Monday, 4 February 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by political scientist Stanley Renshon. Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, otherwise known as the day when political junkies get their fix.

Bush-Hatin’ Paul

Paul Krugman’s¹ column of this date provides an insight into the totalitarian mindset. He criticizes Barack Obama because Obama’s health-care plan doesn’t coerce people into purchasing health insurance. Hillary Clinton’s does. Obama’s plan guarantees affordable health insurance to everyone. Clinton’s plan forces people to purchase health insurance (on pain of what? imprisonment?). Consider the following paragraph:

An Obama-type plan would also face the problem of healthy people who decide to take their chances or don’t sign up until they develop medical problems, thereby raising premiums for everyone else. Mr. Obama, contradicting his earlier assertions that affordability is the only bar to coverage, is now talking about penalizing those who delay signing up—but it’s not clear how this would work.

Note the twisted logic. If I choose not to “sign up” for health insurance, I raise premiums for everyone else. Suppose I choose not to purchase home insurance or car insurance. Do I thereby raise premiums for everyone else? Don’t say that the uninsureds who show up at the emergency room will be given free care. That would raise premiums for everyone else. Why does Krugman assume that the care will be free? An obvious solution is to tell people that if they don’t purchase health insurance, they’re on their own, financially. In other words, tell people that they’re responsible for their own health. But there’s the rub. Krugman and his totalitarian ilk don’t want people to be responsible; they want the government to take care of everyone, the way parents take care of their children. Father knows best.


¹“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).

Jonathan Wolff on Capitalism

The ‘pure model’ of a capitalist free market includes a number of essential features. First, property in land, raw materials, and other goods (including labour) is held by individuals or firms, under a system of secure property rights. Second, goods are produced for profit, rather than to satisfy the consumption needs of the producer, or of other needy people. Third, all goods are distributed by voluntary exchange on a market regulated by laws of supply and demand. Finally, free competition exists: anyone may produce and offer for sale any good.

This is the pure model. No real economy perfectly incorporates all these features: generally all are modified in some way. For example, in many countries the state owns and runs certain enterprises. Second, most countries have a significant ‘voluntary’ sector, producing goods and services on a partly charitable basis. Third, some goods cannot legally be traded on the open market (plutonium, heroin). And fourth, various state-enforced monopolies exist (the post office, for example) which prevent newcomers from entering a particular industry. However, it is also clear that most countries now approximate to this model to a greater or lesser extent. Are they right to do so?

What is the alternative to the capitalist free market model? As we have just seen, it can be modified by restricting the type of exchanges people can make. But the most radical alternative is the planned economy. It contrasts with the free market in all essential features. Here the state, in the name of the people as a whole, controls all property. Second, production is not for profit, but to satisfy the needs of the citizens. Third, distribution is by central allocation, rather than by trade. Finally, the state has ultimate control over who may produce how much of each good. Thus enterprise is carried out in accordance with a central plan, allocating resources to various industries.

(Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, rev. ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2006], 144)

Super Bowl XLII

Finally, a Super Bowl worthy of the name! I watched the first, second, and fourth quarters of yesterday’s game between the undefeated New England Patriots and the New York Giants. The game was close throughout. The Giants completed an 83-yard touchdown drive in the final three minutes, then held off the frantic Patriots to win, 17-14. I had no dog in the fight, but I do have crow to eat. I’ve been telling a colleague for years that Peyton and Eli Manning are soft, just like their daddy (Archie). Ha! Both Manning boys are now Super Bowl champions. I salute them. How long will it be before they meet in a Super Bowl? As for New England, wouldn’t Bostonians be even more insufferable than they are, had they won a World Series and a Super Bowl four months apart? Sorry, Steve. Sorry, Carlos.

Addendum: Did you see The Play? I still can’t get over it. On third down in the game-winning drive, Eli Manning escaped a crowd of tacklers. Miracle #1. In desperation, he heaved the ball downfield. David Tyree leaped, snagged it, and held it against his helmet as he fell. Miracle #2. The only play that exceeds this, in my estimation, is Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

David Kuo and John J. DiIulio Jr. urge the next president to heed the “large majorities” of Americans (according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) who support “using federal money to support the work of faith-based organizations.”

In their enthusiasm for that majority, they neglect an important minority: the 14 percent of Americans who profess “no religion.” These Americans are forced to watch as the “no establishment” clause of the First Amendment is dismantled.

In spite of a recent 5-to-4 decision by a right-wing Supreme Court—which said individuals could not challenge the use of federal money for the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives—government support for “faith-based initiatives” violates the letter and the spirit of our secular Constitution. It was a bad idea, it hasn’t worked, and it should be ended.

John Rafferty
New York, Jan. 29, 2008
The writer is president of the Secular Humanist Society of New York.

A Year Ago