Category Archives: The Welfare State

“Are these Republicans Walter”? “No Donny, these men are just nihilists”

“I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the Republican party, Dude, at least it’s an ethos…”

Apologies to Joel and Ethan Coen…

There has been a recent meme circulated by the leftosphere, that the Republicans… in fact any opponent of the Obama agenda… are nihilists.

Now, I have to say, I don’t think most of the people promoting this idea even know what a nihilist is (and if they did, many of them would realize THEY are the ones that come close to fitting that bill), never mind that current republican ideology is nihilist. Current republican ideology is empty, obstructionist, and reactionary; but that’s not actually nihilism… or even close to it.

A few days ago, a person whose intellect I generally respect, John Scalzi, randomly tossed off a comment calling Republicans (and Obama oppositionists) Nihilists.

Well.. at least John knows what a nihilist is… which is why I was disappointed in his statement… because as far as I’m concerned that analysis is just lazy.

Then a few days later, as part of his commentary on the state of the union speech, he wrote this:

“As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be.”

Ok… not much of the core of the analysis there I can disagree with… but again, it isn’t nihilism.

Today however he posted a link to further explain the position he was trying to express in shorthand by calling the Republicans nihilist.

Again, there’s nothing I can really disagree with in this analysis:

[N]othing could be worse for the GOP than the illusion of success under present circumstances. Worse than learning nothing from the last two elections, the GOP has learned the wrong things… Not recognizing their past errors, the GOP will make them again and again in the future, and they will attempt to cover these mistakes with temporary, tactical solutions that simply put off the consequences of their terrible decisions until someone else is in office. They will then exploit the situation as much as they possibly can, pinning the blame for their errors on their hapless inheritors and hoping that the latter are so pitiful that they retreat into yet another defensive crouch.

Is the GOP in a worse position than a year ago? On the surface, no, it isn’t. Once we get past the surface, however, the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, unimaginative party that brought our country to its current predicament is still there and has not changed in any meaningful way in the last three years.

The best thing though, is the source of that quote: The American Conservative

Thus showing, once again, for those who don’t already know; that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative or libertarian, nor does conservative necessarily mean Republican.

Oh and continuing in that vein, conservative doesn’t necessarily mean religious either; nor does religious always mean conservative (especially if you’re Catholic).

I am neither a Republican, nor a conservative; but I DO register as a Republican because my state has closed primaries, and I like to vote against John McCain and Joe Arpaio.

I am a minarchist, which is a school of libertarianism that pretty much says “hey, leave me alone as much as is practical, and I’ll do the same for you, thanks”.

I’m well educated (perhaps overeducated), high earning, catholic, married with two kids, and a veteran. I was raised in the northeast but choose to live in the Rocky Mountain west, because I prefer the greater degree of freedom and lower levels of government (and other busybodies) interference.

I don’t care who you have sex with or what you shove up your nose, down your throat, or into your lungs so long as I don’t have to pay for it, or the eventual medical bills you rack up.

I KNOW from direct personal experience we need a strong national defense, but that freedom and liberty (which are two different things) are rather a LOT more important than internal security.

I have no faith in the government not to do with… really anything other than defense… exactly what they did with Social Security, or AFDC, or any number of other programs that they have horribly screwed up, wasting trillions of dollars in the process.

Yes, there is great benefit to some of those programs at some times (and I was on welfare and foodstamps as a child, I know directly this is true); but the government couldn’t make a profit running a whorehouse, how can they be expected to run healthcare, or education, or anything else for that matter.

Oh and for those of you who believe that government really can do good, without a corresponding and greater bad… I’m sorry, you’re wrong.

It’s a sweet ideal, but it just isn’t true. Good intentions don’t mean good results, unless combined with competence, efficiency, passion, compassion… HUMANITY in general; and the government is not a humanitarian organization.

Governments are good at exactly two thing: Stealing and Killing. Yes, they are capable of doing other things, but everything they do proceeds from theft, coercion, force… stealing and killing.

That doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it; but everything the government does has an associated harm that goes with it. Sometimes that’s worth it, sometimes it isn’t and it’s DAMN hard to figure that out. Who gets to decide? You? Your friends?

Do you have the right to tell me what to do, how to live my life? Do I have the right to tell YOU how to live YOUR life?

So why is it ok if you get a few million of your friends, and I get a few million of my friends, and just because you have more friends than I do you get to tell all of us how to live and what to do?

Sorry but, HELL NO.

I want the same things you want. I want people to be happy, and healthy, and have great opportunities… But the government doesn’t have the right to steal from me to help you do it; anymore than you would have the right to hold a gun to my head and take the money from me personally.

Actually, the government doesn’t have any rights whatsoever. The PEOPLE have rights, the exercise of which we can delegate to the government.

It absolutely amazes me that both liberals and conservatives understand that the government isn’t to be trusted; they just believe it’s not to be trusted over different things:

Liberals trust the government with your money, education, and healthcare; but don’t want them to interfere with your sex life, or chemical recreation.

Conservatives on the other hand are just fine with the government making moral, sexual, ethical, and pharmaceutical choices for you; but don’t trust it with your education, healthcare etc…

Well, I don’t trust them with ANYTHING except defense (which they also screw up mightily, but which is at least appropriate to the coercive and destructive nature of government).

It’s axiomatic that the intelligence of any committee is equal to that of the least intelligent member, divided by the total number of members.

There are 435 members of the house of representatives, 100 senators, 21 members of the cabinet, 9 supreme court justices, a vice president, and a president; for a total committee size of 567.

Now, if we’re charitable and say they’re all geniuses with IQs above 140 (don’t hurt yourself laughing), that’s an overall government IQ of .25

Why on earth would you want THAT spending your money, or making any decisions for you whatsoever?

Now… Given that thumbnail philosophy, who am I supposed to vote for?

I certainly can’t vote Democratic; they want to take all my money and either give it to other people, or use it to force me (and everyone else) to behave as THEY decide.

On the other hand, I can’t much vote for Republicans, because they still want to give my money to other people (just mostly different other people than democrats), and use my money to force me (and everyone else) to behave as they decide…. They just want to take a little less of it.

And I really can’t vote for Libertarians, because they are profoundly unserious and incapable of effecting any real political change. I want to vote for someone who will PREVENT the worst abuses of government, and sadly, voting libertarian has no hope of accomplishing that goal.

I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

Often that means voting Republican, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication of my support for Republicans.

So tell me, is that nihilism? I don’t think so. I think it’s playing defense, which isn’t a winning strategy; but it’s not nihilism.

Nihilism would be standing by the sidelines say “there’s no point in playing, you’re all going to lose anyway”… which coincidentally is the position of a lot of Libertarians.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

FacebookGoogle+RedditStumbleUponEmailWordPressShare

Would C-SPAN Make The Healthcare Bill “Worse”? Define Worse.

I’ll blockquote Peter Suderman over at Reason blockquoting the CAP’s “wonk room” blog on this one:

The short version of the argument is that C-SPAN’s coverage would put pressure on legislators to perform for the cameras and thus make the bill worse:

C-SPAN is grounded in the belief that transparency produces superior legislation. And maybe a certain level of transparency does. But if one actually considers the tone and tenor of the televised health care debate of 2009, filming the conference negotiations seems counterproductive.

…On the whole, C-SPAN’s coverage informed and entertained the viewer. But did it improve the underlying bill?

The post suggests pretty strongly that the answer is no. But how you answer this last question depends quite a bit on what you mean when you say “improved.” If you asked me, I’d say that anything in the health care bill that increased individual control and responsibility for their health care improved it. But when anyone at CAP asks whether something has been “improved”, I think it’s fair to say that what they’re asking is whether it made the bill more progressive — ie: does it cover more people, spread costs across a greater share of the population, offer larger subsidies for care, and move more power away from private enterprise and toward centralized government authority. The implicit argument here is that not filming the negotiations will push the bill in a more progressive direction. I agree, but I think that’s a bad thing. And I also think that as excuses go, shutting out C-SPAN and other media because doing so would limit opposition to the progressive agenda is pretty weak.

I don’t think it’s fair to say that CAP is asking whether it made the bill more or less progressive. There are multiple definitions of “worse”, and Suderman is projecting his definition of worse vs. improved onto CAP.

I think a more fair question, particularly when political grandstanding is involved, is this:

Does C-SPAN televising the debate make it easier or harder for Congress to write a bill accomplishing its objectives with a minimum of bad elements?

There are a lot of ways to define “bad elements”. Peter Suderman and I would say that a public option or an individual mandate are bad elements. CAP would probably say that these are desired elements and dropping the subsidies from 400% to 300% or the Stupak amendment are bad elements. All involved would probably say that greasing the wheels of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieux are bad elements.

The uncharitable way to read CAP’s question is to suggest that getting the debate out in front of voters, news media and bloggers prior to reaching a final bill gets the debate out of Congress and into public opinion, where voters might object to necessary provisions or add bad elements through the political process. But the charitable way to read this is that televising the debates on C-SPAN leads to overt politicization and a necessarily “worse” bill by addition of things that both Democrats and Republicans would consider bad elements. Whether policy is good or bad is not defined by its public popularity.

I like the idea of C-SPAN televising the negotiations, but not because I think they’ll improve the bill. Frankly, I think greater public awareness and pressure might lead to a further public opinion shift against the bill and potentially damage it before the votes come back to House & Senate on the compromise legislation. Any damage to this intrusion of government on freedom that I can get, I’ll take. But I don’t think televising the debates will in any way improve the bill. As the wonk room states:

Turning the conference committee into another Senate floor debate won’t improve health reform legislation. The televised conference hearings will become a drawn out theatrical sideshow — the real discussions will still occur behind closed doors.

They’ll just give a bunch of Congressional blowhards a forum to grandstand, and provide fodder for cable news and the blogosphere to excoriate them in public. Great fun, mind you, but since all the substantive negotiation occurs off-camera anyway, it’s not exactly useful.

Just because people make bad choices…

…Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have any choice at all. The first freedom is the freedom to fail…

And when it comes to choosing our leaders in this country… whoooo boy have we failed big time, for a long time.

So fellow gunblogger Tam, being an Ovarian American, got a bit tweaked at a comment over at Travis Corcorans site (for those who don’t know, Travis is a somewhat radical libertarian… and for that matter so is Tam) t’other day:

“I think that female suffrage has been an unremitted disaster – all of the socialism that we’ve experienced in the US has happened since, and because women have been allowed to vote.”

Excluding snark, Tams comment boiled down to “correlation does not equal causation”; which normally I am one of the first to trumpet… but in this case there is a causative link… Or at least most major studies of voting demographics seem to show one.

The other part of her comment was that she (nor anyone) shouldn’t be denied the right to vote (which is not, in fact, a right; but a privilege as a member of society. It can be granted by society, taken away by society, and does not exist in any context without society, therefore is not a right.) because of the choices some might make.

And in that, I’m entirely with her.

But we really do need to look at why women, in the significant majority, vote for the nanny state; and on the larger scale in general, why people who vote for nannyism do so.

The three major events or major societal changes in 20th century that did more to advance the nanny government than all other events combined were:

1. World War 1
2. Womens suffrage
3. Massive expansion of university education

I note “directly” above, because indirectly the 16th and 17th amendments (income tax, and direct election of senators) may have had an even greater effect; and enabled and encouraged such nannyism… in fact the current nannystate would be impossible without them… but were not direct contributors to voting for nannyism.. In fact income taxes tend to push voting away from nannyism… at least for those who actually pay those taxes.

I’ve talked about point 1 before (along with about a hundred scholarly books, phd. dissertations etc…). By depriving most of Europe of a full generation of its healthiest, most aggressive, and most ambitious men; an environment was created that was dominated by the risk averse, and those who were hurting and suffering… and the entirety of Europe has never really recovered. Basically, the ’14-’18 war took the guts out of the continent, and they haven’t come back, (bar a minor resurgence for the second great war… and it sadly was a minor resurgence. Just look at England).

Everyone and their uncle has looked at point 3.

Point two though… it’s one of those third rail topics. You can’t talk about it publicly or you risk being eviscerated by… well by Tam for example, never mind the lefties.

So first things first. Point two is true, by all available statistics. Historically speaking, women vote for more nannyism at about 2/3 to 1/3.

HOWEVER, just because item two is true (and some rather exhaustive demographic studies have been done showing that it is) doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

American blacks and hispanics are more likely to vote for leftists idiocy too (over 80% to 20% for blacks, hispanics are highly variable), that doesn’t mean they should be barred from voting either.

The first freedom is the freedom to fail. That includes the freedom to make bad choices; even if those bad choices effect other members of society (this is where the anarchists, Spoonerists, and Rothbardites usually jump up and down and start yelling).

The thing is this: It’s not that women, blacks, or hispanics are inherently more socialist than white males; or are less capable of making good political judgments. It’s that they perceive (I think, in general, wrongly) that their interest is better served with leftist policies.

In general, over the long term, and free of interference or distortion; people will vote their perceived interests.

The “more vulnerable” of society (which up until recently included the majority of women, blacks, and hispanics) will almost always vote for more “safety” than more freedom; because as I said above, the first freedom is freedom to fail, and they have historically been more likely to suffer under the negative consequences of failure, and therefore perceive the risk/reward metric differently than white males have historically.

Also, both the most wealthy, and most educated members of society (who believe either that the negatives impacts of leftism wont effect them greatly; or that they can benefit more from the “system” if more government control is in place, at the expense of the slightly less educated risk taking capitalists that would otherwise dominate), and the poorest and least educated members of society (who generally believe that they will not be able to succeed to a greater degree than the government would provide largess), generally, vote for more protectionism, socialism, leftism etc…

This is true even in rural “white” “bible belt” America, where protectionism, unions, government works projects and the like are seen as good business economically; even while voting for socially conservative policies and politicians.

Also, this split is by no means stable. As I said, people will tend to vote their perceived interests. Men will vote left and women will vote right, if the positions floated match their perceived interest. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected by landslide four times. Reagan was elected by landslide twice.

The problem then is not that women, minorities, and the poor vote left, or vote for socialism necessarily.

The problem is that they perceive (generally incorrectly) that their interests, and at least to some extent the interests of society, are better served by leftism.

So the task for us, is making the large majority of the people understand that leftism, even in the soft and limited forms of it like public works projects, job protection policies, tarrifs etc… is not in their interest, or the interest of society as a whole.

That’s a rather difficult task; because for someone who is naturally risk averse, capitalism (and specifically libertarian free market based capitalism) seems very risky… Heck, it IS very risky, that’s the point. You take risks, you fail, and you have the freedom to get back up and take more risks and succeed (or fail again).

Many people out there would happily vote for a “guaranteed” living, even if it was less than half what they could be making without a “guarantee”, and even if you could prove to them the “guarantee” was really false. It’s just the way they’re wired, and no amount of facts or logical arguments are going to convince them.

Many others are willing to accept a bit of risk, but they want a great big “safety net” underneath them for when they fall.

These people, even if they are shown it isn’t really true… they WANT it to be true bad enough, that they are willing to try and force that vision on the rest of us.

Those people (and by conventional estimate they make up about 40% of the population) are ALWAYS going to vote for the “safety and security” lie. They are going to vote for the nanny no matter what.

On the other hand, there are about 40% of the population who are always going to vote for the riskier path, that they can reap more reward from.

Even in Reagans 49 state landslide vs. Mondale, he only got 58.8% of the popular vote.

Nixon crushed Mcgovern 49 to 1 as well, and it was still a 60%/40% split.

Even in Roosevelts “New Deal” landslide against Hoover, he only got 57.4% of the popular vote (in ’36 against Alf Landon, 60.8%, the biggest landslide since the civil war. In ’40 against Wendell Wilkie, 54.7%. In ’44 against Thomas Dewey, 53.4%).

The 40% on either side is a pretty stable number; barring major events in society that temporarily distort it, like wars and disasters…. And even then, in the last 110 years, in every national election, the left has never had less than 35%, and neither has the right… And neither have had more than 60.8% either.

The fact is, some people will believe what they want to believe, or what they’re afraid to believe, over the truth; no matter how clear the truth is made to them.

It’s the remaining 20% that we need to get to, and teach them that it is ALWAYS a lie.

In a society where the government does not artificially force the private economy into failure, the government cannot possibly do better for you than you can do for yourself. Giving the government more power, and more control, is NEVER in your best interest, or in the interest of society.

Saying that “womens suffrage caused socialism” (which isn’t what Travis said exactly, but it’s certainly what a lot of people would hear from what he said) isn’t exactly helpful in that.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Bruce Bartlett, May Your Chains Set Lightly Upon You

Ezra Klein quotes approvingly from Bruce Bartlett’s new book, The New American Economy: The Failure Of Reaganomics And A New Way Forward:

The reality is that even before spending exploded to deal with the economic crisis, the government was set to grow by about 50 percent of GDP over the next generation just to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits under current law. When the crunch comes and the need for a major increase in revenue becomes overwhelming, I expect that Republicans will refuse to participate in the process. If Democrats have to raise taxes with no bipartisan support, then they will have no choice but to cater to the demand of their party’s most liberal wing. This will mean higher rates on businesses and entrepreneurs, and soak-the-rich policies that would make Franklin D. Roosevelt blush.

Shorter: “Hey conservatives, you’ve completely and hopelessly lost the spending war. If you don’t play nice, you’re going to get even more screwed by the tax man than if you sit at the table.”

To which Samuel Adams might have responded: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!”

In short, Bruce Bartlett has surrendered. He has taken the view “posit a giant welfare state — now what’s the best way to pay for it?” He suggests that if conservatives try to set the menu at — as Billy Beck would call it — the cannibal pot, that MAYBE they’ll just lose an arm and not the leg to go along with it.

All in all, Bartlett’s view is probably the calmest and most peaceful answer. But it gives us a nation that is so unlike America that I’m not sure I want a part of it. The peaceful way out is to accept that Democracy has given us a giant welfare state, that Democracy is never going to rescind it, and that therefore we might as well pay for it. He’s taking Mencken’s quote at face value:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Bartlett is arguing that if we’re all to be slaves, it’s best to suck up and hope for the job of overseer, holding the whip rather than tasting its lash.

But I’m not ready to surrender.

Bruce Bartlett says that if we don’t find a way to pay for the monstrosity growing out of Washington, the whole system will come crashing down. I say I’d prefer that to the “success” of the system as the social democrats want it to exist.

Bruce Bartlett says that the “starve the beast” tactic doesn’t work, as the beast keeps on growing. Well consider me a cancerous tumor hoping to infect the populace into becoming an ever-growing resistance that eats away at the beast’s insides until it dies of rot.

Bruce Bartlett wants conservatives to make sure they have a seat at the table to divvy up the “spoils”. Well, if he wants to be a good little Tory, that’s his choice. He’s taken sides, and despite his pleas, the fight will rage on.

Somewhere deep inside, despite a century of statism trying to weaken it with bread and circuses, the spirit of America still exists. Until that’s no longer the case, I’ll take the side of Freedom.

On promises made and broken

In the lead up to the vote on H.R. 3962, the “Affordable Health Care for America” Act (scare quotes intentional), Barack Obama offered this encouragement to legislators to vote for the bill:

“This is their moment, this is our moment, to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us,” Obama told reporters in the White House rose garden. “Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard, this is our moment to deliver.”

Two-hundred and fifteen did live up to the trust we placed in them, while two-hundred and twenty failed to do the same. How exactly is that trust defined? In the oath of office taken by each and every United States Representative:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Each and every Representative took a solemn oath to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution. Each and every Representative who affirmed the House health care bill, with its threats of fines and prison for not buying “government-approved” health insurance, has forsaken that oath. The mandates contained in the Pelosi bill are a kludge, a poor attempt to graft a clearly unconstitutional power such as this on to the enumerated powers of the commerce clause and taxation.

To attempt such a thing, one cannot bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. At best, those who attempted this hold the Constitution in the same regard that the 17-year-old script kiddie in his parents’ basement has for security measures–both are interesting challenges that require interesting solutions. At worst, they hold the Constitution in contempt and are actively working to debase the very core of the social contract between the government and the people.

In either case, it is now our turn as patriots to remind our Representatives that while they do not hold themselves to their oaths and promises, we do. In a little less than a year from now, voting booths across this great land will open again, and one of 435 representatives will be seeking your affirmation. If your representative has forsaken his or her oath to the Constitution, withhold it. It’s not about party affiliations or common views, it’s about holding legislators accountable for the promises they make to us.

Do your duty as a patriot. Refuse to support legislators who vote to abuse the Constitution or the People of the United States.

The House values Control over Health Care

So it is done: 220-215. Two-hundred and twenty United States Representatives put their support behind 20 pounds and 2,000 pages of abusive legislation in the form of innumerable mandates enforced by 110 new government agencies.

One of those mandates, though, cuts so violently to the core of our freedoms that it cannot go unanswered: Buy insurance or face the wrath of the IRS. From Representative Dave Camp:

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

Imagine being faced with the loss of a job. That is a rough event for anyone to go through. Now, under the Pelosi/Obama plan, you have the following choice: Buy insurance you likely can’t afford with far less income coming in, pay 2.5% of the income you do have coming in to the government for *nothing*, or go to jail.

That choice has no place in a bill about reforming our broken health care system. That choice is about criminalizing people for not behaving as the self-styled ruling class wishes them to. When it comes to undocumented immigrants, Democrats love to say that “no one is illegal”. When it comes to economic diversity, they tell us that those who will not be controlled are illegal.

The media says this is a bill about health care. So do the Democrats. They lie. This is a bill about control. The bill’s proponents want to control you. Whether or not you actually get health care is irrelevant.

Update: Coyote Blog links to a WSJ article detailing some of the high (low?) points of the legislation. Here’s what you must do under the Pelosi/Obama plan:

• Sec. 202 (p. 91-92) of the bill requires you to enroll in a “qualified plan.” If you get your insurance at work, your employer will have a “grace period” to switch you to a “qualified plan,” meaning a plan designed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If you buy your own insurance, there’s no grace period. You’ll have to enroll in a qualified plan as soon as any term in your contract changes, such as the co-pay, deductible or benefit.

• Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a “qualified plan” covers and how much you’ll be legally required to pay for it. That’s like a banker telling you to sign the loan agreement now, then filling in the interest rate and repayment terms 18 months later.

On Nov. 2, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the plans will likely cost. An individual earning $44,000 before taxes who purchases his own insurance will have to pay a $5,300 premium and an estimated $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $7,300 a year, which is 17% of his pre-tax income. A family earning $102,100 a year before taxes will have to pay a $15,000 premium plus an estimated $5,300 out-of-pocket, for a $20,300 total, or 20% of its pre-tax income. Individuals and families earning less than these amounts will be eligible for subsidies paid directly to their insurer.

• Sec. 303 (pp. 167-168) makes it clear that, although the “qualified plan” is not yet designed, it will be of the “one size fits all” variety. The bill claims to offer choice—basic, enhanced and premium levels—but the benefits are the same. Only the co-pays and deductibles differ. You will have to enroll in the same plan, whether the government is paying for it or you and your employer are footing the bill.

• Sec. 59b (pp. 297-299) says that when you file your taxes, you must include proof that you are in a qualified plan. If not, you will be fined thousands of dollars. Illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement.

• Sec. 412 (p. 272) says that employers must provide a “qualified plan” for their employees and pay 72.5% of the cost, and a smaller share of family coverage, or incur an 8% payroll tax. Small businesses, with payrolls from $500,000 to $750,000, are fined less.

Think that’s bad? Go read the rest of it.

Update: Here’s a link to the roll call vote so you can see if your Representative is one of the 220 who wants to control you.

Quote of the Day: Unlearned Lessons of Failed Experiments Edition

Peter Suderman writing for The Wall Street Journal has written an excellent article about the (apparent) unlearned lessons of government run healthcare. But unlike many others who use Canada and the UK as examples, Suderman insists that we only need to look at states like New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and Tennessee for their respective failed experiments with some of the very reforms being proposed by Obama and the Democrat controlled congress.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously envisioned the states serving as laboratories, trying “novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” And on health care, that’s just what they’ve done.

[…]

Despite these state-level failures, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing forward a slate of similar reforms. Unlike most high-school science fair participants, they seem unaware that the point of doing experiments is to identify what actually works. Instead, they’ve identified what doesn’t—and decided to do it again.

Of course if government did learn lessons of failed government policy…it wouldn’t be government.

Read the whole article to learn what future all Americans have in store should President Obama and the Democrats have their way.

The Daily Show Illustrates the Shortsightedness of Government

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona State Capitol Building for Sale
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

The above video clip from The Daily Show, while very humorous, illustrates a fundamental problem of government: shortsightedness.

In this example, the State of Arizona is offering to sell the state capitol for $735 million and rent it back from the new owners.

“What happens next year when you have to pay rent?” asks Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

Sen. Lopez responds that the state government is more concerned about this year…they will deal with the next year’s budget (and subsequent budget) shortfalls when the time comes.

If this doesn’t illustrate the shortsightedness of government (at all levels), I don’t know what does. Our government officials do not look far beyond the immediate future (i.e. the next election). They don’t worry about the insolvency of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the long term financial difficulties of the bailouts etc, they will worry about those problems (which they created and will also blame on the free market, big business, or lack of regulation) when they can no longer pretend the problem doesn’t exist. If they are lucky, the other party will be in power by that time and the American public will turn its anger against that party by voting them out.

What the American public needs to understand is that whether the blue team or the red team controls the levers of power, this shortsighted mentality is standard operating procedure for both. They are not interested in solving long term problems but trying to appear as though they are.

Politicians will not be accountable for their deceitful actions until we, the people, hold them accountable.

…I won’t hold my breath.

Hey Ezra, Strawman Much?

