Archive | September 16, 2011

Cordial and Sanguine, Part 18

My BHL post on Ron Paul’s healthcare answer is receiving favourable comment from both Andrew Sullivan and the National Review, and less favourable comment from Matt Yglesias. (CHT Matt Zwolinski.) I posted the following comment at Yglesias’s blog:

This response is pretty drastically missing my point. Suppose there are two possible ways of helping a patient, one much more effective than the other. The better way, A, is forbidden by law; the question is then asked whether the inferior way should be mandated by law. The libertarian (or at least the good libertarian) says: “no, don’t mandate B; instead, stop forbidding A.” That hardly counts as saying the patient should die; on the contrary, the libertarian thinks (rightly or wrongly) that the patient is less likely to die if the government stops forbidding A.

Shock Treatment

Now what the conservative generally says is “don’t mandate B, but don’t stop forbidding A either.” So I think it would be fair to charge the conservative with being willing to let people die. But that’s just a different position.

Part of the problem here is that non-libertarians tend to treat “let’s do something about X” and “let’s have a government program for X” as equivalent, and so tend to hear anyone who rejects the latter as rejecting the former. By contrast, libertarians generally think of governmental solutions as the least effective ones, and so for them treating “let’s do something about X” as equivalent to “let’s have a government program for X” would be like treating “let’s do something about X” as equivalent to “let’s sacrifice some babies to the moon god in order to address X.”

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