Single-payer Medical Insurance — The Only Way

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by David A. Woodbury, 10 December 2018

I suspect that a single-payer medical insurance system could work.  I suspect, however, that it will be a Pigrolet version of government-run medical insurance that will be thrust upon us in the not-too-distant future.  I suspect, I’m sad to say, that it will be a fiscal and practical failure of colossal and damaging proportions, precisely because its designers will have, as their objective, not the success of the program but their own political gain, the avoidance of blame, and the skewering of their rivals.  And yet, I say that I suspect such a system could work if Congress had the will to do it right.  Let me explain how.

Let’s first make clear who’s the payer in the term, single-payer: taxpayers.

Right now we have a mob of payers, or as many of us experience it, payment-avoiders: for-profit insurance companies, not-for-profit insurance companies, state governments administering Medicaid, the federal government administering Medicare and military medical benefits, and ourselves individually when all of those to whom we have paid taxes and premiums run and hide from the bill.

The single payer almost by definition would be the federal government, using money that it will either collect in taxes or using loans that it will commit our great-great grandchildren to pay.

Here are twelve changes to the current mess that would need to be accomplished, fully and resolutely, in order to have any chance of success.

1.  At the outset, fully cover only the medical interventions that keep people alive.  For everything else including prescriptions, let the plan offer a portion of the cost from, say, 50-99%.  Since we already have the precedent of requiring all Americans to purchase a product from a private company and calling the cost of it a tax, let those medical needs that fall outside the scope of life-saving be covered by a required policy for less-than-urgent care.  If a government-run single-payer system delivers the savings and efficiencies and medical wonders that its proponents envision, then, in time, use those savings and efficiencies to bring more services and treatments under the fully covered list.

2.  Let a panel of doctors determine what will fall under the life-saving level of coverage.  Let another panel of doctors prioritize less-than-urgent medical care as well, and how such measures might gradually be added to the fully-covered list over time, as savings and efficiencies make that possible.  Remove all incentives for these panels to save money by denying care; their decisions are strictly medical and patient-focused.  They will be able to recognize that what is merely desirable for one patient is life-saving for another because individual patients have unique vulnerabilities.  Nowhere does this point include politicians, insurers, lawyers, or the IRS in any panel of doctors.

3.  Let the federal government provide the money, but let private companies, not an army of new federal employees, administer it under contracts with the federal government.  By “administer it” I don’t mean “decide whether Janet’s E.R. visit was justified” — that is up to the doctors in the previous section, speaking for the country as a whole — but let private companies manage the record-keeping, and while they’re at it, the electronic medical records.  Companies that already have the system in place to administer insurance for which they currently collect the premiums might transition readily to keeping records only and not handling the money.

4.  Relieve employers of the expectation to provide group medical insurance — group rates will become obsolete under a single-payer system anyway.  For employers who therefore will no longer be funding a portion of medical insurance, arrange that those savings will either be converted to other employee benefits over time or added to a company’s tax burden, in either event to be phased out just as employers are no longer tasked with providing stables for employees’ horses.

5.  Get the for-profit insurance companies out of medical underwriting, premium administration, and determining appropriateness of care.  Let them collect profits on their automobile and home policies, business underwriting, and all the rest.  This is necessary for two big reasons: There is no excuse for transferring taxpayer money to private profits in the name of medicine, and to let insurers profit from taxpayers only “proves” that Congress is owned by corporate America.  Yes, there are examples of companies that do profit from government contracts, Defense Department contracts being the most recognizable examples, however there is nothing so mysterious about the concept of insurance that it justifies seven-digit executive salaries at taxpayer expense.  Under a government-funded program they will be tasked with keeping records and could, as well, be the best resource for keeping electronic medical records that are instantaneously available to all doctors.

