DrRich’s most recent post attempted to show how the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – the panel created by Obamacare that (as President Obama himself indicates) will be primarily responsible for reducing the cost of American healthcare - nicely illustrates the Progressive mindset. That Progressive mindset, DrRich maintained, is reflected in the degree of power and breadth of control granted to the IPAB, in the coercive process under which the IPAB was created and its powers granted, and in attempts to bind future Congresses from amending those powers.
DrRich did not imagine that Progressives would like his formulation very much. But as always, DrRich offered his analysis in the hope of engaging readers – friend or foe – in a fruitful exchange of ideas.
And accordingly, DrRich is gratified that the venerable blogger Shadowfax has seen fit to offer a pointed (though to be sure, rather brutal) rebuttal. While the nature of his rebuttal does not exactly invite a civil exchange, DrRich (in the spirit of furthering understanding amongst our mutual readers) will attempt to reply in a collegial manner.
Anyone who has read Shadowfax’s post will know that it would be all too easy for a back and forth to descend into heaped vituperations. Shadowfax begins his presentation, after all, with a scathing ad hominem attack on DrRich’s person. He speculates as to whether DrRich is a confabulist or a conspiracy theorist, and proposes, as the qualities which define DrRich, only the following: “laziness, ignorance, misinformation, or untreated paranoid psychosis.” Along the way DrRich becomes also a partisan hack, deceitful, hysterical, and a purveyor of fluff.
For several reasons, DrRich will not respond in kind. First, when he joined his high school debating team in 1965, one of the first things DrRich learned is that when one has induced his opponent into an ad hominem attack, one has already won the debate. Second, by virtue of his original post on the IPAB, DrRich started it – and when one starts it, one invites and ought to expect a vigorous response. Third, DrRich does not take this ad hominem attack at all personally, so does not feel compelled to return the favor. DrRich comforts himself with the knowledge that Shadowfax does not know him personally, and is confident that if he did, he would be entirely won over (as is everyone) by DrRich’s charm, his joie de vivre, his incisive humor, his charisma, and above all, his humility. And finally, DrRich chooses to view this personal attack clinically, as doing so makes it plain that by its very nature, Shadowfax’s reply is itself entirely illustrative of the Progressive mindset. (In other words, Shadowfax has inadvertently succeeded in reinforcing DrRich’s chief message.)
DrRich will return to this latter point in a short while.
For the record, DrRich does not attribute any negative personality or motivational traits to Shadowfax, and indeed, chooses to believe that he is basically a nice person. (Even if he did not believe it, DrRich would not say so. DrRich notes that Shadowfax is the parent of three children, and he would hate to have those tykes see their Dad publicly subjected to personal insults – despite the fact that Shadowfax neglected to consider the fragile sensibilities of DrRich’s own young ones before publicly besmirching his intellect, motives and psychological health.)
To his credit, the bulk of Shadowfax’s rebuttal (after having dismissed DrRich’s person as being beneath contempt) has to do with matters of fact, or rather, with matters of interpretation of fact. For DrRich thinks he and Shadowfax are surprisingly close on the facts themselves. It is in interpreting the implications of those facts that the difference appears.
And here is where DrRich must diverge for a moment to re-introduce his Theory of Progressive Thought. He has explained this theory at some length in the past, and subsequently has further developed it on several occasions. In so doing, DrRich has explicitly insisted that it is just a theory. It is a proposed framework for explaining the multitude of difficult-to-explain behaviors we have witnessed from Progressives during the last 120 years. In laying out this theory, DrRich has invited one and all to point out its weaknesses, and to suggest a better theory if they have one. Since DrRich himself does not like the implications of his Theory of Progressive Thought – given that Progressives are now running the show – he will, as he has said more than once, be delighted to abandon it for a better theory, should one come to his attention. But in order to be designated a “better” theory, it will have to explain real-world Progressive behaviors even more effectively than does DrRich’s.
Contrary to Shadowfax’s accusations, DrRich does not impute negative motives to Progressives. Indeed, fundamentally Progressives are motivated by a deep desire to achieve societal good. They are dedicated to achieving a society in which all people – whatever their disadvantages and limitations may be – will thrive equally, or as equally as possible. DrRich stipulates that this goal is inherently a good one.
Furthermore, Progressivism being a product of the Age of Reason, Progressives sincerely believe that such a goal is within the reach of mankind. It can be achieved by careful observation, analysis, and rational solutions systematically applied. And therefore it ought to be the goal – rather, it ought to be the duty – of mankind to strive to thus implement effective solutions to society’s problems. And so, Progressives believe that the goal of mankind ought to be to continually progress toward solutions to ALL society’s problems, and hence to strive unrelentingly for a “perfect” society.
