“The marketplace provides the best health care ever! Hooray for free markety-ness!”
I can’t think of an area with more convoluted regulation than the intersection of the health-care and insurance industries in the US. Is there really someone out there arguing that the current system is free market driven? I’m pretty sure tax law has a bigger impact on what you pay for a given procedure in this country than supply or demand of health services. There are several significant barriers that stand in the way of having an efficient market for health care, many of which are considered “good things” by the vast majority of the US (c.f. Arrow). However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many ways that our wonderful lobbyists can’t work with legislators to make the system worse than the status quo. When in doubt, it’s typically safe to assume that the government will make things less efficient. Please-all solutions will most certainly have that effect.
Progressives seem to think it’s still the 1880s, and that their enemies are Rockefeller and Carnegie. Guess what?—we free-market types lost the argument around 1900, and the coffin was nailed shut when FDR threatened to pack the Court in 1937. This world around us?—it’s heavily regulated. You won. You got zoning, and wage and hour laws, union protections and antitrust, the FDA, OSHA, CERCLA, and RCRA, wetland protections, an endangered species act, automobile standards, light bulb legislation, and five million other acronyms, rules, regulations, laws, edicts, and orders. You got medical licensing and Medicare and Medicaid and pharmaceutical testing. Yes, sometimes a little bit of all of this gets peeled away, but it’s always ten steps forward for every one step back. Every year, there are more rules and regulations on the books than the year before. And yet, when things go wrong, it’s always us free market advocates to blame.
Memo to the Progressives: We’ve been living in your regulatory state for over a hundred years. It isn’t our fault. Free-market libertarians have never held an important office; the only libertarianish Presidential candidate lost in a landslide. If you want a villain, and if you can’t bear to look in the mirror, then look to corporatist Republicans—the ones that write regulations and laws for moneyed interests, the ones who carve exceptions, the ones who dole out favors to their friends, and punishments to their enemies. These are your villains, because these people have actually had power.
Stop acting as if we won. We didn’t. You did. I’m sorry that you’re shocked that a hundred years of regulation haven’t brought us to utopia. And we’ll all be sorry that you think things will get better with more of the same.
The food police are closing in on their next target: a soda tax. New York City’s health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, is leading the way. He’s the guy who purged trans fats from the city’s restaurants and made them post calorie counts for menu items. Lately he’s been pressuring food companies to remove salt from their products.—
Now he’s going after soda. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Frieden and Kelly Brownell, the director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, propose a penny-per-ounce excise tax on “sugared beverages.” That’s nearly $3 per case. Why so much? Because this tax, unlike the petty junk-food taxes of yesteryear, is designed to hurt. Its purpose is to discourage you from buying soda, on the grounds that soda, like smoking, is bad for you.
Drugs. Cigarettes. Trans fat. Salt. Soda. Candy. Cheese. Bacon. Alcohol. … SUVs. Planes. Yachts. Golf. … TV. Books. Music. Dance. Sex. Love. Life.
There are people out there who will gladly let each of these dominos fall. Will you only care when they hit your vice of choice?
(The title is mine)
So, yes, maybe the economic boom in the 1980s came about because of Volcker and Reagan, or maybe it came about because businesses started using computers. Maybe the 1990s were prosperous because of Clinton and Rubin, or maybe it had something to do with the internet and email. Or maybe there are so many variables involved that it’s hard to figure out just what caused what.
In the end, Government mostly just sets the rules of the game, but people play the game. The Government establishes patent law, but people innovate. The Government establishes the taxes, but the people earn the income. The Government raises or lowers trade barriers, but the people negotiate and barter. We tend to cheer Government for its rule-making, but that seems a little ludicrous to me. When we go to see a football game, we don’t cheer for the refs or for the league. We cheer for the players, because they are the game. Everything else is just a parameter.
So if you’re looking at the Government for help now, maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. If you want to see where the action is, watch the field, not the sidelines.
The problem is that efficacy doesn’t make policy legitimate. If you’re asking whether something works, you’re asking the wrong question. Or, at least, you’re asking your questions out of order. The first question we should ask is: Is this an appropriate exercise of government power? The second question we should ask is: Are we exercising this power in a way that is just? The third question we should ask is: Does this policy work? When Obama jumps straight to the third question, he’s doing exactly what Bush did … justifying actions by outcomes. During a financial crisis, it’s tempting to argue that government should do anything and everything necessary to fix the economy. But on its face, this is not true. If, by some fluke, the government could fix the economy by imprisoning or enslaving children, the efficacy of the policy wouldn’t make it right. What about a lesser injustice? Suppose that we could fix the economy by selling our children to a future of indentured servitude? Wouldn’t you still object? What if we simply saddle our kids with trillions of dollars of debt? This is, without question, less unjust than slavery or servitude, but aren’t there still questions of justice present? Shouldn’t these questions be debated?— Jeff Miller
There’s a difference between taxing people to support government functions that broadly serve the populace (streets, armies, etc) and taxing people to give their money directly to other people. But even if you accept the notion that there should be a safety net (as libertarians like Milton Friedman believed), there’s a difference between a net that catches within it the the young, the poor, and the disabled, and a net that catches within it the approximately 48% of the population who would be exempt from paying income taxes under Obama. Obama’s tax “credits” are given to people regardless of whether they pay income taxes or not … they are simply welfare handouts, beyond any scope previously known. I don’t think voters actually like this. And if McCain weren’t only one step behind Obama in spreading the wealth, voters might actually be able to do something about it.— Jeff Miller: Wealth spreading
Perhaps most fundamentally, given the history of the world over the past 25 years I think I just had assumed that no serious politician or thinker would in this day and age hold the sorts of views that Obama seems to hold. Raising taxes in a recession, protectionism, abolition of the secret ballot for union elections, big spending increases, nationalized health care, and most appallingly (to my mind) the potential reimposition of the “Fairness Doctrine”—I mean this is pretty serious stuff. And when combined with a Democratic Congress, I think we may be talking about (to use Thomas Sowell’s recent phrase) a “point of no return.” I guess I just assumed that Obama would be sort of Bill Clintonish—“the era of big government is over” and all that stuff. That he would have absorbed the basic insights of recent decades on taxes, trade, regulation, etc. What could we expect from McCain? Not much—but holding the status quo on some areas and perhaps a few improvements in others. Perhaps an end to the incontinent spending of the past few years. Elimination of earmarks. Free trade. No fairness doctrine (campaign finance reform is bad, but I think the Fairness Doctrine is much worse). A much better health care insurance policy. I’m not as optimistic as some of my friends that McCain’s judges will be good, but I think Obama’s judges likely would be really bad.— The Volokh Conspiracy - Libertarian Voters
Some people derived the basic ideas of libertarianism by thinking about morality. John Locke did it by thinking about natural rights; Robert Nozick by thinking about justice. Others did it by thinking pragmatically. Friedrich Hayek thought liberty was the best way to harness human knowledge; Milton Friedman thought it was the best way for people to live happy lives. The founding fathers, I think, saw a bit of both. Why do the dead guys matter? For me, they are a robustness check on my beliefs. I tend to defend libertarianism like an economist—by thinking about consequences and what is best. But it’s nice to know that the moral philosophers are out there, too, coming to the same conclusions by arguing that liberty is what is right.— Super Hamburger America: Hating Libertarians?