On multiple occasions I have commented on the very divergent world views of progressives versus libertarians like myself -- a divergence that plays out, for example, in the repeated inability of Congress to reach agreement on basic things like a government budget. A remarkable facet of this divide is the conviction of many, particularly on the progressive side, that their view is objectively "right," and therefore anyone disagreeing must be wrong, indeed evil and immoral.
To get us ready for the new year, I thought I would look around for a good example of the extreme version of this psychosis, and I have come up with this article by Egoberto Willies from the Daily Kos on December 8. The particular subject of Mr. Willies is opposition to Obamacare, specifically opposition that goes to the point of advocating to the young and healthy that they should refuse to sign up. Yes, I have definitely done that here at the Manhattan Contrarian. Well, in the view of Mr. Willies, that is "immoral," "immoral and evil," and also "evil and immoral." (Mr. Willies appears to be a bit challenged in the vocabulary department, but he does have the bare minimum number of words to get his point across.)
It is immoral and evil to encourage young people to forego insurance when you have no intentions of being there if they get sick or get into an accident. It is immoral and evil to build websites that trick citizens into accessing them while providing them with misleading information that dissuades them from getting the health care they need. It is evil and immoral to create false stories mimicking real people’s circumstances in an attempt to curtail the number of enrollees to Obamacare.
Now why would opponents of Obamacare stoop to this evil and immoral behavior? Mr. Willies thinks he has the answer:
Opposition to Obamacare has characteristics of an addiction. One knows intrinsically when one is doing wrong or doing something detrimental. However, the cravings make one disregard reality and acquiesce to the drug. What is the drug? The drug is hate for all things Obama.
Well, trying to convince the likes of Mr. Willies is undoubtedly not worth the time and effort. But if there are any on the progressive side at least a little interested in how a sane human being could disagree with them, I would offer two main reasons:
The Fallacy Of Perfect Knowledge. Meaningful advances in human well-being come from a vast process of trial and error conducted by people acting in their own self-interest mediated by exchange of goods and services in markets. The reason that meaningful advances must come about in this method is that no one, not even any group of people working together as a team, is smart enough to figure out a really meaningful advance on his or her or their own within the span of their lives. And thus we have come up with things as simple as metal or agriculture, or as complex as a pencil or a computer. But the people who have devised Obamacare think that these processes of trial and error are no longer necessary and that they can solve the problems of healthcare once and for all by the device of having a group of really, really smart people (themselves) utter a two thousand page statute containing the final answer to everything. Might they make errors in this process? No way -- after all, they are really, really smart. They are so smart that they can impose their solutions by compulsory law that everyone else must obey, and can with complete confidence cut off the processes of self-interested market exchange, and instead compel people to act against their own self-interest to achieve higher goals of justice and fairness.
If these people are so smart, I might suggest that we should give them the challenge to make a pencil from scratch and put them out in the forest and see how long it takes them to do it. The answer is, they will not be able to make a pencil in this lifetime. But they are smart enough to remake the healthcare system into permanent perfection? I wouldn't count on it.
The Illusion of Infinite Resources. Do some people have less than full provision of perfect health care services? Well, we'll just order that they must get what they need! There are no limits here. Where will the resources come from? We'll order that people who already thought they coudn't afford health insurance must now buy it! We'll order that they will pay double or triple the fair price for their level of risk! But won't people have to give up things that they think are more valuable in order to achieve these goals? That is not something that a progressive needs to think about.
And of course the healthcare overreach is just one example of the infinite resources illusion. To consider a couple of current issues here in New York, how about ordering that all hospitals currently operating must remain open forever! (Result: multiple uneconomic hospitals limping along and losing money hand over fist, including one in Brooklyn, LICH, with 1400 employees and a current 10 or so patients kept open by court order and costing millions a month.) And then we'll order that anybody who wants to live in Manhattan can do so at taxpayer expense! We'll build them all "affordable" apartments in the most expensive location in the country!
And why stop there? For our next move, we will eliminate income inequality!
Well, sadly resources are not infinite, and government overspending on low priorities is a prescription for impoverishment of the people. And thus you have the overspending states like New York and Illinois losing status and population to those who keep spending under control; and the European nations having followed the progressive prescriptions to their logical end and going into permanent stasis.
As Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with socialists is that they "always run out of other people's money."