Assumptions and End Logic

December 31st, 2011

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.

  1. Tim Kane
    January 2nd, 2012 at 02:15 | #1

    Yes, in America, you have a right to an attorney, and always have, but you don’t have a right to health care.

    But I don’t think of it in those terms. What I’m interested in is the right to affordable health insurance. After all, I have an implied right to the access of potable water coming out of my faucet for minimal cost, and it’s not written into the constitution, except it is inherently practical and it separates us from the barbarians.

    In the same way I should have a right to affordable health insurance. That way I have the means, come an emergency, to pay a doctor in an amount that attracts him into my service without any form of coercion whatsoever. It’s all carrots, and no sticks, my Dear Mr. Paul.

    The purpose of insurance, and the myriad of systems that surround it, including medical education, is to insure the coercion, of the “Doctor Zhaivago” style that he envisions isn’t ever a consideration. What Paul evnisions is the destruction of civilization as we know it, and that’s the under text of all Randian ideologues.

  2. Tim Kane
    January 2nd, 2012 at 03:15 | #2

    In regard to the notion of Libertarian Republicans thinking all Democrats are either fascist, communist or both has to do with their ideological framing of all politics. Politically they are hardened ideologues, so they assume everyone else is too. Since they are libertarian ideologues, they assume, if you aren’t one of them, you must be an ideologue of another, opposing stripe, either Fascism or Communism, or both – which from their perspective is the exact same thing: One is the Corporations taking control of the state, the other is the reverse, but either way you have an extended governmental presence, run by an elite, with implication of authoritarianism.

    Casting politics in an ideological frame, is, however, inherently foreign, meaning, not just un-american, but un-Anglo-Saxonism.

    As I have stated many times, our system of civics, with the common law as its foundation, is based upon pragmatism, as articulated by Oliver Wendall Holmes. Judges make decisions, and they are free to select from the market place of ideas, the best answer to the question posed in a dispute. Over the centuries, because coercion is expensive, judges tended to render decisions that were self enforcing, this meant a BIAS towards justice and liberty, IN THAT ORDER of priority, but only a bias. If common sense said some other idea would work better, they were free to choose so. This flexibility became infused in all over the place in Anglo-Saxon ideology. As a result, the last 30 years notwithstanding, Anglo-Saxon societies are a patchwork quilt of ideologies, each applied only where they make sense, and ignored where they don’t. It’s a brilliant system.

    The problem of an ideological framing of politics, is that the ideologue intends to apply the ideology universally, even where it doesn’t make sense. This has lead me to the conclusion that all ideologies lead to nihilism.

    So where and how does this ideological framing of politics come from?

    The answer is, Civil Code systems. The world is dominated by Anglo-Saxon Common Law sytems and Civil Code systems. Common Law being in all former English colonies, which is about one third of the world, and Civil Code in the rest, including most islamic countries.

    Civil Code are systems based upon Napoleonic Code. Napoleonic code is an out come of the French Revolution. While Anglo-Saxon Judges were inherently progressive and liberal, Ancien French Judges were the opposite, and consistently got in the way of the French crowns attempts at reforming France, which lead to the Revolution. As a result, in creating the Civil Code system, the idea emerged that the system would have NO JUDGE MADE LAW. ALL LAW MUST BE CREATED IN LEGISLATURES.

    The net effect of this, was to turn politics into gigantic ideological struggles in Civil Code countries. Persons who were shaped in those countries often have an intrinsic framing of politics in ideological concerns. When the liberal international system that England had created began to slip into an extended crisis, beginning with the First World War, in the first half of the 20th century, one by one Civil Code countries, and ONLY CIVIL Code countries became dominated by ideological based dictatorship rule: Russia Communism, Italy Fascism, Germany Naziism, Spain Falangism, Japan Militarism, and so on (Scandinavian countries are Common Law-ish, France was paralyzed between left and right, Czesckoslovakia may have been the only functioning Civil Code Democracy in 1938) .

    Not so the Common Law system countries. They instead muddled through the crisis. Eventually, and characteristically for them, they patched together a solution to the crisis, that was, itself, characteristically a Mixed System – in America it became known as the new deal, but it was a mixed economic system. The old patchwork system applied to economics.

    Characteristically, ideological rule, except perhaps in Spain, lead to nihilism, regardless as to the ideology.

    In Churchill’s “The Grand Alliance”, one of the volumes on his Nobel Prize winning history of the Second World War, he points out that Hitler assumed greatly that the United States, both Capitalist countries, would cease being hostile to Germany (and though still neutral in 1940 and 1941, the U.S. was hostile to Germany, in every way short of out right war) upon Germany’s attack on Russian Bolshevism (The Nazi’s were radical anti-bolsheviks) which was part of the enticement for attacking Russia. The Shock to Hitler was the unholy aggressive alliance the U.K. made with Russia immediately after the attack.

