Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Driving Force of the Auto Industry

A few years ago, I was sitting in an autoshop reading a computer manual while having my car repaired. A young mechanic came up to me and told me about how he was working to become a programmer. The conversation quickly veered to how much he hated computers and how much he loved cars.

The young mechanic even confessed that he really wasn't all that good with computers or with programming.

Realizing that a good mechanic is worth far more to society than another mediocre programmer, I launched into an effort to convince the young man that he would be better off pursuing the career he loved. My central argument was as follows:

"Stop. Take a deep look at the market. How much money does the average American spend on computers each year? It has fallen to a few hundred bucks. Now ask: How much money does the average American spend on their car?"

Americans love their cars. Americans dump a great deal of money on cars.

As communication costs become negligible, it is easy to send programming jobs abroad. Mechanical work needs to be done at the location of the machines.

The smart student follows the money. The money says that mechanical industry is a better career choice than programming.

As I watch the reporting about the troubles of the car industry. I keep harkening back to the conversation I had with the young mechanic who was in the process of making a bad career choice.

The driving force behind the auto market is the huge demand for all things auto. Were GM to complete implode, there would be a hundred companies scrambling to make their way into the market as there will be huge demand for all things auto in the near future.

The auto industry is driven by a massive demand for autos. This demand will return after the credit crunch. The best thing that could happen to the auto industry would be for the dinosaur companies to break up into dynamic market hungry smaller companies.

So the bailouts aren't saving the auto industry. The primary aim of the bailouts appears to be an effort to preserve the current unions and the highly centralized command and control structure of the big three auto model.

The mantra of big auto is that the industry most be consolidated and uniform to be efficient.

This is in direct conflict with the mantra of the alternative fuels movement which claims that the uniform mono-industry is inherently destructive in that it creates global climate change. Global Warming is not about the inherent evils of CO2. It is about the cumulative effects of the one engine fits all approach to transportation.

Were GM left to implode, taxpayers would have saved billions and we likely would have seen new innovative car firms pop up in the market vacuum.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Empathy as an Organizing Principle

A comment from Ran on the last post pointed out that the American law and common law tradition have always value empathy. The post points to juries as a case in point.

The founders also appear to be aware that different courts served different purposes. The founders gave different courts different forms to help them achieve their purpose. Criminal courts exist at a local level and have juries made up from the locality. Clearly, they wanted cases tried before a sympathetic ear.

The problem with empathetic courts is that they tend to arrive at wildly different conclusions depending on who is doing the empathy. So, the founders created a hierarchy of appeals courts with the Supreme Court at the top.

The Supreme Court has multiple judges and now jury.

The common courts evolved through the development of common law. The Supreme Court was established by the Constitution specifically for examining law in context of the Constitution. It is a thing of a totally different form.

Ran clearly is excited about the idea of empathetic judges.

Empathy is a welcome trait in a judge. The ideal judge takes pains to see issues from multiple perspectives. It is valuable for a judge to imagine how different people might feel about a case.

Samuel Alito's mentioning empathy as a positive trait was a good thing.

ScienceBlog leveled the charge of hypocrisy at conservatives for criticizing Obama's position on "empathetic judges," when they don't mind people mentioning empathy as a positive trait.

Claiming empathy as a trait is something different from making empathy an organizing principle of the court.

In the lead up to the nomination. Obama was positioning empathy as an organizing principle for the courts. When a person moves an idea from one context into another, it can take on a different characteristic.

When a local judge shows empathy for a plaintiff, the local judge makes a decision that affects only a small number of people. Other judges might make contradictory decisions when they empathize with other people affected by a trial.

The Supreme Court is not dealing with individual cases, but with very complex precedents that effect the entire system.

The highest quality that I would value in a Supreme Court justice is the ability to see the big puzzle and see how a decision will affect the system as a whole in the context of existing precedent and the Constitution.

The empathetic judge might make a ruling on empathy for the people in the case, and fail to realize the ramifications for all invovled.

