I hoped I could prove this with a link, but back during the presidential primary race, I told at least one person that, when it came to the health care debate, not universality but comprehensiveness was the issue. You can imagine that a pomocon has an ingrained or inherent dislike for comprehensiveness; the logic of total systems points us ever deeper into the details of quantitative and qualitative knowledge in a way utterly unlike that recommended by Tocqueville, for whom plunging citizens into the tough daily details of active citizenship would in fact militate against the transformation of democratic governance into a top-down total system. This is to say nothing of my pomocon irritation with, say, algebra, where one tiny error in arithmetic renders an answer just as wrong as do errors produced by massive, drunken recklessness or even spitefully deliberate miscalculation. (Over to you, Will.) I might add on a final tangent that comprehensiveness in a religious key seems to me perhaps to point the anxious soul toward a therapy of doubt; attending to noncomprehensiveness could in this view actually build vital bulwarks of faithful conviction. For this to work, however, one would have to ‘make an exception’ and deeply love the comprehensiveness of God.

But we were talking about health care. Would anyone really find great cause for upset with an arrangement delivering universal, but highly noncomprehensive, coverage? Such coverage would be far less inclined to seep or reach down into the minute details of our lives, making the sorts of micromanagement decisions we have associated, even before Tocqueville, with despotism. If you agree so far, Ross and Reihan have some, um, details.

Articles by James Poulos

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