Reasons to Be Upset with Barack Obama

DJ Grothe, host of the Point of Inquiry podcast, writes about why he is disappointed by President Barack Obama:

But there is one area of change I can’t believe in: Obama has not only brought change to Bush’s Faith Based Initiative, but has actually expanded the program! And he did so without even attempting to change it in the right ways so as to officially prohibit proselytizing and religious discrimination! Real change would be to abolish such a dangerous blending of church and state.

He goes into detail about the many reasons the Faith Based Initiatives program bothers him. Here’s the brief overview:

  1. There is no real oversight of the religious groups who will receive the funding under Obama’s expanded program.
  2. There is a real risk that widely respected safeguards protecting the separation of church and state will actually be overturned.
  3. There aren’t clear criteria drawing distinctions between mainline and fringe faith groups.
  4. Reducing the number of abortions is a completely unworthy goal.
  5. Government funded support of religion to encourage “interfaith dialogue” is not the way to reduce religious tensions around the world.
  6. In a society that promotes religious liberty, tax payers should not be forced to contribute to religions they don’t support personally.
  7. One of Obama’s goals, to “increase the role of fathers,“ is based on pseudoscience and is tied to the destructive “pro-marriage” agenda.

I suspect #4 will be the most controversial of his reasons. Still, I agree that this is disappointing news.

I would’ve hoped a Constitutional lawyer like Obama would just put a stop to the whole program altogether.

(via Center For Inquiry)

  • Jen

    I agree with number four. The whole “safe, legal and rare” rhetoric irritates me because it still implies a judgement, intentional or not. I am all for more access to birth control, but simply because I think birth control should be a right (as all medicine should be) and if somehow the increase of access to birth control doesn’t decrease the number of abortions- eh, I don’t care. In fact, I would suspect that in a world without the excessive and unnecesary laws aimed at reducing access to abortions, the number of abortions would go up- and, I suspect, the number of mothers who secretly resent their children, who stay with abusive spouses, and who are unhappy with their reproduction would go down.

  • Abbie

    Re: #4- what the hell? This guy is strange.

  • inkadu

    It would be disapointing if anything about Obama’s campaign indicated he would do things differently.

    Didn’t Obama also mention secular groups?

    I would take umbrage at point 3: There aren’t clear criteria drawing distinctions between mainline and fringe faith groups.

    It’s bad enough that the Office of Faith Based policy tacitly discriminates between religious and non-religious groups, it would be even WORSE if it started meddling in denominational rivalry. Pagans and Zoroastrians have as much right to public money as the Catholic Church (which, in my opinion, is none).

    And, yes, I’d also disagree and say reducing abortions is a worthy goal. I’m not sure how you even JUSTIFY saying it isn’t a worthy goal. That said, if there is any faith-based group out there that is doing one effective, honest, and respectful thing to bring down the abortion rate, I haven’t heard about it. The most effective way to avoid abortions is to avoid pregancy. And the most effective way to avoid pregnancy is birth control. And religion is pathologically averse to birth control. So, as far as I can tell, money spent by faith-based groups to prevent abortion will be money at best wasted, and at worst make the situation worse.
    # Reducing the number of abortions is a completely unworthy goal.

    Also, on point #7 — I think the role of fathers isn’t a culture problem; it’s an economic problem. Obama should know that.

  • http://cannonballjones.wordpress.com Cannonball Jones

    I’ll leave off saying I told you so cause it doesn’t feel very pleasant, especially when things like this come to light. Just remember, he’s only another politician from a centre-right political party (most of us outside the US view the Reps as far-right and Dems as centre-right), he’s not going to affect massive change where it’ll make any significant difference.

  • Aj

    Women choosing abortion is not in the least bit wrong, a fetus is not a person. Arguments against abortion are pathetic, to the point of being silly, arguments from potential, spirit, and respect, thoroughly shot down. The major motivation in wanting to limit abortion comes from religious belief, sometimes even influencing secular people. Planned parenthood should be encouraged as much as possible, if that means many more abortions so be it, but not limited to that single method.

    Obama believes in belief, even with his past experience of being heavily involved with a pastor that promoted ignorance in the form of racism and consipracy theories. Not to mention the fundamentalist freak whose church he went to, and who he invited to his inauguration. His willingness to to forgive this poison perhaps stems from the power of religion to get him elected.

