Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

ObamaCare: Big Business vs. Capitalism by Robert Bidinotto

When many people rail against "capitalism," they are attacking the economic status quo in America today, which they mistakenly believe is "capitalism."

But capitalism is actually a free market system, where government is not involved in business, or vice-versa -- where companies must compete openly and freely, without the government playing favorites or helping some industries at the expense of others.

By that definition, what we have today is emphatically not capitalism. It is "corporatism," the soft label for the economic system pioneered in Mussolini's Italy. No, it is not socialism, where government formally owns all significant businesses. Rather, it is fascism, an economic system in which nominal "ownership" of business is left in private hands, but real control of all aspects of business is held in government hands.

That is the system we are headed for in America, manifested clearly in the current effort to pass ObamaCare.

Consider this article from the Sept. 25, 2009 Wall Street Journal, which shows exactly what I mean. It demonstrates how many businesses, especially larger corporations, are lining up behind ObamaCare, because it will give them access to millions of new customers, while shielding them from the rigors of a competitive marketplace. The idea of a government-dominated health-care system doesn't bother them in the least -- as long as the government is using the force of law to benefit them.

Specifically, many major insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical manufacturers are enthusiastically backing ObamaCare. Why? Because the "individual mandate" will force tens of millions of people who are currently uninsured to become their paying customers. They are salivating at the prospect of the federal government conscripting customers for them. The billions of dollars this will bring them in an ongoing windfall will, they believe, more than offset the downsides of their loss of independence -- of becoming, in essence, high-paid civil servants, working in companies that have become transformed into the medical equivalent of public utilities.

For the same reason, you do not see anyone -- least of all the insurance lobby -- signing on to GOP proposals to open up nationwide competition among insurers in various states. Right now, many state laws allow insurance companies within the states to be protected from outside competitors, limiting the number of insurers that consumers can choose among within a given state. This allows those insurers to operate as an oligopoly, keeping their insurance prices artificially high -- almost as if they were operating behind walls of protective tariffs.

What excuses do big businesses offer for this transparently anti-capitalist behavior? The time-tested "morality" of self-sacrifice, for one thing. Observe at the end of the linked article the quotation from a lobbyist for "Big Pharma": "If health-care reform is going to be successful, it will require a shared sacrifice. . ." Advocates of coercion always rhapsodize about the glories of "sacrifice" -- but only when they are on the receiving end of the sacrifices of others.

This past week, I received a mailing from my "Blue Dog" Democrat congressman, extolling his efforts to expand, under ObamaCare, the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which passed five years ago under the Bush administration. The mailing is meant to seduce seniors, the group most opposed to ObamaCare; it promises "to improve Medicare without making seniors pay more." Well, if seniors don't pay the increased costs, who will? The taxpayers, of course.

The propaganda piece carries this attribution: "Paid for by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reactionary Liberalism and the Peanut Narcissist - Ralph Alter, American Thinker

Reactionary Liberalism and the Peanut Narcissist

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The refusal to accept objective criticism is just one of many traits shared by Carter and Obama. Both Democrats share an unfounded faith in one’s own moral superiority based on intellectual vanity and narcissism as well.

My own theory about this centers on the affect of postmodernism which I believe underlies the narcissism Alter identifies. Below is information from Stephen Hicks of Rockford College, from his book titled Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. He has a web page dedicated to postmodernism which includes a PDF of his book’s first chapter.

Postmodernism rejects the Enlightenment project in the most fundamental way possible—by attacking its essential philosophical themes. Postmodernism rejects the reason and the individualism that the entire Enlightenment world depends upon. And so it ends up attacking all of the consequences of the Enlightenment philosophy, from capitalism and liberal forms of government to science and technology.

Postmodernism’s essentials are the opposite of modernism’s. Instead of natural reality—anti-realism. Instead of experience and reason—linguistic social subjectivism. Instead of individual identity and autonomy—various race, sex, and class group-isms. Instead of human interests as fundamentally harmonious and tending toward mutually-beneficial interaction—conflict and oppression. Instead of valuing individualism in values, markets, and politics—calls for communalism, solidarity, and egalitarian restraints. Instead of prizing the achievements of science and technology—suspicion tending toward outright hostility.

Combining Alter’s observation of the narcissism of Obama and Carter with Hicks’ discussion of the postmodern rejection of objectivity leaves us with a possible explanation. With ties to objective facts, to the external work, severed, postmoderns are free to turn inward and promote their feelings, their narcissism, as superior to facts.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ObamaCare's Moral Inversion by Robert Bidinotto

A special thanks to Robert Bidinotto who gave permission to share his post to Robert's Facebook friends. An excellent analysis, as always.


Underlying the many practical and technical arguments about ObamaCare areclashing moral principles -- a fact made unusually clear in this Newsweek essay. The author, T.R. Reid, was speaking with a Canadian who was gloating over his country's nationalized health system, and this exchange ensued:

I agreed that Canada does an admirable job of providing free and prompt care to anybody with an acute medical condition. But for nonemergency cases, the system often provides nothing but a long wait. Last summer I tried to get an appointment with an orthopedist in Canada to treat my aching right shoulder; the waiting time, just for an initial consultation, was 10 months. How could you be proud of that?

"You're right," Davies said frankly. "We keep people waiting, to limit costs. But you have to understand something basic about Canadians.Canadians don't mind waiting for elective care all that much, so long as the rich Canadian and the poor Canadian have to wait about the same amount of time" (emphasis added).

This, then, is the ugly essence of socialized medicine: It is the envy-eaten morality of egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism does not advocate that we earn benefits (or liabilities) according to our individual actions. Unlike capitalism, it does not say, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his productivity." Instead, it advocates, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." "Need" trumps any other moral consideration -- including simple justice -- and entitles one to goods and services he has not produced, but which were produced by others.

Worse: It doesn't even aim to benefit the needy; rather, it aims to humiliate the better-off. As long as nobody is permitted to exceed anyone else in economic status or outcomes, socialists are quite willing to put up with anything, even including horrific medical treatment.

That is the ethic of socialism in a nutshell: It is envy, elevated to the dignity of a political system.

The author of the Newsweek article, clearly a socialist sympathizer himself, then goes on to point out that, in one form or degree, all nations on the planet accept this ugly premise -- except the United States. Rooted instead in the moral premises of individualism and individual rights, America is truly "exceptional," because it ties the rewards of life to one's individual efforts. This is the antithesis of the "entitlement" mentality, by which one is "entitled" to goods and services by "right," simply as the result of having been born.

The claim that "health care is a right" is a moral inversion, and in practice, it can lead only to economic disaster.

First of all, let's define our terms. "Health care" means: goods and services produced by doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical equipment manufacturers, medicine R&D companies, pharmacies, nursing homes, etc. To declare that one has "a right to health care" means: One has a moral-political entitlement to all these goods and services regardless of whether one pays for them. Translated, this can only mean: One has a "right" to enslave the producers of such goods and services. The latter, you see, have a boundless duty to provide all these things to the "rightful" claimants, regardless of compensation -- or at compensation terms set unilaterally by the claimants (or by the government, acting in their name), without any corresponding right of the providers to say "No!" The "right to health care," in other words, denies the rights of all those who are supposed to fulfill it.

Moreover, why can't the same argument be made about all other necessities? Humans all need food, clothing, housing, transportation, exercise, education, artistic stimulation, loving relationships, a social life, jobs, etc., etc. Do we therefore have a "right" to be provided all of these things, regardless of our "ability (or willingness) to pay"? Does this mean that we also have a moral claim on the energy, talents, time, and productivity of, respectively: farmers, grocers, construction firms (and their workers), home-finance offices and banks, auto manufacturers and dealers, teachers, owners of gyms and sports facilities, musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, museums, concert halls, dating services, private clubs, and employers?

Where does the "right to necessities" end? And, as modern life becomes more complicated, what is not a "necessity"?

This brings us to the other term in the claim: "a right." In the American Enlightenment tradition, a "right" is a moral entitlement to freedom of action -- not to goods and services. A right is a moral entitlement to act on one's own behalf, without interference, to obtain life's necessities -- a freedom limited only by the similar freedom of every other person. It is a moral entitlement to pursuehappiness, and to gain, keep, and enjoy the fruits of one's labors; it is not a moral entitlement to happiness itself, or to the fruits of the labors of anyone else.

But the latter is what the advocates of the "right to health care" really mean. They aim to sever any relationship between work and reward. Ultimately, they are claiming an entitlement to a guaranteed existence -- to a life without want, privation, or injury of any kind, regardless of one's own actions or inactions. In their socialist system, no matter how productive or lazy, how rich or poor, one is "entitled" by "right" to "equal" benefits -- or privations. As an individual, you are no longer allowed to independently earn your way to buying, say, prompt or exceptional medical treatment; instead, you must endure your injury or ailment indefinitely, "so long as the rich Canadian and the poor Canadian have to wait about the same amount of time." And you'll get no better treatment than anyone else.

Of course, this moral inversion can't work in practice, and it never has. Once you destroy any link between effort and reward, fewer and fewer are willing to exert exceptional productive efforts. Why should they bother, if they gain no special benefits and rewards? Indeed, why should they bother if they are even taxed more heavily for their extraordinary abilities and output? Why not simply do what everyone else does: cut back on one's efforts and line up for unearned benefits produced by others?

But before you can "equalize distribution," you first must produce something to distribute. When discouraged producers stop producing as much, what happens to the general availability of goods and services in society? That's the practical fallacy in socialism: It encourages unlimited demand, while discouraging supply.

The reason there are long waits for medical care in Canada and other socialized states is that there are shortages of medical-care providers. Sick and tired of endless, unrewarded claims upon their productive energies and incomes, they have decided to stop being so shamefully exploited and financially cannibalized.

"The right to health care" is morality stood on its head. It proclaims a moral entitlement to live as a parasite and to make unending claims upon the medical system's productive hosts. But there is nothing in such a system for the hosts. Ultimately -- and ironically -- there is nothing in it for the parasites, either. As fewer and fewer medical-care providers are willing to produce and offers goods and services that patients require, the only equality will be equality in misery.

The alleged virtue of equality is cold comfort when nobody can find a doctor when he needs one -- or when there is no longer a single non-socialistic medical system anywhere on earth, where desperate socialists in foreign nations can go for the treatments that their egalitarian systems no longer provide them.

That is the grim, immoral future that ObamaCare will bring us in America, too -- if we allow it.

Political Malpractice | CEI

Here is an analysis from a free market perspective that challenges the often heard claim that the market isn't working in health care. That's right but for a different reason than is alleged: the current market for health care is far from free. Be sure to read the entire PDF document that accompanies this story. Below is some of the text from the landing page.

Political Malpractice | CEI

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Most Americans agree that our health care system is broken and must be fixed. But it is increasingly clear that what ails health care is not too little, but too much government intervention. Federal and state tax preferences for employer-sponsored health insurance distort the market in a way that limits choices for individuals, reduces competition among insurers, and artificially inflates costs for health care services. For most working Americans, switching jobs often entails switching health plans and doctors or losing coverage altogether, while many others find non-employer-sponsored insurance unaffordable or difficult to obtain.

Efforts by federal and state governments over the past few decades to solve these problems have generated additional burdens and distortions, leading to increasingly bigger problems. To ensure affordable coverage for those in poor health or with potentially expensive medical conditions, governments have implemented guaranteed renewability, guaranteed issue, and community rating laws that force healthy individuals to subsidize those with higher health care costs. Many states require insurance policies to pay for niche specialists, including acupuncturists, pastoral counselors, and massage therapists, or to cover alcoholism and substance abuse treatment, smoking cessation, and in vitro fertilization. But these regulations further raise the price of insurance coverage, leading many healthy individuals to forgo insurance altogether.

Similarly, numerous state and federal restrictions on who may provide medical services and how they must be delivered have hindered the development of innovative ways for medical professionals to offer more convenient and lower-cost health services to consumers. A combination of government and medical professional lobbying has restricted the supply of new doctors, creating an artificial scarcity and contributing to rising prices. And medical products regulation substantially raises the cost of producing new drugs and medical devices, often without increasing their safety.

Instead of reducing these burdens, Democratic health reform proposals would impose more regulations on insurers, place mandates on individuals and employers to purchase health insurance, provide subsidies for individuals to pay for health care coverage, expand Medicaid, and create a new government-run “exchange” through which individuals and businesses could purchase strictly defined coverage from private insurers. But more government intervention will only add cost and complexity to the health care system; without solving the underlying problems.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Free Market Is Not Another Form of Rationing

This article challenges the liberal claim that the free market is just another form of rationing and is therefore the same as government rationing.

Here is a key quote:

Whenever government attempts to guarantee an alleged "right" to health care, it must also control it. Bureaucrats and politicians must ultimately decide who gets what health care and when, not doctors and patients -- if only to control costs. This is true rationing, and it necessarily violates the actual rights of the practitioners forced to provide care on the government's terms (rather than their own) and the taxpayers forced to pay for it.

The free market is therefore the antithesis of rationing. It respects individual rights, whereas rationing unjustly violates individual rights -- a crucial moral distinction.

If liberals are genuinely concerned about making health care more affordable, they should support free market reforms. Although the current American system is not a free market (but rather a mixed system), it is the least-regulated sectors of medicine (such as LASIK eye surgery) that follow the typical free-market pattern of falling prices and rising quality that we take for granted with computers and cell phones. This can and should be the norm in all of health care.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Practical Philosophy, Again - Megan McArdle

And, one final McArdle post (for today anyway) on health care.

Practical Philosophy, Again - Megan McArdle

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Asymmetrical information - Megan McArdle

Here is a post regarding McArdle's comments on whether anyone on both sides of the debate actually knows what is in the proposed health care bill. Food for thought.

Asymmetrical information - Megan McArdle

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Is Pfizer Too Big to Fail? - Megan McArdle

Here is an interesting thought from Megan McArdle who, as usual, has thought provoking posts.

Is Pfizer Too Big to Fail? - Megan McArdle

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