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Political Mental Maps: A Millennial From A Fundamentalist Family

A reader posting as “Dr. Vanessa Poseidon” has a really rich Millennial story that makes sense to me. If I lived through the things she did, I’d probably have ended where she is about most of this. I haven’t felt the absence of Christian fundamentalism in my life so strongly since … the last time Turmarion reminded me that never having had to live with it as a young person or, well, ever, really colors my point of view:

Born in ‘88, grew up in a proudly fundamentalist, die-hard GOP home. By the time I was old enough to start observing my parents’ political beliefs and understanding them as an adolescent, I struggled mightily to reconcile their attitudes with my own understanding of Christianity and my place in the world as a woman. Hearing the sort of very commonplace double standards for men and women in fundamentalist circles was incredibly frustrating to me as a high achieving teenager. I hated the demonization of people like single mothers in conservative rhetoric, while every Sunday we heard about the need for mercy and the urgency of protecting the unborn. Eventually I began to pick near-daily arguments with teachers at the classical Christian school they had enrolled me in, mostly due to the serious lack of intellectual rigor in their science curriculum (published by Bob Jones University) and the fire and brimstone lessons built in to even subjects like math. History lessons were taught based on the assumption that everyone who had ever been a significant Western leader was a Christian, even when voluminous evidence existed to the contrary. If I hadn’t been a voracious reader as a middle and high schooler, I’m not sure I would have come away with any ideas of my own.

1. When 9/11 happened, I was still enrolled in the small Christian school, and the general response among faculty and families within the school was so radically hateful toward Islam, I had a hard time parsing it with the knowledge that my parents and grandparents had Muslim friends in the community who never knew that they said the things they said.

2. The Iraq War was my real breaking point with the conservatism of my parents. So many of their circle had wrapped up the idea of the war within their Christian nationalist viewpoints, that they genuinely began to argue that it was un-Christian to disagree with the war (and really the Bush administration writ-large). By this point, I was in a Catholic prep school and had really felt like I found an intellectual home (or as much as one can be home anywhere intellectually at 13/14 years old) in liberation theology. I grew ever more disgusted with the GOP as I saw the kind of empty flag waving it devolved into, especially as no one in my family’s upper middle class milieu served in the military or would have ever dreamed of encouraging their children to do so. It felt morally wrong to see them cheering on these wars that they and their children would never be affected by. I really felt like I became a Democrat in 2003, initially due to my disgust at the Iraq debacle.

3. The financial crash in 2008 hit as I was about to graduate college. My parents lost everything, the loans we’d taken out together became exclusively my responsibility, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to start paying them off until after graduate school. I’d been volunteering with the Obama campaign since the primaries, and his election was truly one of the only bright spots in what was otherwise a very grim year for many of my friends and classmates. There really is something to be said for how deeply many people my age needed the kind of positivity that he campaigned on. Especially when compared to…

4. Sarah Palin. I think her nomination as McCain’s running mate effectively shut the door on any thoughts I could have had on rejoining the Republican party, long before Trump even entered politics. Jingoism aside, the utter disdain for intellectual rigor or even a willingness to learn was so discouraging, especially when I’d grown up hearing family members praise intellectual Buckleyite conservatives. Heck, it’s the reason I still actively read TAC and National Review, even though I’m as blue as they come on most issues.

5. I survived a terminal illness that would have absolutely prevented me from ever being insured again, pre-ACA. The continuous assault on protections for pre-existing conditions seems to me to be perhaps the cruelest position of many in today’s Republican party. My in-laws have become mostly Democratic voters, primarily because of the experiences my husband and I had in dealing with major illness.

6. Trump’s election wasn’t the earth-shattering event that many of my political persuasion feel it to be. Sure, I didn’t want him to win, but I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency either. Rather, the past two years have been especially troubling to me as a PhD in the humanities in the complete erosion of disciplined, thoughtful approaches to difficult questions. Sure, Trump is like a raging wildfire surrounding our constitutional norms on all sides, but I don’t believe his supporters are all bigots or hillbillies, just as I’d hope that there are many other conservatives out there who recognize that despite our ideological differences, I too love this country and its citizens. Despite all the conservative hand-wringing over Marxist indoctrination in our universities, my graduate education was led by thoughtful, principled professors who virtually never discussed politics in the classroom, and never shunned conservative (or liberal) students who were willing to make arguments based in supporting evidence, and this was at a supposedly super liberal university in the ACC (that’s as specific as I’ll get for now).

change_me

I no longer work in academia because the pay would never cover my expenses and my student loan payments at the same time. My husband and I live in one of the most liberal cities in the country but I also work for the sprawling behemoth of the defense department. We live in a big city because there are literally no jobs for our highly specialized areas of expertise to be had in the rural/suburban areas we come from and we’d like to be able to afford to have children soon, not because we look down on these areas or their people. It sounds so cliche at this point to express disgust at the ideological barriers that have popped up in so many aspects of American life, but it depresses me. It depresses me to think that nearly half the country likely believes I hate them, or that I’m eternally damned, because I vote for candidates with a D after their names. I vote D because I care about preserving the environment for future generations, because my combat veteran husband is tired of seeing American police be held to more lax standards for rules of engagement than troops in an actual war zone, because I don’t mind paying a little extra in taxes to ensure old people and sick children don’t end up in a Dickensian dystopia, and I don’t believe that others like me deserve to resign themselves to a lifetime of medical debt and poverty (or worse, just die) because they don’t have insurance like I did. I don’t vote D because I hate the things that Republicans stand for so much as I feel the leaders they have congregated around have left or would prefer to leave so many of us behind. I know many Republican voters or conservatives think that many people like myself want to leave them behind. I don’t see it that way, and I wish more people in the US saw one another as children of Jesus who simply have different ways of approaching problems.

