This is not a political site. This is an anti-political site. Our purpose is to advance civil society and the freedom philosophy and perhaps have a little fun while we're at it.

10/28/09

The Economics of Medical Care

Dr. Thomas Sowell is well known to readers of this blog, but sadly, if you turn to the person next to you where ever you happen to be and ask them who he is, you will get the same look that you get from American teenagers in a Chinese algebra class. I guess that's not terribly shocking in a country where a huge number of those quizzed on the street about the name of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, answer - "none of the above". In fairness, given the prevailing preferences of what passes for the press in this country, they can't be expected to have heard of Sowell.

For those who are new to this site or to Sowell, the link found below contains a biography, but the content of the series of articles is the real attraction. It is a nine part series carried on the Op-Ed page of the Investors Business Daily and as a courtesy to my readers who do not subscribe to that excellent publication, but who do check on this site often, I will be adding a link on the right hand side each day so that we may together follow along on an economics lesson extraordinaire. As with all of his writing, it is perfectly readable.

The series is actually an entire chapter of his new book, "Applied Economics" and will be reprinted in its entirety on the pages of that paper. He has also recently written a book entitled "The Housing Boom and Bust" which will inform its readers of what actually happened during the recent meltdown of government "fixes" and the attendant economic crash.

I hope you enjoy it so you can roll your eyes (in an informed way) whenever someone at your favorite watering hole tells you how great it's going to be when "free" government healthcare finally arrives to save us from those enemies of the people, the insurance companies and drug manufacturers.

10/27/09

What's all the fuss about Internet regulation?

A quick primer about what the government is contemplating while our attention is focused on Fannie-Med and Cap and Trash.


10/16/09

Can Anything You Get For Free, be Worth Having?


Since nothing in our worldly existence is actually free, the question is moot.
Today, the common understanding of "free" is getting something someone else actually paid for.
The government constantly promises free things, and advertisers for companies are always offering free stuff. "Buy one, get one free" sales and free appetizers at restaurants are popular ways to rephrase the obvious truth, that the price is temporarily being lowered to stimulate demand.

But today, I'm here to offer you something for free. (actually a few things) And they certainly are worth having.  

If you have followed the essays on this blog or read the names of people I have linked to on the side bar, you know the name of Professor Walter E Williams. And if you have ever heard me, during discussions about government policy over Ben Franklin's favorite beverage, parrot his question: "What is the legitimate role of government in a free society?" you will recognize his trademark opening.

The answer will vary depending upon your particular philosophical leanings. A popular one in recent decades was summarized by former President George W Bush when, during a campaign speech in 2004, he uttered  "I think that's a proper role for the federal government, to help people". A statement, which in my view, sums up his misguided and sometimes preposterous presidency. The current President and most, if not all of those in my time on earth have been similarly incorrect or purposefully deceptive.
By contrast, the header of this blog-site reveals the thinking of Thomas Jefferson. It is elegant in its brevity and concise in its transmittal of  his message, which is why it remains my favorite quotation concerning governance and graces the top of this page.

A quaint old document, the contents of which have been largely forgotten (even as many pretend to venerate that declaration) has it this way:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men"

The highlighting is mine of course, to make it read as a sentence. The attending words are more often quoted, and usually with good reason, but the object of the sentence has been been given short shrift, to our lasting detriment.

There still remain some of us silly old fools who took those words the way they were intended, that is to say, literally.

Now, back to my favorite economist. Walter Williams has a doctorate degree in economics and  teaches at George Mason University, but that isn't the only place he teaches. In an article adapted from a lecture he delivered in August for Hillsdale College (while aboard a cruise ship in the Mediterranean)  he taught the people in attendance, and now, through the beneficence of those who contribute to the publication of Imprimus, he will teach right here on this humble blog.

 He is also the author of many important books, a syndicated column and is a frequent speaker at gatherings of smart people and those who are attempting to become smart. Over the years, I have read most of his books and columns and have personally heard him speak on different occasions and the only thing I have to show for it thus far is that I am less ignorant. But I guess it's semi smart to trim back my ignorance whenever possible.

The reason I chose this particular article, Future Prospects for Economic Liberty, to feature on this page is that he seems to have rather concisely put together the most important points of dozens of those lectures and books and folded them into this one. If this is the only article of his you ever read, you will get the "Cliffs Notes" version of his work and save yourself a lot of time and money. Which is not something I recommend, but I don't think it would trouble him a whit to have someone "get it for free". After all, he has already been paid, but in my opinion, the most important thing to him is to educate the largest number of people about the blessings of freedom. It is his passion and his life's work.

And I'm delighted to introduce you to it, for free. I can also offer you a free subscription to Imprimus, a publication which has a circulation of 1,800,000 readers monthly. I am one of those readers, and through my association with Hillsdale and Dr. Williams I am authorized to..........Okay, I fibbed. You don't need me for that and I have no special relationship to either of them except my long time admiration for both and a few donations to the college.

Anyone can get it for free, and it proves that, sometimes many things worth having, are indeed, Free.

