Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paglia's Feminist Foolishness

In looking over the WSJ's "weekend interview" with Camille Paglia, it's hard to decide who is more foolish, Paglia or her interviewer Bari Weiss.

It almost makes you despair that we will ever come out of the utter folly of feminism and the women's movement, which both so totally misunderstand woman and womanhood.

The crowning folly is the notion that the highest calling for woman is a career in the workplace.  Here is Paglia's muddled thinking muddied by the pen of her muddled interviewer.  On the subject of sex education Paglia wants to get away from mechanical stuff and concentrate on life choices.
"I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don't have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you'd like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you're going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented."
 What do you mean "career sacrifice," Camille?  Are you suggesting that career is naturally or appropriately the center of a woman's life, or ought to be, or that a woman should think carefully before she steps away from a career?  What makes you think that "career" is so gosh-darned important anyway?

Let us illuminate this folly with a discussion of chimpanzees.  Remember!  The scientists tell us that our DNA is only one or two percent different than our great ape cousins.  So the behavior of our cousins should tell us a lot about ourselves.

Chimpanzees, according to Nicholas Wade in "Before the Dawn," operate a society in which the females devote their lives to food gathering and caring for the young and males defend the borders of the troop's territory.  Both "gendered" roles are essential because more territory equals more food equals raising more young chimps to adulthood.

In our modern notions, we would say that the men were involved in constant border wars and the women lived in a community of women that cared for the troop and its children.

But when the hunter-gatherer age gave way to the agricultural age only a minority of men were needed for border wars.  The rest were needed for the heavy work of plowing (because women get miscarriages from heavy work).  You can still see this gendered role playing out in the paddies of South India, as the men drive the oxen and the women plant the rice plants in the mud.

With the industrial age the need for border warriors is even lower than in the agricultural age, so the question arose: what to do with the men?  The brilliant answer was "careers," from the French "carrière" or racetrack.

Instead of warriors, competing to be the top-dog in the caste of war fighters, men would now compete in the world of bourgeois business.  They would battle for market share, for promotion in government and corporate bureaucracies, for the glory of being the next Steve Jobs, the man that made Apple into a global cultural phenomenon.

Even so, of course, a majority of men would never enter the career stakes.  Lacking the competitive drive to dominate, they would be happy to acquire a skill, get a job, and live a life as husband, father, and provider.

At some point some bright spark decided that men were hoarding all the career goodies for themselves: women should get a share.  Women should get an advanced education, should enter the lists of career advancement, should break the glass ceilings that prevented women from exercising power and influence.

Except that while a majority of men are not particularly interested in a career of power, an overwhelming majority of women are uninterested in a career of power.

Yet here we have a culture and a ruling class that thinks it is doing a good thing by brainwashing every young man into believing that he should go to college and devote his life to a career, whether in business, government, or education.  And we have Camille Paglia dutifully repeating the same meme for 14-year-old girls, to think seriously about whether they should compromise career with children.

Let us get real here.  The most important thing that 90 percent of men and 90 percent of women will do is get married, make a family, raise their children and then get those children off the nest.  Work, career, fame, fortune, they are all very well, but they mean nothing if they do not serve that central purpose of life.

The stunning achievement of the modern age is to have figured out how to sublimate the aggressive instincts of men from war to the fake war of economic competition.  It has taken dominating aggressive males and bent them to the yoke of the market and the organization and made them into gentle husbands and fathers.  Otherwise the surplus population of warriors would just be causing trouble.

Do you not see that this domestication of males is an incandescent achievement that makes the invention of fire a mere footnote?

On this view why should anyone think that the means of domesticating men into the "career" would have any relevance for women, who are already domesticated and need no prompting to get with the program?

In the corporate world they encourage the corporate climbers to extend their "circle of influence."  It makes sense, for the male career is a career of domination, of corporate or market conquest.

But a woman's life is rarely a career of domination.  The women that I know, brainwashed to a fare-thee-well by the cult of career, eventually find themselves reverting to type.  They find that they are less interested in conquering the world and shattering the glass ceiling than in building a "career of care."  They want their loved ones safe and their minds forever return to the care of their loved ones.  Everything they think and do relates to the care and safety of their "circle of care."

