Monday, May 09, 2005

Health Care at Gunpoint, The Death of Eccentricity

First, many thanks to Dr, Sanity for listing my post on IQ at the top spot in her Sunday's Carnival of the Insanities. It was a treat to be there among so many notables. Now, if I can get my blogroll working...

1) From Capitalism Magazine, Richard E. Ralston gives the poop about Medicare, the health care you're forced to pay for and leveraged (in the Capone sense of the word) to use. Medicare determines which treatments you may receive, regardless of your doctor's views or even your ability to pay for others. Read how unfree "free health care" can be. See what a guarantee it becomes, despite its stated aims, that only the richest will have good health care since only they can afford to defy the system and shop for the options they want. Hmm, sounds like the broken services of Britain, Canada, France...

2) I always love Thomas Dalrymple's articles in City Journal. The Roads to Serfdom details the changes to the British character since WWII. Dalrymple launches his analysis from the now prescient-seeming work of Austrian economist F.A. von Hayek who, in his work of a similar name in 1944, wrote the following:

“There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by the British people in a higher degree than most other people . . . were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility . . . non-interference with one’s neighbour and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.”

Aside from the anti-collectivist tone, to which I must Amen, what I noted was the sad loss of peaceful tolerance for the strange. I'm fairly sure as the grey hairs come in, I will be labeled an eccentric. I aspire to it. There used to be a certain mostly gentle amusement about people who were functional but odd. Whether as whims or coping mechanisms, I find eccentricities in myself and others entertaining and, depending on the sounds and smells involved, not usually offensive.

What happened to good-natured laughs at ourselves and each other? We're so concerned now that laughing over a slip on a wet floor or an idiosyncratic sartorial choice represents a cruel, sociopathic lack of empathy. Growing up Catholic, I thought it was part of the package to endure gracefully and even learn to share the laughs at your expense.

What become of uniqueness and personality when the assertion of singularity is interpreted as merely sotto voce hate speech against other possibilities? When we can't abide strangeness with good humor, and we accept the rightousness of thin-skinned indignation, we abandon the ideals of liberty and take one big step closer to the soul-sucking abyss of conformity.

Respect and appreciation for the different are attributes of a civil society, but only bloom as an outgrowth of culture. Tolerance is a societal virtue but an immeasurable civil goal, and it cannot be imposed without quashing the freedoms necessary to cultivate it.

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