Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Left's "Unfair" Attack on Healthcare Industry

Recent healthcare legislation places numerous new restrictions on healthcare providers, essentially forcing them to act against their own best interests. The enslavement of professionals, who are directly responsible for improving human life, has been facilitated by Left’s countless accusations hurled against them. Insurance companies are routinely blamed for being “unfair” whenever they raise premiums or deny coverage. President Obama, gloating on the passage of the healthcare bill, victoriously declared:
“[Insurance companies] have to start playing by a new set of rules that treat everyone fairly and honestly. The days of the insurance industry running roughshod over the American people are over.”
Such accusations are directed indiscriminately towards the entire industry; allegedly, no insurance company has been competent enough to offer “fair” prices. This only makes one wonder why none of these self-declared pundits could open their own company that offers lower-priced insurance. The only logical answer could be that the market prices of insurance are, in fact, unbeatably low. Perhaps, the Left was never really concerned about high prices. Had it been, it would not have been furious at Whole Foods CEO’s proposal to remove already-in-place governmental restrictions that have been driving the costs up.

What is it, if not pricing, that Left is actually denouncing as “unfair”? The answer becomes clear when one observes that “unfairness” is always cited in the context of need. President Obama loves to narrate sob stories of people who had to suffer from illness because they were unable to afford insurance. The claim is that it is “unfair” for an insurance company to set prices that some people cannot pay – even if setting a lower price would result in losses. This suggests that the accusation for being “unfair” is actually a denunciation for making “profit”.

To accuse a healthcare provider for making profit is to denounce him for keeping the product of his own effort. It means to treat him as sacrificial slave, who has no right to exist for his own sake. This is exactly opposite to the founding principle of United States: an individual’s right to his own life. If Left presents its anti-life morality (of altruism) in its full naked obscenity, most Americans would reject it. This is why Left attempts to sneak-it-in by perverting the concept of “unfair”. But what is really unfair is preventing a healthcare provider from earning a living.

Watch out – the phrase “unfair price hike” is going to be heard more and more often as insurance companies will inevitably struggle to meet ends under the new restrictions. To defend against such attacks, one must begin by exposing the treachery involved in Left’s usage of the concept “unfair”. It is necessary to define one's terms clearly before one can challenge the healthcare legislation on moral grounds. Epistemology is the battleground for ethics (and, thus, for politics). Capitalism has eroded in America because the Left has been successful in keeping its terms vague.

Capitalism welcomes objectivity – more precise are its terms, the stronger its defense. This is because it is a system based on reality: in order to sustain his life, man must keep the product of his own effort. Capitalism has nothing to hide. Its enemies know this, which is why they attack the language (concepts) capitalism needs in order to defend itself. Any intellectual revolution that aims to redeem capitalism must begin by clearing the epistemological fog emitted by the Left. The ideal places to begin are college and university campuses, which have been the Left’s den-of-iniquity ever since the Progressive Era.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Objectivist Roundup

Objectivist Roundup is a weekly selection of posts from bloggers advocating Ayn Rand's philosophy. The posts cover all sorts of topics, such as education, career, practical ethics, politics, parenting, and even diet. Ayn Rand called Objectivism "a philosophy for living on earth," as opposed to the impossible-to-follow mystical or altruistic doctrines.

The latest edition of the Roundup is hosted by Kelly Elmore at "Reepicheep's Coracle." Many posts in this edition are, unsurprisingly, related to healthcare. (The Roundup also feature my previous blog post.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Does Katie Really Know Where Taiwan is?

A 23-month-old girl, Katie*, received a fair amount of publicity on the internet and news reports because of her “geography skills”. In a YouTube video which has now been viewed more than 4.5 million times, her parents ask her to locate on a map more than 40 different countries, one after another. Quickly and correctly, she is able to point those out. Katie has demonstrated this ability on talk shows with hosts Rachael Ray and Oprah Winfrey. She was acclaimed by the local media as a “child prodigy” and a “very talented” girl.

Katie’s ability is unusual given her very young age. Most two-year-olds are able to speak and use only a few simple words. How does Katie manage to locate so many different countries on a map? One clue is provided by her parents. When asked by Rachael Ray how they discovered her “skills”, her father explained: "Katie's uncle went to Taiwan when she was 16 months old, and she wanted to know where he went. So we found a map and pointed to Taiwan. The next time she saw the map, she pointed to Taiwan." Let us put this in Katie’s perspective. When her parents first showed her Taiwan on the map, Katie must have associated the sound “Tai-wan” with that particular shape located on the chart paper. Later, when she saw the map, she recalled the associated visual pattern and pointed at its location. In essence, her method was pattern recognition. It is by this process that Katie is able to locate all those countries.