And what about Camille Paglia, the feminist firebrand?  She's been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since the 1980s.  Hey, Camille, what happened to breaking the glass ceiling and becoming a dean or a president?  Golly, here's a terrifying thought.  Perhaps Paglia just wants to teach and to write.  That means that she never wanted the great arc of a career, only a chance to write iconoclastic books like "Sexual Personae" and teach other people to become artists.

Eventually, lesbian Paglia and her partner decided that they wanted a child, and now 66-year-old Paglia has an 11-year-old son.  Only Paglia and partner are now separated.

I wonder what the 11-year-old son with think about all this in 20 years.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Note to Hegemons: Slaves Don't Tell You What They Really Think

The flap over Phil Robertson and his Biblical philippic on homosexuality, bestiality, fornication and all the rest of the old-fashioned sins has another angle.

Writes John Fund:
But people saved plenty of ire for his comments, offered in an interview with GQ magazine, that when he grew up in Louisiana in the 1950s he never saw “the mistreatment of any black person” and that African Americans in that era didn’t have complaints about white people.
Well of course he didn't see any mistreatment.  If you want to know what the slaves think about their slavery, don't ask the slavemaster.  In the Jim Crow of the Southern states, a white guy ain't gonna get the straight scoop from a man he and his kind are likely to call "boy."

The whole point of any hegemonic system is that the hegemons need to train the underlings to accept their subservience as a fact of nature.  It's kinda like Downton Abbey.  The downstairs people never let a peep of their resentments show to the upstairs people.  They just dutifully do their work and melt into the furniture.  Moreover, if the rulers are doing things right, the underlings will be focusing on their resentments vis-a-vis their fellow underlings.  They will pissed of that some other servant is getting an undeserved advantage because she has the ear of the mistress.  They are not thinking about the injustice of the whole system.

So if the liberals were actually as intellectual and knowledgable as they claim they would not just be condemning Robertson for his racism.  They would be twisting the knife with knowing remarks about feudal lords and slave owners down the ages.

Of course, liberals have their own problems in this department.  They think that everyone except a few bigoted conservatives absolutely love their welfare state and their wonderful Obamacare.  But most Americans know that when a liberal professor comes calling with a menacing remark about a "nice little grade you got here" they know how to behave towards the liege lord that has the power to make things really difficult for them.

Maybe in 30 years you'll run into some doddering old professorette that can swear on a stack of grant proposals that none of her students were ever mistreated or shamed as the conservatives imagine.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas, Let's Reach Out to Liberals

In this time of good cheer, spare a thought for your liberal friend.

This is not a good time to be a liberal.

No, I am not talking about the fact that it looks like the bullies from GLAAD accidentally ran into a Louisiana buzz-saw.  I am talking about the implosion of the liberal idea.

The Obamacare meltdown is the immediate cause of liberal misery, but that is just the proximate cause.  Crowding up behind the pathetic and serial failures of the Obamacare rollout is the fact that the Obama experience brings into question, at long last, the whole liberal project.

If liberals can't build a website, what's the point?

If liberals can't create a big-government program with at least the pretense of competence and coherence, what's the point?

If liberals can't restore the economy to prosperity, what's the point?

If liberals can't predict the climate, what's the point?

If liberals are just another proud, overbearing, unjust, incompetent ruling class -- like all the ruling classes that came before them -- what's the point of them?

Every ruling class relies to a greater extent than we appreciate on the favor of the gods, the Mandate of Heaven: good harvests, good health, good times, good prospects.

And Barack Obama came in with such promise.  Why Barbara Walters reckoned that "we" all thought Obama was the Messiah.

(I know, that stupidity tells us more about Walters than about Obama).

If we conservatives were liberals we would redouble the efforts of GLAAD, of PETA, of HRC, of the race-baiters, of the academic PC crowd and the George Soros think tanks and we would rout the liberal army and scatter it to the four winds and salt their fields and ban their secular churches and on and on.

But we are conservatives.  And so, this Christmastide, let us each think of a liberal friend and reach out with a compassionate arm.

Let us tell our liberal friends that we feel their pain, and we want to help.  Of course, we'll say, things can't go on as before, with liberals spending the national credit card like there was no tomorrow.

But let it be said that conservatives will stand ready with a friendly word and a helping hand as our liberal friends go through the dark night of the soul in the months and years ahead.

Not because of them, but because of who we are, this Christmastide.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Government Always Screws the Powerless

Back in the day the modern progressive movement assured us that it fought for the common man.  And the working man.  Then it progressed to fighting for women.  For minorities.  For the "traditionally marginalized."  Or even for various sexual minorities, from gays to lesbians.  And now, of course, the New York Times is asking whether we should revise our ideas on polygamy -- sorry, "plural marriage".

And. of course, we have the famous prediction from John B. Judis and Ruiz Teixeira in The Coming Democratic Majority, that Democrats would rule forever on the support of women, minorities, young people, and professionals.

Now there is just one little problem with all this happy talk.  Government is force, and politics is power.  Whatever the rulers say, their program is power, and their behavior reflects that.

Any ruling class has two ideas, and two ideas only.  It is interested in seizing power, and it is interested in maintaining power.  All its promises and blandishments are made in service to those two objectives.

The people, whether they are old crusty geezers, greedy bankers, corporate greed, white racists, male patriarchs, or traditionally marginalized are mere pawns in the ruling class's game of power.

So yeah.  Back in the early modern era the newly rising bourgeoisie expatiated on the wonders of the common man.  But the governments they created were still governments, and the common man suffered mightily in the natural economic cycles of the capitalist age.

In the 19th century governments learned to sell themselves to the rising working class.  They offered them wondrous benefits, to be taken from the evil capitalists.  What it meant in practice was that the ruling class would sequester the savings of the working class and return whatever was left, in pensions, health care, unemployment, disability, after extracting its considerable fee in power and money.

We might ask whether the working class would have done better keeping its own money for its pensions, health care, etc.  Because the ruling class has ended up with a bankrupt system that is failing, and failing right now.  And what is the point, for the working class, of savings and health care that doesn't pay off?

The same is true for the groups that were going to make the Democrats the majority forever.

What about women?  Democrats have promised them a kind of liberation from all the heavy burdens of life: from overbearing husbands to unwanted children.  And, see here, wouldn't it be nice for women to get out of the house and work in the wage economy where the grass is greener, and even have career like men?

Or minorities.  Yep, minorities have lived under disadvantages since the dawn of time.  But the problem for minorities in the modern era is not merely removing disadvantages and exploitations, but learning how to thrive in the industrial and now post-industrial economy.  The politicians have offered the most wonderful shortcuts to this onerous process, but they lie.  The modern economy is founded upon the idea you figure out how to contribute to your fellow men and their needs and then you go do it.  Anything the politicians do to meddle with this process only lengthens it.

Hey, how about those young people?  Let's get one thing clear about young people.  On the one hand, they are highly susceptible to the fashions and fads whizzing around.  On the other hand they are the least powerful.  Why?  Because they haven't had time to organize and make themselves into a group for politicians to fear.

When the politicians tell the young people they care about them, they lie.  Politicians are going to use the young people, that's all.  On the one hand they may be able to fool the young people into serving in their political armies.  If they do that then the young people will suffer the fate of most soldiers and get left by the side of the road to die in some foreign country.  On the other hand they are going to make the young people suffer for the sins of their fathers.  It is the young people that will have to work to pull out of the wars, the famines, the financial crises, and the clear away the accretion of unsustainable privileges.

That's where we are in America in 2013.  We've had a century and more of the promises and blandishments and power and privileges of the ruling educated class.  Like every ruling class its promises and blandishments were mere self-serving apologies for power.  That is what the postmodernists tell us about the previous, bourgeois ruling class.

In the next few years the women, the minorities, and the young are going to find out just how broad and deep have been the lies of the liberal ruling class.  And so they will be looking for change.

