Saturday, February 27, 2010

And now for something positive

We all need a boost to stay encouraged in the uphill battle against rising statism (from both sides of the aisle.) Today I received just such a boost and thought I would share it with you.

Even to this day -- in the face of all the political and economic problems -- the basic system of Checks and Balances still works, and can work very well when "we the people" become engaged and vigilant in watching what "our" government is doing, especially what our Congress is up to.

When "we the people" remain indifferent to the political workings of our government, we get growing statism -- when we become vigilant and engaged, we move towards liberty.

--John Dick @ John's Ponderings on

Thanks, John. I needed that.

Read the rest and get a boost for yourself.

Reconcilliation--Or Not

So which is it, Harry?

SEN. HARRY REID: “No One Has Talked About Reconciliation.” --(Health Care Summit, 2/25/10)

“Reid Said… Democrats Would Use The Reconciliation Process. ‘We’re Going To Have That Done In The Next 60 Days.’”

“Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple ‘I’ve had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi,’ Reid said during an appearance Friday evening on ‘Face to Face with Jon Ralston’ in Nevada. ‘And we’re really trying to move forward on this.’ The majority leader said that while Democrats have a number of options, they would likely use the budget reconciliation process to pass a series of fixes to the first healthcare bill passed by the Senate in November. These changes are needed to secure votes for passage of that original Senate bill in the House. ‘We’ll do a relatively small bill to take care of what we’ve already done,’ Reid said, affirming that Democrats would use the reconciliation process. ‘We’re going to have that done in the next 60 days.’”

(“Reid: Dems Will use 50-Vote Tactic To Finish Healthcare In 60 Days,” The Hill’s Briefing Blog, 2/20/10)

And they wonder why we don't take them seriously.


Friday, February 26, 2010

OOPs vs. OPM

from Carpe Diem:

From John Goodman's Health Policy blog:

Scaling the Summit

On failure to control costs.

You cannot control costs unless someone (patient, employer, insurance company, government — someone, somewhere) is forced to choose between health care and other uses of money. And if patients are the ones making choices, providers will respond by competing based on price.

He has a lot of other good things to say. Summarizing:

On the failure to improve quality. We will not fundamentally improve quality unless providers compete on quality and no one competes on quality unless he also competes on price.

On the failure to improve access. Genuine improvement in access to care will require liberating the demand and supply sides of the market in ways that were never discussed at the Summit.

Read the rest.

Some things are better left dead.

"The administration touted the summit as a chance to revive health care reform - which has passed both the House and Senate but not the important conference between the two chambers."

It didn't. So...

"President Obama vowing to pass the overhaul with or without Republicans, signaling his willingness to force the bill through Congress using controversial tactics."--Washington Times

The Senate bill, the House bill and the President's Proposal should all be left dead.
Not just because they are NOT budget neutral, which they aren't.

Not just because the majority of the nation outside of Congress and the White House DO NOT support them, and they don't:

Obama and Democrats' Health Care Plan

Polling Data (posted on Real Clear Politics)

Sample For Against Spread
RCP Average2/2 - 2/23 -- 40.3 51.3Against +11.0
USA Today/Gallup2/23 - 2/23 1009 A 42 49Against +7
Rasmussen Reports2/21 - 2/22 1000 LV 41 56Against +15
POS (R)2/17 - 2/18 900 RV 40 52Against +12
Newsweek2/17 - 2/18 1009 A 40 49Against +9
Pew Research2/3 - 2/9 1383 A 38 50Against +12
ABC News/Wash Post2/4 - 2/8 1004 A 46 49Against +3
Quinnipiac2/2 - 2/8 2617 RV 35 54Against +19

See All Obama and Democrats' Health Care Plan Polling Data

But because all three violate individual rights--which the filibuster is there to protect, and reconciliation will railroad right over--a fact that Democrats understood well when they were in the minority.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Better Idea for Health Care

"If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be here to listen. My door is always open."

--President Obama, Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Health Care, Sept. 2009

"[I]f anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know."

--President Obama, State of the Union Speech, Jan. 2010

John F. Cogan, a senior fellow at Sanford University's Hoover Institution; Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School; and Daniel Kessler, a professor of business and law at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution have a better idea for health care reform:

To bring down costs, we need to change the incentives that govern spending:

  • Right now, $5 out of every $6 of health-care spending is paid for by someone other than the person receiving care -- insurance companies, employers, or the government.
  • Individuals are insulated from the reality of what their decisions cost.
  • This breeds overutilization of low-value health care and runaway spending.