I find it easier to feel empathy for individuals and small groups. Were I to employ my empathy in the service of God and King I would tend to make decisions that concentrated benefit on a few with the costs distributed to the many. This, of course, would lead to a wider disparity in income.

In my case, I would reject my own empathetic impulses because I realize that my empathetic impulses are likely to lead to injustice. It is possible that the empathy lobe of a Latina is better in tune with the cosmic oneness than a white male. I suspect that this is not the case.

I should also point out that the actual science of empathy has always been a bit murky. I know empathy is an established fact in Star Trek and Starship Troopers (oh man, that battle between the humans and bugs was something to behold). However, there really isn't a lot of solid evidence to suggest that there are people who can pop out of their body ant into another to feel what they are feeling.

Some of the people who I've met who believe they are empaths appear to be projecting emotions on others.

It is possible that empathy is simply a form of projection.

If, in our effort to build a Utopian court system founded on empathy, we accidentally appointed judges who were projecting their emotions on others; we might actually create a dystopia where courts issues destructive dictates based on false information.

I doubt that this debate about empath judges will really hang around very long. I think Obama was simply using a word the polled well.

To be fair, Sonya Sotomayor appears to be someone set on building a solid legal career as a justice. She appears to have left leaning sentiments but is not desirous of being an activist judge. It is likely that Obama was simply trying to find a word for a center left judge, but accidentally chose a word that is antithetically to traditional thinking on Constitutional law.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Empathetic v. Conservative Judges

I am not sure what the press hopes to achieve by framing opposition to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor as racism.

The real meat of nomination debates is judicial philosophy. If American were to engage in an in-depth conversation about the idea of an "empathetic" judicial philosophy; I suspect they would find the philosophy lacking.

An empathetic judge is a judge who places substantial weight on who a person is in their decision.

The idea sounds great until people realize that there is a 50% chance that the judge will empathize with the other party in the case. In a world with judges ruling on empathy is a crap shoot. Lawyers who learn to posture to foibles of the empathetic judges will be able to sweep up, while the public at large would be diminished.

When one looks, one finds empathetic judges at the heart of many of the historic injustices of the world.

The whole Jim Crow judicial system was run by judges who empathized with the person who felt uncomfortable using the same water fountain as an African American.

In Europe one found the Jewish population driven into the ghetto as judges systematically geared their empathy to the Christians.

Judges, who tend to be part of the ruling class, tend to empathize with the ruling class.

A much more interesting debate is the debate between an activist and conservative judge. An activist judge is a judge seeking to re-engineer society through rulings. A conservative judge is one who concentrates on the accuracy of argument and values consistency in the law and dislikes changing precedence.

The name "conservative judge" is not all that enticing until one thinks about the way the court works in society at large. The people living with a conservative judiciary have an easier time interacting in society as the rules become well known.

It is much harder to live in a world where judges are actively trying to mix things up, or when there are major changes in decisions based on the feelings of the current empathetic judge.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The War Process and Peace Process

Sorry about the gap in posts. I penned a post on the skiff between President Obama and Cheney. I then got depressed. The post was about the form of arguments and how the very nature of progressive arguments undermines our society. The post made good points, but I realized that few people would get it. Our modern schools train people to see all issues through partisan filters.

The truth of the matter is that I was really hoping that Obama would have made some headway on the prisoner of war issue.

Instead of making progress Obama gave well spoken partisan verbiage in an echoing hall about how the torture regime of Bush and the denial of due process of law by the hated Bush in Guantanamo Bay were symbols used to incite and escalate violence in the Middle East.

Obama is correct of his assessment that groups used these issues as symbols to radicalize people. This method of using symbols to raise discontent is core to the Marxian tradition.

Actions don't become symbols of radicalization on their own. It takes an avant-garde to make symbols praxis. So, the troubling question is: who raised these issues to the level of praxis?

Was it the Jihadists?

The adherents of Radical Islam stone people in public. They chop off heads and subject prisoners to worse things than water boarding. The rhetoric of Jihad is usually about a decadent and weak West.