89 Comments (Open | Close)

89 Comments To "Political Mental Maps: A Millennial From A Fundamentalist Family"

#1 Comment By jxk On November 9, 2018 @ 11:16 am

The phrase “children of Jesus” rings false. Close, but just not quite true…. Together with things that others have pointed out, this post lacks credibility for me.

#2 Comment By Rich Kennedy On November 9, 2018 @ 11:38 am

Joe, you are right. I let the R hate of D thing slide. I swore off Dems a little after the Good Doctor was born , not just because of the disingenuous smears of what I believed by De. punlicfigures, but also the contempt I experienced in normal day to day if I ex pressed conservative ideas and ideals. The hostility that is open and public these days has existed broadly and undertake surface for decades now.

#3 Comment By Polichinello On November 9, 2018 @ 11:42 am

1. We KNOW Saddam Hussein had WMD, because he used them against the Kurds.

…in 1988. The invasion was in 2003. In between, you had Desert Storm followed by a decade of disarmament and inspections. It’s plain dishonest to use this as some sort of evidence of WMD’s.

2. The New York Times (no less) reported that WMD were found in Iraq subsequent to the conclusion of the Iraq Ware

Those were all pre-Gulf War relics that were missed. It was a tiny quantity. We know this to be true, because if they represented a real threat the Bush Administration would have made sure this was broadcast far and wide.

3. Hussein had his WMD program on what I call “fast standby.” All the components were in place, active production could be started up in a matter of a few weeks. This is described in the “Duelfur Report”

LOL, no. The knowledge and materials were woefully degraded. Yes, they could have whipped up a simple mustard gas, but so could ANY country. Moreover, those weapons are wildly overrated anyhow.

4. WMD were just one of more than a dozen reasons for the War in Iraq

A “big mushroom cloud” was the BIG, BIG selling point. There was, of course, nothing in the way of capability of rebuilding to pre-Osirak capabilities.

In point of fact, the “mushroom cloud” justification was a fat LIE.

5. The War in Iraq was most heartily supported by Democrats as long as it was politically expedient for them to do so.

THIS I will give you. Shame on them.

#4 Comment By John Mark On November 9, 2018 @ 11:51 am

There was a time when I would have been a cultural (not theological, necessarily, my church was not fundamentalist at all) fundamentalist, even though I was not self-aware enough to know that about myself. Yet I seriously considered sending my daughter to a Catholic school simply to protect her from what I believed to be a hostile and anti-Christian environment in public schools where we lived at the time.

So I don’t find everything about this woman’s story unconvincing. And, though I am not trying to defend her, perhaps her statements about a ‘classical’ Christian school is just a verbal error, or her–despite her education–not knowing what a classical Christian School really is.

Again; I am pretty much thinking aloud here. And could well be wrong.

#5 Comment By Rich Kennedy On November 9, 2018 @ 11:52 am

jxk and others, there are aspects of the post that don’t seem right. OTOH, one should never discussed out how memories can fade with time.

Long ago at the 20th class reunion of “The Gulag”,the Fundie boarding s hooligans I attended in NC, I sat next to a classmate who was musically gifted, daughter of the head of the Music program that owned and oversaw our school. She had abandoned her faith at the time. As all the alumni sang hymns together as part of an evening event, many of us picked out harmonies. This former elite member of the school touring choir gasped at the effect, suggesting that the whole group sounded like one.I was shocked at the time. How easily one can forget.

#6 Comment By Marie On November 9, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

nick stuart,

I try not to think too much of any of our children who might go that route. I’m sorry some of yours have and I hope they ask your forgiveness someday, perhaps when they have their own kids. Nothing shuts you up about complaining about your own parents like having a kid of you own and going through thankless sacrifice (willingly!)

I have a lot of homeschooled peers (maybe 1/3?) who seem to have rewritten their childhood history. I mean, yeah, I wasn’t ever around when it was just them and their parents in the privacy of their homes, but I’ve caught the “let-me-tell-you-how-about-what-it’s-like-to-survive-conservative-homeschool-families” type outright lying about circumstances I know for a fact about. They talk like they’re trying to gain cred and respectability by disowning their own people. I’m not sure what they think they’ve missed out on by going to public school (especially in my city, where a lot of skeptic types even homeschool, if they can’t afford private school ), but they think it’s worth it.

I once read an article where the 20-something magazine writer referenced Grove City like it was Pensacola and full of unserious, uneducated, backward yokels trying to keep your kids subservient to Creationist and Josh “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” Harris lies. Hahahaha! (She was smart enough not to name the college itself, lest someone say, “Hey! That’s not my experience; it was a great college!” but I spent 4 minutes googling where she went to school and figured it out)

#7 Comment By Mr “Hate Crime” On November 9, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

Jonathan Davis says:
November 9, 2018 at 9:00 am
@ Mr “Hate Crime”

The problem with your analogy health insurance vs auto insurance, is in the very analogy itself. IT is comparing a person’s life to a person’s automobile, and in a very detached way. It tries to matter of factly speak about what is “fair” (as a component of right and wrong), which conspicuously ignoring the outcome for the individual (which is also a component of right and wrong).

