Thursday, December 21, 2006

John Derbyshire's Wonderful Life

Christmas is a time to think of the neediest. Although I think that the free market is the best philanthropist, every year at this time I make a tax-deductible $20 charitable donation to some worthy cause against my better judgment. I must admit orphans in Darfur just make my eyes glaze over. There are so many of them and they are so far away and I'm afraid anything I do will just prolong their misery. I want to help someone closer to home. But who?

Then I stumbled over this tragic story on The Corner, which brought a tear to my eye. Conservative pundit and humanitarian John Derbyshire received some devastating news this Christmas: "My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st. That's an increase of 81 percent. ***E*I*G*H*T*Y*-*O*N*E* *P*E*R*C*E*N*T*** Can they do that? I called them. They sound pretty confident they can. Ye gods!" This news put quite a damper on the festivities at the National Review Christmas party, where they were singing such Derbyshire-penned conservative carols as "Shi’ites Roasting in a Mosque on Fire."

My heart went out to Derbyshire, who has shown great compassion in the past for those who have had health care problems. When a 24-year-old Guatemalan illegal immigrant fell off a roof and broke his back, Derbyshire wrote, "He is currently in the hospital at Huntington (my home town). Cost of treatment so far: $260,000 - 'not counting fees for the services of more than a dozen physician specialists' and 'with no end in sight.' You have to feel sorry for this young man as a fellow human being. On the other hand, he's darn lucky he fell off a roof in the U.S.A., rather than one in Guatemala. As soon as he can be moved, he should be sent back to the care of his relatives in that country."

John Derbyshire is a fellow human being, too, and although he was born in England, he is here legally, as far as I know (someone might want to check that out). In fact, Derbyshire suffered horribly under the British system of socialized medicine in the care of a drunk, sadistic doctor, who with shaking hands removed Derbyshire's tonsils, adenoids and appendix though luckily left his heart intact. As a youth Derbyshire woke up many a night screaming, "Where's the rest of me?"

So you can understand why Derbyshire has expressed some skepticism about just giving health care away to people who might not be ready for it. In a 2002 piece called "Unpleasant Truths" he wrote, "Quality health care for all is not possible. Quality health care is what rich people get. The rest of us must wait on line to be misdiagnosed by ill-trained, paperwork-swamped, litigation-shy doctors, assisted by nurses imported from the less hygienic parts of the Third World, and unionized hospital staff with no-way-you-can-get-me-fired attitudes. This could only change if the U.S.A. devoted her entire Gross National Product to health care; and even then, it probably wouldn't stay changed for long." Derbyshire does believe something should be done about health care in his adopted country but because he can't figure out what that is, he thinks it would be best to do nothing at all for the time being. "Health care is a big knotty issue that I have never been able to come to firm conclusions about," he wrote. "I really don't see how it can be done without SOME public provision, though I certainly don't want to return to the state socialism of my childhood." We wouldn't even need the government to do anything if "private employees and 'friendly' associations that flourished 100 yrs ago, in which people pooled resources to provide care for the old, unemployed, disabled, and sick, could have been nurtured & expanded," Derbyshire points out.

Instead of solving the health care problem all at once, Derbyshire agrees with Hillary Clinton that we should fix things in baby steps. Deporting all illegal immigrants might be one small thing we could do. But they aren't the only group bankrupting our health care system. "What proportion of health-care costs in the U.S. go to treating diseases peculiar to male homosexuals?" he once demanded. On another occasion he stated that "male homosexuality is a public health problem" and found it appalling that homosexuals believe that "AIDS has been a ghastly tragedy for them, deserving of widespread sympathy from the rest of us, not to mention lavish government-research funding paid from our taxes." So another small step we could take to fix the health care system would be to eliminate homosexuality.

But these measures are unlikely to help Derbyshire, who suddenly feels a new sense of urgency about doing something to reform health care. "Anyone who says right now that our entire health-care financing system is nuts to the fourth power, won't be getting any argument from me," he says. Although he sounds just a little ungrateful for being allowed to live in a country that has the best health care in the world, I'm sure that this is just a momentary reaction to his sticker shock.

You might expect liberal bloggers to feel some compassion for what he is going through, but instead they have reacted with shockingly uncharitable glee, gorging themselves on Schadenfreude pie. "Was he somehow unaware that his own principles leave him with no grounds for complaint when something like this happens?" sniffed Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings. "You see, John, there is this thing called the "'market,'" Brad DeLong explained with just a smidgen of condescension. A Washington Monthly reader wrote: "I've heard people say a conservative is just a liberal who's been mugged. Then maybe a liberal is just a conservative who suddenly got this in the mail."

Are liberals really living up to their principles when they seem to care so little about Derbyshire's tribulations? That is why I would like to challenge them to consider making John Derbyshire their charity this Christmas. I don't think he would accept direct hand-outs, as he is very proud man, so instead I think you should send him health care vouchers of a very low amount that wouldn't cover the entire cost of his insurance. That way we can be sure that he will be required to work and won't just live off the welfare of others. If you have something that needs to be done, say a lawn mowed or a garden tended, you might offer him some kind of workfare. I think he would appreciate that. You could also suggest that if he gets sick he might want to return to England where he won't be an undue burden on American taxpayers.

Although I haven't seen the movie It's a Wonderful Life in a long time, since I rented an edited version from Wal-Mart, the ending always makes me cry. If I remember correctly, at the end of the film irascible but good-hearted capitalist Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, discovers he is about to go bankrupt. So the people of Pottersville, remembering how he helped them build modest but affordable homes with loans whose interest was only a little above the market rate, rally around him. They scratch together what little money they have left after paying their mortgages to Potter's bank, and give it to the old man who is brought to tears by their generosity. So this Christmas let's think of John Derbyshire as our Mr. Potter. Let's show him that Americans really are a compassionate people.

Update: John Derbyshire responds: "Thank you very much for your kind concern, Jon. I await the envelopes stuffed with checks. You might want to tell readers that they can mail their contributions to National Review (215 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10016). Cash is OK too--but no coins, please. JD"

More Worthy Causes: If you have some Christmas loot left over after helping Mr. Derbyshire you might consider taking care of these worthy members of our blogroll:

Let them know it's Christmas time.

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Anonymous said...

Mr. Swift,
I'm sorry, but I'm donating my twenty bucks to the Augusto Pinochet Memorial Fund.

Anonymous said...

Before people rush to precipitately turbocharge the Derbyshire fiscal bandwagon, I would like to point out that his suggested elimination of male homosexuality (suggesting perhaps, wierdly, that female homosexuality is some kind of turn-on for men, although I can't see it)would leave some leaders of Christian Conservative religious groups very sad and alone without anyone to love them.

Idle hands are the devil's workshop. I think that's all I want to say about that.

Anonymous said...

Damn, Uncle Victor got to the Pinochet joke first.

Now I'm left wondering if one reason why Derbyshire's premiums have gone up is because Mark Foley and Ted Haggard drove up the deductible in their group healthcare plan. Maybe now he's not covered for his inevitable "rehab."

James Higham said...

"What proportion of health-care costs in the U.S. go to treating diseases peculiar to male homosexuals?" he once demanded. On another occasion he stated that "male homosexuality is a public health problem" and found it appalling that homosexuals believe that "AIDS has been a ghastly tragedy for them, deserving of widespread sympathy from the rest of us, not to mention lavish government-research funding paid from our taxes." So another small step we could take to fix the health care system would be to eliminate homosexuality.

Sounds like my kinda guy.

Anonymous said...

I agree. You should call him up, maybe you guys could go out for drinks! Who knows where it might go from there?

Anonymous said...

C'mon guys!

The Derb needs our help. Surely you can spare a quarter or two?

No, not a quarter's profits, but $0.25 or so... Give a dime or a nickel if you can't afford a quarter.

I'm sure he'd appreciate the sentiment.

eBrickbats said...

It seems that the insurance companies have figured out, after the Mark Foley and Ted Haggard incidents, that male conservatives represent a higher risk profile than previously assumed. Especially Ted Haggard's use of illegal drugs while employing a male prostitute must have sent the actuaries running to their spreadsheets.

