Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

It’s not about Jesus

I wrote something to an acquittance of mine, Anna L Davis, in response to a post she wrote and it got me thinking.  I thought about the degree to which being part of a church is not about Jesus.  Anna spoke of a group of former prostitutes who know try to lead other prostitutes to Jesus.  For whatever reason (My morals, of course, intrinsically compromised by my atheism) I don’t like prostitution and I think it is good for women to be lead out of it by people who have been there, regardless of motivation.   She mentioned how she would like to see more of this sort of thing.

I don’t think she will.  Christianity is dying in the west, at rate of about 1% per year.  Do you know what the fastest growing religion is? Wicca. The number of people who identify as Wiccans is doubling every 30 months. (Ref)  So, I offer to concerned Christians everywhere my little guide book to how to keep your church from going the way of the brontosaurus.  You can get Wiccans and other Neopagans (people who believe a fairly arbitrary re-imagining of neolithic and bronze age paganism, only without the blood sacrifice.) to go your church and stay there.

Its profoundly simple, actually.  White suburban does not equal Christian.  Tell me which picture is a group of Christians….

I like how the photo of the Christian teens (it’s taken from the Youth for Christ web page) uses careful lens flash to make the token black guy the whitest one there.   So tell, me what exactly have the goths done wrong here?  They are dressed as modestly as the Christians.  There is no more hair dye, and no more make up on the right then on the left.  You can’t see any skin really, no naughty words, no pentagrams.

But you know, don’t you?  You know instantly they aren’t Christians because they don’t look white bread enough.  Wicca takes these people with open arms.  Wicca says “Your uniqueness is blessed”.  The Christians say, through a tyranny of frowns and subtle digs, that these people aren’t right, no matter how much they love Jesus.  I know someone is reading this and saying “Oh NO! Not I! I would love these people into Christianity. How long could person come to your church dressed like this before someone felt the need to say something to them?  If Christianity wants to exist in another 50 years, then it needs to stop acting like being a Christian means having a Christian image, and needs to start acting like the inside is more important then the image….

Or be content with young people leaving droves from the  hypocrisy.

P.S. If you got this far without ever realizing that only God can see the heart and the group on the left could be Satan worshipers and the group on the right could be local Baptist teen group then you don’t need me to tell you what the problem is.

December 9, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Open Marriage

I’ve been meaning to write a blog about open marriage for a while.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it on this blog or an anonymous blog I maintain, and I decided I wanted to share this openly. (If you read both, please don’t reveal that here.)  It’s a sensitive topic, and I’ve waited so long to write about it to make sure I said exactly what I wanted to say.  I want to say why this topic matters to me, even though as anyone who knows me is aware, my wife and I are now, as we have been through out our marriage, sexually monogamous.  We have every plan of being so for the rest of my military career (to do otherwise would be a violation of the military code of justice, Article 134).

To understand why open marriage matters me, you have to know a little bit about me.  A man is the alloy of his past.  I am not just an atheist.  I am an atheist who used to be a Christian.  It is doubtful to Christians, I’m sure, that a man who can look at a sunset and say honestly, he sees no fingerprint of the Almighty, once believed that in the same God they do, and did so with all his heart.

I was never good at it, but I sought Christ and to be his follower with all my heart. Despite my later de-conversion, I was as sincerely a Christian as I could be.  God ways were at the core of everything I thought, and when what I wanted overpowered want I knew I should do I felt an agonizing guilt.  Thus at the advanced age of 12 I decided I needed to start looking for a wife!

It was only logical. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 7:9 it is better to marry then be consumed with desire for sex, and around puberty I was consumed.  The fact I was 12, unemployed, and hadn’t even started (let alone finished) highschool wasn’t import.  God said it was better to marry then to burn, so I needed to marry.  This was especially important since I looked lustfully at women and masturbated. To obey God fully, I needed to poke my eyes out and cut my hands off.  (Mathew 5:27-30). I felt terrible for so lacking in faith that I couldn’t make myself obey God with regards to mutilation.  By seeking marriage, I was able to obey God, yet not hurt myself.

I thought I would never be able to wait till I got married.  When as a young man, I was in my first serious relationship (that is to say one where the woman was in as big-a-hurry to get married as I was) I was able to refuse her. Later, when I would meet the woman I would later marry, I found a new dimension to desire that I hadn’t known before.  We were both interested in the institution of marriage to get sex, so desire was obviously a component, but there was something else.  There was this feeling that I was incomplete and I wouldn’t be complete until I was with her. You’d think that would have made us hop in the sack, but actually it made it easier to wait, because it was something special and we didn’t want to wreck it.

Like all good Christians, waited till we were married.  It was (and is) groovy and I don’t regret it waiting for it.  The thing is, both of us approaching marriage as God’s blessed vehicle for sex, we didn’t really get the intimacy aspect of it.  We’d wanted sex so much, but we’d wanted it as novelty, the way person wants to drive car they’ve only read about.  It took us years to understand the intimacy aspect, the way you could love someone so much that you needed to be part of them in the most intimate way possible.  When I’d first met my wife, as a product of my Christian upbringing, I didn’t understand how you could feel love and lust for the same person at the same time.   Eventually, I would understand the line between merely hungering for sexual release with someone I cared about and needing to drown in her soul.

