Short Thought for the Day

 

Mr. Rand and I are watching the series “Victoria” on PBS and have reached the episode where the Queen is pregnant for the first time.  She is terrified of dying in childbirth and is the recipient of a wealth of medical advice, most of it abysmal.

Mr. Rand, who’s now spent quite a few years around the baby birthing business in a variety of nursing capacities, most recently as a CRNA providing anesthesia care in a poor Catholic community hospital to, among others, laboring mothers, noticed and pointed out that our Medicaid patients on the South Side of Chicago now get vastly better medical care than Queen Victoria did in her day.

His observation got me thinking.  That fact is due almost entirely to capitalism – to the profit motive and the research and innovation it encourages, and the concern for client/customer/patient outcomes and satisfaction that it engenders.

It is too easy to take for granted what we have — to assume our level of progress was inevitable.  And it is too easy, in our short and harried lives, to fail to look back even a couple of generations, which is all that is necessary to see how staggeringly far we’ve come.

That is the test of a civilization – does it go from the first whiffs of ether to safe and painless outpatient surgery in 100 years, or from the telegraph to the iPhone in 150, or from a terrifying risk of dying in childbirth for a queen, who has all the care money can buy, to routine uncomplicated births for the poorest of the poor in 175.

Socialism is not progress.  It is the death of that real progress we are so fortunate to be living freer, more productive, and yes more leisurely lives as a result of.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    A very thoughtful and important post, Cato. Some of the gist of your idea also provided one of the Louis CK routines that I do agree with, that we live in an age of miracles and scarcely notice it most of the time.

    • #1
  2. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Socialism is not progress. It is the death of that real progress we are so fortunate to be living freer, more productive, and yes more leisurely lives as a result of.

    So true.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    May I share a little droll irony? Outside of Ricochet, outside of our circle of economic and political thinkers, this post could be the most controversial thing Cato Rand has ever written online!…

    • #3
  4. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    To a Progressive there is no progress. Every day is born fresh with the extent realities having no history and no accomplishments, only things not yet done and in need of doing in whatever manner the Progressive deems appropriate. For the Progressive needs grievance and injury to fuel their insatiable push for power over others.

    • #4
  5. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    My husband and I have often remarked upon how truly luxurious our very ordinary lifestyle is, compared to kings and pharaohs of the past. We can take a shower or bath and get the water just the way we like it — not too hot, not too cold — with the turn of the faucets. While taking that shower, I can turn on the shower radio and listen to Mozart, or catch the news of the world. We can have fresh fruits and vegetables at any time, despite living in Minnesota.  Our health care is fantastic compared to that enjoyed by our parents’ generation, let alone 100 or more years ago, no matter how high a person’s social status might be. Really, our lives are far more pampered than the kings of old — and that’s without servants!

    Technology and capitalism have brought us many benefits. Still, they don’t have the power to save a civilization that seems bent on suicide.

    • #5
  6. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Great post.

    • #6
  7. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    A very thoughtful and important post, Cato. Some of the gist of your idea also provided one of the Louis CK routines that I do agree with, that we live in an age of miracles and scarcely notice it most of the time.

    I had no idea Louis CK had a coherent thought in his head.  Maybe I’ll have to start watching more closely.

    • #7
  8. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    You are exactly right.  Capitalism has lead to incredible progress, and made people much better off than they used to be.  That is why it is so ironic that socialist have taken the name of “Progressive”.  They are anything but.  No economic system known to mankind has done more to help the poor than Capitalism.

    • #8
  9. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    This reminds me of the great Nobel prize winning economist and thoroughly wise man, the eminent Dr. Milton Friedman, educating Phil Donahue about the ‘benefits’ of Capitalism ……

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76frHHpoNFs

    The world runs on individuals pursuing their selfish interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus … Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. The only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about … the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off … is exactly the kind of societies that have departed from that. So … the record of history is absolutely crystal clear …. that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people, that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system ….  Milton Friedman

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    We are so fortunate to be living in these times, but people seem to crave always having more. Too bad; we have so much to be grateful for. Good post, Cato.

    • #10
  11. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Great post. Also I find it interesting how so many women are rejecting the very technological advancements that make our lifestyles and childbirth so much better than even a queen a couple of centuries ago.

    An example would be the anti-vaccine movement, this rejection of a monumental medical advancement can only be accepted by people who have no notion of the horrific diseases they have been spared due to the invention of vaccines. Small pox, a disease which killed millions of people in a horrible way, was eradicated from the Earth (for the most part) and there are people who reject this technology. It baffles the mind.

     

    • #11
  12. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Mate De (View Comment):
    Great post. Also I find it interesting how so many women are rejecting the very technological advancements that make our lifestyles and childbirth so much better than even a queen a couple of centuries ago.

    An example would be the anti-vaccine movement, this rejection of a monumental medical advancement can only be accepted by people who have no notion of the horrific diseases they have been spared due to the invention of vaccines. Small pox, a disease which killed millions of people in a horrible way, was eradicated from the Earth (for the most part) and there are people who reject this technology. It baffles the mind.

