Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Okay let's say we can convince and persuade voters to roll back federal and state mandates for so-called public education. (Yes this is a tall order, but only possible with a transition plan, like the one I will outline here.) How do we get from state-run, state-financed education to one where freedom, superior outcomes and lower costs are the rule?
The short answer is to replace the school district charters given by each state with a cooperative model. The state would simply assign the assets of the district to the cooperative, with a service area coincident to the current boundaries. Over time, competitive services would spring up and parents would have choices based on cost, location and outcomes! There are of course some details to be worked out, but this plan seems feasible.
In a truly free society, parents would be able to choose the educational products they think best for their children. No need to enforce compulsory attendance laws and no more "public policy" debates over government resources. The best thing would be that immoral government taxes, like income and property taxes would be ended!
Saturday, November 27, 2010
1) With auto insurance, the states are making the mandates not the feds. The states have that authority and the feds do not.
2) Government provides us roads to enable driving, but it does not provide us our health to enable living.
3) Using roads requires interaction, requiring some of those government protections for us from other drivers;
while someone else's poor diet, lack of exercise, bad genes or poor luck simply are not be anyone else' problem health-wise, nor should it be financially. (Let's leave public health issues aside for now.)
Group health insurance model provides the same risk pooling benefits that are often cited by Obamacare defenders. It does and addresses adverse selection, but THAT model is a big part of the reason for escalating costs. Consumers of the coverage are removed from the provider selection process and providers are encouraged to form provider networks (cartels). Both of these facts mean that providers do not have to compete on price. THAT is the main source of the cost problem.
Risk pooling does have its issues, but in and of itself it is not socialism UNTIL the government mandates or operates its own health coverage networks. Of course the federal government has done just THAT with Medicare, Medicaid and VA hospitals for at least the last 45 years, which is again part of the current cost problem. There is no free market in health care, so there is no cost containment.
Health care for the indigent should be reassigned back to the fine faith-based hospital systems like Baylor, Presbyterian and Methodist so the "public" is not stuck with the bill. Every one else should buy individual policies for major medical issues and leave everything else as fee for service.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
By questioning some of the unconstitutional meddling of the federal government in modern American society, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, Rand Paul has performed a useful service for the liberal media elitists who love to empower our elected officials. Outlets like the New York Times have helped to illuminate their blind love for the authoritarian state, despite the limits of the US constitution.
Many Americans are sputtering mad, believing that government has let them down in abetting a ruinous recession, bailing out bankers and spending wildly. Rand Paul is just one part of the remedy they have in mind. His views and those of other Tea Party candidates are reminders of the truth that there is no such thing as "enlightened government".
In a handful of remarkably candid interviews since winning Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary this week, Mr. Paul made it clear that not only he does understand the nature of racial progress in this country, he sees interventionist policy of government itself as racist.
As a longtime libertarian, he espouses the view that personal freedom should supersede all government intervention. Neighborhood associations should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, he has written, and private businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they wish. Under this philosophy, the punishment for a lunch counter that refuses to seat black customers would be public shunning, not a court order.
It is a theory of liberty with roots in America’s creation, and the succeeding centuries have yet to give it a chance to show how effective it can be. Even if "promoting a civil society" was somehow spelled out as a constitutional goal (and it isn't), the arrogance of the Times' editors to think that they know what that means is astonishing. The views of a few people empowered by government to discriminate meant generations of less freedom for large groups of others, since the government could now routinely overstep its boundaries and play favorites.
It was only government power that instituted and maintained slavery and enacted Jim Crow, neither of which would have been in place in a purely free society. It was government that brought on and extended the Depression and created the union/EEOC counterculture in the workplace, all through the best of intentions.
Republicans in Washington have foolishly distanced themselves from Dr. Paul’s remarks, afraid that voters will be as ignorant as the Times' editorial staff. But as they properly continue to fight the new health care law and oppose greater financial regulation, claiming the federal government is overstepping its bounds, they should notice that the distance is closing. Maybe the next step is to call out all of the unconstitutional laws as part of the Republican platform. Maybe then the liberal media will understand?
