A Few Obamacare Links-Here We Are

At a time when America is faced with global competition in many labor markets, rapid technological advancement and change, the protracted loss of a fair chunk of its manufacturing base, and a positively toxic gap between the political establishment and voters, enough Americans chose to try and implement another huge, unfunded liability with the ACA (pushed through with only one-party support).

So, what about expanding Medicaid in Ohio, which Republican presidential nominee John Kasich chose to do?:

Akash Chogule at Forbes:

‘Although Kasich has urged other states to follow his lead, his unilateral expansion should instead serve as a warning sign to other states. When he first proposed expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, the Kasich administration predicted just 365,000 able-bodied adults would sign up in the first year, with that population growing to 447,000 by 2020.

But within seven months, the program had already exceeded its first-year projections. Altogether, more than 650,000 able-bodied adults have been added to Kasich’s unilateral Medicaid expansion. That skyrocketing enrollment has led to major budget overruns for Ohio.’

Now is probably a time for reflection and strategic thinking, not mere burn-it-down-style populism and (understandable) disgust.

The quicker the ambient change, the more consequential decisions made now will likely become later on.

Avik Roy supports some sort of universal care, but certainly not Obamacare. Back in 2014, he wrote the following:

‘Indeed, the ACA will especially drive up the cost of private health insurance that individuals purchase directly. The law will dramatically expand Medicaid, a program with the poorest health outcomes of any health insurance system in the industrialized world. And the ACA, despite spending over $2 trillion over the next decade, will leave 23 million lawful U.S. residents without health insurance, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

In other words, the U.S. health care system remains in need of substantial reform, in ways that address the ACA’s deficiencies as well as the system’s preexisting flaws.’

I can only point out that many of the supporters of the law have what I think are positively utopian notions of equality, fairness, and social justice; notions which often precede sustainable economic and legal design.

Charlie Martin from a while ago:

‘Whatever solution we look for though, the really important point is this: the whole basis of Obamacare, the notion that we can have more people, getting more benefits, and pay less, is just impossible. The arithmetic doesn’t work. And if you think that’s “unfair,” I’m sorry.’

After the political promises and hot-air clear a bit, many of the underlying problems still remain, but now with a fairly dysfunctional vast expansion of Federal Authority on top, along with a lot of obligations that aren’t being met, not even in the short-term.

Related On This Site:  Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

***Feel free to critique, or highlight my ignorance, as I’ll have to dig back here soon to confirm the reasoning.

————–

I wanted to contrast and highlight the above video with a recent post by Francis Fukuyama, a well-known American political scientist and former neoconservative.  He maintains a blog at the American Interest which often advocates for a larger State.

————–

For Strauss, there were two distinct schools of thought which prevent people from asking and trying to answer the question he wants them to ask:

“What is the good society?”

1. PositivismThe only form of genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge…and science knows only facts, or relations of facts.”-Video 1-Minute 4:40

On the positivist view, political science is but a pale copy of the best knowledge that we have.  Science deals with questions of fact, and the social sciences, on this view, deal with questions of value (as Strauss notes, there are much thornier philosophical problems underlying the fact/value distinction).

A good political scientist, however, can develop methods of his own.  He can poll people, read and interpret economic data, and he can use the best statistical sampling and modeling available.  Fukuyama, in his post, for example, advocates for a return to vigorous, empirical studies measuring the freedom bureaucrats have from direct political pressure in a bureaucratic modern society, bending the discipline in a direction he’d like to see it go (for which he has a conception of the good society which involves a bigger State led by a more moral, bureaucracy and with which I generally disagree).

Political scientists can also carefully follow events on the ground in foreign countries, gathering reports to establish facts (of a sort on the positivist view) which can back their thinking up, or challenge their framework, coming to understand many of the complex relationships of the societies they’re dealing with.  They can think clearly and well about Statecraft and the organizational structures of societies, as well as their own.  They can interview, visit, and come to understand the particular people, their incentives and motives, that live in these countries. They can try and provide road maps, as Samuel Huntington did, and as Fukuyama did with his famous The End Of History.  They can provide direct consultation to our military and can deeply affect how those making U.S. Foreign policy understand the world.

Yet, on the positivist view, such attempts will always fall short of factual, scientific knowledge.

