Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Failure -- and Success -- of Liberal “Solutions”

Maybe this isn’t an original observation but I don’t recall seeing it in my readings. Over the years the Left offers solutions for poverty, unemployment and health care. Generally these solutions fall into three categories: increase government spending (and taxes), add new regulations to “fix” problems with the market or a combination of the two. And yet these problems don’t go away nor do they seem to get significantly better despite pouring billions and billions of dollars into them. So why doesn’t the Left admit that their answers don’t work and try something else? Or to put it another way, what problem has the Left said: “We fixed it! We’re done! Let’s move on to the next challenge.” Nope. We are constantly asked to do more of the same, even if it doesn’t ultimately work.

What is the alternative? Lower taxes? Fewer regulations? Less government involvement? But that would make them Republicans!

Yet the irony is that in each election we see Republicans competing to see who can come up with watered down versions of what the Left proposes while also paying lip service to the free market and limited government. As an example, witness Mitt Romney’s push to provide universal health insurance in Massachusetts that involves penalties if people don’t sign up, an approach similar to Hilary Clinton’s plan which includes garnishing wages of those who don’t comply with her wisdom. (!) A recent study by Cato Institute shows that many people still haven’t signed up for RomneyCare, the estimated cost is going to be much higher than predicted and the bureaucracy involved in health care has increased.

So why does the Right inexorably drift Leftward? Rand would have said that it because the Right shares the same altruist beliefs as the Left so that they don’t have a principled difference to resist the constant demand for the government to do more. While I don’t dispute this it doesn’t explain why voters reward the politicians with their votes. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s OK to receive government largess. I’m sure there are a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s the feeling that the funds are coming from taxing the rich or big business and therefore it’s the common man’s way for getting back at “the man.” Some probably don’t think through the fact that the money they’re receiving had to come from somewhere, like from their own taxes and their neighbors. Or it could be the desire to get “something for nothing.” Some think they’re “entitled” or it's their “right” to receive assistance.

In any case, I believe it’s the shortsighted interest of the electorate to benefit at the expense of others that fuels the engines of politicians to compete with each other to come up with more inventive ways to redistribute income. This shows the need for a better understanding of what rational self-interest and objectivity truly entail. The electorate’s desire for the unearned at the expense of others feeds the politicians desire to appease … and to be elected.

Politicians love to campaign under the banner of “change.” However, we’ll see true change only when both altruism and the desire for the unearned are successfully challenged.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Canada: A Model for Health Care? Or a symptom of something deeper?

Health care is one of the central issues of the current Presidential election in the U.S. When I discuss this with my (mostly liberal) friends here in Massachusetts they inevitably point to Canada as a model of how "it should be done." I've written on this before but will continue to hammer on this issue because it is indeed as important as the Democrats claim, but for different reasons. Below is a quote from the January 2008 issue of Imprimis. The article, titled "Is Canada's Economy a Model for America?" has this interesting story.
Canadian dependence on the United States is particularly true in health care, the most eminent Canadian idea looming in the American context. That is, public health care in Canada depends on private health care in the U.S. A small news story from last month illustrates this:

A Canadian woman has given birth to extremely rare identical quadruplets. The four girls were born at a U.S. hospital because there was no space available at Canadian neonatal intensive care units. Autumn, Brook, Calissa, and Dahlia are in good condition at Benefice Hospital in Great Falls, Montana. Health officials said they checked every other neonatal intensive care unit in Canada, but none had space. The Jepps, a nurse and a respiratory technician were flown 500 kilometers to the Montana hospital, the closest in the U.S., where the quadruplets were born on Sunday.

There you have Canadian health care in a nutshell. After all, you can’t expect a G-7 economy of only 30 million people to be able to offer the same level of neonatal intensive care coverage as a town of 50,000 in remote, rural Montana. And let’s face it, there’s nothing an expectant mom likes more on the day of delivery than 300 miles in a bumpy twin prop over the Rockies. Everyone knows that socialized health care means you wait and wait and wait—six months for an MRI, a year for a hip replacement, and so on. But here is the absolute logical reductio of a government monopoly in health care: the ten month waiting list for the maternity ward.

This lead me to observe that I can't recall a "problem" that the Left adopts as a rallying cause, whether it is health care, poverty, unemployment, etc., where they have said, "We've fixed it! We're done! Let's move on." You would think that after pouring trillions of dollars into "fixing" these problems and seeing marginal - if any improvement - that you would either reconsider your approach or reevaulate your analysis of the causes. Makes me wonder. How about you?