generation of brillance, too. In my opinion insurance for profit is next to sharecropping and feudalism in the Godliness factor. It's a yoke placed upon the necks of the working by those born to luckier loins. Insurance and health care simply shouldn't be for profit.

I disagree with that guy saying "we should have more babies" "the chinese will rule." Man, I guess overpopulation is lost on this guy. Yeah your extra $4.50/month from social security is really going to help you live when the world's human population has outgrown its means. Famine, disease, environmental diasters, yeah, let's have more kids because the Chinese (most who live in squalor, and think it's fine to eat fish from polluted rivers, most don't get over a 6th grade education [and those are the teachers!]) will soon be the greatest! Sorry, man, your winning prediction streak is over.

You want to innovate? Educate! Solutions: Free state and community colleges (retaining the arts, creativitiy built America!), social medicine (you may suppliment either with private means if you wish, much as education is often).

Social programs do not make you a pinko-commie-bastard! [whine]But they're expensive![/whine] Pay a little now, or a lot later. God forbid you think of someone other than yourself! Get over it!

17 Dec 2002 | JF said...

What will? And are you saying our current system is efficient?

What will? Accountability will. Problem is that gov't is rarely accountable for anything.

The current system may be efficient, but that doesn't mean it's affordable or accessible. The quality of our health care system is the envy of the world (where do people really go when the need the best treatment?), but it's certainly out of reach for a lot of folks in need. It's a mess, no doubt, but I don't think swinging to socalized medicine is going to cure all that ails us. And I don't want to see quality sacraficed in the name of accomodation. What a complex issue.

17 Dec 2002 | JF said...

Insurance and health care simply shouldn't be for profit.

Then what is the incentive to insure? Who wants to take on that massive risk for no reward?

17 Dec 2002 | orson said...

Wasn't the governement paying something like $3000 for toilet seats and hammers about 10 years ago?

17 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

By the way, for the car nuts, did you check out Jim Rogers' (the investor I quoted earlier on) custom Mercedes in which he traveled around the world?
http://www.jimrogers.com/thrill/index.html

17 Dec 2002 | Darre said...

JF:

I agree with most of what you said. I don't agree that bringing in some socialized care is going to mean we loose places like the Mayo Clinic. Can't they coexist? (I'm asking, as I honestly don't know...)

"Then what is the incentive to insure? Who wants to take on that massive risk for no reward?"

Well, if you want socialized health care, then you don't need the health insurance. If you want to go to the mayo clinic, then you pay your insurance to whichever for-profit insurance agent you want to.

17 Dec 2002 | Steve said...

It is possible to have a socialized payment system and still have high-quality health care. Wish I had some cites available, but I read a few things a couple years back about how France's system maintained universal insurance, higher quality care than the US, especially for basic, core care (but maybe not some of the more esoteric treatments), and wasn't running into the massive money and service issues that the UK has suffered.

By the way, there's a lot of misconception in the US about how European-style health care is run. For example, in Germany, the government pays for very little. There is compulsary private insurance, and you can choose your insurance company. There's also a pool created for those who cannot afford this, creating universality. If I remember right, France's system runs in a similar fashion.

By the way, I'm viewing this with IE 6.0 on Win 2000 with no problems at all.

18 Dec 2002 | Mart said...

What about personal responsibilty versus rights? I believe in P.J. O'Rourke's position: Human rights are bogus. You have only one right: to do as you please. But it comes with one responsibilty: to take the consequences. If you're born you really only have the right to *expect* that your parents take care of you. NOT the government. What the hell did government and society do to give you the right to expect any more? You grow up and you learn that it's not somebody else's responsibilty to do anything at all for you. Societal and learnt personal pressure should teach you that you cannot abdicate responsibilty for your own health. Education is a different matter entirely because it is in the government and everybody else's interest that we don't cultivate ignorance. It's in our interest right now, this very minute, to support as much education as possible. But health care should be left to the free market. On a basic personal level you go to one doctor because she or he is better than the next, based on performance. I sure hope the surgeon working on my 3rd degree burns is an ambitious, capitalist sonofabitch building his or her reputation rather than a health care bureaucrat who can't get fired or sued for malpractice or just plain sub-par performance.

