No, Tyler Cowen

I just wanted to add one quick point to DougJ’s anger at Tyler Cowen’s pure, sociopathic callousness. Elias Isquith is right to say that the post demonstrates what we’ve been saying plainly for years, which is that conservatives and libertarians actually are opposed in principled to sick poor people going to doctors and getting healed. (Tyler Cowen can come right out and say it, and that’s just adult political discourse; if I accuse Tyler Cowen of it, Andrew Sullivan and the rest of the Very Serious People will spit out their gum.) But it also highlights just how stupid this kind of callousness can make you. Says Cowen, “the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status — which lengthen their lives and which the poor enjoy to a much lesser degree.”

Most importantly status?

Let that roll around in your brain for a little while. Let it seep in. The most important good that the rich enjoy over the poor, in Tyler Cowen’s world, is status. What an ugly, privileged, ignorant, myopic, empirically invalid thing to say. He might as well have said “I am wealthy and have lost all ability to make discriminating observations about social class.”

I really wish Tyler Cowen would walk down to one of the poorer neighborhoods in DC and tell some desperately poor child, “You know, kid, you think you envy me because of my physical safety and security, the fact that I eat enough every day, that I don’t fear eviction, that I can go to the doctor or get medicine when sick, that I got an education, and that I enjoy material comforts and privileges that are beyond the imagination of most of the world’s people. But, honestly, it’s because I’ve just got so much more status than you do. Now stop cluttering the streets.”

In before Beltway progressives pronounce Cowen “one of the good ones.”






50 replies
  1. 1
    Felinious Wench says:

    At least one of them had the balls to finally say what the rest are thinking: if they can’t afford health care, let them die.

  2. 2
    Turgidson says:

    Dear Writer at Balloon-Juice:

    Your application for a Moore Award has been received and will be processed shortly. We will inform you of our decision within the next 3 business days.

    Sincerely,

    One of Sullivan’s Intern Grunts

  3. 3
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Tyler Cowen, the OTB guys are like not so famous Bobos, their reasonableness is just a schtick, they are as wingnutty and in the bag for the Republican party as the frothing at the mouth wingnuts on Fox.

  4. 4
    Brachiator says:

    Let that roll around in your brain for a little while. Let it seep in. The most important good that the rich enjoy over the poor, in Tyler Cowen’s world, is status. What an ugly, privileged, ignorant, myopic, empirically invalid thing to say.

    Yep.

    Not much more to add. You have rightly focused on the most vile, and phoney, part of this nonsense.

  5. 5
    joes527 says:

    @Felinious Wench: As long as it is market forces and not some “panel” that is killing people, who could object?

  6. 6
    burnspbesq says:

    When you throw around the words “empirically invalid,” you had better bloody well bring your evidence, or you’re no better than Cowen.

  7. 7
    c u n d gulag says:

    Jeez! Status?

    THAT’S what gets them better, safer cars?

    That’s what let them eat healthier diets, with organic meats, cheese, fruits, veggies, and legumes, and not carb-slop with garbage protein mixed-in just to fill a belly.

    And it’s status that gets them better health care.

    And all along, I thought it was MONEY!

    I wonder how much “status” costs?

    Of course, by asking, I’ve already demonstrated that I can’t afford it.

  8. 8
    Rosalita says:

    What’s galling me too is the discussion everywhere focusing totally on the very rich and the very poor. We can barely fathom how deep those disparities are and it’s maddening. But there are a lot of MIDDLE CLASS people who have been laid off or whatever and can barely afford insurance, if at all, because it’s so damned expensive and they can’t even get a doctor’s appt without it–for themselves or their kids.

    /end rant

  9. 9
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Rosalita: If they have their way there will be no middle class.

  10. 10
    cervantes says:

    By the way, the issue is not even poor people. Lots of poor people actually have health insurance — if they are children, over 65, or disabled. Most of the people who don’t have health insurance are working people whose jobs don’t come with insurance, or affordable insurance, including self-employed people like shop owners. And even relatively affluent people can’t afford health insurance if they happen to be sick already, because insurers won’t sell it too them. And having a health problem restricts your ability to work and make money. And that is a misfortune which can and does happen to people who are relatively well to do, who end up broke and without health care purely because they got sick.

    In other words, this doesn’t even have to do with social class or lazy shiftless po’ folks — too a large extent, it’s just a random harvest. Guess what? It could even happen to Tyler Cowen.