It must be stressed that Katie is too young to grasp the concept ‘country’. She cannot even conceive of organized societies or large stretches of land, let alone their complicated international division. For her, the map is nothing more than a piece of paper, over which countries are nothing but colored shapes. They do not correspond to anything else in reality. If you doubt this, note an incident that happened during Rachael Ray’s show. After Katie was done showing her “skills”, Rachael, while announcing a reward, asked her: “How’d you like to go to Hawaii?” Of course, Katie had no clue what it means to “go to” a location on a piece of chart paper. It is not surprising that she proceeded to do the only thing she knew to do whenever she hears “Ha-wa-ii”: she pointed her finger at Hawaii’s location on the map. This leaves us no doubt that, although, some sounds and patterns are associated in her mind, they are completely disconnected from reality.

Such disconnect between “knowledge” and reality is actually very common; it could be found not only in kids, but also in adults. For example, for many people, “knowledge” consists of miracles and magicians presented in “holy scriptures”. These people evade the fact such “knowledge” contradicts with a rational view of reality based on the evidence of our senses. They are unable to distinguish between arbitrary assertions and verifiable truths. Epistemological disability of this magnitude results when one dogmatically adopts assertions without integrating them with the rest of one’s knowledge. The pedagogical method – commonly used in schools and colleges – that is responsible for such disintegration consists of demanding from students that they accept instructions on faith. It is the method by which Katie was “taught” about countries.

A proper method of learning about a country would be based on the hierarchical structure of concepts. Every country has an identity. To know about a particular country means knowing about some of its unique characteristics. These characteristics are not limited to shape and location, but also include historical and current events, natural and man-made structures, people, cultures, languages, climate etc. Let us take an example. Say, you are reading a detailed account of a historical battle that was spread across many different regions. Assume that the location and other geographical features of those regions played an important role in the battle. At this moment, if you take a look at that country’s map, it would hugely benefit you in pursuit of your knowledge. You will be able to easily associate progression of historical events with geography of the regions. The names of the regions will enable you to retain all their unique characteristics as one mental unit, just like names of people enable you to retain unique behavior or events associated with that person. In short, a proper method of learning about a geographical region begins by learning about its unique characteristics, and ends with retention of its name.

In case of Katie, I am not advocating that she should have been taught about Taiwan via history, but that a two-year-old is very immature to really understand where Taiwan is. Katie’s intelligence, by virtue of which she is able to remember so many countries, would only help her in future if she is taught by methods based on epistemology of a rational being, not of a parrot. Otherwise, she may remain vulnerable to any mystic who preaches that earth was created in seven days.

*I have replaced the actual name of the child with a fictional one

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Introducing Wit Lab

Welcome readers. I am excited to start my very first blog: Wit Lab*. In this post, I will briefly describe the scope of the blog and my purpose in starting it.

I intend to use Wit Lab for publishing my essays and commentary on scientific and social trends. My analysis will be from the perspective of Objectivism – the philosophy of 20th century novelist-thinker Ayn Rand. I must state, however, that I am not an authority on Objectivism. Ayn Rand’s ideas are so revolutionary that I still gain new insights whenever I re-read her works. I will write more on Objectivism and Ayn Rand in my future posts.

Most of my posts will be related to my non-academic interests. I will analyze contemporary or historical trends in physical sciences, education, culture and politics. On few occasions, I may write on more theoretical subjects, such as epistemology or philosophy of science. I may also post on my developing interest in history and economics. The subject on which I will not post is my academic field of study – Meteorology in which I obtained a Masters, and am now working for a Ph.D. – except in context of a wider cultural or political issue (such as “climate change”). This is because I plan to write blog posts at night, when I am “done with” my academic work. In case you are interested, check out my official website.

I have a three-fold purpose in starting this blog. First, I want to connect with people who share my fundamental values or my view of life. This does not mean that I would ignore anyone who does not agree with me on a given issue. On the contrary, I will be happy to hear your disagreements, provided you hold reason as an absolute. So, feel free to write your comments on my posts.

Second, I found that I have a lot more to say on many issues than I comfortably can over Facebook (forget about Twitter). The style of my blog posts is going to be short essays but a little more formal in style than most other blogs. I will still remain active on Facebook because I think it is useful to remain in touch with friends and have nice little arguments debates. So if you enjoy Wit Lab, I encourage you to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. You will win an early check-in if you mention that you found me through this blog.

Finally, the blog would let me nicely archive my posts so that I (and everyone else) can easily go back to old material. I will post 1-2 times per week in the beginning, but I may post more frequently as my writing skills improve.

Thank you for visiting Wit Lab!

*No, I didn’t steal the name from Wetlab – the bar at my university campus.