It rings very hollow to anyone disposed toward sympathy. It’s sterile rationalizing that comes of as very inhuman to anyone who has an emotive bone in their body.

Now, that is NOT to say that you are WRONG. Your logic is correct, it’s not fair, and it harms “freedom”.

But understand that fair and freedom are not the highest goods for many people who would value the ability of a person to get help above those things.

————————

Don’t put words in my mouth (bolded above).

Government coercion is not the only way to help needy people and I do not grant the premise that it is. My issue is that people should never be FORCED to do something because someone else decides that it’s the moral thing to do.

In addition to our large tax bill at the top marginal rate – we are the 1% and not ashamed of it – my wife and I also make the full 10% tithe to our church and we are active in our community volunteering at schools and the local food bank.

Charity comes from the individual. Government coercion disguised as charity is still coercion and voting for the government to confiscate more wealth from my neighbor is not charity, either, however noble the cause may be.

#8 Comment By Mandrake On November 9, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

Lots of criticism here of Sarah Palin, little about establishment favorite John McCain.

He picked her, yet he gets a pass.

#9 Comment By TA On November 9, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

For those complaining about her use of “classical Christian education”, she can speak for herself, but I come from a similar background and I read it to just mean a typical Christian school education.

In fact, I’d suspect that her strain of Christianity would look at Classical Christian Education(tm) with very deep suspicion. For many, Plato, Aristotle, etc. were just a bunch of deluded pagans; smart people but with a worldview antithetical to Christianity. They’re an interesting historical footnote, but to incorporate them into a curriculum in a way to actually teach someone to think in line with their philosophy would be quite a grave sin, similar to teaching children to revere Zeus.

For what it’s worth, this is why Rod’s hard emphasis on Classical Christian Education always strikes me as odd. (more as an emotional echo of my upbringing than anything intellectual) Classical Christian Education always strikes me as similar to Rod advocating for something like Buddhist Christian Education.

#10 Comment By Dr. Vanessa Poseidon On November 9, 2018 @ 1:16 pm

To those who have a quibble with my categorization of the school: this is what they advertised themselves as. I am quite certain this is not the norm at all or most classical Christian schools, but there you have it. And to those who doubt that fundamentalist parents would send a child to a liberal Catholic school, keep in mind that public schools were horrendous where I grew up, and as badly as it was going at the other school, my parents saw it as the much better option.

I’m not bitter about growing up in the fundamentalist environment. I’m still very close with my family and we talk almost every day — we just have many different ways of seeing the world. My parents began in a mainline Protestant denomination, and began a rightward track sometime shortly before I was born that continues to this day. They did not keep us separated from the culture at large, had no issues with drinking or television or any of the other sticking points for some more-fundamentalist fundamentalists, and aside from Sunday mornings and my stint at the Christian school, my upbringing was no different from that of my Catholic peers. It was the extremity of rhetoric at home and at church that troubled me, and it has only become more constant since 2008.

On the other hand, I should have mentioned this in the first post, but I am troubled by the Democratic party’s hostility toward religious people in general. I disagree vehemently with the way many of my liberal peers talk about social conservatism and religion, but I have a harder time holding my nose to vote Republican because of my specific life experiences.

And regarding @ Mr. hate crime’s question, the illness did happen as an adult, in my mid-20s, so not very long ago. What I mean about pre-existing conditions here is that, were I to not have employment and needed insurance elsewhere, or if I’d been uninsured, my experience (or the experiences of less fortunate people) without the ACA would have been radically different. It could have easily been a much scarier situation.

#11 Comment By Haigha On November 9, 2018 @ 1:37 pm

“I don’t believe that others like me deserve to resign themselves to a lifetime of medical debt and poverty (or worse, just die) because they don’t have insurance like I did.”

As the great moral philosopher William Munny observed, “‘Deserve”s got nothing to do with it.”

The real question is, do you have the moral right to put a gun to the head of your neighbor and take his resources to save yourself from misfortune that he had no part in creating (not to mention destroy the insurance market in the process)?

#12 Comment By J May On November 9, 2018 @ 2:37 pm

I don’t see how someone who has genuine, strong faith in God could let their worries about their personal finances or the environment outweigh their shock and heartbreak over 1/3 of the most vulnerable people in our country being killed on a daily basis.

Either said person has little faith for God to take care of them/fix systemic issues that the person can’t control (and indeed nothing short of upending the industrial world order could really fix); or the person doesn’t have a coherent view of what makes a person a person (a “blob of cells” magically becomes a person when its mother decides it is vs. a person is someone created by God who has intrinsic personhood from conception to death). Likely both dynamics are at play in the reader, if I were to take a humble guess.

It reminds me of those other southern Democrats many years ago who neither saw the inherent value in black persons nor had faith for God to take care of their own personal finances if slaves were emancipated to participate in the economy as free persons. I’m not an all-out Republican but I’m glad the G.O.P. was created with the sole purpose to challenge those Democrats on that issue.

#13 Comment By J May On November 9, 2018 @ 2:43 pm

That being said, I’m glad the reader shared her story and I humbly submit that, whatever truth I think the reader may be missing in her worldview, it is by the grace of God that ignorance is dispelled, not by works, so that no one may boast. I hope and pray she will take a deeper look at her allegiances and the ungirding philosophies therein.

#14 Comment By Marie On November 9, 2018 @ 3:04 pm

Mandrake,

McCain and Graham are both in the crazy part of the GOP Venn. But he’s not Alaskan, and also he’s now dead. He also had a much longer political career than Palin and was actually elected to office.