  • inkadu

    Women choosing abortion is not in the least bit wrong, a fetus is not a person.

    Of course not. But that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant experience. Would rather have an abortion, or would you rather not have been pregnant? I think most people would rather not be pregnant, which is why #4 is just bizzaro.

  • BZ

    Increase the role of fathers. What does that even mean, exactly?

  • Sarah T.

    I tend to agree with his #4, and I’ll try not to rant about it. :)

    There’s nothing wrong with reducing abortions, on the face of it, but when we unpack the reasons why Obama chose this particular phrasing and not another it becomes very problematic. If our goal is strictly to reduce abortions, then we should fund groups like “Crisis Pregnancy Centers“.

    He could have said, “Increase contraceptive use”. He could have said, “Funding for family planning”. All these things nominally reduce abortions without passing judgement or funding religious groups who oppose a legal and safe medical procedure. But increased funding for contraceptive education doesn’t get you votes.

  • Aj

    Of course not. But that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant experience. Would rather have an abortion, or would you rather not have been pregnant? I think most people would rather not be pregnant, which is why #4 is just bizzaro.

    DJ advocates for sex education and birth control so I think you’ve missed his point. It’s about choice, women have the option to prevent pregnancy or terminate it, both are given full support. If you’re in favour of reducing abortions because women would want to avoid them, then why not give them the choice to decide for themselves, giving them full access to everything.

    The majority of abortions take place in the first 16 weeks, the abortion procedure gets increasingly less comfortable the longer the pregnancy is continued. I don’t think chemically induced abortions are particularly worrying, but later abortions can mean surgery which I expect women would want to avoid.

  • inkadu

    I think the phrase “reducing abortions” is a way to pressure pro-life groups into being reasonable about contraception (good luck with that). But I really wonder what actual programs are going to get funded. If they’re religious programs, my guess is that it will involve showing cuisinarted fetuses to prospective mothers.

  • Pseudonym

    Reducing the number of abortions is a completely unworthy goal.

    Oh, you whacky Americans who don’t understand this whole “public health” thing. This makes perfect sense to everyone else in the world.

    President Obama, you may recall, is pushing for universal health care. One of the important features of universal health care is that the government has a direct financial interest in pushing prevention, because it’s so much cheaper than cure.

    Reducing the number of abortions is no different from reducing the number of lung cancer treatments. Treating lung cancer is an extremely good thing, but avoiding the need is even better.

    As for point #5, the sooner that secular groups get with the program and take part in interfaith dialogue (though we should probably think of a better name), the better.

    Point #6 makes more sense if you read DJ Grothe’s rationale. Obama is a liberal and Grothe is a libertarian. This is a difference of opinion, plain and simple.

    Point #7 is a weird one. I’m not sure that Grothe really understood the point of the policy.

  • Bald Ape

    inkadu (and others baffled by #4),

    The “reducing abortions” goal gets the carriage before the horse in a dangerous way.

    Consider the difference between a goal of “reducing the risk of appendicitis” and a goal of “reducing the number of appendectomies”. The former is a sensible goal; perhaps even a laudible goal for GP’s, dieticians, and other preventitive care experts. The latter is almost non-sensical, and would only be uttered if there was some religious-based value judgement against the surgical technique itself. For instance, a relative of mine buys into the philosophy/religion of “anthroposophism”, and might see a reduction of surgical interventions, coupled with greater reliance on the body’s mystical self-healing abilities, as a “good thing” (even it it meant more deaths due to appendix bursts!).

    If the goal of “reducing the risk of appendicitis” were achieved, we certainly might hope for an overall reduction of appendectomies. But if the focus of public policy is directly on “reduction of appendectomies”, we might see cruel policies that punish those who get appendectomies, reduce insurance coverage for the procedure, punish doctors who perform it, etc. – NONE of which would be “good” for society, despite the fact that they may reduce the number of appendectomies.

    In that light, can you understand the difference between a laudible goal of “reducing unwanted pregnancies” and a non-sensical goal of “reducing the number of abortions” (which has a history of generating Draconian public policies punishing those who seek or provide them)?

