Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The answer to one puzzle

Last night I had a chance to catch up with my farmer friend Festus at a party. I haven't seen him for quite a while -- Festus and his wife just work when they aren't sleeping. 

He only has a high school education but I've found him pretty savvy about politics and policy, fully aware of the plutocracy that's out to screw hard working basically poor people like himself. But last night a Glenn Beckish streak emerged that I hadn't noticed before.

It started with his foaming at the mouth outrage that he would be forced to buy health insurance or pay money not to. He has no intention of buying it, which he assumes means the government is just going to come along and grab some of the little money he has. By the way he has an eight year old daughter. I asked him, "Well Festus, suppose you're hit by a bus or your girl gets sick, and you can't afford the health care you need. Who do you think is going to pay for that?"

Try as I might, I could not get him to think through the idea that everybody -- people who pay insurance premiums, and taxpayers including him, pay for critical care of people who are uninsured, because the hospitals jack up their prices to cover it. They charge more to people who pay out of pocket than they do to insurance companies, he said. That's true -- because insurance companies have bargaining power, I explained. But a lot of those people who pay out of pocket never do pay -- and the hospitals write off the debt. And if the person isn't going to die in the ER, they won't get the cancer treatment or other expensive care they need, and they'll just die. I told him he'd get a big subsidy and the insurance would be cheap for him, maybe even free.

That didn't work either. Now he's complaining that insurance doesn't cover "alternative" medicine, just doctors who are all about poisoning people. He's an organic farmer and he's convinced that the earth is being poisoned by air pollution and it's ruining the biology of the soil he depends on. He considers medicine to be unnatural and pharmaceuticals just another form of industrial toxin. Then he starts ranting about how regulation is destroying small business. He sells peppers to a hot sauce maker who has to get a sanitary inspection every year. I said well, I don't want to get food poisoning. But, says Festus, they make him sterilize the factory with toxic chemicals, and that ends up in the food.

There was no arguing with him. I don't think he's going to vote at all, and I doubt he would ever consider voting for Republicans, but his hot sauce making friend is obviously planning on it. He doesn't want the government telling him he has to produce a safe product. Festus is really worried about pollution, but it doesn't occur to him that government could do something about it, by you know, regulating business. And he doesn't want health insurance, even cheaply, because it infringes on his freedom to get ripped off by quacks and die.

The fact is there are a lot of people whose thinking goes around in those sorts of circles and there is nothing anybody can do about it.


robin andrea said...

Sounds like an interesting conversation, mostly because a lot of people do think that way. I tend to assume things about people by how they live their lives. If someone is growing organic peppers, I automatically assume they are somewhat sane. I wonder if your neighbor is "certified" organic, and if yes, why.

Cervantes said...

Festus's farm is not certified because, not surprisingly, he doesn't want to do the paperwork. It's what's called a "pledge" organic farm.

Apropos of this, he says it's up to the consumer to worry about whether the hot sauce is safe to eat. That's obviously silly, at least to me, because without inspection, we won't know until it's too late. But that's typical of libertarian thinking.