18 Dec 2002 | Don Schenck said...

Buy and read "Your Money Or Your Life". Excellent.

As you age (speaking as the resident "old guy" at age 43), you start to simplify, simplify, simplify. I even do small stuff, like, for example, using only on fragrance (Polo Sport) instead of many. It all adds up.

18 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

"For example, in Germany, the government pays for very little."

They pay nothing for health insurance. Your employer pays half (or in some cases all) and you pay half. But yes, there are the rare cases, like mine, where the government pays half and you pay half because you´re defined as an "artist/designer" and thus are eligible for a special public insurance called the Kuenstler Sozial Kasse. but it´s very rare.

Thanks for the fragrance tips Don. :-)

18 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

Mart:

Many people belive that universal health care is in everyone's best interest just as much as universal education is.

The argument I keep hearing (from yourself, included) is that universal health care eliminates choice. This isn't an either or situation. You can have both.

Besides, I don't seem to have much choice as it is now. I can pick from a handful of clinics, but only clinics covered under my particular health plan. If we all had one universal health plan, well, then I could actually have MORE choice.

"I sure hope the surgeon working on my 3rd degree burns is an ambitious, capitalist sonofabitch building his or her reputation rather"

Again, you're oversimplifying things into black and white. Capitalism can encourage people to be better doctors, and it can encourage just as many to be more lazy. If anything, socialized health care requires that YOU become more ambitious to take care of yourself. I have relatives in Canada that have died prematurely because they were simply too lazy to go into the doctor on a regular basis. Just because you have free health care doesn't mean they can fix problems that you don't pre-empt yourself.

18 Dec 2002 | ek said...

Darrel, I think that socializing health care here might result in consequences that you would find very troubling.

For one, on this idea that there would still be choice. Under a universal health care system, yes, I'm sure that a handful of private health services providers would remain, but they would be exorbitantly expensive and probably specialize in treating only very specific ailments/diseases.

So while you might be able to make the argument that choice still exists, it would be limited to the ultra rich. Without volume the remaining providers would have to increase their margins, meaning that the cost of going to one of these private providers would be extremely high. I'm not sure that this kind of choice is really of benefit to society as a whole.

As for your relatives in Canada dying prematurely because they didn't go to see doctors on a regular basis, perhaps it's because Canada's socialized health care system makes seeing a doctor a huge chore? Here in the States going to see a doctor in a city is already somewhat of a hassle, imagine if you had to make an appointment for a basic checkup six to eight months in advance. How many more people would then say "screw this" and just not bother going?

Socialized health care might give people more choices in a theoretical sense, but they'd really be false choices. There would be one level of service available to the vast majority of the population and, if other federalized programs in the U.S. are any indication, it would be quite low.

I don't think that the current system is great, but I do think that socializing health care would be worse.

19 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

"I sure hope the surgeon working on my 3rd degree burns is an ambitious, capitalist sonofabitch building his or her reputation rather than a health care bureaucrat who can't get fired or sued for malpractice or just plain sub-par performance."

I'd rather have a surgeon who loves his job and is good at it because she/he loves the beauty of saving/improving people's lives.

I don't want to oversimplify things into black and white. Every solution has it's problems. But not everyone is motivated by money alone. I've seen a documentary about Cuban doctors who left their well paying jobs in the US and returned to Cuba to work on some groundbreaking cancer research for $6 a day.

A lot of researchers aren't paid that well but love their work.

If your looking for a new job do you automatically pick the highest paying one or are there other factors like the kind of work you'll be doing, the working atmosphere?

