Veering into the Abyss

by Henry on May 13, 2006

I’ve been travelling back and forth between Ireland and the US, attending a conference and grading over the last week, so I couldn’t participate in the Jonathan Chait bashing that’s been convulsing the left blogosphere. But I can’t resist pointing out the sheer silliness of this “purported riposte”:http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank?pid=16524 from Chait.

bq. But it’s not true if you take account of their political style, which is distinctly New Left. It’s a paranoid, Manichean worldview brimming with humorless rage. The fact that the contemporary blog-based left, unlike the McGovernite New Left, lacks a well-formed radical program is some measure of comfort. However, I think there’s lots of evidence to suggest that this style of thinking is suggestive of a tendency to move in more radical directions over time. That, of course, is exactly what happened to the New Left, many of whose members starting off as relatively sensible liberals, or left-liberals before veering into the abyss.

This smear by association deconstructs itself – if you want to complain about bloggers’ paranoid, Manichean worldviews brimming with humourless rage, surely it’s best not to do so in paranoid, Manichean blogposts brimming &c&c. Chait, in his efforts to carry out the _New Republic’s_ self-appointed guardianship of sort-of-slightly-liberal-centrism (and to vilify those who have the impertinence to be to his left) becomes that which he’s complaining about. Peer not too long into the abyss of the blogosphere lest it peer back into thee.

In any event, I’d take the humour of McGovernites such as John Kenneth Galbraith (who as Scott McLemee “pointed out last week”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/05/03/mclemee was not only known for witty epigrams, but also for elaborate spoofs) over that of _New Republic_ apparatchiks any day of the week. As McLemee’s piece shows, Galbraith’s spurious psychologist Herschel McLandress, had the New Republic faction’s number a long time ago.

bq. Epernay [Galbraith’s pseudonym] enjoyed his role as Boswell to the great psychometrician. Later articles discussed the other areas of McLandress’s research. … He developed the “third-dimensional departure” for acknowledging the merits of both sides in any controversial topic while carefully avoiding any form of extremism. (This had been mastered, noted Epernay, by “the more scholarly Democrats.”)

(see “here”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/05/french_universi.html for Tabarrok’s original; see “here”:https://crookedtimber.org/2004/03/25/juan-non-volokh-with-minor-editorial-changes/ for No. 1 in this series)

The US has one of the most deplored health insurance systems in the world and one of the most “admired”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/01/paul_krugman_on_1.html veterans’ health care systems. Could the difference have something to do with the fact that America’s health insurance firms operate in a competitive market with lots of private suppliers while veterans’ health care is dominated by monopolistic, government provided hospitals?

What would our health system look like if it operated like the Veterans’ Administration?

Look to France for the answer. “Healthcare in France”:”:http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/04/health_care_fra.html is “mainly under state control … The state plans out hospitals, the allocation of specialized equipment, etc.” However, as Kevin Drum “notes”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_04/006148.php, this

bq. works pretty well. French healthcare is excellent, waiting lists are short, the supply of doctors is high, overall costs are reasonable, and patient satisfaction levels are excellent. It couldn’t be transplanted whole into the United States, of course — doctors are paid considerably more here, for one thing — but it’s a pretty good model for what we could accomplish.