Palin was an empty suit to be projected upon and was discarded when unnecessary. She’s like that Beto guy or Ocasio-Cortez. Attractive (literally) to a certain type of voter

#15 Comment By Harve On November 9, 2018 @ 3:11 pm

“On the other hand, I should have mentioned this in the first post, but I am troubled by the Democratic party’s hostility toward religious people in general. I disagree vehemently with the way many of my liberal peers talk about social conservatism and religion, but I have a harder time holding my nose to vote Republican because of my specific life experiences.”

The Democratic Party isn’t hostile to religion, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Some people are hostile to religion because of a nun with a ruler, parental issues, or whatever.

Social conservatives tend to wear their religion on their sleeves and use it to justify laws and policies that are harmful to the General Welfare while meddling in the private lives of strangers.

If social conservatives use their religion to justify bad policy and intrusive laws it’s hardly remarkable that some people who happen to be Democrats would over-generalize. I also find this among Libertarians and independents and its obviously going to be more likely among folks who are “nones” who are more likely to be Democrats or Libertarians anyway.

Abortion is an emotional issue for many but there is simply no way that law or policy in a free country is going to have anything other than a marginal effect on abortion rates. Any actually effective laws on abortion, besides being destructive to individual liberty, are going to have massive externalities – see China and Romania.

Siarlys Jenkins says:

“Democrats are notoriously afraid of their own shadow. E.g., Hillary Clinton warning John Kerry that he’d better vote for the Iraq war authorization if he wanted to run for president in 2004.”

This has been part of Democratic/Liberal DNA since 1948 at least and is rooted in a mindless ideological/theological opposition to socialism/communism.

The driver here is the 1948 victory of the Chinese Communists. The right and Republicans played the “who lost China” card for quite a few years – I was there, it was a big deal. It’s a large part of the reason for Johnson getting involved in Vietnam. Losing Vietnam was viewed as a “stab in the back” by more then a few people so the beat goes on.

Congressional Democrats were shell shocked by 1994 and are just beginning to recover and are still figuring out how to deal with the “mommy/daddy party” meme that has driven the media narrative since Carter. And after 9/11 the media was in the tank for Republicans, so there’s that.

Mr “Hate Crime” says:

“In addition to our large tax bill at the top marginal rate – we are the 1% and not ashamed of it – my wife and I also make the full 10% tithe to our church and we are active in our community volunteering at schools and the local food bank.”

Mazel tov! America has been very, very good to you. Now we do some googling and we find:

Top 1% average pre-tax income: $1,434,900
average tax rate: 20.1%

(BTW, the average tax rate for the .1% is slightly less.)

You’re likely salivating at the Second Gilded age, well, enjoy it while you can – Gilded Ages never end well. I”ll remind you that kleptocrats don’t consider plutocrats allies, they consider them prey.

#16 Comment By PeterK On November 9, 2018 @ 3:48 pm

an interesting piece, but lacks in the rigor that she wishes many had lots of opinion that lacks supporting data

“the utter disdain for intellectual rigor or even a willingness to learn was so discouraging,”

the above is a prime example she cites nothing that supports her belief that Palin lacks intellectual rigor or a willingness to learn. this was a woman who was a state governor who faced down the oil companies.

#17 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 9, 2018 @ 5:17 pm

This political trajectory sounds quite similar to my wife’s. The big differences being that she grew up in a Lutheran church (her issues seemed to stem from the particulars of her church not Lutheranism) and it is our daughter not her with the illness that will be with her for her entire life.

Pogonip says:
I was thinking about taking some college classes in my retirement, and maybe a part-time job at one of the several colleges in the area, but I am reconsidering the idea. I’m inquisitive and love to delve into a good puzzle and finally be able to say “Aha! There’s the truth(s) of it!” So I’m getting the impression that academia is not the place for me.
Maybe working at a church? A library? Does anyone have any ideas?

There are lots of places in academia where you can still find what you are looking for at all levels. If you talk to the people teaching the courses or the students you can usually tell pretty quickly whether the class or department will offer what you are actually looking for. There is huge variation even within departments in how or whether ideologies and fads are embraced. There are also lots of universities that offer lectures and courses online for free now.

Haigha says:
As the great moral philosopher William Munny observed, “‘Deserve”s got nothing to do with it.”

While I applaud the recognition of William Munny as a great philosopher, it’s important to note that he says this as he is killing little Bill in revenge for little Bill torturing is friend to death.

The real question is, do you have the moral right to put a gun to the head of your neighbor and take his resources to save yourself from misfortune that he had no part in creating (not to mention destroy the insurance market in the process)?

As long as emergency rooms are treating people without insurance you question is purely theoretical. You might be willing to say emergency rooms shouldn’t treat people without insurance, but most of America doesn’t seem ready for that.

#18 Comment By JonF On November 9, 2018 @ 5:43 pm

Re: As the great moral philosopher William Munny observed, “‘Deserve”s got nothing to do with it.”

Of course! Morality has no connection to public policy.
And please note: theoretically under (theoretical, not political) liberalism, there are three great rights: Life, Liberty and Property, I’m listing them in that order because they do constitute a natural hierarchy: the right to life trumps the other true (and liberty trumps property). So yes, it is the lesser evil to tax one person (especially if s/he has a surfeit of wealth and will suffer no lack as a result) to save the life and also provide for the liberty of others. Nor is this a newfangled notion: the Pharaohs of Egypt and rulers of Sumeria understood this in their own terms.