10/13/09

Healthcare in the Reich

A few days ago I subscribed to a blog I tripped over while walking all over the web. The name of the Blog is The Humble Libertarian and the piece which inspired me to create this post was about a guy who used to be the Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.
Yes, the same Robert Reich who advocated a 100% death tax back in the days when he worked for the criminal enterprise now referred to as the Clinton administration. This man, who thinks that all property rightfully belongs to the state and should revert back to it after we are done borrowing it,  is now an adviser to Barak Obama. Why doesn't that surprise me?

The reason he is back in the news, at least the internet version of the news, is that a YOU-TUBE video is now making the rounds which has him telling the truth about the government plan to take over your healthcare decisions. I'm guessing you won't see this video on any of the major networks unless they are forced to address it if it gets passed around enough.

The video was embedded on the above website along with some rational commentary by W. E. Messamore, the site owner, a person who I am unacquainted with, but who has an interesting blog. He posts "Spread this far and wide!" So W. E. , I'm doing my part.




Hearing comrade Reich's presentation to the Berkeley students is chilling for more than just what it reveals about true intentions on government health-scare schemes. It presents a peek into what a "fourth Reich" might look like if Americans go back to sleep. One which could end up being the "big sleep" if they do. Particularly if they are the "old people", who, he suggests, we should "just let die" because they are too expensive.
(Floridians take note)
 
With Halloween peeking around the corner, I wonder if a Robert Reich mask might not be the scariest one at the party.

10/9/09

Hoping for a Prize


I must admit, President Obama has finally delivered on his promise to give me hope.
Ever since this morning when it was announced that he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, I have become more hopeful than ever.

October 15, 2009 is the final deadline for entry for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. That only gives you a few days to submit this Web Blog for consideration.

All things are possible today!  YES WE CAN!

10/8/09

The Magic Citizen

Usually an improbable rumor about a national leader, unless it's substantiated quickly,  makes the rounds and then fades away as it becomes apparent that it has no legs. Some are like bad pennies though, and they just keep popping up over and over. Too bad we can’t just do a “Snopes” check and be done with them. But when some "web news" sites claim a Federal Judge has set a trial date for a law suit concerning such a story, it starts to grow toes, if not legs.

The question about President Barak Obama’s citizenship is just such a story. Even though it never occurred to me that it might be true, and it still doesn’t, I find the evolving interest in it to be more intriguing all the time. It’s not the question of whether or not Obama was born in the USA, and is therefore qualified to be its President under the ever more ignored and increasingly irrelevant U S Constitution, but instead, the question of why the one person who can make it disappear forever into the diaper pail of crazy conspiracy theories will not do so, that facinates me. That one person is of course, the Magician in Chief himself, whose power to make things disappear is becoming legendary.

President Mandrake’s opening act was turning two U S car companies, a bevy of the countries largest banks, and a gigantic insurance company into federal subsidiaries. Changing rabbits into birds ain’t got nothin’ on that one.

He then waved his magic wand and created several trillion dollars of “Monopoly” money out of thin air. From a distance it even looked like the real thing. All this while the audience gave standing ovations. Even Penn and Teller haven’t been able to top that.

And now, just a few weeks ago, when confronted with the inconvenient realization that the suddenly observant populace discovered that illegal aliens would be allowed to belly up to the government buffet table of universal health insurance coverage, he made Houdini proud by making sixteen million people disappear in just a few quick speeches.

Right before our eyes, he turned the somewhat dubious 46 million uninsured victims of the greedy, capitalistic health insurance companies into only 30 million by pretending that the previously included sneak-ins and legal aliens never existed by dropping the number without explanation.
Viola!    Simply by changing the number he cites of the already magical, roundly accepted tally of the unfortunate in his speeches, he removed 16 million from the rolls of the wretched.  If he can remove another 35% after each such performance, he should have the “crisis” completely evaporated in no time and can get on to his next trick.

It’s listed on your program as “making any chance of future prosperity or job growth vanish into the smoke and mirrors of the Cap and Tax legislation.” In the same moment the first part is completed, hundreds of millions of dollars will materialize in the accounts of Goldman Sachs and other slick dealers who are already prepared to implement the scheme in the grand tradition of the "Chicago Way".  Mayor Daley’s pet Chicago Climate Exchange is conveniently ready for the transition from “voluntary” to mandatory trading.

But back to the citizenship fiasco. The question remains, why wouldn’t the President just show his birth certificate to the people who elected him and be forever done with it? All the rest of us have to do so when enrolling in school or getting a passport or any of a plethora of other official government functions. Surely it’s just as important to prove you meet the requirements to be President as it is prove you can travel legally in other countries.

It was only after conferring with my good friend Homer in an e-mail exchange on the subject, that I decided to write about his curious refusal to co-operate on such a mundane matter.

In my electronic correspondence with my fellow wonderer, I speculated on some scenarios which could explain it. I thought perhaps there was some other information on the certificate which could be embarrassing, like perhaps a different fathers name? Or no fathers name at all? But I’m guessing that’s not it. Most politicians today get forgiven for almost anything they do, much less what their parents did, and the today’s most adored man knows he would get a pass.

