Assumptions and End Logic
This Rand Paul quote won the Malkin Award at Sullivan’s blog:
With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses. … You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.
This did not make sense to me the first time I read it; it sounded like a completely absurd non-sequitur, that having compulsory health care enslaves everyone in the health care industry. No doctor would ever be forced to do anything at gunpoint or by any other means of coercion, much less for no pay as the charge of ‘slavery’ would imply.
He did make this rationalization:
Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.
The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t work that way. I have a right to legal representation, but that doesn’t make a slave of the public defender. Such public services are paid for by the government, and no one in the service industry is forced to participate, nor is forbidden from making their own private practice.
So one has to wonder, is Paul deranged? How did he make the leap to slavery? I didn’t see it at the time.
However, reading it now, I see a code statement there which completes the “logic” circuit of the statement (if “logic” is a word that can be used here):
You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you?
Out of context, that just sounds like a statement which supports the wild claim of enslavement, but it actually opens a window on the basis of the entire view (with the word “ultimately” in the next sentence modifying the sentiment).
This is something I did not realize before because I had not heard a core belief of Libertarian anti-taxation reasoning.
The reasoning is this: taxes are mandatory, which means that if you steadfastly refuse to pay them, the government will, ultimately, send people with guns to your door to force you to pay. Therefore, taxation equals theft at gunpoint. This reasoning is especially applied to compassionate acts, government activities to benefit the downtrodden. This is bad, as the use of tax money to do good acts is essentially use armed robbery to accomplish charity, and that is wrong. You can’t force people to do good things.
For some Libertarians, especially those of the Randian stripe, this is a fundamental concept which is thoroughly ingrained in their thinking.
In light of that reasoning, re-read the Rand Paul statement above, and suddenly his thought process becomes apparent. He wasn’t thinking through a real-life scenario where the issuance of the Affordable Care Act would literally lead to him being dragooned into medical thralldom.
Instead, he was taking the Libertarian maxim that taxation (especially for government acts of compassion) equals armed robbery, and applying it to the context of health care reform. Since taxation means that eventually the government forces you to pay at gunpoint, he reasoned that the equivalent is that compulsory health care eventually means that doctors will be forced to treat at gunpoint. From there, he got to the idea of health care workers being enslaved. Confusing the point is his statement that it was not an abstraction–but that’s exactly what it was. It just wasn’t an abstraction for Rand Paul, because the idea of taxation being armed robbery is so solidly hard-wired into his world-view that he takes it completely literally, and thinks it is a concrete step in a chain of reasoning.
Without the Libertarian concept in mind, one gets lost along the way. Paul could see the sense in it, as could many who have the same core philosophy. Without that knowledge, however, his claim sounds not just ludicrous, but wholly nonsensical.
This is the problem with any kind of interpersonal communication, really: many of us have basic assumptions which may differ greatly from those held by others. Since we form chains of reasoning which employ these assumptions, we come to conclusions which confuse other people because they lack that assumption.
For example, let’s say that I believe that computers put out radiation which causes all manner of health problems with just limited exposure. Let’s say that it is so core a belief that I either assume that everyone else knows it or can’t imagine anyone else not knowing it. Consequently, when you take out your laptop when you are around me, you will not understand why I get upset or accuse you of trying to kill me. I’ll sound like I’m insane.
In short, the key to understanding the madness on the conservative side of politics today is to know what particular brand of utter bullshit the people you hear talking take for granted. That will allow you to better understand their lines of thinking which lead them to believe that Obama runs death panels and other crap along those lines.
Alternatively, all too often there is no line of reasoning–they believe all manner of demented nonsense simply because they heard it somewhere and want to believe it. They’ll hear bullshit from sources like Fox News and simply assume that there is a line of reasoning which leads to the story they enjoy hearing.
That’s how, for example, they can believe Obama is a communist and a fascist at the same time–they heard one pundit say he’s a communist, and another say he’s a fascist. They trust both sources and simply accept whatever they say as truth. Since they did not go through the thought processes which lead to the conclusion, nor did they question either conclusion, they believe both at the same time and see no problem with it.