6.  Get the lawyers out of medicine.  This is the most radical requirement.  They will rise up in protest, but I doubt anyone can show me another country in the world where the lawyer class is so comfortably supported by people who require medical care.  For, no matter who a lawyer works for under the umbrella of medicine, it is the sufferer who ultimately pays.  Whether employed by hospitals, specialty practices, pharmaceutical companies, equipment manufacturers and importers, insurance companies, tort practices, or government agencies dedicated to assuring “compliance,” lawyers in the industry can only be supported by those who pay insurance premiums or taxes, and to a minor degree, by foundations providing charitable funding and university medical centers supported by tuitions and benefactors (charity again).  Those are the only sources of money coming into medicine.  Supposedly, lawyers oversee everyone’s work the better to protect us.  But the regulations that have made them ubiquitous are tantamount to requiring a traffic policeman on every corner of every intersection in the country.  We don’t need that much watching.

7.  Combine all programs into one.  Entrenched federal agencies will scream in agony and rage at the idea.  But chaos is assured in a transition to a single-payer system if Medicare remains distinct, both in name and practice, from Medicaid, from Champus, from Veterans Administration programs, and all the rest.  Indeed, from my ample experience, the way the Veterans Administration provides medical care is an example for the rest to follow.  Since health insurance portability is moot for someone covered by the VA, apparently HIPAA (health insurance portability) does not apply.  Under a single-payer system, HIPAA will become obsolete.  During VA visits, am I not inundated with demands to sign copies of that grossly-misnamed Advance Beneficiary Notice, not to mention all the privacy notices and lists of my rights that I must endure in civilian office and hospital visits.  And the VA is clearly not intimidated by the assumed secrecy provisions of HIPAA.  Yes, basic privacy protocols are observed, but the concept has not been turned into a requirement to speak in coded whispers.

8.  Start small, as detailed in the first point, and call the fully-funded part of it, for instance, Part A; but also require minimum coverage at each citizen’s own expense for additional needs, and call it Part B.  Everyone is covered 100% for life-saving interventions — no co-pay, no premiums.  For each citizen who asserts an inability to afford the premiums of Part B, reduce that individual’s reverse income tax (welfare benefits) by the amount of the unaffordable premium.  This has already been put into place under the Affordable Care Act.  Medicare and Medicaid currently recognize the totally disabled and make allowances, and these allowances need to remain in place.  There is a difference, though, between a person who is totally inconvenienced — for instance, one who won’t pull himself up by his own bootstraps, and a person who is totally disabled — for instance, one who was born without bootstraps.

9.  Place all citizens, including all government employees, military personnel, and members of Congress, under the same system with no special privileges.  And what applies in Poughkeepsie, New York, applies in Muleshoe, Texas, and in Kailua, Hawaii, and in Dothan, Alabama, if for no better reason than that people travel and people move and need to rely upon rules that apply equally to all of us.

10.  Continue to permit private pay and private doctors for anyone who can afford to arrange it, as it currently exists in a few instances.  If a rock star or movie mogul wants to put a private doctor on his staff, let them.  Such a person must also participate in the single-payer system as well but is not required to use the same doctors if he can afford to own one.  Also, respect the town here and there that has hired a community doctor where the citizens of the town have pooled their resources to engage one.  Members of such a community must likewise participate in the single-payer system as well, but they must not be forbidden to provide themselves with other options.

11.  Allow all citizens to participate at the same level of premiums and care, that is, do not penalize those who have assets.  A single-payer system must not be a ruse by which to seize private property.  Medicaid has become just such a system, to the extent that people avoid enrolling because it means losing their homes and their meager personal assets.  Just as the premium tables under the present system make no distinction whether the participant earns $50,000 a year and has no assets or earns $900,000 a year and has a portfolio worth millions, so it must be under a single-payer system.  It must, to the greatest degree possible, divide the total cost of everyone’s care as evenly as possible among all participants without regard for ability to pay.  The ability to pay, or lack of ability to pay, must be dealt with separately.  This point is fundamental, because the temptation will be strong to sock it to the rich.  Insurance of every type is originally something that people would buy, if they chose to, in order to reduce the financial burden arising from an unexpected, sometimes catastrophic event.  Conceptually, medical insurance is the same, but differs from all other types only by its emphasis on saving one’s life.  Since medical science has made that all the more realistic in my lifetime, and since that objective has become exceedingly important to most people not just for themselves but on behalf of everyone else, and since some level of medical care, although not even vaguely delineated, is now sometimes demanded as a “right,” it needs to be the objective of adopting a single-payer system to achieve a basic level of coverage for everyone, not to use the process to fundamentally transform the United States of America.  (Disempowering and disemprivileging certain populations — insurance companies, lawyers, and members of Congress — who should never have acquired their present levels of power, may seem like it is fundamentally changing the country, but the country will not suffer if those groups are humbled to more closely resemble the rest of us.)

12.  Fund the system with a national sales tax that covers only the system and make it pay for itself.  Since the so-called income tax has become a wealth redistribution system, funding a single-payer medical insurance system through the IRS needs to be avoided altogether.  (Medicare taxes, collected through employers since 1966 and now standing at 2.9% of income, would become obsolete.)  People with low incomes don’t buy a lot of stuff, so their contribution by way of a sales tax would be self-limiting, while people with high incomes do spend it, even if they merely use their buckets of money to buy stock.  Tax their stock purchases, then.  (Leave IRA and similar retirement plan contributions alone.  The national sales tax will hit those funds when they are actually spent in later years.)  Funding a single-payer system with a national sales tax makes it easy to determine whether the system is paying for itself, and if it is not, then Congress can raise the sales tax until it does.  Make it pay for itself and make it pay only for itself, make its accounting transparent, and don’t use the sales tax for other pet political schemes.

There is more to my wish list than these criteria.  These, though, are the necessities for any hope of success, and any attempt at creating a single-payer medical insurance system which omits any of these requirements will fail with the drama and suffering of an airplane crash in a residential neighborhood.  Perhaps someone else could suggest a few more absolute requirements that I would agree with.  I don’t harbor any delusions, though, that Congress will act with the resolve necessary to make it work.

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Groupthink on Climate Change Ignores Inconvenient Facts | Christopher Booker

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Since we’ve now been living with the global warming story for 30 years, it might seem hard to believe that science could now come up with anything that would enable us to see that story in a wholly new light. But that is what I am suggesting in a new paper, thanks to a book called Groupthink, written more than 40 years ago by a professor of psychology at Yale, Irving Janis. What Janis did was to define scientifically just how what he called groupthink operates, according to three basic rules. And what my paper tries to show is the astonishing degree to which they explain so much that many have long found puzzling about the global warming story.

Source: Groupthink on Climate Change Ignores Inconvenient Facts | Christopher Booker

Newsflash: Teachers Are Already Armed | Tom Mullen

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The conservative answer to liberal prohibition (oxymoron?) is to “arm and train the teachers.” While no one has come out and suggested mandating teachers carry firearms or be trained in using them, every suggestion seems to suggest “we” (i.e., the government) need to do the arming and training. Here’s a little newsflash for both sides: the teachers are already armed.

Source: Newsflash: Teachers Are Already Armed | Tom Mullen

America’s Slide Toward Fascism

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The article that is linked below may be the best analysis of what our rulers in the United States will never understand about their responsibility to govern.  All of what Ayn Rand has to say, in this piece by George Smith for libertarianism.org and republished at fee.org (the Foundation for Economic Education), are thoughts that have stewed in my mind but never come to words, at least not words as clearly expressed as she did.

As Smith says: Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy.  It has always been about the individual vs. the state.

In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand remarked: “Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous theme—collectivism.”  Rand would later expand on this insight in various articles, most notably in two of her lectures at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston: “The Fascist New Frontier” (Dec. 16, 1962, published as a booklet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1963); and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus” (April 18, 1965, published as Chapter 20 in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [CUI] by New American Library in 1967).

Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism).  Indeed, in The Ayn Rand Letter (Nov. 8, 1971) she characterized fascism as “socialism for big business.”  Both are variants of statism, in contrast to a free country based on individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.

She warns especially against choosing the middle of the road between the two extremes of the same collectivism, a position that gives us, as I have written elsewhere, the Pigrolet.