Following that, I opined that maybe he was being advised by his campaign team, (which is now governing in permanent campaign mode) to drag this out as long as possible while trying (with the help of their media toadies) to link the whole episode to middle of the road conservatives and Republicans instead of the fringe groups where it has found it’s only traction. In this way, when they deem the time to be right, they can show the proof and portray all his opponents as conspiracy kooks. After all, if you are that close to the edge, how can any credence be lent to your opposition to our “progressive” solutions?

But I have finally settled on a combination of the last one and one other. That being the illusionists’ tactic of never stopping a distraction while it can be of any use at diverting attention away from the sleeve which has the card inside it. So for now, I’m sticking with that conclusion because it’s the best one I could make up on short notice.

Seemingly, only a blind showman would ever select Nancy Pelosi as “the pretty assistant from the audience“, nevertheless, she is busy readying his biggest trick thus far, and that ace up his sleeve is the ever morphing health-care nationalization legislation which will set them up for the grand finale.

The President’s citizenship diversion is only one small part of the show, and we get distracted at our own peril. I don't believe the President is ineligible to hold our highest executive office, but if we get sideways on our attention, the final act in this magic show may make our rights disappear in a puff of socialist smoke.

10/6/09

The Best Place to be Poor

Have you ever been approached by a "poor" person on the street begging for help because of their desperate condition, only to notice the $125 Air Jordans they were wearing? To be fair, most beggars aren't dressed that way, but it's certainly not rare in downtown Chicago to see that sight.
That kind of story provides anecdotal evidence, a type that's extremely popular with politicians and other power seekers because it can be reliably used to mislead many people. And although the tales usually have an element of truth, you can't draw broad conclusions based on them because it might be like looking at the Mona Lisa as a profile picture.
Without the other half of her face, she would be about as compelling as the notion that most beggars prefer Nikes to Mad Dog 20/20.

Having said that, consistent observation by interested parties can turn the anecdotes into actual evidence, if not proof. And the evidence shows that a different type of begging is becoming a real problem in our current American situation.

In order to attain the objective of placing more and more of our private institutions under government control, (and even ownership) we are being bombarded by a nonsensical caricature of people without private health insurance. Many of whom, we are told, live in such frightful conditions that they cannot afford food much less healthcare.

A step back from the edge of that rhetorical cliff reveals a different tale, one that most people know intuitively. The actual story reports on the spending behavior of the very people who we are supposed to be saving from calamity by irreversibly changing our entire healthcare system and squashing the attendant rights we currently enjoy. So first, let's have a look at the "poor" people, sans the emotional response the "changers" hope we will have.

In 2007 Robert Rector updated his work on poverty using the most up to date government figures available, (many from the 2005 US census) and what it shows is that to be "poor" in America is the aspiration of the truly poor in the rest of the world. Here are a few facts he gleaned as he admired Mona's whole face:
(I paraphrase his work)

•A little less than half of all poor households actu­ally own their own homes, and that average home has three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
•The vast majority, 80%,  of poor households have air conditioning. He notes that "by contrast, in 1970, only 36 % of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning."
•Only 6% of poor households are over­crowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
•"Poor" Americans have more living space than average individuals living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens,  to mention just a few cities. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
•Almost 75% of poor households own a car while 31% own two or more..
•97% of poor households have color television; over 50% own two or more.
•78% have a VCR or DVD player; 62 % have cable or satellite TV reception.
•89% own microwave ovens, more than 50%  have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
His findings and their presentation, "How Poor Are America's Poor?" can be found here and are worthy of your time.

So as it turns out, the poor aren't as destitute as we have been led to believe, but more importantly, they not only have access to healthcare, and even health insurance (as provided by various failing state insurance plans for the needy), but they, like the rest of us, would rather spend the money they have on other things. And it seems they do just that according to Dr. Linda Halderman, who wrote an article concerning it for the Web magazine American Thinker.  Which brings me to the second thing we should have a look at, courtesy of her commentary.

Her article reveals much about human behavior while giving us a peek at what is in store for us if we allow "progressives" to jam socialized health insurance down our throats to help those who would rather spend their own money on Body tattoos, Botox injections, Boats, BlackBerrys and every other "B" necessity they perceive, while leaving the rest of us to pay for their true essentials.
I strongly urge you to read her first hand account of ABUSE OF SUBSIDIZED HEALTH CARE: THE VIEW FROM ONE EXAM ROOM as published in the Investors Business Daily on Oct. 5th.

As I pointed out in my earlier essay, the problem with health insurance in this country is that we want more from it than we are willing to pay for with our own money. And the "poor", with plenty of money for the above "B"s, are no different, except when being used as anecdotal evidence.

President Obama, who has confessed his preference for, and plan to get to a single payer system, says we need socialized medicine in this country to address the problems of the "anecdotal people", but with all due respect Mr. President, I BEG to differ.