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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pelosi Health-Insurance Bill Summarized

Happily, you need not invest the next few weeks of your life reading the 1,990-page House overhaul of the health-insurance -- and by implication, the healthcare -- industry. A convenient summary has been provided, compliments of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans
and reduce the growth in health care spending, and
for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that the American people shall henceforth be:

Watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. ... [A]t every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. ... [U]nder pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, ... place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored.

All in favor say aye. The rest of you can go to hell.

Friday, October 30, 2009

TGIF: The Welfare State Corrupts Absolutely

Let’s begin at the beginning. Medical care is not a free good found in nature. Of course, no one really thinks it is. But that doesn’t keep most people from wanting to pretend otherwise, and the current institutional setting makes that possible. After a while, one forgets one is pretending. Yet medical care goes on being a collection of produced goods and services — subject to the laws of supply and demand, and requiring resources and labor that come with opportunity costs. Therein lies the problem.
The rest of TGIF is here.

My Grand Proposal

Here's my idea for a constitutional amendment: Limit congressional bills to five pages. At least we'd have a shot at seeing what they are up to.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Freeman, November 2009

The Freeman for November is online. Click on the cover at the right.

TGIF: Getting in Deeper

Should the Treasury and Fed regulate executive pay, even when a company is on the dole? Thats the subject of TGIF. Read it here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Read It and Weep

Once again, NYU's Mario Rizzo at ThinkMarkets, a FEE summer seminar lecturer, exposes the sham democracy that is the welfare state. The latest example? The Senate Finance Committee health-insurance bill (pdf).

It is 1,502 pages long and it is in legislative language. If passed, it will affect our lives in important ways. Let me suggest that you all read it carefully and then let your senators know what you think.

Of course you won’t do that and neither will I. We are rationally ignorant and we shall remain that way.

Will the senators, not on the committee, read it? I doubt it. They will be too busy giving their opinions on selected portions. However, special interests will know about the particular provisions that affect them. As to the senators on the committee, staffers will give summaries. How much they understand or care about provisions that affect the general interests in contrast to the interests that elect them is unknown.

But why worry? As the bill states at the top, its purpose is "To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes."

We're even told that "This Act may be cited as the 'America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009'."

What's the matter? You got a problem with that?

Friday, October 16, 2009

TGIF: Frustrating Michael Moore

Whether he realizes it or not, Michael Moore favors a system in which an elite necessarily would make critical decisions for the rest of us. He’d be incredulous to hear that, but if he ever comes to understand it, libertarians might end up with an unlikely ally.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Missing the Point

Reporting on this year's Nobel Prize winners in economics, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson, the New York Times said:
Neither Ms. Ostrom nor Mr. Williamson has argued against regulation. Quite the contrary, their work found that people in business adopt for themselves numerous forms of regulation and rules of behavior — called “governance” in economic jargon — doing so independently of government or without being told to do so by corporate bosses.
Note the key equivocation over the word regulation. Most people use that word to mean government interference with private market activity. So the Times at first seems to be saying that Ostrom and Williamson do not oppose such government interference. Maybe they don't, but that's not what the Times goes on to say. Instead, it says that both have shown that people often generate their own efficient rules -- governance -- independent of the State (and corporate authority).

It's as though the reporter said, "Neither has argued against taxation. Quite the contrary, they found that people use market prices to pay producers for their efforts."

What the Times reporter misses is that spontaneously evolved bottom-up rules are to be distinguished from top-down government regulation, which statists believe is indispensable. The former results from voluntary interaction by people on the spot, the latter from coercion by a central elite. The reporter seems more interested in getting in a subtle dig at the free market, which is alleged to be "unregulated." Of course it isn't, as I point out here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Insurance Companies Want a Mandate with Teeth

The health-insurance lobbyist complains that under the proposed healthcare overhaul the penalties on individuals who don't buy coverage would be too mild and would encourage people to wait until they are sick before buying a policy -- at which point they couldn't be turned down or charged more than healthy people.

That's right. The industry wants the government to force us to buy its product and to impose harsh penalties on those who refuse. The companies, which oddly are demonized by the "reform" crowd, are happy to accept all kinds of coverage rules in return for captive customers and guaranteed income.

If I may be so presumptuous as to edit Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together with government officials, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No You're Not

"I am the commander in chief of a country that's responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies."

"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States...."

Friday, October 09, 2009

War Is Peace

President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

We’ve come a long way since Frederic Passy.

TGIF: Liberty versus Social Engineering

So David Brooks, the New York Times‘ resident conservative intellectual, must think he’s a pretty clever fellow. In trying to characterize “the choices we face on issue after issue,” he presumes to enlist the aid of philosophers Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and David Hume (1711-1776). Considering that Bentham believed human beings could consciously design society and Hume did not, this might have been a worthwhile approach. Unfortunately, Brooks got Hume wrong — unforgivably so — and missed a chance to present a fresh alternative in the stale political debate.
The reset of TGIF is here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Unemployment Keeps Rising

Unemployment hit 9.8 percent last month (a conservative estimate, to be sure). The Obama administration once said it would approach 9 percent -- if the "stimulus" did not pass. With the "stimulus" it was supposed to be less than 8 percent by now. (See graph.)

When do we declare the "stimulus" a failure? Huh?

Op-ed: Exit Afghanistan and Leave Iran Alone

The Obama administration’s quest to control the health-insurance industry has dominated the headlines for months, but finally — with the news out of Iran and Afghanistan —foreign policy has again asserted itself. It was almost easy to forget that the United States maintains a worldwide empire, but the reminders came leaping off the front pages and the television screens.

Word that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan wants 40,000 more troops and that Iran has a hitherto undisclosed uranium-enrichment facility gave the empire enthusiasts something to get excited about. The advocates of Pax Americana tell us that we must “win” in Afghanistan and be ready to bomb Iran if the leaders there don’t prostrate themselves to the U.S. government forthwith.
The rest of my FFF op-ed is here.

TGIF: Being for the Free Market Isn't Enough

Harold Meyerson, an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, this week launched a devastating attack on what he calls "mainstream economists." Too bad he’s oblivious of Austrian economics.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Richman & Bastiat in Poland

Here's part one of my lecture at the PAFERE conference on Bastiat in Warsaw.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Friday, October 02, 2009

Chicago Dodges the Bullet

The people--as opposed to the elites--of Chicago should be eternally grateful they will be spared the Olympics. They would have been in for a terrible time with the impositions produced by government's idea of security and other acts of political opportunism. Especially lucky are the city's poor, who would have been removed to spare the elite embarrassment when the world cast its eyes upon the games.

Had I been a resident of Chicago, I would have said, Barack, Michelle, Oprah, mind your own business.

Rio, you have my condolences.