The Original Entitlement

Republican policy makers see “repeal-and-replace” of the affordable care act as a fundamental test of governance. It has nothing to do with health-care policy, or the rights of participants in a free-market economy.

If it did, they would be forced to recognize that the sick should have the right to change insurers when denied treatment. This is possible only if pre-existing conditions are disallowed as an exclusion for coverage – which means that everybody must have coverage, because otherwise the greedy would wait until they got sick to get insurance.

Against this reality, the Republicans raise the fantasy of “entitlement programs.” This was the specter raised by Salma Hayek in the early 1900’s: democratic governments would face popular pressure to allocate resources from the wealthy to the poor. When such programs were established, it would be impossible to get rid of them, because beneficiaries would only elect those that safe-guarded the program.

But let’s get real about this: the wealthy are beneficiaries of the original entitlement known as private property. This is a fiction established by legal writ and armed might that allows greedy people to allocate to themselves what was once held by the people. The oppressive machinery of the private property state was what destroyed native cultures during the colonial era.

To Republicans, would you surrender that protection? Is it fair that contract law allows insurers to bury exemptions from coverage in impenetrable legal and medical terminology? Is it fair that employers should enrich themselves while their workers surrender health to physical, mental and emotional stress? That is what the entitlement of private property allows: the transfer – without recourse – of energy and wealth to the greedy through a slow grinding down of people who are simply trying to take care of those they love.

Argue the merits of health-care policy. The moral purpose of an economy isn’t to make your donors rich. It’s to provide for the well-being of the people.

And put Hayek away. If you’re going to dismantle state programs, on principle you’ll have to accept that inevitably the peasants will march on your estates with torches and pitchforks, and the proper response of “government” will be to sell the popcorn.

Private Property as a Principle of Social Terrorism

James Radcliffe offers a UK perspective on Trump’s presidential candidacy. I offered this context.


There’s an aspect of the American political trajectory that is perhaps worth highlighting to those outside the country, because it is developing steam in other places.

Fundamentally, government is concerned with negotiating the rules that control the distribution of power in a society. For all of human history, it has been either at odds with or coopted by the concept of “private property,” which most often is allocated arbitrarily from the commons, and held by force even when mismanagement of resources leads to preventable social suffering.

What has happened in America is that, since the ’80s, the conservative branch of our political system has adopted an extremist view of this conflict supported by the economic proposition that the only legitimate means for redistributing power is the free market. That actual markets, with their privileged knowledge and contractual Arcana, are by no means “free” in the theoretical sense has not impeded the propagation of policies, laws and political planks that uphold this principle as the foremost goal of all governmental action.

They are blind to the contradictions of their program: the use of government to supplant government with the free market. Karl Rove, conservative talk radio, the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist are the political terrorists driving the implementation of this program. The consequence is that conservative candidates for president have become progressively less qualified to run the government. Their understanding of government has become atrophied because they actually question its legitimacy.

Trump is simply the inevitable consequence of this divorce from reality.