19 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

I didn't know what Ad Hominem means. A search on Google gave me this great resource:
fallacies

Great for pointing out your own and others errors in reasoning.

19 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"For one, on this idea that there would still be choice. Under a universal health care system, yes, I'm sure that a handful of private health services providers would remain, but they would be exorbitantly expensive and probably specialize in treating only very specific ailments/diseases."

For many, many people...all health care is exorbitantly expensive. My wife and I make a decent living, both with very nice benefits, yet we're both paying about 8k per year in out-of-pocket expenses. I find it REALLY hard to see how anyone with lesser means can warrant freely going to the clinic when they or their child are sick.

"I'm not sure that this kind of choice is really of benefit to society as a whole."

Well, it benefits those that have trouble affording health care now, and it doesn't benefit those with the money.

"As for your relatives in Canada dying prematurely because they didn't go to see doctors on a regular basis, perhaps it's because Canada's socialized health care system makes seeing a doctor a huge chore?"

Not in their case. They lived in the middle of Manitoba. There was a hospital/clinic in the local town of 1,100 people. You won't find hospitals in towns of that size in the US (they aren't 'profitable'). When my grandmother needed cataract surgery, she called up, got on the list, and then went in when her name was called. She DIDN'T get to have them done immediately, but she got them done for free...she had no worries.

Now, I don't argue that it can be a bit more difficult to get an appointment in Canada than it is for a fully covered citizen here. But it's rather difficult for someone without affordable health care here as well...if not impossible.

"I don't think that the current system is great, but I do think that socializing health care would be worse."

Is our system worse than Canada's? Germany's? France's? The UK's? Italy's? We're the richest country in the world, right? How do poorer countries manage to provide health care for their entire population while we can't? Is the rest of the world simply in poorer health? (Studies would show, no, they aren't)

Right now, our system is pretty much socialized as it is into smaller ecosystems. In our metro area, we can pick from about 4 different HMOs. Typically, your company decides which one you use.

The only difference is that our system has this huge for-profit middleman called the insurance company. Not only do they take a nice percentage of the top of profits, they also add a huge burden to all involved in terms of incomprehensible paperwork.

My favorite example of this is from the Tufte presentations. He had explained how current 'charts' are designed in hospitals and what they are for. They are not, contrary to popular belief, for the benefit of us, they are so that the hospital has a VERY accurate receipt of ALL costs so that they can properly bill the Insurance company.

19 Dec 2002 | Mart said...

What? So people who go out and live in Manitoba should be subsidized because those capitalist bastard corporations decline to build a loss-making hospital in the middle of nowhere?
And what about alisha's remark about that tax on employers in Germany who have to pay half of your health insurance. That's insane! Who in their right mind would bother setting up in business with such ruinous taxes? What did the bastard capitalist employer do to deserve such a yoke around their neck?
Sure, it's not black and white, but the socialist apologizers only seem to see a grey fog everywhere they look

19 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"So people who go out and live in Manitoba should be subsidized because those capitalist bastard corporations decline to build a loss-making hospital in the middle of nowhere?"

Uhh...not sure what you're getting at there. Canada simply provides health care for all and if there are people living in the sparsly populate breadbasket producing food for the country, I guess they feel a need to take care of them.

"And what about alisha's remark about that tax on employers in Germany who have to pay half of your health insurance. That's insane!"

Why is that insane? My employer (actually, the government) pays half of my care as it is now. Except they have to pay a lot more since it has to go through the insurance company/HMO first before making it to the provider. The only difference here is that companies can choose NOT to take care of their employees. We wouldn't want to take away that choice, now would we?

"What did the bastard capitalist employer do to deserve such a yoke around their neck?"

Taking care of one's employees is a 'yoke around their neck?'

And we bitch about child labor and sweat shops. Sheesh.

"Sure, it's not black and white, but the socialist apologizers only seem to see a grey fog everywhere they look "

What are you talking about? What *is* your main gripe about socialist health care? Is it a cost issue?