    WWII was essentially a war between Civil Code Systems that had adopted rightist ideologies and an alliance of Common Law Countries plus the lone leftist Civil Code country. After the War, the war having made it’s mark, many civil code countries had adopted many of the agencies of Common Law countries, most notably, judicial review. Meanwhile, the US started moving the other direction.

    The far right in American politics has deep ties into ideologies born out of continental European countries. Leo Strauss, the god father of the Neocons, was a person who’s framing of politics took place in Germany before the war. Kicked out before the war, his framing wasn’t affected by its consequences. Ayn Rand was born in Russia. She witnessed the massive negative effects of Soviet ideological rule, but instead of going non-ideological, she reacted in articulating an opposing, equally rogue, ideology. The founder of the Koch family industries, the parent of the Koch brothers, was a petroleum Engineer, who unable to find suitable work in the United States went to work in Soviet Union during the depression. His political positions, hence, and the position of himself and his descendents are all a reaction to their witnessing ideological rule on the left, and then reacting to it by taking positions on the right.

    Likewise, it is no coincidence that Keynesianism is born from a person from a common law country and the reaction to it, Austrian economics, and so on, is from a common law country.

    Ideology is something we fall back upon when we get tired of thinking. There are too many questions, but we always have the one answer. The Nihilism begins when that one answer becomes and absurdity in certain context. The problem with Rand is she embraced the nihilism. In one of her books, The Fountainhead, the hero, an architect, first rapes one of the characters, gets away with it, then goes on to burn down a village he had a hand in planning, because the plan wasn’t followed to the last letter. Nihilism: “We had to destory the village in order to save it” – Rand embraces not only ideology, but also the nihilism that comes with it. This is the Paulites. This is what they would have running the country. At the end of WWII, Hitler advocated a scortched earth policy, saying the Germans, in failing to prevail against Russia, did not deserve to continue to exist. Nihilism.

    The anti-New Dealist alliance, in opposing the New Deal, also found themselves forced over into opposing pragmatism, which is, Anglo-Saxonism. It forced them into the ideological camp, and with it, framing device of politics. Despite the blatant mixed characteristics of the New Deal, they see all progressives as fascist/communist, because they are not liberatarianist. And characteristically of a civil code mind set, the anti-new dealist, became anti Judge made law, calling it judicial activism, the very essence of common law system being judicial activism, until recently when they were able to implant their own ideologues on the court, and they started implementing judicial activism in their favor (ie. the Facist Five on the Supreme Court).

    The proper reaction to the failure of an ideology is not to cook up a new ideology. It is Pragmatism. Pragmatism, with a bias towards favorable principles, like justice and freedom. The ascent of Anglo-Saxonism from a small corner of the world to international prominence is because of the ingenious system of pragmatism.

    The system is in crisis again and again, its only way out, is pragmatism.

  3. Roger
    January 7th, 2012 at 02:26 | #3

    Tim Kane, bravo. I love your analysis. …and I’m hoping you won’t mind if I repost it (with minor edits) – giving credit, of course. I noted a couple of apparent typos – like when you refer to Austria as common law rather than civil law. I’d actually started comparing Libertarians to Communists… (which totally inflames the Libertarian target, of course) – but the point is that both have “idealistic” notions of human nature, and perfect theoretical systems that have never successfully worked in real life. The fact that one is very anti-government/pro-private and the other very pro-government/anti-private, is, in a way, an unimportant difference. Both are unhinged fanatical systems doomed to spectacular failure.

  4. Paul
    January 28th, 2012 at 15:41 | #4

    Let’s keep voting democrat or republican and see where the U.S. goes. I will tell you now. They are bred from the same cloth. Neither have one ounce of concern for you, they care more for who lines their pockets. You will see the cold hard reality come about 3 to 5 years from now when the U.S. dollar collapses and the U.S. debt bubble collapses. Simply put, the irresponsible spending is unsustainable. Both democrats and republicans want to keep their voters happy and simply kick the can down the road. Like the Internet bubble, the real estate bubble, the financial collapse of 2008, they will all say, “we did not see it coming.” The result will be massive unemployment, bank failures, even more home foreclosures, even more loss in home values (exceeding depression level rates), businesses going bankrupt, even more people on food stamps (it is at a record high even now), even more people on welfare. This is what we have for democrats and republicans “serving” their country. Now, go do some research on Ron Paul, a Libertarian, and see if what he says make sense. Even if you reject his ideas as the other side of the coin of Communism, at the very least, do some research on the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt bubble collapse, and what the ensuing result is (Greece, Italy, Portugual…). Then, see which candidate actually makes sense and is truly serving the interests of the people and not the corporatocracy. Even when Romney, Gingrich, or Obama speak, it is sickening, because the words are not coming as their own ideas and beliefs, but rather what they are being told by their largest campaign donors, almost as though they are robots.
    As an aside, I actually came to this post from a post about the bad experiences gaijin have with dentists and medical care in general in Japan. On that note, I 100% concur, having had a few dozen of such experiences myself.

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