  11. 11
    Elizabelle says:

    Freddie:

    Tyler might not say that to an 8-year old child.

    But perhaps to a 19-year old. And anyone older.

  12. 12
    Elizabelle says:

    bumpersticker:

    Save the middle class. Vote Obama and Democrats.

  13. 13
    Linda Featheringill says:

    In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, status is only needed after one’s physical needs are met, including security in its various forms.

    If Tyler Cowen is physically secure, and he probably is, his need for status might be most pressing for him at this moment.

    However, what is true for him personally is not necessarily true for society at large. He is wrong.

  14. 14
    MattF says:

    You see, there’s a theory at stake here. If your preferences (e.g., Status: Good!, Health: Good!, Communal: Bad!) don’t have a payoff, then there’s no reason to prefer them.

  15. 15
    Rosalita says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: yeah, that too

  16. 16
    patrick II says:

    The “let them die” idea is not news to the republican elite. They try to cover up the consequences of their policies with “they can get help at the emergency room” or they were responsible (usually through fornication) for their own health in the first place. The right wing media, assisted by the ever solicitous msm, went nuts when Alan Grayson pointed out the consequences of their policy in congress. They want to rationalize the deadly outcome of their policy because abstraction is their friend.

    Clearly stating their willingness to let people die is a mistake. I frankly do not understand why there are not some dead insurance executives already. If my wife or child had been paying insurance, became ill, and then found to have some “pre-condition” that allowed the insurance company to dodge paying for treatment, causing my relative to die, there would be more than one death. I don’t mean to sound crazy, but killing someone for profit is more reprehensible than for revenge.

  17. 17
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Hey, Corey, come defend Cowen over this one.

  18. 18
    Nylund says:

    The thing is, disease and sickness don’t care about people’s income. And, as much as the well-off are separated from the poor in many aspects of life, they do rely quite a bit on the poor, be it their maids, gardeners, nannies, etc. or in Tyler’s case, to cook and serve some food at some cool little taco shack he loves.

    You think as an economist, he’d understand the concept of externalities and that a whole bunch more poor people forgoing medical treatment may actually effect him and his family as they each interact with such people in their day-to-day lives.

  19. 19
    Jeff Fecke says:

    We need to accept that sometimes the poor will rise up and kill rich people just because they’re rich.

    I mean, sure, that would be an evil thing to say, but I’m not sure how it differs from what Cowen said.

  20. 20

    A Thought Experiment: Imagine that some mob of poor people decides to flay the flesh from Tyler Cowen’s body with bits of stone, old tools, and broken glass.

    Now imagine the gruesome sight of Tyler Cowen as he spends the last few minutes of his miserable, craven, and truly unproductive existence begging for his life.

    Do we just look on and say to ourselves “We just need to accept the principle that rich people will die because they are rich”? It was his Status that got him killed, after all.

    Somehow, I think he’d say “NO”.

    ETA: Jeff Fecke @#19 beat me to it. But you get the gist.

  21. 21

    @Rosalita:

    Just a couple of days ago I saw someone arguing against health-care reform by challenging someone to look an unemployed middle-class person in the eye and tell them they’re going to be forced to pay for poor people’s health care. The idea that the unemployed person might also, personally, need health care never came up.

  22. 22
    Corey says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): OK, I think Freddie is being hysterical and that the basic sentiment expressed by Cowen is true. We have limited resources and healthcare, just like every single other thing ever, has declining marginal utility.

    If you, or Freddie, actually bothered to click through and read the entire thing DougJ posted, you’d see that Cowen’s literal next point endorses universal basic coverage.

    But if you did that, you wouldn’t get to rage at the dreaded libertarians or their neoliberal Beltway toadies like Yglesias and Klein. Which would kind of defeat the real purpose of this entire line of posts.

  23. 23

    @patrick II: I have seen people honestly, without irony, arguing that poor people don’t need dental insurance because they ought to “try brushing their teeth once in a while”.

  24. 24
    smintheus says:

    The problem with Tyler Cowen, like a lot of glibertarians and wingnuts, is that he fancies himself a dictator who should be allowed to sort out the world.

  25. 25
    the Conster says:

    Has a libertarian ever made a coherent argument that didn’t assume their innate superiority over everyone else, and solved the free rider problem? Why would a discussion about providing health care be any different? It’s like asking a bird not to fly.

