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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, July 31, 2009

TGIF: Are We Really All Healthcare Collectivists Now?

“We have to do something about health care.”

The scariest word in that sentence is not something. It’s we.

TGIF is here.

Appearance on Mike Beitler's Free Market Program

Here's the link. It's mostly about health care, but we covered cap and trade also.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Gates Incident as a Free Speech Case

Harvey Silverglate, a founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has an excellent article in Forbes on the arrest of Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates. For Silverglate -- and I agree with him -- this is entirely a free-speech matter. Gates was arrested exclusively for what he said to a policeman and for how he said it. The incident is less about race and more about a police attitude toward "civilians" that free people should not tolerate. That attitude is exemplified in the current practice of not including police personnel in the term "civilian." This is a recent change. "Civilian" used to mean everyone but the military. This is another sign of the militarization of the police, which is stimulated by the "wars" on drugs, guns, and other things that are not directly connected with crimes against person and property.

Obama, Medicare, and Socialized Medicine

At his AARP event yesterday, President Obama derided those who in the 1960s called Medicare "socialized medicine." Yet later in the event he conceded the point. See for yourself:

I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, I don't want government-run health care, I don't want socialized medicine, and don't touch my Medicare. And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that's what Medicare is, is it's a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with.

As he read this, he and the audience laughed condescendingly as if to say, "What a dolt. She hates socialized medicine but she loves Medicare. Doesn't she realize they are the same thing?"

As for people being happy with Medicare, Obama might have pointed out that retirees receive far more in medical benefits than they ever paid into the system. At the moment they can basically have all they want for free or for low cost. Now they even have drug coverage. But that will change if Obama gets his way, because he's decided "we" spend too much on m medical care and he is determined to do something about that. Part of that "something" will be to scale back Medicare, which Obama himself says is, along with Medicaid, the biggest source of the budget deficit. Anyone who thinks that "reform" won't start denying options to retirees is dreaming. It's already happening. Wait until the government inserts itself in to end-of-life decisions. I guess the earlier critics of Medicare weren't wrong, they just had their timetable off.

If government were really interested in seeing a rational medical system, it would stop forcing the taxpayers to pick up the tab for other people's medical care. How could that do anything but send costs through the roof and then "justify" government control?

Monday, July 27, 2009

TGIF: A Cornucopia of Healthcare Fallacies

The effort to reinvent medical care is so full of fallacies and bad logic that it would take volumes to properly expose them. Nevertheless, in this short space, let’s take a crack at some of the problems.

The rest of TGIF is here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

For Gates and Against the Police

Professor Henry Louis Gates was perfectly justified in being pissed at the cops who ordered him out of his own home. The police sergeant who cuffed and arrested him for disorderly conduct, after he knew who Gates was, was retaliating against him, a black man, for not showing proper deference to a representative of the State. How dare he yell at a policeman who treated him like a street thug? I side with Gates.

Monday, July 20, 2009

George Orwell, Call Your Office

If someone is already sick, a plan to pay his doctor bills can’t be insurance! Can we at least get that much straight?

We're All Marxists Now

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why the Rush on Health Care?

Why is Obama so eager to have his healthcare "reform" voted on before members of Congress go home for their August recess? Because this advocate of "representative government," like many others, is a big fraud. He wants the vote to occur before the members go home and get an earful from their "constituents" about how intrusive and costly the "reform" will be. In other words, he fears he will lose votes over the recess. This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened.

Wouldn't a true democrat insist that congressmen consult with the people they allegedly represent back home before voting?

There are many reasons for agreeing with Joseph Schumpeter that representative democracy is a "sham." Here is the latest proof that even its advocates don't really believe in it. As historian Edmund Morgan argues the "sovereignty of the people" is a principle that developed as a mean of controlling not government but the people.

(For more on Morgan see this.)

Amazon Promises Not to Trespass and Steal Again

Here's what Amazon has to say about its trespass against Kindle owners and its forced "buy-back" of copies of 1984 and Animal Farm:
These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.
"[I]n the future we will not remove books from customers' device in these circumstances." We have them on the record now. Let's see what happens.

HT: Peter Kafka.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Books Vanishing from Kindles

David Pogue of the New York Times reports:
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid -- for thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people's Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is "rare," but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we've been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we've learned that they're not really like books, in that once we're finished reading them, we can't resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.

As one of my readers noted, it's like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we've been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony?

The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were "1984" and "Animal Farm."


