More Things I Think I Think Right NowJuly 14, 2009Dangerous Dan No Comments »
As we prepare to pass a massive health care entitlement program that will destroy the quality of the current system and exponentially increase the size of the federal budget, the federal debt, and the power of the federal government in our lives, let's consider a few things.
1. Name me a successful (or, as most actually are, seemingly successul) socialist program or system that is not parasitic on the private sector. On health care, for example, many people hold up Medicare as being great template for a quality government-run system, even though it about to go bust. If you can find a doctor who wants more Medicare patients or an all-Medicare practice, then it is highly likely you will next find a unicorn ridden by a leprechaun. Doctors and hospitals tolerate Medicare and the loss they take on the system because they are still able to make a profit from private insurers. Private insurance subsidizes Medicare. Should you take away the private insurance so that you only have a universal Medicare-type plan, what will subsidize it?
The great socialized medical systems of other countries are also parasitic on the U.S. The newest wonder drugs and most medical innovations come out of the U.S. because companies can make a profit here, but not elsewhere. And yet the other countries still benefit from innovations that come from the U.S. The massive socialized welfare systems of western Europe are the result of half a century of U.S. military protecction of the continent. They had the luxury of drawing down their militaries and building up their welfare states. They currently hardly have the ability to even defend themselves, let alone project any significant power abroad. If the leaders of western Europe had any sense, they would persuade the U.S. NOT to join the socialist democratic fold. If the European pattern were to hold here so that military spending will be replaced with welfare spending, we will no longer have ability to militarily secure Europe and the Europeans will suddenly be responsible for themselves without an assured back-up plan in the U.S.
1b. I also marvel at how people are so willing to allow the federal government to so intrude in their lives that they will allow it to dictate to them something as fundamental as their own health care and how they use it. I've always been baffled at how people complain about insurance companies and HMO's and then their solution is to create one enormous monopolistic HMO run by the federal government, that paragon of efficiency, meritocracy, and friendly reliable customer service. When Obama talks of lowering costs, hwo do they really think that will be done? When the supply of available medical care remains static, but demand skyrockets and there's no longer any price mechanism to ration the supply, how do they think the rationing will be done? How do they think new medical innovations will come about or new drugs created when there's no longer any profit to be made in them for companies? How do they think the government will distribute money and resources through the system? By need? By merit? By consumer demand? By voter appeasement? By political influence? When Obama talks about "evidence-based" medicine and decisions, what evidence, chosen by whom, to effect decisions for what goals? What motivation will aspiring talented sudents have for going into the medical field when they can no longer make their own medical decisions, when they can no longer act on their own judgment and training, when they become bureaucrats executing options on a flow chart, when they cannot produce a meaningful income to reflect their education, training, and service provided, and when patients see them not as talented professionals from whom they are receiving a valuable service made valuable by what it costs the patient, but as an extension of the government system as surely as a glassy-eyed dullard sitting at a DMV window? Why go through that pain when instead they can become, say, lawyers with less investment of time, talent, and money and greater reward on the other end? Why contribute to the medical field when there are oh so many ways to become parasitic on it?
2. The role of proper government should be to preserve and protect individual freedoms and let individuals define and pursue their own versions of happiness and the good life (within bounds, of course, e.g. not allowing joyful murderers to exercise their hobby). The more instrusive the government becomes, however, through taxation, regulation, mandatory services, etc., the more individual freedoms are eroded and persons are forced to comform to the versions of happiness and good life decided on by the government as being best and proper. It doesn't matter if my versions are different, I will be forced through either lack of choice and options or through coercion to comply. On health care, I may prefer a certain doctor or have a certain procedure done or make some other conscious choice that I think best, but under a government system, I will be constrained to doing what the bureaucratic rules say I can do.
2b. I would dearly love if some politician out there would articulate the case for economic freedom being general freedom, which I think is one of the best cases to be made against increasingly excessive taxation. The more of your own money you keep, the more you can pursue your own aforementioned versions of happiness and the good life. You can donate to charities, tithe, take educational courses, buy a ski boat, travel, play XBOX, contribute to political candidates or political causes you support, etc., etc. Whatever your version is, money allows you to pursue it. The more of that money that is taxed, however, the more your ability to pursue it is restricted. and is necessarily an infringement of what is supposed to be an unalienable right, the pursuit of happiness Again, erosion of individual freedoms.
3. I sometimes wonder if, though we are a common law society, we are becoming more civil law in tone and structure. Rules and laws are becoming exceptionally complex in their layout. Older real estate agents can tell you housing contracts are much longer than they used to be. Older profesoors will tell you how syllabi were once a page or two and now universities require they have sections on disability, discrimination, tardy policies, grading policies, reading schedules, et al, until a syllabus constitutes a packet. In all things, all bases must be covered and no loopholes left open.
The problem with all this is that rules replace judgment. People become afraid to make judgment calls because they fear they'll leave themselves exposed to litigation or discipline if they choose wrongly. If there's a rule they can follow, however, then they can do whatever it says and not bother using judgment, no matter how illogical, inconvenient, inefficient, immoral, or nonsensical it may be in a given situation. They are absolved of all personal responsibility. No matter the outcome or incomprehensible the decision, they are justified so long as they conformed to the rule. And then responsibility has been to displaced to whom? To the rule? Where is the accountability in the system? Suddenly, no one is accountable and no one is responsible so long as every one followed their own respective rules. The buck stops nowhere because it never started going anywhere at the start.
We've replaced minds with rules. Whatever happened to producing people with good judgment and good character who can choose wisely instead of merely stamping out drones who can do little more than offensively exploit loopholes and defensively cover their asses? We don't want men of thinking, we want men of process.
4. Last, I was ruminating this morning on the rather contradictory positions of those who support higher taxes. On the one hand, they support higher taxation of those in the higher income brackets in order to generate revenue for various government spending. They do so on the supposition that those who are wealthy will continue working at the same pace as before and work with the same effort to increase income, productivity, etc., and also that they will not leave the jurisdiciton of the taxing entity. That is, they expect the higher tax to generate more revenue while having little to no adverse effect on the behavior of those being taxed.
On the other hand, these same people will turn around and purposely use taxation as a tool for behavior modification. They argue, for example, that gas taxes should be higher so people will push for and buy more fuel efficient vehicles. They push through higher taxes on cigarettes saying that doing so will make the cost of smoking prohibitively expensive and smokers will quit.
So, which is it? Does higher taxation change behavior or does it not? You can't have it both ways. I haven't decided if the attempt to do so is the result of naivity, convenience, or straight-out lying.
And that's about all I think I think right now.