  26. 26
    eric says:

    @the Conster: pot smoking should be legal. that is the only one that comes to mind.

  27. 27
    the Conster says:

    @eric:

    Yet, they consistently make the argument that abortion shouldn’t be, or support politicians [[cough]]Ron Paul[[cough]] who would make it illegal. So fuck them and their pot.

  28. 28

    @the Conster:

    Has a libertarian ever made a coherent argument that didn’t assume their innate superiority over everyone else, and solved the free rider problem?

    No.

    And one of America’s greatest ironies is that (unless you count propaganda and polluting the culture as “productive” activities) most Libertarians are among the “free riders”.

  29. 29

    Elias Isquith is right to say that the post demonstrates what we’ve been saying plainly for years, which is that conservatives and libertarians actually are opposed in principled to sick poor people going to doctors and getting healed.

    More and more, I’m coming to believe that American conservatism is nothing more than socially accepted sadism. It isn’t like they’re even trying any longer–a lot of them, anyway–to justify making others suffer; they’re just gleefully wallowing in their sadism. They want people to hurt and fear and go hungry and even to die just so the people running the Republican Party can laugh at them and feel smug that they aren’t so unworthy as those losers they’re mocking. They’d beat old ladies to death, or club babies, or set puppies on fire for fun if they thought they could get away with it.

  30. 30
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Matt McIrvin: I have good dental insurance and I still had to pay almost a $1000 for a root canal and the subsequent cap. I don’t even know how much it would have cost if I didn’t have dental insurance.

  31. 31
    patrick II says:

    @Matt McIrvin:
    Some of those same people would argue against putting fluoride in water.

  32. 32
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Corey: I read Cowen’s entire article. Where does he endorse universal healthcare? Perhaps I missed it.

  33. 33
    Bullsmith says:

    So Corey is endorsing single payer, universal health care supported with tax dollars? Is he also, unlike the title of Cowan’s article, accepting that the American right, be it self-described as “libertarian” or “Republican” does not in any way endorse universal health care?

    Or is he just trying to explain away why he thinks poor people would be better off if they just focused on having shorter, happier lives. Perhaps some kind of permanent housing arrangement with a landowner who would provide food and shelter in return for custody of their offspring? Better for the poor in every way isn’t it?

  34. 34
    Ash Can says:

    @Corey: OK, Corey, I clicked all the way through to Tyler Cowen’s article and read it. And you know what? It’s horseshit.

    His advocacy of a bundle of basic universal services is expressed in all of two sentences, with no details or specifics. How this differs from the objective of ACA, when also distilled into two broad sentences, is unclear, unless you want to point to the link to the book that Cowen gives.

    As for his other points, leaving out the particular example given here, he does nothing but toss out platitudes and generalities. There are no viable specifics, only a series of vague/shallow/underdeveloped suggestions regarding what would be nice to have. Above all, there’s little to no fundamental difference, really, between his suggestions and what ACA actually does, or will do. That’s what really makes him look dumb.

    If my son had turned in an article like this for his 6th grade writing project this spring, he would have received a very good grade on it, because of its conciseness, clarity, and organization, and because the majority of the points presented in it are actually not unreasonable. However, the teachers he’ll have in high school in a few years aren’t going to be quite as sanguine. He’d have to do a much better job of supporting his points, beginning with explaining why they’re superior to the policy he’s taking issue with in the first place. In short, if Tyler Cowen is being paid for this drek, his real skill is obviously not in his ability to write or analyze, but in his ability to find employers who are complete, knuckle-dragging morons.

  35. 35
    Corey says:

    His advocacy of a bundle of basic universal services is expressed in all of two sentences, with no details or specifics. How this differs from the objective of ACA, when also distilled into two broad sentences, is unclear, unless you want to point to the link to the book that Cowen gives.

    Ah, so he says it, but he didn’t say it enough, so it doesn’t count. Rage on!

    (ps: if you actually read the guy regularly, you’d know that he supports the ACA or, at least, thinks it’s better than the status quo)

  36. 36
    Someguy says:

    It’s better that a hundred other people should suffer worse healthcare due to reallocation of resources, than even one poor person should die just because they couldn’t afford treatment. Cowen is a poor excuse for a human.

  37. 37
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Ash Can: Corey is Tyler’s pseudonym, I think

  38. 38
    Ash Can says:

    @Corey:

    you’d know that he supports the ACA or, at least, thinks it’s better than the status quo

    That’s great. Really. So why did he even bother writing this article in the first place? What’s his point?