  • Miko

    inkadu:

    I was initially turned off by #3 too, but reading the original mollified me a bit: DJ does give fairly good reasons for why “fringe” groups should not get funding, although since they focus on activities rather than ideology I’d say they apply somewhat to mainstream groups as well. But you are correct that government shouldn’t be “playing favorites.” But then, that’s #6 on the list.

    On #4, it’s not too hard to argue it’s an unworthy goal. Ask yourself what tools government has to reduce abortions. Basically, there’s force (i.e., anti-abortion laws) and subsidy (i.e., laws that (indirectly) pay women to have children). While we might prefer a world in which the abortion rate was lower, the only meaningful interpretation of “reducing abortions” is “preventing people who want abortions from getting them.” In the same sense, I celebrate whenever I hear the divorce rate has gone up: this isn’t about the disintegration of the family or any similar nonsense, but about the empowerment (especially financially) of women. Trying to keep these rates artificially low isn’t solving the problem; it’s sweeping the problem under the rug.

    Pseudonym:
    On #6: I didn’t realize that left-liberals thought that people should be forced to subsidize other people’s religions either. Isn’t that more of a conservative thing?

    One of the important features of universal health care is that the government has a direct financial interest in pushing prevention

    It’s also the best reason to oppose universal health care. Government has enough of an authoritarian streak as it is.

  • inkadu

    Y’all -

    Ok. I see your point about abortions. From my perspective, the “reducing abortions” is synomous with “reducing unwanted pregnancies,” and my defense of the phrase was based on framing contraception in a way that would interest pro-life people. So as a bold policy statement, I’d agree, “reducing abortions” is a bad idea. As a piece of political rhetoric, though, I think it’s good as far as the implication is better contraceptive use.

    And could we clarify what we mean when we talk about value judgements on abortion? I don’t think it’s wrong for people to have abortions, but I know that it involves a little more emotional turmoil than an appendictomy. You don’t have to believe in a soul to realize that the fetus would otherwise likely have grown up to be your son or daughter. We can rationalize it, surely. We don’t mourn the loss of our eggs or sperm, though they are only a little earlier on the path to personhood. A lot of people still have an automatic attachment to that little blastula. To say that it’s just another medical procedure is to ignore the psychological reality for a lot of people.

    Miko – People get divorced because things aren’t working, and they probably should get divorced. But a lot of the time the problem is rooted in financial crisis. Do you really celebrate when a the father of two children loses his job, turns to alcohol, and gives the wife little choice but to divorce him? Yes, I’m glad she’s able to get a divorce, but what drives a rise in the aggregate divorce rate is not increased liberation, but increased misery. I’d say decreasing divorce rates would be a good thing. Though, mindful of this conversation, I guess I should rephrase and say “preventing unwanted marriages.”

  • inkadu

    And, responding tangentially to Miko’s health care comments, has anyone noticed a strong correlation between atheism and a peculiarly aggressive libertarian (ala Ayn Rand) stance? Because I have, but it could just be confirmation bias.

  • inkadu

    Oh, yeah, and actually… I was thinking that maybe we’re not really having an argument over actual goals, but carefully positioning ourselves within a political framework and being wary of giving the other side implicit political cover.

    I think about how much agnostics grate on my nerves, even though the actual difference in our positions are quite small (to nonexistent). In this case, we all (probably) agree that decreased abortions would be a positive secondary effect of our primary goal of decreased unwanted pregnancies, whereas the other side was argue that a decrease in unwanted pregnancies is necessary to achieve the primary goal of decreased abortions.

    What everyone here seems to be saying is that talking about “reducing abortions” is necessarily implying draconian methods. There’s nothing in the words themselves that imply any such thing. Preventing unwanted pregnancy can also have draconian measures — we can have people place their testicles in a jar and only sign them out after getting married and discussing it with a government-approved counsellor. We can prevent fatal car crashes by making the speed limit 15 miles an hour. We can improve the educational system by removing children from their parents and putting them in boarding school. There are a whole hosts of laudable ends that can have draconian means.

    I think what everyone is referring to here is that their is a political context — which is established outside of the words themselves. We obviously have a slight disagreement on what that context is, and therefore what the implications of the words are, but we’re one the same page (I think) of the kind of world we want to live in and what kind of policies we’d like to see enacted.