What of open marriage? Well, my story begins, as I’m sure many men’s do, with my wife’s best friend.  She wasn’t just that though. She was one of my best friends too. She was an aunt to our child.  She called me brother and I called her sister.  She was family, by choice and not by chance.  She was part of our life, we all loved one another.  I’d been terrified at first, when I realized I loved her, but how could I not? My wife loved her, she loved my wife, she loved my daughter, my daughter loved her.  What was I so scared off?  Scared of getting hurt? Of disappointing God or myself?

I turned to the Bible, seeking to understand God’s heart about love.  What I found was that what made the church different was love. The Bible never says “don’t have close relationships with people of the opposite sex you aren’t married to” that’s a decision the church has made because often such relationships often end badly.   Being who I am, that wasn’t enough for me. Morality means doing whats right, regardless of the personal cost.  Doing whats right only when its costless is the morality of a sociopath.  God commands us to love on another.  So…I did.

It was beautiful.  I hurt when she hurt. I was happy when she was happy.  She was a little ray of sunshine in our lives.  A source of continual surprise to me was that I had no desire to have sex with her.  It turned out I could love a woman and not be consumed with a desire to screw her! I was ecstatic to learn that.  It was wonderful to learn that I wasn’t as broken inside as I thought.

She was a very physical person.  She hugged a lot, play fought a lot, flopped onto one of us on the couch a lot, and all the normal things that people who love each other do.  It was all just good, clean love.  When I finally realized I did want to sleep with her, it was such I totally different feeling then I had expected that I didn’t know when it had started.

I didn’t want to screw her.  I didn’t want to ruin what we had or even just have a sexual release with her.  I just wanted all of her.  As a young man I wanted sex with a woman I loved as a guilt free upgrade from Rosie Palm.  As a man who had been married for several years, I wanted sex with a woman I loved because of the incredible power that sex has to bond people who love each other together.

I knew such an act would be a sin, of course.  Though the Bible does not forbid polygamy, the Bible does say you must follow the law of your land (Romans 13:1-4) excepting when it tells you to sin (Acts 5:29).  Polygamy is illegal in the US, so it would be a sin to do it.  What I also knew was the desiring her was not a sin.  I didn’t want anything wrong.  I wanted to be more deeply bonded to a woman I deeply loved.  As I had felt that for my wife, I felt it for our friend.  My wife and I talked about it, frequently.  When guilt snuck up on me, she would remind me there is no such thing as a bad feeling.  Feelings are good, it’s the actions we take that are good or bad.

Eventually, this feeling became so strong that I had to tell her about it, not because I expected her to be comfortable with it, but because there comes a point where if something is on your heart, you have to share it with the people you love.  To do otherwise becomes a sort lie by lifestyle.  Though I didn’t want tell her, I told her.  Knowing it made her horribly uncomfortable which was fair and reasonable.

What wasn’t fair and reasonable we her insisting the desire was wrong.  I didn’t mind being told “no” or “Ew gross”.  I minded very much being told that I was somehow broken for wanting to be deeply connected to a woman I was in love with.  We worked things out but, not perfectly.  At some level, she thought I was a pervert for desiring her.  When the person you love looks at your insides ands sees damage in the places that make you love them, well that hurts a lot.  We drifted apart over the years and my atheism (when I de-converted) broke her heart and scared her.  As an atheist, I wasn’t just a man who desired her, I was a man who desired her and no longer had the holy spirit to help control his lusts.  Again we tried to keep going…but in the end it just hurt too much.  We got sick of hurting each other, and parted ways (mutually and peacefully) each hopping the other person would change.

So, in the end, loving two woman (even though I was only sleeping with the one I married) didn’t work out.  Nor do I think it works out for most people.  Why, oh why, would want to talk about this?  Because I loved.  Most relationships don’t “work out”. Very few of the people we are friends with are going to be there forever.  People move. People change. People grow.  People live and people die. That’s life, and life is better when we love.

I feel for her because I let myself love her.  There is an easy solution: I would have never wanted to make love to her if I hadn’t let myself love her first.  I could have had safe, empty, riskless, shallow “friendship”.  Instead I let myself love, and that love and my honesty about it ultimately cost me the friend.  But I would have never had that friend in the first place if I had never loved.  The three of us had a great three years together.  I wouldn’t trade that for three years of nothing with no heartbreak at the end.

I loved courageously.  It was beautiful. I won’t do it the same again, and I highly, highly doubt there will ever be another like her again.  I will probably die having never made love to any woman but my wife, and I am totally OK with that.  It’s just, I understand now how two people could love someone else so much, that they want that person to part of their marriage.  It was so great, even in the little, chaste way we experienced it, I would love to meet a person like that, even as I am at peace with the fact the chance of it is nigh impossible.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Feminism and me

So, I mentioned previously that I am trying learn about feminism.  My wife is taking a minor in woman’s studies for her associates degree because (aside from the fact she is truly interested) it’s a study path that gives her the most credits transferable to her bachelors in political science. So, I’ve been reading her textbook and some of the recommended supplementary reading.