#19 Comment By Haigha On November 9, 2018 @ 6:07 pm

“As long as emergency rooms are treating people without insurance you question is purely theoretical. You might be willing to say emergency rooms shouldn’t treat people without insurance, but most of America doesn’t seem ready for that.”

Well, I do say that, and my question is purely theoretical for a lot of reasons. But my point here is only to challenge the good Doctor’s moral justification for using the government to force insurance companies to provide her with insurance below cost, and force them to charge other customers more than cost plus economic profit to pay for it.

#20 Comment By Haigha On November 9, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

Or, at least, emergency rooms shouldn’t be forced by government to treat people who can’t pay, or be reimbursed by government for doing so. If they decide on their own to do so, that’s their business.

#21 Comment By Edward Dougherty On November 9, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

Mr Hate Crime,

When people have illnesses or health issues that are not covered by insurance and they cannot or don’t pay the balance, that gets swallowed by the health provider or the hospital. They then charge the insurance companies more for the services they provide which then results in the insurance companies raising their rates to people like me who try to make sure that they have enough insurance coverage for my family. You’re going to pay one way or another and the ACA was at least a way to even out the financial burden.

Which was fine with me because I was getting sick (no pun intended) of paying through my increased rates for people who wouldn’t carry insurance and then got medical bills they couldn’t all while blathering about his insurance was an infringement on their freedom

#22 Comment By Sheila On November 9, 2018 @ 7:41 pm

Marshal,

““I don’t mind paying a little extra in taxes to ensure old people and sick children don’t end up in a Dickensian dystopia,”

Who believes this is an accurate summation?”

In November 2016, when chattering classes on both the right and the left were obsessing over the Dallas Cowboys kneeling, the Texas GOP stopped Medicaid reimbursement of therapy services for disabled children.

[2]

I’d like to ask all of the Christian commentators if they think it is good or bad to use tax dollars to pay for disabled children’s medical care.

#23 Comment By Dr. Vanessa Poseidon On November 9, 2018 @ 8:32 pm

@JonF must have been reading my mind because life, liberty, property was the first phrase that entered my mind when I read Haigha’s first comment.

I don’t think it’s too outlandish to suggest that other citizens’ right to continue their lives by accessing medical care is the equivalent of a gun to the head. This is merely a modern understanding of part of the social contract we’ve always had in this country. I’m not saying the ACA is perfect or doesn’t need fixes, but to deny people access to insurance not only leads to the increase of medical costs overall, but essentially does condemn very sick people to death. (Since leaving my parents’ policy in my early twenties, I’ve always been insured because I’ve always been employed, and I don’t mistake for a moment how fortunate I have been in that regard.)

The specific obligations of citizenship have changed in this country throughout history, and I see the obligation to insure people with pre-existing conditions as part of that — just consider what happened to the military draft after Vietnam. (That isn’t a moral judgment on switching to the All-Volunteer Force, which I have a whole other set of opinions on, just one example of how these obligations change over time).

#24 Comment By Dr. Vanessa Poseidon On November 9, 2018 @ 8:36 pm

Sorry, I meant to say it *is* too outlandish to suggest it’s the equivalent of a gun to the head. Newbie commenter error, long week.

#25 Comment By LarryFb On November 9, 2018 @ 11:09 pm

“But Obamacare, in its most basic form, is just like someone without auto insurance wrecking their car and then asking the government to make their neighbors buy them a new car anyway.”

Au contraire: The most unpopular part of the ACA (Obamacare) is the individual mandate which requires most to buy a minimal amount of insurance coverage or else pay a fee. The above comment does not make sense.

It sounds to me like what the commenter is objecting to is Medicaid. However, most Medicaid recipients go without private insurance because they cannot afford it.

#26 Comment By James Gillen On November 10, 2018 @ 3:37 am

Several people have had their take on the insurance analogy of “Mr. Hate Crime.” Here’s mine.
The problem with comparing auto insurance to health insurance is that while the business model is the same in both cases, the purpose of each is not. If you take out an auto insurance policy, you are not expecting to get in a wreck every 3 months. If you are, you will not have that policy for long. Insurance companies are not expected to pay policy holders immediately and repeatedly. This is how they can make a profit and survive with a limited risk pool. It also means that the business premise of the insurance industry is NOT to provide its services, at least not on a regular basis.
However, since the only way most Americans can get health care is through an insurance company, you have the perverse business incentive of the company NOT providing coverage when it’s needed. Because health coverage is not simply for catastrophic events, but for prescriptions and maintenance like bloodwork and screenings that may be routine but are actually costly. This is why, pre-ACA, insurance companies screened people for pre-existing conditions. In their defense, if they covered everybody who got sick, when they got sick, and covered the costs of their chronic conditions, they would not be able to turn a profit and survive.
The ACA/Obamacare plan (which resembled both Romneycare and a Ron Bailey article in Reason Magazine published at about the time of the Clinton/Magaziner plan) is premised on saving *private* health insurance by accounting for their coverage of pre-existing conditions. But to do this, the government had to turn the entire country into a risk pool, and to do that, they came up with the mandate.
As a libertarian, I would prefer a free-market system that did not rely on such force. But the difference between the priority of health insurance and other types of insurance is a huge reason why it hasn’t been that simple. In any case, a huge reason why Republicans haven’t been able to capitalize on the unpopularity of the mandate – and why they have to rely on Trump’s razzle-dazzle instead of their own policies – is that they don’t have a serious policy alternative. Otherwise after six years of sending repeal after repeal for Obama to veto, Republicans in Congress would have come up with an alternative system for Trump to sign on Inauguration Day, like he asked.

