Thursday, 6 December 2007

Health Care

Paul Krugman* wants everyone in this country, whether rich or poor, young or old, healthy or sick, to be forced to buy health insurance. It doesn’t matter whether you want it; you must have it. This isn’t like driving, where one can choose not to own a car. As long as you’re alive, you’ll have to be insured. (Presumably you’ll be punished if you’re not.) Here is the key paragraph from Krugman’s latest column:

Look, the point of a mandate isn’t to dictate how people should live their lives—it’s to prevent some people from gaming the system. Under the Obama plan, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance, then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. This would lead to higher premiums for everyone else. It would reward the irresponsible, while punishing those who did the right thing and bought insurance while they were healthy.

Actually, the point is to dictate how people should live their lives. How is that not totalitarianism?

* “Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

“Her Tiresome Agenda”

Michael Fragoso disputes many of Stephanie Coontz’s factual claims about marriage.


It pains me to say this, but Mitt Romney can’t win the 2008 presidential election, especially if he goes up against Hillary Clinton. Too many people who would otherwise support the Republican nominee will not vote for Romney because of his Mormonism. Please don’t interpret this as Keith opposing Romney because of his Mormonism. If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few years, you know that Romney was my first choice for president in 2008. I was on his bandwagon before he had a bandwagon. But look: It’s going to be a close race. Can those of us who hope to avoid a Hillary presidency afford to take a chance? It would be different if 2008 were going to be a Republican year, but clearly it’s not. What do you think? By the way, if Ron Paul decides to run as an independent candidate, it’s all over for the Republicans. The Megans of the world will vote for him, just as many Democrats voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. You know what happened.

Addendum: Here, courtesy of one of my students, is the text of Romney‘s speech.

Addendum 2: Here is David Frum’s take.

Curro Ergo Sum

I learned the hard way, a decade ago, that running shoes matter. I still go too long between pairs, but not quite as long as I used to. My new pair of ASICS (Gel-1130) shoes arrived this evening by UPS (“that brown truck,” as my mother used to say). I wore the old pair for one year and put 519.94 miles on them. (I put 1,333.62 miles on an earlier pair.) Did you know that “ASICS” is an acronym? Here’s what it says on the tag:

For over 50 years, ASICS has produced high quality, technically innovative sports and fitness products. Our name, ASICS, is an acronym from the Latin phrase, “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano,” which translates simply to “a sound mind in a sound body.” This concept is central to our company’s commitment to develop products that meet our customer’s [sic] highest standards.


From the Mailbag

Dear Professor Burgess-Jackson,

I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful and enlightening article regarding torture and philosophy as posted on on 12/5/2007. This is exactly the kind of thing we need in the public forum right now—a framework by which we might evaluate our beliefs about torture (and war, wiretapping, etc., for that matter), as well as our beliefs about what the law should say (and how it should be applied) to such subjects.

By working to eliminate inconsistencies, and by advancing philosophical frameworks that can be filled in with premises, facts, understandings, etc., I would hope that we could eventually get to a point where a much greater number of people more clearly understand all sides of such arguments (their own as well as those of their opposition), including why each side takes their stated position. I believe this will become ultimately practical as it can better inform us as voters as to which levers to pull in the polls, based on our own premises, beliefs, and understandings.

At the very least, the world will make much more sense to us; at best, I would hope that enough people could come to agreement that we could select leaders who can influence our legal systems and our government’s implementations of those systems in a way that best satisfies our collective conscience, rather than partisan politics that have nothing to do with the question of torture, etc.

You even have me starting to consider taking some night courses in philosophy; and who knows where that might take me? :)

Thanks again.


Chicago, IL

Note from KBJ: Dr William F. Vallicella, a credentialed philosopher, has some thoughts about my column. Thanks, Bill. Those of you who haven’t visited Bill’s blog should do so on a regular basis. Bill is perspicacious; his prose is perspicuous. (I apologize if this sounds like a mutual-admiration society.)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Bush Insists Iran Remains a Threat Despite Arms Data” (front page, Dec. 5): What’s surprising about the response to this report is how eager people are to believe it. The same people who have discredited our intelligence on Iraq have, overnight, become “believers” in the same intelligence community.

One might conclude that the reason for this transformation from cynic to believer is the report’s usefulness to critics of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, this report is also useful to those whose economic relationship with Iran is better served by turning a blind eye to its hostility toward the West.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, Americans, especially presidential candidates, should remain clear on who our enemies and friends really are. Iran is no friend of America.

Andrea Economos
Scarsdale, N.Y., Dec. 5, 2007

Note from KBJ: If we would just talk to the Iranians, they’d be our friends.


This is a silly column. Its author asks why so many Heisman Trophy winners go on to have mediocre professional careers. Why do so many sterling undergraduates get mediocre grades in law school or fail to complete their doctoral dissertations? The criteria for success at one level differ from the criteria for success at a higher level. Competition intensifies, weeding out those with inferior intelligence or ability. Some people are happy just to make it to the highest level. In baseball, it’s called getting to the show. Others want not just to reach the Majors, but to excel there. If you’re a baseball fan, you know what I’m talking about and can think of examples. I’m sure the same is true in other sports, including football. Lance Armstrong was not content merely to sign a contract with a cycling team. He was driven. He wanted to be the best. Some cyclists seem content just to get a contract.


Randy Rhoads would have been 51 years old today. He has legions of fans, including this kid.

A Year Ago


Thomas Nagel on Human Rights

The real test of a belief in human rights is whether we are prepared to insist that they be respected even in the service of worthy causes—prepared to condemn their violation not only in the suppression of the democracy movement in China but also in the Peruvian campaign against the Shining Path and the Algerian campaign against the Armed Islamic Group. The recognition of rights, even if they make more difficult the achievement of a good or the prevention of an evil, expresses that aspect of morality which sees persons not only as objects of benefit and protection but also as inviolable and independent subjects, whose status as members of the moral community is not exhausted by the inclusion of their interests as part of the general good. Rights form an essential part of any morality in which equality of moral status cannot be exhaustively identified with counting everyone’s interests the same as a contribution to an aggregate collective good whose advancement provides the standard of moral justification.

(Thomas Nagel, “Personal Rights and Public Space,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 24 [spring 1995]: 83-107, at 86)


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then Mark Twain wasn’t Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

Best of the Web Today



Here is an essay about the dreaded Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome.