Surgeons and health nuts

There seem to be only two schools of economic thought in Congress: surgeons and health nuts.  The health nuts are the economic libertarian Right; if you are dying of dengue fever or hit by a beer truck, they prescribe the economic equivalent of tofu and brisk exercise.  The surgeons are the economic dirigiste Left; if a healthy economy has constipation or a cold they want to do heart bypass surgery or a brain transplant.  Right now we need drastic surgery, and the health nuts tell us the crisis is good for us and we should lots of pushups and eat wheat germ.  But if we do get the necessary surgery, be assured the surgeons will want to do it again and again even after we get well.

By Frederick Turner

Professor, poet, lecturer, black belt, and more.

5 replies on “Surgeons and health nuts”

That is a very apt analogy. The health nuts would treat cancer with crystals and a gluten free diet, while the surgeons would go in and remove the afflicted organ and everything around it. In any case the quality of (ecomonic) life is less important than the commitment to a certain philosophy of treatment.

I found your blog while searching your name under epic poetry. Your comments regarding the economy are certainly thought provoking. As a confirmed capitalist, I recoil a bit at the health nut portion of your analogy, but since I agree totally with the opposite assessment of the surgeons, I will grant you some latitude on my side and consider your thoughts further. Thanks for the cerebral stimulation.

I wonder if this metaphor couldn’t go even a little further, since dyed-in-the-wool socialists seem to mistake even the healthiest profit motive for the kind of zero-sum, morbid appetite that feeds a tumour. Could a “pure” socialist economy be likened to perpetual, preventative chemotherapy?

SInce we are making comparisons, where is economic science in relation to medical science? 18th century? 19th century? In the 18th century, it was oftentimes better if you kept the surgeon at bay, since they didn’t in fact know what they were doing. How many people then would have lived if the surgeons had been surgically removed? From what I know and understand about the economy, most people don’t know enough about the economy to make good surgical suggestions. More, unlike in medicine, we have lots of people out there who have no training in the field at all claiming they are surgeons and know what’s best for us. They even claim they know more than the people who are actually trained in the field. So the real problem is that those who want to perform surgery are almost all quacks. And in this particular case, the patient was pretty healthy until the doctors came in and tried to improve the health of the patient by encouraging the cells of the economic body to become more and more like each other. You don’t cure cancer with more cancer. And those are the proposals I’ve seen so far.

I think John’s on to something here, only the doctors came in and gave the patient cancer, and rather than surgery to cure it, have decided on perpetual chemotherapy, killing the cancer perhaps, but preventing growth from occurring throughout the body.

One problem here is the ideological content in economics. Which is also there is certain areas of medicine. Economics is further along than medicine of the 18th century where even blood transfusions could quite easily kill you due to incompatibility.

Many Americans seem to be quite ignorant of socialism, but then this is undoubtedly at least partly the fault of many socialists who have taken quite extreme views. Many capitalists have done the same. This tendency seems to be endemic in debates where ideological issues seem to lie at the center.

Since economics is not a science, would it not be reasonable for economists to become more philosophically astute? At least their ideological biases could then be laid out in the open for all to see.

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