Ahh, the infamous strawman. Take one aspect of an argument, assume it is not part of a cohesive whole, and argue against it as if it negates everything else at hand. I.e. libertarians and conservatives argue that capping drug prices just MIGHT reduce drug innovation, and Ezra Klein acts as if we’d keep everything else equal in the system:

For a long time, I took questions about stifling innovation very seriously. So did a lot of liberals. But then I realized that the people making those arguments wanted to do things like means-test Medicare, or increase cost-sharing across the system, and generally reduce costs in this or that way, which would cut innovation in exactly the same way that single-payer would hypothetically cut innovation: by reducing profits.

I also found that I couldn’t get an answer to a very simple question: What level of spending on health care was optimal for innovation? Should we double spending? Triple it? Cut it by 10 percent? Simply give a larger portion of it to drug and device manufacturers? I’d be interested in a proposal meant to maximize medical innovation. I’ve not yet seen one.

It turned out that concerns about innovation weren’t really about innovation at all. They were just about attacking universal health care ideas of a certain sort. Which is why I stopped taking them seriously.

No libertarian in the world will argue that government spending can’t achieve certain goals. After all, government spending got us to the moon. If you set the goal of American society, as Kennedy did, as getting to the moon within a decade, then you forcibly take the money to pay for the goal [since Americans weren’t exactly going there of their own accord], you can probably get there.

Likewise, if government really put its mind to drastically advancing medical innovation, and threw out, say, $50B a year for drug research to stem the growth of most types of cancer, I’ll bet within two decades they might have results. While money doesn’t exactly solve everything, government subsidies can certainly accelerate development. Granted, that cancer research might be at the expense of heart disease research, and AIDS research, and diabetes research, and just about everything else [excepting penis enlargement research, of course, because that’s always a growth industry].

But now I’m getting away from the point. Why is this a strawman? Because opponents to gov’t healthcare view the death of medical innovation as one bad side effect of a wider bad policy, not the most important argument against gov’t healthcare.

Look at it this way. We don’t argue that there is no innovation in the digital music player industry because gov’t doesn’t spend enough. After all, we’ve got all different flavors of iPods, the new Zune, all manner of knockoff players and tiny upstarts, not to mention the fact that just about every new cellphone or car stereo can play MP3’s. Ten years ago, when I was in college, MP3’s were limited to those of us savvy enough to navigate Napster, hook our computers up to our stereos, and had a fast enough internet connection to make the whole deal worthwhile. Today MP3 players are ubiquitous and digital music threatens to destroy the entire existing business model of music production.

I’m not going to address the conservative rebuttals, but I’ll take a look at this from a libertarian perspective. Libertarians aren’t opposed to profits. We are not opposed to competition. We are not opposed to market-based prices that may, in some cases, not cover the costs of drug development. We don’t view medical innovation as a simple question of “should WE spend X or 2X or 3X?” Not because we don’t have an opinion on optimal spending — we may or may not — but because we oppose to the WE. We implies collective action, and usually implies forced collective action.

The WE, of course, has a lot of unintended consequences to it. If the WE becomes too large [cough]medicare[/cough], it tends to crowd out private spending. When private spending is crowded out, prices become opaque. They cease to be a clear sign of market value and cease to be a proper incentive for producers. As I said above, $50B a year in research money would entice quite a few drugmakers to focus R&D onto cancer. But is that the optimal amount to spend? Would that be useful or wasteful? What is the opportunity cost of pulling that money out of the economy through taxation and redistributing it through the government? All these questions distort the free market, and when you try to distort the free market you end up with problems.

There are two SIGNIFICANT government distortions specifically into drugs: the patent scheme and the FDA.

The FDA:

Simply put, the FDA’s job is to restrict access to medicine until in meets very stringent guidelines. The doctrinaire libertarian position on the FDA is that it needlessly delays medicine that has some efficacy and takes away freedom of choice from individuals who may wish to take personal risks by purchasing that medicine despite the FDA’s lack of recognition.

The doctrinaire libertarian position is a moral position on individual choice, but the economic case is much simpler and stronger. FDA regulation artificially raises the cost of creating new medicines. If your R&D division knows that of all the medicines they research, only 40% will be effective, and only 10% will be approved through FDA trials, you know that 75% of effective drugs they create cannot be purchased. This means that they must more than double the price of drugs to cover R&D on those which wouldn’t be effective, and then quadruple the price beyond that for those which would have been effective but not meet FDA approval. Prices charged for drugs are dependent as much on covering the cost of failure as the cost of success.

Patents:

From a doctrinaire libertarian perspective, you can go two ways on patents. First is that intellectual property isn’t property, and patents are simply government distortion into the market that should be distorted. I like the argument, but even as a doctrinaire libertarian, I’m not far enough behind the anti-IP program to defend it (see mises.org for that one). The opposite (yet still doctrinaire libertarian) argument is that intellectual property should not be arbitrarily time-limited by the government, and that the patent protection time is too short.

The second argument is an explanation for the price of drugs. When you develop a new drug, have to recoup the development & testing costs of that drug, need to recoup all the development costs of the failed drugs, you need to forecast the expected use of that drug between the time it launches and the time your patent expires. Once that patent expires, you’re fighting generics for market share. If you think that 10,000 people per year might need your drug, and you have patent protection for 5 years, you know what price you need to set to recoup your investment and make a profit. If your patent protection extends for 10 years, though, you can set the price at roughly 1/2 the level and still make your profit.

Either way, from an economic standpoint the extension of patent protection might reduce costs and improve pharmaceutical innovation. Reducing patent protection might increase short-term costs (reducing them long-term) but at the expense of pharmaceutical innovation. There are trade-offs and issues no matter what you do.

The solution:

Frankly, the solution isn’t to ask what WE should spend on health care or medicine, just as WE don’t ask what WE should spend for iPods, HDTV’s, heads of lettuce or pickup trucks. The difference is that in those products, we have a functional market. In a functional market, competition and choice lead to efficiency and an optimal mix of innovation vs. price.

The solution is NOT price controls. Economic history shows that price controls lead to shortages.

The solution is NOT rationing. Rationing doesn’t control prices but controls expenditures (unit volume). Rationing increases prices and/or leads to shortages.

The doctrinaire libertarian solution is to reduce the role of the FDA and put more responsibility on the individual to choose health care options, and to ensure that intellectual property laws are set optimally to protect innovation. The free market is known for reducing prices and increasing innovation. Perhaps we should have more of this “free market” thing.
» Read more

The Other Bad Healthcare “Reform” Bill

The Senate Finance Committee is finishing up work this week on a “compromise” Obamacare bill that’s being billed as better than pure Obamacare because it doesn’t include “death panels”, a public option, and free healthcare for illegal aliens.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Monday that he will propose an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system that addresses a host of GOP concerns, including blocking illegal immigrants from gaining access to subsidized insurance, urging limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and banning federal subsidies for abortion.

But even after Max Baucus (D-Mont.) spoke optimistically of gaining bipartisan backing, lawmakers continued to haggle over a question at the heart of the debate: How can the government force people to buy insurance without imposing a huge new financial burden on millions of middle-class Americans?

Finally this bill is debating the real issue, what right does the Federal government have to force Americans to buy health insurance? Surprisingly, one of the most outspoken opponents of the individual mandate in this form is from the left.

Even within his own party, Baucus confronted a fresh wave of concern about affordability. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) declared himself dissatisfied with the chairman’s plan, which, like other congressional reform proposals, would require every American to buy health insurance by 2013.

“Additional steps are going to have to be taken to make coverage more affordable,” Wyden said, “and my sense is that will be a concern to members on both sides of the aisle.”

Under the Baucus plan, described in a “framework” he released last week, as many as 4 million of the 46 million people who are currently uninsured would be required to buy coverage on their own, without government help, by some estimates. Millions more would qualify for federal tax credits, but could still end up paying as much as 13 percent of their income for insurance premiums — far more than most Americans now pay for coverage.

People further down the income scale would receive much bigger tax credits, effectively limiting their premiums at 3 percent of their earnings. But experts on affordability say even those families could find it difficult to meet the new mandate without straining their wallets.

“We’re talking about the equivalent of a middle-class tax increase,” said Michael D. Tanner, a health-care expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Yes, they’re paying it to an insurance company instead of to the government. But, suddenly, these people are paying more money to somebody.”

So American taxpayers will have to pay higher insurance premiums than they have to now or be fined by the government under this “compromise” bill. So far, this bill does nothing to solve the biggest problem with American healthcare, the high cost of it. Opponents of this bill on the left characterize this bill as nothing more than a giveaway to the insurance companies, and they’re right. The way to reduce the cost of healthcare is to increase competition and the free market’s role in healthcare and again, this bill does nothing to reduce regulation, increase competition, or promote the free market.

But there’s even more….

Also unresolved Monday was the question of how to pay for an expansion of Medicaid to cover every U.S. citizen whose income falls below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, about $14,500 for an individual or $29,500 for a family of four. Governors in both parties strongly oppose an expansion that is not fully financed by the federal government. The Senate negotiators are scheduled to brief governors by conference call Tuesday afternoon, and Baucus predicted they would be “pleasantly surprised.”

“The Medicaid costs,” he said, “are not going to cost states near as much as feared.”

Max Baucus wants the states to just “trust him”. In addition to higher insurance premiums and tax increases for those who don’t buy health insurance, Baucus plans on making the bad financial conditions that every state is in even worse with this unfunded mandate. States have to close their budget deficits some how and that some how is usually tax increases.

But there’s even more….from the Wall Street Journal

Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) raised concerns about Mr. Baucus’s mix of new taxes and other means of paying for the plan. Among other things, Mr. Baucus is proposing to levy a new tax on so-called gold-plated health policies. He also wants to levy new fees on health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and other health-care industries.

“There may be a better way to find that revenue,” Sen. Kerry said. He suggested he’ll be looking for changes, though he declined to offer specifics. “We are going to have a tug of war,” he said, describing the chairman’s soon-to-be-unveiled bill as a “starting point” for a new round of negotiations on details. “That’s the process of legislating,” he said.

So there’s even more tax increases, this time on health insurance companies (which will be a wash for them since they’re getting bailed out in this bill), drug companies, and the health care industry in general. In addition, if Max Baucus doesn’t like your health insurance policy, he’s going to tax it too. Well, the taxed businesses have to make up that lost revenue some how by raising their products’ prices or cutting jobs.

To recap, the Baucus “compromise” Obamacare/health insurance companies bailout plan:

Requires all Americans to buy “approved” health insurance plans and raises taxes on those who don’t buy health insurance plans Max Baucus likes

Gives the IRS more power to levy higher taxes, without due process

Raises taxes on health care related businesses

Makes every state’s financial situation even worse, which will lead to more budget cuts or tax increases through an unfunded mandate to increase Medicaid enrollment.

Increases the cost of health care for most Americans

“Hope and Change” indeed, comrades.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

AARP Ad: Opponents of ObamaCare Oppose “Health Care Reform”

The “Ambulance Commercial” from AARP claims that the “special interest groups” are “trying to derail” the healthcare debate. Those who oppose “reform” are “spreading myths” about rationing of care. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the ad:

One of the things that really makes me angry about this debate is the way groups like AARP, the Obama Administration, and the Democrat Party use straw man arguments to characterize those of us who oppose government run healthcare are “anti-reform” or happy with the system the way it is. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m sure there are some who are GOP political hacks out there who oppose ObamaCare but would have no problem supporting RomneyCare or whatever variation of government healthcare McCain would have been pushing had he won the presidency. I get that. But despite what Rachel Maddow, Kieth Oberman, or any of these other Left-wing talking heads would have you believe, there actually are legitimate reasons to fear ObamaCare and not everyone who opposes it is not some sort of Right-wing lunatic.

So who is really spreading the “myths” about ObamaCare?

To be fair, I’m pretty sure it’s not the intention of Democrats to create healthcare rationing. Maybe proponents of the bill claim such things as “death panels” to be myths because such panels of bureaucrats are not part of the plan per se. Perhaps what the fans of big government do not understand is that rationing is inevitable, whether or not rationing is intended. If Red Lobster decided to serve steak and lobster for “free” to the general public every Saturday, one would imagine that there would be lines around the block and Red Lobster would run out of steak and lobster very quickly on Saturdays (and not everyone who stood in line would receive their free food).

The same is true for healthcare or any other product. If suddenly some 50 million uninsured individuals suddenly have access to “free” healthcare along with the remaining 250 million with no increase in the supply of healthcare providers, there will be shortages. Whenever there is a shortage of a product or service in a government controlled program, rationing is the only way to meet the needs for the greatest number. In other words, bureaucrats make the decision regarding who receives healthcare and who does not. The most likely choice will be that the elderly will be asked to sacrifice themselves for the good of “more productive” individuals (i.e. tax payers). This very phenomenon is already happening with vital organ transplants in the U.S. and around the world (with the notable exception of Iran of all places!).

But what is even more galling about the AARP ad than the complete ignorance regarding supply and demand is the notion that those who oppose ObamaCare are anti-reform. Just because some of us oppose ObamaCare does not make us anti-reform but simply anti-government healthcare. There are good free market approaches to health care reform; Cato Institute has an entire website dedicated to such approaches . I’m sure Dr. Ron Paul has some ideas and many other free market individuals as well but AARP, the Democrat Congress, nor the Obama Administration want to consider these approaches.