  • Chal

    Hey Pseudonym, just thought that I’d point out that smokers are actually better for public health-care, as they die much younger. Most of the health-care costs are accrued by the elderly. Prevention isn’t always cheaper.

    Strange but true.

  • Miko

    Miko – People get divorced because things aren’t working, and they probably should get divorced. But a lot of the time the problem is rooted in financial crisis. Do you really celebrate when a the father of two children loses his job, turns to alcohol, and gives the wife little choice but to divorce him? Yes, I’m glad she’s able to get a divorce, but what drives a rise in the aggregate divorce rate is not increased liberation, but increased misery. I’d say decreasing divorce rates would be a good thing. Though, mindful of this conversation, I guess I should rephrase and say “preventing unwanted marriages.”

    I’m not saying its a good thing. What I’m saying is that the divorces that occur are already in this category. Think of it this way: if we make it easier to get a divorce, will that in any way make a father more likely to drink or lose a job? By the same token, when divorce is made ridiculously easy, the majority of couples still won’t get divorced, and I rejoice over that as well. Basically, my point is that in the absence of government intervention and in an economic utopia, there will be some level of divorce. Short of totalitarian policies or an economic miracle, it’s likely that nothing government does will cause more people to get divorced, so the most likely possibility is that government actions are artificially lowering the number of divorces, which I see as contributing to human unhappiness. So, I’m glad when the divorce rate increases because it means its approaching the “true” level defined by whether people are happy in their marriages. Of course, I’d be even happier if in the absence of any restrictions the divorce rate nonetheless dropped to zero, but as a pragmatist I don’t expect that to happen. I introduced the analogy since conservatives often suggest that the rising divorce rate suggests the breakdown of the family and I think that that interpretation is incorrect. Similarly, I think that an increasing abortion rate is attributable predominantly to increasing availability rather than increasing promiscuity and irresponsibility. So it’d be great if it went down, but if you create a program with the specific goal of making it go down, I doubt you’d get the results you’re expecting.

    And, responding tangentially to Miko’s health care comments, has anyone noticed a strong correlation between atheism and a peculiarly aggressive libertarian (ala Ayn Rand) stance?

    I’ve actually never read Ayn Rand. In my experience, Ayn Rand types are wacky. I’m more of a pragmatic radical. :-)

    But to answer the question, yes. Positive atheism and libertarianism have an overlap because they have many common goals. At the dawn of the Enlightenment, the two major dominating forces were the universal sovereign and the church. Libertarianism successfully limited the power of the former (liberal democracy = we get to vote, but some things are off limits in order to protect minorities); Protestantism (and later atheism) have limited the power of the latter to impose its will on those who don’t want to be imposed upon (and those who choose to obey are free to do so). In both cases, it’s a move away from coercion and towards voluntary community.

    We obviously have a slight disagreement on what that context is, and therefore what the implications of the words are, but we’re one the same page (I think) of the kind of world we want to live in and what kind of policies we’d like to see enacted.

    For myself, almost certainly on the kind of world; almost certainly not on the policies to get there. In The Law, Bastiat describes a fracture in the Left, with one group seeking liberal goals (which we agree upon) using liberal means (i.e., persuasion and cooperation) and the other seeking liberal goals using conservative means (i.e, coercion). Speaking for myself, I’ll never accept the “ends justify the means” argument. All too often we end up getting the means without the ends, especially when there’s a motivation for a special interest elite to take control of the process.

  • Miko

    We can improve the educational system by removing children from their parents and putting them in boarding school.

    Speaking of means and ends, this is a terrific example of something that would use draconian means while almost certainly not achieving its goal of making education better. (And I realize you weren’t suggesting we do this.)

  • Miko

    Hey Pseudonym, just thought that I’d point out that smokers are actually better for public health-care, as they die much younger. Most of the health-care costs are accrued by the elderly. Prevention isn’t always cheaper.

