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$21.95 hardcover · 224 pages
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The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    

 

Good Reading
Essays (37)
Tuesday
Mar072006

Health Systems Have No Effect On Health

The most distressing thing about debates over “national health systems” is that they are not about health. I mean to say that no national health care system in the world – at least in the Western world - has any demonstrable effect on the health of the people. This point was driven home for me with some force many years ago, when I was researching for The Trouble With Canada (1990). It was impossible to find a study showing any appreciable effect on health of any known national health care system. Indeed, the greatest differences in the health of nations had to do with personal lifestyle choices, and not at all with how government’s control or provide health care. The most blunt and arresting conclusion in this vein came from the established health economist Cotton Lindsay, who insisted that “access to health care resources has little impact on the aggregate measure of health of a population.” At that time, in percentage of GNP Canada was spending about twice as much per capita on health care as Japan - for the same result. Canadians were not and are not healthier than the Japanese. So why twice as much spending? This does not likely hold for very poor nations that begin with no health system at all. But in the wealthy welfare states of the world, there is no relationship I have been able to find. Lindsay went on to say that if you consider standard measures like cancer and heart disease death rates, infant mortality, maternal mortality rate, the overall death rate itself, and male and female life expectancy, you are forced to conclude that “no [health] plan has even a ripple of an effect on either male or female life expectancy. If government medicine is preferred on the grounds of better employing health resources, there is scant evidence for these effects in statistical measures of the health of populations.” In a fascinating study in 1983, Victor Fuchs, a very careful health economist produced “A Tale of Two States” in which he compared the health status of the residents of Christian Utah with those of libertine Nevada. It is astonishing and revealing. These two states, he wrote, “are self-selected extremes from the continuum of lifestyles found in the United States.” To be brief, the health statistics read like opposing profiles of two completely different species. In all categories the rates of disease for Nevadans were up to 500% higher (depending on age group and disease category). I mention these things to say that the “health” of a people is in most respects a function of lifestyle choices that are independent of government spending on health care. So in the face of this reality – this was knowledge available to all those who nevertheless brought us such massively intrusive programs for socialized medicine - how do we avoid the conclusion that national health care programs are not about health. They are vote-getting political programs introduced to satisfy an assumed public longing for equality; they do not exist to make populations healthier but to impose a national ideological framework from sea unto sea.

Speaking of health care resources: it is astonishing to see that an otherwise perceptive columnist like Andrew Coyne (National Post, March 4) can write so obtusely about remedies for “reforming” our national health care system . I have often felt that the trouble with ivory-tower columnists and academics is they have never had to meet a payroll in their entire lives; that the surest cure for all kinds of socialist, centralists, and egalitarians (much the same species) would be to have them own and operate a corner store or a gas station for a year, to meet a payroll, to buy and sell real goods and services, to hire and employ and fire and supervise real human beings just once in their lives. That would do more to chase the ghost of Karl Marx from North America than anything. In his column, after telling us with his usual passion that “there is ample room to reform the public health care system on market-oriented lines” and that this will be “hard work,” Coyne gets specific, and this is where the baby-talk begins. He says this sort of reform will mean “imposing on providers not just market freedoms, but market disciplines. It requires people to work within budget constraints, to wring efficiencies out of the system, to do more with less.” Then he complains that conservatives, instead of following Vice-President Coyne’s ideas for market discipline, are giving up on a good thing. He laments that they simply want “to tack on a parallel private system, and let health care swallow several more percentage points of GNP.” I have italicized some words and phrases in this blurb, and here are my thoughts about them.

First point: it is impossible to “reform” a system the foundation of which is ideological and political rather than economic, and which in principle has no basis for true pricing. Public health care systems set prices based on the distribution of government budgets, which are always capped, and so “prices” can only be maintained by refusing service and/or rationing. You cannot “impose” a discipline that has no real-world basis with reference to which it can be exercised. Coyne is just talking about more and stricter policing of capped public spending. Hence all the talk has to be about forcing, imposing, and requiring. You can only “wring efficiencies” from a public system that is capped and that has no basis for attracting more revenue by paying less to unionized employees (good luck there!) or providing less to customers. Indeed, more real revenue supplied by medical customers is not allowed and trying to get it from them is punishable by law. So the most common way for public systems to “do more with less” as Coyne admonishes, is by cheating taxpayers. I mean to say, by delisting services that honest taxpayers assumed they had been paying for all their lives, but for which they will now have to pay out of their pockets. Finally, he despairs that health care will “swallow several more percentage points of GNP.” This is a strange statement simply because a public system that promises carte blanche service for all citizens as a right could conceivably swallow the entire GNP. What Coyne misses in all this – and this is so typical of the egalitarian mentality - is that in a true free-market system, spending on medicine is not a cost, and not a drain on the system, but an investment in it, and if Canadian citizens would rather buy medical goods and services than hamburgers, snowshoes, and cars, why not let them? For that matter, in a free society they should be able to buy as much of all of these things as they require and can afford. Private insurance plans (once legalized again) can always help the less well off. And I’m not opposed to government insurance for the truly needy so they can get the same. But with an aging population, maybe we ought to be “spending” a lot more on health care than we are, and not less. Maybe we should be pumping 20% of GNP into medical care via the purchase of medical goods and services and investment rather than the current - what is it now, 13% - which is paid mostly from extracted taxes. In other words, we need a system that creates jobs, investment, resources and high-tech research in a free-choice medical model where the patient is seen as a financial boon to the system and not a drain on it.

Monday
Mar062006

An Elected Senate: A Conflict of Legitimacy?

I have been corresponding with a colleague over the idea of an “elected Senate,” which is something high on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s list. Here is the essence of the issue, for me, at least.

 “Parliament” in our system consists of two Houses, not one, as we often think. It is comprised of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. This is our heritage from the British system of political and moral checks and balances that for centuries has been considered one of the most prudent systems ever invented. That system was deeply influenced by the Roman ideal of balancing the human and political realities of emotion and reason, and not by the Greek ideal of radical democracy, of unchecked Will.  Some of the thinking can be found worked out in a treatise on government of the second century B.C. by the historian Polybius, who in his attempt to explain the success of the Romans wrote The Rise of the Roman Empire (Penguin, 1979). In Book VI of that treatise we find the classic formula for the “mixed constitution.” Put briefly, and in my own words, I would say the whole system is “humane” in that it is based on the image of a human being wherein the democratic elements are like warring emotions struggling within for victory, with the  cool head of reason making the best choice after the heat of emotion has passed.

Putting these two concepts together in a single Parliament was meant to provide us with something more and better than the mere democratic impulsivity of “the People.” In other words the whole purpose of having an upper House is that it is intentionally not controlled by the same partisan emotional politicking that stirs the people below – the Commoners.  And there is no doubt the metaphor of the human being does suggest that raw emotions are more animal, more common, and may grip us with passion and deceive us, and therefore are lower than calm deliberation and reason. That is why, under this theory, the Senate most definitely ought not to be an elected body. The democratic voice of the people should still be heard, of course, but it should be a voice filtered and checked by cooler heads.

It is an interesting twist of cross-Atlantic political history that it was the Frenchman Charles de Montesquieu who, after studying the English system, added to the whole mixture the idea of not only balancing and checking powers, but also of separating them so that none of them – legislative, executive, or judicial bodies - could become dictatorial and control the others. In the formation of what is now the world’s oldest “democracy” (you can see why that word is a bit of a misnomer), in the years leading up to the writing of the American Constitution of 1787, it was Rome and Montesquieu to whom recourse was most often had by the American founding fathers. Washington D.C. is today full of somewhat pompous faux Roman architecture, not Greek architecture, because the very history of political experience and especially of political disasters pointed to the balanced Roman model rather than the impulsive Greek democratic one. All this was and is still an implicit institutional recognition that unchecked Will, whether in persons or Parliaments, is always a bad thing

So where are we now? It seems to me that in the scenario I have painted here the cry from the people to elect a Senate must be considered something akin to the crying out for attention and control by a child, which is to say, by someone who wishes to have his way because that is simply what he wants, and right now. Dividing the metaphor further into two people, we can imagine a teenager protesting to a parent that it is time he got his way without any correction. In the same way, the push for an elected Senate is an expression of the radical democrat’s outrage at having his almighty Will checked, filtered, or just cooled off by anyone else.

Now let's suppose this impetuous democratic thrust is successful in Canada.  What can be the result? One result, I fear, is what might be called “a conflict of legitimacy” under which if - whenever - both Houses are elected, there would then surely be a justifiable case to be made by each of them that they are thereby the only true (the truest?) representative of the people's will. For under such a system, and if we do end up voting for both, then which, after all, could we say would be the truest? In a struggle over a piece of legislation crucial to this nation's future, we could end up with just such a conflict of legitimacy, expressed or implied. That is the very structure of such an arrangement in which both Houses claim to represent the people directly.

Seems to me the original and rather noble ideal of an appointed senate came from an earlier time when it was commonly believed possible to find and place statesmen instead of politicians in upper houses. A politician has been defined as someone who is worried about the next election. But a statesman is someone who is worried about the next generation. That is quite a difference. Despite all the evidence that the statesman ideal is already a dead duck in our moribund Senate, however, I am reluctant to surrender it. I think we should fight to maintain it, and should teach it to our kids at home and in school as a desirable ideal. For of one thing we can be certain: once the concept of competing political parties invades discussion in the Senate, that ideal will be deader than dead.

Friday
Mar032006

Bring A Billion Dollars Back Home

I am off to Windsor Ontario tomorrow, taking 5 of our athletes to the Ontario Junior Indoor Track and Field Championships. One of our girls, just 15, who has already run 56.67" in the indoor 400 metres, will be attempting to break the Ontario record of 56.45", and will do so against far older girls (a Junior is an athlete not yet 20 years of age). For those who know about indoor running times, that is very fast. So I will be busy all weekend and will be back at this blog on Monday.

Meanwhile, I do want to move on from talk about our medical system. But not before saying that I think it is appalling that the most important issues and questions have not yet – have never – been on the table in this country. As the whole system crumbles further, and if there is going to be something we could defend as a national debate, instead of just public whining and rights-talk, then I suggest we ought to reflect deeply on some of the important things we gave up when we fell for socialized medicine and maybe that will help us decide what we ought to take back when the opportunity arises, if ever. Here’s one thing:

We Gave Up Our Privacy and the Hippocratic Ideal for a Veterinary Ideal

All medical students in the Western world were once obliged to take the Oath of Hippocrates, the most important aspect of which swore them to protect human life from conception to death, and to keep private all knowledge of their patients’ health, to wit: “that whatsoever I shall hear or see of the lives of men which is not fitting to be spoken, I will keep inviolably secret.” And what a proud personal and professional pledge that was!

But I am pretty sure this Oath is no longer required in most Canadian universities, and if it is that it has been doctored, so to speak, to remove these salient points. It had to be forsaken altogether, or bastardized beyond recognition. First, because you can’t offer a woman a state-funded abortion as a Charter “right”, for example, without insisting that some doctor on the government payroll perform it for her. So forget about protecting all human life. And of course, the moment physicians realized the government instead of the patient was to become their paymaster, they also knew their medical records could be inspected without their consent. So they surrendered. “What the heck – better to get guaranteed money from the state, than to risk bad-debts from unpaid bills, and all I have to do is stop protecting my patients’ privacy,” was the thinking. The result is that today ordinary government health inspectors – medical police, let’s use the most truthful word - are empowered to request or seize health records from any doctor or hospital in Canada, as they wish, to copy them, and to send them to committees in Ottawa. And you, the patient, have no right to disallow this intrusion by complete strangers into the most delicate aspects of your private life. In short, in Canada, doctor-patient privacy went out the window thirty years ago. If this does not offend you, then bring it closer to home. Try to imagine that one of these inspectors is your pathetic nosey neighbour down the street who spent quite a bit of time yesterday poring over your medical file with unusual curiosity. All those medical procedures you were sure were nobody else’s business? All those “private” discussions with your doctor? Don’t be so sure. When he was examining this very situation in the 1980s, Mr. Justice Horace Krever wrote that he was “shocked by the inadequate laws, the abuses of confidentiality, and the fact that so many people – except the patient – had access to medical records” (reported in the Toronto Star, April 29, 1989).

And why do I use the term “veterinary”? It takes a bit of time to realize the deepest truth of this, but to quote Hans Truffer of Switzerland, one of the original opponents of government-controlled medicine: “The real danger of collectivized state medicine is that the patient becomes a tool in the hands of the holders of power, and is dispossessed of the protection afforded by the Hippocratic ethic - which is to care for the patient according to the latter’s specific requirements – in favour of a veterinary ethic, which consists in caring for the sick animal, not in accordance with its specific needs, but according to the dictates of its master and owner: the person responsible for meeting any costs incurred.”

Now for something that shocked me a little. The National Center for Policy Analysis, an American think tank dedicated to finding “private solutions to public problems” has published a detailed brochure on the problems with what they call “single-payer” medical systems (an inoffensive term for state-controlled systems). They have analyzed the Canadian system, the British system, and the American. You can download “Twenty Myths about Single-Payer Health Insurance: International Evidence on the Effects of National Health Insurance in Countries Around the World,” all 134 pages, at www.debate-central.org/topics/2002/book2.pdf

Well, readers may remember that in a recent post I wrote that one of the reasons Canada’s socialized system has endured so long is because American medical expertise is so close by, so technologically advanced, and has no waiting lists, so that it serves as a kind of “safety valve” for well-off Canadians who cannot get the medical treatments here for which they thought they were pre-paying all their lives.

The NCPA report states that the total of all spending by Canadians on US medical treatments,from all provinces,  comes to a billion dollars a year.

I have not followed this up yet. But I intend to ask the folks at NCPA from what Canadian agencies they got this figure. For if it is true, it ought to be public knowledge. And Soon. For we cannot in all honesty argue that our system cares for the citizens who pay into it when they flee it to the tune of a billion dollars a year! neither can we argue that we have a single-tier system. Anyone must ask immediately how much better and more advanced our own medical system would be if that billion dollars was spent right here, on Canadian hospitals, physicians and research, every year. Let's take off the handcuffs!

Thursday
Mar022006

Trapped In Ideology

The cracks in Canada’s health care “system” are opening rapidly due to declining care and rising costs that were utterly predictable when it all began a few decades ago. The system cannot survive, because socialism cannot survive. At least not without force, threats of jail, etc. In this respect – that we will jail citizens for infringements of the Canada Health Act - we are no different from Cubans and North Koreans. What is more amazing than this shameless association, however, is the extent to which our citizens were and are still blind to the radical nature of the ideological program (just to stay with this one of many radical changes) that was imposed on them in the first place.

Trudeau and the whole Gang of Five from Quebec were all boutique intellectuals and radical ideologues out to change Canada. They were determined to uproot us from our historical Anglo-Saxon ways by imposing on us an alien, top-down political tradition inherited from Rousseau, Saint Simon, and other European social-engineers, all of them suckled on the teats of Descartes. That is, on the idea that human societies can be successfully formulated, planned, and then engineered like some kind of simple math problem from the top, by philosopher Kings and Queens. To hell with the people. We will force a just society on them with our superior ideas, was the thinking. To be fair, Trudeau warned us all he was setting out to do this in his first book, Federalism and the French Canadians. But hardly anyone read it. All his life, Trudeau resorted to Rousseau’s concept of “the General Will” (la volonte generale), especially in his chapter “Federalism, Nationalism, and Reason” in that book. In Trudeau and Our Times, Stephen Clarkson and Christina McCall wrote that it was at the London School of Economics that Trudeau “attached himself” to his mentor Harold Laski, Britain’s “most powerful spokesman for socialism” and “positioned himself for the first time decidedly on the political left.” The leftism lasted all his life. When he spoke against the Meech Lake Accord in Trudeau Speaks Out (1990) he seemed more obsessed than ever with Rousseau’s collectivist vision, and wrote that from 1927 until his Charter in 1982 Canadian federalism had striven “to create a national will … or ‘une volonte generale’ as Rousseau had called it”(p.45). I wrote about all this more extensively in my book Constitutional Crack-Up: Canada and the Coming Showdown With Quebec (1994). It sold out in three days and a Quebec journalist who called to interview me said I was (at least that week) "public enemy number one in Quebec." I wanted to title that book The Revenge of Montcalm, to indicate that although beaten by Wolfe and the English on the Plains of Abraham, the French had managed to surreptitiously take revenge by imposing Rousseau's vision on us, via the Charter, and things like socialized medicine. But I wasn't sure Canadians would remember who Montcalm was. 

Now, so many years later, we are still under the spell of Rousseau. Because instead of recognizing that socialized medicine, like so many other failed programs we have tried was flawed to begin with (think of the National Energy Program, for another) our leaders stumble forward apologetically. We read of “conservative” politicians agonizing over “new solutions” to “save the system.” What? Even conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper supports socialized medicine (at least for now, because he would never have gotten elected if he had spoken his true feelings about it). I like him, and think he will be a very good Prime Minister. He is already that. But he knows very well that no free person, and certainly no conservative worth the name can support the idea of government-controlled and rationed health care, and he will eventually open the door to free choice in medical care once again. This is just the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to unwinding the Trudeau legacy.

So what I am asking is this: can’t we grow up once and for all and just admit openly that Canada should never have allowed itself to be pushed into the socialist orbit in the first place? Can’t we be courageous and say this was a huge mistake, because it was in direct conflict with our common-law principles, our ancient love of individual freedom and responsibility, our respect for private property rights, our division of powers (medical care is still a provincial jurisdiction under our constitution, and NOT a federal one), our spirit of enterprise, the bold dreams expressed in our highest poetry, literature and music, our tough old insistence on self-reliance? Can we not admit that voluntary social co-operation in a free society is far superior to forced co-operation in a collectivist one, and that we ought never to have left the former ideal behind?

Once having admitted this huge mistake, can we not then clearly re-articulate such understandings as the true historical ground of our own political roots and thereby repudiate the ghost of Rousseau?

                                                                                                                     ~

[Note: I have just now had a call from a gentleman who is writing a biography of Peter Gzowski, which brought back some unpleasant memories of a few personal “interviews” I endured under Gzowski’s curmudgeonly, graying-beaver glare in the labyrinth of the old CBC building on Jarvis Street in Toronto. He intensely disliked all my books, especially War Against The Family. For that 1995 interview he mentioned at the very last minute that there would be “another guest” on the show, who turned out to be a flaming homosexual socialist professor from the University of Winnipeg. He shoved the fellow’s excuse for research at me with about a minute to go, and that professor and I, (with Gzowski soon taking the professor's side) got into a real pitched-battle shouting match such as had never been heard on sweet old self-deprecating Peter’s show in 25 years! One of his staff called me a week after and said they had received “an avalanche” of calls and letters and were now going to have two more shows in which they would be reading a lot of them. At any rate, when I got up to leave, I held out my hand to thank him, but this ostensibly neutral employee of our national radio network refused to shake my hand. That was a little embarrassing in front of all his staff. But as I left I rationalized it as a kind of reverse honour.]

