"Gunpowder Empire": Should We Generalize Mark Elvin's High-Level Equilibrium Trap?

A Man for All Seasons Trial 2 of 3 YouTube

Live from the Republicans' Self-Made Gehenna: Zack Beauchamp finds a Republican validator--one of those who has spent most of the past decade stridently arguing that ObamaCare will make America a worse place and needs to be repealed-and-replaced--in the midst of what appears to be a nervous breakdown:

Zack Beauchamp: A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die:

[Avik Roy:]

I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way.... The conservative movement is fundamentally broken. Trump is not a random act.... Goldwater... a historical disaster....

Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble... had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism--philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism....

None of us want to accept that opposition to civil rights is the legacy that we’ve inherited.... A lot of us on the right genuinely believed [that] wasn’t true... that conservatism... has been for some time much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

This, Roy believes, is where the conservative intellectual class went astray. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise. They told themselves, over and over again, that Goldwater’s victory was a triumph. But in reality, it created the conditions under which [a] Trump could thrive. Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism--labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists--succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.... I ask Roy how he feels about all of this personally. His answer is very sad:

When Marco [Rubio] lost, I went through the five stages of grief. It was tough. I had to spend some time thinking about what to do for the next several years of my life. I left a comforting and rewarding career as a biotech investor to do this kind of work. I did it because I felt it was important, and I care about the country. Maybe it’s cheesy to say that, but I really sincerely do. So then, okay, what do I do? Do I do the same things I’ve been doing for the last four years? To me, just to do that to collect a paycheck didn’t make a lot of sense....

For the entire history of modern conservatism, its ideals have been wedded to and marred by white supremacism. That’s Roy’s own diagnosis, and I think it’s correct. As a result, we have literally no experience in America of a politically viable conservative movement unmoored from white supremacy. I’ve read dozens of conservative intellectuals writing compellingly about non-racist conservative ideals.... But not one... has been able to explain what actual political constituency could bring about this pure conservatism in practice.... Maybe Roy and company will be able to solve this problem. I hope they do. America needs a viable, intellectually serious right-of-center party. Because we now know what the alternative looks like. It’s Donald Trump.

I must confess I have somewhat less sympathy for Avik than Zack does.

If you had been reading Avik Roy over the past six years, you would have "learned" a lot of false things about how the implementation of ObamaCare was going, about what other countries' health care systems were like, about the functioning of Medicaid, and even about whether former Texas Governor Rick Perry was sane.

A lot of his writings seemed, to me at least, primarily intended not to educate Roy's audience but rather to be attempts by him to make his bones with his political masters--political masters like Marco Rubio who is currently endorsing Donald Trump for President.

For example, briefly searching the archives:

  • Charles Gaba (2015): UPDATED: Avik Roy's latest is kind of embarrassing: "Roy... kept insisting that only 27% of those who had enrolled in private ACA exchange policies were newly insured. He based this claim on a study by the McKinsey Center.... I explained in vivid detail.... I stated that my own off-the-cuff guess was that it would turn out to be perhaps 50/50... half of the first-year ACA exchange enrollees would be newly-insured, the other half would be "switchers" such as my own family (we moved from an off-exchange BCBSMI policy to the closest on-exchange equivalent plan they offered). Roy actually had the chutzpah to accuse me of "cherry picking".... As it turned out... it was even higher than I had thought: A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 57% of ACA exchange-specific QHP enrollees were newly insured. A similar survey earlier this year by the Commonwealth Fund pegged it at 53% (lower percentage, but out of a higher raw number)..."

