(This is Part II of III of the conclusion to a crazy debate on political philosophy. For the back-story to what follows, jump back to Factual Politics to start the whole thread. Or click here to read Part I)
Benjamin said... See what I had to say about the inevitability of government debt and the driving force behind it. And [when it comes to Social Security] I'll ask you: by what right do other people have to take my property to pay for other peoples' living expenses?
Formally speaking, they don't. They take your money to buy insurance for you, not them. Social Security provides you with a safety net: an assurance you will not age in penury, when you are no longer able to work for a living or are weary of it from having persisted at it for half a century, plus an assurance that you will have income if you are too sick or injured to earn any, plus an assurance of the same for your spouse or children should you die unexpectedly, etc.
Social Security did not cause any public debt, by the way. It is so solvent, in fact, that the government borrows from social security, not the other way around (see my previous discussion of this fact in Part I). At any rate, it operates identically to any private insurance company. The difference is that human beings aren't rational, yet the security of insurance is only affordable when humans act rationally. The cost of insurance is divided by the number who pay in, thus the more who pay, the less everyone pays to get the same security. We had privatized social security for two hundred years. It didn't work. Few bought in, thus few had it, and they in turn had to pay a lot to get it, and even those who did buy in, could only buy into privatized funds that routinely vanished in economic crashes, frauds, and bank failures, and thus got nothing for their trouble.
This was such a tremendous and shocking social nightmare that our federal social security system was created specifically to end the public misery that the private system had caused. It costs vastly less, because it has everyone pay; it ensures everyone has it, so no one suffers the miseries of ill fortune; and it ensures it survives any economic crash or bank failure, hence it is vastly more reliable than private pensions.
Rational people would understand the economics of risk and insurance and thus voluntarily all pay into a reliable pension fund like this to insure themselves and their families against disaster and penury. Alas, people aren't rational. Compassion alone would call for a redress of the consequences of this irrationality, but simple self-interest intervenes anyway: a society subject to the insecurities of rising numbers of impoverished and homeless seniors and widows and orphans is a society subject to increasing crime and decreasing security for all, as well as decreasing financial security for ourselves (because a threat to our own life, property, and liberty is created when we ignore risks to ourselves and then when disaster strikes throw ourselves on the mercy of our fellow citizens--which we ought rather to have done by cooperative enterprise with them in the first place).
Thus Social Security protects our rights as individuals by ensuring we live in a safer, more secure, and more prosperous society, and by ensuring we are protected ourselves by financial guarantees against disaster and endless labor, all at relatively little cost. As long as we democratically decide to make paying for this universal security a part of our social contract, it makes moral sense as a public enterprise protecting human life and property. You are free to vote against it; but as long as you choose to remain a part of our community you cannot ignore this community's social contract.
So you must agree to pay for your insurance (Social Security) until you can convince a majority of the community to agree with you in respect to how we ought to pay for our shared public goods and needs. And then it would be right and proper to end (or alter) Social Security (since that would then become the new social contract). And you are at liberty to argue and persuade us to do this. But you are not at liberty to parasitically enjoy the fruits of the community's enterprise while not paying your share of their costs.
But in any case this debate has to begin with getting the facts straight: you are not being forced to pay for someone else's living, you are being forced to pay for your own insurance against penury and disaster.
And your reasoning from the correct facts has to be logical: you want something for free, yet you have no right to expect us to give it to you. The general well-being and security of the populace (compare those measures in 2010 with 1910 or even 1930) is a fact you reap tremendous material benefits from, thus you owe us for the cost of maintaining that stable and secure social environment for you to work and earn in. Otherwise you are just a thief, stealing goods we provided.
In effect, by paying a Social Security tax, you are paying a fee for having access to such a fertile and safe environment in which to work and live (as well as for having access to your own personal, highly reliable insurance against penury and disaster). If you don't want to pay that fee, you don't have to--all you need do is move to Somalia. But then you will see what a cost-free society looks like. You'll find yourself preferring to pay our fee. But if not, then that means you'll be happy in Somalia. So please go there. We'll be glad to be rid of you.
Richard Carrier said... So far, [when it comes to health care] I see no public sector problem here, and if you are complaining about health care management and costs, those are private sector issues, so you can't blame government for them.