    There are also public health externalities. Economists go both ways on whether smokers subsidize the rest of the population or not, but most end up with smoking being close to neutral in terms of dollars spent. If you add in psychic harm (of discomfort caused by being around smokers vs. satisfaction from smoking), they’re probably still a net drain on the society’s well-being.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    has anyone noticed a strong correlation between atheism and a peculiarly aggressive libertarian (ala Ayn Rand) stanc

    I think Ayn Rand libertarians are a minority amongst the atheist population. I’d classify most atheists as staunch leftist, rooting for the underdog liberals: the kind that hate Christianity but would welcome a Muslim president.

    I, myself, agree with much of what Ayn Rand said, especially her unabashed support of individualism.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    this is a terrific example of something that would use draconian means while almost certainly not achieving its goal of making education better.

    I think improving education is contingent upon understanding the existence of a bell curve for intellectual capabilities. Institute nationwide tracking (only really exists in high school currently) and encourage the lower half of the bell curve towards vo-tech and job specific training. High school is essentially a waste of time, even for the intellectually competent. The teachers indoctrinate us with the notion that the things we learn have real world relevance. But how many times have you used the Pythagorean theorem in your sales position, had to understand the intricacies of e.e. cummings in your law firm, or obtained a derivative in your advertising agency?

  • inkadu

    Miko:
    So, I’m glad when the divorce rate increases because it means its approaching the “true” level defined by whether people are happy in their marriages.

    I understand what you mean that gov’t (and society) can artificially lower divorce rates, locking people into unhappy marriages. But if no government laws have changed, and no social attitudes have changed, then what would drive an increase in divorce rates? An increase in unhappy marriages is the only answer I can think. And as I’ve said before, economy drives a lot of that.

    And you do make the best point on “reducing abortions.” Right now, abortions ARE probably artificially low because of government interference. Not probably — definitely. So, ding-ding, the light finally goes off in my head about the verbiage.

    On libertarianism — while your social history is interesting, I think psychological / ideological factors have more to do with the atheism – libertarian connection. The unbrainwashed pointed out that individualism is strain in both atheism and libertarianism. I don’t think you can be an out-atheist in America without a strong independent streak; people overly concerned about fitting in call themselves agnostic and mumble about “not knowing for sure.” And people not overly concerned about fitting in might have a problem accepting how society works and therefore fall prey to the blind idealism of libertarianism.

    I was a libertarian / anarchist in high school, so I definitely understand the appeal. But the more I read about sociology and politics and psychology, the more I realized how naively utopian (and uninformed) a philosophy it really was.

    Oh, and how would boarding school NOT improve education? I was thinking specifically of children who have very chaotic lives, for home the safety and stability of boarding school would be an improvement over foster homes, violence, and disordered social systems. Not sure boarding school would work for anyone else.

    Unbrainwashed — I think more accessible vocational training would be a greatly improved step; but it has nothing to do with the “bell curve.” People in college are no naturally smarter than your mechanics, they’ve just learned to do different things; things that society values as “smart.” My hobby horse is not that high school is a waste of time, but that college is a waste of time. For all the effort and time and money you put into it, all you’re really doing is buying yourself a status credential to get into fields that don’t require any more intelligence to do, but are more competitive because they pay more. And for a lot of people, the gamble of getting a high paying job does not pan out. It’s a high stakes game with a lot of losers. The trades, on the other hand, give you a fairly stable guaranteed income, and that income will come a few years after high school. Heck, if you count in the 4 years of lost income and add it to the tuition, college begins to look like not such a good deal.

  • inkadu

    Oh, yeah, another potential overlap between libertarianism and atheism: an emphasis on superiority of intellect.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Another reason to be disappointed in Obama: Three weeks and no puppy!

  • Bruce

    You need to take number 4 in the proper context. This is aimed at people who consider themselves pro-choice but yet still think there is something wrong or bad about abortion. I think a lot of pro-choice Democrats fall into this category (I have a feeling Obama falls into this camp). You remember Bill Clinton’s quip that “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.” So why should it be rare? Of course there are some legitimate health and money reasons for why preventing pregnancy is better than having an abortion, but we all know that this is not the reason why most people want abortion to be rare. They want it to be rare because they think it is a bad thing, an unfortunate choice, a shame that they had to terminate their pregnancy. They may not call it murder, but they ultimately view abortion as something that should be avoided for moral reasons. This is the point DJ is addressing on number 4. We need to stop dwelling over the number of abortions that are preformed merely because we think abortion as a bad thing, because it isn’t. There are no moral imperatives for reducing the number of abortions.

