The so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the showpiece of democratic welfarism in the 21st century — has made history as the largest, fastest failure in the history of state-provided welfare programs.
It turns out that you can’t just pass a law that causes everyone to get all the health care he or she desires at extremely low cost. Nor can government create a market-like environment out of a nonmarket good or service and expect it to achieve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction. …
In a real market, we would probably see medical care work much like veterinary care today — mercifully free of too much government involvement — for which you pay per service. Prices are clearly posted. Consumers pay the full cost of noncatastrophes. And there is healthy competition among providers who are trying to treat you best at the lowest price. Indeed, the restoration of the price system is the central requirement of any sane reform.
In a free market for health care, one can easily imagine subscription services emerging — think of Spotify, Netflix, or Amazon Prime for health services — but they would unlikely have anything to do with employment. The whole link between your job and your health care — and the third-party payment system through huge and cartelized institutions — came about because of wartime price controls. It’s completely arbitrary and massively distorting.
A purely market-based medical system in the 21st century might offer some wonderful surprises. The prices would continually fall, and perhaps be free for routine care, just as so many services on the Internet are free. Even now, even with all the absurdities and bloat and interventions, private-sector insurers operating in the nonprofit space are able to offer a form of mutual aid for a quarter of the price of the big players in the insurance market (see, for example, Samaritan Ministries). …
A government-run website is the digital-age equivalent of the failure of government to run factories and farms in the 1920s and 1930s. Under socialism, it was true that with enough force and money, even Soviets could produce trucks, grain, and bombs. But every economic decision involving physical resources and time requires trade-offs: If you do this, you are not doing that. The real question is: At what cost? Lenin made some progress in electrification even while major parts of the newly socialized Russia were experiencing famine.
Likewise, HealthCare.gov has become a costly symbol of a wider system failure.
The website can and probably will be fixed — but will the program itself achieve its aims? The ACA promised to retain existing health insurance coverage and then expand it. Upon implementation, the ACA immediately and dramatically reduced coverage by forcing many individually provided health care plans to be dropped. Otherwise, most are experiencing sticker shock.
In many cases, mandated coverage of new ailments made continued service economically unfeasible. In other cases, existing plans were suddenly outside the law. For example, the government said that plans must cover outpatient care, emergency room visits, lab tests, hospitalization, maternity, preventative services, pediatric services, prescription drugs, and much more. If a plan didn’t, it was essentially declared illegal and had to be canceled.
In other words, the companies who dropped millions from the rolls were merely complying with the law. They were obeying government diktat. That few people expected this outcome reveals the true nature of government planning. Two lessons emerge from the mess: Planners cannot account for all contingencies, and/or they must lie to get what they want.
Then came the doubling — in some cases tripling — of premiums of many individual plans because of the requirement that insurers take no account of pre-existing conditions, which is a bit like requiring that auto insurers cover drunk drivers who are training for NASCAR. …
Government can’t and won’t fix health care. Only the private sector can do that. The full solution, then, will require complete secession from every plan put out by every politician, every political party, and every national commission of experts purporting to know better than the people who make up the market order.
It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward [legal marijuana] dispensaries. Moreover, it appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense. … It is our view that the intent of the Justice Department is to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws in conflict with the laws of states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses.
It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward [legal marijuana] dispensaries. Moreover, it appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense. …
It is our view that the intent of the Justice Department is to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws in conflict with the laws of states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses.
The L.A. City Council approved today a $5.9 million settlement to officers alleging they had been punished by their superiors for not fulfilling ticket quotas.
The City Council settled the lawsuit with 10 LAPD officers of a motorcycle unit who filed it back in 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times. The officers claimed they were forced by Capt. Nancy Lauer to meet ticket quotas—which would break state law. Reportedly, they were required to write at least 18 tickets per shift. They alleged that in retaliation, their supervisors would give them bad performance reviews, reassignment, and [harassment], reported Los Angeles Daily News.
However, the settlement agreement was discussed behind closed doors, and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck denies a ticket-quota system was put in place. “We will continue to have measures of productivity,” Beck told City News Service. “Not quotas. Measures of productivity. They’re different.”
This settlement comes on the heels of a similar 2011 ticket quotas lawsuit where two LAPD officers were awarded $2 million by the L.A. Superior Court.
So these tax-leech bullies are given orders from their tax-leech bosses to reach a minimum amount of harassment against mostly peaceful people - ticket quotas that are against the law (but these tax-leeches are above the law, so why would that matter?). They fail to reach this minimum and are subsequently “punished” (lol). Then, these tax-leech bullies sue the city in response to the treatment by their tax-leech bosses. The tax-leech meddlers in the city council, in turn, settled with the tax-leech bullies to the tune of $5.9 million. And this was paid for, of course, by taxpayers.
So we pay for all these tax-leeches to harass us, we pay them to set minimum amounts of harassment which in turn we pay fees on, and now we pay for the consequences of their wrong-doing.
Aren’t government monopolies delightful?
politicallyaffiliatedurl asked: Could you explain (in brief, if you'd like) why the 17th amendment is problematic?
Constitutional checks on government power are mostly a charade. States will forever and always do exactly what people are willing to acquiesce to, irrespective of whatever ostensible limitations some antique piece of parchment says to the contrary.
That said, it’s always better that there be checks on power than otherwise.
Before the 17th Amendment, the United States were structured in such a way that there was what may be referred to as a divided triumvirate of sovereignty: the people (by way of the House of Representatives), the states (by way of the Senate), and the federal government (by way of the executive). Decisions were made by these entities (and “interpreted” by the judicial), with the highest power going to the people (which is why the House of Representatives controls the budget). Senators were selected by the governments of their respective states. Because the federal government (before the 16th Amendment created the income tax) only had what was collected by and allotted to them by the individual states, and because states were unable to simply create their own currencies with which to amass debt, Senators with their state’s best interests in mind helped prevent overspending and keep a balanced budget. It was their job to ensure that their state wasn’t taken advantage of by the others, and because they weren’t necessarily democratically elected to “terms,” they could face immediate repercussions if they voted counter to the interests of their state and its people. The 17th Amendment changed how Senators were selected and removed them from the nexus of decision-makers who were responsible for making sound financial decisions for their state.
In short, Senators are less concerned with their specific state’s interests - particularly its financial obligations - when they are no longer selected by and accountable to the state legislators and executives who are in turn responsible to state residents for managing such matters. The 17th Amendment greatly diminishes state autonomy in favor of a more centralized federal government. It, along with the 16th Amendment, essentially neutered an important check on government power.
It is no coincidence that it was after the 16th and 17th Amendments were ratified, and the federal reserve came into being (all three in 1913!), that we saw the meteoric rise in government spending and control. There were no more impediments to its growth and centralization of power, and we naturally entered an age of total war.
Supporters of the 17th claim that it makes for a more democratic governance. This is, in a sense, true; but that does not mean it is good, as people, in turn, are able to exert less control over the minutiae of their own lives. Too few people understand that political democracy is illegitimate.
Repealing the 17th would not be a panacea, but it would be a sensible step in the right direction. And, far more importantly, it would mean that people have rebuked the centralization of power and the loss of autonomy enough to agitate for that very change. And that would be worth celebrating.
Fiat money, if you like, is backed by men with guns.
Both theory and history indicate that government management of resources leads to waste and even absurdity. People view traffic jams, water shortages, power outages, deforestation, endangered species, and fishing rules as facts of life. But they are not necessary. On the contrary, they are perversities produced by government management. Private markets are not perfect, but competition and private ownership give the best possible framework for an efficient use of scarce resources.
This column is exceptional.
Although its appears as if filmed in a dank subterranean cloister in the early 1980s, check out this fascinating discussion of power elite analysis by sociologist G. William Domhoff, economist Murray N. Rothbard, and political scientist Williamson M. Evers on a wide range of topics from urban renewal, the origins of the Fed, to the corporate elite’s dominance of California.
If you can get past the quality of the video (from 1985), it’s pretty good content - particularly Rothbard’s portion starting at about 16:00.
Scary. Insane. Ridiculous. Invasive. Wrong. The Washington Post reports that the FBI has had the ability to secretly activate a computer’s camera “without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording” for years now.
U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I’m afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder.
I don’t think it makes all Americans complicit, because many of use did not vote for or support the people who enact these policies, and it’s not like taxes are voluntary. But it does make some of us complicit, and it unquestionably makes our government guilty as — there’s really no other word for it — hell.
Yup. As I noted after Obama’s re-election: “If you voted for Obama, you not only registered your approval of the things you like, you also officially condoned the many atrocities he’s committed and corrupt policies he’s championed. Congratulations, you’re an accomplice to heinous acts.” Those heinous acts being everything from prosecuting whistleblowers, corporatism, and indefinite detainment without due process, to record deportations and the murder of innocent children with drone bombs.
Same applies to Romney-supporters, of course, or supporters of pretty much any politician. But when you re-elect someone who is a confirmed perpetrator of these acts, you can’t feign surprise when he continues to do what he has already done.
(And of course those of us who didn’t support warmongers are not complicit.)
The NSA also claims that as a result of its spying, it has kept us safe. I reject the argument that the government is empowered to take our liberties – here, the right to privacy – by majority vote or by secret fiat as part of an involuntary collective bargain that it needs to monitor us in private in order to protect us in public.
The NSA also claims that as a result of its spying, it has kept us safe.
I reject the argument that the government is empowered to take our liberties – here, the right to privacy – by majority vote or by secret fiat as part of an involuntary collective bargain that it needs to monitor us in private in order to protect us in public.
The FDA’s decision to take Iressa of the market is indicative of how the agency is out of touch with the emerging paradigm of personalized medicine. The FDA’s method of conducting clinical trials is designed to identify drugs that work for the typical or average patient, “but you’re not wholesale, and neither am I,” says Peter Huber, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of The Cure in the Code: How 20th Century Law is Undermining 21st Century Medicine. The war on cancer, Huber argues, will be won using cocktails of drugs tailored to the unique biology of each patient and his or her variant of the disease. Only if the FDA abandons its outdated one-size-fits-all approach to drug regulation will there be more patients like Ed Levitt.
Or, better than merely reforming the FDA, it is completely abolished. Let free people make decisions over their lives themselves, with the consult of trusted doctors and loved ones, instead of waiting for unknown bureaucrats (with other potential interests in mind) to make one-size-fits-all decrees that keep potential remedies from people who want them or make testing cost prohibitive - both outcomes that ultimately leave people dead.
Given the fact that both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations (not to mention Congress) have followed the Keynesian playbook, the sorry results should be enough to discredit Keynesianism, this time for good. Either a theory explains and predicts phenomena or it does not, and it should be clear that Keynesian theory has failed.
Alas, the academic “market test” really does not embrace the actual success or failure of a theory. It seems that many academic economists do not wish to be bothered by what happens in the real world. The vaunted “market test” is not about actual results, but is about what many economists are willing to accept as what they wish to be true and what politicians believe is good for their own electoral purposes.
The assumption that comes with attempting to apply Eugene Fama’s “Perfect Market Hypothesis” to academic economics presupposes that economists are interested only in what actually occurs. Furthermore, the belief presumes that when presented with a set of facts, academic economists will give the same analysis and not be influenced by partisan politics.
Given the interpretations that economists such as Krugman, Alan Blinder, and others have made in the aftermath of the disastrous first week of “ObamaCare,” not to mention their shilling for the Obama administration itself, the latter is clearly untrue. Furthermore, we see there are “gains from trade,” as politicians tend to flock to those economists who can offer the proverbial “quick fix” to whatever ails the economy, as being seen as doing something confers more political benefits than doing the right thing, which is to curb the power, scope, and influence of state power.
Even Krugman admits that the appearance of expertise has fueled the Keynesian bandwagon:
In the 1930s you had a catastrophe, and if you were a public official or even just a layman looking for guidance and understanding, what did you get from institutionalists? Caricaturing, but only slightly, you got long, elliptical explanations that it all had deep historical roots and clearly there was no quick fix. Meanwhile, along came the Keynesians, who were model-oriented, and who basically said “Push this button” — increase G, and all will be well. And the experience of the wartime boom seemed to demonstrate that demand-side expansion did indeed work the way the Keynesians said it did.
