We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

These people who live a vigorous life to 70, 80, 90 years of age—when I look at what those people “do,” almost all of it is what I classify as play. It’s not meaningful work. They’re riding motorcycles; they’re hiking. Which can all have value—don’t get me wrong. But if it’s the main thing in your life? Ummm, that’s not probably a meaningful life.

— Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s department of medical ethics and health policy and “a chief architect of Obamacare”.

76 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • CaptDMO

    Really?
    A whole department for “Medical ethics”?

  • George Atkisson

    Apparently his definition of a “meaningful life” is one that advances the causes he believes in. Such as socialism, more government control, less individual choice and liberty. A meaningful life defined by the goal of being financially and physically able to do as one pleases after retirement is a concept beyond his mental capacity.

  • llamas

    Rahm Emanuel’s brother.

    As to his comment – while I try to be a measured and reasonable guy, I will now break kayfabe and say

    Fuck Him, and the Horse He Rode In On.

    His definition of a ‘meaningful life’ don’t mean ugatz to me. He can kiss my chrome-plated ass with his elitist opinions of what constitutes ‘meaningful’.

    If I’m spending my own money, money I saved, over a working life of more than 40 years, paying taxes, supporting society, he doesn’t get to say word one about how I choose to spend it. If he considers it ‘play’ or ‘not meaningful’, well, va fancull to him.

    The worm in the apple is the number of people who now depend on government programs to fund their retirement. If you cede your security to the state for this period of your life, and assclowns like Emanuelget their hands on the levers of power, you can expect his opinions of what constitutes a ‘meaningful life’ to start to appear as state policy. It is but a short step from s opinion to the policy that says ‘if you’re not living what we consider to be a meaningful life we’re not going to be paying you a meaningful income for your retirement.’

    Once again – Fuck Him.

    Sorry to be so uncharacteristically direct, but the spoutings of ‘Top Men’ like him get me right where I live. He should be run out of town on a rail and excluded from polite society as the dangerous totalitarian-in-waiting that he is. ‘Meaningful life’, my ass.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Stonyground

    What gives him the right to decide whether what I do with my spare time is meaningful or not? The timing is interesting to me as I am retiring at the end of March next year. A lot of my time will be spent on keeping myself fit. This is meaningful to me as I’m a Type 2 Diabetic and how fit I am has a bigger effect on my overall health than it does for non diabetics. There are also innumerable jobs around the house that need doing as well as sorting out the jungle that I like to call my garden. I might find time to play the piano.

    If Ezekiel Emanuel has any sort of opinion on all this I don’t give the smallest toss.

  • neonsnake

    He’s more than welcome to lecture me on meaningful living, after he’s removed my copy of Walden from his throat after I’ve shoved it down there.

  • John B

    A meaningful life is where you can fulfil your wishes and desires not just slog your guts out trying to survive, or sit cross-legged on the floor chanting ‘Ommm’ to communicate with the Great White Spirit on a higher philosophical plane.

    Humans, alone, have economies so they can consume, that is do and have the things they want. That is the only point of work. To survive you just need a vegetable patch, a blanket and a cave.

  • FrankH

    Most of us work to live, we don’t live to work. Our meaningful life IS that motorcycling or hiking or cycling or whatever else takes our fancy when we don’t have a boss telling us to do the things that make HIS life meaningful.

  • The Neon Madman

    Dear Mr. Emanuel:

    A “meaningful life” is what is meaningful to ME.

    Please GFY.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Whatever happened to “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” ?

  • /s I just finished restoring a motorcycle, and now am in the market for a used Crisper machine to help me regenerate my arthritic joints. Following this I’d like to work on modifying the Plague bacillus to improve its lethality and be more selective in who it affects, making it specialize in Liberals (the American kind). You know: Leaving the world a better place.
    /s

  • Stonyground

    I spent most of my working life repairing power tools for industry. If I had spent my life as an academic writing Ill informed opinionated cack I would consider that I had wasted it.

  • Nullius in Verba

    The relevant bits of his argument seem to me to be:

    “Lots of presidents and lots of politicians say, “Children are our most valuable resource.” But we as a country don’t behave like that. We don’t invest in children the way we invest in adults, especially older adults. One of the statistics I like to point out is if you look at the federal budget, $7 goes to people over 65 for every dollar for people under 18.”

    and

    “His argument: older Americans live too long in a diminished state, raising the question of, as he put it, “whether our consumption is worth our contribution.””

    He doesn’t exactly say it, but I think he seems to be arguing about the huge amount of money society spends on prolonging the lives of the elderly, and whether that’s a good deal for society. Obviously it’s a good deal for the elderly! And all society hopes and expects to one day become elderly. But it’s still a case of ‘other people’s money’, and one can legitimately ask whether the justifications politicians give for other forms of public investment (schools, roads, an army, etc.) apply in this case. If all the elderly died at 75, what remained of society would be better off.

    It’s an interesting ethical thought-experiment – a remarkable one for a supposed welfare-architecting leftist! – but I don’t think welfare supporters are going to understand. For them, “Welfare Good!” is an axiom, and this is heresy.

  • SB

    This POS is what passes for a”moderate” member of today’s Democrat Party. Think about that for one minute. As the wise man once wrote about the US political system, the Republicans are the stupid party, but the Democrats are the evil party. Democrats must be kept as far away from political power as possible. There can never be accommodation with them. When they win, their view is elections have consequences, meaning they get the whole loaf. When they lose, they demand civility and compromise, which means they get half the loaf.

  • Sean

    I’m happy to withdraw my general objection to assisted suicide in this instance and grant him his wish to die at 75. How say you all?

  • Nico

    If Ezekiel Emanuel has any sort of opinion on all this I don’t give the smallest toss.

    I do. Would-be tyrants like him need to get called out. There are people who would make them actual tyrants who would lord it over you and me.

  • neonsnake

    We don’t invest in children the way we invest in adults, especially older adults. One of the statistics I like to point out is if you look at the federal budget, $7 goes to people over 65 for every dollar for people under 18.”

    What happens if we swap the word “invest” for “reward”?

    (Not a perfect counter-argument, but potentially a start)

    Invest implies that “we” (the government) sees people as a means, reward implies (admittedly quite weakly) that “we” see them as an end.

  • Eric

    Does that $7 include Medicare and Social Security? That’s more a question of retirees getting what they paid for than any sort of investment.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Does that $7 include Medicare and Social Security? That’s more a question of retirees getting what they paid for than any sort of investment.”

    I expect so. I don’t think the issue here is people saving for their own retirements, and living off that for as long as they can. Bizarrely, this is an anti-welfare argument. Is it the argument that State pensions are just like a private pension scheme run by the State? You get out what you pay in? Or are they welfare – the rich and still productive pay to support the poor and no longer productive? Is everyone here coming down on the side of State welfare?

  • Lee Moore

    “Does that $7 include Medicare and Social Security? That’s more a question of retirees getting what they paid for than any sort of investment.”

    Not really. The reason why Medicare and Social Security have huge unfunded liabiities – much much bigger than the National Debt – is that retirees do not pay for what they get. At best, they pay for about half. And if they’re poorer than average they’re paying a lot less than half.

    That’s the political genius of welfarism – you can grant huge welfare benefits to people while making them truly believe they’re just getting what they paid for. You make the welfare benefits unremovable – the ratchet in action – because even GOP or Tory voting matrons would be outraged if you stopped paying them “what they’ve earned a right to.”

    Eventually the car goes into the ditch – hyperinflation. But disaster can be staved off for decades. By which time someone else will be left holding the baby. Or the grandpa.

  • Fred the Fourth

    The words “federal” and “we” are doing a lot of heavy lifting in his “reasoning” .

  • bobby b

    “The reason why Medicare and Social Security have huge unfunded liabiities – much much bigger than the National Debt – is that retirees do not pay for what they get.”

    I figured out a while ago that, had I been allowed to throw my SS contributions into even a low-to-mid-performing fund, I would be quite a bit better off today. But that was not allowed.

    My governments instead took those contributions and spent them as they received them. And they generally didn’t spend them on me.

    So, is the system messed up? Sure. But try to avoid phrasing this in a way that suggests that it’s messed up on account of the freeloading of the participants. The problem is that we trusted the people who we allowed to hold our money.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Instant first thought: Tell it to Lewis & Clark, or Daniel Boone. Tell it to any old duffer like Dr. Michael DeBakey*, who, according to the Foot of All Knowledge,

    “[C]ontinued to practice medicine until his death in 2008 at the age of 99.”

    Second thought: Go to He**, DOCTOR Zeke. You’ll be happier there and so will the rest of us with you and DOCTORS Mengele and Gosnell out of the way.

    Oh, one question, Zeke. Who died and made you God?

    .

    *Which is not to say that anyone is not entitled to exercise such pleasures in life as his circumstances permit, whether or not those pleasures pass some kind of test as being “useful to society.” Nor should anyone feel ashamed of doing so, as long as he’s not walking all over somebody else’s right to do likewise on the latter’s own terms. You don’t need to be Michael DeBakey nor Jesus Christ to earn a seat at the table of Humanity.

    . . .

    P.S. There are people who enjoy gedanken experiments, or who in brainstorming problems come up with some nightmarish solutions, which they happily reject when they see the downside.

    (Sometimes someone goes so far down the rabbit-hole that he is lost to the fundamental value of human life and that fact that this is instantiated in every human, at least until such time as a human shows by word and deed that he himself is similarly lost.)

    Surely a true ethicist would see the downside to killing off all those over age X-years. For ANY value of X. Even if he couldn’t quite articulate it. Of course there are always those who become so bedazzled by their theory that they are unable to see any downside, no matter how obvious. Down the rabbit-hole.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Runcie, you are only allowed to pursue happiness, not actually reach it! Problem solved.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “P.S. There are people who enjoy gedanken experiments, or who in brainstorming problems come up with some nightmarish solutions, which they happily reject when they see the downside.”

    Perhaps that’s his point? He’s offering a thought experiment of what would happen if we cancelled that bit of the welfare state that supports the elderly, on the grounds of questioning whether consumption is worth their contribution. Let those who haven’t saved enough die, instead. We’re happily rejecting the idea now we see the downsides. He’s managed to get us to argue in favour of the welfare state! That’s pretty impressive, don’t you agree?

    “Surely a true ethicist would see the downside to killing off all those over age X-years. For ANY value of X.”

    Of course. As a true ethicist, he sees that *both* paths have downsides. Many of the elderly will die without welfare. The cost of looking after them is far beyond the savings of the average guy or gal. So you either pay for welfare – expensive downside – or you don’t and the elderly die as a result of your action – also expensive downside. He sees the downsides to both sides of the argument. Do you?

    He’s trying to get people thinking seriously about the question of welfare, but I think he did so so subtlely that nobody noticed.

  • bobby b

    I will agree with one (maybe unmeant) part of his statement: Our current system – which allows for retirement from the workforce at age 62 – no longer serves reality. We used to be worn out and used up by then, and the best we could hope for was a few years of dotage with few needs because we had few capabilities.

    Now, we live longer, and better, and we’re able to continue most occupations well into our seventies (and sometimes longer.) My father remarked a few days ago that he realized that he has been full-pension-retired from teaching for thirty years – just about as long as his career lasted. The pension system, combined with some good investments, has left him a millionaire, which is not bad for en ex-teacher.

    But there was a huge waste of resources in saying that his productive capacity was over at 56.

    (llamas, you’re just mad because his example was riding! 😈 )

  • bobby b

    “He’s trying to get people thinking seriously about the question of welfare . . .”

    I think you ascribe good motives to the Emanuel brothers at your own risk.

  • onkayaks

    Dear llamas,

    You wrote:

    If he considers it ‘play’ or ‘not meaningful’, well, va fancull to him.

    For the sake of propriety in swearing, it is not ‘va fancull’, but vaffanculo, a contraction of va’ a fa’ ‘n culo, where fa’ and ‘n are dialectal variants for fare and in.

    The rest is excellent.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    Now, we live longer, and better, and we’re able to continue most occupations

    This is one of those delicious examples where the inefficiency of government meets the efficiency of the free market.
    It has often been said that social security is a Ponzi scheme, but it isn’t. It is worse. At least a Ponzi scheme doesn’t demand that you die to settle their debts.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, couple niggles, because nothing in federal law says anything about when you can retire or when you must retire. You can retire whenever you want.

    It will have been either your dad’s school board or his state that either allowed or required him to retire at 56 with (I assume) full pension.

    I’m pretty sure that it’s within your own living memory that there was a big push for years to lower companies’ retirement ages so as to open up spaces for younger people to have jobs.

    Similarly, you can still retire whenever you want, legally. What you can’t do is take Social Security payments before you are 62 1/2. You can retire at age 19, but you can’t draw Social Security until you’re 62 1/2. And unless you’re blessed by the Great Frog Her-/His-/Itself, you’ll be lucky to get a dime a year.

    . . .

    Looked around a bit to see what’s what re Social Security. Found:

    1. From SSA — and be sure to click on over to the next page, “Myths of SS History 2”:

    https://www.ssa.gov/history/InternetMyths.html

    2. On Social Security Fund and U.S. General Funds:

    “General Revenue and the Social Security Trust Funds”:

    http://www.crfb.org/blogs/general-revenue-social-security-trust-funds

    There are three main ways that general revenue has directly or indirectly made its way into the Social Security Trust Funds:

    Direct transfers from the General Fund
    Taxation of Benefits
    Interest paid on Social Security Bonds

    with an explanation of each, followed by an article on the general system.

    [I tried to pull out some key paragraphs, but I messed it up royally and I’m too tired to straighten it out. I strongly suggest that people read it.

    Note: The page is published by “The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.” I’m pretty sure they’re not part of the Feds, at least not officially.

    3. Then there is this, from FEE:

    The Myth of the Social Security Trust Fund”

    “The Looted Trust Fund Myth Is a Serious Barrier to Social Security Reform”

    by John Atarian, Wednesday, March 1, 2000

    At a quick skim, this one is also quite interesting.

    If Outlanders don’t know it, FEE — Foundation for Economic Education — is a nicely Austrian-cum-Chicago-School-tilted organization set up years ago by an Indianapolis gent, Leonard Read, who wrote the piece “I, Pencil” which is well-known to Right- (that is, Correct-)Thinking People everywhere.

    Always worth looking at, but not written in ichor by the G.F.

    .

    I’m not going to have time to read all the laws & statutes pertaining to Federal revenues in general, nor to sort it all out, until I’ve arrived on the Other Side. Possibly it will little interest me then. So all this is presented FWIW. I’m not 100% sure that these articles all agree with themselves, let alone each other.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Quoth bobby:

    “I think you ascribe good motives to the Emanuel brothers at your own risk.”

    You break my heart. 😥 😥 😥

  • bobby b

    Julie, I’m most familiar with Rahm, second with Ari, and a distant third with Zeke. If I’ve missed something, please share. (And, no, I don’t credit the “death panels” misquotes.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby–I’m to appear before the human judge at some point for release from the spam-cells. (I never gave WP permission to make a full URL out of that last one. 😡 ) 🙂

  • I’ve been riding motorcycles now for forty four years, so a pretty un-meaningful life according to this cretin. As said above, fuck him. I’ll decide what is meaningful.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Nullius in Verba: “he seems to be arguing about the huge amount of money society spends on prolonging the lives of the elderly”

    I tried, for a while, to read his view sympathetically and see if there was a reasonable point to be made about this.

    But the clue is that even you had to use the word “society”. Translation: other people forced into paying taxes. And he’s not against this. He says healthcare *should* be provided by other people paying taxes but that people over 75 should not be helped. He says that the value of a life is only in its value to serve other people. Everything he says is rooted in collectivism. He even complains that billionaires investing in life extension are only doing it to extend their own lives, as if that is some how wrong and invalidates its usefulness to others.

    I don’t think I have been in any way unfair taking this quote out of context because I think it gets to the bottom of his outlook, that your life is not meaningful unless it serves the collective.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, although according to the ETHICIST, at 76+ my life is no longer meaningful (although I must admit that IMO it is — but what do I know) I can’t at the moment come up with anything substantive. At this moment, I think we should deal with the quote precisely as given, focussing particularly on the part I put in boldface. I excerpt the last part:

    It’s not meaningful work. They’re riding motorcycles; they’re hiking. Which can all have value—don’t get me wrong. But if it’s the main thing in your life? Ummm, that’s not probably a meaningful life.

    Let me respond by quoting our good Brother llamas (who says he’s a little old lady in Queens, but apparently he enjoys visiting Michigan in the winters so he can shovel 24′ of snow):

    His definition of a ‘meaningful life’ don’t mean ugatz to me. He can kiss my chrome-plated ass with his elitist opinions of what constitutes ‘meaningful’.

    llamas is right. In the quote ol’ Zeke is telling us oldsters who are not doing “meaningful work” (who gets to define “meaningful,” “work,” and “meaningful work”?) that our lives are without “meaning.”

    That quote tells you all you need to know about the man, provided that it’s not one of those silly things that we all say off the cuff once in awhile, and then a second or a year later, go, “I can’t believe I said that!”

    That might be his private opinion, but if it is he’s a sophomoric jackass and I don’t think he should be allowed in the same room with adults.

    .

    But Zeke has been spouting about people’s lives’ being full and complete by the time they’re 75, so, in effect, those lives aren’t worth preserving.

    In an article in The Atlantic in 2014, he wrote,

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/10/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/

    At 75 and beyond, I will need a good reason to even visit the doctor and take any medical test or treatment, no matter how routine and painless. And that good reason is not “It will prolong your life.” I will stop getting any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions. I will accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if I am suffering pain or other disability.

    He claims to have three points to make in the article. On is personal (the quote is taken from his discussion of that) and two discuss public policy.

    Almost at the end, he does admit that

    I think the rejection of my view is literally natural. After all, evolution has inculcated in us a drive to live as long as possible.

    But wait! He does end with this:

    I retain the right to change my mind and offer a vigorous and reasoned defense of living as long as possible. That, after all, would mean still being creative after 75.

    For another point of view, there’s the L.A. Times op-ed ” Why Ezekiel Emanuel is wrong to ‘hope’ for death at 75.”

    https://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-why-zeke-emanuel-is-wrong-20141015-column.html

    But best, I think, is a piece by David Henderson at Econlib, which is really broader than the Times’ column, and which includes this remark:

    What I learned from Emanuel’s article is what a narrow view of the good life he has.

    From the column “Zeke Emmanuel on Optimal Life Expectancy” by David Henderson, at

    https://www.econlib.org/archives/2014/09/zeke_emmanuel_o.html

    Maybe tomorrow I’ll look around and see if I can find anything else from the man himself.

    By the way, here’s a 2009 pro-Zeke piece from the Atlantic that, along with trashing Newt and Sarah Palin, may give some insight into his socio-political mindset:

    “Zeke Emanuel, The Death Panels, And Illogic In Politics”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/08/zeke-emanuel-the-death-panels-and-illogic-in-politics/23088/

    Excerpt:

    Emanuel is setting up a contrast: our health care system today treats everyone equally — as if they ought to have equal access to every possible procedure or treatment. To most of us, the status quo seems intuitively right. Everyone is equal — equal under God — Emanuel doesn’t say this, but he might as well — and therefore it would be evil to make distinctions. What Emanuel is arguing, here, is that this liberalism substitutes one goal — equality — for another — a healthy society ….

    The piece goes on to say that (re-worded) “Emanuel borrows the formulations of John Rawls’s moral philosophy.”

    Gawd help us.

  • bobby b

    Ah, good. Julie, I read your comment to mean that you felt positively towards Zeke E, and that I was wrong in thinking him and his kin to be skunks. I am much reassured.

    I have always considered the trio to be the personification of Hobbes’s characterization of base life: “Nasty” (Ari), “Brutish” (Zeke), and “Short” (Rahm). They’re like Tim Burton’s version of the Seven Dwarves.

  • The sheer arrogance of such people is breathtaking.

  • Stonyground

    “Things they do look awful cold, hope I die before I get old.”

    Oh, I didn’t die and now I am old, OK scratch that.

  • neonsnake

    hope I die before I get old.

    I took my Mum to see them for her 70th birthday (she didn’t know whether she’d seen them before. Not because of any age-related memory difficulties, just because her and Dad saw everyone back in the 60s. I am envious, as I suspect the bands that I saw in 90s won’t still be going in the 2050s)).

    Daltrey visibly enjoyed singing that line.

    “meaningful work”

    The clue, Julie, is in his switch from “meaningful work” to “meaningful life”. He thinks that people’s lives should be for work, not play. Presumably, that work should serve a higher good, as well – a society that he approves of.

    I don’t think it’s a question of whether we support a welfare state (with massive caveats, I do support some concept of state provided welfare, so it’s not a difficult existential poser for me, at least)

    It’s a question of if a welfare state must exist, then should the state get to decide who benefits (Me: no they shouldn’t, as a starting point for discussion)?

    In this case, that there should be a cut off after 75 seems to be the implication of his investment in kids vs pensioners statement.

  • staghounds

    ““Why I Hope to Die at 75.”

    My psychic powers say that he will spend a lot of effort and money to frustrate his own hope.

  • Stonyground

    Did you know that there is a metal band from Mongolia called The Hu? They sound nothing like The Who so I don’t know whether the name thing is deliberate or just a coincidence.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I don’t think I have been in any way unfair taking this quote out of context because I think it gets to the bottom of his outlook, that your life is not meaningful unless it serves the collective.”

    I didn’t think you was being unfair with the quote. It’s an interesting, thought-provoking quote. I don’t believe he was simply saying that old people’s lives are meaningless, he was addressing arguments commonly made around welfare. And yes, the position he’s taking here is the deliberately provocative one that a life is only worthwhile if it serves the collective, because this is the argument people commonly use to justify welfare.

    Most people who believe in welfare do so out of sympathy for the suffering of others. They don’t have the resources to fix the whole problem themselves, so they call on society to do so. You should pay for old people to live lives full of golf and walking and going on bus trips sightseeing, because it makes them happy. And that makes us happy.

    But then people argue against welfare, saying “Why should we pay?” They argue in terms of the duty to be productive, that we don’t have the resources needed to look after everyone, that other people are forced to pay taxes and get nothing back for it – as if knowing that the elderly are happy and not miserable was not payment enough.

    And so people arguing for welfare with these antis commonly frame their arguments for welfare in terms of the return on investment for society. We don’t invest in scientific research because knowing stuff is cool. We do so to advance useful technologies. We don’t invest in education because we love our children and want them to be happy and do well, we educate them to make them useful and productive workers. And question what the hell is useful and productive about a degree in lesbian dance theory. So a lot of the arguments he was no doubt immersed in were to do with the return on investment to society from giving welfare, rather than being about making the recipients happy.

    But this return-on-investment argument doesn’t apply to the elderly. (Apparently.) They’re not going to go out to work. They’re not going to invent new and useful technologies. It’s not to prevent violent crime. (I know Monty Python did a sketch about little old ladies mugging teenagers, but it’s not very practical.) It seems to be purely about making the old people happy.

    So what happens if we apply the “What am I getting for my taxes?!” argument to the elderly, and we find that we don’t? And should therefore cut welfare here? If unemployment benefit doesn’t get people back into work, just encourages them to sponge off the dole for the rest of their lives, we should stop paying it, right? So the same applies to the elderly.

    I don’t think his analogy entirely flies. For most people, paying taxes for pensions so that later they can get a pension *is* seen as a return on an investment. We know what we’re getting back, because we hope to be elderly one day too. And knowledge of the future can influence our behaviour in the present. We’re more productive today because we know we’re buying our future. So I think in a technical sense the argument can be knocked down.

    However, I think it’s always worth considering the spirit of an opposing argument, too. Is our visceral reaction against his callous indifference to the value of the lives of the unproductive elderly – that if they don’t benefit the collective then he doesn’t see why we should pay taxes to support it – entirely consistent? Do we think so simply because we were hoping to get a pension and health care too? Or because the elderly are part of “us” while dole spongers are unequivocally part of “them”?

    I think he took this position simply to get you to argue against it. I think he thinks that the value society puts in the happiness rather than misery in the lives of our young unemployed is the same thing as our valuation of the lives of the elderly.

    I’m not saying we should necessarily agree or sympathise with him – either on his stated position or what I think is his real one. I’m just saying I think his point is a little deeper than “Old people are useless”.

  • Paul Marks

    By “meaningful life” Mr E.E. means creating totalitarianism – total control of people from the cradle to the grave.

    Whether it is called Marxism or Fascism what people such as Emanuel believe in is evil. One should not make the mistake that they are people of good will who just want to get to the same ends as we do – but by different means. On the contrary – their ends, their objectives, are evil.

  • neonsnake

    So what happens if we apply the “What am I getting for my taxes?!” argument to the elderly, and we find that we don’t? And should therefore cut welfare here?

    It could well be that you’re correct, and this is the argument that he is trying to get people to make. And those so inclined might well think that the elderly are of dubious utility (there’s a untold amount of things from childcare to volunteering that they do, but let’s just ignore that), which I find distasteful in no small measure.

    In which case I’m led to wonder what his view is of severely disabled youngsters who are unable to work, and likely will remain unable to do so for the rest of their lives (some disabled people can work, of course. I’m talking merely here of those that cannot).

    Would the same apply? At what age does the idea kick in? Only at 75? What if you have a stroke at 66?

    His argument is irrelevant to our beliefs, I think.

    Some of don’t believe in state welfare, full stop. So the argument is moot.

    A few of us believe (somewhat grudgingly 🙂 ) in a form of state welfare, but those people are concerned that it should be non-discriminatory. So the argument is moot.

    And wrapping in the argument in a “meaningful life”/”meaningful work” package is a surefire way to cause a good few of us, who believe in the liberty to live aligned with your own values, not someone else’s, to look sideways at him and utter a bland “I beg your pardon, sunshine?”

    😉

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Nullius in Verba, I see what you mean. And I often advocate the principle of charity when looking at opponents’ arguments. However I get the impression he has started with “I think life is a bit pointless after 75” and applied his reasoning in the other direction. Thus, when put in a position to influence policy, he comes up with something that looks like death panels instead of, say, treating emergency care as one thing and financial planning for the expenses of old age as something else.

  • I’m with bobby b in thinking it wise not to attribute good motives to any Emanuel brother.

    A lot of federal, state and city politicians made a lot of promises they did not fund – sometimes not enough and sometimes not at all. Naturally they wish the promised recipients would die. If these old people do not die in a timely fashion then never mind the philosophical danger of their not living ‘meaningful’ lives! They may not cast socially ‘meaningful’ votes (i.e. votes for the sort of politicians Emanuel likes). Dead people either don’t vote or else swing Democrat more reliably than any other demographic. Living old people who’ve been stiffed of their promised city, state and/or Federal pension can vote and may not blame the people they are told to blame. And if “generous” Dem-run cities and states are the first to default – and demand others cover their debts – then voters elsewhere may become difficult too.

    I regard the ‘meaningful’ life stuff as a particularly insolent philosophical battle-space preparation for the ‘intersectional’ conflicts upcoming. If your new promises of future payouts are to buy you votes, you need a reason you can offer the voters you target for why you reneged on your old ones. “The young lead meaningful lives, the old not so much” will sound better than “The young are easy to dupe, the old have discovered they were duped.”

    (In line with the OP, I wrote this with a US-orientation. It is not of course so different on our side of the pond, alas.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “In which case I’m led to wonder what his view is of severely disabled youngsters who are unable to work, and likely will remain unable to do so for the rest of their lives (some disabled people can work, of course. I’m talking merely here of those that cannot).”

    I would expect it’s the same – that you have to be a believer in welfare for the sake of its benefit to the recipient to support it. You can’t consistently support it if you believe in welfare only for the sake of benefit to society.

    I strongly suspect what he’s doing is the equivalent of one of us submitting complaints to the authorities about the Islamophobia of authoritarian LGBT campaigning, or the homophobia and sexism of Sharia judgements put out by the local Islamic society, or about how Gandhi was a racist and his statue should be torn down. It’s not that such a person really care about Islamophobia or homophobia in free expression – it’s just a deliberately provocative opinion designed to subvert the worldview assumptions of the opposition. And as a principle architect of the Obamacare welfare system, I don’t find it plausible that he’s not a strong supporter of welfare for its own sake. But as a too-clever-by-half academic, a professional ethicist whose job it is to study the edge cases, the philosophical arguments for and against, I can easily believe he finds it amusing to drive his opponents into fits by constructing difficult arguments and putting them out there.

    Everyone reading his argument is going to be repulsed by the idea of judging the morality of welfare on purely economic grounds. As a supporter of welfare, I expect that’s exactly what he wants to happen. He wants to inject that attitude more firmly into the public debate. He’s standing as his own strawman.

    “Thus, when put in a position to influence policy, he comes up with something that looks like death panels instead of, say, treating emergency care as one thing and financial planning for the expenses of old age as something else.”

    Something like death panels is an inevitable consequence of having limited resources. You’ve got so many million dollars to divide up among the patients, but you need ten times as many dollars to treat them all. So do you treat five patients needing $200,000 treatments, or do you treat ten thousand patients needing $100 treatments? It’s harsh to tell the five patients that they’re going to die because their treatment is ‘too expensive’, but the alternative is to let ten thousand die, because you’ve spent all the money on the flashy stuff.

    But five adorable children with cancer is the basis of a political fund-raising campaign, ten thousand patients scattered individually across a nation is a boring statistic. Appeals to Emotion don’t care about the economics or the cost. The value of every single human life is infinite.

    So anyone trying to design a healthcare system is inevitably going to be attacked from all sides because it is simply impossible to treat everyone because of the economics, and because nobody wants to hear about the economics when it’s their own life or their own family’s life on the line. This is the world he lives in, professionally. So he’s just having a bit of fun trolling, starting arguments with provocative opinions pointing that out that he likely doesn’t mean.

    That was my interpretation, anyway. It’s sometimes hard with some people to tell when they’re being serious.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Let me be perfectly clear. Without having attacked today’s projected research on DOC Zeke, my opinion is firmly and squarely in line with that of bobby, Niall, neonsnake, PdH, Rob Fisher, and like that. (Sorry if I missed anybody…but you get the drift. I hope.)

    (bobby: Definitely intended as the most sarcastic of agreements with your position. LOL — But your reply poked at me till I realized that a person could reasonably take it the other way. I just took it for granted that you “know” me too well. A mistake that I sometimes make even face-to-face. Even my Honey took my OBVIOUS jokes seriously sometimes and got his feelings all hurt. 😀

    (And, thank you very much for yours at October 25, 2019 at 10:52 am. Perhaps it would have been clearer if I’d put it like this:

    Bobby: “I think you ascribe good motives to the Emanuel brothers at your own risk.”

    Me: bobby, how COULD you say such a thing! /sarc

    (Still, I’d like to see something more forthright direct from his lips or pen. What he himself wrote in the Atlantic piece shows lots of backing-and-tacking, and if one’s inclined to assuming some sort of “innocence,” it would be nice to back it up with other context. Notice he ended with a statement that when he reaches 75, he may change his mind. Admirable honesty, or something soothing for the populace? On the other hand, he sat there while J. Gruber, bless his nasty little heart, was shooting off his mouth.)

    Niall, your mention of preparing a battlespace is interesting. Looking to move the Overton Window a bit more leftward, are we?:

    I regard the ‘meaningful’ life stuff as a particularly insolent philosophical battle-space preparation for the ‘intersectional’ conflicts upcoming. If your new promises of future payouts are to buy you votes, you need a reason you can offer the voters you target for why you reneged on your old ones. “The young lead meaningful lives, the old not so much” will sound better than “The young are easy to dupe, the old have discovered they were duped.”

    Words to live by.

    .

    Nullius, yes, I too tend to look for reasons to assume innocence or at least well-meaningness by some sort of standard of the value of individuals’ human lives. I just don’t see any great evidence of it here. Either posish needs more context, but in Zeke’s case there is some, even if it’s not rock-solid. The thing about “Mianingful life” is part of that context.
    .

    But if you really want obscenity, have a look at Peter Singer’s ideas on who should be on the block for the guillotine.

  • bobby b

    “I just took it for granted that you “know” me too well.”

    I guess I must, because my reaction wasn’t “what is she on about?”, but “what did I miss about Z.E.? 😮 “

  • Julie near Chicago

    😆

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Nullius, yes, I too tend to look for reasons to assume innocence or at least well-meaningness by some sort of standard of the value of individuals’ human lives.”

    I’d certainly not describe it as “innocence” or “well-meaningness”! I just don’t think you can take his argument at face value. I think it’s a tactical position taken to provoke a certain reaction.

    Professional debaters practice Dissoi Logoi. They can routinely take positions in arguments that are the opposite of the one they actually hold, and that technique can be applied to create strawman arguments for opposing rhetorical effect. He’s taking a common anti-welfare argument and pushing its underlying logic to an extreme to deliberately create an emotionally repulsive impression that will turn listeners away from that anti-welfare argument. That’s not what I’d call “innocent”!

    I don’t think he thinks the lives of the elderly are worthless. I think he thinks anti-welfare advocates think the lives of welfare recipients are worthless, and he’s pushing that principle to a logical extreme by applying it to pensioners in order to make it obvious to everyone how disgustingly immoral and ridiculous an attitude that is. And then sniggering in his beard when you all rush to agree with him. That’s not what I’d call “innocent”!

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby et al.,

    I haven’t found anything written by Zeke that seems pertinent, but there’s a piece at NR with excerpts from a New England Journal of Medicine paper that he and a Ronit Y. Stahl, Ph.D. wrote in April, 2017. (There’s a link to a page on the article at the NEJM, but what it says is that you can subscribe to get three free articles/month, or you can buy a regular subscription. Pass on that.)

    The paper is entitled “Physicians, Not Conscripts — Conscientious Objection in Health Care,” at

    https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsb1612472 .

    The National Review piece, published April 7, 2017, is at

    https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/ezekiel-emanuel-anti-medical-conscience/ .

    Here are the excerpts.

    Objection to providing patients interventions that are at the core of medical practice – interventions that the profession deems to be effective, ethical, and standard treatments – is unjustifiable (AMA Code of Medical Ethics [Opinion 11.2.2]10).28″31

    Making the patient paramount means offering and providing accepted medical interventions in accordance with patients’ reasoned decisions. Thus, a health care professional cannot deny patients access to medications for mental health conditions, sexual dysfunction, or contraception on the basis of their conscience, since these drugs are professionally accepted as appropriate medical interventions.

    On abortion:

    …abortion is politically and culturally contested, it is not medically controversial. It is a standard obstetrical practice. Health care professionals who conscientiously object to professionally contested interventions may avoid participating in them directly… Conscientious objection still requires conveying accurate information and providing timely referrals to ensure patients receive care.

    NR’s last excerpt:

    Health care professionals who are unwilling to accept these limits have two choices: select an area of medicine, such as radiology, that will not put them in situations that conflict with their personal morality or, if there is no such area, leave the profession.

    As they say, read the whole thing. That last bit really makes my blood boil, and NR doesn’t care for it either. The NR writer, Wesley J. Smith, essentially begins his column with the first quote below.

    NOTE: Where the quote uses italics for emphasis, I use boldface. Also, the emphasised claim is exactly what I would like to see for myself, in writing and in context, by the “bioethicist.” If he really said that in the sense that the NR piece puts it, I would like to see whether he ever back-pedalled from the statement.

    I will note also that there are several YT interview clips. He sounds fairly unpleasant, and he knows what spin he wants to put on things if he can’t force the interviewer to accept an evasive or non-responsive answer. (Our girl Megyn, before she moved to the Dark Side, gave him just as good as she got. In the old days, I was a huge fan of hers.) But I can’t stand most of the Big Name interviews. They always seem to become screeching matches, painful to the ears, and dam if you can tell what either person is saying.

    Interestingly, Emanuel has also supported healthcare rationing, meaning that he believes in certain circumstances that patients should be denied efficacious care, in his case, based on invidious judgments by the medical authorities of the patient’s “quality of life.”

    This is in keeping with the authoritarian heart of Obamacare and Emanuel’s general thinking–which parallels the trend among the medical intelligentsia to impose a unified morality on all doctors via standards of care guidelines.

    And in his penultimate paragraph, he writes,

    “Advocates like Emanuel and Stahl would eviscerate medical conscience and impose upon all doctors a tyranny of the majority, whereby any and all interventions generally accepted by the medical community–meaning people like him with the power to decide–must be provided, regardless of a doctor’s moral or religious objections. “

    . . .

    Nullius, I am not a fan of competitive debate. It may teach a debater how to detect the other guy’s bad arguments, but it also teaches him how to create his own awful-but-plausible ones, and it’s way too easy for him to fall into sophistry himself.

    In any case, I’ve read quite a few reports by others of what he’s said, and taken one at time (perhaps one per year) I could make arguments like yours about any of them (assuming reasonably responsible reporting). But at the end of the day, if the gent has nothing to say that doesn’t need apology (in the sense of defense) or creative editing or both, then what has he said at all?

    .

    By the way, the technique of offering a statement of a position not own your but presenting it as if it were your own before you get around to present your own argument is a stylistic device much used by some writers. I think Hume may have done that. Walter Williams and Peter Robinson both do it, but it’s clear that they’re doing it. Our writer, if he’s honest, will also make it clear up front that he’s going to do that — Which Hume, if he did do, does not make clear.

  • Lee Moore

    …abortion is politically and culturally contested, it is not medically controversial. It is a standard obstetrical practice.

    This is obviously true.

    But in the same way heart transplants are not medically controversial. They are standard cardiological practice. All the same a heart surgeon who declined to perform a heart transplant, when the “donor” is alive, kicking and unwilling to donate, would not generally be thought of as having failed in his medical duties. Except perhaps in China.

  • I think their lifestyle and standard was more hygienic, natural and healthy. For example these days we usually sit and work for long time each day but they used to move around and had more physically tough jobs.

    Its better to use a Standing desk to avoid back pain and other health issues. 😉

  • And then sniggering in his beard when you all rush to agree with him. (Nullius in Verba, October 25, 2019 at 11:31 pm)

    I didn’t agree with him – I deconstructed his arguments. 🙂

    (It would seem the more you are right about his argument’s hidden agenda, the less right he would have to complain about my presenting my view of his hidden agenda. 🙂 )

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Nullius, I am not a fan of competitive debate. It may teach a debater how to detect the other guy’s bad arguments, but it also teaches him how to create his own awful-but-plausible ones, and it’s way too easy for him to fall into sophistry himself.”

    Arguments and rhetorical techniques are like guns. They’re tools you can use them for good purposes or bad ones. The idea is you only outlaw the bad purposes, not the guns. And if the bad guys have guns, you need to learn to use guns yourself if you’re to have any chance yourself of beating them.

    What weapon is he using? What tactics? Has he set up his camp on a vital part of your own defences and invited you to lob shells at him? If you don’t study the methods of the enemy, you’ll fall into their traps.

    He, an obviously very clever welfare-system architect, has just set up camp on a blatantly *anti*-welfare argument, and positively invited incoming fire. Why? What’s he up to?

    “In any case, I’ve read quite a few reports by others of what he’s said,…”

    I try to pay no attention either to what other things a person might have said (genetic fallacy), or what other people have said about them. Nor whose ‘side’ they’re on. The identity and characteristics of the person presenting an argument is irrelevant to its truth, only the argument/evidence itself can determine whether it’s right or wrong.

    Isaac Newton wrote bookloads of nonsense on alchemy and theological divination of the date of the apocalypse from scripture. Copernicus was a seriously nutball astrologer. So what? Only the quality of the argument/evidence itself matters.

    And in any case, I’m not arguing that his argument is right or good or nice, I’m only arguing that I think his meaning/intention has been misunderstood.

    “Health care professionals who are unwilling to accept these limits have two choices: select an area of medicine, such as radiology, that will not put them in situations that conflict with their personal morality or, if there is no such area, leave the profession.”

    This is pretty much the same issue we discussed recently with the transgender barista and her friend who asked her boss whether she was required to serve coffee to customers in MAGA caps. It’s the same issue as when a Muslim taxi driver refuses to take guide dogs because in Islam they are ‘unclean’. It’s like employing a Muslim bartender who refuses to serve alcohol, or a Jewish restaurant cook who refuses to touch pork, or a vegetarian burger-flipper who won’t serve meat.

    Employment is by mutual agreement. Party A offers to employ Party B to perform certain services, and if Party B is willing to perform those services, they make a contract. Party B does not get to tell Party A what they’re allowed to ask for. They either take the job or they don’t. Conversely, Party A can’t make Party B do anything that wasn’t agreed in the contract. Nobody can be made to do anything they don’t want to do, including giving somebody a job.

    The issue in the healthcare thing is not this particular regulation, but the universally compulsory nature of the regulations themselves. The ideal would be that you have different employers who each set their own rules. If you’re a vegetarian who abhors meat, you go work in a vegetarian restaurant. If you don’t agree with abortion, you go work for a clinic that doesn’t do it. The problem here is that there needs to be one set of rules to get a licence to practice from the government (forbidding certain harmful practices), and another set for employment by the government using government funding (where they can require you provide certain services). The two are getting mixed up.

    “Interestingly, Emanuel has also supported healthcare rationing, meaning that he believes in certain circumstances that patients should be denied efficacious care, in his case, based on invidious judgments by the medical authorities of the patient’s “quality of life.””

    Yes, well, I already explained above why that’s not an issue specific to Emanuel, but applies to any system with limited resources. You can argue for competition between providers with different rationing priorities, but you can’t deny the need for such priorities. ‘Quality of life’ is pretty standard.

    And again, he would no doubt argue that the same thing applies to welfare generally. We ration welfare, giving it to those we consider ‘deserving’ and refusing it to those who we don’t. That’s inevitable, because we have only so much money to give. But the Appeal to Emotion doesn’t care about your limited resources, it regards any such judgements between the needy as invidious.

    You can leave it to the market, but then the market rations it on criteria like “Can you afford this?” and excludes the poor. Or you can give it to the government, but it’s still got to apply criteria and rationing. The question is only what should those criteria be?

    That’s the sort of question politics is there to decide. And everyone argues for different criteria, and they do so inconsistently and illogically, depending on which particular Appeal to Emotion has impinged on their consciousness most recently. His job was to sort through this mess and come up with a joint decision. And while it’s fair enough to disagree with the answer he came up with, I’d say it is still worth thinking seriously about the issues he raises when trying to come up with something better.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “(It would seem the more you are right about his argument’s hidden agenda, the less right he would have to complain about my presenting my view of his hidden agenda. 🙂 )”

    Agreed! I doubt he’s complaining. 🙂

  • C.S.Lewis wrote , “When all the mud has been flung, everyone’s argument remains to be considered on its merits.” In this case, I see use in the ‘flinging of mud’ – looking at what else Z.E. has said, as Julie has done, and using it to assess his likely motives – and also the consideration on its merits, as NiV has essayed.

    While he would be OK with their prompt death, it could be Z.E. would tolerate these active elderly living on if they continued to work, so he could continue to extort taxes from them. Perhaps he intends ‘unmeaningful’ to become the modernised term for the ‘undeserving poor’ who choose not to work and therefore are unworthy of benefits.

    The little matter that his political friends and family are very much of the line that promised these benefits and dishonestly packaged them as earned will doubtless be brushed aside as un-meaningful – perhaps the useful term will also replace or supplement the “no longer relevant” jargon of the PC activist.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Perhaps he intends ‘unmeaningful’ to become the modernised term for the ‘undeserving poor’ who choose not to work and therefore are unworthy of benefits.”

    I think he intends to have them seen as being equivalent, yes! Have you thought about what it means for them to be equivalent?

    Again, we have here an arch-welfarist, whose political friends are as you say all pro-welfare, making a “provocative” and controversial *anti*-welfare argument in such a way as to draw considerable incoming fire on it. *Why* is he doing that?

  • Julie near Chicago

    In what follows, quotes from Nullius’s comment, October 26, 2019 at 10:49 am, are set off as block quotes. All other quotes begin and end with three stars (***) and are not indented.

    .

    “Arguments and rhetorical techniques are like guns. They’re tools you can use them for good purposes or bad ones.”

    One of the techniques in what I specified as competitive debate is slipping in a few below the belt, if you can get away with it without the judge’s noticing. (The judge may be a single person, or a panel, or an entire audience.) In other words, to deliberately commit intellectual dishonesty. It’s like taking steroids before an athletic competition, cheating by boosting your apparent strength or endurance.

    If one learns to do that without being downgraded in competitions, after awhile it’s easy for him to slip into doing it in what are supposed to be intellectually honest discussions or argument. One way of doing that is moving the goalposts. Which our pal Zeke arguably (and, some here think, unarguably) did in that crack in the Posting. I re-post part of it here, with everything but the essentials omitted and with two editorial additions for readability and clarity:

    Zeke: ***”…[Hiking, riding, which] I classify as play. It’s not meaningful work. … [I]f it’s the main thing in your life … that’s not probably a meaningful life.***

    You will notice that I did allow him an out on that, on the 25th at 9:25:

    Julie: ***”…[It might be]one of those silly things that we all say off the cuff once in awhile, and then a second or a year later, go, “I can’t believe I said that!

    In the quote, ol’ Zeke is telling us oldsters who are not doing “meaningful work”… that our lives are without “meaning.”’ [Comma added for clarity. — J.]***

    .

    You then quote me:

    Julie: ***’“In any case, I’ve read quite a few reports by others of what he’s said,…”’***

    to which you respond,

    “I try to pay no attention either to what other things a person might have said (genetic fallacy), or what other people have said about them. [Et cetera, et cetera.]”

    Bully for you.

    (By the way, the quote in Rob’s Posting is only allegedly from Zeke’s own mouth. It comes to us via an interview in an online magazine. Just as the quotes in my comments come from NR — an online magazine. Whether either of them has been selectively “edited” either by omission or by outright falsification [look up the verb “to falsify”] I cannot say for sure.)

    Just for grins, have a look at my comments throughout this discussion and see how many you can find where I make that same point myself. You might also note, just for your own amusement of course, whether I’ve bothered at all to say which quotes are at least reportedly by the Great Man himself, and who reported them. Along with that, you might find, horribile dictu, that I’ve been careful to say when I am not quoting Zeke.

    .

    “The issue in the healthcare thing is not this particular regulation, but the universally compulsory nature of the regulations themselves.”

    I would point out that a legal regulation of what a health-care provider can or must do (as well as what he can’t) is “universally compulsory,” although in a lot of regulations (laws) exceptions are given — for instance exemption from the draft for conscientious objectors, such as members of the Amish sect*. (I will also note that you might have meant to say that the the problem with regulations (whether in health care or in general) is that they are universally compulsory.)

    *(Hmmmm — I wonder how that differs from a waiver to Catholics or other Christians on issues of insuring abortions?)

    In any case, I don’t see anywhere in the comments that the man has called for making a law requiring the unwilling practitioner to perform either abortions or info on contraception. I agree with Nullius that this requirement (in a jurisdiction where abortion is not illegal, anyway) should be entirely up to the employer of the practitioner, if the latter is in fact an employee of another party.

    But where there is a legal requirement, that’s different. It’s telling the baker who doesn’t want to, that he MUST by law provide cakes decorated with witches or skeletons or jack-o’-lanterns, whether he wants to or not. It’s telling every bookseller that he MUST sell some book of pr0n, like it or not. Etc. So if Zeke wants such to be law — and I can’t help thinking that he does, and he’s just smart enough not to say so — then that is beyond unconscionable. Just as are all the legal requirements in my f’rinstances. And then, it’s wrapped up with “If you don’t like it, go find another line of work.”

    But if it were strictly a private matter, between an employee or applicant and his employer or possible employer, then the employee would have an uncoerced choice of whether to take the job and with it the employer’s requirements, or to go somewhere else if possible or find other work if not.

    .

    Your last issue is about Zeke’s (alleged) support for the rationing of health care. You say,

    “…[T]hat’s not an issue specific to Emanuel, but applies to any system with limited resources.”

    Do you mean that it’s not specific to Emanuel, i.e. that other medical people or pundits have his same opinion, or that it’s not specific to a system of health care? Not clear.

    But in any case, the real problem is with the use of the word “rationing” in this context, which unfortunately has become rather common among the punditry. It allows one to say with a straight face that “the market” is a system of rationing, or that a mother’s decisions on when to bake cookies for her little darlings is a system of rationing. It means that any system involving producibles is a system of rationing. As in so many other cases, the word is taken over to mean something else entirely.

    Note: Further quotes are from the sources given, not from Nullius.

    Per on-line dictionaries, “rationing” does not mean every instance of deciding who gets what. In particular, Macmillan:

    the system of allowing people to have only a particular amount of something such as food or gas when there is not much available

    Even Wikipedia, in which my faith is hovering only a few thousandths’ of a degree above zero even in such technical fields as math — but never mind. Even Wikipedia says,

    Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, services, or an artificial restriction of demand. Rationing controls the size of the ration, which is one’s allowed portion of the resources being distributed on a particular day or at a particular time.

    In fact, rationing actually refers to a specific authority which decides who gets how much of what, and when. The Market is not by any stretch an “authority.” It functions by means of letting people strike bargains or not, just as they choose. There’s no coercive agency telling the buyer that by law or by the agent’s power-of-the-gun, he may not buy more than one box of toothpicks today (although there are dozens on the shelf for sale and enough more in the back to keep the entire planet in toothpicks yea unto the 10th generation), and he may not buy another until three years from Thursday.

    It’s true that I have no source saying that this sort of “rationing” is what Dr. Zeke has in mind. But Zeke aside, misusing the word in that way allows one to change its meaning from situations where distribution occurs according to the pronouncements of some agency having the power to coerce to situations, such as the somewhat-free market, in which there is (theoretically) no such power.

    The two situations are not not not analogous.

    . . .

    Really, insofar as there is any Master Strategy at work, it is that Zeke is selling governmentally controlled Welfarism, in which goods (fuel, heat) and services (health care, commercial hair-braiding) are parcelled out according to the government’s own criteria, and is trying to soften us up some more, making the unthinkable idea less unthinkable, so as to saddle all of us with it if he possibly can.

    And has the gall to tell me that my life is meaningless because I’m not doing what he thinks is meaningful work!!!

    My take is much closer to Niall’s “preparing the battlespace.” Emanuel is forthrightly presenting a selection of his own views, but dodging the full extent of what they come to logically and historically. Lenin, I believe, talked about the value to the Rulership of its controlling medical care — and I’ll bet our Zeke knows all about that observation. Dodging it because he knows we rubes aren’t up for it yet, but as I said above, sitting there with the rest of the Obamacare “architects” while Gruber gives the whole game away — on camera.

    Niall’s comment is well put:

    I regard the ‘meaningful’ life stuff as a particularly insolent philosophical battle-space preparation for the ‘intersectional’ conflicts upcoming….

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Do you mean that it’s not specific to Emanuel, i.e. that other medical people or pundits have his same opinion, or that it’s not specific to a system of health care? Not clear.”

    It’s a general feature of *any* system distributing scarce resources. *Any* welfare system must do this. *Any* healthcare system must do this – the only difference between systems is the criteria for who gets treated that you apply. This is not something Emanuel invented.

    You’ve got a group of people needing $10m of treatment and you’ve got $1m with which to treat them. It’s mathematically impossible to do so! This is not an opinion of any particular group of medics or pundits, it’s how the universe works. So there is some subset of the people to who you must refuse treatment. How do you decide which ones? This is the big question.

    One point of view, espoused by socialists and welfarists, is that everyone’s life is equally worthwhile. Another point of view, espoused by many capitalists, is that those who are most productive, who contribute economically to society should get the most back. On things like unemployment benefit, welfare, and healthcare, we argue that people should have to pay for what they get, and if they can’t pay, they don’t get. We argue that you can only earn stuff like healthcare if you’re productive. If you’re too poor to afford it, then you’ll die.

    This is how socialists see the debate. They think the latter position is callous, selfish, and immoral. They think everyone has a right to life-saving medical treatment, irrespective of whether they’re ‘productive’, simply by virtue of being human beings.

    In the quote above, Zeke is simply taking the standard capitalist argument about only productive members of society deserving welfare and applying it to the elderly. And he’s doing it in such a way as to evoke your disgust for the idea, by carefully not offering any fiscal justification for it. How dare he deny people treatment just because in his view they’re ‘unproductive’? How callous, selfish, and immoral!

    Right! Exactly! He’s got you arguing against capitalism and in favour of free welfare and healthcare for all, irrespective of whether they’re productive or useful to society. It’s a brilliant bit of rhetorical ju jitsu. He knows if he argued for universal healthcare irrespective of whether you’ve ‘earned’ it, you’d argue against him, because of who he is. But by taking a mock-‘capitalist’ stance, he’s got you arguing for his position.

    He’s lying about what he believes for rhetorical effect.

    “It allows one to say with a straight face that “the market” is a system of rationing”

    But that’s exactly what it is. When goods are scarce, the price goes up, so fewer people are willing/able to buy is, so demand drops to equal the supply available. Prices are a mechanism for rationing scarce goods.

    You’re saying there’s a difference between a government regulator deciding who gets how much of what, and market prices driven by supply and demand deciding who gets how much of what, and there is. But they’re both methods for controlling the distribution of scarce goods, because there’s not enough to go round and give everyone as much of everything as they want. It’s just that one is a lot more efficient and self-correcting than the other.

    “There’s no coercive agency telling the buyer that by law or by the agent’s power-of-the-gun, he may not buy more than one box of toothpicks today”

    Do you have enough money to buy more than one box of toothpicks today? No? Then by the coercive power of this gun, you don’t get to take any away! To do otherwise is ‘theft’, for which you can be jailed or shot.

    When goods are scarce, there has to be a way to tell some people “No, you can’t have it.” Raising the price until they can’t afford it is one way of doing so. Ownership grants the owner exclusive economic use, enforced by the coercive power of law. You can’t just take it, you have to persuade the market collective to give you stuff by working and producing for them yourself.

    “Really, insofar as there is any Master Strategy at work, it is that Zeke is selling governmentally controlled Welfarism, in which goods (fuel, heat) and services (health care, commercial hair-braiding) are parcelled out according to the government’s own criteria…”

    I agree.

    “…and is trying to soften us up some more, making the unthinkable idea less unthinkable, so as to saddle all of us with it if he possibly can.”

    I disagree. He’s trying to make the opposing arguments unthinkable. He’s trying to make the idea of judging people on their productivity unthinkable, by using that argument in a case (the elderly) where he knows nobody will agree.

    However, as I’m starting to repeat myself, and clearly persuading no one, I’ll drop the argument here. It’s been entertaining debating with you all, though! 🙂

  • I’m starting to repeat myself, and clearly persuading no one

    (IIUC) Whereas I suggest Z.E. wants his argument accepted, so he can escape the payments his intellectual forbears promised to these ‘unmeaningful’ over-longevitous people, you argue he wants his argument rejected (by people who oppose benefits for the undeserving) on grounds that he hopes will justify treating the ‘unmeaningful’ and the ‘undeserving’ as equally ‘deserving’ – of ideologically-determined state handouts.

    I think your logic risks being oversubtle – which, to be fair, is no strong argument that Z.E. cannot hold it. Today’s ‘unmeaningful’ were yesterday’s ‘deserving’ when they paid taxes and NI, and contributions to city pension schemes. (The ‘deserving’ poor of Victorian Britain worked hard when not unwillingly unemployed or ill.) We know the state stole all or some of the money the ‘unmeaningful’ paid, but any of them who know that are not going to support ZE’s friends anyway – which gives ZE an excellent reason to get his alibi (his alternative reason for not paying) ready in advance. Those who don’t – those who still credit the claim that their payments (and those made on their behalf) earned the actuarial value of their benefits morally and maybe also financially – are not going to believe their “earned it” claim has been voided because ZE, via losing an argument, then claims that the state owes those who spent decades paying it no more than it owes the illegal immigrant who crossed the border yesterday.

    This won’t of course stop him trying. But I don’t see how he hopes to exclude the ‘earned it’ differentiator from that discussion (other than by circular argument assertion) yet I don’t see how he can get the effect you claim without doing so.

    By contrast, I can see paying benefits to people who do not thereby vote for you is not PC style, and, as you say, rationing has to be justified somehow. So my guess is he wants his argument to win, as a typical lefty example of the belief that the present has no obligations to the past.

    Just my 0.02p FWIW.

  • neonsnake

    One point of view, espoused by socialists and welfarists, is that everyone’s life is equally worthwhile

    Um.

    Come again?

    Don’t we believe that everyone’s life is equally worthwhile?

    I don’t normally disagree so heavily with you, NiV, so I assume I’ve missed something?

    Don’t we believe that each individual is of equal worth?

  • Nullius in Verba

    neonsnake,

    Sorry – that was badly worded. I meant in the sense of the deserving versus the undeserving poor.

  • neonsnake

    I meant in the sense of the deserving versus the undeserving poor

    Do you believe in that concept? Or are you making an example?

    (I don’t, really. If I did, I’d have to include the woman who stayed at home, looked after her kids, and earned no money, and contributed nothing to, say, the GDP, as “undeserving poor”, and I’m unsure I’m willing to do so)

    Straight question, no judgement implied.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “This won’t of course stop him trying. But I don’t see how he hopes to exclude the ‘earned it’ differentiator from that discussion”

    Agreed. As I said above, I don’t think his analogy entirely flies. But I think he probably hopes to exclude it by not mentioning it himself, and assuming that readers are not going to think so deeply about what he wrote. If it hadn’t been quoted and discussed at some length here, I certainly wouldn’t have thought deeply about it.

    On my first reading of his argument, I spotted immediately that he was echoing the anti-welfare market capitalist argument and applying it out of context to the elderly, which is a bit unconventional because it’s normally seen as a case of returned savings/investment rather than welfare, although given the mechanics of the pensions ponzi it’s arguable and therefore an interesting if technically rather weak point. But I hadn’t really thought about how unlikely it was that an Obama minion should by spouting anti-welfare cod-capitalist justifications for euthanising the elderly.

    A lot of propaganda doesn’t depend on being an actual logical, solid argument. You can put a bunch of ideas with the right ‘flavour’ together in a line, and the reader joins-the-dots subconsciously without thinking about it. Everyone here is agreed that only granting state welfare/support to those who earn it by working and contributing to society is dangerous, ridiculous, and heartless. Later, you won’t remember the argument that led to it, only that that was the conclusion. So now apply that same principle to arguments about welfare for the undeserving, unproductive poor. Do you see how that can be used?

    When people label an opinion “provocative”, they usually mean that they don’t expect people to accept it or believe it, but that the idea of presenting it is to challenge assumptions and shift attitudes. To move the Overton window.

    I really cannot see any way that an argument about denying healthcare to the elderly is expected to be agreed to, or gain support for his cause. If you’re seriously going to argue that, knowing how it will likely be received, then you build up all the lengthy justifications and excuses and caveats for it first. He doesn’t. He must surely expect it to arouse passionate disagreement and opposition.

    So why would a lefty welfare-supporter put forward a callous *anti*-welfare cod-capitalist justification based very precisely on those used to oppose welfare for the poor and feckless knowing that everyone is going to hate it? Aha. The question suddenly answers itself.

    Is it plausible that he’s really being that subtle and clever? Well, you don’t get asked to be the ethical architect for Obamacare if you’re stupid, ignorant of public feelings about morality, and politically oblivious to how people will likely react to such “provocative” opinions. I don’t know. It’s clear that I’ve not convinced anyone (although I’m relieved that you have at least understood what I was going on about) so maybe I’m wrong.

  • Lee Moore

    Don’t we believe that each individual is of equal worth?

    No we do not. Very very very definitely not.

    There is a limited formal sense in which we believe in the equal worth of all humans, and that relates specifically to notional moral equivalence. But it only applies to moral worth, and certainly not to any other kind of worth, and it only applies to abstract humans not real ones. Each actual human has all sorts of actual characterstics, particular to himself, which make him of lesser or greater moral worth than his neighbour.

    St Francis beats me who beats the Fuhrer. And that only according to my assessment. Other folk have different moral measuring sticks.

    Equality is a mathematical concept. Applied to other fields – such as moral and political philosophy, it is just a metaphor. What precisely it is a metaphor for is doubtful. It serves mainly as a slogan.

    In the hospice, there lie two old women, no longer any use to man or beast. They are both lonely, frightened and in pain. One is the widow, as in the widow’s mite, the other is Myra Hindley. But you only have one cooling towel and only time to whisper a few words of comfort to one of the two old women. Is it realy morally wrong to choose to comfort the widow ? Or, changing the personnel, to choose your mother over the old dame in the next bed that you don’t know ?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Do you believe in that concept? Or are you making an example?”

    I’m referring to the concept as it’s used in the public debate about welfare.

    What’s your view of the unemployed benefits slob who sits on the sofa with beer in one hand, packet of cigarettes in the other, watching daytime TV all day? Deserving or undeserving?

    (I suspect with the mother, you’re thinking about someone working hard for the benefit of society raising the next generation, but in a way that’s not counted towards GDP. That’s a very different issue. Emanuel talking about the elderly doesn’t specify that ‘productive’ is in only a financial GDP-measurable sense.)

    But it’s not about my opinion. It’s about how people like Emanuel perceive that anti-welfare public debate.

  • bobby b

    NiV, you’ve made some excellent points in this thread.

    But attempting to place them in Zeke E’s mouth is a bridge too far.

  • Julie near Chicago

    ETA: I see (after sending the comment) that the Dead have Risen yet again.

    * * *

    Two things.

    First, an apology: I stated that Emanuel was in the room with Jonathan Gruber when the latter made his remarks about having to lie to the voters or they would never accept Obamacare. That is the way I remembered it, but I can’t find anything on UT or elsewhere to substantiate it.