Benjamin said... Actually I can. All of the facts point to government as the lead cause of rising health care costs and decreased access.
That's fantasy, not fact. The vast majority of cost increases are the result of a free market dynamic between hospitals and insurance companies. You clearly haven't studied the issue.
Indeed, Obama Care actually instituted the very regulations you yourself ask for...
Benjamin said... The laws increase access to care without putting in place the kinds of policies that will reduce cost.
Which is exactly what Obama Care did: put in place the kinds of policies that will reduce cost. So why are you not counting this as an example of government working? You just said it should be done! But how can it be done without government? It can't.
As to "increasing access" you must mean either emergency care for the impoverished, or medicare. But medicare is just another insurance company (so it can't have made any difference not already made by every other insurance company), and emergency care for the impoverished is precisely why Obama Care is an improvement: it will greatly reduce the per-person cost by getting everyone to pay (the basic law of insurance I just discussed above). Moreover, this can't have been a major factor in the rise of health care costs, since cost increases (of hundreds of percent every few years) have occurred in non-emergency care centers equally. So requiring ER's to treat those in penury can't possibly explain it. Those pesky facts again. They really do hose you when you don't pay attention to them.
Here your facts are not only armchair fabrications rather than checked and confirmed truths, but you should have suspected they were false on mere logical analysis alone. When obvious logic casts strong doubt on what you are claiming, you are obligated to check the facts to make sure you are right. You never do that. Which makes discussing politics with you a complete waste of time.
Benjamin said... If you just increase access it becomes unsustainable and then the government will have to ration care.
Care is already rationed--by money. Those with enough, get treated. Those without enough, don't. The only difference that government requirements for treatment create is that those without enough get access to care they would not have had access to under privatization. Thus it's disingenuous to say that care for the poor is "rationed" when the alternative is zero care for the poor. Those are the two evils you have to choose from. It's obvious which is the lesser.
Thus "rationing" is a perfectly irrational grounds to object to government-subsidized medical care. That's like saying "If I can have rationed care or no care, I prefer no care." Only an idiot would say such a thing. Because that's exactly like saying "If I can have a thousand dollars or no dollars, I prefer no dollars." Are you a dufus?
Sound political debate must be not only factually correct but logically valid. Yet this exemplifies the kind of illogical reasoning you keep spilling out in comments. There's no use in arguing with such an irrational man.
Benjamin said... [When you said the Cato Institute report on the failings of the Health Care Act fails to cite a source,] you mean like the way they pretty much made it plain and clear on page 26? It came from the CBO.
Wrong. The claim I quoted is not made on page 26. It's made on page 34 (look at the actual white paper). There is no reference given. The claim made on page 26 actually contradicts the claim made on page 34 (different years are given, different numbers are given, and the claim made on page 26 avoids claiming they are counting "Americans," whereas on page 34 it's falsely said to be a count of "Americans," when even on page 26 they admit one third won't even be Americans). As for the source they cite on page 26, you can see it says just what I had said (CBO blog).
Which gets us back to my original point: the Cato Institute paper wants to dupe you into thinking this is a failing of the Health Care Act, and it does so by slyly avoiding telling you that their number of uninsured is irrelevant, and by not directing you to the information that would allow you to see it is irrelevant. That is how they are manipulating facts to control you. And it worked. You remain their puppet. Even after I told you how you were duped, you didn't even listen and fretted about typos and page numbers, forgetting that the issue is that the data itself is completely irrelevant to their argument.
Because the original CBO reports say what I said: that this was the tally who might (not will) be uninsured, that it was only an estimate, and that all of those were illegals, exempt Native Americans, and voluntary opt-outs. Which is why this number is completely irrelevant to the Cato Institute's claim. It would be absurd to expect a health care act insuring American citizens to also insure illegal immigrants. And it can't be a failing of any health care bill that it doesn't cover people who choose not to be covered. When you subtract those two irrelevant groups from the Cato Institute's reported number, the number of people left whom the health care act doesn't cover is exactly zero.
You have to be able to attend not only to the correct facts (which you didn't do), you also have to be able to see how they are being used in violation of all sound logic (which you didn't do). Since you repeatedly and persistently fail to do both, conversations with you are a waste of anyone's time.