Positivism, Strauss believes, comes with a problem in its wake:  It leads to nihilism, or the negation of the possibility of knowledge.   Continental European thought in the last 140 years or so is full of nihilists, existentialists, modernists and postmodernists many of whom are reacting to, or developing alongside, positivism.  Here’s Wikipedia’s page:

‘Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.  Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological or metaphysical/ontological forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist.’

On Strauss’ view, nihilism can be especially dangerous because in its negation of knowledge, and the possibility of knowledge, it can go about destroying the traditions and institutions that make civil society possible and maintain the political and economic liberty we in America often take for granted.  Strauss was particularly concerned with the effects of  Friedrich Nietzsche, and Nietzsche through Martin Heidegger.

——————-

The other school of thought holding back genuine questions of the good in politics for Strauss was:

2. Historicism “All human thought, including scientific thought, rests ultimately on premises, which cannot be validated by human reason, and which change from historical epoch to historical epoch.”-Video 2-Minute 4:10.

This is largely a critique of the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel and his absolute idealism.

Again, those whom Strauss wants to ask: “What is the good society?”, are forced to confront the idea that a universal response is not really possible.  Aristotle said many true things, but that was in ancient Athens in the polis, partly in response to Plato’s idealism.

John Locke, in contrast, was responding to 17th century, warring, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic England from a more Christian perspective, as well as dealing with the achievements of Galileo and Newton as the sciences were splitting from natural philosophy at the time.  Thus, Aristotle and Locke’s answers will naturally be different as to what constitutes a good society, and perhaps incompatibly so.  This view, for Strauss, is in the air we breathe and the water we drink, but it wasn’t always the case.

The historicist view assumes a universality of its own, according to Strauss. Hegel assumed that an absolute knowledge of time is possible, and thus his historicism is a lens through which one can scan and survey all of time, from epoch to epoch.  Yet, the historicist lens does not critique itself nor its own metaphysical foundations (Hegel’s thought remains exempt from its own criticism).   Hegel’s philosophy puts humanity in a process of progressing toward future goals, shaped by forces larger than itself, in an absolute relationship with time, and as part of a history which has an internal logic of its own (he dragged a lot of Christian metaphysics along).

Hegel’s idealism, after what Hegel did to Kant’s transcendental idealism, became known as German Idealism, developed further later on by Fichte and Schelling, and also formed the basis for some of Karl Marx’s thought, and the ideas that made up the stuff of the Communist Manifesto and the socialist, and the current social democratic, parties of Europe.

Historicism, Strauss believes, comes with a problem in its wake:  It leads to relativism.  Here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy definition:

‘Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else. For example standards of justification, moral principles or truth are sometimes said to be relative to language, culture, or biological makeup. Although relativistic lines of thought often lead to very implausible conclusions, there is something seductive about them, and they have captivated a wide range of thinkers from a wide range of traditions.’

Relativism, including moral relativism, should be familiar to us all.  Why is one set of moral values any better than another? Why is my civilization better than any other?  Why do I even have to learn and understand the values of my own culture if all values are relative?  A malaise ensues.

I would offer that too much relativism is clearly corrosive to our civil society, our institutions and freedoms.  When no one can agree upon, nor even identify, a set of principles and ideas around which our civil society is based, then we’re all more likely to come into conflict, and more likely to swing to an opposite pole of moral absolutism in response, which is equally dangerous.  That said, like many people, I could try and defend some aspects of relativism, or the examining of one’s own beliefs, ideas and principles and testing them for holes which I think is often the beginning of wisdom.

——————–

Hopefully, looking at Strauss can help highlight the Hegelian influence of Fukuyama and why he might have been advocating for an end of history a few decades ago, and for a bigger State now, as well as how a positivist influence through the Straussian lens might look more broadly upon a political scientist.

I haven’t discussed the criticisms of Strauss, including his esotericism, his other work and where his philosophy leads as a positive doctrine.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Thanks for reading.

Addition:  Related post here at American Creation.

Related On This Site:   Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft…Kant often leads to a liberal political philosophy:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington….is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Samuel Huntington was quite humble, and often wise, about what political philosophy could do:  From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’……Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Surfing The Web In China, Photos From A Year In Space, And Our Own Authoritarians

Surf China’s Censored Web At An Internet Café In New York:’

What’s it like?