And that’s the theory. Contrary to Shadowfax’s accusation, there is no imputation of evil motives in this theory. Indeed, Progressives, as a group, tend to be motivated primarily by compassion for their fellow humans – at least as a starting position.
Unfortunately for everyone, there are two major problems inherent in Progressive thought. First, the rational analyses and the carefully planned solutions to society’s ills which are prescribed by Progressivism are almost always beyond the ken of your average member of the great unwashed. So designing and implementing the Progressive program inevitably relies on a cadre of “specialists,” a class of elites who have the right stuff (the right intelligence, the right education, the right knowledge, the right motivation, &c.) to do the job.
Thus the rational solutions to society’s problems which are offered up by the Progressive program are inevitably to be provided by an enlightened corps of elites, and accordingly, it is the duty of the average citizen (i.e., the rest of us) to cooperate with these handed-down solutions, for the overriding benefit of the whole. Otherwise, the Progressive program cannot succeed.
This fact places Progressivism fundamentally at odds with the Great American Experiment, that is, with a system of government which at its core maximizes the autonomy of we individuals to do as we please, and which allows us to succeed or fail based on our own actions, to the extent that our actions do not infringe on the rights of others. Thus, there is a natural and unavoidable tension between the kind of broad, centrally planned solutions which Progressivism inevitably offers up, and the severely limited sort of central authority provided by our founders.
The second great problem with Progressivism is even more intractable. It is that the kind of societal solutions dreamed up by Progressives invariably require individuals to sacrifice their freedom of action, to one degree or another, for the sake of what the elite planners have determined will benefit the collective – and in so doing, Progressive solutions always seem to require a fundamental change in human nature. That is, the Progressive program requires individuals to subsume their own individual interests to the interest of the collective.
Such a change in human nature will never be forthcoming, and this fact, in the end, will always defeat Progressivism (though often not before a lot of damage is done). Inevitably, the recalcitrance of substantial proportions of the population to their brilliant solutions drives Progressives, once they have been in power for a while, to great frustration, and finally, to drastic repressive action. A history of collectivist governments during the past 100 years amply demonstrates this ugly fact.*
* According to R.J. Rummel in his book Death by Government, during the 20th century the world’s governments killed four times as many of their own people, on purpose, as were killed in all wars combined.
With this brief review of DrRich’s Theory of Progressive Thought (and its implications), let us now quickly visit the differences in how DrRich and Shadowfax view the facts as they pertain to the IPAB.
Is the IPAB designed to function as a dictatorial entity? Shadowfax argues that since it will not be utterly impossible for Congress to overturn the mandates handed down by the IPAB, it is therefore not dictatorial. And from a strict definition of the word he is correct. But DrRich holds that the language of the law (which, to halt the IPAB mandates on healthcare spending, requires a supermajority of the Senate to a) block those mandates, then b) come up with its own cost cutting scheme that will achieve equivalent results), is meant to achieve for the IPAB at least near-dictatorial powers. Even Shadowfax allows this possibility: “The argument is that the IPAB becomes a de facto dictatorial board, because the bar is set too high to override its recommendations. We will see, I suppose.” This unelected panel* of experts will determine who gets what, when and how, and it will be exceedingly difficult (but admittedly not impossible) for Congress to have much to say about it. Therefore, Obamacare explicitly attempts to severely limit the prerogatives of the peoples’ representatives to control the ability of this unelected panel of experts to determine the medical destiny of Americans.
* Contrary to Shadowfax’s unnecessarily gratuitous implication, DrRich has not referred to the multitudes of expert panels created by Obamacare as “death panels.” To do so would make DrRich seem as unsophisticated as Ms. Palin. Rather, DrRich has referred to them by the much more accurate name of GOD Panels (Government Operatives Deliberating).
Is the IPAB designed to be an immutable panel? The plain language of the law very clearly attempts to render it exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to change the IPAB provisions of Obamacare, thus revealing a wish on the part of its creators to render the IPAB an immutable entity. DrRich agrees with Shadowfax that, in truth, no Congress can actually bind all future Congresses down into perpetuity. But the language of the law clearly expresses a desire to do so. Shadowfax makes some sort of argument to the effect that the phrase “It shall be out of order” gives Congress a pathway to changing the IPAB provisions. And it is true that, under Roberts’ Rules, when a chairman declares some procedure to be “out of order,” there are provisions for appealing that ruling and rendering the thing back into order. But this provision is almost exclusively used to determine whether a member can speak or not. In contrast, the immutability language in Obamacare purports to create a LAW (rather than an ad hoc chairman’s ruling), which declares any action to alter the IPAB to be perpetually “out of order.” DrRich can find no parliamentary procedure addressing this remarkable and audacious circumstance.
