December 2, 2013

"Is there any evidence that more old people will make special contributions now lacking with an average life expectancy close to 80?"

"And exactly what are the potential social benefits?," writes Daniel Callahan in a NYT op-ed. He's 83 and consumed perhaps more than his proper share of health care resources when he had a 7-hour heart operation to save his life a few years ago.
I have often been struck, at funerals of the elderly, of the common phrase that while the deceased will be missed, he or she led a “full life.” Adding years to a life doesn’t necessarily make it any fuller.

We may properly hope that scientific advances help ensure, with ever greater reliability, that young people manage to become old people. We are not, however, obliged to help the old become indefinitely older. Indeed, our duty may be just the reverse: to let death have its day.
But no, no, no, there are no death panels. Just nudging, withholding, moralizing, disparaging.

What is the social benefit of these old people?

It used to be considered immoral to ask that question.

ADDED: Here's a NYT op-ed from August 2012 also stressing 80 years as the appropriate life-span:
I provided four possible answers [to the question how long would you like to live?]: 80 years, currently the average life span in the West; 120 years, close to the maximum anyone has lived; 150 years, which would require a biotech breakthrough; and forever, which rejects the idea that life span has to have any limit at all....

The results: some 60 percent opted for a life span of 80 years....
This one ends with a quote from Albert Einstein: "As he lay dying of an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 1955, he refused surgery, saying: 'It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.'"

117 comments:

St. George said...

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Jason said...

"Vat's… his… use?!?!?!?!"

MayBee said...

Why base it on age? Surely gangbangers,ne'er do wells, and single middle aged unemployed introverts aren't adding that much to society. Why should they get expensive life saving treatment.

lgv said...

Let the old people die, especially if they are rich. That way the government can get its "fair" share through the inheritance tax.

It's a government win-win. Less health care cost and faster revenue.

YoungHegelian said...

Sarah Palin & "Death Panels": "Caribou Barbie".

Catholic Church & "Culture of Death": "Can you believe they're still against gay marriage?"

Expect the pressure to grow as the baby-boomers get old & folks figure out just much it costs to keep such a huge cohort alive.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Justify your existence by your utility to other people.

This is where "positive" rights is bound to end up. If your existence entails a right to the labor and property of others, those others have a stake--and perhaps a veto--over your continuing existence.

Big Mike said...

Sarah Palin actually has pretty good foresight, hasn't she? The obvious conclusion was that healthcare rationing by age would be the ultimate goal of Obamacare. She saw it, I saw it, lots of people saw it.

Democrats and their boot-licking lackeys laughed at those of us who saw it. But we still have dollars we can send to candidates and we still can vote.

AJ Lynch said...

My father was sharp as a tack mentally until a week before he died at the age of 88 and 1/2.

Libruls, like this guy, seem to have very scary ideas. Maybe we should start eradicating libruls at a very young age.

jacksonjay said...

Those who are rich enough to pay a death tax can afford to extend their lives.

Tom said...

I'm valuable to me and I'd like to keep me around. That's not anyone else's responsibility but mine (unless that other person chooses to help).

YoungHegelian said...

What is the social benefit of these old people?

What's the social benefit of most people who've ever walked the face of the Earth?

The 20th century had multiple ideologies that had no problem sacrificing lives by the million for the future greater good. Why shouldn't the 21st century get its crack at murderous infamy, too?

Michael said...

There are many things that used to be "immoral." So many that it is now necessary to put quotes around a word which has lost all meaning.

sykes.1 said...

The people on welfare are another group that contributes nothing to society and are in fact a net drag on society. I suppose they would be good candidates for the soap factory.

allison said...

The Puritans venerated the old. The old must be holy; old age was a sign of being one of the Elect. Their value was their existence and wisdom.

One day shortly after 8 had my first child, I saw the value of life more keenly than before. My son a and I were walking around town. Strangers smiled at my baby, joyful. I let a little old lady hold him; I let a little girl hold him. He gave more joy to the world that day than I had given in my adult life. He had done nothing important, had no value or worth for his intellectual contributions. Yet there he was causing joy.

I was supposedly a Christian already but that day, God showed me what He meant about all human life having dignity and worth.

PB Reader said...

There is no morality among the democrat faithful. The ends justify the means.

Dale said...

Just another self righteous progressive now seeking to remove life as well as liberty, so that now it only reads "the pursuit of happiness".
As long as people like this idiot approve of even the definition of happiness. Question: why should anyone like this idiot get to impose his will on the rest of us?
Please. Go to hell. Keep your hands and opinions out of my life.

Bob Loblaw said...

So why doesn't this guy lead by example and take himself out of the gene pool?

Progressive ideas around population control are never practiced by their preachers.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

YoungHegelian said...

The 20th century had multiple ideologies that had no problem sacrificing lives by the million for the future greater good. Why shouldn't the 21st century get its crack at murderous infamy, too?

12/2/13, 12:00 PM

Socialism was the only ideology in the 20th century that led to the slaughter of 100s of millions of people.

And now more leftists are advocating the same. The old, sick, degenerate, politically unreliable have no value.

tim in vermont said...

Old people = useless eaters. Solution is obvious.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...



The Nazis used the term "useless eaters" to in part justify some extermination policies.

William said...

There was a time that age conferred wisdom. Not so much anymore. We get dumber as we get older. Can anyone here tell me who is the more talented singer: jayZ or Kanye West. Do you know or care about the significance of all those buttons on your computer? I'm out of it and have nothing useful to add to the discussion. I just hope my body can provide sufficient nourishment so that Lena Dunham will have the withal to produce another season of Girls.

Patrick said...

The writer does not make it clear why whatever standard he favors ought to be reserved for old people. Maybe he would favor having everyone appear before some panel once each year and justify their lives. If you can't, well then away with you.