But who knows if they will turn to the conservatives for relief?  After all, conservatives don't offer Hope and Change, and a heaven on earth.  Conservatives are People of the Responsible Self.  Conservatives offer people not a relief, a liberation from the cares of the world, but instead an engagement with the world.  For conservatives it is the individual, each individual, that must find out how to socialize with the world and contribute to his or her fellow man.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.

But conservatives have this to encourage them.  We would never had had a chance to earn the confidence of the American people until the liberals and their project of heaven on earth had failed.

After all, who would pass up a chance for heaven on earth for a mere offer to live a life as one of the People of the Responsible Self?

Nobody.  Not until that heaven on earth had been revealed as a hell of power and privilege.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Government Did It

This week there's a story in The Economist about the 13-week-old strike in Greece by university administrators.  The government, which is broke, is trying to reduce the administrator head-count.

Of course, the Greek government is doing it in a sneaky way, but what else is new.

But the strike makes the point.  Workers at government universities are not in the business of delivering services to consumers.  They are in the business of getting their paychecks.

Nor are the students are in the business of paying for an education.  They are trying to game the system to get a cheap degree.

Of course, everything the government does has this flavor.  But usually, the government gets to blame someone else.  You know the drill.  If there's a financial crisis it's all because of greedy bankers.  If gas prices are soaring it's all because of price-gouging oil companies.  If you can't get the health care you want, it's all because of insurance company profits.

But nine times out of ten, it's not the greedy bankers or the oil companies or the insurance companies.  No it's not the greedy corporations.  Financial crisis?  Probably due to government cheap credit.  Soaring oil prices?  Probably due to government restricting oil production.    Health insurance going up with bigger deductibles and exclusions?  Probably due to government micro-management of health care.

In other words, the government did it.

Of course, mixed in with all this is that corporations vigorously lobby for subsidies, carve-outs and exemptions from the politicians.  In exchange for political contributions.  So maybe they deserve to get the blame.

With Obamacare the government is trying to set up the insurance companies to take the blame.  But it's looking like the Obamis may not make the sale.  That's probably because Obama and the Pelosis thought that Obamacare was going to be a glorious success and that the uninsured would be crying hosannas as they signed up for their subsidized care.  So they started out grabbing all the credit for themselves, right up until the whole thing collapsed.

So, as of right now, the American people seem to be clued into the idea that the problem is Obamacare, not the evil insurance companies.

But the Greek experience gives us a hint of what is coming as the various US governments run out of money.  The government workers will go on strike.  The disappointed beneficiaries will take to the streets.

So the prudent man and woman will be planning for this.  They will be figuring that Social Security won't be much of a deal.  That Medicare will dissolve into unworkable regulations and price controls.  That government education will get worse and worse.  That welfare will fail more and more.

What should the prudent man do?  Well, he should do what any 19th century man would do.  He would figure that he'd have to pay for everything himself, from saving for retirement, health care, and hard times, to shelling out for his kids' education.  Yes, and he'll even figure that it's up to him to attend to the relief of the poor.

Many people will rail against the scapegoats offered up by the media, the politicians, and the activists.  But they will be fools.

Because government is just like an army.  It marches its troops around and fills them with propaganda.  But in the end it leaves them, dying, by the side of the road.

That's why the prudent thing to do is to ignore the government's propaganda.

Chances are, when something goes wrong, the government did it.

And, in the liberals' 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are Conservatives Voucher Addicts?

Michael Lind, founder of the New America Foundation, who styles himself a "radical centrist," thinks that conservatism is a one trick pony.  In Salon he complains that all conservative policy reduces to "vouchers."

He has a point.  We all know that conservatives want vouchers for education, to let parents take government money to the school of their choice.  But that ain't the half of it.
Healthcare? The right wants to replace Medicare and Medicaid with vouchers to let people shop for health insurance or healthcare in a deregulated healthcare marketplace.

Retirement? The right wants to privatize Social Security, replacing it with tax-favored individual contributions to private retirement savings accounts — a de facto voucher system.

