31 July 2009

The Latest In My Ongoing Critique Of Progressivism

Yesterday I wrote about how progressives' knee-jerk response to world problems--real or perceived--is yet another government plan that will re-order society, reduce individual liberty and centralize power & control with the enlightened ones.

It's not that I think progressives are bad people. God love 'em, they've got great intentions, it's the unintended consequences of their utopian reordering that I'm worried about.

Consider healthcare. Does the United States have problems? I've admitted countless times that it does and in numerous posts, suggested a few things we could do to reduce costs & improve quality. I always remind people that ~90% of Americans have insurance, another 5% choose not to because they are healthy or wealthy, 2.5% are illegal immigrants, & the remaining 2.5% are the 2.5% I think we can help by introducing market reforms--essentially eliminating state & federal distortions of the market.

I think these things would do much of what progressives want to accomplish, only without a hasty, ad hoc reordering of 1/6th of the American economy.

Progressives are prepared to throw out the baby with the bath water, because for them, health care is a moral issue. Cost/benefit doesn't play a role at all. Despite what they may say (and here I remind readers that I'm not lumping all Democrats together, just the far progressive left), the cost or the quality of the care is not the issue.

The only thing they care about is the fairness of it all. Ah, égalité.

So long as everyone has access to care--even if it's just a few vitamins & a glass of water--it doesn't matter that some people die in the queue for a heart transplant or that others don't get hip replacement surgery or needed meds to improve their quality of life--the only thing that matters is that it is equal for everyone.

Of course, it won't be equal for everyone. And this is what history teaches. The rich opt out because they can afford it. The well connected in government opt out because they're owed favors. Everyone else suffers. So it went in the former USSR. And China. Continues for the Castros & their revolutionary cronies in Cuba. Ditto North Korea. Even in the social democracies of Europe--the elites (including socialist & other miscellaneous left-leaning members of parliament) always opt out.

Even in the European countries where you think socialized medicine in all its incarnations is a such a screaming success, it's not. They are dealing with mounting costs which result in higher taxes, more rationing, & poorer overall care.

Additionally, the only reason they are as good as they are is because as in so many other things, they are able to free ride on American drug development and other medical technology improvements. Because of the high prices Americans elect to pay, pharmaceutical & other medical technology companies respond with new and better drugs and medical devices.

Everyone else, everywhere else in the world benefits as a result.

As I said at the outset, social justice (whatever that means) is the morality of this century's progressives. Those who question their crusade for justice & equality--deniers!--will be subject to ad hominem attacks for not submitting to the latest dogmatic demand. Obviously, the degree to which one embraces the social justice cause du jour is a sign of how good of a person she or he happens to be (thus, the unfunny Goode Family).

How socially unrighteous of us deniers. As penance for our skeptical reception of the latest progressive nostrum, I suggest buying a few carbon offsets & repeating aloud Obama's 2004 Democratic convention speech 10 times.

But, of course, progressivism as religion is another post for another day.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

30 July 2009

Ah, Progressives: Albert Jay Nock On The Cool Kids With Their New & Nifty Ideas For Saving The Planet etc.

Because they really believe in the novelty of their ideas and that they, in all their fervor, are the change they've been waiting for.
“I have been thinking,” Nock wrote in 1932, “of how old some of our brand-new economic nostrums really are. Price-regulation by State authority (through State purchase, like our Farm Board) was tried in China about 350 b.c. It did not work. It was tried again, with State distribution, in the first century a.d., and it did not work. Private trading was suppressed in the second century b.c., and regional planning was tried a little later. They did not work; the costs were too high. In the eleventh century a.d., a plan like the R.F.C. [Reconstruction Finance Corporation] was tried, but again cost too much. State monopolies are very old; there were two in China in the seventh century b.c. I suppose there is not a single item on the modern politician’s agenda that was not tried and found wanting ages ago.” Among virtually all of the political writers of the Left and the Right in the 1920s and 1930s, Nock shines brightest for seeing from the outset that the differences between the various collectivist schemes then circulating amounted to differences in branding. “Communism, the New Deal, Fascism, Nazism,” he wrote in his Memoirs, “are merely so-many trade-names for collectivist Statism, like the trade-names for tooth-pastes which are all exactly alike except for the flavouring.”
Is there a problem in the world? It follows that there is a progressive government "plan" to solve it--a plan that will centralize & ascribe control to your social, intellectual, & educational betters, reduce your liberty, and inevitably fail.

Unfortunately for us, the inevitable failure of these plans--in the case of global warmism & healthcare--may take a number of years and cost society lives, quality of life, and trillions of dollars.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

29 July 2009

The Anti Googlopoly

Wired has a great article (via Mankiw) on the likelihood of Google going the way of IBM and Microsoft. Take a look.

As a teaching assistant in BYU's American Heritage course, I taught that although monopolies and cartels are a market weakness, attempts to squelch them are mostly futile, because profits attract fierce competition and technological innovation overcomes barriers to entry, whether natural or manufactured. These also tend to minimize the negative effects of monopolies on consumer well-being--monopolistic industries almost always become more competitive over time.

However, monopoly power is a very real thing, and companies routinely engage in collusive and/or predatory behavior in order to raise prices above the competitive level. We, as libertarian-leaning citizens, should be opposed to policies that provide advantages to one firm or industry over another, but we should be in favor of things that help promote a competitive landscape—we “worship” the market, not the corporation. The difference between those two points, and confusion over the intentions of many a politician, has certainly led to the “Big Business-loving Republican” caricature that is so common, but I digress.

My view on antitrust issues changed with the antitrust class at BYU where I learned that, by using accepted economic analysis, the DOJ economists could identify whether a merger would increase or decrease consumer well-being.

If we are in favor of competition, how much power do we want the federal government (DOJ) to have in policing competition? To prevent illegal activity (yes, the definition of “illegal” here may be dubious), the gov’t should arguably possess a credible threat—usually the litigative process—but that threat has the potential to mire the company in court hearings for several years, and castrate its innovative impulses. That is something everyone should oppose.

I certainly don't find my internet activities limited by Google's business model. Do you?

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at mattlybbert@gmail.com.

28 July 2009

Democrats Don't Want Health Care Reform, They Want Socialized Medicine

And nothing else will do.

According to health care economists
(h/t Matt L.), 90% of Americans are insured. Of the remaining 10%, better than 25% are young & healthy and feel no need to subsidize the health care costs of the old & sick and thus, go uninsured. Shall we force them?

About another 25% of the remaining 10% are of sufficient means that they feel they are able to burden the risk of going uninsured and pay for their own care. Shall we take away their liberty?

Roughly 25% more are illegal aliens. Um, yeah.

The remaining 25% of the 10% of Americans who are uninsured are financially or medically (pre-existing conditions, etc.) or some combination thereof, unable to get insurance.

Democrats want to scrap the whole system--the best system in the world--to cover about 2.5% of the population.

There are better, cheaper ways to enable these people to get access to health care. And contrary to Obama, Reid, Pelosi & co., Republicans have made a number of proposals which would make health care cheaper & better for everyone.

To wit, Jim DeMint on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopolous:
Republicans, including me, have introduced lots of health care reform proposals. I introduced a tax equity, which would allow people to deduct the cost of their health insurance. The president and Senator Conrad voted against it. I had a proposal that would allow people to buy health insurance in any state, not just a single state monopoly. The president and the Democrats voted it down. I had a proposal that would allow individuals to use their health savings account to pay for a premium. They voted it down. They even voted against allowing small businesses to come together and buy their health insurance . . . . So, George, what we've seen is that Republicans do want reform that will make health insurance more affordable and available. But the only proposals we're getting from Democrats is more government control of health care.
[emphasis added]

The point, for Democrats, is not about finding a way to make health care cheaper & better for Americans, it is about putting everyone into a scheme over which they, in their infinite wisdom, have complete control.

(see also Cap & Trade)

via Political Diary

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

23 July 2009

Walter Cronkite As The Beginning Of The End Of Media Credibility

First of all, RIP.

This is not intended to disrespect the recently departed Cronkite, simply as a critique of what he embodied & what I'm not sad to see pass with him: the media establishment.

The democratization of news & opinion found on the internet, while not 100% awesome, ought to be considered nothing less than a resounding success. Consider this quote from from John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine:
[The late Walter] Cronkite, the gravelly voice of accepted American wisdom, whose comportment suggested he kept his money in bonds and would never even have considered exceeding the speed limit, devastated President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive by declaring that the United States 'was mired in stalemate' in Vietnam -- when Johnson knew that Tet had been a military triumph. Had there been an Internet in 1968, and military bloggers aplenty, Cronkite's false conclusion about Tet would have been challenged immediately; we would not have had to wait for [veteran Vietnam reporter and author Peter] Braestrup to publish his enormous book ['The Big Story,' contradicting Cronkite] nine years later. So the passing of Walter Cronkite is a moment to remember an era that has passed, an era toward which we should not experience a moment's nostalgia.
I feel nostalgic about practically everything. Not for this.