It if funny what people will write without thinking very much, especially about life and death matters.

EDH said...

Fuck that, we should devote substantial resources to transferring the sentience of the old into the bodies of the young, like Chucky in "Child's Play".

Sorun said...

Wisdom from old people comes in their 50s & 60s. Beyond that, I'm not seeing some greater social benefit. Then they increasingly isolate themselves in their own old people communities.

I'm not in favor of death panels, but I see the author's point. If Obamacare causes rationing of medical care, the old folks are going to lose out.

pst314 said...

What is the social benefit of Daniel Callahan? Clearly he has outlived his usefulness--if indeed he ever was useful. Just an observation inspired by his wise words. :-)

YoungHegelian said...

Bill,

Socialism was the only ideology in the 20th century that led to the slaughter of 100s of millions of people.

Actually, the various Marxist ideologies killed, according to sources like "The Black Book of Communism", about 100m total, a figure which is on the high end for many scholars. The 20th century was a bloodbath, but not to the tune of multiple hundreds of millions.

I also consider the various forms of Marxism (e.g. Maoism, Bolshevism, the Khmer Rouge) & the various forms of fascism (Mussolinian "Fascism" proper) & German National Socialism as separate ideologies, each with its own death count. They are all very different from each other in their ideologies, and mushing them together doesn't help clarify anything.

Marshal said...

Big Mike said...
Democrats and their boot-licking lackeys laughed at those of us who saw it


They didn't just laugh. They attacked you and claimed you were a liar. And many still do.

Stanley Smith said...

Yo, Daniel. You first.

jacksonjay said...


I'm puzzled by the obsession with stem-cell research. I realize that after 5 years of Obama funding, with nary a single miracle, the great debate has gone silent. I realize that it was mostly about position posturing. I realize that it was mostly about abortion and not Christopher Reeve!

But if cures are truly the motivation, what sense does it make to cure diseases and then ration those cures and treatments? Will all of the new Medicaid "insured" be given expensive cures and treatments?

I, for one, prefer not to wear a diaper, again!

cubanbob said...

What is the social benefit of these old people?"

Does the left really want to go there? By that standard a large part of the left's constituency has no justification for existence either.

The Drill SGT said...

raise the retirement age

Bob Ellison said...

It's part of leftist philosophy. Life and ecology are zero-sum games. Entropy captures all. So old people who do not contribute as much as youngsters are a deadweight loss. Ditto for infants with Down Syndrome, rich people who consume lots of resources, cows (versus lettuce), etc.

jacksonjay said...


cubanbob sez:

"What is the social benefit of these old people?"

Does the left really want to go there? By that standard a large part of the left's constituency has no justification for existence either."

Not to mention all those creepy old Democrats in Congress!

Anthony said...

And here we used to think of Soylent Green as science 'fiction'. . . .

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

So who gets to decide everyone's proper share of health care resources for us, now that all resources are apparently to be pooled?

jimbino said...

Right. Death used to be a private matter for the family to deal with.

But now that the socialists are taxing all of us to prolong the lives of strangers and even bury their dead, we all have the right to know how much was paid, how long he suffered, his DNA profile, how many dependents he left behind and so on.

It's called progress!

John said...

In his book "Time Enough For Love" Robert Heinlein posits an overpopulated Earth. That was all the rage in the 60's. Remember Population Bomb?

In any event, to relieve overcrowding, the world govt decreed that all persons over 80 years old (IIRC) were legally dead.

They might still be walking around but their children inherited their assets, they were not eligible for any government services and so on.

Might this be the solution to making Obiecare, Medicare and SS work?

Except make it 70. Suck them dry while they are working then pfft! Suck them dead when they stop contributing (ie; Paying taxes) to society.

John Henry

Rusty said...

"Women and children to the left! Men to the right! March"

Carol said...

Another idiot who thinks that medicine always resorts to extreme procedures to keep every old person alive.

You go in with a broken hip and then catch pneumonia, they'll pull the plug on you right quick. Especially if your heirs are in ICU giving the thumbs down.

Lydia said...

What is the social benefit of these old people?
It used to be considered immoral to ask that question.


Weren't all such taboos tossed out some time ago? Like when Princeton put Peter Singer on its faculty in 1999. Which gave his infanticide ideas the Ivy imprimatur, which was then reinforced when Fordham had him speak in 2012.

And, of course, Katharine Hepburn beat them all to the punch in 1979 when she said on 60 Minutes "shoot 'em, shoot 'em" in reference to old people in rest homes.

johns said...

The Blue Model: guarantee the right to retire at 65, or 60, or 50 if you are "public safety." Then guarantee "access" to first-dollar health care cost. Then run out of money. Then look for ways to ration the money by deciding who is "socially useful."

Julie C said...

My mother who has advanced Alzheimer's stopped eating a few months ago (solid food). I was very firm with her doctor that I did not want a feeding tube. She was very supportive of my decision, and told me that she had a number of dementia patients whose relatives insisted on putting in feeding tubes.

On a micro level, I think it is smart for people to educate themselves on things like living wills, DNRs etc. And perhaps for dementia patients we come to an agreement that no extraordinary measures should be taken to extend life. That's different from lining them up and killing them however. The sad part is that some people will use the "no extraordinary measures" stuff to advocate the murder of helpless elderly.

Skeptical Voter said...

Bioethics is a difficult subject. You're messing about--literally--with life and death questions.

Mr. Callahan at age 83 gives himself an exemption with the thought that "if you weren't especially wise when you were younger, you won't get wise when you're older." And of course as the head of a bio ethics institute--from Yale no less, well Mr. Callahan is "wise". So "I'm all right Jack" and all that where Mr. Callahan is concerned.

But enough of romping and stomping on one self centered elitist moron.