    Our goal should be to make birth control affordable and available to everyone who wants it and to give people proper sex education so they have enough information to make informed choices. And if that reduces the number of abortions, then so be it, but it shouldn’t be the primary goal, just a consequence of helping people take control over their lives.

  • Maria

    Reducing the number of abortions is a completely unworthy goal.

    that’s the dumbest thing I’ve read all day. to the guy who originally wrote this: Are you saying it’s better to have an abortion than to help drop the need for it in the first place by reducing unwanted pregnancies? anyone with half a brain knows that’s what he means. would you rather have Mccain and Palin? Obama at least acknowledges unbelievers exist and he’s gotten flack for it. Everyone wants him to do everything exactly as they want it. If the other side had one anyone who isn’t a xtian would be even further marginalized. It amazes me how people start throwing tantrums over stupid little things.

  • Pseudonym

    I didn’t realize that left-liberals thought that people should be forced to subsidize other people’s religions either. Isn’t that more of a conservative thing?

    It’s not a question of subsidising religions, but rather encouraging any group which promotes tolerance and discouraging any group which doesn’t. The theory is that this makes everyone better off, and discriminates on the basis of attitude, not religion.

  • Brian Macker

    “One of the important features of universal health care is that the government has a direct financial interest in pushing prevention, because it’s so much cheaper than cure.”

    … and it’s even cheaper to let them suffer, thus rationing.

  • Miko

    But if no government laws have changed, and no social attitudes have changed, then what would drive an increase in divorce rates?

    World War II. Since then, the percentage of women in the workforce has increased dramatically and continues to increase. And laws have changed, if we take a longer term historical view: times were that women, or married women at least, couldn’t own property or make contracts.

    On libertarianism — while your social history is interesting, I think psychological / ideological factors have more to do with the atheism – libertarian connection. The unbrainwashed pointed out that individualism is strain in both atheism and libertarianism.

    Psychology is definitely also a factor. I’ve seen some quasi-scientific MBTI data on this and there are strong correlations to certain personality types. N_’s tend to be atheists. NT’s tend to be libertarians. NF’s tend to be left-liberals. But I disagree with the charge of radical individualism; libertarianism is about restricting state power, not destroying social community (cf. the start of Paine’s Common Sense). I have no difficulty in fitting in with society and think that most libertarians would agree with me on that.

    I was a libertarian / anarchist in high school, so I definitely understand the appeal. But the more I read about sociology and politics and psychology, the more I realized how naively utopian (and uninformed) a philosophy it really was.

    I was a big-government socialist in high school and would say the exact same things in the opposite direction. I will agree with you that drastic changes in public opinion are required first: some libertarians seem to want some sort of anarchistic dictatorship, which is ridiculous. Until we can achieve it democratically, we can’t have it sustainably. But, whatever objections there are to libertarianism, the fact remains that we’ve tried all of the alternatives and know from experience that they don’t work. My hope is that we’ll pragmatically naturally assemble a more or less libertarian culture, and I see promising signs.

    On a related note, I love changing my mind. I’ve done it in the past and fully expect to continue to do so in the future as new data comes in. For this reason, I think it’s important to keep all possibilities open unless there’s a general agreement (and 53% of voters doesn’t satisfy this condition), which is the heart of non-coercion and libertarianism. It’s not about “blind idealism,” it’s about selecting the best among the options realistically available. In most cases, I think that that is libertarianism. In some, such as the tragedy of the commons, I’m less certain. It’s possible to value liberty without asserting that all of our problems would be solved if we’d just privatize the roads.

    Oh, and how would boarding school NOT improve education? I was thinking specifically of children who have very chaotic lives, for home the safety and stability of boarding school would be an improvement over foster homes, violence, and disordered social systems.

    To give some historical context, we tried this with the Native Americans. The U.S. government forcibly removed them from their families so that they could be given a ‘proper’ education. Those who altruistically try to ‘improve’ others against their will often have questionable motives, in my eyes.