    That’s exactly it.  It’s really very much an ignorance of history that’s at fault.  Teach people even a little of it, and it’s hard to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion.  But we live in a society where too many people think history started with their own birth.

    • #12
  13. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    We are so fortunate to be living in these times, but people seem to crave always having more. Too bad; we have so much to be grateful for. Good post, Cato.

    We are so fortunate to be living in these times, because people seem to crave always having more. Too good; and We should be grateful for Them.

    • #13
  14. Quake Voter Inactive
    Quake Voter
    @QuakeVoter

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    A very thoughtful and important post, Cato. Some of the gist of your idea also provided one of the Louis CK routines that I do agree with, that we live in an age of miracles and scarcely notice it most of the time.

    The longer skit got its rollout on the Conan show.  Would have been funnier with Carson in his prime, engaged and leaning forward in obvious admiration for Louis CK’s genius.   Conan has no timing.

     

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    We are so fortunate to be living in these times, because people seem to crave always having more. Too good; and We should be grateful for Them.

    I would agree in terms of striving for progress, improvement, cures for diseases, efficiencies. But the average person craves bigger homes, more expensive cars, more of the material. I’m not impressed with them.

    • #15
  16. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    This is a post of the week, if not month and year.  The wisdom distilled into these thoughts needs to be taught at every level of education.  Great post @catorand.

    • #16
  17. oleneo65 Coolidge
    oleneo65
    @oleneo65

    Rodin (View Comment):
    To a Progressive there is no progress. Every day is born fresh with the extent realities having no history and no accomplishments, only things not yet done and in need of doing in whatever manner the Progressive deems appropriate. For the Progressive needs grievance and injury to fuel their insatiable push for power over others.

    Brilliant! Succient! May I quote you to those outside Ricochet?

    • #17
  18. She Member
    She
    @She

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Mate De (View Comment):
    Great post. Also I find it interesting how so many women are rejecting the very technological advancements that make our lifestyles and childbirth so much better than even a queen a couple of centuries ago.

    An example would be the anti-vaccine movement, this rejection of a monumental medical advancement can only be accepted by people who have no notion of the horrific diseases they have been spared due to the invention of vaccines. Small pox, a disease which killed millions of people in a horrible way, was eradicated from the Earth (for the most part) and there are people who reject this technology. It baffles the mind.

    That’s exactly it. It’s really very much an ignorance of history that’s at fault. Teach people even a little of it, and it’s hard to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion. But we live in a society where too many people think history started with their own birth. (emphasis added).

    This.  A thousand times, this.

    And the supreme irony of it, as I’ve pointed out, probably ad nauseam by now, is that we in the so-called ‘developed’ world have, for the first time in history, the entire oeuvre of the previous century widely, and mostly freely, available to us in photographs, videos and text, and the majority of people in it still  haven’t learned anything from the mistakes of the past.

    • #18
  19. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    We are so fortunate to be living in these times, because people seem to crave always having more. Too good; and We should be grateful for Them.

    I would agree in terms of striving for progress, improvement, cures for diseases, efficiencies. But the average person craves bigger homes, more expensive cars, more of the material. I’m not impressed with them.

    Noble totalitarians can’t efficiently accomplish the goods you mention.  It’s the aggregate wants of average people that propel us forward.  One need not be impressed with the people to value the mechanism.

    • #19
  20. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    Victoria was right to be afraid!  Did you ever read the tragic story of poor Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV and Queen Caroline?  She suffered a post-partum hemorage, which her doctors treated by… bleeding her.  To death.   That was 20 years before Victoria took the throne.

    • #20
  21. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    Columbo (View Comment):
    This reminds me of the great Nobel prize winning economist and thoroughly wise man, the eminent Dr. Milton Friedman, educating Phil Donahue about the ‘benefits’ of Capitalism ……

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76frHHpoNFs

    The world runs on individuals pursuing their selfish interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus … Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. The only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about … the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off … is exactly the kind of societies that have departed from that. So … the record of history is absolutely crystal clear …. that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people, that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system …. Milton Friedman

    This illustrates the challenge of persuading skeptics that capitalism and freedom (which are different but interdependent) are the prime movers of civilizational advancement.  You think Donahue bought it?

    If you try to pick specific advancements and attribute them to capitalism you’ll be confounded by misinformation and counterexamples.  You know, like how Cuban healthcare is not only superior to Victoria’s, but it’s superior to US healthcare too. You can’t make a persuasive case that way.  It’s only by treating the world as a laboratory and looking at overall results that you can make this case, and then it’s a very general one.  We’re taught to be skeptical of generalities like these, so if you’re inclined to believe them you do, and if you’re inclined not to believe them you don’t and probably never will.

    • #21
  22. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    Victoria was right to be afraid! Did you ever read the tragic story of poor Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV and Queen Caroline? She suffered a post-partum hemorage, which her doctors treated by… bleeding her. To death. That was 20 years before Victoria took the throne.