Having just turned 70, I realize that I'm not getting out of here alive. I also realize that something's going to kill me someday, and I'm sorta curious about just what that might be. When it comes, I'll be faced with the choice that we all have (or at least hope that we remain sentient enough to have). The choice is what to do about it? Do you fight it with every health dollar that you can lay your hands on (or that the gubmint allows you) or do you let the disease run its course untreated? The conclusion is the same in either case--you wind up dead.

Now that is an ethical and moral choice--best made by the individual in question.

garage mahal said...

Sarah Palin actually has pretty good foresight, hasn't she

A NYT article is killing old people.... through ObamaCare?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

In his book "Time Enough For Love" Robert Heinlein posits an overpopulated Earth. That was all the rage in the 60's. Remember Population Bomb?

Hey, Isaac Asimov went that one better in Pebble in the Sky. His future Earth had forced euthanasia at 60. (Lest I be misunderstood, the book is largely an editorial against the idea.)

Antonio Stradivari made his last violin "d'anno 93," as he wrote it himself (a trifle shakily) on the label.

Oso Negro said...

YoungHegelian said...

The 20th century had multiple ideologies that had no problem sacrificing lives by the million for the future greater good. Why shouldn't the 21st century get its crack at murderous infamy, too?

The 21st Century is just getting warmed up, champ. Patience.

Scott M said...

It used to be considered immoral to ask that question.

It will be again when the Boomers see 80 coming up close.

MadisonMan said...

People don't like to talk about death, and that's the problem.

If you don't talk about death, you can't give clear instructions about your wishes, and the default now is to do everything possible, it seems. Perhaps in the future the default changes. As long as the individual can still control things if they choose, is the change in the default for people who do not change a bad thing?

Take control of your life and death should be the message. Don't let the Government decide for you.

Scott M said...

What is the social benefit of these old people?"

Does the left really want to go there?


Of course they do. Because next it will be, "What is the social benefit of the politically intransigent"? If they've already prepped the battlespace with other more prima facie groups (at least in their minds), making that leap won't be so broad.

Which, of course, begs the question; "What are the social benefits of broads?"

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

As for the recurring argument that we spend too much money on "end-of-life care," as evidenced by the fraction of total health care spending expended on the last X months of life, there's an easy fix, an obvious fix: Just stop trying to treat anyone who's seriously ill. The more you try to treat people who are at serious risk of death, the likelier it is that some of them will actually die during or immediately after your treatment, making that statistic worse.

Especially don't treat seriously ill or premature newborn infants. Not only are they expensive, but if you treat 'em at all, you're conceding that you think they're actually alive, thereby both raising your infant mortality stats and lowering your life expectancy stats. Much, much better to sweep them under the rug as "stillborn," the way other industrialized countries do.

Bob Ellison said...

Pay attention! This Callahan is talking about "the potential social benefits". He's 83 and a heart patient, so he's untouchable. Nixon went to China, etc.

Pay attention! This Callahan is talking about "social benefits". Not your benefits, not his, not your grandmother's or your child's. "Social benefits".

Socialism presumes that the community's total benefit outweighs that of the individual. So let's kill the old people and abort the unfit infants. Heck, let's shoot the homeless!

But first, let's shoot the people who have no empathy at all.

Mariposa said...

Why don't we just allot everyone 25 years of living on the dole after age 18. After your 25 years are up, if you can't support yourself, you're toast.

wildswan said...

Fun fact: Those cited by Daniel Callahan in that article, SJ Olshansky and James Vaupel are members of the American eugenics society, now known as the Society of Biodemography and Social Biology. Olshansky was its president 1999-2008. Vaupel is currently a director. And Daniel Callahan was a director. So this 'debate' is merely the debate as framed by eugenics society members.
How else could it be framed? Well, it isn't just age which ends contribution to society because there are many older people who are contributing to the next generation - baby-sitting, financial help etc. But what is a contribution? Is Jimmy Carter making a contribution? In my mind the very question - is this person worthwhile?- is wrong. Worthwhile to who? for what?

Birches said...

Wisdom from old people comes in their 50s & 60s. Beyond that, I'm not seeing some greater social benefit. Then they increasingly isolate themselves in their own old people communities.

My grandfather died at 96. He still mowed the lawn every week until he was 90. His last few years probably weren't the most lucid, but he was a happy, content, old man. He spent a lot of time with his children and grandchildren, because that's what's important to us. My children got to meet him and spend time with him. I can't attach a value to that. He died peacefully due to pneumonia; no hip replacement, no heart surgery. He did have a pacemaker installed in his 70s. Had it so long they had to go in a give him a new battery. Imagine if back then some one thought he was a hopeless case who was just sucking up resources? IT would have been a shame.

Peter said...

Well, yes, there have been at least a few old people who made significant contributions to music and literature very late in life.

But, but. But, why is it so much more acceptable to consider some arbitrary age as defining the limit of "life unworthy of life" than to consider social utility when rationing transplant organs or other inherently limited medical resources?

CWJ said...

Althouse wrote "It used to be considered immoral to ask that question."

Hence, no great need for Bioethics.

The very existence of Bioethics as a serious discipline shows that the game is lost.

I predicted two decades ago that the combined pressures of a fiscally collapsing welfare state and the aging baby boomers would lead to increased and convenient justifications of euthanasia.

Perhaps the C in CWJ stands for Cassandra.

Bob Boyd said...


"Is there any evidence that [insert individual or group identity here] will make special contributions now lacking"

the wolf said...

The results: some 60 percent opted for a life span of 80 years

How many of those people were 79?

Andy Freeman said...

> Bioethics is a difficult subject.

Not really. Pretty much every bioethicist spends much of his/her time developing arguments for evil.

Disagree? Their primary topic is "when can we kill people" and with two exceptions are always trying to move the line toward death. (The death penalty and war are the exceptions.)