Read Smith’s article here: https://fee.org/articles/ayn-rand-predicted-an-american-slide-toward-fascism/.  If left to me I would say no one should graduate high school without understanding this analysis and what is behind it.

David A. Woodbury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Founders Dealt with Fake News

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by Jarrett Stepman
Following the [2016] presidential election, numerous stories surfaced about how “fake news” influenced the results. This prompted a reaction from the media and a concerted effort by the social media giant Facebook to crack down on the phenomenon—announcing that it would in part by using fact-checkers to distinguish the “real” from the “fake” news.

Americans have been better at finding the truth than less free societies.The truth is that while the American media landscape has been in a constant state of change over two centuries, the spread of hyperpartisan, scurrilous, and even phony news stories has been more common than uncommon throughout the history of the republic.

Ultimately, despite the increasingly Wild West state of journalism, Americans have been better at finding the truth than less free societies.

The media response frames the fake news issue as nearly the single greatest threat to democracy in our time. But despite the worries that surround an uptick in fraudulent news, the phenomenon is nothing new, nor does it particularly portend dark times in America’s future.

The overreaction in response, potentially damaging both the right to free speech and a culture that supports it, may be more dangerous to a free society.

‘Dupes of Pretended Patriots’

The idea that the press could try to deceive rather than enlighten readers was not lost on the Founders. In the years before and after the American Revolution there was an explosion of printing presses throughout the Western world as improved printing technology was becoming widely available.

Journalists and pamphleteers were certainly vital to spreading the ideas of American rebellion against the English—names like Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams were nearly synonymous with the American Revolution, and they certainly weren’t alone. Though propaganda and distortion of the news were common as well.

After America gained independence, there were still huge numbers of scribblers writing about news and politics with varying levels of credibility and accuracy.

When the framers of the Constitution met to discuss the construction of the new government at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, freedom of the press and what it would mean for the future of the country was certainly on their minds.

Many Founders fretted about what the proliferation of false or destructive notions would mean for the idea of democracy and a society of mass political participation.

Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry lamented how the people in his home state were being led astray by false stories from malcontents and manipulators.

“The people do not want [lack] virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots,” Gerry said. “In Massachusetts it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute.”

So what did the Founders do to stop this problem? They created a system of government that would allow room for democracy, yet checked its vices: through institutions like Congress, the constitutional amendment process, and division of power between branches of government as well as the states and federal government. Not to mention the Electoral College, which the modern left now decries as unfair and undemocratic.

Unfortunately, some of these checks have been eroded over time and continue to be undermined. For instance, the 17th Amendment forced states to elect senators through a popular vote rather than have the state legislature choose a representative, which has reduced the power of the states in the American system.

And in some states, like California, the requirement to pass a constitutional amendment is simply 50 percent of the vote plus one, yet again increasing the chance that a temporary excitement of the populace can lead to rapid, negative changes in governance.

The weakening of the structural checks on democracy has been the greater threat of fake news’ proliferation than nonsense peddlers themselves.

Tocqueville on the ‘Liberty of the Press’

The years following the founding saw a booming and free-wheeling publishing industry, unimpeded by the licensing and restrictions common in other countries. It was not only the Founders who understood the trade-offs between a free press and misleading news. Alexis de Tocqueville, the famed French observer of American life, wrote about the freedom of the press in his 1835 book “Democracy in America.”

Tocqueville noted that when he arrived in the U.S., the very first newspaper article he read was an overheated piece accusing then-President Andrew Jackson of being a “heartless despot, solely occupied with the preservation of his own authority” and a “gamester” who ruled by corruption. This type of account was not unusual.

The years following the founding saw a booming and free-wheeling publishing industry, unimpeded by the licensing and restrictions common in other countries. Freedom allowed newspapers to proliferate throughout the United States in a highly decentralized way.

And in early American history, most newspapers were expressly partisan or outright controlled by individual politicians. They often aggressively attacked and made outrageous comments about political opponents.

Yet Tocqueville wrote that despite the general vehemence of the press, America was further from actual violence and political revolution than other societies that tightly controlled information.

While recognizing the occasional problems of an unimpeded fourth estate, Tocqueville wrote that “in order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.”

An attempt to submit “false” news and opinions through an official fact-checker would likely only elevate and perhaps justify a false opinion in the minds of the people, according to Tocqueville.

He continued to write that expecting to have the good of a free press without the bad has been “one of those illusions which commonly mislead nations in their times of sickness when, tired with faction and exhausted by effort, they attempt to make hostile opinions and contrary principles coexist upon the same soil.”

Americans were so used to being bombarded with opinions and information from a diverse media, Tocqueville wrote, that they were less likely to react to falsehoods and outrageous opinions.

Fake News existed in that time as well as ours, but it did little to outright convince people to change their views. This continues to be the case today.

Tocqueville concluded of a free press:

When the right of every citizen to a share in the government of society is acknowledged, everyone must be presumed to be able to choose between the various opinions of his contemporaries and to appreciate the different facts from which inferences may be drawn. The sovereignty of the people and the liberty of the press may therefore be regarded as correlative, just as the censorship of the press and universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed and which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people.

The visiting Frenchman understood what Americans have almost always believed. Occasional false news stories cannot destroy a society fitted for liberty, but extreme efforts to contain them will.

The Search for Truth

The reality is, barriers to prevent modern Americans from receiving “fake news” are unlikely to succeed in a free society where a mass of information is readily available.

The internet, and a lack of trust in the legacy media, has allowed numerous new media publications to find success. It has again radically decentralized the way Americans get their information.

These legacy media organizations are attempting to reign in the chaos with new gimmicks like fact-checkers, but ultimately their influence and credibility are fading in the minds of Americans as fewer people trust or desire to read those sources.

This isn’t an anomaly in American life—it has been the norm. We must trust and maintain the mediating constitutional system the Founders created along the judgment of the American people.

The freedom of the press, enshrined in the First Amendment and tempered by institutions designed to slow governmental change and thwart temporary excitements of opinion, created a nation incredibly free, yet robust enough to withstand potential large-scale errors in judgment.

The Founders understood that the good would outweigh the bad with a free press, and no court could justly measure the rightness or wrongness of news and public opinion. They realized that without allowing the press to operate freely and leaving the people as its ultimate tribunal, America would never truly be a land of liberty.

Fake or biased news was the willingly paid price of an open society, and the winnowing process of the American system ultimately leads the country toward the truth.

This piece ran on DailySignal 

Jarrett Stepman


Jarrett Stepman

Jarrett Stepman is an editor for The Daily Signal

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

How Jesus Exorcized Ancient Collectivism

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Reprinted from https://fee.org/articles/how-jesus-exorcized-the-collective-from-the-individual/ by David Gornoski, January 6, 2017.


Have you ever found yourself living out a role scripted by those around you?  Whether it’s a family member, partner, social clique, work rival, or boss, we tend to subsume other people’s scripts for us.

You dress very finely and people call you a snob, so you begin to behave like one.  If enough voices box you into a perceived role, you tend to adopt some of its ways.

The drug addict, if set up to play the role of the anti-social screw-up, will often become as such.

The type-A business person finds himself becoming cold, greedy, and slippery as vocal and nonverbal perceptions of his role subconsciously influence the way he acts out his persona.

These great (or grating) expectations can cause burdensome conflict and bitterness in our lives, particularly at the cultural-political level.  People tend to move in groupthink.  That’s the norm, the baseline modus operandi of our species.

That Old Time Religion

The groups we form tend to give us a sense of transcendence — that is, a feeling of being able to become something bigger than ourselves — as we adopt the same thought patterns, angers, passions, hates, rituals, rhetoric, and enemies of a common body.

Acting as groups — whether defined by Marxism, racial identity, or a libertarianism — has a way of giving our lives peace, order, and a mission.  It’s our “old time religion,” you can say.  After all, “religion” comes from the Latin root meaning “to bind together.”