Wednesday
Mar012006

Dying For Canadian "Values"

Former Canadian Foreign Affairs diplomat Martin Collacott thinks Ottawa should “demand a more explicit commitment to Canada and Canadian values” from new immigrants (with special attention to terrorists from the Muslim community). This advice comes in a newly-published study on Canada’s Inadequate Response to Terrorism by The Fraser Institute. A friend from the former Yugoslavia who was once hired by the RCMP for some internal spying told me after his stint how astonished he was to learn that “Canada is crawling with all sorts of spies who are spying on us and also on each other.” Our daily world sits on top of a shadow world that pops up once in a while and disappears as quickly. I saw this once myself at my former business, The Fitness Institute, in Toronto. A black-windowed car pulled up and three men in dark suits pushed their way past our receptionist, on the run, and disappeared down our hallway into the locker room. Who in the *&$%& was that, I was asking myself, as I ran after them somewhat cautiously. Gone. I mean, they disappeared into our building somewhere, somehow, and were never seen again, and when I got back to the front door the car was gone. Shadows.

As for the “liberal-democratic” values that new immigrants are being encouraged to learn? More shadows here. My Godfather, Bill Weis, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during WW II and died for what he was convinced were Canada’s liberal-democratic values. He was last seen diving out of control into a dark forest south of Paris with a 500-pound bomb strapped to his aircraft. I still have the mournful letter from Ottawa, informing his family, with regret, that “no remains were to be found.” Well, he lost his life for “Canadian values” and it is sobering to ask what those values were.

In brief, he was going to war to make sure that Canada would never become a nation that succumbed to any form of economic socialism such as was then menacing Europe (but such as we now endure through various programs of “redistribution” to myriad classes of people, and from giver to taker provinces); to ensure that our traditional bottom-up style of Parliament-made law – which was then considered “the supreme law of the land” - would never surrender to any top-down control of the laws or the people (by unelected judges who think it is their right to read their personal social preferences into the abstract words of a Charter - now said to be our "supreme law"); to ensure that Canada would never lose its respect for the division of powers that made our original constitution so unique (and which has since been foiled by central governments that have bribed all our provinces into socialist schemes with “shared-cost” programs); to ensure that we would always revere and protect our ancient tradition - as old as Magna Carta - of a citizen’s right to private property (private property is not protected in our Charter); to ensure that the people’s ancient right to free-enterprise not be eroded by governments setting up competitive enterprises that drive the people out of business (Canada then had less than 100 Crown Corporations, and now has over 1,200 spread federally and provincially); and not least, to ensure that government does not enslave present or future citizens with public debt beyond what can be paid off by each generation (Canada in 1945 had a mere 10-15 billion dollars of federal debt accumulated in the 78 years since Confederation. Today, Canada carries over 550 billion dollars in federal debt alone, which is considered “structural” because it cannot be paid off without ruining the country. Canada also carries many billions of dollars more in debt in the form of “unfunded liabilities” such as the Canada Pension Plan, which is a debt instead of a resource because no actual pension fund exists. It is a Ponzi, or a Pay-Go scheme in which younger workers pay for the retiring old, every day. As a consequence of all this, almost a third of every tax dollar raised in Canada is used to pay debt. In effect, we are all asking future generations - citizens not yet born - to pay for our current consumption, as we are paying for much of the consumption by our predecessors. This is an immoral obligation laid upon all future Canadian children from which they cannot escape. We put them in fiscal jail before birth). Finally, like everyone else back then, my Godfather  thought that as a matter of course new immigrants to Canada should be prepared to look after themselves and their families with their own resources, that they should speak passable English on entering, or learn it very fast, and that the central role of God be recognized in all public places and at all public events: like all the rest of us, immigrants to Canada were expected to say the Lord’s Prayer, and sing God Save the Queen (it was King George VI, then) everyday, before school classes began. At many schools we were expected to stand up the moment a teacher entered the classroom.