The prisons in the Mideast make Guantanamo look like a bay on a tropical island. Neither the water boarding nor Guantanamo would be a natural symbol for the Jihad.

Was it the Iraqis?

The poor Iraqis spent decades under a substantially more oppressive yoke than Bush. At the height of the insurgency, they suffered numerous terrorist attacks. Folks that are suffering a barrage of terrorist attacks are likely to favor aggressive interrogation aimed at uprooting terrorist cells.

For that matter, much of the problem in Iraq happened because the Iraqis felt the new Iraqi government would not take a strong enough stand against terrorists; Much of the sectarian violence was from people engaging in vigilante justice.

So, if it was not the Jihadists, and it was not the Iraqis; Then Obama's speech begs the question: Who raised water boarding and Guantanamo Bay to anti-American symbols?

In my education, progressive professors emphasized the process of creating symbols to catalyze the peoples in social revolution. Could it possibly be that the social activists, community organizers, and press (all trained in the same progressive techniques) did as they were trained in school?

The possibility that it was the American Left and not enemies of the United States that raised the issues as anti-American symbols, then Obama speech takes on a totally different and very negative character.

I was angry when Bush started a war when I felt that diplomatic efforts might work. I am even angrier that the left appears to have taken action during the war that made the violence worse. I am distraught that Obama appears to be heading down a path that will simply prolong world tensions.

Simply removing symbols raised by the American Left during the Change Campaign is not a true substantive change.

Making domestic partisan criticism the central focus of American foreign policy does not provide the world with a stable platform from which to launch a peace initiative. Judging from the nuclear blast just heard in North Korea, the actions might actually embolden our nation's enemies.

Obama has the opportunity to be a peacemaker. Following the partisan path, the opportunity will be lost.

As the bomb blasts of North Korea indicate, the next confrontation will be nuclear.

The problem is not with Obama. The problem is with the American University and the left's on going fascination with Marxian style discourse.

The revolutionary methods developed by Marx, Lenin, Moa and others are extremely effective at bringing groups into power. The problem is that the methods do not serve as a solid foundation for decision making.

We can see the detrimental effects in the issue of Guantanamo.

During the election the left raised Guantanamo to a revolutionary symbol. The issue was great at generating partisan hatred. Many of the Democrats I know tremble at the word Guantanamo. Many equate the prison with Siberian Gulags.

The prisons are not part of an effort to quell political dissent, as was the Gulag Archipelago. Guantanamo Bay is the result of the prisoner of war conundrum.

During war, an army is faced with letting captured combatants free (in which case they resume fighting). Killing combatants on the battlefield, or taking them prisoners. Taking prisoners is the humane solution.

The left had drummed the beat that Bush denied the prisoners of war due process of law. This theme works well in a culture weaned on Perry Mason and CSI.

An activist can create a great deal of agitation simply by taking themes from law enforcement and placing them in the context of fighting war. The partisan press can demand of soldiers: Did you read the detainees their Miranda rights? Who collected handled evidence collecting on the battlefield? Where are the lawyers for the defense? What charges will you place against the detainees?

The army's inability to answer irrelevant questions makes them look bad.

Solving the dilemma of prisoners of war starts with the realization that the prisoners, for the most part, are not criminals. In some cases, the prisoners captured during a war are among the best and brightest of a nation.

A prisoner of war is not guilty of anything. They are people detained for strategic and public safety issues. Their being a prisoner is not about them.

As the prisoners are not guilty of anything, then there really isn't a need to bring them before court.

Attempting to try the prisoners is a net negative. Most wars happen because one group rejects the laws of their enemies. In the current Jihad, the fighters reject the legitimacy of Western Law and Western Courts. To a people who reject our laws, our courts are nothing but kangaroo courts.

The act of trying prisoners of war on trumped up charges is more likely to enrage flames of Anti-Americanism than accepting that the detainees are held because of the war, and not because of the prisoner's moral defaults.

To resolve the prisoner of war dilemma, one must look at the nature of war.

