Monday, July 24, 2017

A primary law of this universe: Everything is a tradeoff.

I just had one of those situations in which a social-media post about a given subject elicits an interesting, amusing comment thread, and, at a given point of said thread, someone sees an occasion to try to point out a flaw in my conservative worldview.

The thread's primary subject was my attitude and behavior. A secondary subject was the nature of bureaucracy. It's important to keep that order clear. Switching it would amount to excuse-making, as you'll see.

Here's my post:

So, before I made the phone call I just concluded - to a customer-service representative at a large bureaucratic organization - I gave myself a talk: "Okay, Barn, maintain a calm demeanor and a productive attitude. No stuttering, yelling or cussing."
I failed miserably.
I think the situation was resolved favorably, but it was ugly getting there.
There were some comments along the lines of "Man, I can relate!"

I think people liked a comment I chimed in with:

 I know you, like me, are not much for organizational formality, and I find myself put off from the get-go by their tone. They have to wade through all kinds of doo-dah ("So what is the best number to reach you?") and no matter what you're saying, they begin their response with "Mmmm-hmmmm." Hey, toots, how about if we talk to each other like a couple of human beings?
And on it went. A couple of people asked if I had to press one for English. In fact I did.

At one point, a left-leaner chimed in with this:

Capitalism, Barney. It's what you crave: the big, behemoth money engine. No soul, no integrity. Just profit.
I responded that one must remember that I, as a consumer, have an array of choices.

A couple of trains of thought left that station and I've been on them both ever since.

One has to do with her use of the term "big, behemoth money engine." Now, that's just what the company in question is, but that in and of itself does not discredit capitalism. The service that the company in question provides is only offered by a small number of companies, it's true, but why that is so matters very much.

If it's a case of the classic scenario where an industry lobbyist takes a relevant legislator out for a swank three-martini lunch and says, "So what's involved in keeping small upstart competitors out of the picture?", that is not the free market that we conservatives are championing. We're talking about the real deal, not collusion or cronyism. Everybody who wants a shot at the market has to be able to give it a go.

The other train of thought had to do with my end, my role as a consumer. If the above scenario is not in play, if the field is wide open, and due to the start-up capital required or whatever, the field of service providers is just small, then my choices are circumscribed, and, depending on my priorities, may come down to me saying, "The hell with it, I'll go without TV." (That's unlikely, since my wife has a vote on the matter equal to mine.)

After all, I have no right to television service.

There is no right to television service.

For the same reason there is no right to health care.

Television service, health care, haircuts, oil changes for your car all exist because some human beings somewhere have some kind of motivation to provide them. No human beings so motivated, no services.

We're now zeroing in on one of the most primary laws of this universe we inhabit: Everything is a tradeoff. Everything.

No one can guarantee you a satisfactory setup for your life. And it's pointless to talk about level playing fields, and how it's unfair that some people are born into comfortable circumstances and others into conditions of dire need. It was ever thus. The only kind of equality that it makes any sense to talk about is equality before the law.

And any attempt to short-circuit this given about our universe is going to entail curbing someone's freedom. We either have to make somebody provide the service we are interested in, which is called involuntary servitude, or we have to limit the choices of those interested in a particular service, if we're going to collectively try to provide it to them. We've just seen a real-world example of that, in which Charlie Gard's parents weren't able to explore an option outside of what the British Health Service and the European Union deemed acceptable.

This is why conservatism is sometimes called a tragic worldview, as juxtaposed against leftism's utopian quality.

The material world is as it is. We have over ten thousand years' experience with it, and it has yet to yield us any kind of magical endless bounty.

Big Rock Candy Mountain this ain't. But we have our freedom. Well, as long as we value it enough to defend it against those still sure the peak of that mountain is just over the horizon.


  1. I have the RIGHT to speak with an AMERICAN at AT&T!

    1. You have the PRIVILEGE of having a lower bill at AT&T and their competitors because they were able to farm out labor that doesn't need to be grounded in the US. You have the RIGHT to not buy their services if you disagree with their practices, to choose an all American competitor at a higher price, or to start up your own Telecom ISP using a 100% american workforce and take your best crack at providing a value that foreign staffed entities haven't.

  2. Well, actually, you don't. That is entirely within the purview of AT&T. If it pisses you off to speak to a foreigner, you have other options.

  3. I don't care what you say I won't stay in a world without love.

  4. So doesn't your stated primary law of the universe conflict with the oneness theory?

  5. It does. It's not all one. There is a sovereign God, and then there are all the particular forms and beings that comprise His creation.

  6. Barney, I am inclined to agree with you here, but don't you think that conservatives in government have done an exceedingly poor job of championing the merits of free market capitalism? Aren't they the ones making those crony deals over martini lunches? Certainly Democrats do this too, but Republicans en masse seem to be just as anti market in their actions, if not their rhetoric.

  7. I can't find fault in your argument, Clyde. And I think it boils down to moral cowardice. To speak plainly about what economic freedom is is to render yourself vulnerable to charges of promoting a worldview based on "selfishness" and "greed." And thereby squelch your chances at reelection.
    To boil it down even further, that is so because Americans have to a sadly large degree become afraid of their own freedom. Taking charge of one's own life looks like an overwhelming task to a lot of folks raised on bureaucracy and collectivism.

  8. From a worth-your-while article at Hot Air today

    Trump himself almost never talks about smaller government as a key goal, though, with good reason: There’s increasingly little evidence that voters, including and especially his own base, are concerned about that in any meaningful sense. Go back to this poll from last week. When asked, 62 percent of Americans said it should be a federal responsibility to make sure that everyone has health coverage. Fully 64 percent oppose reducing federal funding for Medicaid.

  9. I am going with Clyde today. Health care is for me a complicated issue, there are so many in the industry just as dependant as the receivers of the care. Personally I assume the right of someone in eminent health danger to receive care. Economically it makes more sense to provide a level of care, not just for the injured but for the systems providers whom prosper.

  10. Health care and especially health care insurance are indeed complicated issues. So complicated that free market capitalism created the complications rather than obviating the need for any political solutions. Free market capitalism, eh? You got to go back to the days of house calls and barter to find out if it ever worked. Back to a time when most doctors were more like saints than free market capitalists. Certainly the nurses were and the early hospitals were almost all charity hospitals, Yep, that's how she rolled back in da day with the ole free market I got mine, you get yours ethos.

  11. It may be complicated, but it's not a right.

  12. No, it's the duty of those who but for the grace of God don't need it now. But never say never.