Andy Freeman said...

Note that Dems have to be somewhat careful here, as a huge fraction of their donors are "seasoned citizens".

With Obamacare, we can make nuanced decisions - if you're still donating to DNS, you get to live. (That's one of the advantages of having all of the information in one place.)

Bob Ellison said...

No one person matters. The whole is the only thing that matters. Except that I am the only thing that matters.

I know most people who read this blog understand this (sorry, Professor; your readership skews sharply right and libertarian).

You've got to beat people over the head with the message. The poor people matter! The people at large matter! The living things matter! The Earth matters! The stars, the galaxy, the universe!

But lefties show that they matter more than anyone else.

Politics 101 says it's not about what "matters". Righties keep taking lefties at their words. Silly righties.

EDH said...

Mariposa is on to something.

Bob Ellison said...

Someone has to point out Logan's Run.

Steven said...

First, kill all the bioethicists. Then, when we've run out of the resources that's freed up, we can talk about which group of useless people to kill next.

Seeing Red said...

I don't know, all I know is that the grandkids love their grandma & love seeing her, does that count as "social benefit?"

Seeing Red said...

If 80 is the cut-off age, shouldn't we just put Hillary out to pasture?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Laying the groundwork for the pivot from "if you like the life you have now you can keep it" to "your life is substandard anyway".

Cedarford said...

YoungHegelian said...
What is the social benefit of these old people?

What's the social benefit of most people who've ever walked the face of the Earth?

The 20th century had multiple ideologies that had no problem sacrificing lives by the million for the future greater good. Why shouldn't the 21st century get its crack at murderous infamy, too?

===================
Sins of omission vs. commission. Back in the old Freedom-loving days, millions of people got tuberculosis and despite doctors telling them that if they could only leave Springfield, etc. and get to Arizona they would extend life! life! precious life! Problem was they had no money to relocate and the government had no obligation to spring half a million on medical care. So they died in cold dirty climates back East. Did society murder them bu not allocating resources for, life! life! the highest duty??
Similarly, the US government saw no obligation to put Americans on food rationing and spend billions transporting all extra food to save starving tens of millions Chinese and Indians facing famine. A sin of omission?

Somehow, omission has become comission in the eyes of Right to Life fanatics and of course many do gooders that say the US has a moral responsibility to feed, shelter, and stop the 3rd World from slaughtering each other and from persecuting women by denying them university seats and soccer balls.

Hegelian, like many, confuses deliberate slaughter by 20th century idelogies, often in wartime...with not putting the US (with it's unlimited money and resources??) on a life extension mission.

wildswan said...

Somewhere in Obamacare there already exist criteria for rationing medical care after 65. But I think that they will accent existing disparities. I think that if it seems likely you will live another 10 years you will be more likely to get the hip transplant. Likely mortality varies by race and within races by education. Existing medical inequities will be baked into the statistics by the existing situation when rationing begins. You used not to be covered but you were treated; now you will be covered but you won't be treated.

buwaya said...

As I get older I see some point in this argument.
The old idea of a mans (and this is a guy thing) honor was that a man is the sum of his obligations (Marcus Aurelius, etc.). A man with no obligations is expendable. A man who avoids obligations is dishonorable. A man who lives only for his own pleasure is degenerate.
There are old men who have something to live for, and there are some that don't.

TMink said...

When life is not a sacred gift from God, it is just a commodity. No?

Trey

Cedarford said...

Big Mike said...
Sarah Palin actually has pretty good foresight, hasn't she? The obvious conclusion was that healthcare rationing by age would be the ultimate goal of Obamacare. She saw it, I saw it, lots of people saw it.

===================
What they failed to see was America had a short term of artificial prosperity post WWII with us able to print as many dollars as we wanted for anyone clamoring about "Rights to welfare, Rights to unlimited health care paid for by someone else".
California was the 1st state to go bankrupt, but now the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has been audited and found to be 70 billion in debt and Illinois is 9 billion in arrears paying vendors...including for hospital medicines for indigent or "never had a job" thug patients...
Now the days of artificial prosperity are over and we are back to 19th Century Triage - effectively telling nonunionized tubecular coal miners that don't have money to live in Arizona, they are out of luck..

Bob Ellison said...

Cedarford, Dragon Naturally Speaking isn't good enough to turn your typing into real argument.

YoungHegelian said...

@Cedarford,

with not putting the US (with it's unlimited money and resources??) on a life extension mission.

Go fuck yourself, Cedarford. I know my history of 20th c. totalitarian regimes better than you ever will.

No one is talking about "right to life" or what the US should have done. What we are talking about here is mostly the deliberate murder of by mostly 3 regimes (Maoist China, the Soviet Union, & Khmer Rouge Cambodia of their own citizens through policies set at the top & the same policies renewed over and over again against push from the bottom. In peacetime. It was by no means "sins of omission".

The crimes of National Socialism may have occurred in war, but the laws of war do not cover the deliberate extermination of civilian ethnic groups you don't like simply because they are in your control. The Nazi policy of genocide was not an "omission". It was a policy set from the top.

You post was so fucking stupid, CF, I have to ask you: are you on a different medication? Are you drunk? To have someone explain the Holocaust, the Holomydor, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the Khmer Rouge as "sins of omission" whooped up by "Right to Life fanatics" raises your normally vile anti-Semitic blather to a whole new level of evil.

wildswan said...

"A man with no obligations is expendable."

As a Catholic I am totally opposed to this ideology. But I do think that that is the ideology that the utilitarian state will promote. Those who don't have children will not be supported by the children of those who did in place of their own parents. That won't happen.

RecChief said...

have to make those death panels acceptable now that we all know that Sara Palin was correct, and they are in Obamacare

buwaya said...

