Obeezycare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is about as unwieldy as its name. This gargantuan law, passed before even the legions of Congressional staffers could read it, is now poised to transform the rapidly expanding American healthcare sector into…

…basically the same thing it is now. The mandates imposed by the ACA are coupled to fines whose structure ensures they will be merely punitive rather than coercive. Young people, especially those young people who are grossly underemployed, will broadly refuse to buy into a system designed to subsidize the poor, sick, and elderly. Young men, from whom the state-run exchanges aim to bleed the most money, are already eschewing healthcare they perceive to be unnecessary; raise the price point, and even legitimately effective prophylactic care may fall victim to a rational cost-benefit analysis.

The widely-touted employer mandate is such a shambles that its implementation will be delayed until after the 2014 midterm elections. Even less agile firms will have the lead time to minimize healthcare benefits by reducing hours and creating fewer full time, salaried positions; benefits, like pensions, are on the way out, and the ACA will only accelerate the existing trend.

Concurrent with the end of denial for pre-existing conditions (perhaps the most equitable part of the law, though that is a low hurdle to clear), insurers will be forced to spend eighty percent or more of their revenue on policyholders’ medical expenses. This compares rather unfavorably with the (roughly) five percent overhead of both Medicare and Medicaid, and, in fact, the floor is less than the current average: approximately eighty-five percent of revenue.

The assertion has been made that the ACA aims to gradually supplant the private insurance sector with a single-payer, government-run system, similar to the UK’s National Health System. Given the gross ineptitude Kathleen Sibelius and her underlings have displayed attempting to set Obamacare in motion, this seems a remote prospect.

Realistically, healthcare reform will continue to be the proverbial idiot’s tale as long as it is political suicide to dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, and EMTALA. All the sound and fury surrounding cost containment will accomplish nothing while the main drivers of rising medical expenses are unaddressed. The destruction of the pricing mechanism inherent in shifting the sickest patients’ financial burden to the taxpayer has blown a bubble of gargantuan proportions, every bit as ludicrous and economically dangerous as the rapid ballooning of student debt.

In the end, the insurers and hospitals will succeed in extracting their pound of flesh, and the last independent physician will take down his shingle as the cost of malpractice insurance and regulatory compliance drives him inexorably out of business. Cost containment is incompatible with rent-seeking, which, incidentally, is the primary modus operandi of hospitals and insurers.

The Secular Case for Natural Rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

At which point some trendily-dressed SWPL will inevitably say, “I’m an atheist, and I think you don’t have any God-given rights. “

For the sake of argument, let’s take God out of the picture. What rights are governments obligated to respect?

A succinct answer is those rights for which men will fight and even die to defend. Violent revolution is a messy business, so most people will meekly surrender liberty and property. Even when the state threatens the very lives of its citizens and their children, and the social compact underpinning the government has been irreparably sundered, they will still submit.

Ultimately, no government is inherently obligated to respect its citizenry to even the slightest extent. The onus is on each new generation of citizens to secure its birthright, to dissolve those governments which threaten liberty and replace them with a new and more just covenant.

We are seeing, now, how paper-thin the excuses for tyranny are: Ed Snowden is accused of aiding the enemies of the United States for telling the world that we are willing to snoop into every citizen’s private life to catch a mere five terrorists a year. The revelation, to foreign nations, of what was already all but public information has prompted cries of “treason!” from legislators who have shamelessly violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution time and again.

If Snowden is giving aid and comfort to our enemies, it is by elucidating the incalculable hubris and stupidity of Americans’ elected leaders, who are willing to pay huge sums of treasure to guard, poorly, against terrorists who kill fewer Americans each year than die falling in their bathtubs.

It does not take a soothsayer (paging Miss Cleo) to see where all of this is headed; the pattern has been made clear by the ever more shrill witch-hunts for those who dare to deny obeisance to our society’s anointed “victim” groups. Soon, mere proximity to malefactors will be enough to ruin a man. Guilt-by-association is already a way of life in the private sphere for all enemies of the progressive march toward cultural Utopia. With the vast power of the federal government leveled against the innocent, we are one step closer to a future where all of us are criminals, if only in our thoughts.

