Whole Foods and Half Wits on Health Care

The CEO of the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods, John Mackey, came out today to say that he’s against universal healthcare. I personally don’t have any problem with it. Yes, I think he goes quite a bit overboard when he says that it would bring about Socialism, but it’s not like he’s saying – as others are – that Obama would, if given the opportunity, strangle the elderly and snap the necks of the retarded. He’s entitled to his opinion. And I think vigorous debate on the issue is good. But… and here I go thinking like a fucking Capitalist again… I don’t see how this can possibly be a good thing for his company. Either I’m way off the mark on my assumptions about who shops at Whole Foods, or this guy doesn’t know a damned thing about his customers and what they value.

Here, before we get into the backlash, is a clip from his op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal:

…Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America…

I’d remind Mr. Mackay that there was a time in America when black people couldn’t drink from the same water fountains as white people. There was also a time when women couldn’t vote. And, there was a time when we didn’t have Social Security. Thankfully, we evolved as a society. It was painful, but we eventually made the changes that were necessary to keep moving forward as a nation. We chose to end slavery, accept women as equals under the law, and protect our seniors from lives of destitution. We didn’t say, “Well, we’ve never done that before, so we shouldn’t.” As JFK once said in reference to our space program, we Americans don’t do things because they are easy – we do them because they are hard.

And, with all due respect to Mr. Mackey, it’s hard for me to take his – ‘we just can’t afford to do this’ – argument too seriously, seeing as how I can’t seem to find any similar op-eds penned by him concerning the extremely expensive military excursions of George Bush.

This would, under normal circumstances, be the point in the post where I call Mackey a colossal douche, and urge people not to shop at his stores. But, I just found the following letter, written by a former Whole Foods employee calling herself RFTA, on Metafilter and I thought that I’d share it. It begins with a quote from Mackey’s op-ed, where he’s talking about alternate solutions to the American healthcare crisis.

• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

And here’s RHTA’s response:

This. Is. Bullshit.

Especially the part I put in bold.

I used to work at Whole Foods. There were a lot of things I liked about it, and a few things I still miss (colleagues who knew a lot about and loved food – parties held by my department (cheese, specialty meats, wine and beer) were legendary. But no one I knew who worked there was frivolously spending their health care dollars – it’s not like they were out getting nose or boob jobs. Instead, they were trying to figure out how to pay for appointments for back, knee and foot pain (we lifted heavy things and spent hours on our feet); diagnosis and treatment of celliac disease; treatment for allergies, depression (meds, therapy); getting their kids assessed and treated for ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and the usual childhood illnesses and mishaps. People got cancer and had non-work-related injuries. Needed root canals and glasses. You know. The usual.

If you live in San Francisco and you’re making $12 an hour, your rent is $600-800 a month (in a house with housemates; almost certainly higher if you live along or with your partner alone and/or with your kids) and your bus pass is $50 a month, meeting a $2500 deductible before your insurance kicks in is a total fucking fantasy. “Saving” money by having it taken out of your paycheck pre-tax in order to contribute to your HSA is a goddamn joke when you’re in a tax bracket where it doesn’t make any difference if your taxable income is less because you’re already in the bottom bracket.

The very idea that people getting paid service industry wages need to be “incentivized” (Christ how I hate that fucking word) to not “waste” their money on frivolous health care makes me incandescent with rage.

I’ve had the dubious honor of being in all-store meetings with John Mackey. He is an anti-union jerkface, and I might just send him this comment as a letter (minus this last sentence).


*spits, froths, tears hair, frightens cats*

OK, while we’re on the subject, I’d also like to draw your attention to a free healthcare fair that was held in Ingelwood, California yesterday, where thousands began lining up at 5:30 AM in hopes of seeing a healthcare professional. For what it’s worth, if I were in charge of Democratic strategy, I’d be encouraging these kinds of events everywhere this summer. We can debate forever about nonsense like Socialism and “death panels,” but I can’t imagine that any of that would hold up against the images of tens of thousands of Americans waiting outside of tents like refuges, for the opportunity to see a doctor. This crisis is real, and we just need to find a way to make it tangible to those of us out there who presently have insurance. Having a national free healthcare day, I think, would do that.

Now please go and take a letter to your local Whole Foods asking Mackey to reconsider and apologize… And, maybe steal a $3 organic orange while you’re there.

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  1. Oliva
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    The boycott efforts against Glenn Beck’s advertisers have quickly been very effective; he’s losing advertisers by the day. I’d hate for Whole Foods to be off-limits, but those are offensive comments and supremely unwelcome at this moment, and the former employee had some powerful words. Would love to know what other WF employees have to say . . . such as about him being an “anti-union jerkface.” Yuck.

    There are those–like Edie Falco, who survived cancer–who have good health insurance and aren’t worrying about themselves, but they care greatly about friends and strangers who don’t have or can’t get health insurance, or anything worth anything, so they’re out speaking up about it, fighting hard for meaningful reform. And others who just find sense in the idea of a rising tide lifting all boats. Then there are the people who are interested in their own situations and even say they could care less about the 47 million-plus uninsured. They go to town halls and scream lately. Why, really? Why take this last sweet month of summer, when people in northern climates only get a few months anyway, and use the time to stir up angry battles and so much agitation and hurt? When we could be . . . being more generous and nice, more concerned about each other, many whom we’ll never know, and mutually respectful just because.

  2. suswhit
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Great post. “Whole Paycheck” has never been a regular stop for me and so easily skipped now that I know about this.
    I heard part of an interesting discussion on the health care debate on NPR today. At one point someone said that our founders were looking out for the good of “all the people” but our leaders are no longer looking out for what is best for everyone, just what is best for them. I’ve been pondering that all afternoon. It’s hard for me not to think of that “what’s best for ME” mindset as a fundamental “R” vs “D” issue.

  3. Posted August 13, 2009 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Great article, keep up the good writing.

  4. Posted August 14, 2009 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    As an executive, Mr. Mackey lives in a world quite apart from the average person. He is a business man and is likely quite aware of the power of money and the risk of debt. He is also likely highly competitive and highly motivated by personal success based on strong competitive character. As a result, he is framing his thought patterns based on his own view of the world without any attempt to see it through the eyes of someone who has to work hard simply to survive, let alone thrive.

    There are many, many individuals like this both running businesses and government. The only difference is that the less arrogant and more cautious ones don’t say these sorts of things in public and risk financial damage.

  5. tommy
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Colossal Douche – I like the way that sounds!

  6. Generic Registration
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone earning over $30,000 a year should have a voice in the health care debate.

  7. Karl
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I generally admire a man who says what he feels despite the business implications. It’s hard, however, to admire a man like this, though.

  8. Sara Wert
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I think you give Whole Foods shoppers too much credit if you think this will deter them. They don’t care. I thought that people would stop shopping there when word got out about their union busting activities, but nothing happened. Yuppies feel nice and safe there, and that’s where they’ll continue spending their dollars.

  9. Sara Wert
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    There is a formal boycott site, though, for those who are interested:


  10. Camel Heel
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    If you haven’t seen this graphic showing the difference between the left and the right, check it out ASAP.


  11. EOS
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that there were 46.6 million people without health insurance. About 9.5 million were not United States citizens. Another 17 million lived in households with incomes exceeding $50,000 a year and could, presumably, purchase their own health care coverage. Eighteen million of the 46.6 million uninsured were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, most of whom were in good health and not necessarily in need of health-care coverage or chose not to purchase it. 9.4 million temporarily lose their health insurance while between jobs and 50% of these persons regained their health coverage within four months. 3.5 million uninsured are eligible for existing programs but don’t bother to apply. The 47 million “uninsured” figure is widely inaccurate.

    What we really need is a system to provide health care for about 10 million persons who fall through the gaps without destroying the benefits of nearly 300 million who are currently insured. Many argue, and Obama has stated, that those who are currently covered can continue with their coverage. However, the proposed penalties imposed on employers for not providing coverage are less than the amount that employers currently spend on providing health care for their employees. Many union contracts currently have clauses that would eliminate health care coverage if a government sponsored option becomes available. As Obama has stated in the past, it would take 15 – 20 years to enact his ideal of a single payer universal care health system.

    With no competition to rein in costs, availability of treatment options will be severely reduced for most, in order to provide care for increasing numbers of eligible participants. With the Baby Boomer generation now starting to retire and enter the age bracket needing the most care, Medicare will shortly be bankrupt. The failures of that government sponsored Ponzi scheme are well publicized. I think the real half-wits are those who continue to rely on the benevolence of government for life and death concerns.

  12. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone earning over $30,000 a year should have a voice in the health care debate.

    Cool, I’m still in this debate. Buying my own private insurence with a $2500 deductible no less.

    Healthcare is not a right, it’s a good/service. Like any good/service you want, you can save up for it to pay for it. Insurence is for emergencies. Does your car insurence pay for most mechanic visits? No, you do. Health insurence is meant to be the same way.

    I occasionally get kidney stones, the care of which doesn’t come close to meeting the deductible. Cry me a river about allergies and depression (which I also suffer from).

  13. kjc
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    “Healthcare is not a right, it’s a good/service. Like any good/service you want, you can save up for it to pay for it. Insurence is for emergencies. Does your car insurence pay for most mechanic visits? No, you do. Health insurence is meant to be the same way.”

    exactly why it sucks.