Monday, April 19, 2010
Thursday, October 15, 2009
We commonly hear claims like "Someone should do something!" or "There ought to be a law ...". Before a government agency runs off and tries to save the world, we need to consider something very important: static inertia works against action, especially collective action. What I mean is, it is hard to change the "at rest" state of things. It is also hard to make things different from the way things are now, unless the intent is that we all just let go and let things return to the "at rest" state. Put in more basic terms, it is always harder to effectively do something, than not.
This concept is not new. It is common sense that it takes resources and work to keep things organized. In science, the concept is called entropy, which is the tendency for ordered things to become disorganized. In political philosophy, the concept ultimate "at rest" state would be anarchy. I think of the difficulties of public policy related to working against anarchy as overcoming social entropy.
What this means is that for every public policy proposal, we have to think beyond the intended goal. There must be controls for enactment, enforcement, efficacy, and efficiency.
Enactment is about policy become reality, being instantiated. Typically this is begun by legislative action. Zero-based budgeting and funding is generally considered but not always (see the modern US Congress). How do we pay for policy x? Generally public revenues are in the form of taxes or fees or penalties.
Taxes themselves are of course a form of public policy and suffer from the same provisos against government action. I suggest the least obnoxious form of taxation is a consumption tax on complementary goods should be the starting point (and ending point) for all public expenditure. An excellent example would be a gasoline tax dedicated to public highway construction and maintenance.
Enforcement is where things can get really sticky. The two main reasons for this are:
1) unintended consequences - Think of how other things are affected indirectly: will people spend less or save less? Will they become less self-reliant? Will we unwittingly reward immoral or illegal behavior?
2) enforcement as its own end instead of means. Think of the county sheriff who is under pressure to fund local government with traffic and parking ticket quotas. Or the seizure of real property tangential to a crime for the funding of government budgets.
Quality measures like efficacy and efficiency are also important and frequently overlooked. Efficacy is about how well things work as planned and designed. An illustrative example here is mandatory education: do we have more or fewer people with secondary school educations entering the workforce (notice I did not say diplomas) than we might have had otherwise? Unintended consequences come into play here as well. Efficiency is about optimum outlay of resources during the execution of the policy itself. Think of the idea behind competitive bidding.
All four of these ideas are given short shrift in public policy debates. If we critically assess with honesty most congressional acts, state agencies and even local ordinances, we would find they are of questionable value, at best, and many are simply not worth it.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
"Many promoters of health care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care-to universal and equal access to doctors, medicines, and hospitals. While all of us can empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have any more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have an intrinsic right to food, clothing, owning their own homes, a car or a personal computer? Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates. A careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America."
Mr. Mackey is right on. The first sentence of the quote frames the issue correctly. And he explains why, to those who believe in the "intrinsic ethical right" of health care, in terms of feasibility and formality this idea should be a non-starter. Of course these truths will not convince most on the left to abandon ideas like single-payer or universal coverage.
The more basic problem with thinking that health care is a right is that this concept is based on a moral or ethical ideal rather than an essential principle of reality. People will tend to operate for self-interest first, then worry about everything else (including cooperative or collective ideals) later. This is a reality many simply ignore, because they really, really want to believe in the ideal, reality aside. This idealism is just as misplaced here, as is it for those who advocate prohibitions against alcohol and other drugs. People will want to do what they will, no matter how bad Ted Kennedy or Richard Nixon wishes it were otherwise.
Economics is the social science of scarcity. Economics and the free market not only accept the reality of human self-interest, they leverage it! Idealism that seeks to impose "rights" beyond this reality are fighting against human nature. Generally speaking, the complexity and cost of laws / regulations, and the corresponding bureaucracy to enforce them, make most social initiatives based in idealism impractical. Until the social reformers accept this reality, we will continue to have these debates about public policy and what is and what should be.
I for one am ready to move on.