Thursday, October 17, 2013

Zero-sum Thinking

I have to admit that I've been a little mystified by the vehemence of the Right Wing, and especially the so-called Tea Party, in its opposition to health care reform.

Concerns over cost or possible negative impacts on the job market just didn't seem to justify the attitude especially considering there is little or no evidence to indicate any significant concern is warranted.

However, I just read a paper by Lawrence Rosenthal, the Executive Directer or the Center for Right Wing Studies at Berkeley (they have a center for right wing studies at Berkeley? WTF?).

According to Rosenthal the fundamental world view of Conservatives is that everything is a Zero-sum game. If someone benefits, then someone has to lose in amounts equal to the benefit. Even if the losses aren't immediately obvious, they have to be there somewhere.

So if millions of people benefit from getting access to health insurance, people who already have health insurance, in other words the Tea Party supporters, have to lose either by paying more or losing benefits.

The same logic applies to Gay Marriage. If Gays gain, then non-Gays must lose. I even did a post a while back about a list that someone put together on how Gay Marriage hurts heterosexual marriage. Many of the items had such a minuscule potential affect that they struck me as absurd. But in a zero-sum game, there HAS to be losses even if the only ones you can find are at the "no one would ever notice level."

Rosenthal points out that even liberty and freedom are viewed as zero-sum. If blacks get the right to sit at a lunch counter then the lunch counter proprietor loses the right to serve only those he chooses; if a Gay Couple gets the right to order wedding flowers at any store open to the public, then the store proprietor loses the right to choose who he will sell flowers to.

The problem of course is that liberty and freedom are NOT zero-sum. The merchant's loses are negligible compared to the gains of the minority. As a matter of fact, one could argue that the merchant, by being forced to act like an ethical human being, actually gains more.

So what about health care? Again it's not a zero-sum game. Are some of us going to spend more for health insurance? Probably, but ultimately everyone benefits from a healthier population especially the millions that have no access to health care now. I think it's reasonable to expect a net benefit across all of society.

But, I'm willing to discuss and analyze that question. Rather than ASSUME zero-sum or non-zero-sum let's talk about it based upon the facts and evidence that we have and, as necessary, make adjustments to insure that in the final analysis it's NOT zero-sum.

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