In any case, even if the immutability language pertaining to IPAB turns out indeed to be something that can be by some manner overcome, as Shadowfax insists, that fact is not obvious. It has also escaped at least some U.S. Senators, who have interpreted the language the same way that DrRich has. And whatever the parliamentary options that may or may not come into play, the clear intent of the language in this provision is to greatly reduce the ability of future Congresses to alter the IPAB provision (if not actually render it immutable). Once again, this attempt is perfectly consistent with the all-consuming desire of Progressives to implement their expert-controlled programs with only minimal interference from the people (or the peoples’ representatives).
Does the IPAB already have the power to restrict private as well as government healthcare expenditures? Here, Shadowfax appears to concede the point, more or less, and adds that the idea “strikes me as a GOOD thing.” DrRich has described in great detail how and why our Progressive healthcare reforms will inevitably restrict (and is already attempting to restrict) the ability of individuals to pay for their own healthcare with their own money. And now, the IPAB (this very powerful and nearly-immutable panel of experts) has apparently been granted the authority to take charge of this important goal.
The bottom line, regarding these points of fact, is that DrRich and Shadowfax disagree less on the fact themselves than on the implications of those facts. We differ greatly on whether these features of the IPAB – dictatorial (or quasi-dictatorial) powers, immutability (or quasi-immutability), and the power to restrict private healthcare spending – are good things. Shadowfax explicitly believes that they are.
DrRich’s view, of course, is that these legislated features of the IPAB are perfectly consistent with, and even predicted by, his Theory of Progressive Thought. And that was indeed the whole point of his original post. Furthermore, based on the recent history of collectivist governments and where they invariably lead, DrRich does not believe this to be a good thing.
Before ending, DrRich must return to the ad hominem attack launched against him by Shadowfax which, DrRich submits, also perfectly reflects the Progressive mindset.
Almost invariably, once the Progressive elite have settled upon their scientifically-based, rational, centralized solution to some dire societal problem (such as healthcare reform), their thinking regarding the unwashed masses goes through a stereotypical evolution. At first they always believe (their proposed solution being so scientifically sound, so logical and so well-thought-out), that by delivering a carefully packaged explanation of their solution, the people will enter into paroxysms of delight. When the people do not react as expected, and indeed express apprehension or anger at what is being proposed, the Progressives will tell themselves that they must not have explained their solution well enough (but what can one expect, after all, when dealing with the great unwashed?) – and then they will arrange to implement the solution anyway (using whatever machinations and maneuverings are necessary to pull it off), confident that once the teeming masses see the incredible benefits that will accrue to them when the program is actually under way, they will at last display those belated paroxysms of delight. But then, when the program is actually implemented and the people are still complaining about it – or more likely, making their complaints more than merely vocal – the Progressives will begin culling out some of the more prominent troublemakers among them and make examples of them. And if that fails to quell the complaints of the masses, the leaders of collectively-oriented governments have been known to move past disappointment and frustration and into a state of wrath – and this (again, DrRich is simply referring to history) is where the real atrocities have taken place.
The evolution of the Progressives’ frustration regarding the public’s acceptance of Obamacare has moved past the “we can educate them” phase, and past the “we’ll go ahead and implement it and then they’ll like it” phase. They will soon be looking for someone of whom to make an example.
Traditionally, they will diagnose such troublemakers as being either misinformed (stupid), motivated by bad intentions (evil), or mentally deficient (crazy). And (again, historically), the solution to which the dissenter is subjected depends on that diagnosis – typically a re-education camp, elimination, or commitment to a state-run mental institution.
DrRich simply notes that Shadowfax has reacted with distressing typicality to a loudmouth who is not going along with the program. He indicates that the only possible explanations for DrRich’s recalcitrance (since a logical objection is not a possibility) are “laziness, ignorance, misinformation, or untreated paranoid psychosis.” That is, DrRich must be stupid, evil or crazy. It only remains for Shadowfax to decide on which of these diagnoses is correct, so that the appropriate final solution can be prescribed.
DrRich stands by his original contention that the salient features of the IPAB, the manipulative and underhanded process which brought it to life, and now, the reaction of Progressives when they encounter people who complain about it, all perfectly reflect the Progressive mindset.