19 Dec 2002 | Mart said...

So - Manitoba is a bread basket of Canada. Then why should these food-producing "fat cats" get subsidized health care from the rest of the country? My point being that if you enjoy the freedom to *choose* to live out in the middle of nowhere then surely that shouldn't affect my *choice* about what to do with my hard-earned money. I simply prefer a system that allows me to choose not to subsidize other people and their choices. I'll find my own healthcare, thanks, and you can too, but don't take my money away while you're doing it. The fact that the US system is far from perfect doesn't mean that this wonderful blanket they live under up in Canada is better.

Taking care of one's employees is a 'yoke around their neck?' Actually it is. Aside from obeying safety and environmental laws and not employing children, I don't see why an employer should feel obliged to do anything else for their employees. Unless of course we lived in an economy that cultivated competition between businesses for recruiting employees and those companies could choose to provide extra incentives. Sure, it's nice to know that you could tap into a government system to provide a health care incentive - but that doesn't mean said government's system is preferable to any other alternative we might be able to choose.

My objection to socialist anything is that it's telling me what is best for me and making choices for me. Politicize this if you want - and you probably will - but to me it is simply a matter of wanting choice for myself (and for you, while we're about it). I want as few people as possible interfering with my choices about how to live. And that goes for corporate monopolies as much as for socialist governments.

(The anecdote about the Cuban doctors is just that - an anecdote. While health care systems around the world seems to be populated by a higher than average percentage of selfless, wonderful, kind souls than the legal profession, shall we say, this is not the prevailing factor in advancing medicine. Sorry - but money and self interest win out every time. My greed trumps your altruism. Look at nature.)

19 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"My objection to socialist anything is that it's telling me what is best for me and making choices for me."

But that's how society works. We can't all just go around making our own decisions without assessing the impact to society as a whole. It also doesn't force you what to do, it just says, hey, if you want to do it this way, we'll make it easy. If you want to do it another way, fine, but you'll be on your own.

We seem to decide that highways are the best way for everyone in the US to get around, so if you want to drive, we made it easy for you. If you want to take high speed train, well, you're on your own.

We also seem to decide that everyone should pitch in for the world's biggest military. We all seem to decide that saving some trees for parkland is a good idea. But once we start talking about 'maybe we should take care of people that need medical care' everyone get's all bent out of shape.

People keep bringing up this whole 'I want choice' for my medical care. Well, how many of us ACTUALLY have and make these health care choices? Are these REAL choices we'd be loosing, or are they perceived choices? I don't/can't make many choices in my health care. I get what my employeer gives me. I choose the clinic that I can get to. I'm sick? I go to the clinic and I get whatever doctor can see me. I'm not complaining about that, so maybe that's why I don't see it as a big deal with socialized care.

"I want as few people as possible interfering with my choices about how to live. And that goes for corporate monopolies as much as for socialist governments. "

Well, that seems to be an impossibility, doesn't it? ;o)

In *theory* the government is you. So it shouldn't be getting in the way of your decisions. As it is now, of course, the corporate monopolies have a bit more say in how the government runs than you do, though.

"Sorry - but money and self interest win out every time. "

Right. That's the problem. Money and self interest aren't usually in YOUR best interest. Look at the pharmaceutical companies. They're only advancing medicine they can sell to a mass market for mass profits, which is rarely the medicine you may need. With greed, you get the lowest common denominator. Let's say you have a chronic disease that affects 500 people in the country. Is greed going to develop a medicine for that, or for a disease that affects 500,000 people?

The thought that unbridaled capitalism = the best innovation isn't 100% true, just as socialism = the fairest system isn't 100% true. You need bits of both. Which, actually, is something we already have...just not in the realm of healthcare.

Again, this isn't an either-or thing. We keep arguing, the european way isn't great...our way isn't great...but at least I have 'choice'...so let's not change anything. That will get us nowhere.

20 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

As far as I know, Germany has had socialized(public) and private insurance/healthcare for the past 20 years. There seem to be no drawbacks or huge problems. Private is more expensive, but that´s most often because you make the whole payment, instead of half. I don´t see any of the problems EK is listing above. But this is coming from an American perspective. Germans feel differently I think.

And what about alisha's remark about that tax on employers in Germany who have to pay half of your health insurance. That's insane! Who in their right mind would bother setting up in business with such ruinous taxes? What did the bastard capitalist employer do to deserve such a yoke around their neck?

Now you know why Germany is wallowing in it´s own quicksand. Who the hell in thier right mind would want to set up shop here? The money you fork out for employees is just the start. You also have to give 6 weeks paid vacation, up to 3 years maternity leave and it´s almost impossible to fire undesireable employees. Americans work 25% more hours than Germans do.

"I want as few people as possible interfering with my choices about how to live."

I agree. But you´ll never have it completely your way. you have to learn about the system you´re in and work it to your advantage without breaking the law.

20 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

"Now you know why Germany is wallowing in it´s own quicksand. Who the hell in thier right mind would want to set up shop here? The money you fork out for employees is just the start. You also have to give 6 weeks paid vacation, up to 3 years maternity leave and it´s almost impossible to fire undesireable employees."

The Netherlands is a lot like Germany except we have a better economy. Still the economist declared The Netherlands: Best for Business.
Despite relatively high wage costs, foreign investors are
favoring the Netherlands for their European investment projects because of the country's stable political and macroeconomic climate; a highly developed financial sector; the presence of a well educated, flexible and productive labor force, and the high quality of its physical infrastructure.

Still people who go out of business are looked down upon, where as in the US I believe people who've had are respected more because they tried even if they go out of business. And there is a lot of paper work for people who own a business, but the government is trying to change this.
We are also in need of highly educated people.


And yes, we've had problems with waiting list (people having to wait weeks to get surgery) but reorganizing and cutting down on the paper work is helping to solve this problem.

Check out these figures:


Percent of U.S. individual worker productivity (U.S. = 100%)
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990
United States 100% 100 100 100 100
Canada 77.1 80.1 84.2 92.8 95.5
Germany 32.4 49.1 61.8 77.4 81.1
US productivity is the highest but other countries are catching up.

Where We Stand publishes an index of economic prosperity that takes into account all the following factors: productivity, salaries, equitable wealth distribution, luxury-goods consumption, trading strength, poverty, personal and national indebtedness, inflation control, business strength and credit-worthiness. And the best-off nations are:

Germany 1382
Japan 1363
Switzerland 1332
Canada 1216
United States 1178
Netherlands 1087
Sweden 1079
Norway 1061
United Kingdom 1049
Denmark 920
Finland 910

Health Care Expenditures (percent of GDP)
United States 13.4%
Canada 10.0
Germany 8.4
Netherlands 8.4

Percent of population covered by public health care:
ALL NATIONS (except below) 100%
France, Austria 99
Switzerland, Spain, Belgium 98
Germany 92
Netherlands 77
United States 40

Life Expectancy (years) Men Women
Japan 76.2 82.5
Netherlands 73.7 80.5
Canada 73.4 80.3
Germany 72.6 79.2
United States 71.6 78.6

Infant Mortality Rate (per 1,000 live births):
United States 10.4
United Kingdom 9.4
Germany 8.5
Canada 7.9
Norway 7.9
Netherlands 7.8
Japan 5.0

Percent of people who believe their health care system needs fundamental change:

United States 60%
Sweden 58
Netherlands 46
Canada 38

Sex education is more prevalent in Europe than America, where conservatives oppose it on the grounds that it condones sexual behavior. The statistics show the unintended consequences of this policy:
Teen pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers:
United States 98.0
Canada 38.6
Netherlands 12.1
Japan 10.5

Annual reports of police brutality (per 100,000 people)
United States 92.5
United Kingdom 6.0
France 0.7

Voter participation:
Germany 87%
Netherlands 80
Canada 75
United States 49

The United Nations Human Freedom Index (0 = least freedom, 40 = most freedom.:

Sweden 38
Denmark 38
Netherlands 37
Austria 36
Finland 36
France 35
Germany 35
Canada 34
Switzerland 34
Australia 33
United States 33
Japan 32
United Kingdom 32

20 Dec 2002 | p8 said...

"And what about alisha's remark about that tax on employers in Germany who have to pay half of your health insurance. That's insane!"

It's an indirect part of their salary.
If employers don't pay it, people would like to have higher salaries to pay their health insurance themselves.

20 Dec 2002 | ratm said...

"The United Nations Human Freedom Index (0 = least freedom, 40 = most freedom.:

Sweden 38
Denmark 38
Netherlands 37
Austria 36
Finland 36
France 35
Germany 35
Canada 34
Switzerland 34
Australia 33
United States 33
Japan 32
United Kingdom 32"

USA. ... The land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy?

20 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

"Americans work 25% more hours than Germans do."

This is a lie. We're *at* work 25% more hours, but not necessairly being 25% more productive. ;o)

I do applaud the Germans and a lot of Europe for having such nice vacation plans and a TRULY meaningful maternity/paternity policy. Yea, it may be more expensive up front, but I have a feeling that in the long run, those types of policies save society money and invigorate the local economies more so than if they didn't exist.

20 Dec 2002 | ek said...

Have you not been paying attention to Germany's economic situation? They're in the shitter and it's not going to get better any time soon. And what's the unemployment rate in France these days? About double that of the U.S., no?

And something that a lot of those figures fail to take into account is the heterogeneous nature of the U.S. vs. the homogeneity of a majority of Europe and Asia. As immigrants continue to stream into Europe you can be certain that figures like infant mortality, teen pregnancies, police brutality go up, while the human freedom index goes down.

20 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

What do the immigrants have to do with infant mortality, teen pregnancies and police brutality? I know you didn't mean it as that, EK, but the statement COULD be construed as quite racist. Are you saying just mixing different people together can cause those problems at a higher rate than if it was just one ethnic group?

20 Dec 2002 | ek said...

Yes.

20 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

But I'm confused. How does a diverse population contribute to infant mortality. Or increased teen pregnancies?

21 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

EK is right - crime has gone up since more and more Turkish/Yugoslavian immigrants have come in. The problem is complex - it´s not just one or two factors. It´s not about diverse population Darrel. They´re taking people with completely different backgrounds, religions, languages and mentalities and throwing them in one pot together. It´s clear that there will be problems. But there are many things that will never be comparable to America - the mentality is too different over here for that to happen.

I agree with education for all, and generous maternity policies and even paid time off up to a certain point. But there should be a limit to unemployment help, retirement age and a widening of employer hiring/firing power.

21 Dec 2002 | ek said...

As always, alisha is the voice of reason!

21 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

I don't disagree with anything alisha said.

I'm still not seeing a correlation between immigrants and increased infant mortality and teen pregnancies, though.

21 Dec 2002 | ek said...

Whatever. Just check these same numbers five years from now, then you'll see the correlation.