Friday, July 17, 2009

Healthcare Arrogance

The conceit of a handful of congressmen is truly astounding. They actually think they know enough to design a medical marketplace. Do they have any idea what they are up to, any idea of the havoc they will wreak, the hardship they will inflict?

Anyone interested in freedom should read as much as they can about the bills working through the House and Senate. They can be found online, though of course they are not easy to read. The authors don’t want us looking too close. That also means most members of Congress won’t be reading them either. Par for the course.

They call this “representative government”? This is what Joseph Schumpeter had in mind when called political representation a “sham.”

I would advise that no one believe the cost figures the Obama administration and the bills’ sponsors are throwing around. We know the real costs will be far higher. Read the history of Medicare for proof. Today Medicare has an unfunded liability of over $30 trillion.

I would further advise everyone to doubt all the promises about keeping your doctor and medical coverage. The fact is that all medical plans will have to comply with detailed government regulations or they will not qualify for tax exemption. All new policies will have to be bought through government-created “exchanges.” When the government’s own “insurance” plan puts the screws to its rivals and to doctors, they will leave the market and abandon their customers and patients. We’ll be stuck with either the government plan or “private” plans that ape it. Some choice. Some competition. What a cruel hoax on the American people. But they won’t realize it until it’s too late.

No, the alternative is not to do nothing, though that would be far better than what these cretins are about to do. The alternative is to free the market, deregulate top to bottom, and let freedom work for a change.

There is no free market in medical care or insurance. It’s about time we’ve had one.

When will these vain, power-lusting politicians leave us alone?

TGIF: Sotomayor, Freedom, and the Law

The dreary Senate hearing on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court left me so in the doldrums that my only chance for solace was to dig out my copy of Freedom and the Law (1961) by Bruno Leoni.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Novelist Gagged by Judge

The U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, two weeks ago issued a preliminary but indefinite injunction against publishing, distributing, or advertising of an "unauthorized sequel" to J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye titled 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. The text of the preliminary injunction against Frederik Colting, writing as John David California, is here.

Everything hinges on whether California's book is deemed a parody. If so, it can go ahead. If not, it goes to the shredder. Seems like an odd task for a judge or jury.

Thus another demonstration that so-called intellectual property requires the suppression of freedom. Despite our proclaimed belief in freedom and the First Amendment, as things now stand you may not publish a novel about someone who seems to be the Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. (The name does not appear in California's book.) Why? Because Salinger claims to "own" Holden Caulfield. Whatever the heck that means.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More on McNamara

I managed to avoid Vietnam, thank goodness. But for several years I was aware of the threat Robert McNamara's project posed to me and my generation. How do I feel about his death? I keep thinking that justice has eluded us. There was no chance in the world he could have suffered even to the slightest extent what was suffered by the people he helped send to the slaughter -- American and Vietnamese.

McNamara Gone

The establishment thinks Robert McNamara, who ran the Vietnam War for Lyndon Johnson, made amends by later directing the World Bank. Actually, he just found another way to make poor people suffer.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July

The 4th of July is the appropriate time to contemplate what has happened to America. I've always thought this song by the band Steppenwolf did a great job of laying out the case. The song is really worth listening to.


Words and music by John Kay, Jerry Edmonton,
Nick St. Nicholas and Larry Byrom

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And 'til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it's share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it's protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey

The spirit was freedom and justice
And it's keepers seem generous and kind
It's leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
'Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told
Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin'

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner
We can't pay the cost
'Cause there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching

America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster

Thursday, July 02, 2009

TGIF: Congress Declares Independence

What a difference a year can make. On July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, issued the Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking Up Arms. Significantly, the document declared, "We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain establishing independent states."

The rest of TGIF is here.

Walmart Unmasked

From the perceptive Megan McArdle at The Atlantic:

I find it hard to believe that none of the liberal commentators breathlessly celebrating Wal-Mart's "capitulation" on national health care have even entertained the most parsimonious explanation: that Wal-Mart is in favor of this because it raises the barriers to entry in the retail market, and hammers Wal-Mart's competition. Yet somehow, this appears nowhere in any of the analysis.

She wraps up: "All of which is to say, Bootleggers and Baptists should be required reading in all schools. When you find strange bedfellows in politics, don't look for a surprising outbreak of spontaneous virtue: looking [sic] for the hidden conspiracy."

More here.

Happy Independence Day!

On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution of independence, submitted by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring that "these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and Independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

Two days later, July 4, the Congress approved a document, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, intended to explain why independence was proper and necessary. We call that document the Declaration of Independence.