Make Government Irrelevant Again

leviathan

My core political beliefs can’t be stated any more succinctly than they’re stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

We’re born free—equally free, all of us, with rights that cannot be taken away from us by any earthly power. And the fundamental of purpose of government is to preserve those rights for us, using powers we grant it freely for that very particular purpose.

That’s it.

Unfortunately, the governments of that family of nations we refer to as “the western democracies” have grown so big and pervasive, and have insinuated themselves so deeply into our private affairs, that big chunks of our population seem to have gotten comfortable with having their own lives circumscribed by the will of the government, rather than the other way around.

So it’s very encouraging to stumble over something like this:

Zogby: US overwhelmingly wants less federal meddling
Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, January 7

The “Zogby” in the headline is Democratic pollster John Zogby. Apparently he’s got a podcast on which he discusses current events (through the lens of his firm’s research) with his son Jeremy.

The finding that the “US overwhelmingly wants less federal meddling” isn’t the kind of thing one expects to hear from a Democratic pollster. In fact, although the elder Zogby doesn’t dispute the findings introduced by his son—which we’ll get to in a moment—he states very explicitly that he personally disagrees with the majority opinion. He says it’s “about 180 degrees different from mine.”

The full podcast is embedded within the Examiner article I linked above: the relevant exchange begins at the 22-minute mark. I’ll go with Bedard’s paraphrasing to save us all some time:

The question was: “Should the Constitution be interpreted strictly to ensure checks and balances are maintained or loosely to expand the federal government’s role in solving problems?” Jeremy Zogby said, “I think that captures the historical debate going back to Jefferson and Hamilton.”

The results were stunning (…) According to Jeremy, 60% chose a strict following of the Constitution versus just 21% who want more government intervention.

Stunning is right.

The elder Zogby points out that because his firm polls more Democrats than Republicans, the one-sidedness of this result suggests that it’s independents driving the results.

It’s a weird thing to say.

If the majority of respondents were Democrats and only 21% of respondents favored big government, how can you say it’s those damned independents skewing the result?

(Silly question, I know. He’s a Democratic pollster. What else can he say?)

Personally I’d prefer to see even more support for the strict Constitutional interpretation, but 60-21 is certainly much better than I would have predicted: it means that even if the 19% who were sitting on the fence suddenly went in for big government, there’d still be a 60-40 majority in favor of strict Constitutionalism.

The elder Zogby’s apparent assumption that Democrats just can’t be strict Constitutionalists strikes me as flawed: there’s no connection between the size and scope of government and the need to keep it within the constraints spelled out by its own charter. There are, after all, “big government” Republicans, so there are surely “Constitutionalist” Democrats.

In any case, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that whatever set of Americans is represented by Jeremy Zogby’s study still believe in keeping our oversized government in check.

It was all the more pleasant because that article came hard on the heels of the news that the Biden administration is urging that race and ethnicity be used as criteria when dispensing covid drugs and treatments:

Biden administration guidance prioritizes race in administering COVID drugs
Kyle Morris, YahooNews, Jan 9

Morris writes:

Guidance issued by the Biden administration states certain individuals may be considered “high risk” and more quickly qualify for monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals used to treat COVID-19 based on their “race or ethnicity.”

In a fact sheet issued for healthcare providers by the Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency approved emergency use authorizations of sotrovimab—a monoclonal antibody proven to be effective against the Omicron variant—only to patients considered “high risk.”

The guidance, updated in December 2021, says “medical conditions or factors” such as “race or ethnicity” have the potential to “place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19,” adding that the “authorization of sotrovimab under the EUA is not limited to” other factors outlined by the agency.

Older age, obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are among the multiple medical conditions and factors associated with what are considered “high risk” individuals by the FDA.

This is straight up, in-your-face racism. Before you accuse me of over-reacting, let me direct your attention to that “only” at the end of the second paragraph. These guidelines are saying only high risk individuals are approved for a potentially life-saving drug, and that “race or ethnicity” are among the “medical conditions” used to determine that risk.

Race is not a medical condition. Neither is ethnicity. The fact sheet in question offers a bulleted list a set of medical criteria that could qualify a citizen as “high risk,” then tacks on a note that “other medical conditions or factors (for example, race or ethnicity) may also place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.”

I’d like to see the numbers to back that up.

I’d also like to see how race is defined—also ethnicity. What is ethnicity, biologically speaking?

I’d like to see studies making all this plain, but I won’t. There’s not a single study in the world suggesting that skin color or ethnicity, considered separately from other variables, have any bearing on the virus.

