When you wish patients would die

I haven’t blogged in quite a while, and my husband was harassing me to post something new.  I’m currently in my third year of medical school rotating through various specialties in the hospital.  It’s not that I’m too busy to blog (though I’m quite busy between hospital scut work and studying), it’s just that this year feels like such a whirlwind of emotions sometimes that it’s hard to put them out into the blogosphere without feeling a little exposed.  But maybe those are the types of topics that make for the most interesting read.  So I give you a topic that reflects what was going through my mind a few days ago: when you wish patients would die.

Try not to read too much into that – I don’t want to harm or kill my patients.  But sometimes you see people who have been suffering for so long, that you wish for an end to their suffering.  Unfortunately for some people, the only end that would provide this is death.

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The Specter of Science as a Shield for a Cowardly Court

In the 2004-2005 edition of the Cato Supreme Court Review, James W. Ely Jr. took on the formidable task of evaluating the court’s opinions on some of the key cases involving property rights from the prior term.  In the context of his discussion of Lingle v. Chevron USA he notes Justice O’Connor’s assertion that the courts “‘are not well suited’ to scrutinize economic actions” to which he responds with an excellent question: “Why are courts somehow competent to enforce non-economic rights, which often turn upon value judgments, but not economic rights?”  The question is rhetorical with the obivous (and correct) implication that courts are perfectly competent to preside over questions relating to economic rights.  Still, the question itself got me to thinking, how could a committed Progressive attempt to defend the O’Connor view?  

One possibility that occurred to me is that you might find someone arguing that economic theory and calculation have become so complex that only an expert in the field can speak to economic concerns with any sort of legitimate authority.  Of course, if this were true (and in a sense, which I’ll explain promptly, I think it is), it still begs the question of why legislatures not populated by economists should be permitted to pass economic regulations.  I do think that modern mathematical economics and econometrics involve some very difficult concepts and techniques; however, the economic relations conceived by the founders and enshrined for protection in the Constitution have not changed over the years and remain as scrutable as they have ever been.  Derivatives contracts may require heavy number-crunching to determine the values involved, but they are still contracts and any judiciary worthy of the name ought to be able to speak to contractual obligations and priviledges.  I may be showing my Austrian colors here, but I feel that economists concerned with liberty have done the pursuit of that value a disservice by emphasizing mathematics as the fundamental tool of exploring economic theory as opposed to being an ancillary but invaluable aid to the explanation of insights gleaned primarily from mostly verbal logical deduction.  We all know what it is like to be forced to choose between two competing alternatives, and any position that gives cover to otherwise responsible individuals to deny that they understand that choice ought to be condemned.


Immigrants are Great, Foreigners (apparently) Suck

I had an interesting encounter over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I met a man who worked for a non-profit organization dedicated to the advocacy of equal rights for immigrants.  He was also an enthusastic supporter of Barack Obama.  I found the combination strange, so I asked him whether he felt Obama’s suggestions that NAFTA be renogitiated to conform to “fair trade” as opposed to “free trade” were inconsistent with his view that immigrants should receive better treatment.  We didn’t get to carry the conversation very far forward before we were dragged away to the food which is probably just as well, because he didn’t seem to respond to my question very well.  At first he seemed puzzled that anyone could see any relation between the two, and then began to argue that the two positions were entirely consistent since demanding that other countries match the United States’ labor and environmental standards would only improve the lot of everyone invovled. I did not expect to encounter such startling ignorance of economics in a Yale law grad, but there it was.

I don’t know why he worked to promote immigrants’ rights, but I assummed it was because he wished to ensure that everyone, and particularly the least-privileged among us, have the same opportunity to pursue happiness free from unwarranted obstructions.  Immigrants are often at a tremendous disadvantage relative to their native-born peers, so it seems reasonable that someone interested in equality before the law would see a chance to make a meaningful difference by focusing their attention on that group.  However, a genuine sense of compassion should extend equally to all men, both those resident in one’s home country and those residing elsewhere perhaps trying to join your community.  Artificially raising the costs associated with employing workers leads to higher unemployment relative to the status quo ante.  “Fair trade” is protectionism by any other name and ought to be roundly condemned by anyone seeking to improve the conditions of people living in regions without the wealth and resources to be able to afford to meet U.S. government standards (even if they happen to be living in the U.S.).

My encounter reminded me of what a truly incoherent political viewpoint American liberalism has become.