Culture, be it a nation or a clique of drinking buddies, is the way we act out our religion, our “binding” together.  Our group cultures never find such ecstasy as when we find a person — usually someone who doesn’t perform a script we approve for them — to expel or wage war against.  Expelling a misfit, a stubborn devil’s advocate, or an ideological turncoat rallies and unifies our passion-driven shared beliefs and acts to the point where we become as one body eliminating the toxin for our health.

Our culture creates violent, self-fulfilling systemic purging.  Desensitized sex workers, greedy tax evaders, drug pushing gunslingers don’t just pop up in a vacuum.  They are symptoms of cycles of collectivist group purges.  Yes, they are ultimately responsible for the actions they take, make no mistake, but when we treat people as “Other” we create the monsters for which we were looking.

We need those monsters.

The cold-eyed prostitute is out there so that we are here, nowhere near her lot in life.  The gun-trading dealer is who he is so we can measure our own socially-approved markers of respectability against his contrast.  I’m exploitative, but not like him.  The billionaire finds more and more cunning ways to shelter his money and game our culture’s tax and regulation system so we can feel comparatively honest, selfless team players.

Tales of the Scapegoat

Where do we learn our collective cultural values?  From the stories we tell.  That’s what education and mass media and art provide: stories that reinforce collectivism as the way of the world; we should pick a side, play by the rules of the game, and battle for supremacy over other rival groups.  Forever, apparently.

Nightly news reports of another successful drug bust in a rejected part of town are supposed to remind us: play by the rules our collective has designed or else you will receive violence and expulsion.  You will become an Other.

There’s a bug in the script, though.  A counter-cultural force has emerged in history that produces counter-stories that are slowly eroding our dominant collectivist notions of the world.  These stories leave their fingerprints on our social norms and desires regardless of our awareness of them and regardless of how collectivist groups fraudulently misappropriate them for their own violent campaigns.  These stories are good news for all misfits, indeed, all persons looking for the courage to reject the lie of the crowd that is collectivism.

I call it the personhood revolution and its founder is Jesus of Nazareth.

Beyond just rhetoric, Jesus performed his aesthetic of personhood.  He created a subversive viral bug in our old collectivist system that reversed the mainstream script: when your group is threatened or stressed, find a common enemy and expel him.  Blame him. Dehumanize her.  Kill it.

In the new script Jesus invited all of us to perform, he first openly admits that he’s a total imitator himself.  He doesn’t set himself up as the originator of anything but points all of his ideas back to his dad, God.  He then asks listeners to imitate his imitation of God — one of mercy, not sacrifice — thereby finding transcendence outside of our collectivist violent purging.

Exorcising the Crowd from the Individual

In this performative context, the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s mission are freshly astonishing.  One such example is the story of the Demoniac of Gerasa.

A literary analysis shows us the breakthrough taking place in the narrative.  Whether every element is literal or not is beyond the scope of this discussion.  What’s in view for our literary analysis is what the narrative is doing symbolically to its audience — steeped even more than we are in a culture in which collectivist violence was sacred.

Jesus travels across the Sea of Tiberius to the Roman pagan city of Gerasa.  Immediately, he is confronted with a possessed man.  The howler lives among the tombs away from polite society.  When he’s not moaning, he neurotically stones himself.  Apparently, this community has other-ized him so thoroughly that he performs the script of a dehumanized monster on his own.  They don’t even need to lift a pebble.

Jesus asks him what his name is.  He replies enigmatically, “Legion, for we are many.”  A Roman legion was the greatest symbol of the power of the Roman collective body.  It was the vessel by which the empire owned outposts like Jesus’s own country.

And a legion was many, anywhere from 3,000-5,000 soldiers made up a unit.  The Latin word legio was used to refer to a large group of people.  It also meant “a chosen body.”  The demoniac is the one chosen body and the many at the same time.  There’s a double entendre taking place in the narrative.  Philosophers call this the one-and-the-many paradox: the logic of humanity.