There is no such thing as a just war. There really isn't such a thing as a legal war either.

War is a break down of civility.

Accepting that war involves a breakdown in civility is not a moral capitulation. It is recognition of the nature of war.

Recognizing the nature of war, we realize that peacemaking is the process of restoring civility.

As the detainees are not guilty, we find the heart of the prisoner of war process. Prisoners of War are taken during the fighting. They get released during the diplomatic efforts of the peace process.

The humanity and character of a society is not found in the legal process of taking prisoners it is found in how well the society treats the PoWs and their commitment to the peace process.

The idiotic demand that we wring the detainees through courts, then undertake the indignity of placing prisoners of war in criminal prisons undermines the peace process.

*Wars are a horrible time. Wars often produce people who are true criminals. The peace making process must work to separate out these people. Try and imprison them. This process of trying the true war criminal generally has to wait until the peace process is fully in place. This allows the parties involved the chance to decide which courts should try the criminals and decide where the criminals are held.

In the case of the current conflicts, we find that the treatment in Middle East prisons is below Western norms. For humane reasons, we cannot return the criminal prisoners for trial until the process is far enough along that we can feel assured that the prisoners would receive humane treatment.

The optimal solution would be to move the prisoners from the hell hole of Guantanamo Bay to a prison on a tropical island in the Caribbean. We should then concentrate on the peace process.

Unfortunately, the change campaign of 2008 has negatively impeded our nation's ability to move on the path toward peace.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Primary Agent Poll

I just added a poll to this site.

The poll ask the fundamental question of what should be the primary agent in health care decisions.

By primary agent, I mean which entity should be the primary decision maker in health related concerns.

Health care is such that there needs to be a primary agent involved in the health care decisions. Having two agencies battling for control over the decision making power leads to contradictory decisions and poor results.

Dare I mention that the answer to the question should influence how one approaches the big national health care debate.

The funding mechanism for health care should be designed to empower the primary agent in health care.

Our current health care system makes the employer the primary agent in health care.

I suspect that much of our dissatisfaction results from people's discontent with having health care dependent on their current employer.

The poll on this site will run through June 30th.

The poll on my site will do nothing more than demonstrate the scant readership of this blog. So, I invite other bloggers to post a similar poll. Leave a comment with the name of your blog, and I will add a link to your blog.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

ND Speech

It is impossible for a progressive to be hypocrite. Only a person who has principles can be a hypocrite. Politicians who have perfected the progressive technique position themselves as the embodiment of conflict. The embodiment of conflict cannot be criticized for contradictions.

The public is left simply to applaud the speaker on oratorical skills. Those wishing to discuss the ideas within a speech are left playing games such as imagining the same speech given by a different speaker.

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama were a Republican. If he were a Republican; then there would be ample parts of his Notre Dame speech that could exposed as hypocrisy.

Notably, a central theme of the speech was the claim that we should engage in civil dialog about important issues such as stem cell research.

If Obama were authentic in his appeal for civil debate that respects all sides of an issue; then he would have called for a re-examination of the Bush policy and not simply issued a summary reversal of the policy with due consideration for the central conflict of the controversy.

The area of controversy is embryonic stem cell research versus adult stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research involves cloning human embryos in great numbers to see how they react to different stimuli. Experiments can require thousands of cloned human embryos replicated thousands of times. Doing the multiplication we find that the process will involve millions of cloned human embryos. If commercial products were developed from embryonic research, then human embryos would be cloned by the hundreds of millions.

I am not overstating this issue. The fertility industry provides a case in point. Our society failed to have a debate about the fertility industry. The fertility industry on this overcrowded planet quickly built up a freezer chest with some half million human embryos.

The issue is not about sacrificing one human embryo to stop the plague, but about millions of human embryos being created and destroyed to fuel a industrial machine.

Please remember the issue at hand is the difference between the Bush and Obama policy. In the commencement address, Obama spoke of research that was permissible under both policies. The speech glibly sailed over the real controversy.

