While conservativism doesn’t cause idiocy, it does provide idiots with the necessary tools to feel secure in exposing their idiocy to the rest of the world. Without the backdrop of conservatism, idiots would have no interest in discussing issues they knew nothing about, and would instead focus their energies on matters which are more within the boundaries of their mental capabilities; such as staring at the sun and breathing.
But with conservatism egging them on, they bound ass-first into a world they haven’t the ability or inclination to understand. Rather than ever attempting to find out what the hell is going on, they prefer instead to tell everyone else what’s going on and act really annoyed when nobody else knows what the hell they’re talking about.
Of course, there is one group who knows what these flakes are talking about, and that would be other conservatives. And that's only because conservatives are so dumb that they imagine that they already understand what everyone’s trying to say, so they have no problem assuming that the other conservatives are making as much sense as they imagine they must be making. But even they don't truly understand what they're saying, because there's nothing to understand.
To understand conservatism is to debunk conservatisim. The solid ground they imagine they're standing on is just smoke & mirrors; a handy delusion intended to justify selfishness, greed, and ignorance. And even still, the only people they allow to act selfishly, greedy, or ignorant are those who help each specific conservative in their quest to acting selfish, greedy, and dumb. But if your selfishness, greed, or ignorance causes you to act in ways that hurt them, then you are the enemy and must be stopped. Hypocrisy isn't a separate flaw in conservatives. It's a prerequisite.
The Me-First Market System
Healthcare is just one of many issues that conservatives know so little about that they have no problem with exposing their complete ignorance on the subject. Moreover, it exposes how little they know about the "free-market system" they're always espousing. For them, "free-market" means nothing more than that they're free to do whatever benefits them the most; and everyone else should do the same thing, just as long as it doesn't stop these people from doing what they want to. Beyond that, things get a little fuzzy.
I already covered one free-market health-care wiz a few posts ago, and via Ron Chusid of Liberal Values, I stumbled upon an embarrassing piece of free-market healthcare advocacy from the idiot John Stossel. This time around, John's upset that the World Health Organization ranked countries in healthcare according to criteria that John disagrees with. And why does John disagree with it? Why else: Because it ranked America low, and that wasn't what he wanted to hear. So if it contradicted John Stossel, it must be wrong.
And why does John dislike this kind of talk? Well he never says it, but it's obvious that he has excellent healthcare and never has to worry about this stuff. So any changes to our system can't possibly make his healthcare improve, and might make it worse. And what's the point of that? He's already taken care of; let everyone else do the same. Somehow it hasn't occurred to these schmucks that we are trying to take care of everyone else's healthcare, using the government as a tool for this. I guess that's considered cheating.
His analysis never really goes deeper than insisting that the highest level of healthcare in America is better than anywhere else, and this trumps any problems people might have with our system. I mean, not only does he refuse to acknowledge that lack of healthcare is a problem in America; he insists that this is an unfair standard to hold America to. As if "socialized medicine" was just some gimmick to improve a country's ranking with WHO, rather than a real solution to a real problem.
Other People's Money
Now, that's not to suggest that Stossel doesn't find any problems with our system. He sees one big problem: We don't rely on the free-market enough. Yes, he actually said that. And the biggest flaw that John finds is that we're not spending enough of our own money on healthcare. And as he quotes from the All-Mighty Milton Friedman: "no one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own".
But note the subtle message in that quote. Friedman's not saying that Joe Blow always spends his own money more carefully than other people spend Joe Blow's money. He's saying that Joe Blow will spend his own money more carefully than he spends someone else's. I don't necessarily agree with that, but don't find it particularly objectionable. But nothing in this quote suggests that Joe Blow is always the best person for knowing how to spend his money.
Yet that's exactly how Stossel is using the quote. But everyone knows this is complete poppycock, and I say that as someone who doesn't use that word lightly. Because some people are complete fools with their own money. Like the dummies who give money to Linda Chavez's PAC's, which really only funds Linda Chavez and the people who raise money for her PAC's. I have no doubt that I could spend these people's money more wisely than they are. And the first thing I'd do would be to have them stop giving it to Linda Chavez.
But seriously, it's an indisputable fact that people can be quite careless with their money. They get conned by Nigerian princes. They buy stupid stuff they see on infomericals. They buy stocks based on "feelings". There are apparently even people who have given their money to Alan Keyes so he could run for political office...on six separate occasions! (Yes, I know!) People carelessly blow their money on all kinds of idiotic things. And conservatives know that. That's the only way many of them can make any money.