To reduce the growth of costs, individuals must take greater responsibility for their health care, and health insurers and health care providers must face the competitive forces of the market. Three policy changes will go a long way to achieving these objectives, say Cogan, Hubbard and Kessler:

  • Eliminate the tax code's bias that favors health insurance over out-of-pocket spending.
  • Remove state-government barriers to purchasing and providing health services.
  • Reform medical malpractice laws.

According to Cogan, Hubbard and Kessler, these three changes will reduce health care costs by over $100 billion per year and permanently reduce the number of uninsured by up to 13 million. (emphasis added)

Read their WSJ editorial, "A Better Way to Reform Health Care" and then alert President Obama and your legislators that moral and practical alternatives to their coercive plans DO exist.

He said he would listen.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The President's New Health Care Proposal

Read it for yourself- its only 11 pages.

Here is the White House webpage introducing the President's P roposal to the public. On the side bar is a list of Titles which you can either click through individually to read a paragraph at a time, or you can read these summaries as a single document which I have compiled and posted here.

The Republicans had an alternative to Democrat's Bill 3962 passed in the House of Representatives. You can read it (only 219 pages) here--but it's unclear if this is still what will be proposed. There is a one page summary--but it is worthless as it states what they intend to accomplish but not how--and as we all know, the devil is in the details (especially when it comes to legislation.)

Read up. Be informed. Speak out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health Care Summit

Lots of posts today, but Thursday Feb. 25th is the big Health Care Summit. I just received another boiler-plate response from Senator Boxer informing me with impeccable logic that we can not afford to "do nothing."

I am going to take this opportunity to pester my "representatives" with my opinions. I am under no illusion that even my irrefutable eloquence will alter their opinions, but I want them to hear my disagreement. (Or at least have their legislative aids register one more tally to the NO column.)

Dear [elected official],

Tomorrow President Obama holds his Health Care Summit during which he hopes to negotiate a bipartisan agreement.

Bipartisanship currently means “I’ll agree to favors for your special interests if you agree to favors for my special interests.”

We do not need a bipartisan agreement for larger, more expensive, more intrusive government. We need real reform.

Free markets are being blamed for the current mess,--or at best are deemed inadequate. But, a free market in medical care does not exist. For over sixty years, medical care has been increasingly strangled by burdensome regulations and “command and control” directives emanating from state and federal governments.

Real reform consists of greater freedom and choice for individuals, both as providers of medical care and as patients desiring medical goods and services.

Real reform involves the following:

  • removal of legal barriers to competition in a national market in health care

  • tax equality for health insurance regardless of where it is purchased

  • elimination of costly benefit mandates

  • eradication of cost-shifting to private pay patients caused by the grossly inadequate reimbursement schedule of public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid

  • elimination of all legislated incentives for third party payment of medical care

  • allow full freedom to contract, then fully protect and enforce those contracts

Do not continue or expand the failed policies which have made medical care unaffordable for millions of Americans.

Do not saddle us with the failing collectivist policies of Europe.

Lasting, effective solutions can only occur when individual rights are respected. Within the security of individual rights, responsibility is a natural requirement and generosity for the unfortunate will flourish.

Do not compromise our freedom.

Oppose coercion in health care.


Health Insurance Rate Authority

President Obama was only 12 years old in 1973 during the OPEC oil embargo, so he may not remember the effects of price controls on gasoline availability. Having just obtained my driver's license, images like those below are seared into my memory.

Clearly the President has failed to make the connection between price controls and shortages. What else could account for his proposal yesterday to establish a Health Insurance Rate Authority?*

Attempts to deal with the gasoline shortage included closing gas stations on Sunday, and restricting customer access by allowing gas purchase only every other day for odd and even numbered license plates.

Does President Obama have something similar in mind medical care? Emergency rooms closed on Sundays. Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday if your Social Security Number is odd. Even numbers can have appointments Tuesdays, Thursdays or alternate Fridays. Saturdays are first come first serve--bring your own chair for while you wait.

We don't have to go back to 1973 to see the results of price controls--just to last November in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe price controls spark food shortages

The staple maize-meal, sugar and cooking oil have disappeared from most shops in Harare's city centre and suburbs while most pumps at fuel stations have run dry, forcing motorists to brace for long queues.

Maize-meal supplies were already erratic in the country in recent months with supermarkets out of stocks for days on end and long queues quickly form where the commodity is available.

Anger and sarcasm are justified. It is hard to believe that the President's policy recommendations are based on mere ignorance of such a basic economic concept, especially when one simple lesson can explain it so clearly. Alternative explanations are not pleasant.

Write to the President and all of your legislators, federal and state.

Silence is implicit agreement.

Before it was just gasoline. Now it is our very lives which are at stake.

President's Proposal pg 3: Strengthen Oversight of Insurance Premium Increases. Both the House and Senate bills include significant reforms to make insurance fair, accessible, and affordable to all people, regardless of pre-existing conditions. One essential policy is “rate review” meaning that health insurers must submit their proposed premium increases to the State authority or Secretary for review. The President’s Proposal strengthens this policy by ensuring that, if a rate increase is unreasonable and unjustified, health insurers must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable. A new Health Insurance Rate Authority will be created to provide needed oversight at the Federal level and help States determine how rate review will be enforced and monitor insurance market behavior.

Going for the Big Time

In case you've been looking for it and can no longer find it, I have removed a previous post "Politics + Science is not Political Science" in order to submit it to the Wall Street Journal which only accepts unpublished submissions.

In the mean time, don't miss this great editorial by Dr. Paul Hsieh about President Obama's attempt to co-opt our private retirement savings.

"Government Grab of Retirement Accounts a Matter of 'Social Justice'"

Has our president no shame?

(Need I even ask.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Strawman of the United States

Just a quickie to alert you to a fun piece of satire, and a solid example of logic. I'd hate for you to miss them--some might say I have no sense of humor.

The satire:

I'm the President's Trusted Counselor by Noam Neusner

The impeccable syllogism:

Major Premise: Without change, the health care system is on a calamitous course.

Minor Premise: ObamaCare promises change.

Conclusion: We need ObamaCare.

...0r did I mix those up?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

This headline deserves to be in the New York Times, not The Onion.

For a better understanding of why The Onion has it right when referring to today's Federal Reserve Notes, and Bernanke, Geitner and the majority of of economists and politicians have it wrong, read the posts and the vigorous, enlightening discussion which follows in the comments of a recent series from The Rational Capitalist:

"Economy Update and the Causes of Boom-Bust" , Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, with Part 4 pending.

Here's Doug's own summary:

Part 1 - Today's crisis as an instance of the classic inflation-depression or boom-bust cycle

Part 2 - Positivism, empiricism and the self-induced myopia of the economics profession

Part 3 - Brief review and analysis of 19th century monetary history; gold the hero, government the villain

The most extensive debate is in the comments following part three on whether or not fractional banking is a legitimate practice, even when practiced privately and on a gold standard.

Thought provoking. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

50% tax on Savings

Are you aware that there is a "tax" on all of your savings?

The value of the dollars you saved in 1985 are now worth half of what they were worth back then--meaning, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, today's dollar will only buy half of what you could buy with a dollar 25 years ago.

This "hidden tax" is embezzlement by the US Government in collusion with the Federal Reserve Board. By creating money out of thin air, the money supply of fiat paper dollars has been steadily increasing, eroding the value of each individual dollar. This degree of erosion could not occur on a gold standard. Conversely, it has always occurred with irredeemable fiat money.

(The hyperinflations of the assignat of the French Revolution, and the pre-WWII German mark are only two famous examples of this phenomenon--of which there are many more.)

Just thought you ought to know.

Key dates:
Federal Reserve System went into effect 1913
Gold Standard officially abandoned 1971.

Chart from Economic Bulletin of AIER Feb. 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bipartisanship and the Fallacy of Compromise

President Obama and the Democrats, frustrated by their stalled attempts to "reform" the American healthcare system, are lashing out at their opposition with cries of foul play.

Republicans and Tea Party activists are variously accused of being "obstructionist" and "The Party of No," and of refusing to go along just to spite Obama---even of being racist.

Obama, on the other hand, attempts to portray himself as reasonable and conciliatory, merely asking for bipartisanship and compromise. He offers tidbits (on tort reform, "allowing" young adults to remain on their parents health insurance longer,* and the creations of risk pools across state lines) and then expects concessions on major points such as government compulsion on purchasing insurance, community rating and guaranteed issue.