The man’s many voices beg Jesus not to expel them out of the land.  So Jesus sends them into a herd of pigs — the livestock of the community — who collectively throw themselves in the sea as one.  In Jewish literature, the sea is always symbolically associated with chaos.

In this text, we have the world’s first exorcism of a crowd out of a person.  In other words, we have a performance in which the narrative does not reinforce the mainstream narrative of collective bodies assuming possession of persons to reinforce their shared virtue against a villain.  Rather, we have a misfit reject being exorcised of the collectivist voices in his head.  These voices are given a proper home, a herd of creatures less than human who mindlessly imitate their own destruction by drowning in the sea — again, a literary device for chaos.

Left without their chosen scapegoat, the Many — the crowd’s voice that consumed the man to ostracize himself among corpses and perpetually stone himself — is symbolically unmasked by the narrative to reveal what the Gospel authors see as its future culturally perceived place in Jesus’s project: animalistic herds driven to self-destructive chaos.

Instead of Jesus helping the crowd eliminate its common enemy, he frees the person of the possession of the crowd.  The collective script no longer holds him in chains.  Clothed and in his right mind, the man — purged of the collectivist script possessing his being — can no longer provide his town with the catharsis and group normalcy yardstick on which they relied.  As such, the collective is terrified.  They beg Jesus to leave at once.  Their magic antidote for peace, order, and a shared sense of well-being has been stolen.  The man, restored of his sense of self, asks Jesus to let him join him.  Jesus tells him to stay and teach his town the way of mercy he had demonstrated to him.

Our Own Demons

We must continue to enact this counter-story today.  Our neighbors are robbed of their humanity by a society that grinds them down into scripted molds that rob them of their vibrant, dignified personhood.  We cast our misfits into human cages like animals.  We allow them to “stone themselves” as they self-medicate with destructive drugs to cope with the social alienation.  We cheapen and commodify sex every day in every aspect of popular culture and then cast sex workers and their loser clients into the living tombs of prison.

We provoke our neighbors to cling more selfishly to hyper-competitiveness and greed in the marketplace by creating ever more labyrinthine, lifeless rites of passage we call regulations they must hurdle lest we steal their money through fines or cast them into cages.

We do all of this, of course, in the new mantra of victims.  Personhood-robbing, innovation-killing laws are covered up with narratives with which we pacify our cognitive dissonance: yes, we’ll send armed agents to use deadly force to raid a raw milk farmer, but we do it because of the potential victims he might create.

Our age-old collectivist violence, fatally infected by the virus of personhood for over two millennia, must find clever ways to sneak back in faux-imitation of Jesus’s counter-narrative’s defense of victims and misfits, those most prone to receive collectivist violence.

We need the FDA’s criminalization of nonviolent acts lest the wild west of personhood-respecting voluntary exchange and innovation allow persons to become victims of fraudsters and pranksters.

No, actually, we don’t.  Protection against fraud will always be a feature compatible with a voluntary order of free persons.  It’s a self-defense mechanism that protects victims from actual violence rather than some imagined future chaos that justifies preemptive aggression.

It is collectivist violence and its possession of our minds we must exorcise.  We must cast out the accusing, belittling, abusive voice of the Many that owns the minds of our modern chosen maniacs, our necessary victims.  Our path is personal service and mercy, not collective violence.  Be it.


David Gornoski is your neighbor — as well as an entrepreneur, speaker and writer. He recently launched a project called A Neighbor’s Choice, which seeks to introduce Jesus’s culture of nonviolence to both Christians and the broader public.


My comment on this article on the day it was published: Wow!  Just wow!  Only yesterday, mumbling to myself, I said I feel like an alien in a world of mindless followers.  (I read Hoffer’s The True Believer more than 45 years ago.)  For nearly as many years I have argued that collective theft in order to transfer wealth to the thieves’ chosen groups of dependents does not meet Jesus’s exhortation that individuals, wealthy or poor, do the giving themselves, individually; not because others are needy but because giving is what humble people of God do. -David A. Woodbury