So, here (at my currant level of ignorance) is my opinion of feminism.  First off, I think feminism makes a lot of valid points.  It asks questions that it wouldn’t occur to most people to ask.  For instance, most people are probably aware that women, in general make about 75% of what men make.  Some people are aware that women primarily make less because they work less hours, for fewer years, with more frequent career and work site changes.  Adjusted for this, you would find that women make 93% of what men make.

Feminism, looks to the fewer hours, for fewer years, with more frequent career and work site changes and says, but why? Because we have a two tier job market: One tier for people who have no other imperative responsibilities but servicing the job (most of whom are men), and a second tier for people who might need to change hours, or be absent from time to time (most of whom are women).  Now, lest you think the first tier exists to provide good employment, it doesn’t.  The high wage earning man can be fired at any time.  No, the first tier exists to service the industry, and the second tier exists (with poor wages) to subsidize the industry of  first tier and not the people in it.  Factories can’t keep churning if the (predominately men) on the line have to nip off to pick up sick kids.  Nope, thats the woman’s job.  Women make less because if they don’t take crappy jobs that let them take care of the kids in addition to work, their husbands will get fired.

Bravo feminism! I would have never noticed that on my own.  The perspective of women showed me something I, as a man, would have never thought of.  It turns out that there is a lot more flexibility of hours (and far less hours all together) in Germany and France, and better social protection (ie, getting paid even when you can’t go to work) yet according to the UN and CIA those countries have as-good-or-better a standard of living as the US.  So, a system with less hours, more flex, and more social protection doesn’t even have to hurt.

But then, I randomly run into these perspectives, under the umbrella of feminism, that are just bat-shit insane. Notably, that Marxism could fix everything if it was just given the right chance, that the phrase “blaming the victim” is a magic spell that can be invoked in any context to absolve the victim of any responsibility whatsoever* and that a the media, and not a person’s choice to believe all outlets of the media are a fount of truth is the cause of bad self image.

*I note here, there in some cases the victim has no responsibility; Rape is such a case. Child abuse is such a case.  Poverty is not. Poverty has many causes, some are systemic but some are personal.  The people of the US, and the government they elect has not even scratched the surface of the systemic causes of poverty, but that policy failure does mean that we can ignore the personal issues.

I am glad there are feminists out there, and their probably needs to be more.   I think feminism is imperative to the healthy functioning of democracy. If I had a sum of money to give away, I could give it to some feminist agencies with clear conscience.  I support the goals of the movement.  I support the spirit of the movement.

But if Marxism is the answer, what was the question?

October 18, 2009 Posted by | feminism, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Health-care Debate IX

So, I was asked on the last post, what DO I support…

I believe in freedom, as defined by the Wiccan Rede: “If it harm none, do what you will.”

One of the freedoms we have is to buy and sell and start and stop business.  That’s a free market and it works like this: if there is demand, then the market supplies it.  The higher the demand the higher the price.  This makes sure the supply is never exhausted, because the higher the demand is the more the supply is rationed by price.  Its self regulating, efficient, and simple.  The only problem is amorality: the free market only follows the back half of the rede “…do what you will.” and completely ignores the the first part.  It’s self regulating nature does not include moral regulation. The free market is just a tool; it can be used for constructive or destructive purposes or for just sort of plodding along.

If all free markets were perfect markets, the market would need little moral guidance.  Simple things like: “You can’t buy or sell people” or “Only certain parties can buy and sell substance X” would be all the morality the market would need.  Perfect markets mean all actors are rational, there are no hidden costs, and the buyer and the seller both have all the information they need to make a rational decision.  The problem is, “free market” means free to be a perfect market, or a highly imperfect market.

Remember that a perfect market requires rationality of all actors?  What about when the market actors are highly irrational? In a disaster the price of staples tends to skyrocket in a free market.  Now, in a perfect market this would be a good thing.  Raising the price would ration access to the supply, ensuring that vital commodities only go those who really need them and preventing the exhaustion of supply.  Unfortunately, the first thing to run out at ground zero is rationality.  The people who can afford the goods at any cost by all of them (far more then they need).  They sit on top of their horde, and no one else gets any.  (This is why the government often controls prices and access to goods in an emergency.).

In fact, I think I can make the case that irrationality is the cornerstone of the free market.  There is no real, functional difference between a Chevy and a Pontiac, but people pay more for the Pontiac because they are irrational.  People pay hundreds of dollars for Nike shoes that cost the Nike corporation a few dollars to produce because they are irrational.  Brands, in general, are irrational.  People will tell you “I like this brand because it stands for X,Y, and Z.”  Actually it doesn’t.  Every brand stands for the exact same thing: money for the owners.  That’s it, nothing more nothing less.  Various CEO’s have actually been taken to court for trying to say they had a responsibility besides money for the owners.  The stock holders always won.

Because of irrationality, the free market fails to do what the perfect market does: lower the price to the lowest level the producer can sustain.  Instead, the free market produces a ladder of products with the cheapest and lowest quality going to the poorest and the most expensive and highest quality going to the rich.  In most of what we do, this is perfectly fine.   Jim Beam bourbon is about $15 a 3/4 liter.  Jack Daniels about $20, and thats just fine.  I absolutely support a free market for booze, because it’s not something anyone actually needs anyway.  I support a free market most of the time.  When it evolves to a perfect market thats even better, but often people are too bloody irrational for that.  That’s fine too. Freedom means the freedom to be irrational.

