En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/05/12/1004

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May 12, 2009 10:04 AM - Woozle

Woozle said...

(First) I agreed in advance to draw a clear distinction between the "ideal" and "real world" versions of each political stance (conservatism and liberalism); I think I was pretty clear about that distinction in my previous comment.

It's important to periodically check in with "real world" conservatism, if only to say specifically that some specific popular "conservative" attitude is not what you are advocating under the name "(progressive) conservatism".

To be clear: "ideal" X is that which we are pushing for when we vote for a candidate who runs on a platform of X. The candidate may let us down in some ways (e.g. Obama's backpedaling on troop withdrawal and repealing DADT, or a liberal Catholic arguing against abortion); those are "real world" expressions of liberalism. Similarly, I presume that Fred Phelps is not an expression of "ideal" conservatism, but merely a "real world" example with certain "conservative" but extreme views that aren't really a reasonable extrapolation from core ("ideal") conservatism.

I do not agree, however, that the ideals on either side should not be subject to the test of reality. If an idea is tried, with an implementation that is reasonably faithful to the ideal, and it fails, then that is a piece of data indicating failure of the ideal.

Mind you, it may take more than one data point to reach a conclusion -- if we find 3 failures of an idea but also 20 successes, then we can look at the costs and benefits of that idea and see if it was worth it despite the failures. We can then compare that track record to the results of other ideas competing within the same problem-space. This isn't some abstract Platonic discussion about whose ideas are more pure or inherently virtuous; it's about which ideas work best to achieve the goals we both agree on (e.g. "minimizing unwanted pregnancies" or "satisfying our nation's energy needs").

If we can agree on a goal, and you can show me that a conservative idea has a better track record at achieving that goal (with all side-effects taken into account), then the conservative idea wins.


(Second) The sudden jump to "Swedish socialism" you describe is not liberal in the suddenness of its jumping; that idea has been around for many decades. The "jumping around' is due more to the political process, where a grand failure of one idea leads the public to suddenly be much more willing to examine their assumptions.

For instance: If the car you're driving in runs out of gas, that's not a big deal; you know how to deal with that. If it suddenly starts belching clouds of smoke and then you can't get it started and the guy in the repair shop says that fixing it will cost you as much as another car... well, you might find yourself thinking about another car.

You might also find yourself thinking that maybe a Ford Pinto wasn't such a great buy, and maybe it's time to try something radically different... like a Honda, or a motorcycle.

People (myself included) have been saying for decades that the healthcare system was broken. The evidence seems quite plain. I know at least one conservative who favors Euro-style socialized medicine. This isn't a sudden leap; it's just that the evidence has now become so overwhelming and obvious that the political will may exist now (as it did not under Clinton) to actually do something about it.

Also, socialized medicine is in no way in opposition to capitalism. Who will be making all those medicines and medical equipment? Who will make and clean the hospital uniforms and lab coats? Who will provide telecommunications and computing services to the doctors and hospitals? Who will keep the drink and snack machines stocked? Who will provide food services?

Are you thinking that Obama's health care plan includes replacing all of the businesses that do and make these things with government workers?

Capitalism -- free-market competition between providers of services and goods -- is arguably the best-known way of maximizing the quality of services and goods in a large, complex society. Individual consumers explore and choose among the available options; they communicate their findings with each other; gradually, the winners emerge and the losers either quickly change the way they do business or are squeezed out of the marketplace.

The problem is that the model totally breaks down when it comes to medical care. Do you have a choice of which hospital the ambulance takes you to? Do you have a choice in which doctor is assigned to your case? Can you truly make an informed decision about which brand of an obscure life-saving drug you should receive (assuming the drug's patent has expired and there are other brands)?

If the hospital charges you $10 for an aspirin, can you demand your money back and go get the aspirin somewhere else? Or perhaps you simply vow never to be sick in that hospital again, and swear loudly that you will tell all of your accident-prone friends never to go there in an emergency either.

...which leads naturally to the reason why they charge so outrageously much for certain things: to make up for the emergency cases who can't afford to pay diddly-squat.

I know what the "real world conservative" take is on this problem, but I'd like to hear what solution "ideal (progressive) conservatism" would suggest.


What firewalls and safeguards would you suggest putting in place to prevent the current meltdown from ever happening again?


Why would you ever want to go for anything other than the best available plan? Or perhaps the question should be: What is the difference between "brilliant" (when juxtaposed with "good") and "best available"?