It is not Christian, it is ultimately pagan, like the European concept of honor.
Properly understood, Christianity demands an even greater suppression of the ego. If in old age we suffer in boredom and pointlessness then that is suffering for the sake of God and our souls.

Illuninati said...

YoungHegelian said...
Bill,

Socialism was the only ideology in the 20th century that led to the slaughter of 100s of millions of people.


"I also consider the various forms of Marxism (e.g. Maoism, Bolshevism, the Khmer Rouge) & the various forms of fascism (Mussolinian "Fascism" proper) & German National Socialism as separate ideologies, each with its own death count. They are all very different from each other in their ideologies, and mushing them together doesn't help clarify anything."

Interesting comment. Obviously there were differences between them since each group was led by a separate charismatic leader. Beyond that, I'm curious why you think it is beneficial to separate them out as different movements?

Let me offer a possible counter example to the mushed together argument. Maoism was funded and directed from Russia. Mao stamped his own evil image on the program but the basic ideology was already in place when Mao came along. Without the active support of the Soviet Communists Mao would probably have died in obscurity. How is it beneficial to view Maoism as an entirely different ideology from Bolshevism?

SOJO said...

My grandparents lived to a few years on either side of one hundred years old. They held the family together. They were love incarnate/saints. They were "productive" long past their retirement years, but theri *value* is precisely to teach people to "value" (i.e. LOVE) things that *the market* does not value. They are a buffer to the uglier aspects of society.

And anyone knows that once the parents go, the next generation freaks out a bit as they are next in line. They are a stabilizing influence... evidence of the long game rather than milking the short term highs and lows.

Carol said...

To think that some of my favorite people were over 80. I mean non-relatives. Old, vibrant and Fabulous. Is this disgust for the old prevalent with certain groups of people?

And I am not impressed with this particular oldster's self deprecation. It's an old shtick, as old as "we (you) are all to blame."

n.n said...

Interchangeable and disposable from conception to death.

n.n said...

The common characteristic of all human enterprises is misaligned development. The central feature of left-wing regimes, and any enterprise where leaders presume to act as gods, is the concentration and exacerbation of this fatal flaw.

mtrobertsattorney said...

The Nazis used the phrase "life unworthy of life."

Once this principle becomes acceptable among influential members of the verbal class, I don't see how it can be limited to old timers.

mtrobertsattorney said...

The Nazis used the phrase "life unworthy of life."

Once this principle becomes acceptable among influential members of the verbal class, I don't see how it can be limited to old timers.

Cedarford said...

Hegelian is apparantly unable to discern that government NOT spending money on lifesaving deemed lower priority than other societal needs (and this happens in ALL systems of rule) where people die of ommission, is not the same as the regimes he has worked himself into a holy lather about that killed folks by COMMISSION!

At one time, we could indulge in the Sarah Palin fantasy that we had unlimited money in America and affordable healthcare for all if only the dang gummint would keep it's nose out of it. Or it would mean rationing healthcare made us Nazis or Mao's Red Guard mowing down class enemies.
Idiot libertarians along with Tea Party dolts proclaiming that everyone would be on easy street with healthcare of only "Wise Market Forces" were allowed to give us the perfect product.

And Hegelian, fuck you right back for your High Dungeon and Total Moral Outrage comparing Western Democracies to Nazis for trying to keep a solvent, decent, viable society for all citizens even if that means limits on healthcare, subsidized student tuitions, The Dole.

The money isn't there. Not in Europe, not in the USA. The fantasy of goodies for everyone fueled by debt that never has to be paid has already collapsed parts of socialism in European debtor countries. With more triage in services to come.

We are just at the beginning of the tough choices that must be made...in welfare, free healthcare for illegals, saving by returning to the Draft, returing to trade tariffs, deciding if fixing structurally unsound bridges and dams has a higher priority than keeping granny with the mental function of a turnip alive for 5 more years with government money...

hombre said...

I've paid taxes for 50+ years and had a wall full of awards attesting to my contributions to my community. I will never get an equal return from the government. I've also raised three children who are productive, taxpaying citizens.

Why should my medical care be curtailed so the Democrats can buy the vote of some unproductive schmuck with government provided freebies?

See, it's not really about philosophy or bioethics. It's about what Democrats have become.

YoungHegelian said...

@Illuminati,

Maoism was funded and directed from Russia. Mao stamped his own evil image on the program but the basic ideology was already in place when Mao came along. Without the active support of the Soviet Communists Mao would probably have died in obscurity.

Actually, after WWII, the Soviets seemingly would have been happy to have the Kuomintang back in power, since they were, ostensibly at least, a socialist party. While the Soviets supported BOTH parties fighting the Japanese (as did the USA), they really only shifted to the Communists when it became clear that the Kuomintang could lose.

Maoism itself is very different from both classical Marxism & Bolshevism, especially in its place for the peasants in the revolutionary struggle & on the importance of a fully matured capitalist society as the precursor to communism. Mao, who had lots of peasants & no proletariat, thought that the peasants could be the agents of revolutionary socialism. Classical Marxism & Bolshevism thought not. Mao thought that it was possible to go from 3rd world rural to communism without capitalism; Marx thought not, and the Bolsheviks worried so much about it that Lenin came up with an ideological fake-out to cover it.

To us, this is inside baseball. To them, these distinctions were of major importance, and holding the wrong opinion at the wrong time was a death sentence.

At the personal level, Mao adored Stalin, but loathed Khrushchev, especially after K. denounced Stalin in 1957 at the 20th All-Party Congress. From there the Sino-Soviet split was born, a split every bit as nasty as that between NATO & Warsaw Pact.

As we've seen since, the histories of China & Russia have taken very different trajectories.

The Godfather said...

No one has any right to decide on the value of my life. Nor on the value of the life of any other human being.