I think, however, that health-care is good case for government involvement.  This is because the ladder will apply to health-care.  The rich will get the very best doctors, and the poor when they can afford them at all, will get the very poorest.  I think that such a situation is immoral.  It’s fine and dandy for the rich to get the best houses, cars, TV’s and booze, and the poor to get the worst.  It’s not so fine for the poor to get the worst health-care.  I think it is immoral for people to have to die or suffer just because they are poor.  I also think, in general, it is immoral to take people’s money even if you are doing it to help others.  In the end, I think it is more wrong to let the poor suffer and die then to let the rich keep what they worked for.

Thus, I support a national health care plan.  Research shows the single payer model to be the most cost effective, so that is the model I support.  So, would I vote for the Obama plan were I allowed to?  Absolutely not.

Any program which requires a large, strong, national government must be in violation of the constitution, if not in letter, then in spirit.  As a result, it will be a bass-ackward band-aid whose form is characterized by what is necessary to pass through the constitution and not what is best for the American people. I cannot support any national plan, or any national goal, in the absence of 4 things: a new constitution, Condorcet voting, proportional representation, and a national assembly.

The current constitution is made for a weak, small federal government.  If we need national health-care, and I think we do, we need a new constitution which produces a cohesive, rational, strong, large, federal government.

Condorcet voting: a strong, national government and the constitution which allows it can be a great assistance to the people, or an unholy terror of the Soviet type.  The only way to keep the government, by, for, and of the people is democracy, and Condorcet voting is, frankly, more democratic.

Proportional representation is the same.  It gives more voice to more people, and helps keep multiple parties.  Condorcet voting is pretty useless if there are only two contenders for every election.

Finally, a national assembly.  National programs need to be overseen by leaders elected nationally, not a national collection of leaders elected locally.  All legislators need to be elected by Condorcet voting, and the Senate needs to be elected in a coast-to-coast popular election.  Baring these changes, placing the national health-care in the hands of the existing system would be a cure fare worse then the disease.

Remember the bridge-to-nowhere? Get ready for the hospitals for no one.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Government, Pharmacology, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Health-Care and Socialized Medicine (Health-Care IIX)

I am a member of the US military. It’s not something I talk about on my blog a lot because there is not a lot I can say about it.  I can’t say anything that would reflect poorly upon my branch, the Air Force, and it is important that in any political or religious thing I say that I make very clear what I am saying is my opinion alone, and does not in anyway constitute an Air Force or DoD agreement or disagreement with my point of view.  Further, I cannot reveal any information that about what I am doing at work that you wouldn’t get from the base website, because I could inadvertently reveal sensitive information.  (My job isn’t that cool; I put gas on planes, but that’s the policy.)

The above paragraph is over 100 words.  It’s a pain in the rear to throw that boilerplate on any blog I do that mentions work, but this subject is important to me so I believe it is worth the hassle today.  So is it clear to everyone this is my view and in no way reflects the views of the Air Force? Good. I want (surprise!) to talk about health-care.  You see, when I get sick….

I go to a medical clinic which belongs to the government, whose every operational bill is paid by the government, and I see a doctor or nurse in a government uniform, whose every paycheck is signed by the government.  He or she writes me a prescription which I take to the government owned pharmacy, and the pharmacist, wearing a government uniform, who is paid by the government takes the pills the government paid for, and gives them to me.  And I never, ever, see a bill.

Now, there is a name for the sort of medicine where the government owns the hospital and everything in it, pays all the employees, pays for all the drugs, and never charges the patients anything, regardless of income.  It’s called SOCIALIZED MEDICINE.  So, if socialized medicine is so bad, why does the military have it?

The number one answer I get is that we in the military deserve our benefits. (Implying, I guess, that the unwashed, unpatriotic masses at home don’t, but that’s not my point.)  My somewhat biased opinion is that the US military deserves the best health-care available. And the statistics say we have it…and oddly enough that we are very happy with it, and don’t want to have to pay our own way, or have to find which of hundreds of competing hospitals has the most affordable rates, or read hundreds of pages of insurance documents.   The service members I know, don’t want more competition, or a system in which the service members who make the most, get the best care.

How un-American of us.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Government, Pharmacology, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Health-care debate VII

Do we want to fix health care? Health care is a cross roads where health-care providers, health-care consumers, health-care insurers and government all meet up. I can not talk about reforming those things without getting into pretty serious conversation what government’s role in society is, and here is my “simple” answer…

Government has a legitimate monopoly on force. If the mafia says “Give us 30% of your paycheck, every paycheck, to spend on protecting you and if you don’t we will take your stuff and/or lock you up in a small room with highly abusive people,” we would call that a protection racket, a form of organized crime. The reason the government is allowed to do this, and other groups are not, is because the government has a legitimate monopoly on force.

Under normal circumstances, a person exposes themselves to force by contract. Your collectors have the right to take your stuff if you don’t pay because you signed a contract saying it was OK. The fact that you have many contractors to choose from and that you enter the contract of your free will, makes this type of force self regulating and legitimate.