Were a Obama a Republican, he could be accused of hypocrisy for claiming to value debate while issuing summary judgments that casually dismissed the arguments of his opponents.

Obama claimed to desire a fair-minded debate concerning stem cell research. Yet the speech was filled from top to bottom with misrepresentations of his opponents' view. The mainstream opposition is not opposed to adult stem cell research, but to embryonic stem cell research. A totipotent embryonic stem cell is a cell that can become any cell in a human body. Notably, they can potentially become a unique, walking talking, taxpaying human.

These cells disappear early in the development stage. More importantly, this is not the area of research where one is likely to find the cure to diseases.

If not for the impenetrable shield one gains by adhering to foundational dialectic, Obama could be called a hypocrite. In old fashioned commonsense style discourse, massive misrepresentation of the opposition's view is not considered fair minded debate.

Other strange things appeared in the speech. For some odd reason, Obama spoke about how he had the wording on his web site changed during the election in an effort to draw more votes. This was somehow supposed to be an example of a politician authentically involved in discourse. Changing the wording of a sales pitch is little more than a calculated marketing strategy.

Imagine a used car salesman changing the wording of a pitch in an effort to improve sales. We would not call this quality discourse.

Doubt should cause us to be wary of self-righteousness.

Another really odd thing about the debate was that Obama spent several minutes addressing the role of doubt in intellectual inquiry. The role of doubt was a primary theme of Catholic thinkers including the likes of Augustine and Descartes.

The speech seemed aimed at those who are uncomfortable with widespread experimentation on human embryos. The mainstream press has skillfully associated the term "self-righteous" with 'right wing ideologues'. Those opposed to embryonic research are systematically portrayed as ideologues clinging to their archaic view that human embryos are humans with absolute certainty.

In actuality, many of the people who are opposed to embryonic stem cell research are driven to their position from self doubt.

It takes greater certainty to destroy a beaker full of cloned embryos than it does to put it on ice.

The reason that the fertility industry created such a large inventory of human embryos on ice is that the people who produced the embryos are hesitant to expose the embryos. If they were certain that the embryos weren't human, they wouldn't be forking out the cash for the freezer bill.

The self doubt argument cuts both ways. It will always take a greater amount of certainty to intentionally expose an embryo than to freeze it and fret.

I admit, my primary worry about embryonic research is the issue will be used to construct ideological litmus tests in our university. Progressive professors will give students beakers of human embryos to clone. Anyone feeling queasy about the experiments could see their career destroyed.

Do you really want a medical and research community that systematically drives out any one who feels queasy about experimenting on human embryos?

A final quote from the speech:

Do not reduce those of differing views to caricature.

This is an odd set of words to appear in a speech that shows either a clear lack of understanding of the position of the opposition, or that shows an intentional effort to misrepresent the position of the opposition.

It is impossible to know the intentions of others. Was this statement simply projection, or an authentic belief that the Christian Right is the source of the radical material dialectical reasoning that is ripping the world apart. I do not know. The context of the speech seems to indicate projection.

Our Lady of the Lake Is Likely Weeping

In my opinion, Notre Dame blundered big time when it extended an honorary degree to Barack Obama.

President Obama's summary reversal of the Bush policy on funding embryonic stem cell research demonstrated clearly that his views and actions are antithetical to the traditional Catholic position on the dignity of human life.

For some odd reason, the reports I've seen in the press fail to draw the distinction between adult and embryonic stem cell research. A totipotent embryonic stem cell is a cell capable of becoming any cell in the body. It is essentially a clone of an embryo.

The goal of the Bush Administration was to find a way to fund adult stem cell research while avoiding the more problematic embryonic stem cell research. It is adult stem cell research where researchers are finding the promising cure for diseases.

Rest assured, I am happy to swallow the pink pill that says George W. Bush was a horrible person. The summary dismissal of the debate, however, was not simply a jab at Bush. It was an affront to the people who threw effort into an extremely important debate. It was a very clear affront to a position fundamental to the Catholic Church.