  • Ezra Klein (2013): The shocking truth about Obamacare’s rate shock: "The Affordable Care Act’s critics saw it differently. Avik Roy, a conservative health writer at Forbes, said Lee was being “misleading” and that “Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.” Obamacare, he said, would trigger “rate shock,” the jolt people feel when they see higher rates. That doesn’t sound like a home run at all.... Some people will find the new rules make insurance more expensive. That’s in part because their health insurance was made cheap by turning away sick people. The new rules also won’t allow for as much discrimination based on age or gender. The flip side of that, of course, is that many will suddenly find their health insurance is much cheaper, or they will find that, for the first time, they’re not turned away when they try to buy health insurance. That's why the law is expected to insure almost 25 million people in the first decade: It makes health insurance affordable and accessible to millions who couldn't get it before. To judge it from a baseline that leaves them out... and ignores the benefits to the poor, the sick, the old, and women--well, that is a bit shocking."

  • Don Taylor (2013): Switzerland and the squeaky wheel: "Aaron Carroll was pushing back on Avik Roy and Doug Holtz-Eakin invoking Switzerland as a model... by noting... that Switzerland is more regulated and controlled than is the ACA in many ways.... The news in Holtz-Eakin and Roy’s piece was and is primarily political, and doesn’t really have much to do with any facts or policy. They both (and many others) have overstated the case against the ACA for quite a while in my mind.... The main content of the piece was reform of Obamacare v. strident ideological language arguing against something without offering an alternative that has been the norm for most opponents of the law for the past 34 months. So, even though my first thought was “Switzerland! I thought you guys hated mandates” I am personally glad to welcome them down from the ledge..."

  • Harold Pollack (2011): Health outcomes, Medicaid, and welfare dependency: "I stand by what I wrote.... There is no evidence that Medicaid is causally harmful or worse than being uninsured. Certainly that assertion is not supported by the UVa study that Roy cites. He way over-interprets the findings. He never satisfactorily addresses the specific critiques.... As the guardian of an adult intellectually disabled man who is dually-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, I am well aware of Medicaid's shortcomings.... I've written many, many columns and op-eds about the need to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates (e.g. here and here and here and here) and the need to address Medicaid's other shortcomings. At the same time, I am grateful for what Medicaid has done to help my extended family under difficult circumstances. For all its shortcomings, Illinois Medicaid has paid huge amounts of money to finance my brother-in-law Vincent's essential care at the University of Chicago Medical Center to address some serious medical concerns.... There is one final point, which gets to a difference in mentality and, well, respect.... Consider his comment: "It's Medicaid, i.e. welfare dependency, that leads to family breakdown and social disrepair."... I'm not exactly sure what he means here. My in-laws cared for Vincent in their family home for almost 40 years, until the day his mother died. There was no family breakdown or social disrepair to fix, only the need to provide care for a complicated and tragic disability. If it weren't for Medicaid and accompanying programs, my in-laws might well have needed to institutionalize Vincent in a forbidding public institution..."

  • Matthew Yglesias(2011): Conservatives Whine About Unfairness Of Quoting Rick Perry Accurately: "Rick Perry holds a lot of extreme views about American public policy and constitutional law. I know that because I’ve read Rick Perry’s book, Fed Up, which about his extreme views about American public policy and constitutional law. My method for demonstrating that Rick Perry holds these extreme views about American public policy and constitutional law was to quote accurately from Rick Perry’s book. Avik Roy at National Review seems to like Rick Perry, and thus has penned a purported takedown piece of my series of accurate quotations of Rick Perry’s extreme views. The key to Roy’s method is to insinuate that it’s somehow unfair to quote Rick Perry’s views extreme views accurately. He prefers to quote other, less extreme things Perry said, and then ignore the most extreme claims..."

And I find myself reminded of Winston Churchill's late-1940 eulogy for Neville Chamberlain:

At the lychgate we may all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review. It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events.

In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.

What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the Fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged….

Herr Hitler protests with frantic words and gestures that he has only desired peace. What do these ravings and outpourings count before the silence of Neville Chamberlain’s tomb? Long, hard, and hazardous years lie before us, but at least we enter upon them united and with clean hearts….

He was, like his father and his brother Austen before him, a famous Member of the House of Commons, and we here assembled this morning, members of all parties, without a single exception, feel that we do ourselves and our country honour in saluting the memory...