Couldn’t we just as easily say that they are anti-healthcare reform? If anyone is “derailing” the debate it would be AARP and their special interests.

If AARP believes “special interests” are obstacles to a quality healthcare system, just wait until they get their wish and politicians get between the patients and their doctors.

For those who would like to see the free market reforms Cato proposes, click on the banner below.

UAW = Unions Accepting Welfare

Hmm, I guess we can see once again that our Congress is not in any way trying to manage our car companies (and their unions) for political gain:

The latest example is the $10 billion taxpayers will be asked to shell out to prop up the United Auto Workers’ retiree health insurance program.

That provision is tucked deep into the bill passed by the House.

In effect, it would ask every taxpayer, regardless of whether they’ll have health insurance coverage themselves after they retire — and most won’t — to chip in to maintain the UAW’s coverage, which even after the union’s givebacks is still better than what the average American worker receives.

The helping hand is a recognition by Congress that the union’s volunteer employee benefit association, or VEBA, can’t possibly stay solvent if it is asked to cover all of the union workers taking early buyouts from the Detroit automakers.

So the union’s supporters added language to the House’s gargantuan health care bill that requires the federal government to pick up most of the cost of catastrophic claims for union retirees age 55 to 64.

The biggest beneficiary would be the UAW, which got $60 billion from the Big Three in exchange for taking on the obligation for retiree health care.

I don’t suppose I’ll be getting a gift basket from the UAW thanking me for my generosity. I’ll bet quite a few Congressmen will, though.

Hat Tip: John Stossel

The Battle Between the Right to Medical Care vs. Government ‘Medicine’

For decades the cost of medical care has risen relative to prices in general and relative to people’s incomes. Today [1994] a semi-private hospital room typically costs $1,000 to $1,500 per day, exclusive of all medical procedures, such as X-rays, surgery, or even a visit by one’s physician. Basic room charges of $500 per day or more are routinely tripled just by the inclusion of normal hospital pharmacy and supplies charges (the cost of a Tylenol tablet can be as much as $20). And typically the cost of the various medical procedures is commensurate. In such conditions, people who are not exceptionally wealthy, who lack extensive medical insurance, or who fear losing the insurance they do have if they become unemployed, must dread the financial consequences of any serious illness almost as much as the illness itself. At the same time, no end to the rise in medical costs is in sight. Thus it is no wonder that a great clamor has arisen in favor of reform – radical reform – that will put an end to a situation that bears the earmarks of financial lunacy.

Thus begins an essay that noted Objectivist economist George Reissman penned during Clinton’s efforts to ‘reform’ health care.

Given the current debate, it’s a good essay to reread, and the folks at the Mises Institute have obliged by posting it on their fine website.

Reisman argues against many of propositions that are assumed to be true by proponents of govenrment medicine, economic ideas that are based on primitive emotions and have no basis in actual economics: » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

When You Ask AARP Members to Voice Their Opinions About Healthcare…

…you better be prepared to hear opinions which don’t necessarily support the Democrats proposed government takeover of healthcare. The speaker at this meeting (in the video below) made the mistake of saying “I think we can all agree…”. From there, the AARP members took over.

Really brings a smile to your face huh?

Hat Tip: Boortz

Government Is Not Society

One of the most pernicious beliefs held by Americans is the conflation of the state with society. This belief is causing them acquiesce to government actions that threaten the destruction of American civilization if not stopped.

The word society comes to us from the Latin societas, which meant a group of people bound by friendship or a common interest.  The societies we participate in are the manifold groups that people join in order to accomplish various goals, for protection, for commerce, for companionship.  When compared to a life of autarky, of isolated independence, the benefits of societies become clear.  The defining characteristic of society is that membership in a society is voluntary. Whenever a person feels that a society no longer meets their needs, they can exit it – choosing another one to replace it or even going without.

Of course, one of the primary functions of the societies we join are to fulfill those needs we have that we cannot fulfill ourselves.  We depend on our families, friends, fraternal organizations, etc to care for us when we are sick, to provide for us when we cannot provide for ourselves.  These acts of charity, when provided to us by people who do it voluntarily using the means that they have acquired through peaceful means, are a necessary component of civilization.  Remove charitable interactions from society and we cease to live in a state of civilization and return to a state of barbarism.

The state, on the other hand, is an organization that is distinguished by violent action.  It acquires resources not through peaceful economic interaction but through threats of violence.  When it threatens wrong-doers – such as thieves, rapists or murderers – it can be useful; scaring other would be thieves, rapists and murderers from committing similar crimes. But all too often, such as when it orders the destruction of livestock in order to raise the market price of meat, it is a social bad that leaves everyone worse off.

The state is powerful.  It can commandeer vast resources.  It does not have to make anything; it does not need to trade for anything;  it merely takes what it wants.  However, the state is not all powerful; tomorrow the people could rise up and hang all the officers of the state from the lamp-posts.  Its officers must ensure that their plunder or violence does not rise to such a level as to incite too much active resistance.   These men and women therefore promote the fiction that the state is not a predator but engaged in trade with the people, exchanging protection and other services for “contributions” as they term the taxes they extort from the populace.

Over the last 100 years, the state has systematically weakened or coopted the institutions of society.  It has, via the welfare system, taken over much of the provisioning of charity.  It controls commerce via regulation.  It dicates what insurance companies can and cannot do.  It tightly controls medical care.  Most dangerously, it has taken over the education of the young. And everything it has taken over has taken on the characteristics that typically accompany violence and extortion; shoddy service, excessive prices or compelled payments, and draconian punishments.

And far too many people, never having experienced society where these institutions or social needs were provisioned voluntarily rather than by the state, are left ignorant of any idea that that is even possible.  And so, when they are warned that Medicare and Social Security threaten economic ruin, they think that the speaker is contemplating casting the old and sick out on the street to die.  When they hear a call for the abolition of govenrment schooling, they imagine the speaker must want the broad mass of children to be left uneducated.  When they hear the call for the end of medical licensing or pharmaceutical regulations, they imagine that people will be subjected to all sorts of quackery. When they hear a call for an end of standing armies and the purchase of expensive weapons systems, they imagine that the speaker must naively want to invite a tyrant to waltz in and take over.

Too many people, no doubt from their experiences in schools where the classrooms are presided over mostly benevolent dictators called teachers, assume that society must be arranged in a similar vein, with leaders who make and enforce the rules, where there is no right of refusal or exit.

