31 July, 2009

Socialism and analogies

Last night Guadalupe, Cassady and I went to a health care reform panel discussion, which included a political analyst, a political scientist, an "economist", a small business woman, the founder of a local clinic, and a government bureaucrat. It was a mostly really informative discussion, and I got the most comprehensive comparison I have been exposed to of the current plans being considered as well as those not being considered in a very wonky yet understandable presentation. The "economist" did not represent his profession well, however - he simply asserted that there was no problem and that a public option "made no sense" but then provided no reasoning whatsoever. Unless you find sneering a convincing argument.

Afterwards I mentioned that I thought it was funny to imagine what would happen if the same people who talked about government involvement in healthcare in such apocalyptic terms were to be consistent and apply their reasoning to a socialized Defense department. Our competing private national defense insurance plans may be wildly inefficient, covering only certain threats ("We cover all inter-continental ballistic missiles, but not domestic dirty bombs") and responsive only to wealthy areas of the nation (if poor people would just get off their asses, then they too could get national defense!). But though imperfect, this system of defense is nothing compared to the horrors of having a bureaucrat in Washington, DC making your defense decisions for you!

But snark aside, Tina Dupuy at the Huffington Post (h/t Yglesias) has an interesting article on the history of fire-fighting, which until the Civil War was run as a private enterprise. What happened was basically that opposing gangs competed to be the first to a fire and expand their turf - which then led to literal battles and sabatoge between the outfits. She also imagines how this debate might play out today:

Yet if we had to have the "conversation" about the firefighting industry today, we'd have socialism-phobic South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on the TV every chance he could get saying things like, "Do you want a government bureaucrat between you and the safety of your home?"

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio would hold press conferences and ask, "Do you want your firefighting to be like going to the DMV? Do you want Uncle Sam to come breaking down your door every time some Washington fat cat says there's a fire?"


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