(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)
L: So, what's on your mind this week, Doug? The coup in Mali? The black comedy provided by the US election circus? The latest market-moving pronouncements of The Beard?
Doug: No, I've never been to Mali, and I prefer to comment based on firsthand experience, not just parsing what some journalist writing from New York puts in his article on the place.
L: I thought you had been… You should have gone with me.
Doug: Next time. And the election is too pathetic to comment on at this time – a pox on both their houses. Maybe after the GOP selects its candidate for Clown in Chief. And there's nothing new in Bernanke's blatherings. Though I do have to say that link you sent around, regarding this complete moron who is Argentina's central banker saying that printing money does not lead to inflation just goes to show what a disaster in the making Cristina is, and how hopeless the political situation in Argentina is. But I shouldn't be too hard on Argentina; every country in the world is headed in the wrong direction.
L: Isn't that a bit redundant, saying the central banker is a moron?
Doug: My apologies; you're quite right. As a class, central bankers are morons in $1,000 suits who've gone to prestigious universities and then play big shot at outrageously expensive international conferences. Cristina is completely off the deep end – it'll be interesting to see how this place evolves over the near term. The head of her central bank is only slightly better than Zimbabwe's Gideon Gono and only a bit worse than Bernanke, in terms of foolishness.
L: Since speculators like to take advantage of predictable trends, and nothing is more predictable than government stupidity, is this an Argentinean buying opportunity in the making?
Doug: Yes; I think the cost of living in this place is about to get much lower. But, notwithstanding the antics of Cristina, we've already talked about why I like Argentina so much. What I want to talk about today is the dangerous absurdity of so-called "bioethics." For years, every time I've read anything by a self-appointed bioethics pundit, it has made my skin crawl. Stupidity is bad enough, but aggressive, self-righteous, corrupt, and manifestly destructive stupidity just makes me want to scream.
L: Ah. You saw that pompous pile of buffalo chips in support of Obamacare?
Doug: Yes, and with The Supremes about to take up the constitutionality of that particularly counterproductive piece of legislation, it's worth calling attention to this particularly despicable cadre of self-proclaimed experts on ethical matters. But, as always, we should start with a definition.
L: Here's what Wikipedia says:
Bioethics is the study of controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Bioethicists are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, and philosophy. It also includes the study of the more commonplace questions of values ("the ethics of the ordinary") which arise in primary care and other branches of medicine.
Doug: It's all high-sounding hogwash. Bioethics is a phony science, recently concocted by busybodies working for pharmaceutical companies, governments, and medical institutions looking for excuses to justify what they have already decided to do. That's dangerous enough, but these are not just fools sowing confusion, they are mostly of a particular mindset – that is to say, they are a bunch of collectivists and statists – who pretend to be objective. Worse, they espouse policies with wide-reaching implications, almost universally wrong-headed and disastrous, which are a reeking part of the rotting fabric of what was once American society.
I don't know where they dig up these people – how can anyone be so corrupt, blind, and stupid at the same time, and still manage to tie his shoes in the morning? These people are like the TSA of the intellectual world. They are worse than useless; they are counterproductive, making people more confused on ethical matters, thereby making the world more dangerous. They hide under rocks and in sub-cellars in stable and happy times. But given an opening, they come out, and you have an infestation that's extremely hard to expunge. The kind of people who join the TSA are one species, but bioethicists are even worse.
L: I really wish you'd stop beating around the bush and let us know what you really think.
Doug: [Chuckles] I guess I'll never be a diplomat – partly because it's against my nature, and partly because I'd then have to associate with other diplomats. We're dealing with fundamental issues of good and evil here; I urge everyone to read my article on the ascendancy of sociopaths in US governance. Essentially, the powers of darkness have gotten the upper hand almost everywhere, and we're looking at a dystopian future, where 1984 might be used as an instructional manual.
But what really gets me about these bioethicists is that they are not technical experts contributing to debates among scientists – they're just a bunch of busybodies who want to tell everyone else what to do, based on their own opinions of morality and notions of political correctness. This is especially dangerous, because people make decisions and act based on their ideas of what is right and wrong – on moral grounds. By setting themselves up as the great determiners of what is ethically correct, these supposed experts become a sort of new secular priesthood to guide us all. They're worse than run-of-the-mill busybodies, however; they want to play the role of Gríma Wormtongue in counseling rulers. They are generally sociopaths who want us to accept their statist, collectivist ethics, and thereby exert control over the direction of society, taking it down paths they deem best.
L: But even if this is all true, are these people really that dangerous? I mean, does the average guy switch the TV from Monday Night Football to watch a bioethicist deliver techno-drivel on C-SPAN?
