• Making the world fit your world-view

    Austin emailed me a thought worth sharing. On Monday, I wrote the following at CNN about Rep. Akin’s comments:

    [I]f you really believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, then it’s hard to suggest that there is any rationalization for it at all. While ethically consistent, this belief is rare in the United States. Even among those who oppose abortion, most people support exceptions for rape and incest.

    It’s hard for a politician who firmly opposes abortion to square this. Such a person wants the support of a majority of people but doesn’t want to compromise principles. One option, then, is to find a way to make the occurrence of the problem nonexistent. If pregnancy from rape doesn’t happen, then we don’t need exceptions in the law.

    This is what happens when a belief system you’re very committed to runs into the messy real world. I think the same thing is happening in my last post.

    If you believe – and I mean believe – that government is bad, then you need to believe it’s bad, period. It’s bad because it stifles innovation. It’s bad because it limits choice. It has to be bad at everything, including controlling costs.

    The real world is messy. Sure, government is bad at some things. But it’s also good at some things. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that innovation and choice are more important than saving money, so you want to limit government in health care. But if you profess that saving money is the most important thing right now, then government is what you want. You run into trouble because that runs counter to your belief system.

    This is the difference between faith-based and evidence-based arguments. Faith is shaken when the world proves it wrong.

    I believe that the cost-control measures of the ACA are worth the potential downsides. You may disagree. But some people want to deny they even exist!

    We can have a serious debate on the trade-offs between more and less government in health care. But when you just assert, and believe, that government can’t do anything, even when evidence proves otherwise, it’s hard to have a real conversation.


    • Of all people Steve Landsburg makes a very surprising strong defense of Todd Akin. I still think that Akin is ignorant but after not as badly ignorant as I thought before reading Landsberg. Reading him really affected my view.


      • Not impressed. Akin is a public figure, with a duty to govern and in a position to craft policy. Though he hedged, he was still lending credence to a view unsupported by science. Moreover, it reflects a tone deafness. What he was suggesting was/is deeply insulting to women. This was not some casual BS session. This was a public interview of a public figure. If he doesn’t know for sure how women get pregnant, maybe he shouldn’t be talking about such things. When I don’t know something, I don’t lean on speculation to support my world view. I say, “I don’t know.” Then, if it is relevant to a decision, I go and find out the truth. What does Landsburg do?

    • I think it’s dangerous to assume that certain beliefs are rare. The General Social Survey for 2006 stated that 8.6% opposed abortion in all cases. Slightly more opposed it to protect the health of the mother, which I find interesting but which goes to your point about the world being messy. I wouldn’t call that rare.

      Furthermore, even larger groups of people support this policy in practice through Personhood Amendments. Yes, they have been soundly defeated, even in Mississippi. But 42% of the voters in a conservative state and nearly 30% in Colorado in 2010 isn’t exactly minor support.

      I would modify your statement because it’s obvious that they believe that government can do things and that they want it to do things. They just don’t have a coherent belief system, aren’t honest about it (this may not be on purpose), or some combination.

      • I think there is a bit of a double standard at work here. Change the subject from abortion to universal health care. Use the ACA as an example. Many feel that universal health care coverage is a moral imperative. Everyone should have health care access. Should they have opposed the ACA since it doesn’t provide truly universal coverage and waited until the “perfect” plan came along?

        In the same way, many who oppose abortion are willing to allow exceptions if it greatly reduces the number of abortions performed.

        • I don’t think I’m saying that the perfect should be the enemy of the good. I’m talking about people who refuse to accept reality because it doesn’t fit their worldview.

          Now if you show me someone who declared that the ACA won’t get us any closer to universal coverage than the status quo, because they didn’t like the imperfect solution, I’d declare them similarly delusional. The people I know who support single-payer and don’t support the ACA do so because they believe the ACA has other faults, or they don’t like the tradeoffs. None of them refuse to believe that it won’t increase coverage at all.

      • That’s rare if you’re trying to win an election.

    • You know, an additional way to make the world fit your world-view is to purge all dissent from the comment section on your blog.

      (Sorry, no link, so this may not be compliant with the comments policy.)

    • When you say that the government is good at saving money in healthcare, could you expand with a few examples? In my mind, government “saves money” by setting price controls. Price controls have their own issues like access for the new Medicaid population. With the ACA, services that are the cheapest (and therefore most affordable) are also now free to the patients. This breeds a mentality of overconsumption even if it is in the name of preventative care and potential downstream savings.

      In general, when I think of entities in my life that help me save money, I usually don’t go to the government. They have a modern track record of debt spending, the polar opposite of saving money. Government can set price controls, but has a tough time controlling utilization because of the perception of a “death panel.”

      So I circle back to my original question. In what way do you perceive the government saving money in healthcare? Is it in the same way that the government was able to fix the gas shortage problems of the 1970s?

      As an aside, TIE is a wonderfully informative blog. Thank you for wonderful information and analysis.

      • As I continue down my Google Reader, I see that you expand on this further, though for clarification, is your stance that the government’s price controls and monopsony power outweigh the unintended effects of centralized control?

        • Aaron can reply with his view. Mine is that nothing outweighs anything in an objective sense. There are (what we understand to be) facts. Then there is the weighing of them that is required for a decision. That is, of course, subjective. Since I am not obligated to make or responsible for any policy decisions, I generally don’t express my subjective opinion. There are exceptions. But even then, I don’t think my opinions have any greater merit than any one else’s who has honestly considered all the evidence they can (or that I have). For that reason, I actually think my opinion is irrelevant, but sometimes I am asked to express it in exchange for something I don’t wish turn down (e.g., a journal publication). For all that, opinions are and should be subject to change with new information.

          • I can respect that personal philosophy, but as Aaron said, the real world is messy. When the debate generally moved beyond free-market solutions (not to be confused with the US system we have today) and a central policy to a debate about the makeup of a centralized policy, our opinion based on current facts and subjective values determine which policy we support, and therefore wind up deciding that our subjective values are more important than others who disagree when subjecting policies such as this to the political process which creates one-size-fits-all laws and regulations.

            We just hope we get a centralized plan right the first time because rent-seekers make it difficult to change from the status quo.