The debate about the respect for life is not simply a new issue that arose after Roe v. Wade. The Christian position on abortion and infanticide was a fundamental difference between early Christians and pagan Rome. This is a debate with a two thousand year history. It is something very deep and fundamental to Western culture.

Even though the Catholic view on the dignity of life may be quaint and archaic, the summary dismissal of arguments created the situation where Notre Dame's handing out an honorary degree would be extremely divisive.

The United States is filled to the brim with Universities holding the Modern Progressive world view. These Universities would bowl over each other for a chance to witness the historic first commencement speech by the historic first half black American president.

I am extremely puzzled as to why Obama would go to the one place where his historic commencement speech would be controversial. Either the most politically savvy administration of the last half century was somehow unaware of a two thousand year history of Catholocism, or the event is a calculated effort to create division and marginalize political enemies.

Regardless of the President's motives, Notre Dame du Lac should have been savvy enough to know that a President that summarily dismisses the Catholic position on the dignity of live would cause controversy. Sadly, small private schools are often forced to forego honors in the effort to hold to principle.

Such is the way of life.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Actuarial v. Lifecycle Analysis

image credits
There appears to be two radically different approaches to accounting and funding healthcare. I will call these approaches lifecycle analysis and actuarial analysis.

With lifecycle analysis, one looks at the life of an individual as a whole unified entity. We notice that each person has one birth. They suffer a number of injuries or illnesses then each person has one distinct death.

The typical human life has moments of health and productivity. Humans tend to reproduce during their most productive years. Many people are happy to raise children during these productive years.

In the lifecycle approach to health care, one seeks mechanisms that transfer resources from times of health to times of need. As the immediate family is integral to a person's being, lifecycle analysis treats the natural family as an integral part of a person's life.

Actuarial analysis is a bit like cutting down a tree to discover its age. Actuarial analysis starts by taking a cross section of the population and tallying up interesting statistics such as the number of births, number of illnesses and number of deaths.

With actuarial tables in hand, one can imagine a health care system in which authorities provide healthcare by transferring resources between the people who are judged healthy at the moment and given to those judged to be in need. To make a system work, one need simply devise a mechanism to redistribute wealth.

People have tried to create redistribution systems through both private and public means. On the private side, employers corral workers into employer based insurance. On the public side, the ruling class uses a variety of insurance regulations, taxes or outright socialization.

It is common for people favoring collectivism to push an actuarial view of healthcare as the primary source of information. Conversely, those favoring free market solutions are apt to see merit in lifecycle analysis.

As the different approaches mirror major conflicts in our society, it is tempting to assert that there is some sort of foundational conflict between lifecycle and actuarial analysis.

For that matter, if you happen to be a college student and want an easy "A" in social studies; you could write up a piece claiming to have discovered a foundational dichotomy between the these two perspectives. If you conclude the paper with drivel about socialism being a higher state of evolution; you might even be able to land yourself a cushy job as an overpaid professor.

I should mention, of course, that this game of finding deep sonorous conflicts in different perspectives is the hallmark of the Marxist Material Dialectics.

The classical view holds that there is one truth. The deep conflicts that we see between different perspectives are usually illusions.

While examining the differences between the lifecycle and actuarial views of health care, one is apt to notice that the actuarial view is simply a summation of the lifecycle view.

Actuarial analysis is a derivative of the natural human lifecycle.

There is value in studying derivatives. Such information can help us plan for change. Knowing how many deaths to expect helps a funeral home plan their casket inventory.

Claiming that there is a conflict between these two perspectives is equivalent to saying that there is a conflict between velocity and acceleration.

Depending on actuarial analysis for our health care is a bit like deciding that travelers need only know about acceleration.

If travelers want to know how far they will go; they must know their velocity. On realizing that they won't make their destination in time, they need to accelerate. They might decelerate if they are making good time.

When a group of people are foolish enough to surrender the care of their health to insurance companies and government agencies, they end up creating a system where their entire lives are controlled by derivative information, and end up receiving substandard care.