    For those in the situation you describe, I don’t think there really is a good solution. It’s not an issue that I’ve thought about extensively, but I fear that the boarding schools you’d get wouldn’t match the goals you have. (Perhaps I’ve just read too much Dickens.) At any rate, my gut reaction is you’re comparing the worst possible scenario on one side to the best possible scenario on the other. And for those in a relatively normal family, I’d argue that a large part of a child’s education occurs outside of a classroom and that removal to a boarding school would largely disrupt that.

    My hobby horse is not that high school is a waste of time, but that college is a waste of time. For all the effort and time and money you put into it, all you’re really doing is buying yourself a status credential to get into fields that don’t require any more intelligence to do, but are more competitive because they pay more.

    As a college educator, I can assure you that for 75% of all students, this is absolutely true. Unless you have a specific reason for going to college (not necessarily career related) or have a major directly relating to your career goals, I recommend against going. But regarding the Unbrainwashed’s question “how often have you obtained a derivative in your advertising agency?”: hopefully my former business calc students would respond “daily.” If not, their employers should fire them.

    Oh, yeah, another potential overlap between libertarianism and atheism: an emphasis on superiority of intellect.

    Not necessarily. I’m a fan of intellectualism, but it’s deeply limited. Central planning fails not because we have the ‘wrong planners,’ but because no cadre, no matter how well educated and knowledgeable, can compete with the collective knowledge of individuals. Also, there are many issues in which I don’t have a clue what we should do; in cases like this, I default to giving the government no role so that people will be freer to experiment and try a variety of different solutions. There’s a saying in the sciences that’s unfortunately somewhat true: advances come after the funerals of great thinkers. Intellect is great, but we need nitty-gritty experimentation and trial-and-error as well. The current financial woes illustrate all too well the result of government regulations forcing everyone to follow the same approach.

    The superiority of intellect is more of a left-progressive idea: “if only we can elect the right politician, (s)he’ll fix all of our problems with a storm of well-crafted legislation.”

  • Miko

    It’s not a question of subsidising religions, but rather encouraging any group which promotes tolerance and discouraging any group which doesn’t. The theory is that this makes everyone better off, and discriminates on the basis of attitude, not religion.

    How is forcing someone to contribute to a religion to which they don’t adhere not subsidizing it? As the founders noted, the only way to have religious liberty is to have government force people to tithe to all churches (Patrick Henry) or not force them to tithe at all (Thomas Jefferson). The first option is no longer possible due to the existence of a large number of atheists.

    Besides, your position is self-contradictory: being tolerant (with public money) of everything except intolerance (where you define what intolerant is) is not a tolerant position. Someone could just as easily claim that gays are intolerant since they don’t tolerate Christians’ wishes for them not to get married. Policy has to be based on something more than word games.

  • Miko

    “One of the important features of universal health care is that the government has a direct financial interest in pushing prevention, because it’s so much cheaper than cure.”

    … and it’s even cheaper to let them suffer, thus rationing.

    UHC does lead to rationing, but that isn’t why. It’s price signals. Countries like Britain are losing doctors since they don’t pay them well enough and so they are forced to impose rationing. Also, their policies discourage medical research and innovation, leading to stagnation.

    Imagine for the sake of argument that a government was willing to collect any amount of revenue needed (if more that 100% of GDP, they could additionally conquer other nations and demand tribute). Would that eliminate rationing, or would it just increase public demand for trivial medical services until rationing was once again required? Rationing becomes necessary not because the government is insufficiently generous but because a free lunch is unsustainable.

  • Pseudonym

    How is forcing someone to contribute to a religion to which they don’t adhere not subsidizing it?

    Let’s have a quick reality check here. The idea behind “faith-based initiatives” is that faith-based organisations can compete for providing of government-funded services. This is not about “subdising religion”. This is about not discriminating against an organisation just because they’re religious.

    Yes, I have problems with the current approach. I liked what Obama had to say in the election campaign, and I think it’s unfortunate that these reforms don’t seem to live up to his promises in that regard.

    But the principle isn’t a bad one: You, as the government, cannot decide that an organisation can’t compete for providing services just because they’re religious. If separation of church and state means anything, it means that.

    Besides, your position is self-contradictory: being tolerant (with public money) of everything except intolerance (where you define what intolerant is) is not a tolerant position.

    Good parody of Ken Ham, there, I’m impressed.

