Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Factors and Common Denominators

Ah yes! High School! Those were the days! I remember! Hanging out at the pool hall. Cherry cokes. Girls. Well, not many girls, really. Wrestling practice. And mathematics! Sweet, sweet mathematics. Things like proofs, matrix algebra, factors, and everybody's favorite: the lowest common denominator. Quiz: what do the following terms have in common: "Factor", and "lowest common denominator"? Mr. O'ReillyAnswer: both can be found on the Fox News network. The O'Reilly Factor is a show, and the lowest common denominator is the intellectual aim of the show. The guy speaks to the dumbest people in the audience. And when you consider that the Fox news network probably is shown in the Oval Office, that lowest common denominator is pretty darn low indeed. A while ago, I can't remember when, Mr. O'Reilly had a show in which he interviewed two people about the prospect of a national health insurance program. I actually learned something. I learned why certain people really hate the idea. Mr. O'Reilly had two guests. One was a physician with the NGO, PNHP: Physicians for a National Health Program. One was a dork from some "conservative think tank." While I was looking for the transcript, though, I encountered some interesting links. A site called News Hounds has an informal transcript of the interview. The transcript on News Hounds is OK, but you had to actually see the interview to see how rabid O'Reilly and the think tank dork were. There's a semi-anonymous legal blog (written by Russell K. -- his name is on his RSS feed), Legal Memo-Random. Russ has a post about an O'Reilly interview with our Dear Leader, pertaining to Bush's views on national health care. He states:
How out of touch is this guy? Look, I support the idea of medical savings accounts, BUT: Hey, W: If people can't afford to pay for health insurance, what makes you think that they can afford to put the necessary sums into a savings account? Plus, savings accounts don't really provide protection for catastrophic events. My heart attack in December cost $50,000 [...]
He has more to say, but you get the point. It turns out that other bloggers support the idea of health savings accounts. For example, Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has some thoughtful comments about the advantages of HSA's, although in his analysis, they would not have much impact on the actual cost of health care. Mark Steckbech at Liberal Order has some additional commentary. Anyway, back to the point. I don't think anyone is really against HSA's. But some people are very much against a national health program, and O'Reilly sums up why:
O’REILLY: “Here’s my problem with the government’s paying for all of our health. Some people smoke. Some people overeat. Some people take narcotics. Some people don’t take care of themselves. Do you think that I, as a taxpayer, have a moral obligation, when their health collapses, to pay for them?”
Like I said, you had to see the video. He was practically foaming at the mouth. If you look a the argument that is implied by his question, you might see some problems. Guess what? If you have insurance -- of any kind -- you already are paying for other people's irresponsible behavior. How much less would auto insurance be if everyone followed the speed limit, used their turn signals, refrained from tailgating, etc.? How much less would homeowner's insurance cost, if no one built homes near the ocean, in floodplains, in areas prone to brush fires, etc.? How much less would life insurance cost, if people would just stop shooting each other? Of course, you don't have to buy life insurance, but if you want to own a home, and get a mortgage, you have to insure the house. In most places, if you want to drive a car, you have to have insurance. Even if you somehow manage to to engineer your life so that you don't have any kind of insurance, other people's irresponsible behavior is going to cost you a bundle. People skip work, lowering the GNP. People get drunk at work, and are not productive. Factory workers make cars that don't last as long as they should. Come to think of it, all cooperative endeavors, indeed, any kind of society, will have some people who are slackers. If you object to doing something that benefits someone else, when that someone else isn't doing his fair share, then you object to taking part in society. Period. Will some people take unfair advantage if there is a national health care system. Absolutely. Will some people take advantage of a socialist society? Absolutely. Will some people take advantage of a free-market society? Absolutely. Will some people take advantage of insider trading, stock options, beauty pageants, baby showers, and ping-pong tournaments? Absolutely. Speaking of moral obligations to pay taxes, are people obligated to pay taxes that fund abortions? Nuclear weapons? Unjustified wars? Genetically modified foods? Internet subsidies for million-dollar subdivisions? $600 toilet seats? Farm subsidies for tobacco growers? Anytime the government has a program that hands out something of value, people will stand in line to get it. If the people in line are poor, we call them "beggars;" if they are rich, we call them "entrepreneurs." If you don't want them to get a handout, be they beggars or entrepreneurs, you'll just have to drop out of society altogether.

Update: I forgot to link to Legal Memo-Random.

(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
E-mail a link that points to this post:
Comments (1)