If you are creating a system in which the Government is to make decisions about the value of my life, or your life, or any other person's life, then you are creating an evil system.

At the core, that's why socialized medicine (Brit-style) and Obamacare (US-style) are not just pragmatically bad (although they are that), they are evil.

I understand that, absent such programs, those with greater resources may be able to extend their lives more than those with lesser resources. If you want to contribute to the poor so that they can live longer, God bless you. But you have no business imposing a system that gives the government the power to decide whose life is worthwhile, and whose is not.

CWJ said...

I really appreciate the comments that others have posted demonstrating the value of the elderly to family, and other individuals, if not to society writ large.

That interactive value factors heavily as long as life, death, and how one dies remains a private decision. Not so much as such concerns are dragged into the public square where the utilitarian values of the bioethicist threaten to trump them.

For the statist, the private decision, and the family, are the natural obstacles to societal utopia; for unless derided, dismissed, or actively suppressed, they lie outside the state's control.

Illuninati said...


Young Hegelian said...

"...While the Soviets supported BOTH parties fighting the Japanese (as did the USA), they really only shifted to the Communists when it became clear that the Kuomintang could lose."

Thank-you for the response. You are probably correct that the Russians held back until they were sure that Mao could win. That only shows that they were somewhat pragmatic. Once they were convinced that Mao was their man they gave him the weapons and money he needed to win. Without that continued support over a prolonged time interval Mao would have gone nowhere.

"To us, this is inside baseball. To them, these distinctions were of major importance, and holding the wrong opinion at the wrong time was a death sentence."

You have nailed it here. Marxism in the different countries did show differences but they were variations on the same ideology or - "inside baseball" as you said. The point is that they were all playing baseball (Marxism) but with different coaches (Lenin, Stalin, Mao etc.) for the different teams. As an outsider I regard their game with revulsion and horror. You are correct that the number of civilians murdered by the Communists were about 100 million not hundreds of millions, but that does not lessen the horror of what those monsters did to their own countries. I doubt that there have ever been leaders of any country who have come even close to the crimes by the Marxists.

"At the personal level, Mao adored Stalin, but loathed Khrushchev, especially after K. denounced Stalin in 1957 at the 20th All-Party Congress. From there the Sino-Soviet split was born, a split every bit as nasty as that between NATO & Warsaw Pact."

I agree, Mao loved and emulated Stalin. So what is the advantage of separating Communism in Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba etc. since they were all totalitarian leftist atheist ideologies? I can see why leftists try to deny that every one of those evil men were spawned by an ideology which they themselves espouse at least for propaganda purposes. Their spiritual affinity with these murderers keeps coming leaking out. For example the left loves Che Guevara images. When Michael Moore the celebrated propagandist for the left wanted to document what he considered the ideal healthcare system, he went to a hard core communist country, Cuba, not to an Democratic country like Canada, England, or Germany. The stench of Marxism hangs heavy over the American left.





Cedarford said...

The Godfather said...
No one has any right to decide on the value of my life. Nor on the value of the life of any other human being.

===============
You are saying that as a philosophical absolute. Not in real world decision making where courts in wrongful death suits must legally assign a value to a lost life in dollars and cents - factoring in a multicity of "adders" and "subtractors".

Government and the private citizens that elect them assign values as well. Government will not raise taxes 1,000 an American household to feed and save the lives of starving Bengalis. We "assign a value" on them as lives less important than free spending power to have a pet, buy a new suit, and so on.
Companies and insurers work through the calcs of how many lives will be lost from construction or ongoing operations and decide of the project is of sufficient value to make the loss of life acceptable. In dollars and cents.

Healthcare costs and us being near bankrupt as a nation will force the same weighing of value of lives.

YoungHegelian said...

@Illuminati,

So what is the advantage of separating Communism in Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba etc. since they were all totalitarian leftist atheist ideologies?

Because if you want to understand a historical phenomena, you need above all to understand how they saw themselves. And the folks you listed saw themselves as very different from each other. Comrades in a common struggle, but very different.

The stench of Marxism hangs heavy over the American left.

No where near as stinky as post-Marxism does, however. Marxism, in the forms you mentioned, saw itself as a positivistic science, a good child of the Enlightenment. The modern left is all about reaction against the "hegemonic thinking" of the Enlightenment, and pillages from Marxism & previous left-wing thought what it thinks it can use, often in a self-contradictory jumble. We will see what history's judgement on it will be, but I doubt it will be kind.

Mitch H. said...

Actually, after WWII, the Soviets seemingly would have been happy to have the Kuomintang back in power, since they were, ostensibly at least, a socialist party. While the Soviets supported BOTH parties fighting the Japanese (as did the USA), they really only shifted to the Communists when it became clear that the Kuomintang could lose.

Do you have a book you'd recommend on this line of thought? I'm not very well-read on the subject, but the last Mao biography I read suggested that the Soviets didn't have any love left for the Kuomintang after the '27 purge, and that the detente of the war years was tactical, making diplomatic peace with their alliances with the Democratic West and the nominal "United Nations" front. That, and they were aware that the Kuomintang was riddled with sleeper agents and could be brought down whenever the actual Communists were ready.

Gahrie said...

Government will not raise taxes 1,000 an American household to feed and save the lives of starving Bengalis

It doesn't have to, because Americans are the most generous and chairitable people in history, and we are already donating millions of dollars a year to feed people all over this planet.

Americans value the lives of others more than any other people in history...which is why much of the rest of the world regards us as suckers.

Skeptical Voter said...

I rise to the defense of my comment that "bioethics is a difficult subject".

There are bioethics teams at most if not all major hospitals and health care institutions. One of their functions is the allocation of scarce resources--and one scarce resource is organs for transplants.

Three or four years ago an 18 year old girl was being treated at Ronald Reagan Hospital at UCLA. She was suffering from a variety of maladies each of which would most probably kill her in less than six months. She also had a failing liver and needed a liver transplant.