But those damn grassroots protesters and Republicans just refuse to "work well and play with others."

Granted, Republicans all too often also fail to focus on the fundamental issue involved.

Its not about health care: its about the role of government in our lives.

Its about whether or not this is a country of individual rights and responsibilities, where the government is limited to the protection of those individual rights and the rest is up to us to sort out in private, voluntary interactions.

When the "reform" being offered is in direct violation those individual rights, including the rights to private property and to privately contract to mutual benefit...when that reform fails the test of "equality before the law" and in its structure of regulatory bureaucracy replaces the rule of law with the rule of men...the only proper response is a resolute and uncompromising NO!

There is no middle ground between self-ownership and mandated self-sacrifice.
No end can justify the initiation of force against another human being.

Obstructionist against the advance of statism? Hell yes, and proud of it!

In the battle between liberty and statism, never never compromise.

*So, why is this even a matter of government policy and not simply a private contract matter between insurance companies and their customers?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

(Who watches the watchers?)

The University of East Anglia, home to the now famous and controversial Climate Research Unit (CRU) and "Climategate" emails, has appointed Sir Muir Russell to head up a panel to investigate allegations of data manipulation.

Russell is reported to have "no previous links with the climate science community," but already two out of the five panel members have come under criticism for possible conflict of interest and pre-existing bias in favor of the CRU scientists and their catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theories.

Today, Dr. Philip Campbell resigned from the panel after the discovery of statements he made on Chinese radio in support of the CRU scientists.

"The scientists have not hidden the data. If you look at the emails there is one or two bits of language that are jargon used between professionals that suggest something to outsiders that is wrong. In fact the only problem there has been is on some official restrictions on their ability to disseminate data otherwise they have behaved as researchers should."

In addition, Campbell is Editor-in-chief of Nature, one of the journals which has been heavily criticized for failure to publish papers critical of AGW.

A second panel member, Professor Geoffrey Boulton,was employed by East Anglia University in the School of Environmental Sciences, which just happens to be the same department which contains the CRU. Boulton, too, has made public statements in support of a scientific consensus on catastrophic climate change.

The problem of finding unbiased panel members who still have enough expertice to adequaltely evaluate the allegations, is no small task. The entire field of climate science has been politicized.

But that should come as no surprise since the vast bulk of research is funded by government. And, as so aptly put in the title of a recent article on the Ludwig von Mises Institute website:

Government is Political.

So, who does watch the watchers? It's a job we all need to do. In this particular case, we ar all indebted to Channel 4 News in the UK, and to Benny Peiser, a long time global warming critic, founder and editor (since 1997) of CCNet, the world's leading climate policy network, and director of his most recent project, The Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Senate Resolution on EPA Finding CO2 a Danger

Today I came across a website, Freedom Action, that makes it very easy to send a message to your national Congressmen on the matter of EPA regulatory control over energy production and use in the USA. Ever since the disastrous Supreme Court decision Massachusetts v. EPA requiring the EPA to to issue emission standards for motor vehicles and recognizing its authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has been gearing up to impose regulations on CO2 emissions. These efforts are accelerating now that cap-and-trade legislation is faltering.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, AK) has introduced the following resolution disapproving of the EPA endangerment finding:

S.J.Res.26 - A joint resolution disapproving a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.

You can fill out the form using their boilerplate statements, or you can compose your own statements. After entering your name and address, your letter will be automatically sent to your Representative and your two Senators.

Although the resolution appears to merely register "disapproval" (bark without a bite) --registering disagreement is a first step. Here's my letter. Feel free to use whatever parts of it you like.

I am writing in strong support of Senator Murkowski's Resolution of Disapproval to stop the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to ration energy.

The EPA's attempt at regulatory control of the economy is not only based on flawed science, but it is a clear example of exercising arbitrary political power in violation of the rule of law.

Recent events make it clear that the science on climate change is NOT settled. Limits on energy production will unnecessarily hobble our struggling economy.

I urge you to vote Yes on the Disapproval Resolution to stop EPA from issuing climate regulations to control our economy, violate our property rights, raise energy prices, and perhaps most importantly, undermine the moral foundation of this country: liberty and the protection of individual rights.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Freedom Failure?