That’s a Nice Tablet You’ve Got There…

Recently, there’s been a rash of thefts on public transit where I live. Maybe where in your town, too. Mainly smart phones, with the occasional iPad thrown in for good measure. Makes a kind of sense; they’re valuable, portable, and ubiquitous.

Cities like New York, Boston, and Seattle have efficient mass transit because it’s difficult to drive, and because there are fewer thieving youths. Cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore can’t make the buses run on time or adequately deter robbery and other mayhem. If the riders aren’t there to find the system, it slowly dies on the vine as people abandon it for the safety and comfort of their own automobiles.

The state of a neighborhood’s public transit is a good indicator of whether it is worth living there for a while. If you can’t ride the buses and trains safely, odds are it’s not worth buying a house. Another good tell is the amount of litter on the streets: a clean neighborhood is usually a safer one.

Enter Mephistopheles

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Betafaust is pacing in the bowels of the university library.  It is finals week, so there is a line at the bathroom.

Mephistopheles enters from stage left.

Mephistopheles: Greetings, mere mortal.

Betafaust: What?

M: I mean, is this the line for the bathroom?

B: Oh.  Yeah.

M: Excellent.  Man’s virtue is sorely pressed by a heavy bladder.

B: Do you think it’d help if I crossed my legs?  That Asian dude is taking forever.

M: I don’t know.  I have a deal to offer, though.

B: I’m all set on addys, man.  Thanks, though.

M: How about twenty-four months of earthly power?

B: Isn’t it supposed to be twenty-four years?

M: Blame Nixon’s dismantling of Bretton-Woods.  And cheap credit.

Betafaust laughs.

B: That’s better than the one about economists and dog shit.

Mephisopheles snaps his fingers.

M: A mere taste of what could be yours, mortal…

The bathroom door opens, and out walks the Asian, carrying his textbook.

B: Oh, thank Christ.

Betafaust exits the stage through the bathroom door, as the Asian exits stage right.

M: That’s just rude.

 

One of the pernicious obstacles to unveiling the true contours of the sexual marketplace is the compromise of identity which occurs when long-held beliefs are challenged.  The artist formerly known as Roissy refers to it as soul-shivving.  For my part, I think it takes on the air of a Faustian bargain.  Knowledge is power, but stripping away the illusions of feminine virtue requires a surrender of the beta soul.  And there is no turning back once the curtain is lifted.

A ‘Murrican Tune

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If shooting is one of your hobbies, you will have noticed that there is precious little ammunition, and guns are pretty thin on the ground, too. The panic-buyers, convinced that the United States will imminently go full-Zimbabwe, have picked store shelves clean. Enterprising hustlers have started buying up the remainder to flip to the Chicken-Littles at vastly inflated prices, ensuring that the supply chain will stay barren for at least a few more months. Needless to say, the specter of a renewed assault weapons ban has not dampened the irrationally exuberant buying of black rifles.

If shooting is not one of your hobbies, stick around, because this post is not just about Mr. Minuteman above: it’s a discussion of how we got to the point where millions of Americans are somewhat seriously preparing for a second civil war, albeit not seriously enough to get in shape.

If one holds that “he who governs least, governs best,” then William Henry Harrison was a truly exemplary statesman. Jefferson, the most eloquently anti-federalist President, expanded the power of the Presidency with the Louisiana Purchase despite worrying that his actions were unconstitutional; subsequent enablers of executive power-grabbing have largely abandoned such concerns, to the point that it took a thirteen-hour filibuster to confirm that drone strikes targeting American citizens on American soil were not, in fact, legally permissible.

The Bill of Rights may still be paid lip service, but most of its protections are long gone. Property can be seized before a trial has adjudicated guilt, protestors are pepper-sprayed and teargassed by police, and Congress is now seriously considering banning private sales of firearms. Sitting Senators have been detained at airports by the TSA, and the rest of us are allowed to choose between assault by radiation via the whole-body scanner, or groping at the hands of the boys in blue.

The house-to-house searches in Boston, conducted on the pretext of “exigent circumstances,” are the new nadir of the Land of the Free. When men and women cheer for police who, hours before, dragged them from their homes at gunpoint, the government can only grow bolder.