  39. 39
    Chris Andersen says:

    It’s simple really. When you don’t have to fear starvation, eviction, death from trivial maladies, etc., the only thing *left* to fear is a loss of social status.

    There must be some kind of zero-sum element to fear: we all have a fixed amount of fear, but some of us have so many troubles that that fear is spread around to various elements. No one fear dominates our life, so no one fear controls us.

    But for those who are extremely well off, only one fear remains: loss of social status. And that fear consumes them.

  40. 40
    Chris Andersen says:

    @Horrendo Slapp (formerly Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):

    More and more, I’m coming to believe that American conservatism is nothing more than socially accepted sadism

    Nah. Sadism is deriving pleasure from the suffering of others. I don’t think they want to see people suffer.

    They just don’t care.

  41. 41
    Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937 says:

    the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status

    Davis Brooks agrees.

    Also -that’s exactly when I stopped reading his big flaming fecal filled post. The comments are almost as ridiculous. I hate libertarians. They’re so full of them selves.

  42. 42
    Ed Drone says:

    Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

    Ed

  43. 43
    Fax Paladin says:

    @Chris Andersen: Some of both, actually. I suspect there are more who don’t care, but the sadists are particularly active and therefore the ones who are running things.

    Judging by the Young Conservative types I met in college and the pattern I keep seeing repeated since then, I’ve come to think that they can’t feel like they’re WINNING! unless they can see the other guy suffering as deeply as possible.

  44. 44

    […] Freddie deBoer takes issue with another element of the infamous (at least for today) Tyler Cowen quote on letting poor folks die. After dropping the poor-people-need-to-die bomb, Cowen continues, “Some of you don’t like the sound of that, but we already let the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status — which lengthen their lives and which the poor enjoy to a much lesser degree.” Monsieur deBoer is not amused: […]

  45. 45
    Joel says:

    @Corey: If you had bothered to click through the links, you would have noticed:

    (h/t Yglesias)

    At the end of the Isquith piece.

  46. 46
    Robert Levine says:

    While I agree that Cowen’s post is morally problematic, the entire post is a far more nuanced look at the problem than is being portrayed here. I read it as being not much more than a recognition that being rich is a lot better than being poor.

    It’s not as if those kinds of inequalities wouldn’t continue to exist under ACA, after all – I have no doubt that the kind of care I get under my employer-provided insurance is better than would I would get if I were on Medicaid, for example. The fact is that health care has always been rationed in some way or another and likely always will be in some way or another. Such rationing is very likely going to favor those with more resources, knowledge, and connections.

  47. 47
    Primigenius says:

    In the words of Laugh-In, “sock it to them Freddie!” The privileged are so unaware they think they’ve already won game, set, and match. Nothing wrong with libertarians that a visit to the National Razor wouldn’t cure.

  48. 48
    Jay in Oregon says:

    Cowen says this: “Most cost-saving innovation should come through markets.” Hey, Cowen? The markets do practice “cost-saving innovation”.

    One famous example is called “taking money from people, then refusing to cover their treatment by ‘discovering’ they had a pre-existing condition.”
    Another popular example is “We’ll reject claims for no reason whatsoever, and the patient will just pay for it out-of-pocket because they don’t know any better.”

    “Market-based” solutions are responsible for the health care crisis.

  49. 49
    NobodySpecial says:

    I would love to know how getting the poor healthcare stops the rich from still hiring their own doctors to be on call ala Royal Pains.

    Of course, one balance involved here is that if the Libertarian actually had to make his perverted argument in front of said poor people, they would probably end up with free government healthcare until their execution, and Ol’ Tyler would have a REALLY shortened lifespan.

  50. 50

    […] some little danger in addressing this kind of “pure, sociopathic callousness,” as Freddie deBoer describes […]

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  1. […] some little danger in addressing this kind of “pure, sociopathic callousness,” as Freddie deBoer describes […]

  2. […] Freddie deBoer takes issue with another element of the infamous (at least for today) Tyler Cowen quote on letting poor folks die. After dropping the poor-people-need-to-die bomb, Cowen continues, “Some of you don’t like the sound of that, but we already let the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status — which lengthen their lives and which the poor enjoy to a much lesser degree.” Monsieur deBoer is not amused: […]

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