    Therefore, please delete the statement from your onboard RAM and all other storage (except for purposes of historical accuracy when you are writing your book entitled Bunglings by Julie near Chicago).

    .

    Second: Rationing, or The distinction between libertarian freedom and government interventions. Here, chiefly in economic markets; but applicable in all situations where the government has the power of dictating private parties’ actions. (Exercising that power by commanding that X pay $Y in taxes is the reason why some libertarians contend that taxing is theft pure and simple. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, just as there are good reasons for having some kind of rules that disallow complete do-your-own-thing licence.)

    This is one more attempt to clarify the distinction between the kind of liberty that a free market would allow all parties, with government only involved to the extent of prohibiting and punishing outright crimes, and rationing, which occurs only when a powerful authority — a government, a parent, a criminal gang or the remains of a community (as in Forstchen’s book The Year After, which is pretty good) is controlling some territory — takes it unto itself to dictate who gets what when. For instance, it may be that your ration card says you may acquire up to six eggs this month, but it doesn’t set the price that a merchant may charge for them. Although, it may be that the card lets you have up to 6/mo., but doesn’t command anyone, even a governmental commissary, to provide them. POOR little rationed public…. 😥 –Except that it might whittle up some good old-fashioned rocket launchers and burn your shorts.

    To the extent that a market is “free,” there is no coercion involved in transactions in themselves. It is true that a government has enforceable laws, namely against acts of coercion (aggressive force, fraud, extortion) by private parties; this we call “criminal law” or “tort law,” depending on the type of alleged malfeasance.

    In a rationing system properly speaking, the government actively, positively, and directly decides and declares who gets how much of what, and its edicts are indeed enforceable: It requires, and/or prohibits, at least transactions in the rationed goods or services, and price doesn’t enter into the scheme (though wage and price controls may certainly accompany rationing).

    Sometimes that does seem to be the only fair solution in the sense of trying to give everybody the same chance of survival insofar as it is capable (it can’t control people’s innate need for this or that nutrient for example), though it is NOT “just” in the libertarian sense, as in wartime when food is so generally unavailable that the people will literally starve to death unless everybody can get enough to survive.Transactions in this sort of system.

    To be unable to see the difference between free-market transactions and governmentally controlled ones in the sense I have described, is to fail to understand the difference between libertarian freedom in the sense of political liberty, which is freedom from governmental meddling in people’s lives except for laws prohibiting parties from committing aggressive force, or fraud, or extortion; and dictatorship by the ruling regime, where the government tells you what to do or not do, and when, and what means you may or must or may not use to do so.

    Liberty, for libertarians, is not license. It is the condition in which government tends to its proper function of protection against aggression, and some nuisance laws; properly speaking, and before it became common to pretend that every transaction in every market is part of a rationing scheme (but “system” is so much nicer a word, no?), proper governmental rationing exists only in order to ameliorate a highly anomalous situation of genuine hardship, and then only for as long as is necessary. (“Necessary” already means unescapable, unavoidable, in achieving or trying to achieve a given end.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “This is one more attempt to clarify the distinction between the kind of liberty that a free market would allow all parties, with government only involved to the extent of prohibiting and punishing outright crimes…”

    But breaking the rationing rules *IS* an outright crime!

    I think this is a case of people being blind to the coercive nature of government when it’s implementing rules they agree with, and only noticing when it implements rules they don’t like.

    “Sometimes that does seem to be the only fair solution in the sense of trying to give everybody the same chance of survival insofar as it is capable […] as in wartime when food is so generally unavailable that the people will literally starve to death unless everybody can get enough to survive.”

    The only fair solution? And isn’t this even more the case with the question of how society determines who gets life-saving healthcare?

    This needs a longer answer, but I don’t have time at the moment. I may come back to this later.

  • Julie near Chicago

    By an “outright crime” I mean an aggressive initiation of force or the threat of it, fraud, or coercion, where the aggressor attempts to take over the life, body or property of another person who is innocent of any such activity.

    This is libertarianism 101.

    Apparently I’m drawing a distinction that your own worldview does not recognize, Nullius. Distinctions do exist and are often quite important, but if you don’t see it I expect I will get along somehow.

    I didn’t actually write this with you in mind, as you had indicated earlier that you were bowing out — or so I thought, anyway. I just wanted to rephrase it a bit in the hope of added clarity of my view of the matter, for anyone who might still be vaguely interested.

    It may or may not be that someone else here sees the difference I’m driving at. In any case, I imagine people are tired of it. My intention, at any rate, is to let it go at that.

  • how unlikely it was that an Obama minion should by spouting anti-welfare cod-capitalist justifications for euthanising the elderly. (Nullius in Verba, October 27, 2019 at 10:11 pm)

    1) The wish that the ‘prejudiced’ ‘change-resistant’ elderly would all die off appears routinely on the left. Consider George Bernard Shaw’s attitude towards the mature generations of his day:

    I would despair if I did not know they will all soon die and there is no reason at all why they should be replaced by people like themselves. [quoted from recent memory]

    It is absolutely normal for a hard-left advocate to see the young as wonderfully free from prejudice (wonderfully susceptible to PC propaganda) and the old as revoltingly resistant to losing their prejudices and so guilty of being “an unconscionable time a-dying”. In public, when seeking votes, extravagant praise of the potential of youth is more commonly the way this is expressed than frank statements of hatred of the elderly, but in other contexts open expressions of the desire they should die, maybe even be helped, do not stand out in hard-left circles.

    Therefore Z.E. struck me as merely applying a very normal left-wing attitude to a particular issue (preemptive alibi for the ‘intersectional’ age conflicts upcoming over who gets paid the not-enough other people’s money), and, far from being super-subtle, more likely being too left-wing-bubble to foresee how it would sound to us normals.

    2) Because he ignores the ‘contractual’ aspect – pay tax, pay NI, pay pension contribution during working life, get (government promise to pay) pensions after retirement – it never seemed to me he was managing a “cod-capitalist justification” (though I grant ZE might not know that).

    BTW was cod-capitalist meant to be cold-capitalist or is it a term I do not know?

  • Lee Moore

    This :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiWdIrY_5FE

    is rather good generally (especially for the Beeb)

    But this segment is good on GBS

    5.15 to 6.10

    and this

    6.31 to 8.15 on the Webbs

  • neonsnake

    it only applies to abstract humans not real ones.

    Lee, I agree. On a personal level, we all do (and should, I think), make judgements all the time. I’m thinking more of an abstract level – ie. that practised by the government – where I don’t (within hopefully obvious parameters) want them exercising discretion based on whatever they think is most “productive” to whatever society the current government thinks is most desirable!

    What’s your view of the unemployed benefits slob who sits on the sofa with beer in one hand, packet of cigarettes in the other, watching daytime TV all day

    Does he have MS or ME, or some other illness or, indeed, a story that we don’t know about? Has he had, up until now, a productive employment, and now cannot work through no fault of his own, and seeks solace in stimulants?

    What would your view of me have been when I was out of work, drawing benefits, spending my evenings with a bottle of wine and sitting quietly in my back garden enjoying a sly ciggie?

    😉

    Trivialities aside, my view of him/her is pretty dim. But that’s a knee-jerk, because I don’t know the rest of their story.

    It’s not easy, and I accept that my view allows for what I term as “slippage” (it’s a retail term – we accept that some products will get stolen. Rather than not sell them, we accept a level of slippage that means we’re still profitable, because you can’t implement a policy that guarantees zero shop-lifting, if that makes sense?)

    I suspect with the mother, you’re thinking about someone working hard for the benefit of society raising the next generation, but in a way that’s not counted towards GDP.

    Exactly that, NIV. And the grandparents that look after the kids for the mothers that really do need to go back to work, and so on and so forth. The people quietly doing stuff that isn’t counted in any measure like GDP, but which we still think is good, solid, valuable work for society. And maybe chaps like Emanuel do believe in it, but he doesn’t specify such, right?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “By an “outright crime” I mean an aggressive initiation of force or the threat of it, fraud, or coercion, where the aggressor attempts to take over the life, body or property of another person who is innocent of any such activity.”

    Well, jolly good luck then when the cops drag you off to court and you explain to them that you’ve got your own personal definition of “crime” that doesn’t match theirs!

    Everyone has their own moral system, of immoral acts they think *ought* to be crimes, but in my book the term is reserved for those defined by the relevant collectively consented legal jurisdiction. There are other terms we can use for things we think ought to be crimes but aren’t, or are crimes but shouldn’t be.

    “I didn’t actually write this with you in mind, as you had indicated earlier that you were bowing out”

    I’ve given up on the Zeke thing. But I thought the nascent debate on ‘rationing’ was itself of interest, and not yet played out.

    But if everyone is too exhausted to continue…

    “BTW was cod-capitalist meant to be cold-capitalist or is it a term I do not know?”

    Sorry. It’s a slightly archaic term and is regarded as British slang, apparently. Dates from the late 17th century.
    http://www.word-detective.com/2008/04/cod-mock/

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