  14. EOS
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    If you pay for it, you buy want you want. If it’s provided for you, you are forced to accept whatever they offer and do without if it’s not offered. I think the latter sucks.

  15. HauntedChickenCoop
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    First, I fail to see why anyone earning over 30k shouldn’t have a voice in the debate.

    Second, just because it’s provided doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be forced to accept whatever a gov’t coordinated plan offers. Beyond what’s provided, it could be thought of as a good or service you save for, purchase.

    Third, Really, right now anyone in a health plan is having services provided to them on some level (at the cost of a monthly deductible and shared copayments). Same for employer backed health plans. Unless you’re not enrolled and just willy-nilly purchasing an office visit here, nose job there, and an MRI per year….you are part of some level of purchasing collective and are having services provided to you.

  16. Jim
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    My favorite part of Mackey’s column:
    “Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.”
    If you shopped at Whole Foods you wouldn’t need health insurance, you lazy whiners!

    EOS–thanks for your thoughtful comment. Before I’d respond, though, I’d like to see some links or citations. For example, what’s the basis for your claim that Obama envisions a 15 to 20 year transition to single payer? What source do you think best documents the insolvency of Medicare?

  17. kjc
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    oh wow, ok. i’ll have to let my insurer know. they seem to think i have to accept whatever they offer and do without what they don’t offer. and i pay them for that service.

    seriously, eos, do you listen to the stories of people without access to health care in this country? or the people who paid every month for insurance, then got dropped when they needed a procedure? these stories are everwhere! it’s a crying shame you propagandize instead of giving a fuck.

    Dem Now had a nurse on yesterday who was at the town hall meeting with Specter, where the same people screaming about how the govt can’t do anything were also screaming that they were about to lose their Medicare.

    Here’s the guy:

    STANLEY ZUBER: I had some questions prepared that I wanted to ask the senator, but after listening to the first twenty questions that were asked, I just couldn’t let go some of the topics that were brought up and the hostility of the crowd, screaming about what we can’t do right, etc.

    So what I wanted to—what I did was I shared a story, stories that we hear every day, you know, in healthcare from our patients, about a patient that I happened to take care of a while back who was a forty-seven-year-old contractor who ended up—his wife—they had insurance because of his wife’s insurance. She lost her job. He ended up having a heart attack without insurance, showed up to our place, had a cardiac cath, found out that he needed quadruple bypass, and I happened to be with him pre-surgery for a couple days.

    The guy didn’t sleep for a couple days. He was distraught, he was sick, thinking that he was going to lose his house, you know, with all the bills for the cost, lose his business, and his kids might have to bear the burden of all of this cost. He actually said to me he might be better off dead, and they would get the insurance instead of having these bills.

    And as I was sharing this with the senator and the crowd to put like the human face on it, because our concern is for the millions of underinsured and uninsured people, they just were yelling at me, you know, “Shut up!” all of this. One individual, one man, he led the charge for everybody who asked a question that wasn’t against healthcare, he would not shut up.

    … the conversations prior to getting in were fascinating to me with the disconnect, like there’s something with the synapses, I think, that are wrong, because many of these people are saying, “Who cares about people who don’t have healthcare?”

    I had conversations with people in our community about laid-off workers right up here in Columbia, Montour County. I said, “They did nothing wrong. They work for a company for twenty-one years. They’ve just been laid off. They have no health insurance. They’re scared to death about losing their home. A burst appendix could help them lose their home.” And some of these people say, “Who cares?” And I said to the one gentleman, who was seventy-two years old, I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “I’m here because I don’t want them to take my Medicare.” I said, “Sir, if I had the same thought process as you, I would say, the minute you turn sixty-five, we would say, ‘You’re on your own. Who cares?’

    something with the synapses indeed.

  18. Kathy Waugh
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    John Mackey also recently acknowledged to his customers that he sells a “bunch of junk” according to this article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/5978809/Whole-Foods-boss-We-sell-a-bunch-of-junk.html

  19. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    EOS, your reactionary jerk-facery never ceases to amaze me.

    Get off your thinly-veiled racist bullshit about the uninsured. This issue has so much more to do with the insured than the uninsured that it’s absurd to even mention the latter. Insurance isn’t a free market now. Not even close. You defending it just makes you look like that much more a tool. You are the captains of industry’s best friend. Another ignorant American.

    Denial of service is the cornerstone of any subscription-based industry. And who do you think they’re going to deny first: You or the big medical suppliers and drug companies? Turn off the preening actors at Faux News and learn something.

    And you, of all people, should be ashamed of yourself. Jesus healed the sick. He didn’t tell them to fuck off and buy their own insurance. You are so going to hell.

  20. Mr X
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I have good insurance. I work for a company here in Michigan that’s still doing relatively well. I’d like to leave and explore other opportunities, but I have an existing condition that I think would make getting insurance difficult. And my family depends on me for their coverage. I’d also like to start a business of my own someday, but, the way things are now, I can’t. So, instead of starting something new, and creating jobs, I stay here at my job, where I know I’ll have insurance. And I know there must be thousands of other people out there like me. If we had universal coverage, my guess is that we’d see a tidal wave of entrepreneurial activity in this country.

  21. Oliva
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    As someone who is self-employed and had a hell of a time for many years finding any decent insurance that was even reasonably affordable or would cover a thing except extreme emergencies, I know our system is badly broken. And now with better health insurance I regularly encounter problems of exorbitant costs being billed to insurance unfairly, just because providers can get away with it. And insurance is shirking more and more every day–have you noticed how much insurers are refusing to pay even over the past few months, when worry that reform might happen is sending them into a mad rush to get it while they can? Why would anyone support this system, which mainly rewards corporate interests at most of our expense?

    It’s really willful disregard to state that 300 million Americans are currently insured and call it a day–as if what’s going on is decent, good, or even adequate. Even just in terms of basic economics, the status quo is wanting badly:

    Down the drain: $1.2 trillion.

    That’s half of the $2.2 trillion the United States spends on health care each year, according to the most recent data from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.


    And what about the truly bright opportunity to shift the emphasis in health care to well-being and preventing disability and illness, rewarding doctors for helping to keep us well instead of using all sorts of pricey tests and equipment that aren’t necessarily justified or appropriate, plus too readily doling out bad medicine, and being willing to charge highly inflated fees. It would be so good to see doctors respecting and engaging with their patients, giving proper time and consideration, instead of rushing around like frustrated worker bees because they’ve been forced to abandon the proper focus of their profession in order to get paid.

  22. EOS
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Jim –

    Obama talked about the 15 – 20 year plan on March 4, 2007 on the video at his site:


    The whole video is good, but the relevant part is around 2:11

    I’m not sure what the best source is for the Medicare insolvency. It’s been discussed for years and I thought it was common knowledge. Here’s a Wall Street Journal article that says the most current government estimate is 2017.


  23. kjc
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    i think i’ll watch the vewy scawy “obama wants everyone to have health care!” video after you watch the wendell potter one.

  24. Jim
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink


    This page gives more context to the Obama quotation:
    Scroll to the bottom for the quotation. Obama indicates that he wouldn’t mandate elimination of employer-provided coverage. Employer-provided coverage would disappear only if employees elected the alternative system.

    Given that we’re living longer and that medical costs are rising rapidly, I assume that some increase in Medicare premiums will be needed to keep the program going. Of course, this is also very much the case with private health insurance companies, which can be expected to continue to raise premiums (70% over the next nine years, according to the CBO:
    ). Medicare is no more a Ponzi scheme than is any other insurance program.

  25. Joanne
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    If we want healthcare that is affordable and accessible, we must control costs as they do in many European countries-from the top down. What budgets hospitals have, where they spend their money, even salaries, are set by the government for all public hospitals. How can we force people to buy insurance when there are no controls set for expenditures? Healthcare is more of a necessity than a luxury, unlike car insurance which is there to cover accidents-the drivers and the other vehicles involved. Yes, bodies have wear and tear and we can do more to prevent/improve just as cars which need regular maintenance. For any car work, we dole out the money needed as we can afford it. The same with our healthcare out of pocket costs. Except, while we can possibly get other transportation if a car breaks down or go a bit longer before fixing a car, we cannot always have such luxury of time with our bodies. We get sick, need specialists, need tests, all necessary to repair the broken body. It’s the only physical transportation we have. We could stay home and stay sick and die as they used to when the doctor would make house calls and you could pay him with a chicken from the back yard. But now you’d need $150 worth of chickens to see him in an office for your 10 minutes of fame. And that’s about 30 chickens at $5.00 per hen. And Ypsi only allows 4.

  26. Glen S.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    BA said: “Healthcare is not a right, it’s a good/service.

    O.K., let’s get one thing straight: Those who continue to insist that healthcare is a “private good” and, therefore oppose substantial healthcare reform, are basically saying that only those fortunate enough to have a good job that provides insurance, or who can afford to buy coverage or pay for care directly are “worthy” of receiving medical care. By extension, they believe the “poor” should just resign themselves to suffering with untreated chronic conditions, or living one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and/or financial ruin — or even death.

    By doing so, they are saying that having access to medical care that can protect and enhance health — or even save lives — is really no different from having access to a dishwasher, a flat-screen TV, or an iPod.

    However, this just isn’t true. As our society has evolved, we have gradually decided that certain goods and services are so important, and so vital to the “common good,” that they should be publicly managed and provided to everyone at little or no direct cost: Free public education; safe drinking (tap) water available in every home; public works, such as building sanitary and storm sewers, and dams for flood control; public health measures such as food processing and restaurant inspections; the list goes on …

    Those who support universal healthcare reform understand that we have reached the point in our society where access to medical care can no longer be considered a “product” available to only a fortunate (and shrinking) few. Increased infant mortality, decreased life expectancy and worker productivity, and the untold human suffering caused by inadequate access to basic medical care have a negative impact not only on those directly affected, but on our entire society.

    Meanwhile, in an era when we are seeing many newly-emergent and drug-resistant pathogens, we are increasingly aware that many diseases and illnesses simply do not respect our artificially-constructed boundaries of “poor” or “affluent,” or even “insured” or “uninsured.” Therefore, one of the best ways to protect EVERYONE against these threats is to make sure EVERYONE has affordable access to quality medical care.

    As has been amply proven in many other nations — providing universal access to quality medical care helps to build a healthier population, a more just and equitable society, and a richer and more vibrant economy.

    Despite the televised spectacle being generated by hysterical protests by “birthers,” “deathers,” and other assorted “-ers,” most polls continue to show that an overwhelming majority of Americans support providing universal access to medical care. In fact, one of the main reasons President Obama was swept into office, and voters provided Democrats with such a large margin in the House of Representatives and a fillibuster-proof 60 vote majority in the Senate, is because the American public is finally demanding substantial action on this fundamental issue.

    So, what are we waiting for?

  27. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    And you, of all people, should be ashamed of yourself. Jesus healed the sick. He didn’t tell them to fuck off and buy their own insurance. You are so going to hell.

    He healed them at his own expense, voluntarily, as a private citizen… not at the expense of exploited Chinese labor, which is currently funding our Government’s expenses.

    O.K., let’s get one thing straight: Those who continue to insist that healthcare is a “private good” and, therefore oppose substantial healthcare reform, are basically saying that only those fortunate enough to have a good job that provides insurance, or who can afford to buy coverage or pay for care directly are “worthy” of receiving medical care. By extension, they believe the “poor” should just resign themselves to suffering with untreated chronic conditions, or living one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and/or financial ruin — or even death.

    No I’m not. Doctor’s less encumbered by regulation in the past often treated poor people for cheap or for free, because they were free to.

  28. Mike
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Wait… Are you telling me, BA, that, if not for all the onerous regulation on doctors, they’d be out treating the poor right this very minute, out of the goodness of their hearts? Do you really think that regulation is what’s keeping 50 million Americans from decent healthcare?

  29. EOS
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Jim –

    Yes, Medicare is more of a Ponzi scheme than other insurance programs. The government has taken nearly 25% of my earnings over my entire lifetime to fund Social Security and Medicare. I’ve paid in advance, involuntarily, for programs that won’t be there when I’m retired.

    Glen –
    The poor are covered through Medicare. What is needed is a safety net of health care coverage for the Middle Class when they are between jobs. What we need are laws that ensure health coverage continues when a person becomes so sick that they can no longer work. What we need is not to destroy the whole system to accomplish this.

  30. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Mike, yes, charity actually happens. I have relatives who are doctors, and one who was one decades ago when he was free to keep his charges as low as he wanted for poor people, which he did.

  31. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I love it how all the humanitarians don’t give a rat’s ass that Obama’s stimulus (and, if it passes, healthcare) will be funded by exploited Chinese labor.

    Now everytime I see the shiny new Freighthouse, I’ll think of those five dead Chinese girls that made it all possible. We truly live in a Utopian age of wonders. Yes they can slave away to increase our already relatively astronomical standard of living! Yes they can!

  32. Jim
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    EOS, Medicare will be there for you when you retire. There is an overwhelming political consensus in this country to preserve Medicare. Congress may increase premiums, tighten eligibility, or trim benefits, but nothing short of the financial collapse of the Federal government will end this extremely popular program. Can you imagine the outrage if people nearing retirement who had been paying in to the system their whole working lives were denied their benefits?

  33. Oliva
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    It is worth thinking of abused members of the Chinese workforce and our culpability in their plight, such as our over-the-top support as consumers these couple of decades, blech. At Walmart you can stock an entire kitchen (plates, glasses, bowls, tableware, pots and pans, and toaster) for less than $100 with items from China (possibly poisonous, definitely cheap, definitely not worth it in every respect). It should set off alarms when a person can outfit a kitchen with so much merchandise and yet pay $100. And a year ago (maybe still?) all the light bulbs at Lowe’s, even those sold by U.S. companies, were made in China, and they were crap (sometimes lasted a week, excellent deal). Our beloved hardware stores are nearly a thing of the past. So we can mourn our losses–of hardware stores, of American-made goods, of a sense of what things are worth, of being satisfied with less so needing more–as we mourn the pain we’ve brought to people all over the world, including workers in China, children, political prisoners. Including the hundred thousand-plus Iraqis whose deaths we are responsible for. It isn’t very pretty being an American, but we can keep striving to be better. And it’s definitely worth cleaning our big house of a country, really scrubbing it, curbing our payments to ever-greedier health insurance companies and unethical medical care providers. Pay the good ones, have things heading in a better direction “for all.”

    But to bring the discussion here down to our debt to China because no other anti-reform argument works very well probably isn’t helpful, might just be a way to muck up the discussion. Things are complicated, and at this moment in history our country still has a deep sickness that a health care reform bill could not possibly fix–but it could be a start.

  34. Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    where are the strong… who are the trusted…

  35. James Madison
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Health care is not today a “right” but many people think it should be a right. No “right” that exists today has always been a “right,” and by right I mean a claim that is enforceable by law or by society’s customary and accepted practices. Rights are created over time by people demanding rights and fighting for them! The British parliament once thought Americans had no right to representation of any direct type in the Government that ruled them — and many Americans came to disagree, and they fought for the right to self-government, and the American Revolution resulted, and it gave birth to the United States. So yes, this businessmen who owns Whole Foods is right: Health care is not a right. Not today anyway. But he foolishly and selfishly talks of rights as if they never change over time. He aligns himself against progress and in favor of the rich over the working people. Most of the rights now protected by the United States constitution were not always recognized as “rights.” They became rights because people fought for them.

    If you want health care to be a right in the US — as it is many or most other economically advanced countries in 2009 — then you must fight to make that a right. And the Whole Foods corporation has decided it is fighting against that right. Clearly most of its employees would benefit from health care becoming a right. A boycott seems to be in order, just as Americans 220 years ago boycotted importations from Britain, as a weapon in the fight for self-government. Mackay is a later day Tory, a pawn of the corporate King George III that “the general welfare” of the American People requires to be overthrown. As quickly as possible.

    No right exists that people did not fight to establish and fight to protect over time.
    Clearly the nation’s well being includes a right to good health care. Why isn’t that right expressly addressed in the Constitution? Well, at the time we wrote it, health care was of questionable value: physicians were sorted by social class, were ineffective or detrimental to preserving health. Doctors were still “bleeding” patients and not until about 1900 were doctors and hospitals more likely to heal than to harm or kill a patient. Scientific medicine is much younger than this country. Older countries have, thru social struggles, made health care a right; the USA has not, in part due to this nonsense that providing high quality health care to all would be detrimental to “American freedom.” Similar nonsense was argued in my day against freeing the slaves, on the grounds that ending slavery would be unaffordable and a threat to the freedom of property.

    Human liberty is advanced only by struggles to expand the Rights of Mankind. Does any business which actively campaigns against the expansion of Human Rights deserve our patronage? Two centuries ago, British and American citizens who opposed slavery came to boycott sugar, virtually all of which was grown on slave plantations. Boycott!

  36. Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder under Obama’s new healthcare if we have 40 million more people insured then where are we going to get the doctors to treat all of these people?

  37. Me
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    “A boycott seems to be in order, just as Americans 220 years ago boycotted importations from Britain, as a weapon in the fight for self-government. ”

    Yeah. let’s boycott those rich old insurers, let’s all dump our insurance, and send those bastards a message. We’ll just show up to the ER with our cash in hand when we fall ill. Good idea.
    In fact, let’s boycott all those rich hospital owners while we are at it. When we get sick, we’ll just stay home and heal our damn selves.
    Who is with me?

  38. Oliva
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Me, I think Mr. Madison was referring to a boycott of Whole Foods. Easy to do.

  39. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    If Mr. Madison can describe which other of our inalienable rights are dependant on taking other people’s property (money) by force to pay for them, I sure would appreciate it.

    I fund my right to keep and bear arms out of pocket.

    I risk other people’s ire when I exercise my freedom of speech, and no one bears that risk but me.

    I suppose the closest you could come is my right to a trial by jury, but that’s at the expense of the state that’s tryin’ ta getcha, and is offset by fines if I’m found guilty.

    I just don’t see why the state (i.e.– my fellow taxpayers) should be forced to pay for my ailments, which aren’t their fault, if they don’t want to.

    I’m not sure that qualifies as a right any more than any other important good or service.

  40. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    But to bring the discussion here down to our debt to China because no other anti-reform argument works very well probably isn’t helpful, might just be a way to muck up the discussion.

    Might also be unassailably true.

    All we’ve done to increase our own standard of living here is to export worker exploitation to China and import the profits, via their Government loaning to our Government.

    Without the profits made possible by exploited Chinese labor and heartless environment-destroying Chinese industry, big Government in America can’t be funded.

    That’s just a fact.

    We can’t afford it without their blood money. Period.

    Our only moral choices are to cut the budget to levels that we can support ourselves, which means no stimulus, Obamacare, or foreign military intervention; or China has to treat all it’s workers as well as we treat ours, in which case they won’t have any obscene exploitative profits to send our way, and we’ll have to cut those things out by necessity.

    Small government philosophy prevails, either way.

  41. Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Let’s try to understand John Mackey’s motivation. Not being a mind reader, I will have to rely on speculation.

    I assume he is a shrewd businessman and he knows that he risked a backlash among his customer base. But he said what he said, judging that the risk was acceptable. So, even if he thinks the risk is acceptable, why take the risk? What is the potential gain?

    Here, I am assuming that he did not write the opinion piece in WSJ out of blind devotion to an ideological cause. That’s possible, but seems inconsistent with the notion that he is acting as a shrewd businessman. Therefore, he expects some business advantage to accrue from his opposition to universal, single-payer health coverage. But what would that be?

    Consider the myth about the role of small business in the USA:
    US Economic Myths Bite the Dust

    If we look at what percentage of our overall labour force is self-employed, or what percentage of manufacturing workers or high-tech workers are employed in small businesses – well, the US ranks at or near the bottom among high-income countries.

    The absence of universal, single-payer health coverage is an impediment to small business. There are some large businesses that could be threatened by small upstart firms. Those large businesses can afford to provide healthcare benefits, whereas the upstarts have a hard time doing so. Sure, there are exceptions, but in general, this is true. Sharon Astyk has a post, somewhere, about how this is a factor with small farms. (Farming is a hazardous profession.)

    My suspicion is this: Mackey seeks to enhance his position in the marketplace, by perpetuating the challenges facing potential upstart competitors.

    Recall that the Big 3 auto companies have expressed support for universal, single-payer health coverage. They have plenty of competition from firms in countries that do provide universal, single-payer health coverage. They do not face a significant risk from small upstarts. Nobody can start building cars in their garage and ramp up to selling hundreds of thousands of cars.

    But Whole Foods is vulnerable. Anybody could set up a fruit/vegetable stand, and potentially grow to the point that it bites into WF’s business. The more obstacles, the better, from Mackey’s point of view.

  42. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The thing that I don’t get from all the anti-single payer people are how they can ignore simple facts. There are actual real fact in play here.

    The U.S. pays more and gets less. We are fatter and live shorter lives. Yet we pay way more than many other countries. These are indisputable facts. Can anybody say anything about these facts? It’s all philosophy and fear. Speak to these two facts for once. We are getting our asses kicked. Doesn’t that bug this shit out of you? Don’t you have any pride? Has life beaten you down so far that you only get off by playing keep-away from the weak?

    And BA, I say this will all my heart: Go fuck yourself sideways. “He healed them at his own expense, voluntarily, as a private citizen… not at the expense of exploited Chinese labor, which is currently funding our Government’s expenses.”

    This is really how you see Jesus? As a private citizen who did volunteer work? He’s God. Capital G-O-D, God. He set an example for everybody to live by. He did not just do some nice things and privately go away. He gave EVERYTHING for His fellow man. You won’t even give some taxes. Seriously, UN-FUCKING believable. The greatest example of unrequited love in western history and you reduce it to a convenience.

  43. James Madison
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for pointing out that my comment was in favor of boycotting Whole Foods. You seem learned and literate and humane.

    I am not sure that I entirely understand your question – or what gives rise to it — but here is my attempt to answer it. Two examples: The abolishment of slavery, a generation or two after my death, involved a massive confiscation of private property – the property in human beings. By far the single greatest confiscation of private property in American history – and undeniably one the most significant steps in the struggle for making the rights of American freedom applicable to all Ameircans. This confiscation was of course a requirement in order to establish the right of the former slaves and their children to be free. So, in a real sense, the right of Black people to become free was taken directly out of the property rights of their owners. This is beyond debate. The rights of the freedmen were paid for by taking wealth from their owners. (In a more profound moral sense, their freedom was paid for by the blood of United States soldiers, but this is not the kind of payment I think BA was asking about).

    Second example: such things as public education, national aviation, and a national military defense (a standing army) that are provided by the Government, and paid for by tax revenues of any kind obviously represent expenses that the tax payers have to bear, and no individual taxpayer can legally “opt out” of supporting public education or the army or the FAA. Taxpayers may collectively, thru the democratic process (such as it is), elect representatives who will change government policy; but that is not an individual choice; hence these government services and their expenses are not analogous to consumer purchasing decisions. Arguably national defense is not a individual “right”; but it is beyond argument that American society long ago decided that access to a free public education was indeed a “right” for all citizens. Similarly, in the progressive era, the Congress declared that citizens had a right to expect food to be safe from contamination, thus forcing businesses to undertake expenses to protect consumers: This is an example of the rights of some (eaters of food) being paid for by mandates put on others (food providing firms).

    And the expense for providing the right to a public education is not assigned or billed, in the USA unlike I think Mexico and India, to the individual student or her family. This is one clear example of a “right” that individual citizens have that they do not pay for individually, on a kind of user basis. This is beyond debate.

    And what of the right to be secure in one’s property and to be from violent attack? Individuals may undertake expenses of various types to add to these kinds of security, but wouldn’t you agree, BA, that a responsibility of Government is to protect the lives and property of citizens from violent criminals? Government may do so imperfectly, but don’t you agree that the police should protect the lives and property of citizens without first extracting a fee for services from citizens seeking protection? Equal protection of the law is a “right” — it is not supposed to be a benefit that one can purchase from the police; it is not a commodity to be purchased. It’s not a consumer good, it is a right of citizenship. If it is a “right” that must be purchased…then it is not a right at all but merely a privilege to be secured by those with money. In much of the world, this is how it works, but they call it bribery and make no pretense of equal protection of the law.

    Where does health care fall on this scale – a right of citizenship or a consumer good to be purchased at a price set by the market? That’s what the crux of this debate is all about, isn’t it?

    And BA, your reference to the right to bear arms confuses me. You may purchase your own firearms, but I think you err in mistaking that purchase with the right itself. Buying the gun is a consumer choice, not the right itself. My 2nd Amendment as currently interpreted applies as much to the citizens who own no guns as to those who frequently buy guns! It is a RIGHT, dear Sir, and rights are not sold in a market. The right for the accused to be tried by a jury of their peers — does the accused “buy” that right by hiring a jury? No: The public protects that right by forming a jury and a court system.

    Commodities are bought and sold, not rights (with the exception of the right to buy a given commodity, in such forms as futures contracts, etc.). One of the tragedies of America today is this widespread tendency to confuse what one can buy with what one’s rights. Of course, after one buys something legally, one has a right to that property: but the right to property in the broader, most fundamental sense, is not a commodity. Rights are not commodities.

    No human right has existed through out time. No right that is established in one time will last thru out subsequent periods of time without it being defended, at least not if it’s a right that touches on something important. And nothing becomes a human right without struggle. Blacks had no right to freedom for most of American history, and victims of violent crime had no right to expect Government prosecution of the accused until the 19th century, and most nations comparable to the USA today have established a “right” to health care decades ago. What is a right changes over time and across borders. This is of course, in the view of this Old Revolutonary, an argument for demanding more rights, for struggling for more rather than less freedom.

  44. Me
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for pointing out that my comment was in favor of boycotting Whole Foods. You seem learned and literate and humane.”

    I guess, Mr. President, that your impressive oratory skill got me all riled up, but my frustration was completely misplaced. I was not thinking of boycotting the guy who gives the yuppies what amounts to a little conscience salve for a bunch of wasted dough. In fact, I suspect he will disappear when his product simply goes out of fashion anyway. According to the owner himself, he just sells “a bunch of junk”. Any boob who buys that junk will give you his/her personal reasons for shopping there. Anyway, boycotts don’t seem to do much when the prodcut fills a psychological need of a significant sector of the population. Greenwashing, eh?
    As Curt Waugh pointed out, we are paying lots of money and going to hospital and killing ourselves. Why would poor people want to trade places with the insured? Beats me. They can have my insurance for all the good it has done me; shortening my life span, stunting my growth and making me fat and all that. Now I know whom to blame for my lard-filled ass.
    And whoever made up that nonsense about being born with inalienable rights has never met a baby. Have you ever seen one come out? They are naked as hell.

  45. Mike want longr name
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Mr. President,

    It would be appreciated if you would spend some time studying the concept of methodological individualism. Your many references to “society chooses” and “congress declares” implies that these groups are individual agents capable of action in their own right, rather than groups of individuals acting of their own accord and in their own interest.

    Also, in describing the regulatory state as a public good which delivers practically a “right” to a certain standard of food, you seem to be wholly unfamiliar with regulatory capture theory. From Woodrow Wilson:

    “If the government is to tell big business men how to run their business, then don’t you see that big business men have to get closer to the government even than they are now? Don’t you see that they must capture the government, in order not to be restrained too much by it? Must capture the government? They have already captured it.”


  46. Ypsiman
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Mr. President, for the kind words.

    That thing Mike want longr name said, re. “of their own accord and in their own interest,” is possibly the heart of the matter. As if. Between science illuminating much about our human behavior–behavioral shortcuts we take in order to feel better and free and like we’re acting on our own–and a deep urge and willingness among many to get beyond their own interests, seems like there’s hope that someday the “individualism” myth underlying American culture will get revised in favor of a version that acknowledges our connectedness and need for mutual support.

    (Most of the babies I know weren’t quite naked when they burst forth into the world–or got pushed! Covered in very special but sort of mysterious goo. [Per NIH: “Vernix caseosa (vernix) is a white creamy substance covering the skin of the fetus during the last trimester of pregnancy. The function of vernix has long been debated but no consensus has been reached . . . antimicrobial protection of the fetus and the newborn child is a major and important function of vernix.”] )

  47. Oliva
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Whoops. Ypsiman was not me! But the post was by me.
    (Where art thou, Ypsiman?)

  48. Posted August 16, 2009 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    “I just don’t see why the state (i.e.– my fellow taxpayers) should be forced to pay for my ailments, which aren’t their fault, if they don’t want to. ”

    You assume incorrectly that all ailments are the fault of the individual, which is not true. If you live next to a polluting factory, then your ailments could very well be the fault of the factory. Is the factory going to pay? No, but if the government fails to regulate and control the level of pollution produced by said factory, then the government, by way of your fellow taxpayers who may block regulation, is at least somewhat complicit in your ailments.

    This is the reason that the US government implements water and food safety along with emissions standards and law against dumping mercury into waterways. Regulation which your fellow taxpayers implement and pay for.

    I don’t see private business stepping up to improve the lives of people. In fact, they have fought air standards, 40 hour work weeks and child labor for years. Now, of course, they fight having to pay for health insurance for their workers.

  49. Mike want longr name
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink


    Please google methodological individualism. It’s not to say that we’re not connected in mutual cooperation, just that we act as individuals rather than groups, and that it’s not accurate to say that “congress” act, but rather to say that individual reps act.

  50. Glen S.
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “I just don’t see why the state (i.e.– my fellow taxpayers) should be forced to pay for my ailments, which aren’t their fault, if they don’t want to. ”

    The fact is, BA, that unlike you, most people are not so “principled.” You see, in the REAL world, what typically happens when one of the rapidly-growing numbers of people without insurance gets seriously ill, or suffers an accident or medical emergency, they go to the nearest emergency room, where they receive medical treatment (as required custom, and by law).

    Consequently, when these folks are unable to pay the bills for this care, these costs don’t just “disappear.” Instead, they are passed along in the form of higher costs for those who have private or employer-paid insurance.

    Five years ago, my employer-paid insurance coverage cost me nothing — aside from very minimal co-pays for office visits and prescriptions. Today, I pay approximately 15% of the total cost … and my employer has indicated that, within the next 2-3 years, employees like me will be expected to pay (on average) 30% of the total cost of coverage. After that, who knows how much I’ll have to pay …

    These remarkable cost increases are being driven largely by the need to recover costs resulting from delivering un-reimbursed, or under-reimbursed care. So, you see, in a sense I am ALREADY being “forced” to pay for “others’ ailments.”

    So, I have to ask: If I’m going to end up paying one way or another … wouldn’t I rather pay (directly) to have my fellow citizens receive access to basic medical care that could actually improve people’s quality of life, and prevent disease and illness — rather than pay (indirectly) for the most expensive end-stage care imaginable, delivered in hospital emergency rooms?

  51. Oliva
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Mike want longr name,

    Thanks for tip–my head swims now in heady economic philosophy and sociology, with appreciation and a nod to the scientists demonstrating lately that we get a thrilling dose of dopamine from working our brains. Nice feeling.

    Re. individual reps, or senators as the case be–some of the actual reps hardly reps in spirit–Max Baucus might be exhibit A?

  52. Oliva
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Mike GETS longr name . . .

    Exhibit B: “The Family” members at C Street. (Yikes, what asses with great global power.)

    Reading about those men makes a person’s brain go tawdry, going to ideas such as maybe Family member Mark Sanford’s past transgressions, when he said he “crossed the line” with other women besides his Argentinian soulmate, link up with Sarah Palin’s meltdown. They were together at Republican governor meetings, after all. Maybe he had already told her that she was his soulmate, but then she heard about the other woman on the national news . . . (Hearing about the ninth-grade, maybe fifth-grade, antics by Ensign about his mistress, and others, got me to that heady place. With apologies for engaging in storytelling for no very good reason, other than plausibility, supposition, surely something legit!)

    Okay, more weighty and certifiable . . . here’s a July Daily Kos morsel re. The (Very Creepy) Family: “footage [aired on Rachel Maddow] shows US GOP Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe discussing being dispatched by ‘Family’ head Douglas Coe, to Africa, on trips paid for by the US government and American taxpayers during which Inhofe, by his own words, promoted The Family’s theological views to kings and top government leaders.”

    (I heard a good interview by Amy Goodman the other day with Jeff Sharlet, the guy who infiltrated the organization and wrote a book about it, The Family. He was on Daily Show too the other night.)

  53. galan
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    The appropriate phrase here is an old one, “Follow the money”. For instance, I have heard that Whole Foods is planning an expansion of it’s home remedy and vitamin sales departments. If true, this fits nicely with the statements made by Mackey.
    Actually, you can frame this whole debate about health care in the US by following the money.

  54. Joanne
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t see it in other comments but to correct a comment by EOS-Medicare is with Social Security for the retired while MEDICARE covers the poor. Medicare is part of Social Security for the retired. You are forced at 65 off of employer paid insurance (many companies do even if you are still working) and forced to pay into the Prescription D plan (by the government) an amount per month (complicated prescription formulas). Medicaid covers the poor and again is part US govt and state govt funded, again with limitations on those who qualify, limits on care, etc. Children of the poor have Michigan child healthcare coverage-Healthy Kids for poor and MI Child for the not so poor (but not middle income-there are formulas which determine need).

  55. Oliva
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    galan, Thanks for your comment “I have heard that Whole Foods is planning an expansion of it’s home remedy and vitamin sales departments” and the “Follow the money” line, short and sweet and right.

    Just to remind anybody who thinks they might want to shop WF for home remedies and vitamins: across the street and down a hop, skip, and jump from WF’s here is humble and tiny, but very worthwhile and ample in a way, Castle Remedies, with nice weekly sales. And of course the Ypsi Food Co-op. And plenty of other wholesome options.

  56. Me
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    “antimicrobial protection of the fetus and the newborn child is a major and important function of vernix.”] )”
    Could be part of a Neo-Platonic aura; “child is father to the man” and all that. Or we could just call vernix a God given right.
    If health care is a right, then everybody gets it, right? Even a guy who is self employed making 100 grand a year with no insurance who falls ill with cancer will have a free hospital stay? If not, it is a priviledge of the impoverished uninsured, not a right.

  57. Posted August 17, 2009 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    “If health care is a right, then everybody gets it, right? Even a guy who is self employed making 100 grand a year with no insurance who falls ill with cancer will have a free hospital stay? If not, it is a priviledge of the impoverished uninsured, not a right.”

    Is there something wrong with that? That’s the way public schools work. Everybody pays, everybody gets to go, but if you don’t like the schools, you can always pay money and send your kid to private school.

    Besides, even if the guy makes 100 grand a year, don’t assume he has tons of cash lying around. We all know how much self-employment tax is and if he lives in San Francisco or Manhattan and has 10 kids, he may or may not be able to afford decent private insurance.

  58. Posted August 17, 2009 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I am self employed and buy my own insurance – it has a $2500 deductable with a $5000 /year out of pocket limit. It is through Blue Cross which is probably my only option because of various pre-existing conditions. I’m grateful that I live in Michigan which has Blue Cross as an insurer of last resort – many other states do not have this and if you have pre-existing conditions you cannot get insurance from anyone at any price. My insurance is fairly reasonable, but it ought to be if I’m picking up $5000 of the first $7500 every year. It also has a lifetime maximum of – I think – 1 million which means I better not have anything really serious happen to me until I qualify for Medicare. If anything really serious does happen and I require care beyond 1 million over a few years, I will lose my insurance. I have no idea what happens after that – probably bankruptcy and medicaid. That doesn’t seem like the proper outcome for someone who is doing everything “right” according to the GOP.

  59. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I had this awesome response in which I was going to work the phrase “your definition of a right is two wrongs,” or maybe, “there’s a diference between natural rights and might-makes-rights,” and then I suddenly stopped caring. Sorry everyone.

    Michelangelo’s “Blockhead Slave” was going to make an appearance in a metaphor that’s not too hard to see coming. You get the picture. Unalienable. Blah blah blah.

  60. Mike want longr name
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Achery,

    Prostitution is the new healthcare. Come join us.

  61. EOS
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Joanne –

    I think we both meant Medicaid covers the poor. Thanks for correcting my mistake.

  62. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Prostitution doesn’t really arouse my passions. I’m pretty much a “that sucks, what can I do about it,” N.I.M.B.Y. guy.

  63. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I can’t resist when guns are involved. Another racist yokel with a gun at a healthcare rally.

  64. Steph's Dad
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I know it’s well intended, but wouldn’t a boycott likely hurt the people working for Whole Foods more than it would the CEO? Might there perhaps be better ways to go about getting at him?

  65. Mike T
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The best quote I’ve heard since this whole Death Panel thing started was today on Reddit… “By denying the poorest Americans affordable Healthcare, the Republicans have become the Death Panel they vehemently admonish.”

  66. EOS
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    James Madison –

    Have you read the U.S. Declaration of Independence? Any of John Locke’s writings? Our rights are inherent, unchanging, inalienable, and God-given. We formed a government to protect our rights, not to grant us any rights.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

    If a government were capable of granting rights then it would be equally capable of limiting or restricting those rights. Such is not the case in our constitutional republic.

    The right to bear arms to protect and defend personal property is a natural right. The right to seek education and medical care is a natural right. The right to collectively funded education or health care is not.

  67. James Madison
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    You should study history. You quote my late very good friend Thomas, but you quote him out of context. The very rights that he spoke of in that beautiful Declaration were not then, in 1776, thought to apply to Negroes, or to women; that such people were then thought not worthy of rights like “liberty” or property or the vote, but later acquired such rights, is proof of my argument: Namely, that rights expand (or contract) over time.

    The natural rights position, so influential in my day as a living man, is a beautiful theory, but it does not describe historical change: Indeed, it was a product of historical change, and a weapon for brining it about.

    By the way, Thomas quite agrees with me about how the rights stated in his Declaration applies now to people who were excluded then. He’s big enough, in death, to admit to inconsistency and hypocrisy in life; but his flaws as a living man do not repudiate the validity of his broad claims. If you like what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration, you ought to favor a single payer health system, for nothing else would do so much to advance Americans’ “pursuit of happiness” so quickly as to eliminate worries about how to pay for, and to get, decent health car.

    Mr Locke? I never liked his ideas as much as people of your era assumed I did. Too status quo oriented. I was a revolutionary, you know. By the way, your statement that “If a government were capable of granting rights then it would be equally capable of limiting or restricting those rights. Such is not the case in our constitutional republic.” is demonstrably false, which should be evident to you if you go thru this excercise: Read each amendment to the constitution, noting which ones establish new rights (and which ones repealed previously existing rights).

    However, I’ll agree with you on this much EOS: It would be a better world if all rights necessary for human freedom were perfectly well established, unchanging, and universally honored. That’s a nice, utopian dream — or else a goal for revolutionaries to pursue. Imagine a world with no violation of human rights.

  68. Oliva
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    While I’m smitten by the last paragraph, I have to say I got tears in my eyes reading a different excellent line in JM’s post. Thank you again, Mr. President. Hope you will keep spreading this elegant idea, which, when part of daily life, sure enough will have a lot of us feeling happier–pursuing happiness, being less stressed, more goal directed [per the good piece about stress that Mark posted tonight], and a whole heap more powerful, more stoutly our full selves, each one of us. (Utopian-ish but realizable, made more exciting, titillating even, by the new insights about brains, behavior, habits, emotions.)

    If you like what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration, you ought to favor a single payer health system, for nothing else would do so much to advance Americans’ “pursuit of happiness” so quickly as to eliminate worries about how to pay for, and to get, decent health care.

    The elimination of worry as a national goal would sure be something. Would heartily employ the talented healers, massage therapists, chicken farmers (it’s supposed to be calming to watch chickens), musicians, etc., who know things about calming worry–which causes so much disability and disease, after all.

  69. EOS
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 5:26 am | Permalink


    Amendments to the constitution codified natural rights as legal rights. They cannot grant rights that don’t already exist. You didn’t include the bill of rights in the original constitution because it was assumed everyone understood these freedoms were inherent. Many withheld their approval of the constitution until some of these self-apparent rights were explicitly included to prevent future misinterpretations for such a time as this. Blacks and women are created with all natural rights as well. That our government didn’t recognize and protect those rights initially does not negate their existence or the moral certitude that eventually corrected this injustice. Where government denies the natural rights of its citizens there is tyranny and it is the responsibility of its citizens to throw off the shackles of oppression. My pursuit of happiness is not enhanced through government confiscation of my earnings to pay for the abortions or euthanasia of other created beings. Taxation for government programs is necessary for services that benefit the collective and are impossible to obtain as an individual, e.g. national defense. When government exceeds its authority and attempts to eliminate health care options that suit the needs of the individual, it must be opposed.

  70. kjc
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    “My pursuit of happiness is not enhanced through government confiscation of my earnings to pay for the abortions or euthanasia of other created beings.”

    EOS, you gotta turn off Fox News. You just gotta.

    “When government exceeds its authority and attempts to eliminate health care options that suit the needs of the individual, it must be opposed.”

    blah blah more bullshit.

    I don’t mind right wing Christian. I do mind totally false bullshit.

    “Blacks and women are created with all natural rights as well. That our government didn’t recognize and protect those rights initially does not negate their existence or the moral certitude that eventually corrected this injustice.”

    I’m glad you agree we should overturn DOMA.

    Oy, what a way to wake up.

  71. EOS
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    kjc –

    Obama’s plan to overturn DOMA and the will of more than 70% of Americans makes him 0 for 5. Some would call it an Obamination.

  72. kjc
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    “kjc –

    Obama’s plan to overturn DOMA and the will of more than 70% of Americans makes him 0 for 5. Some would call it an Obamination.”

    hypocristians–love ’em.

  73. Oliva
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    kjc, to help your waking up:

    My pursuit of happiness is not enhanced through government confiscation of my earnings to pay for immoral and/or illegal wars and torture. Taxation for government programs is necessary for services that benefit the collective and are impossible to obtain as an individual, e.g. universal health care.

  74. EOS
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Oliva –

    Health care can be purchased as an individual. It does not require the interference of government or employers or group insurance plans. One size doesn’t fit all.

  75. Carol
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

    For all of you who were wondering.

  76. kjc
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    “Health care can be purchased as an individual. It does not require the interference of government or employers or group insurance plans. ”

    must be why the insurance and pharmaceutical industries get such big taxpayer subsidies.

  77. Oliva
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Just to clarify, EOS, I said “universal health care” (which doesn’t mean, despite the simplicity of saying it, “one size fits all”).

  78. EOS
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    “Universal health care” Yes, I’m familiar with it. Single payer, government managed, with the stated goal of reducing expenses by limiting treatment options of the elderly so as to pay for medical treatment of everyone, including illegal aliens. And that great humanitarian, Pete Singer, will be heading up the committees to determine who is worthy of care.

  79. Oliva
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    We now pay for so-called illegal aliens (truly yucky language) for emergency room care.

  80. kjc
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    EOS, the immorality of misinformation. Discuss.

  81. James Madison
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    You mention a philosopher from your time period, Peter Singer, who is I believe employeed at my alma mater, now called Princeton University. You claim he would be heading up a committee to determine who is worthy of care. You have no evidence for that claim; Singer is a philospher with no evident inclination to become a bureaucrat.

    Further, isn’t it true that health insurance companies today decide who is worthy of care and who’s not? Lifetime benefit caps are just one way that these companies allocate or ration care.

    I am in agreement with the wise comments of kjc and Olivia. Yes, repeal the Defense of Marriage Act! What a bizzare idea it is that marriage needs defense by rationing the right to marry, as if our World can be harmed by having too many loving Unions of consenting adults.

    And EOS: your articulation of Natural Rights is I am sure sincere. But you abstract that ideology, Natural Rights, from actual human experience. Could we agree to talk about ideals exclusively, or about actual conditions excluisvely, rather than mixing them up all the time? Natural Rights advocates in my day counted the right to property as a natural right — and I agree. Back then, however, it was agreed that these natural rights included the right to own human property.

    That Frenchman Rousseau said “Man is born free and yet everywhere he is enslaved.” This sums up the inadequacy of talking only of the ideal of Natural Rights: What matters most is not what theory by which the status quo is defended or criticized, but what the status quo actually consists of and how it can be improved. You seem blind to the fact that the creators of the idea of Natural Rights advocated political steps to transform social and political relations in order to create institutions that more nearly permit human beings full access to their Natural Rights. If you weren’t blind to this, you’d understand that the demand for universal health care is entirely consistent with the natural rights philosophy; you dogmatically turn that philosophy into a static law rather than the vehicle for transforming the world it was meant to be.

    Lastly, EOS, you err deeply and fundamentally in thinking it was “Government” that denied Blacks and women their natural rights in the 18th century. Government did not create sexism or patriarchy. The denial of equality to these groups of oppressed people was far more deeply rooted than was any Government at the time. I am surprised that someone with your deeply seated bias against Government would so carelessly or ignorantly blame it for the fundamental features of the civil society, either now or in the past. If you’re a patriot, you should find out the relevant facts before you go blogging on topics of vital importance.

  82. Mike want longr name
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    OK, Mr. Madison (enough with the titles already), I’ll bite. I think you’re all over the place on rights. First, you stated very clearly that you do not believe in natural rights. For example:

    “Rights are created over time by people demanding rights and fighting for them!”

    But you do seem to believe that rights of some sort do exist, and that they are good in and of themselves. I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly where you do think they come from. You said,

    “No right exists that people did not fight to establish and fight to protect over time.”

    But might this be a fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, or maybe confusing correlation and causation? What I mean is, rather than saying that rights exist because people fought to establish and defend them, couldn’t we also say that people fight in order to make other people recognize their pre-existing rights?

    In any case, you do believe that rights exist, that they are not natural in the Lockean sense, and that they come into existence somehow within human interaction. But how? Does it have to come through the political process? Do we have rights that are not enumerated in the constitution? By your theory of rights, I don’t think it’s strictly correct to say “[t]he very rights that he spoke of in that beautiful Declaration were not then, in 1776, thought to apply to Negroes,” but rather that they DID NOT apply. That is, the same process that gives us the set of rights we have currently had not yet given those to “Negroes,” and it wasn’t just that people thought they didn’t apply, and might have been wrong, but that they actually did not apply, and that slavery was not a violation of any right.

    On the other hand, a (contemporary) defender of natural rights would say that the slaves did in fact have rights, just as all humans do, but that their rights were being violated.

    If all it takes to establish a right is that it is fought for, than any successful use of force is establishing a new right, and rights are just whatever the present state of affairs is. If I knock you down and take your wallet, I have established a right to your wallet, and if I kick you and make you stay down, then I have defended that right. It seems like if you believe that rights carry any ethical value, then we are back to might makes right, and that the very definition of rights precludes the possibility of a right ever being violated.

    But maybe you won’t buy that definition, and instead say that rights need some blessing from the magic of democracy or government. In that case, in order to make the most moral choice in terms of rights, we should just change the law to say that everyone has a right to whatever they have right now, the rich have a right to be rich, the poor have no right to improve, and slave owners have a right to own slaves. If the fulfillment of rights is a moral outcome, and we can decide what rights are, we could not possibly have a better outcome than just defining ourselves into rightness.

    Oh, it’s too late. G’night.

  83. EOS
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Singer will not be the literal committee chair. His terminology, “QALY” or Quality Adjusted Life Year is pervasive in the 1000 page draft of the health care bill. QALY is the term he uses to describe the process of allocation of scarce health care resources. It’s a numerical system that assigns value to individuals depending on their age and condition, the cost of treatment, and the number of years of potential quality life remaining for that individual. Under his moral code, a person with a disability has less value to society and therefore has a lower QALY score and less right to medical treatment. As a person ages and reaches retirement, a time where medical treatments are typically more of a necessity, their QALY score may be too low to be considered deserving of that treatment. Dr. Singer is an extremely radical thinker who has a long history of controversy. He believes that abortion should be an option for mothers up to 6 months after the birth of their baby.

    In a manner similar to how former presidents have parsed words, Obama is insistent that his plan will not “ration” care.

  84. Posted August 20, 2009 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Obviously EOS has never helped an aging relative through the dying process nor has he/she/it ever seen the mass abuses of insurance plans by patients and health providers.

    Rules have to be set and decisions have to be made. If patients are willing to foot the bill for their own expensive and unneccessary procedures at 95, they are welcome to. But don’t tell me that you and I aren’t paying for all of those (for example) prostate biopsies on 95 year old men. We pay through our own premiums already and through the Medicare system. Someone has to put their foot down.

    Too many people in this country believe that a right to health care means that they can get any type of care they want, any time they want and not have to pay for it. I believe in a health care system that covers everyone just as I believe in public schools and roads and utility infrastructure. But I don’t believe that we should all have to pay for what’s uneccessary at the end of life.

    God intends us to die at some point. Throwing tons of someone else’s money at God’s calling won’t change that fact. I am for health care for all people, but there does come a time when it’s too much, when the costs, both financially and psychologically become too great.

  85. James Madison
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Dear Dude,

    I agree with your rebuttal to EOS, and I’ll say this too: from what this dead ex president has seen of new arrivals on the Other Side, many people who at ripe old ages under go intensive efforts to prolong life while in a state of extreme health decline are often subjected to much pain, discomfort, and loss of dignity (at great financial expense, either to their estate or an insurance plan) due to the meddling of some family member who is in denial about the inevitability of death. Letting someone go with relative peace into the realm of death is not the same as executing the ill or elderly, not matter what the right-wing bullshitters say.

    Dear Mike,

    I don’t quite get your opening line “I’ll bite” but I assume you were having dinner while contemplating political philosophy, and I am honored by the attention you devote to my prior statements. I don’t think all the ways you characterize my views are correct, but that’s okay. I am not and never have been a philosopher; I was a lawyer, a politician, and a statesman; I sought and found practical solutions for actual existing problems of social, commercial, and political relations between people. We, the Americans of my generation, found those solutions (imperfect as they were), thru Revolution and by constituting new government.

    You say dear Mike that “On the other hand, a (contemporary) defender of natural rights would say that the slaves did in fact have rights, just as all humans do, but that their rights were being violated.” I have no quarrel with that at all, except to say that a “right” that is not recognized by the enforceable Laws of society is not, speaking just as a practical matter, an actual Right at all, but rather a mere abstraction. Men in my day — and come to think of it, women too, though in my day I didn’t think of them except in certain narrow spheres — did not live by abstractions alone; nor do people in your day, I think, live by abstractions alone. People need enforceable, existing, actual rights.

    Remember, Mike the idea of Natural Rights was born as part of a political struggle against the rule of Monarchs, who were thought to rule by the Divine Right of Kings. Natural Rights stood in opposition to such supposedly divinely created monarchial rule, affirming that certain rights were inalienable and not dependent on or created by law. This was a fine vantage point for taking on George III, and I was part of that in a small way; however, when it later came to the issue of establishing new government that would protect the inborn Rights of the people, this Natural Rights idea provided few useful — I mean, practical — guidelines. For who can say what is a natural right? Philosophers, I suppose; but what of when their philosophies create or identify Rights that conflict? The sacred right of property conflicted with the less sacred right of liberty — both in that man Locke’s work, and in every society of the western hemisphere. For we slaveowners defended slavery on the grounds that it was a vital form of property. And this is just the largest example of conflicting natural rights.

    Now you may say, “that was an incorrect application of natural rights.” I’d not quarrel with that either, now; but I am no longer vested in slave property. While I lived, I was, and I daresay all living men of interest (which is to say, men of property and influence) will always see the world from a perspective shaped by their Interests. Hence, in Philadelphia we sought to balance one interest against another, looking for a practical frame of Government, rather than relying on all men to be angles who would selflessly see the truth of Natural Rights and agree on the exact extent of their boundaries.

    And Mike, you say “If all it takes to establish a right is that it is fought for, than any successful use of force is establishing a new right, and rights are just whatever the present state of affairs is. If I knock you down and take your wallet, I have established a right to your wallet, and if I kick you and make you stay down, then I have defended that right. It seems like if you believe that rights carry any ethical value, then we are back to might makes right, and that the very definition of rights precludes the possibility of a right ever being violated.” I don’t follow all of that, but I’ll just say Madisonian Revolutionaries believe in the rule of law, and laws created thru the Representatives of the people. Stealing my wallet – which i no longer have, as death took all my property, but I get your point here anyway – would not establish a legal right to such robbery.

    But if Parliament passed a law saying the gentlemen like you were entitled to take the wallets of men of some inferior class — well, that would in my day be a legally enforceable right. Impressment and slave trading were widely practiced and are worse offenses against liberty than wallet stealing; and i think ccmparable offenses take place in your day, too, with legal backing. (Think home foreclosures in some cases and termination of health benefits to someone who’s paid every premium on time, but who’s reached their life time benefits cap — one of the exploited hourly laborers who works at Whole Paycheck, perhaps).

    Of course, back in the day, one of our grievances was that the courts were not independent of the King or parliament’s majority, and thankfully over time that has changed some. Hence, the judiciary sometimes protects human rights, at least in some places.

    I don’t think I have said that Natural Rights don’t exist as an abstraction; I have tried to say that abstractions by themselves, devoid of social context, are a weak basis on which to basis a claim to a right. If all humans have natural rights, and are born with them, then why are men so commonly denied them? Because of social relationships. If in North Korea, Florida, and what was until recently Rhodesia, the people all have the Right to Vote and the right to adequate food, when then are those rights not evenly evident in actual life? Can a starving person, or a homeless person, or a person denied adequate health care, go to court and win one of those rights based on a claim of Natural rights? Not likely, not even if they evoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    So, the truth is: No right exists that was not fought for. But by fighting I did not mean mere highway robbery type fighting, but rather the kind of collective fighting that gave birth to this country.

    Please excuse the rambling in this “post” — I am more lawyerly than philosophical, and while I have much respect for Mr Mike, I don’t quite get the passion by which abstractions devoid of historical context provoke. No contemporary advocate of Natural Rights has successfully laid out a case by which all will agree on where the boundaries of natural rights begin and end. There are natural rights arguments for and against the right to terminate a pregnancy, for instance.

    Men usually pick their desired outcomes and then find a philosophy to advance that goal. Natural rights can be a useful weapon — my friend Mr Washington was much taken with its rhetorical beautify in attacking George III — but it is far less than a viable means of government. Government requires a method of balancing conflicting interests, and natural rights fails on that score.

    But so too does the constitutional system we devised in 1787, as it has evolved into its existing form, fail to balance such conflicting interests. What was innovative, a constitution structured to ensure property protections, is now, examined comparatively, rather a static straightjacket. But that’s another topic…..

  86. EOS
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Dude, I think we’ve finally found a topic we agree on, at least in part. Our society has recently come to expect that a person’s estate and life savings will be consumed in the last six months of their life and turned over to medical professionals for treatments that have small chance of benefiting the patient. If all health care is funded by taxpayer dollars, this is certainly not equitable. However, if a person works hard their whole life and then falls and breaks their hip at age 65, is it fair to deny them a hip replacement surgery and require them to be wheelchair bound for perhaps the remaining 30 years or more of life?

    I think it is more equitable to allow patients to pay for the medical procedures they desire, and determine for themselves how to best spend their savings. However, with government subsidies of the “public option” all other means of obtaining health care will quickly be eliminated and there will be no avenue to pursue treatments that aren’t approved by a majority. Someone like Singer might decide that our limited public health dollars are better spent on a sex change operation for a 21 year old suffering from “gender identity disorder” than on an operation that allows grandma to continue walking on her own.

    I am opposed to socialized medicine because I feel it is better to allow the individual to determine the value of their individual treatment options and the amount they are willing to pay rather than promise them that they will be cared for by a government program and then deny them treatment with no other recourse to seek care.

  87. Jim
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    @ EOS
    “His terminology, “QALY” or Quality Adjusted Life Year is pervasive in the 1000 page draft of the health care bill.”
    Source please.

  88. Jim
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Here’s a searchable PDF of the House bill.

  89. Mike want longr name
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Mr. Madison,

    I think you are misunderstanding natural rights theory. While they have been used as a rhetorical and political tool, the theory as expounded by it’s sincere proponents is this: that rights are objective facts, just as facts about the physical world can be objectively true. It is not a matter of opinion or social context that, at sea level, water boils at 212 F. Similarly, one might say that it is objectively true that people have a right to person and property. Now, they may be wrong about that, just as they may be wrong about scientific facts. But just because people used to think that the sun circled the earth, that doesn’t mean that astronomy changes over time, and new scientific laws came in to being and old ones died out; it just means that the laws that were already true were better understood, and more completely discovered. The fact that Jefferson believed in natural rights and yet owned slaves is not necessarily a contradiction. It may only mean that Jefferson was mistaken about the true nature of natural rights, just as the fact that I may hold some scientific views that will one day be proven false does not mean that there is not an objective scientific truth.

    Now, this is not to say that I believe in natural rights, or rights of any type for that matter. Jeremy Bentham, a teacher of JS Mill, was an early philosopher of utilitarianism, the philosophy that a moral action is that which creates the greatest net gain in collective happiness. He wrote (such a great line) that rights are “nonsense upon stilts.” Rights are purely a moral proposition. To say that people have a right to something is to say that it is “good” in the moral sense for reality to conform to that right. What Bentham meant is that rights themselves do not enter directly into utilitarian calculation, but only indirectly to the extend that they create a net increase in happiness. If the beneficiaries of slavery gain more happiness than the slaves lose, then it is moral for slavery to continue, and it would be immoral for slavery to be abolished (not that Bentham would have argued that, I don’t know). You could then say that once enough people got sick to their stomachs over slavery, utilitarian calculation then favored abolition, but that leaves you with a chicken/egg problem: some people incorrectly believed that slavery was immoral, but as more people came to hold this false belief, it at some point became true.

    But none of this is to say that I believe in utilitarianism either, or any moral truth, for that matter. A statement like “I am 6 feet tall” is either true or not; feet are a definite unit, and I am some particular amount of those tall. But to use the same words to discuss morals seems strange to me. What would it mean for a moral statement to be true or not, in the same sense that the previous statement could be true? Might it not be more likely that we are just expressing personal taste? When I say “chocolate ice cream is good,” do I really mean that there is some objective goodness to chocolate ice cream, or am I just saying that I like it? On the same token, when I say that it is wrong to steal, am I saying anything more than that it displeases me to see theft?

  90. James Madison
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Mr. Mike,

    Your statement confuses me. I am all for human rights being broadly defined, vigorously defended, and widely extended to all people in consistent and expansive ways! Absolutely. But are “rights” of any kind facts comparable to facts of nature, objectively measurable things like 6 feet tall or 3 tons? No, they are not. Rights are matters entirely of human creation (or, depending on your views, divine creation — but that distinction matters little as far as how men act in the world).

    Not all important things — such as moral truths or legal rights — can be defined or measured as objective facts. Believe me, neither George III nor that ruler in North Korea agree with you or me Mike on what “rights” people should possess. Nor do all people in America today so agree. And this natural rights ideology, reborn in recent decades in your time, seems unable to reconcile claims between conflicting rights in a way that is universally persuasive.

    I rest my case on a distinction between scientifically asertainable facts and moral arguments; but then I am a man from the age of the Enlightenment, and your age seems to be less interested in natural facts than mine, despite the vast accumulation of knowledge since my death.

    I further rest my case on the natural rights by saying that it’s an useful set of ideas that were birthed as a critique of monarchy and as a way of advancing human rights. That is a useful way of measuring any ideology, at least if your goal is to expand human rights.

    Also Mike – anytime we start making distinctions between the sincere and insincere advocates of any belief system – whether it be natural rights or Christianity or Islam or communism or American values – it’s a slippery slope. Firing squads have too frequently been organized, or mass beheadings and burnings, based on such distinctions. Better to judge things by what practical impact they have on human liberty than by thinking we can assess what’s in the hearts of men.

    What did Queen Elizabeth I say on this matter, as she sought to end the religious wars in England? She said she’d not try to pierce windows into men’s souls, but judge them by their actions. (Old Elizabeth, by the way, is a nice old lady, at least down here in the afterlife, where I’ve gotten to know her.)

  91. EOS
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    What is confusing is your role playing and channeling dead people and even making up new views for some. A straight forward discussion would add clarity.

  92. Billy
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    When we fall, we should help each other up…and when we are sick, we should help to heal the community together…I think everyone should go out and buy the boxed set of the television show “Little House On The Prarie”, and watch them all. The human machine burns cleaner on love, rather than hate, and it gets a lot more miles to the gallon with hope, rather than doubt. It’s never all about you…it’s always about us, even behind your closed doors, windows, and shutters. Please open them and see the light. You are not alone.

  93. James Madison
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Wise and humane words, Billy. Thank you. The societies in which people take the best care of each are the most politically stable.

    What did Jesus say: he that aids the least of these earns the regard of Jesus’s father? That I think is the sentiment of the verse but I’ve never done much verse memorizing.

  94. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Generosity is a virtue of personal volunteerism. You aren’t being generous or compassionate if you’re using other people’s money — other people like exploited Chinese workers, who will pay for our ever increasing government’s supposedly humanitarian programs.

    So yes, being generous and compassionate are virtues; we should be like Jesus and the folks on Little House on the Praerie and all help out our neighbors in distress — with our own resources, not by electing some folks to take other people’s resources by force to redistribute them in ways of dubious merit for political gain.

    Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of clap trap political propaganda.

  95. James Madison
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    I am sorry but not surprised that you are confused by the ideas I express here, but let me assure you that I faithfully represent the ideas I had while I was a living person. These views are as consistent as the views of any practical person’s can be while confronting and acting to shape the actual circumstances of the world. You may imagine that you understand and respect the ideas and work of the Founding Fathers; but you honor, in my considered estimation, less of our actual work than you honor some dried out abstract rendering of our work – a plaster statute perhaps, not our real work or legacy.

    Of course, I lived two centuries ago; much has changed since then. There is no reason you should assume that what I say I believe about say, national health care, is what James Madison believed when James Madison was living: It wasn’t, since such issues didn’t exist then. I think I’ve been self critical here on the venerable MM.com blog about many of my choices and biases. I reside in hell because I was a slave owner, as do all the presidents who owned slaves; actions have consequences! Denying people health care, which science and the vast increase in human wealth since my day has advanced to a state of true wonderment, seems to this dead ex president’s ghost to an offense comparable to slave holding: For it denies people the right to pursue happiness and in many cases it also literally denies them the right to live. And in countries with single payer systems, it seems clear that getting health care does not wipe out the savings of families, which is commonly so in these united States.

    So, all three of the inalienable rights specified in the Declaration of Independence are harmed by the status quo health system in the united States…..and this system also puts the US at a disadvantage compared to other nations. How can so called patriots support such an inferior system?

    But I’ll you what: No other dead ex president’s views are as well expressed by that dead ex president’s Ghost as are mine thru Mark Maynard.com.

  96. EOS
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Not wanting government to seize a monopoly control over health care and jeopardize 100% of it’s citizens health in a manner similar to their track record with Medicare, Medicaid, and Military/Veteran care, all of which are close to insolvency, is not denying persons access but an attempt to preserve health care for the majority. There are numerous better ways to fix the system short of socialized medicine and rationed care.

    I’m sure you think in your own mind that you are faithfully channeling historical persons, but to express how their opinions have evolved after death is ridiculous. I appreciate that you are honest about how government takeover of all health care options is really a confiscation of an individual’s wealth. Read Ayn Rand. When persons are prohibited from enjoying the fruits of their labor they will quickly cease providing those fruits for the consumption of the idle.

  97. Joanne
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I meant to say Medicaid was for the poor. I don’t know if that auto corrected when I did a spell check or what. Medicare is with Social Security and Medicaid is for the poor.

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  1. […] he argued for a rather conservative/anti-Obama/anti-public option take on health care reform.  Mark Maynard wrote about it, there’s a piece in the Huffington Post that goes in great detail refuting Mackey, and Mackey […]

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