[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your peremptorily genial host John Derbyshire with a summary, précis, abstract, outline, digest, synopsis, or compendium of the week's news.
A brief and truncated one, this week, ladies and gents — a mere summary of a précis — as I've been on the road. Here you may conjure up a mental picture of me arriving panting and gasping at the studio just as the ON AIR light is flashing, to find that certain key members of staff who shall be nameless are down at the beach playing volleyball. Just when I had discipline nice and tight once again, Taki dropped in and upset our routine.
Ah well; we begrudge nothing to our esteemed and generous proprietor. Long may he reign over his little sun-kissed empire here!
OK, let's commence our rundown of the week's news. Rundown? Rundown … rundown … what does that make me think of? Rundown … roadkill … ah yes: Obamacare!
02 — Obamacare SIFU. It's a mess, all right. I'm sorry for the people who need to use this system but can't; at the same time, I can't resist a furtive smile of recognition.
I'm an old system developer and I know this territory. What we have here is known in the trade as a SIFU, S-I-F-U. The S and the I stand for "System Implementation," and the rest you can figure out for yourselves. SIFUs happen a lot, although I hasten to say they never happened to me. All my systems came in on time and under budget, to standing ovations from the users.
The Obamacare SIFU looks like a nasty one, and all kinds of questions are being asked. A lot of the most perceptive commentary is coming from systems professionals and it's a bit jargony, but Tim Worstall at Forbes has hit the main points in fairly plain language. Sample quotes:
Federal officials did not permit testing of the Obamacare healthcare.gov website or issue final system requirements until four to six days before its October 1st launch, according to an individual with direct knowledge of the project.
Dream on, Tim. Someone getting fired? That doesn't happen on Planet Government. Think back on this administration's scandals: Solyndra, Fast & Furious, Pigford, Benghazi … Some Deputy Director of the ATF did resign after Fast & Furious, but I don't recall any of these fiascos leading to an uptick in the production of pink slips. That's not the government way.
03 — But it works for illegal aliens! The fundamental problem here, which Tim Worstall identifies, is that setting out contractual specifications for a major software project calls for a high level of skill all by itself, and you don't find those skills in government.
This fact was demonstrated with exceptional clarity across the pond recently. Back in 2002 the British government launched a project to bring their own socialized healthcare system up to technological date, with doctors, hospital, and clinics all integrated and patient records fully digitized in mammoth databases, with of course online access to everything.The project was a total failure. It was finally abandoned two years ago. A parliamentary report called it the, quote, "worst and most expensive contracting fiasco" in the history of government contracting. The cost, said the report, could reach 15 billion dollars.
You'd think that Obama's people would have taken caution from the British disaster, but they seem to have paid no attention to it. You'd also think that the cabinet-level principals here, while we shouldn't expect them to have IT contract-specification skills, should have known such skills would be necessary. Proper rigorous commercial software development has been around for half a century now; the requirements aren't secret. But then, the cabinet-level principals — Kathleen Sebelius and her boss Barack Obama — are lifetime career politicians who know nothing about the private sector.
An interesting wrinkle here is that, for reasons no-one seems to understand, the main contractor on the federal project, Canadian firm CGI, got the contract on a no-bid basis. Nobody else was invited to bid. Remember ten years ago, when the Bush administration was being howled at for giving no-bid contracts in Iraq to Halliburton, of which Vice President Dick Cheney had formerly been an executive? At least Halliburton got the work done on time and in budget — and in a war zone, yet. Possibly that's connected to the fact that Dick Cheney had actually worked for a living in the private sector, unlike Obama and his Mandarins with their six-inch fingernails.
Obama's media shills are countering that the SIFU has only hit the federal exchanges in the 36 states that declined to set up their own. In California, one of the states that did set up its own exchange, 600,000 low-income residents have used the system to sign up for expanded Medicaid coverage, the shills are telling us triumphantly.
So you poor middle-class schlubs in the 36 SIFU states, console yourselves with the reflection that even though you can't register with the federal exchange, your tax dollars will none the less be sucked out of your wallets to buy healthcare for half a million illegal Mexican immigrants in California. Sucking money out of your wallet is something the federal government does know how to do.
04 — The inevitability of socialized healthcare. How should healthcare be done? We conservative commentators are having lots of fun piling on the Obamacare mess, but do we have anything constructive to propose?
I do have; but first permit me to run some analysis.
Here is a dogmatic statement. In a modern nation under universal suffrage, a large part of the healthcare provision will be socialized, paid for out of government revenues.
Let me break it down for you. There are four fairly distinct dimensions to healthcare, where "fairly distinct" means there's not much overlap.
First dimension: Ordinary healthy people who get sick or suffer injury once in a while but can be restored to normal health.
Second dimension: Ordinary healthy people who become chronic invalids through sickness or accident.
Third dimension: People who are born with conditions that leave them chronic invalids.