In the end, though, while it can commandeer impressive resources, and thus accomplish mighty things, the state invariably consumes more and produces less than organizations that it replaces.  It replaces the civilization of people voluntarily bonding together with the barbarism of compelled relationships, compelled production and compelled trade.

Today, the various governments that rule over Americans, taken together, commandeer or consume some 40% of production.  The more production the government seizes, the worse off we will be.  The greater the control government exercises over society, the worse off we all are.

One way to put things in perspective is, when considering how some need is to be supplied, to ask if you would be comfortable with the Mafia providing it.  After all, the mafia is really a proto-government, using extortion and violence to commandeer resources. Both are protection rackets, although the Mafia takes far less than the government.  While most people wouldn’t be too upset with the idea of the mafia punishing a rapist, most would laugh derisively at the idea of the mafia running a school, or operating a hospital.  This recognition arises from the fact that no-one conflates the Mafia with society.  If only they were so wise about the state!

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Pope Benedict XVI Would Make Marx Proud

Pope Benedict XVI has decided to wade into territory which he has no understanding or expertise: the global economy. The New York Times reports that the pope is now calling for a “New World Economic Order”*

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”

He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.

I have to ask the question to my Catholic friends who believe in Papal infallibility that also happen to believe in free market capitalism: how do you square the two philosophies? (Argument withdrawn; I am by no means infallible and was lacking in my understanding of this concept)

The article continues:

In many ways, the document is a somewhat puzzling cross between an anti-globalization tract and a government white paper, another indication that the Vatican does not comfortably fit into traditional political categories of right and left.

“There are paragraphs that sound like Ayn Rand, next to paragraphs that sound like ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ That’s quite intentional,” Vincent J. Miller, a theologian at the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution in Ohio, said in a telephone interview.

“He’ll wax poetically about the virtuous capitalist, but then he’ll give you this very clear analysis of the ways in which global capital and the shareholder system cause managers to focus on short term good at the expense of the community, of workers, of the environment.”

Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.

Sorry padre, you can’t have it both ways. If you truly believe the Communist/Socialist model is morally superior to Capitalism (an admittedly selfish system by honest supporters such as Ayn Rand) just come out and say so! If one honestly reads the scriptures, one will see that the teachings of Christ are much more in line with Karl Marx than Adam Smith.

But wait, it gets worse…

Benedict also calls for a reform of the United Nations so that there can be a unified “global political body” that allows the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and calls on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.

In other words, the U.N. should force the citizens of the most efficient and productive nations at gun point to give money to people in nations who are less efficient and less productive in large part because they subscribe to the philosophy of the Pope: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” There’s a word for this; it’s called extortion.

» Read more

California’s problem is taxation

Instapundit links to a NYT Magazine propaganda piece about governing California, and the part about taxation reads as if it were written by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, right down to euphemistically renaming taxes “revenue”:

In the view of many, the origins of the mud slog began with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the landmark referendum that capped property taxes. “Over 50 percent of our revenue is dependent on personal income tax, and that’s a very important part of explaining the boom-and-bust cycle,” according to another Republican candidate for governor, Tom Campbell, an immaculately credentialed policy marvel who graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude and who later studied under the conservative economist Milton Friedman before going on to represent Silicon Valley for five terms in the United States Congress.

This dependence on income tax was the first thing Dianne Feinstein mentioned when I asked her to assess California’s problems. “In most states, it’s one-third property tax, one-third sales tax and one-third income tax,” Feinstein said. “It’s 55 percent income tax in California. And 45 percent of that comes from the top brackets.”

When the economy is booming, the stock market soaring and jobs abundant, relying on income taxes is not a problem. That was the case in the years after Schwarzenegger first became governor in 2003, and he was hailed as a “postpartisan” leader who cut taxes and appealed to Democrats by aggressively tackling issues like global warming. But in today’s cratering economy — in which California faces a decline in personal income for the first time since 1938 and unemployment sits at 11.5 percent — the state’s coffers have shriveled up quickly, along with the governor’s popularity.

Passing a budget or increasing revenues in California is dicey in the best of times. The state constitution requires that two-thirds of the Legislature agree on a budget or higher taxes — the kind of overwhelming political consensus, in other words, usually reserved for amendments to the federal Constitution. (California is one of just a handful states that require a two-thirds vote to pass a budget.)

These words were written not by Speaker Bass, but rather by the Times’ own Mark Leibovich. He gets some of the facts right, but draws from them a woefully wrong conclusion. Where Liebovich sees a state that would be better off if only politicians could increase property taxes without limit or one party had total control of the budgeting process, I see a state that manages to overtax its citizens despite some pretty robust taxpayer protections in the state constitution. What’s the difference between me and Mark Leibovich? I actually have to pay for the excesses of Sacramento.

Let me list out for you the taxes and fees I remember having to pay in the last year:

  • Income tax
  • Sales tax
  • Property tax
  • Gas tax
  • Vehicle License fee

This doesn’t include the various line items about government surcharges and fees on every utility bill I pay, some of which I’m sure is attributable to the state. Even so, the taxes and fees I listed above still amount to about 25% of my income. On top of the 30% of my income that goes to Washington D.C., that’s more than half my income.

You might think that such a fate could only happen to someone who was rich enough not to worry about only having 55% of his income go to Washington and Sacramento. You’d be wrong. I’m very solidly in the middle class, and it would be even harder making ends meet if California’s political class could force me to surrender even more of my hard-earned income. I hear the same from nearly everyone I know.

I’m a Californian, and I pay more for government than I do for anything else. From the perspective of a citizen, California’s problem is taxation–too much, not too little.

If Government Ran Healthcare…

First a little humor in this Sprint Spoof from Reason.tv

Now Dr. Ron Paul’s prescription for reforming healthcare in America

BB&T One Of First To Return TARP Funds

BB&T, a regional southern bank, is a bit of a darling of the libertarian movement. After Kelo, they made it bank policy to not lend money towards projects utilizing eminent domain. Co-contributor Jason Pye suggested a desire to open an account there after BB&T began donating money to UNC-Greensboro to found a pro-capitalism and pro-markets program that is founded in morality as well as economics.

It was sad, of course, when I reported late last year that BB&T had decided to take TARP money. I pointed out that if the rules have changed and the government’s picking winners and losers, it’s possible that they had a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to take the money. But I was still sad.

So I’m much happier to see that BB&T is leading the charge to pay back the TARP funds. There are many banks who I believe are simply trying to get out of TARP due to the additional regulation imposed by the government, but BB&T’s previous commitment to principle is enough to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was done in earnest.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit’N’Run

1 2 3 4 5 6 10