Prop 46 and Political Philosophy

Around the time you start to enjoy sparkling water, you might find yourself choosing talk radio on your morning commute on occasion no matter how much you love music. Sure, sometimes you still put a punk anthem on repeat to fantasize about what you never say to your boss in the upcoming meeting. But at 6:30am, adulthood beckons you to turn to 88.5 instead of one of the more advertising friendly dial selections. “Katy Perry. Taylor Swift. Kanye. All your top 40 hits on Sexy Hot 88.5.” See it doesn’t work. 88.5 screams middle to upper middle brow. Or rather it suggests politely over chai: NPR. They may or may not agree with Malcolm Gladwell, but they certainly have an opinion.

And when you choose NPR, you will only be cheered up by the notion that your hopeless life seems less hopeless than the world at large. When politicians can’t agree about bureaucratic overreach in cases of college sexual violence perpetrated by students on too many prescription drugs now available because of doctor shopping and Internet drug stores whose client lists were illegally tracked by the NSA, and someone has written a folk song in response to Jonathan Franzen’s opinions on this crucial issue, you’re likely to wonder why the hell you didn’t turn to Sexy Hot 88.5.

Recently here in the Bay Area on NPR there was a debate over California ballot proposition 46 which would provide three primary regulations from my understanding: 1) it would raise non-economic claims from medical malpractice in line with inflation for folks who do not have significant steady income (kids and old people, for example); 2) it would require doctors to check a database for first-time patients before prescribing Vicodin or Oxycontin or any of that good stuff; and 3) we’d randomly drug test doctors to make sure they weren’t taking too much Vicodin or Oxycontin before removing the wrong gall bladder. (Wait, I’ve just been told we only have one gall bladder.)

The proposition is supported by trial lawyers, the teamsters, Erin Brockovich (still around?), and some consumer organizations. It’s being fought by lots of corporations, every medical organization in the universe (these guys are fans of clubs, sweet jebus), and in a strange marriage, the Republican Party and the NAACP too. Color me and a lot of people confused. While the first initiative regarding non-economic gains would likely garner wide support because people like kids and feel sympathy for old people (both in theory, not the ones you have to take care of), the other two initiatives strike many (myself included) as overreaching, beyond where professional ethics go and beyond the pale of privacy. Not to mention I’ve always imagined surgery to be a little like billiards. Who isn’t better a little tipsy?

Seriously though, what does one do when one believes regulation is a necessary counterweight to greed/corruption, but overly prescriptive laws and bureaucracy chip away at the primacy of the individual? Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin weighs a great deal, you know? But technocratic government and bureaucracy end up contributing eventually to the very problems that someone on the left would like to avoid, a devaluing of the individual… see also David Simon and The Wire. As much as it pains me, it seems like a bad law here is worse than no law.