22 Dec 2002 | alisha said...

"As always, alisha is the voice of reason!"

why thank you. I´m glad I have you fooled into thinking I´m so smart. ;-)

Last night we had 4 people for dinner: a former Yugoslavian and his wife - a german school teacher, her sister - a german copywriter and her husband, an american air force pilot trainer. You can imagine how colorful the conversations were - and political. all very good people - but all have completely opposing views. What hit me most was the school teacher telling us about some of the muslim children in her classes who had immigrated from other countries (2 from Yugoslavia). I had mentioned that moderate muslims in America are very often pushed around by a minority of muslim extremists. The american didn´t believe me and said, "No way - not in the U.S." Then the school teacher proceded to tell us about the "family traditions" that some of these muslim school kids had to deal with - right here in the middle of Germany! Forced marriges at age 16, whippings and beatings from the father, sister being slave to all her brothers, sister not allowed to go anywhere by herself after getting her period - not even to school, brother beating other schoolkids for looking at sisiter who had now "come of age"...the list went on and on. And we´re talking about a small catholic school in a rural area. It doesn´t matter where these kids live: they are being raised to learn that the father is king, your life is not your own, but the familys´, the family comes first - no matter what, boys are better than girls, women are possessions of males, beatings are ok, etc. The small bit of freedom that they enjoy in thier western (german) school is quickly crushed as soon as they come home everyday. and since most of them have limited visas, the family after a few years, is shipped back home. Now don´t tell me that these kids will grow up normal or that being in a western society will shelter them. And don´t tell me that it´s not happening when it´s right under our noses.

The american had served over in Saudi Arabia and said he had no respect for the people in the middle east and would have no problem bombing the whole area to rid the world of this scum. I asked him if the women and children should also be disposed of. He said "well, no, just the men."

Sorry to get so political, but it was so eye-opening.

23 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

Whatever. Just check these same numbers five years from now, then you'll see the correlation."

EK, if you want to stay in the debate, by all means, please do. But it gets quite tiring (and pointless) to you have you jump in with 'I am right because I say so' without ever backing it up with any sort of decipherable logic. If it's your opinion, fine.

25 Dec 2002 | ek said...

Don't get yourself tied up in knots Darrel. There's nothing to discuss or debate here, just look at the numbers.

30 Dec 2002 | Darrel said...

EK:

Numbers don't say anything. You can't say that increased ethnic diversity has a direct correlation with increased teen pregnancy. It *may* have a direct corrleation, but you can't use the numbers as the logic.

Could it have an indirect correlation? Certainly. But you haven't offered up any plausible scenarios to make your POV any more believable.

So, when you say something like 'immigrants cause increased teen pregnancy' without offering any debatable points, you come across as rather crude. That's all.

And there's nothing wrong with that, it's just impossible to debate a topic with you.

31 Dec 2002 | ek said...

Man, this is laughable. You're the one saying that numbers can't be used in support of a position and you say that I'm the one that's impossible to debate a topic with? Perhaps I come across as crude, but I think that any person of reason would have to say that you come across as delusional.

Whether the correlation is direct or indirect is irrelevant. I don't presume to know in absolute terms why increases in immigration tend to lead to increases in infant mortality, teen pregnancy, etc., etc., etc. (though I would guess that it has something to do with lower education levels, that they tend to come from more agrarian societies, etc.), but what seems clear is that as one goes up, so too does the other.

This has nothing to do with opinion -- it's there in black and white. You might not think that that's a good thing, but to simply deny that it's the case because of your personal world view is quite delusional.

Get thee to an analyst!

01 Jan 2003 | Eric said...

Darrel is saying you can't determine from the numbers that there is in fact any *causal* correllation.

You are saying that an increase in ethnic diversity leads to increased teenage pregnancies, basing your argument on the numbers alone. That's like arguing that storks bring babies, based on statistics that show an equivalent increase in stork migrations.

Much earlier someone pointed to a page on logical fallacies. The one in play here is post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Another fallacy to avoid is Confusing Cause and Effect.

01 Jan 2003 | p8 said...

Good to read someone found that link I posted useful!
:)

02 Jan 2003 | ek said...

Isn't that the same logic that GW is using to say that there's no proof yet that humans are the cause of global climate change? Why is it that the same people who don't need irrefutable proof on one topic need it on another? Are you too stupid or just too lazy to put two and two together?

Go ahead and keep asking for more studies, but realize that that does nothing to address the actual problem.

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