The docs at UCLA said that the liver transplant, under the circumstances, would involve an "experimental procedure". It would also cost $600,000.

Her insurance carrier refused to pay for an "experimental procedure".

There was also an ethical question (not that the insurance company worried about it--but the hospital did) as to whether one should transplant a healthy donor liver into a patient who was going to die anyway of other ailments within less than 6 months--or to give that liver transplant to a patient who was likely to live for many years afterwards. (The issue of allocation of a scarce resource.)

The young girl was an Armenian--an ethnic minority, but a minority that has a large amount of political influence in Los Angeles. So there was a great hullabaloo in the Armenian community, a prominent Armenian lawyer stepped forward and sued the hospital and the insurance company, and the Los Angeles Times devoted several front page articles to the girl's story.

The upshot? The insurance company agreed to pay for the operation; the hospital allocated a donor liver to the girl; and she died two weeks after the operation.

Somebody else--who was denied that scarce liver transplant probably died as well. (I've known of a case where a patient waited 6 years for a donor liver--he was fortunate to live that long before the transplant. Suitable donor organs don't come along all that often.)

So like our host the law professor, I've laid the facts of a situation before you.

Some issues arise: Was the insurance carrier right in refusing to pay for what the doctors characterized as an "experimental procedure" which would not lengthen the young lady's life span?

Was the hospital right in allocating a scarce liver to a patient who was going to die anyway within 6 months (and in fact lasted just two weeks after the operation)?

These are not easy choices. You can call them bioethics panels or "death panels" or any other name you choose. But they are involved in the question of who lives (at least for a little while longer) and who dies.

Gahrie said...

with government money...

FinallY!!!

Government got a job and started earning their own money!

Does that mean that will stop taking and spending mine?

Illuninati said...

YoungHegelian said:
"Because if you want to understand a historical phenomena, you need above all to understand how they saw themselves. And the folks you listed saw themselves as very different from each other. Comrades in a common struggle, but very different."

Rather than the self understanding of these monsters, I'm more interested in the factors in European society which spawned these monsters. There was a common intellectual decay which made it possible for apparently civilized countries to revert to total savagery (my apologies to savages around the world for insulting you). What made Germany ripe for Hitler? These sociopaths could not have gained power if the intellectual climate in Europe had not given them fertile soil for those noxious weeds to grow. That is where I see the common ground which supported all the murderous totalitarians of the 20th century.

" Marxism, in the forms you mentioned, saw itself as a positivistic science, a good child of the Enlightenment."

Excellent point. I believe the French version of the Enlightenment was fundamentally flawed and laid the foundation for these genocidal regimes. The first indication of trouble was in the French Revolution which degenerated into the reign of terror. As history has shown, that was only the beginning of woes. Perhaps we could go into the flaws in the Enlightenment some time. I'm interested in your opinions.

"The modern left is all about reaction against the "hegemonic thinking" of the Enlightenment, and pillages from Marxism & previous left-wing thought what it thinks it can use, often in a self-contradictory jumble. We will see what history's judgement on it will be, but I doubt it will be kind."

Well stated, provided there is anyone left to write history after this evil bunch is finished. If they succeed in destroying traditional Western civilization and replacing it with their own pagan ideology or with Islam, there may not be anyone left who is competent to write history.





Anglelyne said...

Andy Freeman to Skeptical Voter: "Bioethics is a difficult subject."

Not really. Pretty much every bioethicist spends much of his/her time developing arguments for evil.

Disagree? Their primary topic is "when can we kill people" and with two exceptions are always trying to move the line toward death. (The death penalty and war are the exceptions.)


No kidding. I'm still trying to figure out who the hell elected these "bioethicists" to be our official moral arbiters. It's one thing to understand that there must be hard decisions made about who gets limited medical resources, and debate the issue. It's quite another for the members of this conjured-up academic field to be poncing about as the authorities in courtrooms and hospitals, as if their robot utilitarianism had been declared the official national philosophy, to which all citizens must bow.

Anglelyne said...

Paul Zrimsek: Laying the groundwork for the pivot from "if you like the life you have now you can keep it" to "your life is substandard anyway".

Another masterful one-liner from Mr. Zrimsek. (Jus' sayin'. I am perennially impressed by this talent of yours.)

John Lynch said...

How about making sure young people contribute?

Paul said...

Nazi Germany killed off (as in murdered) the mentally insane, defective babies, old, Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone they deemed not perfect.

Many in the name of saving resources.

And that is where Obamacare starts. Killing off those that are not deemed worthy of life.

The Godfather said...

@cedarford, you miss my point. In the context of this discussion, when I say that nobody has the right to decide the value of my life (or yours, for that matter), I mean that nobody has the right to say, Buddy, you're old, you've made your contribution to the collective; time for you to go now. I think that should be clear to anyone who is not being intentionally obtuse.

This has nothing to do with whether some court will have to decide the value of my life if I'm killed through some tortious act and my estate brings suit against the tortfeasor. Neither does it have anything to do with how much money the US government may choose to allocate to disaster relief in Bengal or anywhere else. As for calculations about the value of a public works project v. the value of lives lost in carrying it out, nothing in such calculations excuses any failure to take due care to avoid such losses.

I take responsibility for own care. I don't ask you to pay for my medical care. I pay what I think is reasonable for health insurance, and I expect to get the kind of care that I pay for. No federal official should intrude and say I'm too old to get the care I paid for. But federalizing everything makes us all beggars to the state. If that's what YOU want, then defend your position.

MPH said...

Jacques Barzun was in his ninety's when he wrote "Dawn to Decadence."