Fourth dimension: Helpless old people.
The four dimensions have different degrees of solvability, and different requirements for some degree of socialized provision.
First dimension: Healthy people with occasional need for healthcare. The ruling principle here should be private provision. Citizens should just pay their way through these occurrences, out of pocket, or contract with an insurance company that will set some upper limit on the payout. The need for socialized provision here is for those who haven't the money to pay, even to get a broken arm set, and can't get a line of credit. There aren't many such people, and this should be easily manageable. Back in the days before there was any socialized healthcare, doctors commonly served these people for free, at least if they knew them.
Second dimension: Healthy people who become chronic invalids. The obvious solution here is catastrophic health insurance. When you look closely, though, it's not so obvious. Should it be compulsory, like car insurance? If not, socialized provision has a lot of free-loaders on its hands. If so, the state's made a mighty imposition on citizens. Mightier than with car insurance: You don't have to own a car. If you decide you can't afford one, you do without. That's not an option with your body.
It's not clear, anyway, that there's a difference — other than terminological — between a universal compulsory payment and a tax. That's the point that got Justice Roberts in trouble with conservatives last year. If, as the Roberts court ruled, a universal compulsory payment is a tax, then the issue has been socialized.
In an ideal society, loved ones would give up a large part of their lives to caring for the afflicted person. Public policy should do whatever it can to encourage that. In a democracy under rational economics, though, you're probably going to end up with almost totally socialized provision here.
Third dimension: Same answer, except that it's hard to fit any kind of insurance into the case of chronic invalids from birth.
Fourth dimension: Helpless old people. This is the really hard one. I think it's well-known that the curve for healthcare expenditures by age rises exponentially in our later years. Quotes from a nine-year-old research study, quote: "For survivors to age 85, more than one-third of their lifetime [healthcare] expenditures will accrue in their remaining years … The oldest group (85+) consumes three times as much health care per person as those 65–74, and twice as much as those 75–84." End quote.
Helpless old people are chronic invalids, so there is some overlap here with the second dimension, except for types of ailments and the much greater numbers involved. Not many of us become chronic invalids before we're old, but most of us find ourselves on that upward-shooting curve at the end of life. As with the second dimension, it's hard to see how private provision can work here, except of course for the rich.
So I go back to my dogmatic assertion: In a modern nation under universal suffrage, a large part of the healthcare provision will be socialized, paid for out of government revenues. This has in fact been true for decades in the U.S.A. Of all our healthcare expenditures, around 65 cents in the dollar come from government revenues via Medicare, Medicaid, CHIPS, the military system, and the VA (which is separate).
In a sense, healthcare is the crux of any debate about socialism. Mark Steyn has been saying for years that if healthcare gets socialized, we're a socialist country. (He seems not to have noticed that 65 cents.)
You may say that this makes a case against universal suffrage, and you may be right. I'm not myself a big fan of universal suffrage. I'd like to see some modern society try a property qualification for voting. Nobody's going to, though. Universal suffrage isn't going anywhere; so learn to live with a heavily socialized healthcare system, as you have been for several decades already in the U.S.A.
Personally I'd be happy if we could just unhook healthcare from employment. Employer-subsidized healthcare is insane. It came about by historical accident. Now everyone's used to it. It's still insane. Nobody, designing a healthcare system from scratch would even think of including it. It's a drag on business and labor mobility. It's an invasion of privacy — why should my employer be interested in my body? It's also insane — did I mention that?
05 — Ted Cruz channels Jack Kemp. I said up front that I'd been on the road. One of the places I was on the road to was Washington, D.C., to hear Senator Ted Cruz give a speech.
As I've said before, I'm not a Cruz fan, and this speech didn't make me one. My deflector shields snapped on automatically back in May when I heard Cruz scolding Jeff Sessions for wanting to cut back legal immigration. His actual words back then, quote: "We need to remain a nation that not just welcomes, but celebrates legal immigrants. I think we should expand legal immigration but do so in conjunction with putting real teeth on border [enforcement]." End quote.
Senator Cruz didn't explain why, with 25 million people looking for work and not finding it, with middle-class living standards entering their fifth decade of flatlining, and with the waters of automation creeping up into the ranks of the semi-skilled middle classes, the current inflow of over a million new legal residents per annum needs to be expanded.
The speech I saw Cruz deliver this week made things clearer. The guy is an old-style supply-side Jack Kemp optimist, right out of the pages of David Frum's 1994 book Dead Right, about the fortunes of conservatism during the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations.
The key word here is "growth." Gotta have growth! If we have growth, everything else will be fine!
So this week I heard Cruz say, quote: "As conservatives, as Republicans, should we stand for growth or should we stand for austerity?" Hmm, I'm not sure that isn't a false dichotomy, but I'll play along. I'll say "growth."