    Seriously, though, I know you don’t go for that kindergarten level of “reasoning”, so let me lay it out simply: If you’re going to provide a government-funded service with government-funded money, you’d better not use it for purposes that are inconsistent with the government-funded service or government policy. If you’re not going to play nice, you don’t get the money.

  • Pseudonym

    UHC does lead to rationing, but that isn’t why. It’s price signals. Countries like Britain are losing doctors since they don’t pay them well enough and so they are forced to impose rationing. Also, their policies discourage medical research and innovation, leading to stagnation.

    I don’t think you understand how universal health care works in practice. Britain’s system has had problems for a while, but it’s difficult to fix for entirely political reasons. Essentially, every time some politician proposes a reform, some fearmongering opposition group arises claiming that it will inevitably result in a “US-style system” which usually kills it.

    (The quickest way to spread FUD against a health reform proposal anywhere in the world is to claim that it will result in a system like that of the US. Doesn’t that make you feel patriotic?)

    If you want a better comparison, try Australia or France. No health system, universal or otherwise, is perfect, but some are clear winners over others.

    Oh, and I love the “medical research and innovation” line, as if no medical research and innovation happens outside the United States. You really should get out more often.

  • Pseudonym

    Brian:

    … and it’s even cheaper to let them suffer, thus rationing.

    Because, of course. everyone in the US gets all the health care they require.

  • Miko

    You, as the government, cannot decide that an organisation can’t compete for providing services just because they’re religious. If separation of church and state means anything, it means that.

    I wouldn’t suggest that they should be barred. But religious organizations were allowed to compete before the faith-based initiatives. The faith-based initiatives just tilted the playing field in their favor. If we are giving money in this manner, it should be done completely without regard to religion. The question is whether you’re funding the work or funding the religion. Pre-faith based initiatives, religious groups were required to keep proselytizing separate and use the money for secular purposes. Post-faith based initiatives, those lines are severely blurred, which is why issues of religious liberty come up.

    Seriously, though, I know you don’t go for that kindergarten level of “reasoning”, so let me lay it out simply: If you’re going to provide a government-funded service with government-funded money, you’d better not use it for purposes that are inconsistent with the government-funded service or government policy.

    It was a reductio ad absurdum and so the conclusion was intentionally fallacious. My point was that government shouldn’t necessarily get to decide what those purposes are. The problem is it’s not government-funded money. It’s taxpayer-funded money. Your argument is that the government takes money from all and then chooses to endorse the purposes of some. You and I would probably agree for the most part on what purposes are the ‘correct’ ones to endorse, but I can’t morally support any program which essentially tells 49% of the population to get lost. As much as I’d like to wake up tomorrow and find that conservatism no longer exists, it’s not going to happen. So instead we need to play nice with the other side. If we can’t agree on goals, we should let individuals decide for themselves what they want to spend their own money on (unless there’s a compelling reason not to do so). And pragmatically, if we don’t do this, the other side is going to use our tools against us when they take power. It always happens, which is why I try to limit the tools government has to those which are absolutely necessary.

    (The quickest way to spread FUD against a health reform proposal anywhere in the world is to claim that it will result in a system like that of the US. Doesn’t that make you feel patriotic?)

    Nope. U.S. health care system sucks. No argument there. And it sucks for exactly the same reason that UHC sucks: distorted price signals.

    Oh, and I love the “medical research and innovation” line, as if no medical research and innovation happens outside the United States.

    You’ll notice that I said absolutely nothing about U.S. policy. (I’m a libertarian: believe me, you’ll very rarely find me arguing in favor of the status quo.) Our policies for the last fifty years or so discourage medical research and innovation too. Indeed, right now the majority of new drugs are coming from countries other than the U.S. and we seem determined to pick the worst policy imaginable with regard to stem-cell research, mainly but not entirely due to religious fundamentalism.

    There isn’t a law of the excluded middle phenomena here: just because the U.S. approach is bad doesn’t mean that anything which isn’t our approach will automatically be good.

    And I’ve heard some good things about the French health system, but I don’t know enough about it to comment intelligently. I’ll look into if I ever go to France, but it’s impossible to analyze armchair style since all of the information from both sides is so incredibly biased.


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