‘It may have been a while since you’ve set foot in an internet cafe, but a pop-up one on the Lower East Side offering free tea on top of free wifi is well worth a visit for a lesson in online freedoms. Established by video and installation artist Joyce Yu-Jean Lee in collaboration with technologist Dan Phiffer, the exhibition FIREWALL Internet Cafe NYC enables visitors to navigate the internet as users in China do, filtered through the Great Firewall

I don’t know if that qualifies as ‘art installation’, exactly.  But, still…

———————-

The Hermit Kingdom seems to have great internet access (even the Chinese don’t often know what the hell’s going on in Pyongyang).

You never go full Stalin:

———————-

Photos from Scott Kelly’s Year In Space at the link.

———————-

Conor Freidersdorf: ‘The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened On Campus:’

‘To sum up: free speech on campus is threatened from a dozen directions. It is threatened by police spies, overzealous administrators, and students who are intolerant of dissent. It is threatened by activists agitating for speech codes and sanctions for professors or classmates who disagree with them. It is threatened by people who push to disinvite speakers because of their viewpoints and those who shut down events to prevent people from speaking.’

Of course, the case can be continually made of the connection between radical and protest politics, and a good bit of the illiberalism beneath the modern spires of high liberal idealism.

People can judge for themselves the truth value of the moral claims being made by those in the public square, and act accordingly.  I’d like to think I’m free to observe critically the outcomes and consequences of such ideas in action; what people do, not just what they say, especially when they get the power and influence they seek.

Does it make our institutions function any better?

Still much better than I’ve ever uttered:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

Thanks, Malcolm!

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

From another reader:  Tim Black at Spiked Online reflected a little:

‘But as the past couple of decades have demonstrated, there has been a twist to this tale of liberal progress. Censorship, far from disappearing, has changed form. What was once the prerogative of the state has become the prerogative of the individual. What was once grounded on morality, on what the state decreed to be right or wrong, moral or corrupting, is now grounded on emotions, on what the self decrees is hurtful or hateful. Speech no longer corrupts, or causes the will to deviate from the path of virtue; speech now upsets feelings, and causes people emotional harm. It is not the old-fashioned rational self that’s deemed at risk here; it’s the new-fangled emotivist self.’

It seems to me that the choice of ’empathy’ and walking a mile in another man’s shoes is relatively neutral, a choice that ought always to be ours to make.  Eventually, though, I expect ’empathy’ to be continually co-opted and deployed by movements demanding all manner of things for themselves, while not honoring the wishes of others to be free.

For all the genuine injustice out there, publicly rewarding victimhood and airing grievances can soon become an exercise in punitive redress.  Once folks start exploring themselves with certain ideological tools and ideas, it can be easy to start grafting genuine injustices along with their own failures and slights in life onto someone/something else without much thought at all.

And there, many can stay, in perpetual grievance, seeking constant social change, but often without much thought at all to what exactly that change would look like; the potential costs to all of our freedoms.

Personally, I’m hoping that all the self-help temples out there, the confessional couches a la the commercial populism of Oprah don’t decide to indulge too much in this direction…

As this blog sees it: A vague, shared emotion is no stamped passport to civilized society.

Much more is required of us all.

Christopher Hitchens had some interesting ideas (yes, generally a man of the Left no matter how contrarian):

 

—————–

The late Ken Minogue had some thoughts which might shed a little light on our own natures, lest you get too pumped-up.

‘What most people seem to want, however, is to know exactly where they stand and to be secure in their understanding of their situation.’

From yet another reader (a record at this blog!): Robert Tracinski at The Federalist also offers reflection upon last year events, so reserve your right to be free from culture warriors of all stripes:

‘This is why I’ve written far more about the culture war this year than I ever expected (and the excerpts above are just a sampling). It has become an urgent necessity to push back against the resurgence of totalizing political correctness, to carve out room for the freedom to disagree—and to lay down the outlines of what a third alternative in the culture war looks like.’

If no one does it, the PC and anti-PC madness will likely continue.

A Layman’s Bi-Yearly Martian Update

Hey, other people know much, much more and can explain what they know more clearly…but I had some spare time today.