Benjamin said... The reason [the Federal Reserve is trying to increase inflation by quantitative easing] is to discourage people from saving money because they think that spending is what makes an economy run. But in fact, without people saving, banks have little investment capital for businesses to start and grow which makes the economy worse not better.
This shows you are both fact and logic challenged.
Logic: Businesses cannot start or grow if people don't increase spending on their stuff. You can't have one without the other. Thus expansion requires spending. Period. The economic thinking you are referring to is based on the belief that people have to be in the market waving dollars around before businesses will rise to meet them. Businesses are less likely to rise first to meet not-yet-observable customers in the mere hope that they will appear. You might not like it, but history proves this theory correct.
In fact, this very economic timidity of business is what necessitated TARP: though the rational thing to do was for private investors to lend money to banks to save the banks and themselves, everyone, out of irrationally-miscalculated self-interest, held onto their money fearing bank failure would result in the loss of their investment. And yet by not saving the banks they were guaranteeing their own bankruptcy, from the precipitous devaluing of their goods and collapse of all their business enterprises that would result. So the government borrowed the money from those same timid investors (since they have more confidence that the government would pay them back than that a failing bank would) and then loaned it to the banks (as those private investors should have done in the first place) thus preventing those banks from failing, thus rescuing all those timid investors from themselves.
Likewise in the economy generally, businesses have to be convinced there is money to be made (therefore, there has to be a pre-existing and observable demand, which they can be sure will realize profits), before they will invest in any effort to get that money (thus expanding their business). It's not entirely rational, but any sound economic theory must accept the findings of psychology and sociology now, that people aren't rational and don't operate in the market as rational agents. That's simply a fact.
Facts: The Federal Reserve is not seeking to increase inflation to increase consumer spending. I don't know where you heard that, or if you just got confused by what you did hear, but "quantitative easing" is a tactic that specifically aims not to increase inflation (in fact its objective is completely thwarted if it does, since inflation causes a decrease in consumer spending!). Quantitative easing is by definition the increase of the money supply in such a way that does not increase inflation (hence if it increases inflation, it's no longer called quantitative easing).
QE is mathematically and economically sound in principle, it's just dangerous, because you have to be very precise and finely tune your behavior to avoid causing inflation. Whether attempting it is wise is a practical question, not an ideological one. But before you can debate if it's wise, you first have to get straight what it even is. You failed at even that. It's impossible to converse with such a person.
4. Where Do Rights Come From?
In my book I discuss two kinds of rights (Sense and Goodness, pp. 389-390): inalienable rights (rights that are necessary for human happiness) and negotiable rights (rights created by law but only by mutual agreement of the corporate body of the people). Negotiable rights come into acceptable existence when the society as a whole enjoys a sufficient surplus to afford them, and agrees to enact them. They become the fee for enjoying that surplus, and for gaining the cooperation of your neighbors in the mutual defense of your inalienable rights that made the acquisition of that surplus possible. The distinction between these two kinds of rights is essential, even when they come with overlapping purposes.
Benjamin said... By what right do you have to force other people to pay for education?
The right to protect our own lives, property, and liberty from the consequences of an uneducated populace. That's what right. Like a public road or sewer: we all need it, our lives and liberties depend upon it, so we therefore ought to all join in paying for it. It's a public necessity. Education is in fact an even more important public concern than maintaining an army. You are far more likely to be killed or robbed by an uneducated citizen than a foreign soldier. Even now. Imagine how much more so when half the public receives no significant education at all (do you really want to return to the 19th century?). Then add to that the consequences of uneducated voters deciding whether you should even get to have a right to life, liberty, and property in the first place, and public education becomes a no-brainer.
You keep complaining that the majority shouldn't have the power to take those rights away. I agree (that's what the Constitution is for), but who is going to take that power away from them? Only a state can protect your rights from millions who would take them away. The Constitution is meaningless if no one exists to enforce it. You can't protect your own rights from a million assailants. Only a state can mobilize the resources to do that. And that immediately creates the problem of who controls the state. And some form of democracy is the only fair system of control that is logically possible. There are better and worse forms of democracy as far as that goes (and our system is somewhere monotonously in the middle and perhaps sliding to the bottom), but there is nothing else to replace democracy with, which doesn't produce fundamental injustices that threaten all our rights in the long run.
Public Heath Insurance
Benjamin said... By what right do other people have to take my property to pay for other peoples' health care?
The same right that warrants all other public enterprises that we choose as a community to pursue. Your safety and security (and hence your liberty) require many public enterprises that ensure increased general prosperity and decreased crime and public cost and risk (armies, sewer systems and roads are obvious examples). Hence the same reasoning that warrants a social security tax that I discussed above warrants a health care tax, so long as it is more affordable to every citizen than the alternative (because if it were not, then the public good would indeed be better served by privatization, not government), and so long as it is agreed upon by democratic vote (because it is not an inalienable right, but the distribution of a surplus arrived at by mutual agreement).
The public good is your personal individual good. Increased crime and poverty threatens or harms your life, property, and liberty. Increased salaries, commercial spending, and availability of jobs reduces crime and poverty and increases your own access to goods. Reducing health care costs frees cash up to increase salaries, commercial spending, and jobs. Likewise assuming risks to your life, or welfare, or employment by having no means of affording medical care is a liability to you. Thus having affordable access to health care is a good you need. Thus having your own welfare insured not only protects your life, liberty, and property by reducing threats to them from the public and generating public goods that you reap a dividend from, it protects your life, liberty, and property directly. It's thus wise policy.
But this is still a matter of social contract: convince the majority to prefer privatization to socialization, and so it shall be. Democracy will always eventually prevail. The only alternatives are autocracy or anarchy. For examples of what those look like, there are plenty to choose from among the Third World. Once you realize there is no alternative to democracy, the question then becomes what contract to vote for. And deciding which social contract is mutually best for us all is a matter of outcome measures: whether public health care is more affordable than the system we have now. And that is a question of fact, not ideology.
5. Balancing Act
Benjamin said... I suppose it somehow makes more sense to protect peoples' right to property by violating their right to property.
Of course. I have to violate a murderer's right to life in defending my own right to life. I have to violate a burglar's right to liberty to defend my right to property. And so on. There is no right that, in being upheld, does not entail violating some other right. So the issue must be what balance of rights will procure the greatest overall allowance of rights to all, i.e. how much violation of rights is too little to protect the rights of others, and how much violation of rights is too much in protecting the rights of others. The ideal government is located in between those two answers. There is no other logically possible way to better govern ourselves than to collectively enact just such a government.
Benjamin said... Give me an example of a state solution to a "problem" that you think works and I'll debunk it.
Richard Carrier said... Piracy in the Aleutian Islands. Go.
Benjamin said... Initiation of force against foreigners throughout history. Done.
How would you stop "the initiation of force against foreigners" without ships at sea to do that? In other words, how would you prevent piracy in the Aleutian islands? Since you make no logical case for how abolishing anti-piracy patrols would end piracy, your political theory fails even the most basic test.
Benjamin said... I noticed that in the majority of these cases you attempted to provide a single instance of a good effect of a government cause.
Only to force you to address specific examples instead of vague abstractions divorced from reality. I could have given countless other examples. And even the ones I gave alone prove my point.
For example: piracy in the Aleutians. Only the continued operations there of the U.S. Coast Guard has prevented that (entirely--unlike the comparable environment of the islands south of the Philippines, for example). You can't have a U.S. Coast Guard patrolling the Aleutian islands (at all, much less with such decisive success) without a government. Period. And there is nothing you can say here. This example alone refutes your entire ideology. The dozen others I gave just make you look even more idiotic--so I needn't continue listing examples. You've done yourself in on these already.
As that same example likewise proves (as do all the others), government can be superlatively competent at many tasks. Coast Guard anti-piracy operations in the Aleutians are indeed superb, as with the many other law enforcement and search-and-rescue operations they perform there (which no one in that region could afford on their own, even by a fraction). Indeed I picked this example because I know it first-hand, inside-and-out, so I definitely know of what I speak: I served in the Aleutian island Coast Guard patrols.
Benjamin said... But it doesn't change the fact that fundamentally they're all immoral, and that they fail overall.
Whether they are immoral is not what you were being tested on. You said they were incompetently run. You have yet to prove this in even a single case. Thus you get a grade of F, top to bottom.
Whether they are "immoral" is another question, but one I've already adequately proved is lunatic nonsense. Coast Guard anti-piracy patrols, law enforcement, and search-and-rescue ops are all immoral? Need I any more proof of your insanity than such a claim as that?
Continue to Part III