Government, on the other hand has this right regardless of contract, and there is no competition. So, in the absence of voluntary contracts serving as a control to the force, freewill is expressed through democracy.

However, democracy requires a system in order to function well. The simple will of the majority for every government tasking would be disastrous, even it it were logistically feasible. Fifty-one percent could (and would) use their power over the government to use the government’s monopoly of force to seize the money and resources of the remaining 49%.

Also, the fact that the government has monopoly on force doesn’t mean the government is the best instrument to accomplish every job. Socialism basically means the rich pay more taxes and the money taken from the rich provides for the poor. In a totally socialist state, the government would make all economic decisions for the people. Historically, this works very poorly.

Americans, justifiably proud of their economy, often complain about socialist economic control. However, if people take the time to think, few people really want a totally capitalist society, in which the supply of anything is controlled only by market demand, and not by the government’s monopoly of force.

Prescriptions are a good example. In a totally capitalist society, people could buy whatever drugs they wanted. The supply of drugs would be controlled completely by the demand for them. However, we impose non-market control over drugs, denying people access to drugs regardless of their demand because, in this case, capitalism harms rather then helps society.

Why? Because capitalism is a means to an end and not an end to itself. Capitalism is great at providing a variety of products, and using competition to drive the price of those products down, but capitalism, like many tools, is without morals. It is neither good, nor bad; it just is. Sometimes we stop capitalism from working on moral grounds.

The military is another good example. Bill Gates pays about 15 million times more taxes than the average American. Yet, he receives exactly the same level of military protection as the homeless who live nearby. That is socialism at its most basic. Yet few Americans clamor to have the US military dismantled and replaced with competing mercenary bands. We turn capitalism off and utilize the government’s monopoly of force when it seems that taking unequally from all to provide equally to all is more moral than not. In a totally capitalist economy, the rich would have the best police, the best roads, the safest airplanes, just as in our current economy they have the best cars, the best houses, and the safest neighborhoods.

Morality is the test. The poor people in a police district get the exact same protection as the rich in the same district, flying first class is just as safe as flying other classes, and the military protects us all to the same degree regardless of income, because we have decided to tax those with money, to pay for a service for all.

The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, thus everybody pays what the government thinks they are able, to receive the exact same level of military protection. This does not mean there is a universal right to military protection, for there is no such thing as a right to a service when no contract has been made; it simply means the government has a responsibility to provide the best military the people will fund.

Health-care is no different. The government has a responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens. If 50,000 people a year die in attacks, the government acts through the military. If 50,000 a year die in traffic accidents, the government acts through the Department of Transportation. If 50,000 a year die from inaccessible health-care…well then let’s not do a fucking thing because that would be socialism?

My. God. Obviously, morality calls for the limited suspension of capitalism in this case. France has the the highest value health-care on Earth. In a few other countries, people pay less but get far less (Chad for instance). In most other countries people pay far more and get a bit less. There are three keys: (1) There is a single payer (the government) for everything; (2) The book keeping is state of the art; (3) The doctors strike regularly.

It’s that simple. In response to the will of the people, the government sets price caps as low as possible. In response to the health care providers, the government raises price caps. Between the two, the providers get the incentive they need to stay in the market, and the people get what they need to be able to afford health care.

And it will not work in the U.S. for just as simple a reason – we lack the sort of democracy that allows it. In the U.S.’s single-member-district plurality representation, it’s all or nothing; 100% or 0%. That simply will not work for government price fixing. Let us suppose the Republicans side with the doctors, and the Democrats with the “more-for-less” voice of the people.

When the regime is Republican, the doctors will do well. When the regime is Democrat, the doctors will do poorly. In a society like France’s, the doctors will always win something, but never as much as they ask for…every year. The people will always win something but never as much as they ask for..every year. In the U.S., doctors will spend 4-8 years going broke followed by 4-8 years of getting paid. Though this averages out to the same thing, the fact is after 8 lean years, doctors will be leaving the field in droves. The profession of medicine cannot survive the zero sum game (0% or 100%) method of democracy; it needs proportional representation.

If we really want health-care reform, we need to partially socialize medicine. If we want that, and we want crops of new doctors to replace the retiring ones every year, we must have proportional democracy.

Proportional democracy, however, only works for large bodies of many representatives, like the House. For things like the Senate, or the Presidency, we still need to vote for one person. No matter how democratic the House, unless the Senate and the President are elected differently, we will have made huge change with no positive effects. The two-party system would still rule the executive branch and the Senate.

For these, we need a Condorcet vote. In this system, the voter rank candidates, and the overall winner gets the seat. This breaks the back of the two-party system and puts the President and the Senate in the same democratic boat as the House.

Without these, any attempt at health-care reform is so much verbal masturbation.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, Science, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Care Debate VI

So, one of the things I thought about as I was siting in my car seat, either watching barriers shoot (by far to close) or stuck in traffic, was the American health care system.

In post five, I said health care is a real problem in the US and needs a solution. A gave a solution, but it was so cursory as to be nearly comic. (Like a three step process to getting the moon: 1. Build rocket, 2. Load up and launch. 3. Land on moon.) I wanted to go into detail, but I simply don’t have the time it would take to write a book about it. Here is my less summarized than before, but still highly summarized problem. (The solution in the next blog.)

