The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Last week, a message was circulating on Facebook promoting the following sentiment: “No one should die because they cannot afford health care or insurance and no one should go broke or bankrupt because they get sick.” The message asked everyone who agreed with the statement to post it on their Facebook status box.

This week, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times made the absurd claim that anyone who disagrees with the post-racial President™ is racist. Silly me to think that one of the few benefits of electing to the presidency an inexperienced community organizer with disturbing ties to shady characters was that it would finally put an end to such race-baiting nonsense.

There’s no need to spend much time on Dowd’s piece. To paraphrase the legal maxim, her ignorance speaks for itself. Evidently, subtlety is not among Dowd’s strengths. Nor does she seem to possess the ability to discern irony, as evidenced by her Obligatory Two Minutes of Hate screed against Joe Wilson, the Left’s Emmanuel Goldstein de jour, in a piece ostensibly directed against the right’s alleged propensity to label political opponents as “the Other”:

The outburst was unexpected from a milquetoast Republican backbencher from South Carolina who had attracted little media attention. Now it has made him an overnight right-wing hero, inspiring “You lie!” bumper stickers and T-shirts.

The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.

The Facebook message and Dowd’s demonization of opposition to Obama are good examples of the liberal/statist good cop/bad cop attempt to frame the debate on controversial subjects like government-run healthcare.

No one really disagrees with the sentiment expressed on Facebook. It’s a noble-sounding sentiment, but noble-sounding sentiments are a dime a dozen. They contribute nothing toward the enormous cost of providing health insurance for 30 million or 47 million uninsured. That’s a large part of their attraction: it costs liberals absolutely nothing to give a thumbs-up to a message approving lofty-sounding, utopian goals. Giving lip-service to lofty-sounding platitudes is much easier and psychologically more rewarding than presenting factual and logical arguments in favor of one’s policy preferences. Also, they get to frame political issues simply as contests between morally enlightened persons like themselves who favor a universal, government-subsidized healthcare option and evil, reactionary troglodytes like us who secretly wish to deprive poor people of lifesaving care.

Outside the liberal world of magical thinking, most of us understand that, like most things, healthcare costs include a broad range of goods and services that are not free, but must be paid for. For most of us, the question is which system will provide the best overall healthcare at a reasonable cost. While insurance is a necessary means of financing extremely expensive but relatively rare occurrences, it is an inefficient and costly way of paying for everyday expenses. This is a question liberals are generally not very interested in examining, else they would not instinctively gravitate to the same single-payer models that have demonstrably failed everywhere and every time they have been tried.

Imagine how much your auto insurance would cost if it was administered the way most people’s health insurance works. Instead of paying for routine maintenance like oil changes out of pocket, you would file a claim with your auto insurer, who would either have to pay whatever the mechanic charges, fight over the reimbursement rate for each “claim,” or go through the trouble and expense of developing and contracting a network of preferred mechanics to keep such costs down. You and I certainly wouldn’t go through the bother of looking for the cheapest/best mechanics because the insurance company would be the one paying the bill.

A much better way to fix problems with health insurance is to make health insurance function more like auto insurance. Limit insurance to expensive drugs/procedures via a high-deductible policy and pay for everyday healthcare expenses, such as checkups and routine preventive care, with your own money. Health insurers should also be allowed to charge higher premiums to people whose lifestyles demonstrably correlate to higher healthcare costs. Again, this is something auto insurers currently do, charging higher premiums to young male drivers, people with a history of accidents, etc.

Safeway has implemented several innovative market-based solutions, such as paying employees who quit smoking, lose weight, lower their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, etc. As a result, their healthcare costs have remained flat over a four-year period whereas overall health insurance costs have grown at nearly double the inflation rate over the same period.

Tort reform is another way to control costs, not just the ridiculous multi-million verdicts on junk science claims that former Democrat VP candidate John Edwards specialized in, but also billions in unnecessary and redundant tests performed not because they are appropriate, but to defend against such frivolous malpractice suits.

Yet these and other reforms that actually would help (like eliminating wasteful government mandates that continue to drive up insurance costs) are conspicuous in their absence from Obama’s healthcare proposals. But for true believers, the healthcare debate isn’t about actually improving the healthcare system, but about validating their failed leftist worldview and reaffirming their unswerving faith in their own moral superiority.

The title of this piece comes from a famous koan by Hakuin. It describes the ineffable concept of a soundless sound. But the sound of one hand clapping is all around us. It’s the familiar sound of a liberal driving around in his Prius with only one hand on the wheel. You see, he can’t drive using both hands because one hand is continually kept busy patting himself on the back, congratulating himself for his presumed moral superiority over the rest of us.

Hayek called it “the fatal conceit,” the idea that “man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes.”

The fatal conceit is the deafening soundless sound of one hand clapping.

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2 Responses to The Sound of One Hand Clapping

  1. […] Ed wrote an interesting post today onThe Sound of One Hand Clapping « Vox Clamantis in DesertoHere’s a quick excerpt […]

  2. RobD says:

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post! 🙂

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