#27 Comment By JonF On November 10, 2018 @ 7:40 am

Re: emergency rooms shouldn’t be forced by government to treat people who can’t pay, or be reimbursed by government for doing so.

This reminds me of people in the 19th century who had a fit when they were forced to connect their homes to and pay for sewers. They used the same libertarianish logic.
If men were angels we would not need government, but we aren’t and we do. That means, yes governments can use force to do or not things for the good of others and of society as a whole. And occasionally even for our own good. People who have a problem with the concept should secede from society and live as solitary hermits in the wilderness. When you live with other people there will be rules and you will be expected to share the burdens of society. How does anyone make it to adulthood without understanding and accepting this basic fact?

#28 Comment By JWJ On November 10, 2018 @ 11:07 am

I personally disagree with much of what Ms. Poseidon writes. However, I will never be able to change any heart or mind via a comment box.

I do want to say a big thank you to her for taking the time to write her story, her perspective. And a thank you to Mr. D for recognizing that her story was worth taking the time to put on his website.

Mr. D, I think there might be a book here somewhere with these different stories.

#29 Comment By grumpy realist On November 10, 2018 @ 12:59 pm

The other problem is that if you don’t have employment (or even in many cases when you do), you’re not going to have employer-provided health insurance. COBRA? Don’t make me laugh. Ridiculously expensive, temporary, and done at a time when the individual suddenly doesn’t have a constant flow of money coming in. So what are people supposed to do? Just curl up and die? Some commentators here seem to be perfectly happy with that–not very Christian!

(Also, the “emergency coverage” that hospitals supposedly do for people-with-no-money isn’t as good as some commentators here think. Unless you are in an immediately life-threatening condition you’re not going to be treated. Emergency care doesn’t cover treatments that you need in order to keep from getting worse–say, for cancer.)

If we’re going to dump people-we-otherwise-can’t-provide-insurance-cover-for on to Medicaid anyway, maybe we could just plain reform the entire system? (Oh, and for those of you fulminating about abortion and “gummint supporting those poor people”, remember that Medicaid is how the majority of women giving birth are covered.)

#30 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 10, 2018 @ 6:41 pm

grumpy realist says:
Also, the “emergency coverage” that hospitals supposedly do for people-with-no-money isn’t as good as some commentators here think.

Yup, it is both more expensive and less effective. One of the hopes of the ACA was that it could reduce costs by getting previously uninsured people to get preventive care rather than waiting till it is an emergency. I was only bringing up the ED issue because that is the main impediment to enactment of Haigha’s preferred policy of just refusing medical care to the poor and uninsured.

Haigha says:
Or, at least, emergency rooms shouldn’t be forced by government to treat people who can’t pay, or be reimbursed by government for doing so. If they decide on their own to do so, that’s their business.

As a good libertarian you should realize that is also impossible. If the physicians and nurses treat people who can’t pay, the cost is passed on to the hospital no matter what in terms of staffing and/or wait times and resources. The hospital would need to coerce the doctors/staff into not treating the unable to pay through stiff penalties.

Since you brought up William Munny, does his world represent your laissez faire ideal? A place where there is no leviathan, where the powerful can do whatever they please to the weaker, and where “justice” is as administered by the whim of a mass murderer who kills women and children? The wild west had a lot of freedom, but most people were happy that it got civilized.

#31 Comment By JonF On November 11, 2018 @ 7:50 am

Re: The ACA/Obamacare plan (which resembled both Romneycare and a Ron Bailey article in Reason Magazine published at about the time of the Clinton/Magaziner plan) is premised on saving *private* health insurance by accounting for their coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Before the ACA the majority of people on private healthcare plans actually did have that sort of protection (mostly) because their employment group plans did not individually risk rate people (everyone in the group pays the same premium) and after the 1996 HIPAA law was passed insurers could not refuse to renew membership in such policies or turn down people who were changing jobs and insurance. Somehow Big Insurance managed to remain profitable despite that. What the ACA essentially did (in the area of private insurance coverage) was extend those protections to the individual market. It’s hard to see why something that worked OK in the large group market should be a problem when applied to the far smaller individual market. Of course the other major reform, not much talked about, is that plans could no longer have caps: you couldn’t be cut off after running up, say, 700K in medical expenses due to a catastrophic event. This, far more so than guaranteed issue and community rating, is the reason behind the run up in premiums. To be fair to the insurance companies it’s hard to estimate losses that may be open ended, unlike auto or home insurance where the policy maxes out at the value of the property– we can just junk a wrecked car after all, can’t do that with people. Which is why wonks in this area as diverse as John Kerry and Megan MacArdle have suggested a universal public catastrophic program which would taken the burden of extremely high dollar care off the insurers and limit their exposure to some predetermined amount as the possible payouts in auto and home coverage are so limited.

#32 Comment By darrel e. On November 11, 2018 @ 5:20 pm

I have a couple of good friends with a young child and insecure employment (not poor, but one or both of them may need a new job soon). They’re deeply conservative in most of the ways people can be, but one of them would be uninsurable without pre-existing conditions protection, and their son possibly too. They dislike Trump for all the normal reasons decent people of all political stripes do, but that’s nowhere near the core reason they’re alienated from the GOP. They would love to vote for a traditionalist conservative party or a smaller-government party, or both, but until the current version of the GOP is dead and buried, they’re going to be reliable Democrat voters for the forseeable future.