It would be interesting to see whether Derbyshire's premium is now higher than that of an openly gay man because the possibility of riskier behavior.

Dick Durata said...

I find it oh so disappointing when conservative bloggers lose their mojo because of such tired liberal emotions as sympathy and compassion. The fact that Mr. Derbyshire can't stand up on his own two feet without falling off a roof is hardly any concern of yours, Mr. Swift, nor is it of mine.
Until we learn to abide by our principles of manly fortitude and health disregard for the other guy, we will be continually sucked back into the morass of sentimentality and socialism.

Ray Bridges said...

Brilliant piece of writing, sir. Just fucking brilliant.

Anonymous said...


i hope you have sent your post to mr. derbyshire, so he may sleep in his own bed after he made it.

Anonymous said...

While you're on the subject of injustice springing directly from the foreheads of vile liberals, you might note that Congressmen/women will now (under the yoke of the Democrats) have to work a FIVE DAY WEEK!!! They had been accustomed to booking off early on Thursday and returning Tuesday, putting in some extra quality time with the wife and kiddies. Quite a few of them have to travel, you know.

"The Democrats don't care about families, is what this says" one incensed Congressman was heard to remark. It certainly looks to me like the Democrats are starting off on the wrong foot, perhaps even inviting another attack by sapping American morale.

Marc said...

Health care insurance issues may defy both conservative and liberal cures, because health care is often inefficient and error-ridden. Nevertheless, there is hope, particularly now, with the example that digital rectal probes can cure hiccups as well as diagnose enlarged prostate glands. The assembly-line brought us cheap cars: it can also bring us cheap health. With a regrettable loss of identity and dignity, of course, but what is that compared to saving money?

Michelle said...

What kind of a man needs health care anyway? When you get sick you should suck it up and keep going to work like it's nothing. If your illness scars you for life all the better! Of course, in his case, a bit of scarring wouldn't do too much damage.

Jaesoreal said...

I must admit orphans in Darfur just make my eyes glaze over. There are so many of them and they are so far away and I'm afraid anything I do will just prolong their misery.

Absolutely brilliant!

Paul Curtis said...

I've got John a Christmas turkey though I had to stand in line several hours at the First Baptist several hours for it . . . it's quite a nice bird but I'd like to figure out how to send it through the intertubes soon as it's beginning to defrost and dripping quite a bit.

Paul Curtis said...

You know what, forget it. I think the turkey's gone off completely. I still have some creamed corn though. Will send it c/o the National Review, as per the Derb's request.

Anonymous said...

Hate is easy to spot, way to blame homosexuality. Where is the mention of cigarettes, alcohol and my favorite, OBESITY. The fat asses in this country; gay, straight, rich, poor, male, female, old and unfortunately far more prevalent now young, is putting far more burden on our health care system than any sex related lifestyle. You should be ashamed. Lets call it what it is and stay on track. No need to slip in a little agenda promotion. To even suggest a male homosexuality relationship places a greater burden on our health care system, than those three, insults your intelligence and suggests fear and anger! Let it go. Our health care system isn't perfect. It's our country, therefore it is all our faults. Stop blaming and maybe it will get fixed. And oh, let's hope soon, my wife and I are having a baby in 3 months and even with insurance it is expensive!

Anonymous said...

Since he's already paying for the insurance he should do something about that lazy eye.

belledame222 said...

Oh, dear. I'm afraid I can't spare any funds for Mr. Derbyshire this season, as I need to spend them all on, well, Me. but, I have some leftover big wheels of cheese. I could send them his way (postage due), if he doesn't think the cholesterol might raise his premiums further. I suppose he could always just look at them; they send the message,

Dear John, even though you may be feeling down and out and possibly dying with no way to pay for the treatment one fine day, here is a reminder that you are still a Big Wheel.

and that will make him feel better about his status as an Alpha Critter; and really, what else matters?

belledame222 said...

btw, i've blogrolled you. so nice to have a sensible conservative in the ranks for once...

benmerc said...

As they say: Karma, it works in un-mysterious ways....Nevertheless, "Merry Christmas", "Happy Holidays & Hanukka" etc. et al.

Although I was not awarded the steel guitar I believed my good behavior warranted, I hope everyone else got what was coming to them this year...

Milo said...

John Derbyshire: The true face of poverty in America.

Forget the children--think of the affluent, white, legal-immigrant Brit-extracted conservatives.

Anonymous said...

Of course, in DerbyshireWorld, half of those costs for male homosexuals is associated with their propensity for closets. 'Tis no trifling matter, either, as you'd realize the first time you shut your closet door on your trouser trout, should you ever come down with the affliction of rockhudsonism, too.

I forwarded an IOU note to Derbyshire, promising him the first million that pours in from my email pal in Nigeria, whose dead uncle is leaving me quite an inheritance, as soon as they process my check.

Merry Christmas, Monsieur Swift.

Miss Cellania said...

I have no money, but some advice for Mr. Derbyshire. About a year ago, my employer-provided insurance underwent a similar price jump, from less then $400 a month to over $800 a month. Since my take-home pay was barely more than that, I solved that problem by dropping family coverage. Now I have no problem with health insurance at all, because I have no job and no insurance.

James Higham said...

...What kind of a man needs health care anyway? When you get sick you should suck it up and keep going to work like it's nothing. If your illness scars you for life all the better! Of course, in his case, a bit of scarring wouldn't do too much damage...

I'm sure this was tongue in cheek, just to pull the leg. If she was serious, it would be truly worrying.

brad said...

A smidgeon of condescension? Whole great big heaping heap helpings of condescension, please!

Brad DeLong

Anonymous said...

For someone who so obviously sets off "gaydar" warning alerts, Mr. Derbyshire sounds a bit homophobic. If he isn't, in fact gay, then let me say I am sorry if he took my comments wrong.

Really, health care is so easy to fix that it has to be a conspiracy to not fix it. Who ever said theat health care needed to be "for profit"? There are many not for profit hospitals.

1) Full free tuition for people wishing to become doctors that only has to be paid back if the doctor opts to go into a private, "pay as you go" practice. No big bills to pay after college.
2) A comfortable salary for doctors, nurses and other health care providers. While no one will become "rich" under this system, they will be able to determine prior to committing whether they can live with the salary provided.
3) Standardized malpractice insurance provided by the state but only for instances of malpractice. If a treatment don't work, that really is sad, but not liable.
3) An affordable premium that is either paid by each person or by the employer if they wish to cover their employees as a way of attracting workers.
4)Streamline the approval process for drugs and a reasonable expectation of safety and chances taken when introducing a new drug. In other words, due dilligence during testing, full disclosure of possible effects and limited liability.
5) Economy of scale with purchases of drugs, material, machines, etc...
6) We could subsidize part of it by charging all immigrants from England that come to America as economic refugees.

Anonymous said...

@ Mark

I have no idea what you mean by "female homosexuality." The term "male homosexuality" is a redundancy and "female homosexuality" is an oxymoron. Never heard of so-called "female homosexuality" because it doesn't exist!

Do you mean lesbianism? Because there is nothing "homosexual" about lesbians. (Homo from the Latin for "man.") In which case there is nothing "weird" about the suggestion that lesbianism is "some kind of turn-on" for men. You claim that you can not see it, but if it is "lesbianism" that you oxymoronically refer to as "female homosexuality," then you are yourself a homosexual.

As a straight guy, I can explain why guys are into lesbians. Closet cases like Mark might not understand, but the fact is, if you are not into lesbians, you are not into women. If you are not into women, you are probably gay. Thus any man who is not into lesbians is a fag!

Unless by "female homosexuality" you are referring to something entirely different, in which case Mark might not necessarily be gay, but what else might he be describing? Females turning into males so they can become homosexuals? (Homosexuals being by definition male.) How would someone even begin to describe such a confusing state of affairs?

Amanda Crowe said...

Mr. Derbyshire - You say "And for crying out loud, keep them out of our country." Keep who out? Somalis? But most Somalis are not terrorists. On what grounds can we keep them out?

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