Arguing With the Right

| Fri Mar. 11, 2011 12:04 PM EST

Paul Krugman notes today that Mike Huckabee is opposed to comparative effectiveness reviews. This is old news, of course. CER wasn't the basis for the whole death panel flap back in 2009 (end-of-life planning was), but it became the poster child for it pretty quickly anyway. After all, CER is just a multi-syllabic way of saying that we should compare various disease treatments to see which ones are most effective. That sounds like exactly the kind of thing that a government should do if it's watching out for taxpayer money, but of course it means that some treatments will end up being found ineffective and thus not worth paying for. According to Huckabee, this plants "the seeds from which the poisonous tree of death panels will grow."

To follow up on my post from Wednesday, this is what makes it hard to figure out which conservatives are worth reading and engaging with. The intelligent right doesn't buy the "poisonous tree" argument, of course, and has a considerably more nuanced view of what a conservative healthcare system would look like. That nuanced view includes the obvious point that we should try to figure out what works and what doesn't. That view, however, is not shared at all by the mainstream right, which long since abandoned reason to take Huckabee's side that CER is a liberal plot to kill old people and babies. Thus the liberal problem: it's not really worth arguing with the mainstream right about this, since their view isn't amenable to reason, and it's not really worth arguing with the moderate right about this since their views have no support in the real world. So what's the answer?