#33 Comment By darrel e. On November 11, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

(My point in bringing up these people is that they’re kind of a litmus test for me. Any decent conservative party should–and would–be able to win their votes with relative ease. That they’re very far from doing so on several fronts is a deep indication of the extent of the rot within the GOP.)

#34 Comment By Haigha On November 12, 2018 @ 9:19 am

Wow, you folks really have nothing but the same old fallacious arguments I’ve heard and refuted a thousand times. Is there anyone with the intellectual integrity to just come out and say, “Yes, I believe that I’m morally justified in seizing your property and labor, exploiting you in order to use your resources to do with them what I consider to be good”? Because that’s the upshot, and it’s the only real response. Now, the fallacies:

1. Life, liberty, and property: Not only is this an appeal to authority, but the authority is on my side! Rights as conceived by the Framers were purely negative: the right not to be impeded or attacked by government. The idea of positive rights (and the concomitant conflation of power with freedom) didn’t gain prominence until 20th-Century progressives decided that the negative rights of the Framers were empty and useless without wealth and security.

Just as the right to “property” meant the right to be secure in your property and not have it seized from you (and not the right to have property given to you), so the right to “life”, to the Framers, meant nothing more or less than the right not to be unjustly killed. It was certainly not a right to have your life sustained by third parties.

2. Next we have the good doctor completely missing the point. Everything the government does is a gun to the head, because the government compels us to pay taxes, and if we don’t, it will come to seize our stuff and/or put us in fail, and if we resist, it will kill us. All of our political choices are equivalent to a gun to the head of dissenters.

3. Next we have the conflation of non-excludable public goods (like national defense, roads, and fire protection) with ordinary goods that are excludable (like health care and health insurance). In the former case, there is a genuine collective-action problem, so it’s in everyone’s interest for the government to break the collective-action problem (the “tragedy of the commons”) by taxing in order to provide the good.

But it does not follow that if you accept government provision of non-excludable public goods, you must also logically accept government actions that benefit some people and exploit others where there’s not genuine collective-action problem.

4. Next up, the silly suggestion that those of us who object to serfdom should go live as hermits. This doesn’t follow. I’m very happy to pay for everything I use, and internalize all my costs. My presence in the community makes everyone wealthier by my participation in the economy as producer and consumer, my charitable contributions, and my contributions to collective defense and provision of public goods. Even if libertarians were left out of redistributive schemes, the remainder of society would be better off with us living in the middle of things than with us gone.

5. Next, we have this bizarre argument: “If the physicians and nurses treat people who can’t pay, the cost is passed on to the hospital no matter what in terms of staffing and/or wait times and resources. The hospital would need to coerce the doctors/staff into not treating the unable to pay through stiff penalties.”

Uh, if you violate the policy of your employer, you get fired. Problem solved. And if the hospital WANTS to treat the uninsured, it can pass along its costs to its other customers, and they can choose to continue to patronize it or choose to go somewhere else with cheaper prices.

6. Last, we have the silly attempts to find significance in the details of “Unforgiven”. But my only point in using that quote was to bring home that the fact that you may not “deserve” a particular misfortune in a cosmic sense does not give you the right to coerce other people into alleviating that misfortune. The particulars of the movie are irrelevant. (The straw man argument that a libertarian state would be lawless is essentially the same one I dealt with above under (3).)

#35 Comment By CAM On November 12, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

As someone who graduated college at about the same time as this person (actually, I graduated just before the crash in ’07, whereas this woman would’ve graduated 2-3 years after if she was born in ’88), I have no idea what she’s talking about. Sure, it was a little tougher to find a job than it would’ve been a few years before or now, but so much of what this person says sounds like juvenile emotional indulgence (especially #3, which almost seems like a conservative caricature of an emotionally frail, politically obsessed young liberal).

I also wonder how somebody can recognize how much of their thinking comes from reactionary, adolescent rebellion against elders she thinks she’s superior to, and not begin to question that reactionary thinking. It’s natural for teenagers to feel that way, but not so natural to persevere in that feeling through adulthood. One thing is clear about that kind of reaction, though: an awful lot of your childrens’ thinking will depend on whether or not they can easily respect you. This woman clearly didn’t have much respect for her parents or elders, hence her thinking now.

#36 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 12, 2018 @ 5:39 pm

Haigha says:
Is there anyone with the intellectual integrity to just come out and say, “Yes, I believe that I’m morally justified in seizing your property and labor, exploiting you in order to use your resources to do with them what I consider to be good”?

Have you read my book? The one about the sea monster? Because that is, in fact, a pretty reasonable summary of the argument, except it’s made less personal by replacing “I” with “we” (the polity submitting to the social contract) and it says that you should thank us for exploiting you in such a way.

Next we have the conflation of non-excludable public goods (like national defense, roads, and fire protection) with ordinary goods that are excludable (like health care and health insurance). In the former case, there is a genuine collective-action problem, so it’s in everyone’s interest for the government to break the collective-action problem (the “tragedy of the commons”) by taxing in order to provide the good.

Why exactly are roads and fire protection non-excludable? It seems easier to exclude drivers from a road or specific areas from fire protection (or police protection) than it is to determine whether or not an unconscious person has insurance when time is critical for life saving treatment. Are people excludable from herd immunity?

And if the hospital WANTS to treat the uninsured, it can pass along its costs to its other customers, and they can choose to continue to patronize it or choose to go somewhere else with cheaper prices.

