Discussing ideas

During OVFF I spent most of my time doing musical things and catching up with friends, but there were a few conversations about broader ideas. I’ve never been tremendously good at these, but at least I’m able to see where some of the tough spots are.

One problem is that people often use words in sloppy ways. “Rationed,” for example, doesn’t mean “available only in limited quantity and at a cost,” but dishonest people have used it to mean that in order to equate rationing with the market, and more honest but not carefully thinking people have accepted the misuse. It’s tedious to try to correct terminology every time.

Sometimes people make arguments which just aren’t relevant. One person argued for Obamacare by saying that some people can’t even afford co-payments. This is true, but Obamacare doesn’t even pretend to address the issue. If anything, it makes it harder for poor people by imposing a tax on being uninsured and outlawing affordable insurance.

I pointed out in a discussion that progressives often hold the contradiction of despising the government that has been elected while having high confidence in government as the solver of all problems. He said that wasn’t necessarily a contradiction, since the problem could be just with the existing government, not with the ideal one they envisioned. I replied that if everyone currently in Congress were removed and people elected all new people, they’d choose people just as bad, because voters want to elect people who will give them stuff at the expense of the rest of the country.

His response to this was a long digression about how disastrous it would be to have a completely inexperienced Congress. If anything, this argument supports what I said, since if it’s true, it means that electing a better government is that much less practical. Basically, though, it’s irrelevant to my point that the quality of our government is the result of how people have voted. He went on so long that by the time he was finished, it was hard to get back to the original thread.

In the discussions I mentioned, there were no angry exchanges, so these are the better kinds of discussions, if anything. It’s just very difficult to keep even a good debate focused. There’s no limit to the variety of error. People can come up with invalid arguments you never dreamed of, and I find it hard to answer them on the spot just because they’re so bizarre.

I did learn some things from these discussions. A doctor told me that specialists tend to oppose Obamacare and primary care physicians tend to support it. I can understand this to some degree. The existing system, in which insurance covers even routine items like examinations, works as insurance should for the expensive procedures that specialists handle, but drives a wedge in the doctor-patient relationship when the insurance company is the intermediary for everything. (I compared it to insuring oil changes.) Primary care physicians get squeezed under this system with stressful work and comparatively low pay, and it’s hard to blame them for thinking any change has to be an improvement, even if it really isn’t.

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