I finished Richard Nixon's 1992 book, Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World. In this post, I'll comment on three quotes from the book.
1. On page 290, Nixon says the following about entitlements:
we are witnessing the rise of that new despotism under the cover of
'entitlements.' We hear claims that by virtue of living in the United
States, a person is 'entitled' not only to subsistence amounts of food,
clothing, and health care, but to more and more of the amenities of life
as well. It is not just the poor who seek these entitlements. Farmers
who demand a guaranteed price for their crops, steelmakers who demand
tariffs to protect their market share, retirees who demand Social
Security payments far exceeding their contributions into the system,
students who claim a right to subsidized loans, and dozens of other
special interests all seek a guaranteed place at the federal trough.
Today, if entitlements continue to proliferate, we risk the demise of
the virtues of self-reliance and individual responsibility and the
triumph of the new despotism about which Tocqueville warned."
all for individual responsibility, but self-reliance? How can people
rely on themselves when they cannot afford a college education or health
care simply because they don't make enough money, even after working
long hours? (I agree with Nixon that not everyone needs to go to
college and that apprenticeships are good for the non-college bound, but
I think that more people than the rich should be able to attend
college.) What about the elderly, particularly those who are no longer
able to work?
2. In a similar vein, Nixon says on pages 296-297:
threat of having to do without is central to a productive economy.
Some people work because they want to, but most people work because they
have to. If you eliminate the necessity, you remove the motivation.
Even worse, you introduce a spiritual rot that eats at the foundation of
society itself. Those who do work resent those who do not, and they
also resent the system that rewards the lazy with leisure. Seeing the
lazy rip off the system and get away with it, they are tempted to rip it
off in their own ways. Society as a whole goes on a downward spiral of
alienation and irresponsibility, which in turn fosters hostility,
resentment, and even revenge."
Although I have issues with a system that makes people's very survival so insecure,
I agree with Nixon that people should work. Politicians on the left
and the right have suggested that there be training programs for people
with disabilities. That, in my opinion, is not only a good idea, but
it's an important idea.
But I also think
that some welfare programs should be universal, such as Medicare. That
way, one group of people is not resenting another group because it gets
health care benefits, for everyone is a beneficiary. On the other hand,
come to think of it, one group could resent another if the one group is
contributing a lot to the system, while the other group is merely
receiving. Countries that pay for their health care with a Value-Added
Tax (a tax that Nixon supports) may not have this problem as much, for
everyone who buys something is contributing to the system. The problem,
though, is that the VAT is arguably
3. On page 294, Nixon touches on health care reform:
have made a mistake in addressing issues such as the exploding costs of
health care in ways that removed market forces from the equation. We
have erred by separating health care consumers from any concern about
the costs of the care being provided. We need to work out a system that
includes a greater emphasis on preventive care, sufficient public
funding for health insurance for those who cannot afford it in the
private sector, competition among both health care providers and health
insurance providers to keep down the costs of both, and decoupling the
cost of health care from the cost of adding workers to the payroll."
agree with a lot of what Nixon says here: preventive care, a public
health care program for the needy (though I'm open to this public
program being open to everyone), and detaching the cost of health care
from the cost of employing people. In my opinion, the third goal is a
good reason to accept a national health care system or a public option:
companies can then hire people and employ them full-time without
worrying about the cost of health insurance, for the government would be
taking care of that.
On competition, that's something both
political parties claim to support. Even defenders of Obamacare have
maintained that competition will bring the cost of health care and
health insurance down! I hope that it would. Personally, I think that
certain monopolies should be broken up----for example, insurance
companies should not have virtual monopolies in states. But I have a
hard time seeing competition as the end-all-be-all. For one, people in
emergency medical situations don't always know enough to weigh their
options----plus they have to make a decision really fast. Second, I
read one critique of the pro-competition argument that said that it's
not as if you can market some of this medical equipment on e-bay,
allowing people to search for the equipment at a low price! Something
that does bring down costs in other countries is for the government to
negotiate prices with the health-care providers.
A tale of two journeys
1 hour ago