Tag Archives | Therapeutic State

Learning MacLeod’s World

In my latest YouTube interview, I chat with science fiction author Ken MacLeod about Scottish space opera, libertarianism and Marxism, individualist anarchism, the Austrian calculation debate, Neoreaction, Brexit, Scottish independence, paternalism and anti-vaping laws, James Hutton and deep time, the Scottish Enlightenment, what he owes to David Friedman, what he owes to Margaret Thatcher, and that time Charles Darwin changed history by vomiting.


Who Is Sheldon Richman, and Why Does He Hate the Constitution and American Greatness?

In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about his youthful enthusiasm for the Swamp Fox and his guerilla fighters; the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation; defying YAF with Karl Hess at the March to the Arch; the positive externalities achievable by sitting next to Dave Barry; using Koch money to fight big business; Robert Bidinotto’s dark anarchist past; the perils of publishing Kevin Carson; going crazy for Thomas Szasz; the identity of Filthy Pierre; how to smoke like Gandalf; an atheist’s favourite Bishop; and which prominent Austrian economist experimented on Sheldon’s newborn infant.


Plato and Voltaire on Vaccination

Voltaire on vaccination is right here. The Plato angle is a bit more complicated.

In Plato’s Laches, the question arises as to the relationship of courage (and by extension, virtue generally) to risk. On the one hand, the courageous person is supposed to be admirable, and so would not take foolish risks; thus being guided by wisdom seems built into the notion of courage. On the other hand, the riskier an action is, the more courage it takes to do it; the wiser you are, the better able you are to reduce your risks, making courage more useful to the less wise. So does greater risk correlate with more courage or less courage?

doctor-plato

Plato’s solution, as I read the dialogue, is to distinguish two kinds of wisdom (or expertise): technical expertise, which involves knowing how to reduce one’s risks, and ethical expertise, which involves knowing which risks are worth taking. Plato goes on to illustrate the distinction by asking whether physicians, by being experts on health and disease, are thereby experts on what is worth hoping for and worth fearing (given that health is worth hoping for and disease worth fearing). Plato’s answer (again, as I read him) is that while being a physician makes you an expert on what will cure you, it does not make an expert on whether you are better off being cured or at what cost.

Plato’s distinction is one that is being lost in the current debate about vaccination, as the two kinds of expertise are being persistently conflated. One of the issues under debate is what the benefits and risks of vaccination actually are, in terms of quantified probabilities; that is a medical issue. A different issue under debate is whether, for any given probability assessment of benefits and risks, the benefits are worth the risks; that is not a medical issue, and having medical or other scientific training gives one no special insight into it.

I’m not offering this distinction as a magic bullet to resolve the political dispute. It’s not as though one type of issue falls within the jurisdiction of the law and the other doesn’t; legal expertise doesn’t automatically carry with it either medical or technical expertise, but on the other hand, applying the law will often require taking a stand on both.

As far as the political issue itself goes, I think a consistent libertarian can forcibly quarantine a Typhoid Mary, but forcibly vaccinating on the basis of a possible future risk of measles is too attenuated, and opens the door to all sorts of regulations to prevent behaviour that poses a slight risk to others (like banning Mein Kampf because people who read it might become Nazis). But of course my position requires taking positions on both the medical and the ethical issues. In any case, the point of this post is not to take a side on the vaccination debate, but just to distinguish two issues that keep getting run together.


Legs Broken, Crutches Distributed

One of the benefits of Obamacare, apparently – as you’ll learn from this piece, if you can make it past “people like you and I” – is that it enables this:

Tufts Medical Center in Massachusetts – along with their physician group and a company which owns and operates two hospitals in the region – has acted on this provision of the law and received $88.5 million in federal funds to create the state’s first member owned and controlled health insurance plan.

This “first” claim is quite false, of course. Massachusetts, like most states in the u.s., once had many member-owned, member-controlled health-insurance plans – until the government drove them out of business. Now the government is apparently attempting to run a top-down simulation of what it formerly destroyed. One thinks of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess.


Hell Is For Children

The New York State report found students as young as nine years old subjected to sudden, painful, repeated electric shocks for ‘refusing to follow staff directions’, ‘failing to maintain a neat appearance’, “stopping work for more than ten seconds”, “getting out of seat”, “interrupting others”, “nagging”, ‘swearing’, ‘whispering’ and ‘slouching in chair’, and ‘‘moving conversation away from staff”. …

“These devices are much stronger than police stun guns (1-4 milliamps),” says Gregory Miller, former teacher at JRC. … In McCollins’ case, school staff used the powerfully painful electric shock device (45 – 91 milliamps, at 66 volts) on McCollins over the course of seven hours for not taking off his coat in class. After his “therapy” was over, McCollins was admitted to a nearby children’s hospital ….

(More.)


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