The environment? Cap-and-trade, now demonized by conservatives, originated as a pro-market alternative to direct regulation of greenhouse gases.
Conservatives need to do vouchers in order to keep "the billionaires and the populists together in the GOP coalition."  The populists like their Medicare and Social Security, and "can’t afford to send their children to expensive private schools."  So vouchers represent an cynical abandonment of principle in the hard-right libertarian billionaires, a recognition that they need to buy the support of the gap-toothed populists.

We'll leave alone the notion that the conservative movement is run by libertarian billionaires.  After all, most of the billionaires are Democrats, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffet and the Google guys on down.  At least Republicans have the Koch brothers.

But give us a break, Michael Lind.  We want to demolish the whole corrupt, unjust structure of the authoritarian welfare state, so we have to start somewhere.  And for conservatives the way to start is to convert centralized one-size-fits-all bureaucratic administrative systems into subsidies.

Michael Lind may not know it, but conservatives are in two minds about vouchers.  Some policy analysts have warned that school vouchers will allow liberals to dominate the education system without actually running it as a bureaucratic system.  Just as the federal Department of Education bureaucrats can order universities around on the diversity and hate-speech front even though the universities are nominally independent, you can bet that they'd do the same to voucher-funded private schools.

Oh and by the way, when Lind sneers that "So far conservatives haven’t proposed voucherizing the Pentagon", he's full of it.  The Pentagon doesn't build its weapons at government arsenals; nor does it grow its own food. It outsources to eevil defense contractors.  Probably the only reason that government gets anything done at all is that it outsources pretty well all the actual "making" and "doing" to private contractors.

For conservatives vouchers aren't a panacea.  They are just a start, and usually preferable to naked, shameless, direct, brutal government by bureaucratic centralism.

And we have a principled justification for this.  With subsidies, at least you have the form of a market, and you have a system that responds every day to market signals even if the market signals are corrupted by subsidies.  With bureaucratic centralism there is no response to market signals, only to special interests and complete breakdown.

Still, subsidies lead to bubbles, as in real estate and in higher education.

Liberals use subsidies and vouchers as a half-way house too.  Obamacare is an example.  If liberals had their druthers, Obamacare would be a "single-payer" system, a glorious government bureaucratic system funded by taxes.  But liberals know that the American people don't want that.  So they came up with Obamacare and its subsidies: subsidies for the low-income, subsidies for the older participants, subsidies for the "pre-existing condition."

But maybe the eevil Republicans know their vouchers and subsidies better than the Democrats.  Because it looks like the Democrats utterly failed to do the math right on Obamacare.  And Democrats utterly failed to complete the bureaucratic tasks needed to get the whole thing off the ground.

But maybe that has nothing to do with government and subsidies.  Maybe all we are seeing is a ruling class coming to the end of the dynasty and running out of ideas.

But that's the sccusation Michael Lind directs at conservatives: "out of ideas."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Daring to Talk About Injustice

The most obvious thing about Obamacare is that it is unjust.

It is unjust in the way that it forces responsible people to subsidize irresponsible people.

It is unjust in the way that it forces young people to subsidize older people.

It is unjust in the way that it forces everyone to subsidize big business like insurance companies, health providers, and Big Pharma.

It is unjust in the way that it forces liberal ideology about contraception and abortion on the rest of us.

It is unjust in the way that it forces individuals to get with the program while putting off for a year the mandate for employers.

And so on.

And that's just today, as Obamacare gets started.  You can bet money that Obamacare will multiply its injustices in the future as the special interests work their will on the law and its regulations.

Here is a principle to guide us on this.  Any government program, however noble its goal, will end up as a gross injustice, because government is force, the cockpit of power, where the powerful force the powerless to submit to them.

Let's take the great edifices of the welfare state and investigate the injustice in their foundations.

Social Security started as an attempt to relieve the poverty of the aged, at a time when old people were commonly poor and at a time when the age expectancy at birth was about 65 years.

But today seniors are the richest kind, healthy and wealthy, on average.  Why are we forcing young and middle-aged people, in the middle of their great effort to raise families, to support people like me?

I will tell you what Social Security is:  it is generational injustice.

I will tell you what generational justice looks like.  It looks like a private savings system where people retire when they can afford to.  What does that look like?  It means that you can retire when you have created enough jobs for young people with your savings to yield a decent retirement income.  The government's role in such a system would be to help, e.g., manual workers that really can't work past about 45 to 50 years-old.

Ditto Medicare.  It encourages senior citizens to shop around from doctor to doctor looking for the magic pill to put off the natural ageing process, and it culminates in heroic end-of-life care that makes end of life a nightmare for millions of the aged and their children.  We expect working people to pay for this?

Welfare is a different kind of injustice, because it discriminates against the "deserving poor" and rewards the scam artist that has learned how to play the benefits game.  Back in the 19th century the charities all agreed that it was monstrous for the idle poor to make a higher income that the industrious poor.  But now we have enacted precisely that program, and demolished the low-income family into the bargain.

We all know how liberal politics works.  It is all "because inequality."  It used to be that the left justified increased government power with "because exploitation."  But that argument has worn a little thin except in the most extravagant circles.  So now liberals argue that their big government plans are justified "because inequality."

And that is what President Obama was telling us in his inequality speech on December 4, 2013.  We need a higher minimum wage, more education spending, pro-union laws, etc., "because inequality."

Conservatives must get out there with a new message.  We must cut government spending "because injustice," because all government programs end up as a gross and indecent injustice.

The conservative politician that can sell "because injustice" to the American people will be the next Ronald Reagan.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Raise the Minimum Wage, Mr. President?

For about a year now, our "progressive" friends have been amping up a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.  Now President Obama is joining the chorus.  It's all part of the liberal war on "inequality."

This, of course, is shocking to me, because I thought that the science on the minimum wage was settled.  Simply put, the minimum wage does three things:

  1. It locks young, inexperienced people out of the job market.
  2. It helps institutionalize above-market union wages.
  3. It drives business into the informal sector.
That's what I wrote just out of the top of my head.  So what is the received notion, courtesy of Wikipedia?  Well, the answer is: it's complicated.  There are all kinds of dueling studies showing that the minimum wage does, or does not help.

But one effect that Wikipedia highlights is that increasing the minimum wage probably increases the wages of people already employed that have wages less than or near the newly legislated minimum wage.  And, it speculates, this would propagate upwards as employers more or less maintain the differentials between unskilled and skilled workers.

Of course, the problem is that the minimum wage is just one government intervention in the labor market.  Welfare -- in its many manifestations -- is another.  Welfare allows people to retreat from the labor market unless or until wages rates increased to make it worth while to get a job instead of reposing on benefits.  So you could say that, if you have a welfare system a minimum wage is superfluous since workers won't work for "chump change" if they can use welfare as a backup.

And there are other, secondary effects.  The various regulations and taxes on labor encourage marginal workers and employers to desert the formal sector and work "off the books."  What is the cost of that?  It's a good question.

The truth is that the hoary interventions of the welfare state, from minimum wage to licensing to credentialism to restrictions on firing for cause, will always be with us.  Whether or not they work to "help people" they certainly encourage the marginal workers that respond to identity politics and look for leaders to "fight for the people against the powerful."

Right now we have liberals all agreeing that we must "do something" about inequality.  It could not be, of course, that a century of liberal economic intervention that has brought about today's inequality.  It must be that the rich are exploiting the poor.  So more government intervention is needed to bring the GINI coefficient down.

Hayek spoke about this years ago.  Modern interventionism is built upon the fallacy that you can treat the economy as if it were a simple mechanical contraption.  To think that you can direct the economy from Washington DC is what he called "The Fatal Conceit."

And anyway, Democrats are going to need something to rally the troops in 2014 after the debacle of Obamacare.  What better than to box the Republicans into proving their lack of compassion over the minimum wage?  Who could, in all conscience, oppose raising the wages of the lowest paid?

The truth is that the lowest paid are caught in a dreadful quicksand.  What was advertised as a safety net has turned out to be a poverty trap.  But as long as activists can get attention and politicians can get elected promising free stuff, so long will we have a minimum wage.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who Failed the Dead Welfare Kid?

When a kid dies of an untreated dental abscess, who's to blame?

I'm talking about Deamonte Driver, a kid from Maryland.  It's a story from Avik Roy's book "How Medicaid Fails the Poor," retailed by Mona Charen.
When Deamonte complained of a toothache in September 2006, his mother began calling around, seeking a dentist who would take a patient with Medicaid coverage. 
When she finally found a dentist, he reported that "Deamonte had six abscessed teeth and required the services of an oral surgeon."  But that took more delay, and Deamonte ended up in the emergency room.  One of his abscesses had spread to the brain.  Despite brain surgery, Deamonte died from this untreated dental problem.

Yeah, there is no question that Medicaid "failed" Deamonte.  But there is something that worries me more.

Deamonte had six abscessed teeth.  So did Deamonte's mother think that unless she got medical and dental for free she couldn't do anything about it?  Did she have no husband with a job, no relatives that could kick in a couple hundred bucks?  No savings?  No church?

To me, the central problem with the liberal welfare state is the implied removal of responsibility.  It's the government's job to educate my children, the government's job to give me health care, the government's job to rescue me from poverty -- and that releases me from responsibility.

Back when the National Health Service came in in Britain, people were ecstatic because now the worry was gone, the worry that, if someone in the family got sick, it could wipe you out.  Now the government would take care of the worry.

But suppose the government doesn't do its job, as we are finally learning that it doesn't.  In Britain we are finally learning that the care in NHS hospitals is appalling, and people are left to die without being properly fed and hydrated.  Supposing Medicaid underpays doctors so that very few of them are willing to take Medicaid patients.  Suppose Medicaid recipients have trained themselves not to spend money on health care and dentistry.

Why then, if little Johnny gets a toothache you don't get him to the dentist unless it's free.  Because after all you are a single mother and you can't afford to pay for regular dental checkups.  And if no dentists in your area take Medicaid, then it's not your fault.

No doubt.  And it's not your fault that your kid dies because none of those greedy doctors would agree to treat your kid for free.

By the way, I know a doctor who does see Medicaid patients, despite the hassle and the low pay.  He just does it because he's a mensch.  And these folk come in with serious dental problems all the time.

But let's think about what we know.  This kid died because his mom didn't get healthcare and because she lived her life on the assumption that if she couldn't get it for free then she couldn't get it.  And it wasn't her fault.

There is another way of life, a way of life different from the neo-tribal way of the welfare state dependent.  That way of life is the way of the People of the Responsible Self.

On the way of the People of the Responsible Self, "it's not my fault" isn't an option.  You construct your life so that, if your kid gets sick, you can afford a doctor.  And if you can't you just load up the credit cards.  Because money is money, bankruptcy is bankruptcy, but your kid is your kid.  With money you can lose it and get it back.  With bankruptcy you can go through a few years of hardship but get through it.  But when your kid is dead there is no getting him back.  He's gone.

The mistake too many people make is to believe the politicians and think of government as a ministering angel.  It isn't.  Government is all about power; government is force, and politics is division.  The only thing the politician is interested in is getting elected and reelected.  He'll promise you things, and set up programs and all the rest.  But if your kid needs medical treatment and you don't have the money then you are living on a hope and a prayer.  Maybe government will come through; maybe it won't.  Why would you put all your eggs in one basket and live your life on the assumption that government will live up to its promises?

The reason for humans being social animals is that it improves the chance of survival.  If you have a two-parent family it improves the chances of survival.  If you have a job, it improves the chances of survival.  If you have brothers and sisters and cousins and uncles and aunts it improves the chances of survival.  If you join a church or a fraternal association it improves the chances of survival.

The problem with the welfare state is that it seduces people into believing that they can neglect all the social connections as long as they have their government benefits.  When things go wrong, they can always say "it's not my fault."

That is what they call famous last words.  Because the government safety net is not really a safety net at all.  It is just an illusion, a promise from a politician.  A real safety net is a mighty multi-stranded web.  It includes a spouse, a job, an extended family, emergency savings, friendships, relationships, memberships.  The more you have, the stronger and the safer is your safety net.  The less you have, the more you are at risk.

In the end, the excuses are just excuses.  Because when your kid is dead, your kid is dead.