There are four, business- and finance-oriented, one-half hour programs each Saturday morning which I seldom miss. They are on the Fox New Channel, under the umbrella title of "The Price of Freedom," and each of the four has its regular host and guests. Guests and semi-regulars float from week to week among the four. Neil Cavuto, Fox's major business guru, supervisers all and has his own half-hour. While I am not a stock, bond, or fund trader, I look and listen with rapt attention because I learn so much about the state of the culture from these talking heads. In honor of Neil, I will call these programs the "Cavuto-Stat."
Here is a good illustration from this past Saturday, 10 March 2007.
All four programs devoted some of their time and expertise to deal with the issue of universal health coverage (a.k.a., "socialized medicine"), because some of the jillion presidential candidates are peddling this notion. Generally, the question they dealt with covered whether or not universal health coverage was good or bad for the economy and how the market would react to it, should it come to pass.
While I respect the expertise these experts have about stocks, bonds, funds, trading, investing, and market analysis, I am far from tendering respect for their philosophical principles and their abilities to think in principles. There is one exception, and I will get to him.
Except for that one expert, every man and woman dealt with "practical" aspects of the universal health care issue. Here are some samples:
- While it would be nice to have, it would bankrupt the economy.
- It would not bankrupt the economy, and we should have it given how many are not covered and how rich we are.
- It is not practical because the government does nothing right.
- Look at the military. If they can do that, they can run universal health care properly.
- If we quit spending wastefully such as with Iraq, we could easily afford it.
- No one should be without health coverage.
- Many opt out of buying health insurance because they are younger and ride the risks.
- As long as it is done capitalistically by government, it is ok.
- We need good government regulation to keep it honest and competitive.
- The market would not care.
- The market would care.
For three of the four programs, not one expert dealt with the issue in terms of fundamental principles. They seldom do that, anyway; all of these panelists would doubtless crow to the rooftops that they are capitalists, whether Democrat, Republican, or independent. They all speak as though we had a free market, fully capitalistic system now; some bemoan heartless redistibution of wealth in America. Some begrudgingly acknowledge that we have a little too much government meddling in business. Some of these people are very well known nationally and internationally, such as former GE CEO Jack Welch, Ben Stein, Steve Forbes, former actor Wayne Rogers, and heads of Wall Street firms.
Together, they make up a Cavuto-Stat, giving me a weekly analysis of the state of the culture. What they say are not exceptions to common cultural thought. They are main stream. That is why I will be writing about their opinings from time to time.
Some of these folks are leftish, others rightish, some Democrats, some Republicans, but all are pragmatists. That means they interpret truth and moral correctness by "what works." You do something; if it "worked," you know it was true and right. Thought is too subjective to be of value, and pragmatists hate dealing with thought and principles, which require a grasp of a firm reality. How things wash out is their only criterion of truth. Action is needed in life,not thought. You cannot project outcomes based on knowledge and conceptual thinking. You have to act, then look back and see if you got away with it (Oops, I meant "see if something worked"). An aspect of this viewpoint concerns acting on emotions: Do it if it feels right. If it works out to your satisfaction, it was the right thing to do.
What worries me is that this may seem "business as usual" in the lives of these experts because they have been so stuffed with pragmatism for so long, that it seems right, the only way to go, and is always "practical." Washington bureaucrats and politicians have simply been consumed with pragmatism as their way of life, and they look at everything through a pragmatism filer.
In fact, pragmatism fits the mental activity of non-conceptual animals. It is totally the inverse of the human mode of using the mind. And, the actual practical result of pragmatism is so much of our political, economic, social, and intellectual chaos in contemporary America. This is "practical"?
As I stated earlier in this article, there is one regular panelist who is head and shoulders above all the others. He comes on during the final program. His name is Jonathan Hoenig, and he heads a firm called The Capitalist Pig. Invariably, he always goes first for the principles involved in any issue and ties them to the practical analysis.
Regarding universal health coverage, he, and he alone, objected on moral grounds. He saw how such a scheme would violate rights of individuals, requiring money to be taken from them, to pay for the health care of others. This would be done by the government which is the sole legal repository of physical force. The government would force or use the threat of force, just as it does now in so many areas of our lives, to provide an excessively expensive, highly corrupt, and totally inefficient health system in practice.
The principle is that no one may benefit morally from such actions, which are same as thieves who take from some to provide for others. That is the crux of the entire issue. Nothing else can be said in terms of fundamentals.
His fellow panelists had real trouble wrapping their minds around what he said, although he spoke was in plain language and was crystal clear. The minds of the host and the other panelists simply do not work at this level or in this manner. They want "practical results," not a bunch of "theory." Not a one recognizes that a theory that is not practical, in objective, moral terms, is a flawed theory. The moral and the practical are one and the same, except in the cultural cesspool of today.
These same folks in all four programs have had similar "blurry" responses to eminent domain, the Dubai Ports fiasco, and almost every other issue. When they start seeing principles as practical, then I will know that we are on the way out of this cultural cesspool.