27 August 2009

Ted Kennedy, RIP

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25 August 2009

On Egalité

Like the revolutionaries in France, Russia, and elsewhere, they appeal to the masses' utopian desire for égalité--equity & fairness--all the while excepting & exempting themselves from the plans and rules they outline for everyone else.

In the extreme, they give the hoi polloi communism or in the intermediate, socialized medicine, etc., to sate the class warfare they (revolutionary leaders in the former, John Edwards with his "two Americas" or Barbara Boxer with her "well-dressed" critique of town hall participants, in the latter) themselves started.

This impulse, this pursuit of égalité has caused more death and destruction than any other single ideological movement in world history.

Between Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, the Khmer Rouge and many, many more, literally hundreds of millions of people have either been killed outright or starved and died as a result of the programs & policies emanating from égalité.

Mind you, I'm not opposed to the idea that all men (& women) ought to be viewed equally before the law. This, I believe, is the idea expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

What I have a problem with is the leveling philosophy that views equality as an end unto itself. Most often, this philosophy is expressed by people who do not subject themselves (see the Sidwell Liberals from last week, "limousine liberals," and anyone else in history or contemporary times who opts out of the programs they establish for everyone else) to the practical ramifications of their social reordering.

In the USSR, China, Cuba, etc., they had/have their private doctors, dachas, and other special privileges, while the people around them lead equally sucky lives.

This then is the end result when égalité is your highest order principle: No one is lifted up, because of the disincentive to improve one's lot in life. Rather, in order to achieve equality or equity, others are pulled down, their wealth redistributed, and their liberty, along with that of everyone else, limited.

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20 August 2009

America's Relatively Low Life Expectancy ≠ Bad American Healthcare

And there are even more factors involved than Steve Chapman outlines in this awesome quote:
It's true that the United States spends more on health care than anyone else, and it's true that we rank below a lot of other advanced countries in life expectancy. . . .
One big reason our life expectancy lags is that Americans have an unusual tendency to perish in homicides or accidents. We are 12 times more likely than the Japanese to be murdered and nearly twice as likely to be killed in auto wrecks.
In their 2006 book, 'The Business of Health,' economists Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider set out to determine where the U.S. would rank in life span among developed nations if homicides and accidents are factored out. Their answer? First place.
That discovery indicates our health-care system is doing a poor job of preventing shootouts and drunk driving but a good job of healing the sick. All those universal-care systems in Canada and Europe may sound like Health Heaven, but they fall short of our model when it comes to combating life-threatening diseases.
One of the other things that skews the numbers for the US is the way we count infant mortality rates. Here, any baby that shows any signs of life is counted.

Not so in the rest of the industrialized world. This discrepancy--the fact that the United States counts everything & the rest of the world is much, much more selective--skews the numbers the leftists use to argue that American health care is too expensive/worse than everywhere else.

Liberty: Nevermind that the difference between America and the rest of the world is that here, individual Americans spend whatever they will on health care because they are free to do so. In the rest of the world, their governments spend some arbitrary amount on healthcare that serves some while rationing everyone else into queues for basic procedures.

I've said it before & I say it here again: American health care is not perfect. But it is the best in the world.

And there are market-based changes that can make it even better & cover more people.

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

19 August 2009

A Trend?

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17 August 2009

My Friend Branden B. On President Obama's New York Times Op-Ed

The main contributors to this blog are yours truly (lybberty) and my brother, matt. From time to time, I post submissions from guest contributors whose principles align with the principles of OL&L.

This is one of those times.

Longtime friend & friend of the blog, Branden B., weighs in with some insightful analysis of President Obama's health care op-ed which ran in Sunday's New York Times. I recommend it for your review.
I read Obama's editorial this morning on health care in the NY Times. A few things jumped out at me because they seemed incredible. I don't completely understand the issue nor do I pretend to; however, I did learn a thing or two in school along with everyone else who took Econ 110 and they could shoot holes through his argument as easily as I could.

First, it's obvious that the President is putting the majority of his effort into demonizing insurance companies. For those who have read Atlas Shrugged, it is phenomenal how similar his language is to the looters in Rand's book. I am not saying that insurance companies are perfect entities or that Rand's philosophy is even mostly correct. It just blew me away that he was lifting their language so exactly:
...in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits.

...we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies.

...reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable.

...A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans
Secondly, take a few moments and read the following paragraph, think for a bit, and then tell me why this will not work.
We will put an end to these practices. Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses.
Again, I understand that there are real people affected by the problems he outlined above. That said, what does he think is going to happen to the insurance premiums for everyone (including those that are sick) if companies are required to turn a blind eye to just about everything they use now in determine (insurance) premiums? He doesn't even acknowledge that your premiums are going to at least double and possibly triple or quadruple. At that point, the government will then step in and say that insurance companies can't raise premiums (as it was in Atlas). Insurance companies will then go bankrupt and the government will conveniently step in with their fixed plan, paid for with your tax dollars.

Finally, what does this last sentence mean?
If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need.
The first "we" is Obama, a government bureaucrat. We could rewrite that to say:
If you have health insurance, we [government bureaucrats] will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need.
I don't normally do these sorts of rants but I could not believe that the President peddled these fallacies so blatantly in the morning newspaper.
[ed. note: Branden, this is what you get for reading the NYT Op-Ed page.]

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13 August 2009

President Obama's Ringing Endorsement Of The 'Public Option'

'What, are all you free-marketers afraid of a little competition!?!!'

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07 August 2009

Pie-In-The-Sky Green Jobs

I suggest you look elsewhere for employment.

Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times . . . All told, green jobs constitute barely 700,000 positions across the country -- less than 0.5% of total employment. That's about how many jobs the economy lost in January this year. . . . Green power is expensive and depends on massive subsidization, with government support levels at roughly 20 times or more per megawatt hour than relatively clean and abundant natural gas. . . . A recent study on renewable energy subsidies on the Spanish economy found that for every "green" job created more than two were lost in the non-subsidized economy.
Ah, unintended consequences. The social planners/economic developers can never account for all of them. This is why government ought to err on the side of less, rather than more regulation of the economy.

(see also "ethanol" & the unintended starvation in lesser developed countries)

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06 August 2009

Democrats Subordinate The Needs Of The Children To Yet Another Union

For shame, Mr. President, for shame.

This time, it's the teachers' union. John Fund in today's WSJ Political Diary has the story:
My vote for the worst scandal in America right now is the education monopoly that keeps poor, inner-city kids trapped in failing public schools. Special mention here goes to the politicians who oppose giving these children the choice to escape even as they send their own kids to private or elite public schools.

Let's call them Sidwell Liberals, after the famous Washington, D.C., school where President and Mrs. Obama send their daughters. Despite this personal experience, Mr. Obama signed into law a provision passed by Congress that shuts down Washington D.C.'s voucher program, depriving 1,700 disadvantaged kids of the chance to escape failing public schools through the use of scholarships that let them attend private schools. Two of them attend Sidwell Friends School with the Obama girls.

Mr. Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, professes to support the D.C. choice program but his actions speak louder than words. He has taken back 200 scholarship offers that had already been made to local parents for the next school year. A bipartisan group including Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Nevada Republican John Ensign recently introduced a bill that would extend the Opportunity Scholarship Program for another five years. "It's not a liberal program or a conservative program," Mr. Lieberman said, "It's a program that puts children first."

Mr. Duncan himself knows the value of choice. He told Science magazine that he thought carefully where to send his daughter to school in the D.C. area when he moved from Chicago to join the Obama cabinet. He explained his decision to live in Virginia thusly: "My family has given up so much so that I could have the opportunity to serve; I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education." Would that the parents of the Washington D.C. children who will be thrown out of their current schools had that same option of relocating in upper-income Arlington and enjoying its relatively good public schools.

Many of the Members of Congress who voted to kill the D.C. scholarship program have made choices their own constituents would love to have but can't. A Heritage Foundation study found that 38% of Members of Congress send their children to private school, a rate about four times higher than the national average.

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02 August 2009

Mark Steyn: 'Government Health Care Would Be Wrong Even If It “Controlled Costs.”'

On the price tag: It’s often argued that, as a proportion of GDP, America spends more on health care than countries with government medical systems. But, as a point of fact, “America” doesn’t spend anything on health care: Hundreds of millions of people make hundreds of millions of individual decisions about what they’re going to spend on health care. Whereas up north a handful of bureaucrats determine what Canada will spend on health care — and that’s that: Health care is a government budget item. If Joe Hoser in Moose Jaw wants to increase Canada’s health-care spending by $500 drawn from his savings account, he can’t: The law prevents it. Unless, as many Canadians do, he drives south and spends it in a U.S. hospital for treatment he can’t get in a timely manner in his own country.

You can make the “controlling costs” argument about anything: After all, it’s no surprise that millions of free people freely choosing how they spend their own money will spend it in different ways than government bureaucrats would be willing to license on their behalf. America spends more per capita on food than Zimbabwe. America spends more on vacations than North Korea. America spends more on lap-dancing than Saudi Arabia (well, officially). Canada spends more per capita on doughnuts than America — and, given comparative girths, Canucks are clearly not getting as much bang for the buck. Why doesn’t Ottawa introduce a National Doughnut Licensing Agency? You’d still see your general dispenser for simple procedures like a lightly sugared cruller, but he’d refer you to a specialist if you needed, say, a maple-frosted custard — and it would only be a six-month wait, at the end of which you’d receive a stale cinnamon roll. Under government regulation, eventually every doughnut would be all hole and no doughnut, and the problem would be solved. Even if the hole costs $1.6 trillion.

How did the health-care debate decay to the point where we think it entirely natural for the central government to fix a collective figure for what 300 million freeborn citizens ought to be spending on something as basic to individual liberty as their own bodies?

That’s the argument that needs to be won. And, if you think I’m being frivolous in positing bureaucratic regulation of doughnuts and vacations, consider that under the all-purpose umbrellas of “health” and “the environment,” governments of supposedly free nations are increasingly comfortable straying into areas of diet and leisure. Last year, a British bill attempted to ban Tony the Tiger, longtime pitchman for Frosties, from children’s TV because of his malign influence on young persons. Why not just ban Frosties? Or permit it by prescription only? Or make kids stand outside on the sidewalk to eat it? It was also proposed — by the Conservative party, alas — that, in the interests of saving the planet, each citizen should be permitted to fly a certain number of miles a year, after which he would be subject to punitive eco-surtaxes. Isn’t restricting freedom of movement kind of, you know . . . totalitarian?

Freedom is messy. In free societies, people will fall through the cracks — drink too much, eat too much, buy unaffordable homes, fail to make prudent provision for health care, and much else. But the price of being relieved of all those tiresome choices by a benign paternal government is far too high.

Government health care would be wrong even if it “controlled costs.” It’s a liberty issue. I’d rather be free to choose, even if I make the wrong choices.
This is a distinction I've made privately and tried to explain on the blog: There is a difference between what America pays and what Americans pay for health care (or anything else, for that matter).

Leftist progressives want government to plan & manage an ever-growing share of American life in pursuit of their dystopian utopian dreams.

Make no mistake: This is The Road to Serfdom.

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01 August 2009

From The Facebook Thread: Detente, Liberty, Healthcare &c.

[ed. note: This is for those who do not follow the lively discussion on Facebook]

What's the difference between the moral imperative for using US resources to spread freedom, and the moral imperative to provide affordable healthcare for the poor? IMO, it's just team politics. I'm interested in seeing how [you] distinguish between using the moral imperative in foreign policy (and, for that matter, social policy), and health care.
And my response:
IIRC, I did not argue that spreading freedom ought to trump national interests full-stop, but that at a minimum, we should err on the side of freedom & democracy when in doing so we were not clearly acting against our own best interest. I think that our own best interest in the long term ought not be subordinated to unclear, debatable, potential gains to be made in the short term.

Historically speaking, the failure of detante in the middle Cold War is a pretty strong critique of realpolitik. And I'm not advancing a strictly neoconservative view of this history. This is coming from the godfather of Cold War history himself--John Lewis Gaddis.

I did not say that I felt no moral obligation or desire to help those w/o health care. I just don't translate that into wanting to tax other people to fund a government program that assuages my guilt & makes me feel better about myself.

I'm a natural rights guy.

My moral impulse to spread the "unalienable rights" is the same at home as it is abroad. I reject the cult of rights that has become progressive morality. As Folsom argues, these ever-expanding rights impose an obligation on society--an obligation which infringes on individual liberty by using the coercive power of government.

I firmly believe in the ability of market reform to drive down costs (of procedures & meds, etc. see Lasik surgery for a prime example of this), increase access, and continue medical technology innovation.

Eliminating the de facto government subsidy of employer provided healthcare & giving everyone a flat tax credit would go a long way towards accomplishing what I envision. Hell, I don't make a sufficiently compelling/persuasive argument in favor of market-based reforms, but Holman Jenkins does.

A collectivist response with fairness/equality as its main goal will not innovate. It will not drive down costs. And rather than using the amoral price mechanism allocate healthcare resources, will employ some arbitrary bureaucracy to ration care.

It may well be called "universal," but tell that to the queues of people who die waiting for cancer treatment & heart surgery. Tell that to the seniors who do not get hip replacement surgery. Tell it also to people waiting to get a friggin' MRI or colonoscopy. And don't forget about one other unintended (I'm sure) consequence of going socialist, the decline in future med tech innovation & pharmaceutical development.

Sure, Americans pay a lot of money on healthcare. So what? They are self optimizers who do so largely because they value the extension in life they believe they are receiving as a result of that care.

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