Notes From Babel

Hair of the Dog that Bit Health Care

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After college, I spent some years as a computer and network technician.  About 10-20% of my onsite calls tended to involve some manner of dealing with computer viruses.  Every now and then there’s an outbreak that gets the jump on even the best antivirus software, and would require manual removal.  Sometimes it could take an entire day just removing a virus from a small office network.  And that’s assuming you’re lucky and the virus didn’t result in data loss or a real security breach.  Anyway, once we had assessed the damage and began getting things back to normal, clients began to move from the “what” question to the “why” question.  I’d say well over half of my clients, mostly business owners or otherwise people just generally perturbed at the loss of productivity, wound up asking me at some point a variation of the following:  “Do you think these viruses are put out there by the same guys who make the antivirus software as a sinister plan to get you to buy their product?”

In fact, it surprised me how common the question was.  People have a strong inclination to try to sniff out fault by way of motive—who stood to benefit from my contracting this computer virus?  I typically wound up explaining that there are a good many kids with exceptional computer skills and ambitious, inquisitive, and sociopathic personalities who are just really curious how many computers they can infect with this little app they conceived in their bedrooms.  Still, I get the feeling that many computer virus victims were still left with the sneaking suspicion that Mssrs. Norton and McAfee had carried out some rummy plot against them.

Given that, I am left surprised that this built-in, automatic cynicism toward private enterprise does not also extend to the government and the big “fix” they are currently trying to sneak through Congress.  Consider that the current health care “crisis” is the result of labor unions (viz., the AMA), the federal salary freeze during WWII that initiated mass dependency on employer-provided health plans, and the Medicare Act of 1965.  Not to mention the prohibitions on interstate insurance and the tight restrictions on the practice of medicine.  There is no shortage of ways that big government has driven up medical costs and generally made our systems an intractable mess.  So why are we not more skeptical at drawing the elixir from the same well as the poison?

I don’t believe that antivirus software developers are involved in any conspiracy to inflict harm on their customers merely to create dependency and justify their own existence.  But it’s hard to say the same for legislators.

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Written by Tim Kowal

March 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Politics

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