Progressives are skilled at framing the debate and are apt to claim that the actuarial tables are the true primary source of information on health care, and that the lifecycle view is derivative of the actuarial view.

This question is easy to debunk because lifecycle analysis presents a clear sequential series of discrete events. People have one birth. They have one death. People also tend to have children in whole units. Actuarial tables are full of fractions and irrational numbers. Such tables might say there is 1.81 births per couple, or 8.259 deaths per thousand people.

The study of derivative information provides interesting details about our lives, and can even lead to society wide improvements. The game of pretending that the derivative is a higher level of information and should be used as the primary source for health care decisions leads to suboptimal results.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Careful Scientific Observation

Proper science starts with observations of nature. So, I thought I would take a moment to explore an interesting scientific observation.

Scientists are often concerned with the age of things. Some things are easy to age. Others are difficult.

One of the simplest things to measure is the age of a tree.

As you see, a tree expands outward through the seasons. This growth effectively records the different conditions the tree experienced in its growth. For example, a tree would experience a spurt of growth during the warm summer months, and would experience stunted growth during the winter.

A scientist cutting along the base of the tree would find a series of rings emanating outward from the center of the tree. During the summer, the growth would be a light amber. The stunted growth during the winter might be a darker brown.

Simply by counting the rings in the trunk of the tree, the scientist could determine the number of summer and winters the tree experienced.

Imagine for a moment that the scientist counted 308 darker rings and 307 light rings.

How old is the tree?

Did you write down your answer?

Let's see how you scored.

If not. Please do.

The answer might surprise you.

You see, I gave you a trick question.

Are you stumped?

Well, the tree is stumped.

The age of the tree is nothing.

The tree is dead.

Some clown with a saw cut it down.

[I will explain the reason for this post later this week. I will give you a hint. If your goal is to improve the health of a tree, cutting it down doesn't really help.]

Real Medical Care v. Healthcare

The United States has a decent medical system.

Our medical system has top notch technology and well trained medical professionals.

I believe the system is weak in providing direct personal care. It appears that medical specialization, bureaucracy and liability fears are driving a wedge between doctor and patient.

Early this year, Tom Daschle pointed out that our system could use a stronger focus on wellness.

The shrill discontent we have with our medical system is the result of the political and financial systems wrapped around healthcare.

When engaging in debates about healthcare, it is important to make the distinction between real live medical services (the things that actually improve our lives), and the artificial political constructs devised to ration health care.

When we fail to make the distinction, we end up with shrill public discourse that often devolves into the absurd argument: "The system we designed to ration health care is preventing us from getting the care we desire; therefore we must expend more resources on the failed rationing system."

Bureaucracies work by focusing resources on whatever makes the loudest noise.

The challenge in debating healthcare is that the form of the debate often influences the outcome. A shrill debate leads to a system that brushes aside the health concerns of the individuals needing health care and concentrates resources on the power brokers that feed of the health care system.

To make inroads in the healthcare, classical liberals would do well to expend effort drawing the important distinction between real medical care, and the the political system that delivers it.

Conversely, progressives have been able to dominate discourse simply muddying and using the term healthcare for the bureaucracy. Progressives have manipulated the terms "healthcare" so that it refers to the bureaucracy and not the actual care received by patients. The clever little trick has created a paradigm where arguments for better real medical care end up twisted into arguments for expanding the power and scope of the bureaucracy.

Winning the debate for the side of liberty is primarily a matter of driving the argument that the free market allows for the most dynamic and direct relation between the caregiver and patient.

Classical liberals tend to lose the debate when they are drawn into macro discussions about the free market being the best mechanism for distributing scarce resources. Even though the argument is both sound and humane, it is always possible for collectivists to manipulate the argument and make it sound Darwinian.

The argument of the classical liberal is that freedom of the micro level tends to the optimal solution at both the micro and macro level. Unfortunately, classical liberals tend to be drawn into detailed discussions of macro economics, when, if they really followed the logic of their arguments, they would realize that they need to focus on how things work at the macro level.