Doug: Fortunately, few people listen to bioethicists. But unfortunately, those who do tend to be among those battling for control of public policy. These so-called ethical experts insinuate themselves into the bureaucratic machinery of the state, into the flow of intellectual and academic debate, into the course material taught at universities, and they exert influence.
It's especially dangerous because when people read about a consensus of Ph.D.s agreeing that X or Y is ethical, they may be seduced into letting these others do their ethical thinking for them, instead of holding on to the vital responsibility of thinking through ethical matters for themselves.
From the beginning of the Dark Ages up until the early 1500s, the Church of Rome was the arbiter of morality in the West; that was highly problematical, because it substituted the judgment of some priest for that of each individual. It's one reason that the medieval era was so backward. Individual responsibility to understand ethics and act accordingly is a cornerstone of Western civilization, going all the way back to the Greeks. It's what the play Antigone is all about. This is one reason that Islamic countries are basket cases – they're at the same stage of philosophical evolution as the West was in the medieval era.
Anyway, the decline of religion in the West over the last century – a trend I applaud for many reasons, but won't go into now – has left something of a moral vacuum. It's been partially filled by secular religions like Marxism, but Marxism has been debunked everywhere but on college campuses… so the bioethicists are the latest fad trying to fill the space.
Individual responsibility, rather than diffuse responsibility among classes of people, is a major reason for the individual accomplishments and innovations that led the West to global eminence. Bioethicists are trying to set themselves up as a new priesthood. If they succeed, it would reverse an essential element of Western thought. These people are termites eating at the foundations of Western civilization and are contributing to the West's fall from eminence.
Bioethicists are irksome because they're a visible cutting edge of the knife destroying our social fabric, and yet they are given unearned respect and material prosperity.
L: For example?
Doug: I was reading an article by an alleged bioethical expert, spewing about medical advances, and the man, one Dan Callahan, Ph.D., actually said that one of the problems with medicine is technology.
L: What?! Medicine is technology.
Doug: Yes, you're exactly right. Needless to say, he conflates healthcare with medical care, which are two totally different things. But beyond that, this luminary actually says that technology "is one of the barriers to an equitable and sustainable healthcare system." Why? It "drives up costs with little return on investment."
L: Tell that to the people who are alive because of technology breakthroughs.
Doug: You have to see clearly what he's saying. He didn't say technology was a barrier to effective medical treatment, he said it's a barrier to an "equitable and sustainable healthcare system." He doesn't give a fig if you or I live or die, it's the system – the collective – that matters most to him and all his socialist ilk. This is classic. These frauds are not experts in ethics at all, but socialists using big words that sound scientific and objective to con people into buying their collectivist values.
The collectivist mindset is a pathology. The socialists have been discredited with the collapse of the USSR and the economic boom in China – which is now socialist in name only. So, they've migrated from economics to "ecology," where they have become "watermelons" – green on the outside, red on the inside. And they've redoubled their efforts to capture the legal and academic arenas. Bioethics offers a chance to do that, plus corrupt science, plus gain the high moral ground. It's a wonderful scam. And if these people are good at anything – actually it's the only thing they're good at – it's perpetrating a scam.
L: I have a friend who lives in a country with socialized medical care. His family ate some poisonous mushrooms several years ago. He ate few and lived. His wife and son ate many. His son went to a children's hospital, where they routinely pump the stomachs of children who swallow things that are not good for them, and the son lived. His wife went to a normal hospital, where the doctors didn't bother pumping her stomach, saying it had been too long already. She died. It also turned out later that there was a new medicine the doctors did not try – did not even mention – because it was very expensive and not covered. This is what you get when you place greater value on an "equitable and sustainable healthcare system" than on the individual's right to pursue the best health care possible.
Doug: That would be your friend, Virgis, in Lithuania?
Doug: I remember – I'm sorry for your friend… but you're exactly right. These lickspittle pseudointellectuals are on their way to becoming a leading cause of death in the US and elsewhere. They are metastasizing into a giant force for government control of science and suppression of "unsustainable" research not aligned with the goals of those in power. Instead of allowing innovators to create new treatments wherever new ideas take them, we could end up with pseudoscience following a course of research set by the dominant political agenda of the day.
It should not be up to lunatic busybodies like this Callahan to tell people how much they can spend trying to keep themselves alive; it should be up to individuals. If some people can afford expensive new treatments, bully for them. If some people can't, they are no worse off than they were before the new treatment was invented. Nobody gets out of here alive. But of course, to a socialist this is a big problem, because in that view, everyone should have equal and unlimited access to all treatments. In this perverted view of things, it doesn't matter if an expensive treatment is better, it doesn't matter that rich people who pay for new treatments open the path for less expensive and better treatments in the future – it matters only that the system cannot afford to provide something for everyone now. This only shows that the man is not an expert in medical technology, nor economics, and especially not ethics.