I’ve come to think, after much reflection, that problem is not health care. The problem is Americans. We have the 2nd most expensive socialized health-care per capita GDP on earth, yet it covers only a 1/3 of our citizens. We have the 1st most expensive private care per capita GDP on earth, yet have the lowest age of mortality and highest infant mortality in the western world. We have highest medical costs, bar none, on earth, yet the leading cause of death cancer caused by tobacco and heart disease due to diet and inactivity. We have all of this…and yet at least half of Americans don’t think there isn’t a problem.

Most Americans are stupid. We have only two possible causes for any undesirable behavior: internal and external. I find the idea that Americans are genetically inferior to people of other nations ridiculous, so that just leaves external. What could be acting from the outside in of whole nation to make Americans so politically stupid?

Let me pause for a moment, to say that I love my country. It’s not a perfect place, but I love it worts and all. I’m not so naive to believe that the election of single black man to the highest office in the land eliminates racism. I see private, quietly expressed racism nearly everyday I am work. The fact remains however, only three generations from one of the most homicidal racial slave systems on earth, a black man as president is a good step. It doesn’t solve inner city poverty. It doesn’t change the fact that schools with mostly black kids get a fraction the funding as schools with mostly white kids, but you will not see an outcast on the Diet of Japan, or Jew as the president of Egypt in three generations. America, ultimately, does many thing better then any other nation on earth.

But in the American democracy, there is a corrosive element that eats away at the will of the people constantly. It’s called the two party system.. In turn, the two party system is what causes this uniquely American stupidity.

I could go on about how two party systems prevent any real change (which they do), or why the left and right of the Communist party in China represent more choice of ideals then the Democrat and Republican party (which they do) but thats not the important part. No matter how bad the collusion between our politically parties, or between those in power and those with money is, democracy has an amazing power to right such wrongs, and in a way the people support. While the US does have systemic problems, the existing system has the capacity for self correction…but it’s only as good as the people voting.

The two party system putrefies the minds of the people. It reduces every discussion of shade and color of meaning into single binary choice of black or white. It turns every attempt at discussion into a cosmic battle of good and evil, characterized by a double false dichotomy. “False dichotomy” in argument refers to painting a bleak picture of you opponent’s viewpoint to make yours look better by comparison. In the two party system, both the viewpoints provided are absurd. One side is the bastion of all freedom, happiness, and light, the other a hotbed of evil, conspiratorial lies, and ill will. One side is God, the other side is Satan. 100% or 0%, with no in betweens.

In that environment, there can be no discussion, no debate, only people screaming slogans. The two party system is often defended with the statement “Well, it’s a good system, because it tells both sides of the story.” That single statement shows the mental atrophy that a two party system exacerbates: the idea that all meaningful thoughts on a subject can reduced to two viewpoints. Obviously it’s better then a single party system, but thats damning with faint praise. (Two steps removed from anarchy! Go team!)

Such simplicity is seductive. You don’t need to worry about how or why. You don’t need to think. You just need to know which of a pathetic two options you choose. This brain rot affects other things besides politics. Auto accident policy is the same. Pretend you are going down a road and the person in front of you slams on the breaks to turn right. You hit their car. It is 100% your fault. Why? Yes you were following to close, but couldn’t it be even a few per cent the other drivers fault breaking irresponsibly? (Which is how most traffic law is set up in Europe.)

The first step in my little “How to fix health-care” post was “Tort reform”. The 0%/100% fault system rears it’s ugly head hear as well. If you have a pool in your back yard, it must have fence of certain opacity and height, because it is an “attractive nuisance”. You must do this, because if someone gets into your pool without it, you are 100% at fault and they are 0%. That’s stupid. At the same time, the law was put into place to right the wrong of people putting things very dangerous to children in their yards with no protection whatsoever, an environment where the pool owner had 0% fault and small child was 100% at fault.

The real answer to tort reform is a society that recognizes partial fault. I think a two party system trains peoples minds to be incapable of functioning in the gray areas that make up real life. The real cause of the American health-care failure, is Americans incapacity for rational thought, followed by an inability to turn rational thought into rational policy.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Health Care Debate IV

The purpose of market is to provide a place for the producer and consumer to form voluntary contracts. The market has no intrinsic morals and only one rule: the best deal. The producer makes supply, the consumer makes demand. Between them, and the competition of various producers to provide for various consumers, this constant desire for the best deal drives price ever downward. It rewards the most efficient producer and the most efficient consumer alike. It’s almost a kind of magic.

Market failure doesn’t refer to a total break down of the buying and selling but a break down of the magic, of the automatic best deal for everyone. It’s not discrete point, but direction the market can go. The opposite direction leads to the perfect market. It too is not a destination but a direction, the ideal by which markets are judged.

A perfect market consists of a few key principals, describing the market as a game it looks like this: (1.) Rationality of all players in the game. (2.) No hidden costs to any move. (3.) Enough players that no single one can steer the game by their behavior. (4.) something all the players want to play with [demand] (5.) Freedom to play or not play at any point (6.) No barriers to entering or leaving the game (7.) No barriers to any player about information on any other player.

How does the medical industry fail these criteria?