And people trust their money with other people all the time. They use stockbrokers who actually understand how the markets works. They hire people like me to balance their books and take care of the payroll. They hire professionals to buy them fancy stuff at auctions. And it makes sense. There is such a thing as expertise in this world and just because you own the money doesn't mean that you know what to do with it. Most likely, there's someone else who can handle your money more wisely than you can.
And there's no way Stossel isn't aware of any of this. When he misinterpreted the Friedman quote, it wasn't the misinterpretation that threw him off the track. He was just looking for some sort of quickie quote to add authority to his absurd claim and really hadn't thought about the quote at all. He doesn't really believe that people always know how best to spend their money. He was just bullshitting. What a surprise.
The reason why Stossel mentioned that quote was because he said the "most important" problem with our system is that "six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness." But exactly who's money is being spent? Obviously not the patient's. In many cases, it's the insurance company's. So Stossel is suggesting that these company's can't be trusted to spend their own money? Huh?
It's a fact that these companies negotiate prices with doctors and hospitals that would be impossible for any of us to do. They also have strict guidelines about which doctors you can see, which services they'll pay for, and what procedure you need to follow to have this stuff done. We pay them so they'll take the risks we don't want to worry about. So when they spend money, it's their money being spent. Not ours. And they're very cost-conscious.
In fact, the big problem I've had with insurance companies was never that they were careless with their money, but rather the complete opposite. They kept trying to screw me over and make me pay for things that they were supposed to pay for. And making me jump through hoops to get what I needed. So if anyone's being careful with their healthcare dollars, I'd say it was these third-party a-holes Stossel's complaining about.
And let's not forget, Stossel's complaint isn't just about healthcare not being paid by the patients. His argument is really against the concept of insurance itself! He somehow thinks it goes against the free-market for people to pool their money together to insure against risk. Yet that's entirely within the free-market system. State Farm isn't a charity. They know what they're doing. The free-market system isn't a death pact, and people shouldn't be expected to take risks that other people are willing to accept for a fee.
State Farm is willing to take the risks that we as individuals can't afford; and if they don't screw-up, they'll make a tidy profit from it and everyone's happy. Or at least that's how the theory goes, and it usually works out. I don't know if John Stossel understands this concept, but it's obvious he didn't apply it when he came up with this argument. And remember, this was what he claims is the "most important" example of the free-market system being denied in America. What an idiot!
The Magic of Words
The final point I'd like to make is regarding Stossel's strongest argument against the WHO report. And that is that Stossel doesn't agree with it's criteria. Specifically, that it gave the highest ratings to countries that provided the best healthcare to the most people. And Stossel doesn't like that criteria, because while our system does provide top-notch healthcare, it's really not available to that many people, and some people barely get any at all. He cites people coming to our country for medical care, but neglects to talk about all the people right here in our own country who are denied access to that same medical care because they can't afford it.
As he says:
By that criterion, a country with high-quality care overall but "unequal distribution" would rank below a country with lower quality care but equal distribution.
And this is the kind of thing that just blows John's puny mind. He just doesn't understand why other people deserve good healthcare. After all, he's taken care of, so why is anyone else important?
All those other people are just background characters in his life. Background characters that can be much too inconvenient for John's liking; especially when they want the same kind of stuff John has. Sure, sometimes they can help add a little color to one of his news segments and he won't complain when they watch him on TV or read his articles, but it would really be best if we had some cold storage facility to keep them in the rest of the time. Besides, if they really wanted good healthcare, they can just grow coolguy moustaches and become conservative hack journalists like John. After all, he's got absolutely no talent or brains and look how far it took him.
And to seal the deal, he whips out a dreaded label: Socialized Medicine. We saw Megan McArdle do that in the previous healthcare post I wrote, in which she insisted that the term "insurance" couldn't be applied to a single-payer healthcare system and replaced it with the word "Tax". That's how easy it is with these people. If you can't beat an argument, just find a way to slap a negative label on it and voila!, the argument is instantly demolished. And in their minds, they truly believe it worked.
And really, this is the entire crux of his argument. He knows that millions of people get screwed out of good healthcare in our country. And he likes it that way and thinks it's unfair to suggest that people deserve equal healthcare to what he gets. He's not really debating the merits of our system. Hell, reading his piece you'd almost assume that we had no healthcare problem at all. Nor does he suggest any solution at all for our problem. It's obvious that the biggest problem he has with our healthcare system is that anyone's complaining about it, and he wants that to stop.
Stossel ended his piece saying:
For all its problems, the U.S. ranks at the top for quality of care and innovation, including development of life-saving drugs. It "falters" only when the criterion is proximity to socialized medicine.
Indeed it does. That's what we're complaining about, dipshit.
Update: I've got a similarly themed follow-up to this post here: Free-Lunch Healthcare