L: An example of subservience to political agendas being the Johns Hopkins bioethicists' article in support of the so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA) we started with?
Doug: Yes. The op-ed's authors argue that since medical companies can avoid state regulation by basing operations in other states, the "interstate commerce clause" of the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to regulate medicine. Of course what's going to happen is that medical entrepreneurs will not just locate to a different state but to a different country, where they can develop products freely and cheaply. And more and more Americans will go elsewhere for medical care. Even more will renounce their citizenships and go elsewhere to avoid everything from being forced to buy medical insurance to being forced to support the Welfare-Warfare State in general.
L: People are already voting with their feet. But anyone who's actually read the Constitution knows that the mention of interstate commerce is in the preamble to the Constitution, in which the authors explain why the document is necessary. Regulation of interstate commerce is not among the enumerated powers given to the federal government, and the tenth amendment clearly states in plain English that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Doug: I know that. You know that. So does any intellectually honest person who reads the Constitution, but we also know that there's a huge body of legal precedent and subsequent legislation that uses the interstate commerce clause to justify all sorts of federal intervention into the economy, and has done so for decades. I'd argue that the distortion of the interstate commerce clause into a carte-blanche excuse for everything the federal government wants to do but is not given the power to do in the Constitution was, in fact, the end of the rule of law in what was once America. Of course, the whole Constitution is really a dead letter. It's been selectively interpreted out of existence and is now simply disregarded whenever it suits our ruling cadres.
But we digress. These bioethical maroons actually argue that the interstate commerce clause gives the federal government the right to force individuals to buy medical insurance they don't want – the "individual mandate" part of Obamacare:
Striking down the individual mandate would introduce a new and deeply problematic chapter in the history of the Commerce Clause. For the first time since the New Deal, Congress would no longer hold a vital power of national concern, namely, the authority to regulate all economic subject matter substantially affecting commerce.
Before the government became involved in medical care – first because of Roosevelt and then especially under Johnson – medical insurance wasn't even necessary. But this guy enthusiastically wants more state intervention, not less.
L: It's hard to imagine anyone using the interstate commerce clause in this way with a straight face. The Bill of Rights is all about protecting individual human rights. That's what once made America great; it was set up with a focus on the well-being of the people, not the state. To use a blurb from the preamble to ride roughshod over the actual provisions of the Constitution is an Orwellian nightmare.
Doug: A nightmare we've been living for decades – and a nightmare that will lead to its lamentable, but inescapable conclusion – in the not-too-distant future, I believe. At any rate, the Congress has no business regulating interstate commerce – or any economic activity. That's what's taking what's left of America down the path of Mugabe and into depression. There should be separation of economy and state for basically the same reasons we have separation of church and state.
L: Sure, but you think there should be a separation between all human activity and state, since you don't think the state should exist.
Doug: [Chuckles] But that's a conversation we've already had. Maybe the advent of these bioethicists is a sign that the ascendancy of state power has reach a peak, and things have gotten so bad that they have to get better going forward.
L: Nah – things can get worse. They can always get worse.
Doug: Well… you're right. But I'm a perpetual optimist. The fact is that the trend is accelerating – not reversing or even slowing – toward total state control of everything in the US. Back to bioethics: Far be it from me to defend a Republican argument, but there's something to what they say about "death panels." If you socialize medicine, who will determine what treatments are allowed? What treatments are within budget? There will have to be panels of supposed experts – like these bioethicists – who will literally have the power of life and death in their hands. As you pointed out with your friend's experience in Lithuania, people may be denied treatment simply because it's not routine or because it's not in the system's best interests because it’s too expensive. There are two ways you can allocate scarce resources: economically or politically.
L: "Economically" meaning based on what individuals can afford, or find support to pay for. "Politically" meaning based on what the day's rules deem fit. The former may seem unfair to some, but the latter is a disaster for almost everyone but those in power – and even them, eventually, when they run the system down.
But okay, I think we've made our case. Investment implications?
Doug: Just another sign of the times – the decay of Western civilization, the continuing decline and transformation of America into the United States. This supports everything we've been saying in The Casey Report, and other conversations we've had: rig for stormy weather, because we're going through the wringer.
L: All right, then. Thanks, and 'til next week.
[You can hear Doug Casey and 30 more financial luminaries live at the upcoming Casey Research Recovery Reality Check Summit. In light of the current economic situation, Doug's talk – Is the Inevitable Now Imminent? – promises to be an especially popular presentation. Get the details and sign up soon: registration fees are going up on March 31.]