This is the present state of affairs. Turns out unconscious people can’t choose where they want the ambulance to drive them and people with medical emergencies (and even non-emergencies) aren’t really in a position to comparison shop. Thus, we all pay for the uninsured.

I asked you about Unforgiven because I was trying to determine exactly what kind of libertarianism you embraced. I’ve met plenty who don’t believe police, roads, and fire departments should be public goods (none really fit the economic definition). This makes them less able to convince people that they aren’t crazy ideologues, but makes it easier for them to logically exclude medical care as a public good. Once somebody acknowledges that the government should recognize anything as a public good, the debate becomes what constitutes a public good and how should we deal with them. That is really where we are with the healthcare debate.

#37 Comment By CAM On November 12, 2018 @ 6:28 pm

Another thing that should be pointed out is that Republicans haven’t been committing a “continuous assault on protections for pre-existing conditions.” In fact, what they’ve done is criticize the way the ACA accomplished protections for pre-existing conditions as having the potential to make insurance unaffordable for many and unattractive for healthy, young people, while also potentially making it very expensive to insure people. That’s why every Republican alternative has either offered some mechanism that would account for pre-existing conditions, or has focused on bringing down costs in general so that people with pre-existing conditions can find relatively affordable coverage.

It seems more a little disingenuous to me to claim that Republicans’ attempts to repeal the ACA were “cruel” when nearly all Republicans are in favor of some mechanism to address pre-existing conditions, and when, according to Republicans, the reason for repealing laws mandating coverage of pre-existing conditions is that they’re unworkable. In the end, as Dr. Poseidon did seem to understand, this comes down to a political question that asks whether our nation thinks it’s worth it for healthy people to be mandated to pay more so that anybody can sign up for insurance coverage at any time, no matter their condition. It is not cruel to argue, from a technocratic point of view, that this way of doing things may lead to disaster for everybody. It also isn’t cruel to oppose this policy if there are other ways of accomplishing something similar, especially when care will not be denied based on lack of insurance.

I do apologize if my comment above this one was too uncharitable. I am certainly happy to hear whenever anybody survives a terminal illness, and I’m glad that Dr. Poseidon was able to get good care and had insurance to pay for it.

#38 Comment By Haigha On November 13, 2018 @ 10:05 am

The existence of a powerful state to keep the peace is a very different proposal from a forcible, collectivist pooling of resources and risk. Hobbes favored a strong central authority because he saw it as a guarantor of liberty, not because he wanted government to do things to alleviate the material circumstances of its subjects.

I can quibble with other libertarians about things like roads (difficult to exclude without massive inconvenience other than a few highways), fire protection (fires spread), and vaccinations (as you said, herd immunity). But there’s no argument that health care or health insurance is a public good. The distinction between public goods and other goods does not collapse merely because the definition of a public good is a little fuzzy or debatable around the edges.

And if you call 911 and ask for help in your home for a medical emergency, you’re consenting to being taken to and treated by the nearest appropriate hospital, on their terms. But their terms are (or would be, in a free market) set by the majority of cases, which are non-emergency.

#39 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 14, 2018 @ 3:49 am

Haigha says:
The existence of a powerful state to keep the peace is a very different proposal from a forcible, collectivist pooling of resources and risk.

Is it? The formation of a nation is by it’s very nature a forcible pooling of resources and risk. The adjective collectivist is just a signifier of your disapproval here. Hobbes is duly afraid that he is not in position to tell the leviathan what it can and can’t do and acknowledges such, but still thinks it’s better than the alternative.

But there’s no argument that health care or health insurance is a public good. The distinction between public goods and other goods does not collapse merely because the definition of a public good is a little fuzzy or debatable around the edges.

A public good is (from the economic perspective) both non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Like healthcare, it’s trivial to see that neither roads, police protection, nor fire protection are non-rivalrous (other peoples use diminishes your ability to use them). From the public policy perspective of certain libertarians, it still makes sense to treat rivalrous goods as public goods if they are non-excludable since there is no effective way of excluding people from them, leading to the tragedy of the commons. It is not at all obvious to me that medical care is more excludable than say fire protection. Untreated diseases can spread just like fires. We could easily have fire departments that control fires to keep them from spreading but refuse to risk their live rescuing people inside buildings where the owners haven’t paid for that service. The fire fighters could even negotiate terms for additional service on the spot (I kid). People that are refused service for lack of coverage often end up getting more expensive and less effective treatment much later in the ED. You can tell physicians not to treat the uninsured at the ED just as you could tell firefighters not rescue people who didn’t pay for the service, but it would be easier for the firefighters to tell who’s who (also this is definitely in the Dickensian dystopia zone).

Most Americans don’t actually care about this kind of discussion though. The question is will it be better for the nation as a whole and/or me and how much will it cost. Few people are really that ideological and most have terrible medical insurance.

In any event, I’m sure you’ll never agree with me, but I really don’t believe health care as we now know it could ever function as an actual free market. My main issue with laissez faire ideologues is that they tend to ignore all of the assumptions that need to be satisfied for the free market to work the way we’d all like as well as ignoring the existence of natural monopolies. I acknowledge that government interference nearly always leads to corruption and often produces the opposite of its desired effect (Democrats are full of terrible ideas to accidentally make problems worse). There are many areas where the market really can’t work on it’s own though. Government regulation of natural monopolies is better than no regulation of monopolies, regulation can make actual circumstances better approach the assumptions of the free market, and government coercion can prevent nash equilibrium situations where everyone loses. Getting it to do those things is a different problem.