Cruz continued: "A one percent increase in GDP brings in a decade — according to the CBO, using modest CBO projections — 2.8 trillion dollars in tax revenues and 3.1 trillion in deficit and debt reduction."
Well, that's great, even if kind of obvious, and dependent on holding fixed a lot of variables that won't likely stay fixed across a decade. How does it square with expanding legal immigration, though?
It was a big crowd and I couldn't get close enough to Cruz to ask him, but I feel sure he would say that of course if you bring in more workers, you'll expand GDP.
So you will. Other things equal, the more people you have, the more GDP. But then, there are more people to spread it among, and more people clamoring for the socialized costs of your population. Bangladesh has a way bigger GDP than Luxembourg. Don't they teach division at Harvard Law School?
I want growth, but I want it from Americans, the existing population, via cuts in spending, reduction in the size of government, tax reduction, less regulation and litigation. Why can't we do that? I wish I could have asked the senator.
06 — Living in the dissident shadows. Part of the cant of the amnesty fanatics is that illegal aliens are "living in the shadows." The short answer to that is, that as an American I don't want anyone living in the shadows in this Land of the Free. Illegal aliens should go back to their own countries, where they can live in the open.
Here's a guy who's really living in the shadows, though. This is an email I got from one of my listeners. I've removed anything that might identify him, and I'm reproducing the email here with his permission.
The background here is the upcoming conference of the National Policy Institute, which is headed by a good friend of mine, Richard Spencer. The NPI is a white separatist organization which seeks an ethnic homeland in North America for white people. To the best of my knowledge they wish no harm to anyone; they just want to be among their own kind. I'm not a white separatist myself, and with my nonwhite wife I probably wouldn't be allowed into the homeland anyway. White separatism doesn't seem unreasonable, though, and Richard's an extremely literate and articulate fellow. I wish him success for the conference.
And in the matter of racial separatism, let's not forget that the elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, a chap named Chokwe Lumumba, has told us he is aiming for a black ethnostate in the southeatern U.S., to be called "The Republic of New Africa." Everybody seems to be just fine with this; I haven't heard any protests from the mainstream media. Mayor Lumumba was elected with a thumping majority.
OK, so the white-separatist National Policy Institute is having a conference this weekend, and this listener of mine wants to go. However … Well, here's his email. Quote:
However, as you have spent considerable time both in the corporate world and on the dissident right, I wanted to get your opinion on the upcoming National Policy Institute conference this weekend. I have signed up to attend for this Saturday but I'm honestly quite worried about protestors taking pictures, posting the names of conference attendees, etc. I currently work at a large [professional] firm and my wife and I just bought a house together in [name of a state]. As we are looking to start a family soon, I truly don't want to jeopardize my family's financial situation (if anyone were to send my name or picture to my firm). However, I feel like I am "chickening" out over this. As someone who was worked in the Corporate world, what would you suggest? Is it worth risking going to the event, which is now starting to receive an increase in publicity?
End quote. I should say I've had other emails in a similar vein. They put me in a quandary. By the time I started associating with Dissident Conservatives like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor, I'd left the corporate world and was supporting myself and my family as an independent writer. So I've never faced the dilemma my listener's facing.
Of course, I'd like to encourage him in his desire to hear what Richard has to say. In a free society, no-one should fear going to listen to a speaker, especially one as eloquent and well-informed as Richard. Would anyone be in fear of his job for going to listen to Mayor Lumumba speak of his desire for a black homeland? I hope not. These guys have a right to their opinions, and citizens have a right to listen to them.
But then, if I told my listener to go to the NPI conference, and he lost his job as a result, to the detriment of his family, I would be partly responsible for having encouraged him.
In the end, I bunted. I told my listener he'd have to weigh the private against the public in his own conscience. I further told him that I myself, in his situation, would probably have chickened out. Nowadays I am old and independent enough not to care, but as a young family man, family should come first. You get married and have kids, you have hostages to fortune. Fortune has been known to treat hostages very badly.
Having said that, I have to add what a terrible thing it is that citizens in our society face such dilemmas. "Creeping totalitarianism" is not an empty expression. The glittering-eyed murderers of freedom and assassins of civilized collegiality, are among us, and their strength grows daily.
I'm not sure if we need a white homeland, but a territory free of these leftist bullies and their enablers in the media and the academy, would be a happier, freer place than this present-day U.S.A.
07 — Signoff. I'm afraid that's all I have time for this week, ladies and gentlemen. I have a lot of sleep to catch up on.
Speaking of emails, though: Before signing off, I should say a generalized THANK YOU to the many, many listeners who email in with expressions of gratitude and appreciation, and often with concerned queries about my health. I can't possibly answer all, though I do my best, and I think am currently batting about .300. Everything is read and appreciated, though. My health is excellent, I am glad to say. I just need a couple of days' sleep, a plate of souvlaki and a rub-down from the girls, and I shall be back in full force with…
… More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]