And this is yet another example of why big government is so monstrous.

The connection may not be clear to the kids in the back row, so let’s walk it through for them.

Let’s imagine you live in a fairly populous neighborhood of maybe a few hundred people, most of whose faces are familiar to you. And let’s imagine you’ve been put in charge of handing out potentially life-saving medicine in that neighborhood. But there’s a hitch: there’s not enough to go around. Not everyone who needs it can have it, much less everyone who wants it.

What do you do? How do you decide who does and doesn’t get the medicine?

Assuming you’re not a total jerk, you’ll probably try to ensure that it goes to the people who need it most: in the case of covid, that would mean the very old, the very sick, the very obese. Those most likely to die from an infection.

Would it even occur to you to take skin color into consideration?

To tell your neigbors that all else being equal, you’d use skin color as a tie breaker? That, all else being equal, those of some undefined “ethnicities” would be prioritized above those of other “ethnicities?” Could you gather your neighbors around you and tell them to their faces that this was your plan?

Not likely, unless you’re an unusually honest racist or psychopath.

Now let’s imagine instead of it just being your neighborhood, you’re responsible for your whole little town.

Does that change anything? Probably not.

But the further up you go, the more distance that’s established between you as decision-maker and your fellow-citizens as the people who are going to bear the brunt of those decisions, the greater the likelihood you’re going to get abstract, callous, and stupid in your reasoning.

You know your neighbors and they know you, more or less. You see each other all the time: you’ve got to get along. You may not see the other people in your town as often as you see your immediate neighbors, but you live and shop among them, your kids go to the same schools, you bump into each other in the same restaurants, movie theatres, bowling alleys, churches, temples, and bordellos. Life could get pretty uncomfortable if they all felt you’d screwed them over. That’s probably also true, to a slightly lesser extent, at the county level. But keep going up the food chain—region, state, nation—and at some point you’re no longer dealing with actual human beings. You’re dealing with abstractions.

And you never have to look an abstraction in the eye.

That’s how big government screws things up. It puts too much distance between the idiots making decisions and the idiots living with their consequences.

Here’s the FDA’s bulleted list that I mentioned earlier—the list of conditions that put patients at “higher risk for progression to severe COVID-19”:

  • Older age (for example ≥65 years of age)
  • Obesity or being overweight (for example, adults with BMI >25 kg/m2, or if 12 to 17 years of age, have BMI ≥85th percentile for their age and gender based on CDC growth charts
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
  • Cardiovascular disease (including congenital heart disease) or hypertension
  • Chronic lung diseases (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma [moderate-to-severe], interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders (for example, cerebral palsy) or other conditions that confer medical complexity (for example, genetic or metabolic syndromes and severe congenital anomalies)
  • Having a medical-related technological dependence (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation [not related to COVID 19])

That’s a pretty specific list. It makes sense. They’re biological conditions.

And then they’re like, “Oh, and also? You can also use race or ethnicity as a qualifying condition.”

Because why?

You morons keep telling us to follow the science. Where’s the science here?

New York City actually got ahead of the FDA on this exciting new racism and launched their own racist criteria a couple of weeks ago (New York Post: “NYC will consider race when distributing life-saving COVID treatments“).

According to that article:

The city will “consider race and ethnicity when assessing individual risk,” reads the agency’s official guidance from Dec. 20, which adds that “longstanding systemic health and social inequities” can contribute to an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

The guidance applies to both the distribution of monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.

That’s not science. It’s racism.

When’s the last time a doctor or insurance company asked you whether you suffered from “systemic health and social inequities?” What are the biological symptoms? What medicine or treatment do you ordinarily prescribe for inequity?

I’ve got two healthy young men here in the waiting room: same age, height, weight, fitness level, IQ, education, salary, and hobbies. I’ve got their medical charts: same blood types, blood pressure, cholestorol levels, oxygen saturation, BMI, vaccination history, and everything. One is white, the other is black. Are you really such a racist you’re going to tell me one of them is eligible, and the other ineligible, for a potentially life-saving treatment because of the color of his skin?

Are you saying that people of some particular skin colors are all inherently sicker than people of other skin colors?

That some people are inherently medically healthier than others purely because of their race or ethnicity?

Are you saying certain skin colors are themselves a co-morbidity—an illness?

Is that your “anti-racism?”

Is that how it works?

Because it sure sounds likes regular old racism to me.

It’s an idea so noxious that only a too-large and too-powerful government would even think of it.

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