In the past five years politicians have been pushing “button G” and all is not well. Yet, in this age of unrestrained government, the Keynesian promise of prosperity springing from massive government spending is attractive to politicians, economists, and public intellectuals. That it only makes things worse is irrelevant and beside the point. If the economy falters, politicians and academic economists blame capitalism, not Keynesianism, and they get away with it.
Los Angeles Unified School District has stumbled upon a revolutionary concept in disciplining young schoolchildren: Maybe don’t treat them the way the police department treats parolees? That is to say, LAUSD is pulling back on responding to common child misbehavior with police citations. From theLos Angeles Daily News:
Starting Dec. 1, elementary and some middle school students in Los Angeles Unified will no longer receive police citations for most misbehavior.
According to the new policy, Los Angeles School Police will refrain from writing criminal citations for infractions such as fighting and writing on desks, instead turning students to school officials for campus-based punishment that is more in line with their age and nature of the violations.
“This is an important step, but it also raises concerns that there is more to be done,” said Manuel Criollo, director of organizing for the nonprofit Community Rights Campaign, an L.A. group that has lobbied for the decriminalization of many school-based offenses. “Some of this should be common sense, and the next thing is to expand it in the middle schools. Thirteen- and 14-year-olds should also be covered by this.”
This “new policy” smells remarkably old actually, like how schools handled discipline when those of us who are adults now attended school. Officials have finally realized that treating students like criminals discourages them from doing things like attending school (important, because that’s how school funding is determined):
The directive from LAUSD Police Chief Steven Zipperman asks school-based officers to look at misbehavior of students under the age of 13 as a teaching opportunity rather than a reason to hand out citations that could discourage them from attending class altogether.
If a ticket is issued, officers should have an articulated reason for doing so, as well as the permission of a supervisor. The policy does not cover possession of contraband.
The Community Rights Campaign calculated that school police have handed out more than 4,700 citations to students under the age of 14 for the 2012-13 school year.
House and Senate negotiators are working out details of a big farm bill that may pass this year. No industry in America is as coddled as farming, and no industry is as centrally planned from Washington. The federal sugar program is perhaps the most Soviet of all. Here’s a sketch of the sugar program, which the supposedly conservative, tea party-dominated lower chamber may soon ratify:
- Purpose. The federal sugar program is designed to enrich sugar producers, such as the wealthy Fanjuls, and rip off sugar consumers by keeping domestic prices artificially high. In recent decades, U.S. sugar prices have often been two or more times world prices. The federal government achieves that result by price guarantees, trade restrictions, production quotas, and ethanol giveaways.
- Guaranteed Prices. The Department of Agriculture runs a complex loan program to support sugar prices. Essentially, the government promises to buy sugar from processors at a set price per pound. Processors can sell to the government, or they can sell in the marketplace if the (manipulated) market price is higher.
- Trade Restrictions. Complex import barriers called “tariff rate quotas” help to maintain high domestic sugar prices. Imports are restricted to about one quarter of the U.S. market, and each foreign country (except Mexico) is allocated a particular share of imports.
- Production Quotas. The government imposes quotas, or “marketing allotments,” on U.S. producers. The United States Department of Agriculture decides what total U.S. sugar production ought to be and then allots quotas to beet and cane sugar producers. Most sugar beet production is in Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota, Michigan, and California. Most sugar cane production is in Florida and Louisiana.
- Ethanol Giveaway. If prices fall below certain levels, the USDA is required to fire up a sugar-for-ethanol program to channel sugar away from the food industry.
The USDA is supposed to run the sugar program at no taxpayer cost, which makes the central planning even trickier. The agency must fiddle to adjust imports, quotas, and the ethanol giveaway to optimally fatten the wallets of sugar producers, while not allowing the domestic (manipulated) market price to fall so low as to impose taxpayer costs.
A possible wrench in the works of the current farm bill is that the sugar program is on track to cost taxpayers perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars this year (see here and here). So if conservatives in Congress vote for an unreformed sugar program this year, they would be not only voting for central planning, corporate welfare, higher consumer prices, harm to U.S. food manufacturers, and environmental damage, they would be voting for higher taxes as well.