The illogical nature of progressive thought

Elliot Engstrom Lead Counsel, Civitas Institute
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It should be no surprise that classes on logic are not a major tenet of the public education system.

Whether by a purposeful effort or an ignorant series of misguided steps, the importance of logical thinking patterns has ceased to be understood in our nation. Rather, the “what” is accented a great deal more than the “how,” and this faulty thinking can be traced directly to the nature of our political system and government itself. After examining the exact nature of this problem, an understanding of these faulty thought processes can be directly applied to the recent health care reform.

While I am not sure of my feelings about Glenn Beck, one of John Stewart’s recent attacks on the Fox News host and libertarians in general demonstrates the illogical thinking by those who advocate the use of government to correct societal ills.

Among other jabs aimed at libertarians during his Daily Show spoof, Stewart insinuated that libertarians are ridiculous in that they are against having government agencies to monitor the cleanliness of food, the quality of water, the growth of corporations, and other issues that pertain to the general welfare of society. Stewart fails to understand the nature of the libertarian argument against government, and in fact reaches faulty conclusions based on a false sketch of his ideological adversaries.

An application of logic reveals the fallaciousness of Stewart’s argument. We can begin with his premise that people should have clean food and water. Based on this premise, he advocates for the means of government agencies to monitor food and water. However, he here makes a massive jump in logic, for he assumes that the creation of government agencies tasked with monitoring food and water will in reality lead to cleaner food and water. It is on his means of government, not his premise of the need for clean food and water, that the libertarian takes issue with Stewart. The libertarian rightfully sees that the means of the government agency is not very likely to accomplish the end of cleaner food and water. In fact, government as a social tool often leads to an opposite result of what was intended.

However, Stewart mistakenly believes that the libertarian’s point of contention is the claim that people should have clean food and water. This is usually untrue, as the vast majority of libertarians agree with him on this claim. The libertarian simply thinks that the means Stewart has chosen to achieve his end, government, is more problematic than it is beneficial.

Libertarians generally agree with well-meaning leftists that goals like cleaner food and water, less corporate corruption, and more social freedom would be good things. They simply recognize that the leftist illogically sees government, which is merely a means, as the end. For example, the leftist sees the passage of a congressional bill that intends to help the poor as a good thing, while the libertarian understands that the real test of goodness is not the passage of the bill, but whether or not the bill actually ends up helping the poor.

An analysis of the history of government reveals that even government actions with good intent usually end up resulting in negative consequences. Just consider the governmental policies over the past 50 years intended to make home ownership affordable for all Americans. Such actions led directly to an economic collapse that specifically hit the housing market, and thus homeowners, like never before.

With this view of logic in mind, one can now understand why libertarians are so upset with the recent health care reform. The government-minded leftist would argue that those against the reform do not think that everyone should have access to quality health care, or were content with the current system. Neither is true, and it is in fact often the libertarian’s desire to see affordable health care for as many as possible that drives the protests of Obamacare.

Leftists have celebrated the recent reforms because the bill is supposed to promote access to health care for all Americans. Applying the pattern of logic already summarized, the question must be asked: will these reforms in reality lead to better, more widely available health care for most Americans? The answer according to libertarians is a resounding no, and this is the reason for our protests.

The single positive aspect that can be seen in the recent health care bill is that it leads us away from an employer-based system of health care that had before been imposed by government, and this should lead to more mobility in the job market. However, this is one of the few positives that can in reality be extracted from the recent reforms. The vast majority of what the recent bill does will antagonize the envisioned end of a better health care system for middle and lower class Americans.

The recent bill claims to decrease the deficit, but by adding even more entitlements onto a system that is already more strained than any in history, this is very unlikely. The economy cannot in reality be divided into neat little sectors that do not interact. An increasing deficit will destroy the worth of savings and the purchasing power of wages, causing poverty in general to increase.

Even more problematic is the gift that this bill gives to insurance companies and special interests, which themselves were a root of the problem in the pre-Obamacare system. In 2009, we saw pharmaceutical corporations putting forth their most expensive lobbying effort in history in favor of health care reform. In the final version of the bill, the drug companies actually get a great deal of benefits, like government-enforced monopolies on the sale of numerous types of drugs. Any student of economics knows that a monopoly, whether artificial or natural, always increases prices for consumers while decreasing costs for the monopoly producers. In this case, this will be a driving force for the profits of pharmaceutical corporations.

Health savings accounts can no longer be used to buy over the counter drugs, narrowing the range of options that ordinary people have when faced with routine problems like fevers and stomach viruses. Also, like in the former system, insurance mandates require that people purchase health insurance for conditions for which they are not even at risk (like non-drinkers paying for alcoholism coverage), and this increases prices for consumers across the board, while again increasing revenues for insurance companies who are receiving payments for coverage that will never be used.

I could go on and on with examples of how the recent health care reform is extremely problematic for middle and lower class Americans. It should thus be clear that libertarians do not disagree with progressives on the fact that people generally should be able to get medical care, but rather on the means that progressives have chosen to achieve their goal. The libertarian advocates a true free market in health care, which has not existed in years, if ever. Ridding the health care system of insurance mandates, government monopolies, superfluous licensing practices, and a pharmaceutical patent system that hinders innovation while increasing costs would be just a few free-market steps towards better and more affordable health care.

When politicians claim that they are doing something benevolent by passing a piece of legislation, it is the duty of the citizen to examine the claims being made and determine whether or not the means being employed is likely to achieve the end in mind. Nine times out of 10, a discerning public will find that government in fact causes the vast majority of the societal ills from which it promises us salvation.

Elliot Engstrom is a senior French major at Wake Forest University, and aside from his schoolwork blogs for Young Americans for Liberty and writes at his own Web site, Rethinking the State.