    I have not read the story, but Victoria’s mother references the death in the episode — for the sole apparent reason of further scaring the bejesus out of Victoria.

    • #22
  23. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Cato Rand:

    Socialism is not progress. It is the death of that real progress we are so fortunate to be living freer, more productive, and yes more leisurely lives as a result of.

    Peter Robinson said it best (paraphrasing): Progressives can never create prosperity because they take it for granted.

    • #23
  24. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Cato Rand (View Comment):
    It’s really very much an ignorance of history that’s at fault.

    That’s so true, which is exactly why I teach history….

    Of course I had a Marxist in a class last term who said in a review of the course that I had very little understanding of economics, and my endorsement of free markets was akin to endorsing white supremacism, but hey ho.  I expect my students to be ignorant.  This is why they’re in school.  It’s my job to lead them to the river, but you know what they say of horses….  ;)

     

     

     

    • #24
  25. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Cato Rand: Socialism is not progress. It is the death of that real progress we are so fortunate to be living freer, more productive, and yes more leisurely lives as a result of.

    Cato,

    Yes very much so. My take on this has been more historical than economic. If you look at the structure of feudal society and remove the theological dogma and then replace it with a pseudo-scientific dogma then you get socialism. Aside from all the ethical questions of freedom & rights, socialism is then about as productive as feudalism was. Which is to say subsistence level for the poor under educated over indoctrinated peasant class. An example, the Venezuelans are losing weight rapidly. We will probably sell them some surplus grain at a super low price. We’ve been paying farmers not to plant food since the depression due to our super productivity.

    Very interesting point about Queen Victoria. I think that many a wealthy person today should consider the possibility that by socializing incentives out of existence, destroying meritocracy, and politicizing medicine they run the risk of not being able to buy their way out of problems at any price. The deal with the devil winds up to be the deal with the devil.

    We should stick to our first principles. Health Care is probably the most severe test. If we can handle health care we can handle anything.

    Regards.

    Jim

    • #25
  26. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Very interesting point about Queen Victoria. I think that many a wealthy person today should consider the possibility that by socializing incentives out of existence, destroying meritocracy, and politicizing medicine they run the risk of not being able to buy their way out of problems at any price. The deal with the devil winds up to be the deal with the devil.

     

    The ironic point this raises is that so many of those wealthy will never even know what they were unable to buy because they have socialized incentives out of existence.  It is the nature of capitalist progress that it often solves problems that people didn’t even know they had.  It often meets needs that weren’t even recognized by most as needs until they were met.  What medieval peasant farmer ever dreamed that most of the human beings on the planet needed handheld devices capable of instantaneously accessing essentially all of the knowledge ever created in human history?  How many even had the imagination to feel the “need” access to clean running water?  We all adjust to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and the more industrious among us makes modest improvements to them.  Capitalism gives us reason to make improvements for others, which geometrically increases the number of improvements made and cascades over time into genuine progress.  But the wealthy socializers, if they stop that progress, will never know what they might have had if they’d let it continue.

    • #26
  27. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Cato Rand (View Comment):
    Capitalism gives us reason to make improvements for others, which geometrically increases the number of improvements made and cascades over time into genuine progress. But the wealthy socializers, if they stop that progress, will never know what they might have had if they’d let it continue.

    Cato,

    Exactly so. As Hayek points out, the market system has a unique function (informational) that can’t be emulated by a command economy. The point being that not only doesn’t socialism work but it never will work. It is a fatal conceit.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #27
  28. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    Victoria was right to be afraid! Did you ever read the tragic story of poor Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV and Queen Caroline? She suffered a post-partum hemorage, which her doctors treated by… bleeding her. To death. That was 20 years before Victoria took the throne.

    I have not read the story, but Victoria’s mother references the death in the episode — for the sole apparent reason of further scaring the bejesus out of Victoria.

    I remember reading, when I was pregnant, that parturition is the greatest risk of premature death to any healthy adult –apparently even now! But it was too late to back out then…..

    • #28
  29. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    Exactly so. As Hayek points out, the market system has a unique function (informational) that can’t be emulated by a command economy. The point being that not only doesn’t socialism work but it never will work. It is a fatal conceit.

    Well, which is why socialism never quite remains socialism, right? Informal or black market economies tend to pop up. Markets aren’t just better, they are also, in a sense, inevitable. People who live in neighborhoods with high levels of welfare dependency in effect live in a socialist sub-culture where the explicit economic rule is “from each according to her ability; to each according to her need.”  And lo-and-behold, you get lots of dis- and in- ability, lots of need…and a black market in childcare, hair care, weapons and, of course, drugs.

    • #29
  30. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    The problem is, the debt to GDP is getting ineluctably worse and since the dotcom bubble most people’s living standards are going down. So they vote Democrat or for Trump.

    The Fed, David Stockman etc.etc.

    We will get a Ron Paul utopia the hard way. It will be brutal.

     

     

    • #30
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