Rationality of all players in the game

(1.)Well, first of all, the medical consumers are highly irrational. Short term fun at the expense of long term health is not rational, yet 80% of heat disease alone is preventable. Throw in smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc, and the single greatest killer is short sightedness. In a perfect world, doctors would serve as check on this irrationality, but the fact is, doctors are over-treating (which gets people killed) because of their fear of litigation.  The consumer is crazy and so is the producer.

No hidden costs to any move

(2.)The whole field is full of hidden costs. From regulations you never heard of to taxes you can’t imagine, the medical field is a minefield of hidden costs.

Enough players that no single one can steer the game by their behavior

(3.) Well, about half of the cost is payed for by one player (gov-care), and up to 70% of the remaining half is payed for by one company per area.  Normally, this would be called oligopoly, but honestly, its worse than that.  Because the first half is the government, its more like a oligopoly on the second half and monopoly on the first.  Under normal circumstances, even if a player owns 50% of the total market, that player can rarely take away your organization’s legal right to exist, or place members of your organization under arrest. The government has what is known as a monopoly on force. Monopoly represents a market distortion. Force, on the other hand, represents the nonexistence of market.  The foundation of market is people forming contracts of their free will, ie, without threat of force.

Something all the players want to play with [demand]

(4.) Demand, we’ve got. Sort of. The fact is, while doctors may not be the paragons of reason we hope, the producer side (as is typical in other industries) is better at being rational then the consumer side. If nothing else, it’s better organized. The consumer demand is health, not care. But doctors have no economic incentive to pursue health. They have need to produce care. So there is break down between the needs of the consumer and the ability of the producer to meet that need. Note, I am not saying there is a conspiracy by doctors to keep people sick. Doctors are like most people: there’s a few true saints, a few evil bastards, and lot of pretty ethical folk.  But the fact is, we must relay on doctors’ moral incentive and not their economic incentive to provide us with health. Systems work better when the two incentives are the same.

Freedom to play or not play at any point

(5.) This one absolutely does not apply. Playing in this case means the freedom to form or not form voluntary contracts. If the consumer doesn’t enter the market he suffers or dies. At the same time, if the producers do not enter the market many suffer or die. Further, hospitals must provide emergency care to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.  On the insurance side, insurers must provide insurance to at a loss to certain high risk people. They must by law.

No barriers to entering or leaving the game

(6.) Well, the barriers to entering the game are enormous. Lets say we want to start a tiny private practice, with very limited services. First, the price of becoming a MD is between $175K and $200K. Then, the first year cost for 1600 square foot commercial space, a receptionist and tech who makes no benefits is about $250K­. So, minimum startup cost is right around half a million dollars. Nor can hospitals simply exit the market, they provide a community service and without them people will suffer and die. Insurance is the most heavily regulated industry in the US, so even if cash on hand was not a problem the regulations would be, but in any case, and insurance company must have the cash on hand to pay out all claims if they were all called at once. The startup costs for an insurance company are in the tens of millions.

No barriers to any player about information on any other player

(7.) This is the worst. Insurance companies use hundred page contracts written legalese on purpose, to hide the information the consumer needs to know. At the same time, insurance fraud is a huge expense, because people aren’t honest with the companies either. If people are totally honest with doctors, their premium could go up. Conversely, if doctors are honest about risks with patients, the patients will simply go to another doctor who paints a rosier picture.  Again, the moral incentive is diametrically opposed to the economic one.

All in all, it’s a wonder health care is as cheap as it is. Again, I’ve hit over 1000 words, so I will post my solution(?) later. Thanks for reading all, feel free to weigh in on any of this.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Government, Pharmacology, Politics, Religion, Science, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Health Care debate.

Health care as I see it.

I started this blog just writing down as many facts as I could about the health care system, trying to make sense of it all. The first assumption is that health insurance is the right way to pay for health care, and this leads to two problems. One, that insurance is too expensive, and two since it’s so expensive, to few people have it.

Well, I’ll begin by saying there could be serious improvement to health insurance. First off, insurance is a method of sharing risk. Everybody pays a foreseeable and affordable loss (premium) to the company, who in exchange pays unforeseeable and un-affordable loss affecting a small minority of policy holders.

I’m not sure insurance is a totally appropriate method of paying for health care in this day and age for three reasons. One, modern diagnostics, predictive methods, and techniques mean the unfordable loss is no longer unforeseeable. Two, the big three killers: hypertension, smoking, and high cholesterol, are all preventable and highly dependent upon lifestyle choices. Again, this does not meet the criterion “unforeseeable”. In fact, we could even say high treatment costs for chronic illness are so foreseeable as to be statistically unavoidable. Three, the rate of premium depends upon how expensive the policy holders un-affordable loss is to the company, and the number of policy holders who need it. In an age of 32% obesity rates (obesity exacerbates almost every chronic health condition.) that are likely to be approaching 40% in the next ten years, health care expenses don’t meet the final criterion of only a small minority experiencing an un-affordable loss.

Is insurance too expensive? Probably. Everything I mentioned above can only go one place: premium increases. Are insurance companies pushing the boundaries of ethical behavior? Probably. Is that failure of the insurance companies? Well, not exactly. People and groups have the ethics they can afford. The average health care insurance company runs a 5.5% profit margin. In a free market economy you get what you pay for. The higher the premium the better the service. The lower the premium the worse the service.