A long time ago on Mars, according to the evidence, there was intermittent liquid water in many places, and near Gale Crater, where the Curiosity Rover has been traveling:

‘The data indicate the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes. The rock is made up of a fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals. This ancient wet environment, unlike some others on Mars, was not harshly oxidizing, acidic or extremely salty.’

As posted:

Conditions don’t look terrible for having once harbored some sort of microbial life, but finding such evidence of that life is another matter.

——————————

Why is the atmosphere so thin and how did it get that way?  Why is any water now locked, frozen, beneath the northern polar ice-cap?

What happened?

3.8 billion years ago, according to a new paper and press release, it’s possible to explain why an atmosphere a little thinner than that of Earth at one point, could eventually thin to just 1% that of Earth.

‘Modeling the long-term effects of this “ultraviolet photodissociation” mechanism, the researchers found that a small amount of escape by this process leaves a large fingerprint in the carbon isotopic ratio. That, in turn, allowed them to calculate that the atmosphere 3.8 billion years ago might have had a surface pressure a bit less thick than Earth’s atmosphere today.

“This solves a long-standing paradox,” said Bethany Ehlmann of Caltech and JPL, a co-author of both today’s publication and the August one about carbonates. “The supposed very thick atmosphere seemed to imply that you needed this big surface carbon reservoir, but the efficiency of the UV photodissociation process means that there actually is no paradox. You can use normal loss processes as we understand them, with detected amounts of carbonate, and find an evolutionary scenario for Mars that makes sense.”

The atmosphere is so thin liquid water would either immediately freeze or ‘boil’  due to lack of pressure.  Standing at the equator, the temperature at your feet could be 70 F and at your head 0 F.

This is beyond the level of hostility found in even extreme environments here on Earth (summit of Everest, Anarctica). Survival here would be no joke.

A few missteps, or a simple error in judgment could lead to death.  An unfortunate series of malfunctions in critical systems could lead to death.  No cargo transport’s on the way.  Any life we send must be able to sustain and provide for itself.

Aside from these rovers, this planet is beyond all known human experience.  There would be no signs of life; bleak, stark, alien and beautiful.

Let’s do it!

Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation

 

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

Full post here.

‘In November of 1887, the Danish scholar George Brandes wrote a letter to Nietzsche praising his writings and endorsing his “aristocratic radicalism.”  Nietzsche responded by accepting this label: “The expression Aristocratic Radicalism, which you employ, is very good.  It is, permit me to say, the cleverest thing I have yet read about myself.”‘

Excellent, as always.

‘Finally, as I have indicated in some previous posts, Nietzsche’s aristocratic liberalism is based on a Darwinian anthropology that is open to empirical verification or falsification, while his aristocratic radicalism is based on mythopoetic fictions–the will to power, eternal recurrence, the Ubermensch, and Dionysian religiosity–that are beyond empirical testing.

From all of this, I conclude that Nietzsche’s Darwinian aristocratic liberalism is superior to his Dionysian aristocratic radicalism.’

Arnhart maintains that Nietzsche’s middle period, focused on Darwin’s thought, is the most defensible.

Here’s a quote from Leo Strauss, on Nietzsche beginning the 3rd crisis of modernity, having followed the logic of relativism to nihilism:

‘The theoretical analysis of life is noncommittal and fatal to commitment, but life means commitment.  To avert the danger to life, Nietzsche could choose one of two ways: he could insist on the strictly esoteric character of the theoretical analysis of life–that is restore the Platonic notion of the noble delusion–or else he could deny the possibility of theory proper. and so conceive of theory as essentially subservient to, or dependent on, life or fate.  If not Nietzsche himself, at any rate his successors adopted the second alternative.’

A paper arguing that Strauss conflated his own critique of modernity with the intentions of philosophers:

‘A fervent critic of modernity, Leo Strauss attributed modernity’s intellectual degradation to the influence of some great philosophers in the history of political thought who radically broke with classical political thinking.  In doing so, Strauss believed, these thinkers either directly or indirectly contributed to the emergence of historicism and positivism, and he held these movements accountable for spineless relativism, nihilism, and modernity’s moral and intellectual demise.’

Related On This Site:  Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

From YouTube: J.P. Stern On Nietzsche

Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic Greek (the beginning of the end).

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionDinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy