Cambridge is not what you think it is

I’m sorry, but…  no.

Austin has already linked to Avik Roy’s post on David Dranove’s piece on the socialists among us.  He, perhaps wisely, dodged the most controversial aspect of Dranove’s post.  I usually ignore this kind of stuff. This time I can’t.

First of all, Dranove’s attempt to portray Cambridge, Massachusetts as the uptopia socialists have only dreamed of is not serious.  Let me make a disclaimer.  Harvard and I have never been that close.  At almost every stage of my education, I looked there, applied there, even interviewed there.  And, every time, I chose somewhere else.  There’s something about it which never fit with me.  It’s not the politics.*

Yes, a number of appointments in this administration are linked to Cambridge.  But, last I checked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (no socialist) went to Harvard Law School.  So did a surprising number of current Supreme Court law clerks, two of whom are working for Justice Scalia.  Oh yeah, he went there, too.  I’m pretty sure Greg Mankiw works there, and Mark McClellan trained in the system.

You know who else has been affiliated with Harvard?  Robert Nozick.  Go ahead and call him a socialist.  I bet he’d crawl out of his grave and come after you.  Harvey Mansfield is still going strong.  I’m pretty sure he taught both Bill Kristol and Alan Keyes when they went to Harvard.  Is Niall Ferguson a socialist?  He teaches there.  Bill O’Reilly earned a Master’s degree from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  Senator David Ritter has a degree from Harvard (even if it’s not on his Senate Biography).  So does Pat Toomey.  Mitt Romney has two.

Need I go on?  I’m not saying that Harvard might not lean liberal, or that even more people who teach at Harvard might be liberal.  But to claim that it’s somehow odd that “the U.S. healthcare system will be in the hands of academics from Cambridge, Massachusetts” is just weak.  People who go to Harvard and work at Harvard tend to be smart ambitious people who sometimes get to work in government.   Deal with it.  Claiming that Cambridge = socialism is a talking point, not a serious argument.

Moreover, to put down on paper that Mark Pauly isn’t in the administration because “Wharton is hundreds of miles from Cambridge“?  Hey, I went to medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, and someone once called me “Marxist Welby, MD” in a nasty email.  I don’t think the University of Pennsylvania association taints him any more than it does me.

The rest of the piece basically falls into the “if you like any government at all, you’re a socialist” category.  I don’t know how else to read “Socialized insurance necessarily leads to socialized medicine“.  We’ve had Medicare for 45 years now, and this system ain’t socialized medicine no matter how many times some people scream it.

I respect David Dranove.  I agree with him that politics can screw up even the best policy; but I think that goes both ways, not necessary in a one-way liberal progression.  I agree with him that academics can sometimes lose the forest for the trees; but again, that’s true of all academics, not just those on one end of the spectrum.  I even agree with his prediction that the private insurance market may fail.

But I don’t think it’s because we’re all secret or even accidental socialists. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and it’s not Cambridge’s fault.

*Some of my best friends have gone to Harvard.  This is nothing personal.

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