The answer to improving the insurance industry is pretty simple. Consumers need better info, with less dead weight losses to changing companies. The insurance companies need to write their contracts at a 6th grade level (Average US reading comprehension), and switching insurance providers needs to be a single sheet of paper or a phone call. However, other then codes requiring simplicity, transparency, and interchangeable standards, the industry needs to be heavily deregulated. This encourages the sort of cut-throat capitalism that makes America a land of opportunity. Also, medical saving accounts are an option. Between private capital in medical savings accounts, credit union style insurance companies, and D-regged private insurers, competition would make companies leaner.

But ultimately, we are talking about companies fighting for tenths of a percent. The cost of premiums is decided by the frequency and cost of care. Insurance companies can profitably only reduce unnecessary visits. Visits which prevent costly claims increase profitability, so a huge reduction is frequency of care is unlikely. The real cost of health care rests not on insurance companies, but upon care providers.

This case is further born out by the fact that about 1/3 of the cost of health care in the US is paid for by the Medicaid, Medicare, SCHP, and VA government plans. If the problem of cost was one of insurance alone, one would expect that there would be a significant saving to socialized health care, but analysis of the cost of gov-care versus private care show no significant reduction in price for identical procedures. The additional 5% private insurers make as profit disappears into the significantly more expert administration of the private insurers, so gov-care is not 5% cheaper.

So insurance is just a middleman, the real cost in the health care providers. Why is American medicine so expense? Supply and demand says, consumers demand will use up the supply, raising costs until producers can create more. The producers will make so much it will lower the price. The tension of supply and demand drives the price down to market equilibrium, where the consumer is paying as little as he can, and the producer is charging as much as he can. That’s the miracle of free market economy. It pushes the price to where it the lowest possible, ensuring the greatest number have access to the good. Yet in the US 100 million people are on some kind of gov-care. That’s a third of the population!

Every body needs health care, the demand is universal, so it should be decreasing supply, increasing the price, raising the incentive to enter the field which would result in increased competition. This competition would result in innovations which would increase the supply and lower the cost. For some reason, this isn’t happening. In fact, the American medical system is running so badly, that planned economies are achieving greater results with less spending, both in raw dollars and as portion of GDP. The US spends more on gov-care (Medicaid, Medicare, SCHP, VAB, etc.) than countries with fully socialized health care spend on it, to get lower rates of health for a 1/3 the per capital population. Then the 60% of Americans pay again! American private health care costs more then any other industrialized nation. France in particular stands out (!) with the average American paying over 200% more for private health care, and 75% more for gov-care, while having maintaining statistically worse health.

When planned economies are running better then capitalism, we know something is rotten in Denmark.  I’ll address what later.

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Government, Pharmacology, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Plasticity of Christian Doctrine.

Religon does not create man’s ideas about himself, it is merely the repository of them. Once upon a time, it was a sin to say the earth revolved around the sun.  Versus were given, heated arguments were had, probably some people died.  It was an important issue to the Church not because it actually mattered, but because of the church’s fear that it was a slippery slope.  But eventually, the public opinion changed.  Gradually more people accepted the heloicentric view of the solar system, and the Church changed God’s mind.

No we look back and think, “Oh those silly people, good thing us Christians have well reasoned faith now, based on biblical doctrin and not silly church policies.”  In the days before protestantism, CHristianity functioned much like single party state.  You could have any viewpoint you wanted, as long as it existed within the Chruch.  Sometimes the Church would come down on weird ideas instantly, sometimes they waited generations to cry “Heresay!” and sometimes they got accepted in to standard doctrine.

Modern, American Christianity is more like parliment then a single party.  You can believe whatever you want as long as it is one parties social norm.  Through an informal consensus over the years, overall doctrine is worked out by “shoe democracy”.  Religion is a service, and church which produces a product no one wants, will have it’s members walk out.  Churches which produce products people like have people walk in.

In one way or another, its always been this way.  Here is a list of ideas that were all once seen as biblical, and are all now refuted by the bible as well. (Almost as if the Bible was hodge-podge of purposefully vauge documents which one can project almost any meaning upon through symbolism.)

The earth is the center of the  universe.

Baptism for the dead

The intrinsic morality of monarchy

Anti-death penality

And let me add one more. Homosexuality in the church.  It’s coming.  Doctrine is all made up.  People decide what they want to believe based on feelings, then find the verses they need to back it up.  In another 100 years, Christians will look at people keeping homosexuals out of the church with the same disgust and horror that Christians now view racial slavery (Only 3 generations ago, defended by Christians.)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has already announced this, in this article.  Verses in the Old Testament about homosexuality will be dismissed by their context (which also says to beat children to death who habitually disrespect their parents, and that its OK to sell your kids to get out of debt.)  And verses in the New Testament will be said to mean something else, and in 100 years the “new” meaning will be orthodoxy.

That’s what happened to Catholic church (why Protestantism isn’t rebellion) the Jewish law (why Christians aren’t circumcised) the heliocentric theory, divine healing, etc, etc. It’s almost like the Bible is just used to add the authority of God to whatever argument the Christian wants to win, regardless of actual content.

August 22, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | 2 Comments