(h/t Scott L.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

22 July 2009

I Still Support Sarah Palin, Haters To The Left

What she has--charisma, charm & good looks--cannot be taught. And she has them in spades. Where she may lack or be a little deficient--policy (though not energy), etc.--she can learn.

To my mind, any objective survey of the national Republican political landscape--Romney, Huckabee, Jindal, Gingrich, whoever--must conclude that Sarah Palin is the one with the most potential.

If she didn't have so much popular appeal, her antagonists in Alaska & elsewhere would not be so dogged in their attacks.

For instance, check out the latest from John Fund in today's Political Diary:
The Associated Press report yesterday that Sarah Palin was about to be found guilty of violating state ethics laws set off a round of speculation that the Alaska governor was resigning later this month one step ahead of the sheriff.

In reality, it appears as if the improper leak may be little more than a parting shot against her by her critics, who have filed a total of 19 ethics complaints and hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests against her. The leaks indicated that the Alaska Personnel Board has concluded that Governor Palin used her public image and notoriety to raise money for a legal defense fund she created to pay the costs of defending herself against ethics complaints. The only sanction it recommends is that she no longer accept direct payments from the fund to reimburse her $500,000 in legal expenses.

So far none of the ethics complaints filed against Ms. Palin have resulted in any findings of wrongdoing. The leaked portions of the report indicate that an investigator concluded that because an average citizen would have been unable to raise large sums to pay for legal bills, Governor Palin should not be able to either. "Governor Palin is able to generate donations because of the fact that she is a public official and a public figure. Were it not for the fact that she is governor and a national political figure, it is unlikely that many citizens would donate money to her legal defense fund," says a preliminary finding by the investigator.

Team Palin pushed back quickly. The governor herself used Twitter to send an abbreviated defense of herself: "In violation of Ethics Act more allegations were filed today by serial complainer; gave to press be4 we could respond; ridiculous, wasteful," she tweeted. "Some ask why not sue abusers of Ethics Act bc state wastes 1000's hrs/millions of tax dollars to fight (and win!) frivolous charges, tho it costs political critics NOTHING to file/play their wasteful game; They should debate policy in political arena, not hide w/process abuse."

Other Palin supporters joined in. Thomas Van Flein, her personal attorney, noted: "There has been no board finding of an ethics violation and there is a detailed legal process to follow before there is a final resolution." The head of her legal defense fund, Kristan Cole, told reporters: "This legal expense fund was thoroughly vetted by numerous attorneys from Alaska to the East Coast [and is meant] to help the Governor with the crushing legal fees she has incurred solely because of her public service."

No one doubts Ms. Palin has made a series of boneheaded public relations moves since her surprise choice as John McCain's running-mate last year. But the ethics charges strike many observers as bogus or nitpicky. They have included challenges to her out-of-state trips that appear dubious and even a complaint that her husband, Todd, wore a jacket made by a company that sponsored his snow-mobile races.
What the leftists have done to Sarah Palin is classic, well, leftist behavior: Use of courts through frivolous suits, etc., in pursuit of the politics of personal destruction.

I mean, can anyone believe the latest charge?--that she used her notoriety as governor & former VP candidate to raise money for her legal defense fund to defend herself against frivolous ethics charges like the one that says she used her personal notoriety to raise money to defend herself and I think you get the picture. Ridiculous.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

21 July 2009

Programming Note: Everybody Needs A Vacation

Folks, apologies for my absence. As some of you know, I've recently returned to American and have been busy celebrating national holidays, waterskiing, watching M's games, entertaining guests, etc. Forgive my writing absence. I'll bet back to it in the next day or so.

In the meantime, here's a couple of good reads to tide you over.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

06 July 2009

Quote of the Day: Wal-Mart & The National Insurance Mandate

I find it hard to believe that none of the liberal commentators breathlessly celebrating Wal-Mart's 'capitulation' on national health care have even entertained the most parsimonious explanation: that Wal-Mart is in favor of this because it raises the barriers to entry in the retail market, and hammers Wal-Mart's competition. Yet somehow, this appears nowhere in any of the analysis. . . . Wal-Mart is always going to have a seat at the table when employer mandates are discussed, because Wal-Mart is the nation's largest private employer. Target and Macy's probably won't have a seat at the table. So Wal-Mart can influence the rules in ways that benefit Wal-Mart at the expense of the competition.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

04 July 2009

'Life, Liberty, & The Pursuit Of Happiness'

It feels good to be back in the United States. In 2006 & 2007, I spent the 4th of July in Cambridge (UK) & London, respectively.

Though we found appropriate ways to celebrate--BBQs, impromptu tea parties in the river Cam, viewing Live Free Or Die Hard, etc.--there is nothing like being home on the 4th of July.

I love this country and everything for which it stands and I am grateful to everyone--from the Founders to the soldiers--who who has given the "last full measure" to build her and defend her.

Image link

Nathan Hale
"I only regret that I have but one life to give my country."
Independence Day Must Reads:

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

02 July 2009

American Healthcare Has It's Problems, But It's Still The Best In The World

Seriously. There are some things that could done to resolve these problems (see here & here), but American healthcare is still the best in the world, warts and all. Free market reform of American healthcare would only widen the gap between us and everyone else.

From doubleplusundead via Russ from Winterset at Ace of Spades (standard language warnings about AofS apply), a cautionary & enlightening tale.
It seems that a Canadian couple gave birth to a premature baby this weekend in Hamilton, Ontario. Since Canada is just another Third World Hellhole where brain surgery is done with a 16" Poulan and a 6-pack of Moosehead, its not exactly a shock that NOT. ONE. SINGLE. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU for short) bed could be found for the child. I know what you're thinking: Russ, they couldn't find one single NICU bed available in the City of Hamilton for this baby? NO. They couldn't find one single NICU bed available for this baby in the entire PROVINCE of Ontario. You know, a PROVINCE? Sort of like a STATE, only 196% more [dumb]?

Luckily, Canada just happens to be the mildly retarded cousin of the United States of America; and like most families, we look after each other - even if the slow relatives are complete window-lickers who eat their own boogers in public. The baby was brought to Buffalo, NY, where she is enjoying the fruits of America's evil profit-driven health care system. If this was the end of the story, I'd be willing to smile and wish the happy hosers well with the addition to their family; however, as Paul Harvey used to say, there is ..... the rest of the story.
This kind of stuff--Canadians coming to American for medical care, surgery, &c.--happens all the time.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

01 July 2009

The Democrat Party: Bought & Paid For By Wall Street

The Republicans’ loss of Wall Street magnifies an ancient fissure in the party, a conservative contradiction: the misalignment of incentives between the party’s free-enterprise wing and its entrenched business interests.

“The problem with socialism is socialism,” Willi Schlamm famously observed. “The problem with capitalism is capitalists.” From Wall Street to Detroit, businessmen have had at best a marriage of convenience with free-market principles, a fact that often puts the Republican party in the impossible position of mediating between philosophical purists and parochial business interests that profit from expansive government, protectionism, and regulations that smother competition. Republicans have long thought of themselves as the party of Big Business and free enterprise but, as Wall Street sends its money and votes to Democrats and snuggles up in an ever-cozier relationship with the government, Republicans face the choice of being the party of Big Business or the party of free enterprise — the party of capitalists or the party of capitalism.

The Democrats have already decided which party they are. Which is to say, the Democrats have figured out that they can keep Wall Street in their coalition by offering them easygoing social liberalism, a few sweet tax breaks, and good access to government revenue streams. Republicans are not above the same deal-cutting and back-scratching, obviously, but they have a knottier coalitional contradiction to resolve: The capitalists don’t want capitalism, and neither do a lot of mid-American social conservatives. Even as Reagan talked about the miracle of the invisible hand, the blue-collar social conservatives who put him in office indulged in a near-paranoid loathing of Japan — an economic phobia that is still very much alive in Republican heartland attitudes toward trade with China and India. George W. Bush talked up free trade — except on steel, sugar, and most agricultural commodities. The Republicans’ philosophy is informed by free-market idealists who celebrate the wonders of Schumpeterian “creative destruction,” but the guys flying business class would much rather sink into a nice warm bailout and let capitalism creatively destroy somebody else’s money — the taxpayers’ money, for instance. The bankers are the last guys who want free markets right now, and so it’s no surprise to find them writing big checks to the Democrats. But against all evidence, Republicans remain the party of Wall Street in the public imagination.
Obvious & easy jabs at Democrats aside, this is an interesting quandary for the Republican party.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.