I don't think my Godfather would have recognized the “values” we think are Canadian today, and if he had learned of them, he might even have figured he was about to die in vain

Tuesday
Feb282006

Response to Readers - Sex, Vouchers, and AIDS

On Sex

Mike wrote: “does the possibility of a procreative result define what is sex and what is not sex” ( comment, Feb 20).

My answer is, “Yes”. My main point was that the word “sex” has been removed from its proper biological context and is now applied to all sorts of things such as homosexual behaviour which, I argued, cannot be “sexual.” It may feel good and be very sensual, but there is no strict sense in which it can be sexual because that word properly applies only to animal or plant or human behaviour that has a procreative potential. What about an infertile hetero couple? Are they “having sex”? Again, yes, they are having infertile sex. Anything heterosexuals do in the way of exciting each other physically may properly be called sexual because its ultimate context is procreative, whether or not that is the result. After all, the procreative possibility of sex is blocked all the time by various things, such as by “not going all the way,” by coitus interruptus, by contraception, by abortion, and so on. President Bill Clinton, in one of the most demeaning acts ever to defile the highest office in America, was certainly engaged in sexual behaviour with Monica Lewinsky; he just decided not to press forward, so to speak.

Incidentally, I reject the term “having sex” – I think we should all reject it - in favour of the term “making love.” We may have a beer, or have dinner. But to “have” sex reduces the most beautiful and unique of all human behaviours to a material thing, a trinket of consumer society enjoyed for the moment then put away until next time, a passing urge, like a yawn. Animals “have” periodic sex by instinct, and on command of their natures, according to estrus, etc. But human beings (not human havings) make their unique kind of unitive love - a sexual love that unites two incomplete beings - all the time, any time, and most humans so united are aware they are doing a lot more than “having sex.”

On Vouchers

K.Sanderson writes that “vouchers won’t hurt the poor provided that the schools that accept vouchers aren’t allowed to charge extra fees. If they are, then the good schools will get better, and the bad schools will get worse.” (comment, Feb 22)

I have a little difficulty understanding how a “poor” school that is allowed to charge extra money will get worse. But if it does, then maybe it is so poorly managed it ought to cease operations, and then parents with their vouchers, who under our present system are restricted by law to that school, and hence have had no choice in education, can spend their voucher money at another, better school. Point being, a voucher system will force all schools to compete with each other for parental vouchers. I am always amazed that so many people who would never in a million years permit the government to control the clothes, or cars, or food they buy, and who are often the most discerning of shoppers; who look for the highest quality at the lowest price in absolutely everything they do; will simply surrender without question their most precious possession – their children – to the ministrations of government educators. For me, and despite the best intentions, governments are structurally incapable of rendering the best product for the least price, and that goes for anything government does. No matter what: education? Medical care? It doesn’t matter. I am not saying governments cannot do certain things very well. But it will usually cost the taxpayer about twice as much per-capita, per unit of service, as the same thing rendered in a freely competitive system. One underlying reason is that government monopolies in so-called “free” societies suffer from the lack of a true supply/demand price mechanism that encourages efficiency in allocation of resources, and profitability - always the marks of a strong free enterprise. For size is the governmental equivalent of profit: no one has ever heard of a government employee arguing that his or her department budget and staff need to be reduced next year. Wherever the state controls a service or product the pressure to increase in size and control, as measured on a fair price-for-quality basis, will crowd out quality every time. There will eventually be more bureaucrats and administrators in the system than teachers. Put simply, all public systems, no matter what, tend to exert an upward pressure on cost, and a downward pressure on quality, and competitive for-profit services tend to do the opposite. I say let’s take back the schools, and a voucher system would be a good start.

On HIV-AIDS

Ian McCulloch (comment, Feb 24) asks further about the connection between these two things. This is a swamp of controversy. The best I can do is to state that one of the reasons it started was the discovery that many with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus do not succumb to AIDS. That is what raised the possibility of “co-factors”, as I wrote. You might want to get Duesberg’s book, and explore the website www.virusmyth.net a little.