RecChief said...

by the way, I shared this with my 94 yr old, New Deal Democrat, 82nd Airborne WWII veteran(4 combat jumps) grandfather who still makes furniture by hand even though he is confined to a wheelchair. His response was "why doesn't the fucking pansy die already then?"

David said...

Why limit the death solution to those with limited social utility to the aged? That constraint removed, the possibilities are endless.

readering said...

What's the proper perspective? For example, what's the benefit of foreigners? The life expectancy in much of the third world remains uncomfortably close to what it was a century ago (maybe lower where AIDS is rampant). In discussing where to put finite resources (which is what the economics of healthcare is about) why draw lines at national borders and economies? Yes, every life is unique and precious. But if one steps back, one's perspective on relative privation and injustice perhaps changes. Perspective is not just "left-right".

Another interesting example is the recent reporting on how the attitudes of doctors towards end-of-life decisions for themselves are statistically different from the attitudes in the population at large.

Skeptical Voter said...

Anglelyne; it is not "dreaming up a case for evil" when a bioethics committee sits down to decide which of two or more needy patients gets one donor liver. It can only go to one of them. One patient will live--and one or more other patients may die.

Put that decision on your desk tomorrow morning--and then come back and tell me that bioethics is not hard.

Now I suppose we could have the relatives of the patients engage in gladiatorial combat to make the decision--"only the patient with strong relatives skilled in hand to hand combat survives".

But the point is that there are decisions and choices that must be made. And like many of life's questions, it's not always clear what the correct answer is. But somebody has to make the choice.

And if I can't make the decision myself, I for one would rather have a group of medical professionals making the choice instead of some GS-13 in HHS with a degree in gender studies.

Carl said...

The author is 83. He has an 8% chance of dying this year, and the probability that he lives another 5 years is only a bit over 50/50. So the odds that he himself can benefit from any wonderful longevity R&D is pretty close to zero. It would have to simply explode from unknown to $19.99 at Sav-On pharmacy on sale in the next few years. Nothing happens that fast.

So he can be pretty philosophical about the prospect -- it can have no effect on his life.

In fact, one might wonder whether there isn't even a touch of envy driving what he writes. Imagine how...cheated...he would feel if he knew, for sure certain, that a weird process in a Novartis lab right now would extend life expectancy to 200 years, as soon as it goes on sale in 2028, which is to say about 5-8 years after his own death.

Maybe as he stands in the shadow of death, his hope and the inspiration for his article is that at least no one will live longer than him. Not a pretty thought for a soi-disant ethicist, but then you probably have to be utterly incapable of seeing any beams in your own eye to make a career out of discussing specks in the eyes of others.

MayBee said...

Anglelyne said-
Paul Zrimsek: Laying the groundwork for the pivot from "if you like the life you have now you can keep it" to "your life is substandard anyway".

Another masterful one-liner from Mr. Zrimsek. (Jus' sayin'. I am perennially impressed by this talent of yours.)
-------

I am a fan of his as well.

Moneyrunner said...

Remember how Sarah Palin was ridiculed when she said that ObamaCare would have to have Death Panels? Palin was so insightful about many things, but the consensus among the chattering classes is still that she's dumb. Here's the reality: Palin is as smart as Obama's idolaters believe he is and Obama's as dumb as Palin haters believe she is.

Larry Nelson said...

Paul Zrimsek: Laying the groundwork for the pivot from "if you like the life you have now you can keep it" to "your life is substandard anyway".

Bingo!


MaxTruth said...

What about children born with serious problems that 20 years ago wouldn't have made it through birth? How much more does it cost to keep them alive?

And do their offspring also cost more healthcare dollars than the offspring of healthy babies?

This is a slippery slope. Government policy, if there is one, must treat everyone equally: either all people should get the healthcare care they need to live or none should.

gerry said...

Maoist China, the Soviet Union, & Khmer Rouge Cambodia

Don't forget Ho Chi Minh, who murdered 500,000 Vietnamese to gain and hold power in Vietnam.

ken in sc said...

At one time we had a system for establishing the monetary value of human beings. There was a public market for that down in Charleston, near the Customs House, prior to 1865.

Anglelyne said...

Skeptical Voter: Anglelyne; it is not "dreaming up a case for evil" when a bioethics committee sits down to decide which of two or more needy patients gets one donor liver. It can only go to one of them. One patient will live--and one or more other patients may die.

It's irritating when people argue by repeating a point one has explicitly mentioned and acknowledged. As well as misattributing a quote.

There's tough choices about limited medical resources, and then there's professional "bioethics", which sees its writ as much larger than trying to decide the just distribution of livers, and which tends to advance a highly problematic, all-devouring utilitarian ethos.

Tough choices about limited resources are the human condition. Now people get degrees in "bioethics". Have you ever sat down and thought about what that's all about, and what exactly makes people so trained qualified to make decisions about livers, let alone dictate the answers to much larger questions? I assumed Andy made his remark because he has thought about these things; your responses suggest you haven't.

Andy Freeman said...

> There are bioethics teams at most if not all major hospitals and health care institutions. One of their functions is the allocation of scarce resources--and one scarce resource is organs for transplants.

Not so fast.

The vast majority of those bioethics teams vehemently lobby against policies that would make more organs available.

I refer, of course, to paying the estates (or the donor, in the relevant cases). (There are others, but that's a pretty big one.)

Yes, someone has to make a tough decision, but there's no evidence that "bioethicists" make those decisions better than anyone else.

They do like playing God, and the "look at the tough decisions they have to make" sympathy is icing.

But, back to the point. When we look at the policies that bioethicists push, it's pretty much a horrorshow.

Eric said...

The vast majority of those bioethics teams vehemently lobby against policies that would make more organs available.

I refer, of course, to paying the estates (or the donor, in the relevant cases). (There are others, but that's a pretty big one.)


This. Thousands die every year for want of kidneys which would have been available if there were a market.