Some twenty-nine percent of Americans, it is reported, expect that armed revolution will become necessary within the next few years. The Department of Homeland Security has deemed people who keep more than a week’s worth of food possible domestic terrorists, bitter clingers to the ideal of rugged individualism.

The logic of empire, like the systemic manipulation of financial markets, is hostile to the rule of law, and thus to the long-term survival of the American Republic. It is in such a capricious political climate that fascism has its greatest appeal. At least the Dear Leader will make the trains run on time, and keep the banks from absconding with your money, but that will be cold comfort to those unfortunates deemed enemies of the state.

In the meantime, most of the American nation will slumber on, hypnotized by the wan blue glow of their television screens, gorged on cheap food, and sated by a torrent of Internet porn. Some will wake up, and realize that Columbia is dying on her feet. It is time for last rites, but the priest is nowhere to be found.

People are all too eager to leverage the government against their political foes, until Leviathan is invited to peer into every bedroom, and eavesdrop on every conversation. Where the power of the State does not yet reach, the wicked are crucified by narrative and public opinion. Woe betide the enemies of the clerisy of progress, at least for now; thoughtcrime will lose a man his livelihood and friends.

In Cyprus, depositors (petty creditors, really) saw their assets seized to keep troubled banks afloat. Similar plans have been floated in Italy, Spain, Canada, and New York. Wealth confiscations look to be the order of the day for some time to come, spiking a sharp increase in the price of physical gold. The drop in the gold futures market also seems to have precipitated a reassessment of Bitcoin’s viability.

Poor, desperate, childless young men are the backbone of upheaval, and there will soon be many more of them. While termagants continue to shriek about equal pay, the average dual-income household of today has less purchasing power than the average single-income household of the 1950s. While women throw themselves at rapists and mass murderers both foreign and domestic, half of those men who endeavor to start a family will have it ripped from them by divorce.

Depite all the thunderheads on the horizon, nothing will happen, at least for a while. But the center cannot hold, and ours are certainly interesting times.

Maximum Hedons

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One of the things that has always puzzled me about Utilitarian ethics is how one defines the “greater good;” I’ve seen people use aggregate happiness as a proxy measure, but this seems to be grossly insufficient, mainly due to hedonistic treadmilling. Dopamine resistance is a bitch; just ask any meth user.

I have to admit that Kant’s proscriptive categorical imperative sits better with me than a system of prescriptive ethics. (Too, Hot Fuzz left a lasting impression: “The Greater Good… the Greater Good.”) It is more defensible, from a secular perspective, not least since ‘utils’ are nearly as fatuously meaningless as ‘spoos.’ Too, within a Kantian framework, one is free to pursue biological imperatives without attending to some ephemeral obligation to wider society.

By contrast to the various secular ethics, Christian morality, like the codes laid down by other religions, is both prescriptive and proscriptive, and, provided that everyone agrees on the theology, quite eminently defensible. Unfortunately, however, as the inimitable Dalrock has pointed out many times, Churchians bow down in the service of the feminine imperative, which Rollo notes is ubiquitous in Western culture.

I would like to add another wrinkle to this knotty tapestry:

Nietzsche noted that, in a post-Christian world, the inevitable product of the conflation of Truth and Good, we would value very little but health and happiness. Though the Mother Church and her various prodigals still stand, it would not be a stretch to assert that the rot is in the foundation. We are witnessing the birth of Generation Nihilism, by c-section.

Men and women utterly committed to chasing personal happiness, the dream of “having it all,” seem to not be that fulfilled. They drift on through the world, some under their own power, others not, buffeted by the currents of uncaring Fortune. Few of the Millenials care all that much about virtues of any stripe, Christian or not, but at least the constant stream of videogames and internet porn, snark columns and reality TV, at least that keeps them in a somnolent dopamine haze. What is there to care about, if caring only about your own happiness makes you discontent?

Funny thing about people: they want to believe in things. It’s as natural as breathing for most of us. Unfortunately, as has been noted elsewhere more eloquently and at greater length, modern culture is wholly vacuous. And it sucks.