What does it mean to say "The free market doesn't work"?

It means: freedom doesn't work.

Is that really what people believe? That freedom has failed and what we need instead is an authoritarian elite (or the whims of the majority) telling us not just how to live our lives, but criminalizing actions deemed "not in our best interest"?

Perhaps some definitions would help clarify our thinking and any subsequent debate.

Free Market
The free market is nothing more than the sum total of the voluntary exchanges of goods and service which take place within a division of labor economy. "Voluntary" is to be contrasted with "coercion." The coercion we are concerned with here is that which involves an initiation of force*. Nothing wrong with force used in retaliation or self-defense--though these actions are properly delegated to a government in order to achieve objective laws under the rule of law.

In a free market, individuals are not prevented by the government from participating in voluntary exchanges of mutual agreement. Contracts are legally enforced. Fraud is punishable by law. Demonstrable harms to life, liberty and property are subject to prosecution and legal punishment. The rest is up to us.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is applied not just in the court room, but also in economic transactions--which would require the dismantling of most of the regulatory behemoth we have come to view as "government."

We are all free to advise, educate, advertise, promote, offer, suggest, even propagandize-- but no one is "free: to coerce those whom they are unable to convince. Not even for the sake of a "living wage" or providing medical care or protecting people from their own mistakes.

Freedom is not a hedonistic license to do as you please. One man's freedom ends where another man's rights begin.

The Freedom that is an essential foundation of civil society is freedom from the initiation of force--not just in economic transactions, but in all social interactions.

Freedom is a social concept not a metaphysical concept. We can never be free from the need to act in order to gain the values we require to sustain our lives and achieve our happiness. There is no freedom from want --anymore than there is freedom from gravity. The natural state of man is one of poverty and hunger. Through voluntary cooperation and exchange to mutual benefit, man has progressed from a live-by-the-moment animal to the abundant prosperity of western civilization. Truly, a heroic achievement.

What does is mean to say the free market "works" or doesn't "work"?

For a market to work, it does not mean there must never be any mistakes, or that every exchange is always the best of all possible exchanges, or that everyone achieves equal material reward for a given amount of effort, or that honesty and hard work will guarantee success, or that every resource is always used to maximum efficiency. The free market is a process of discovery and experiment, trial and error, reward and painful consequence, of learning, accumulating knowledge and experience, and hopefully, steady gradual progress.

The free market, as life, is a process of learning by thinking and doing, replete with both failures and successes. Life "works" through focused attention, learning and action--constantly evaluating, adjusting, compensating, innovating. The free market works in exactly the same way-- because the market isn't a "thing" with properties of its own, but simply the name we give to the sum of our economic exchanges. What works is life--and for human beings, that means (on the most fundamental level) reason applied to the facts of reality. On a social level, it means recognizing, both formally through laws and informally through ethics and mores, that in order to survive, man must be as free to live by the judgment of his own mind in his social interactions as he is in his encounters with reality.

What works is reason, and reason requires freedom from the initiation of force. Applied to the realm of economic exchange and progress, that means a free market.

Freedom works, and because it does, so does the free market.

*[Fraud entails the use of deception to obtain a consent which would be denied if the truth were disclosed and thus is a variation of initiated force.]

objective laws
rule of law

Sunday, February 7, 2010

India forms new climate change body

Headline from last Thursday's Telegraph in the UK. Here's an excerpt:

The Indian government has established its own body to monitor the effects of global warming because it “cannot rely” on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group headed by its own leading scientist Dr R.K Pachauri...

[India's environment minister Mr Jairam Ramesh] announced the Indian government will establish a separate National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology to monitor the effects of climate change on the world’s ‘third ice cap’, and an ‘Indian IPCC’ to use ‘climate science’ to assess the impact of global warming throughout the country.

“There is a fine line between climate science and climate evangelism. I am for climate science. I think people misused [the] IPCC report, [the] IPCC doesn’t do the original research which is one of the weaknesses… they just take published literature and then they derive assessments, so we had goof-ups on Amazon forest, glaciers, snow peaks.

“I respect the IPCC but India is a very large country and cannot depend only on [the] IPCC and so we have launched the Indian Network on Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment (INCCA),” he said.

India's voracious need for energy to fuel a rapidly growing and developing country makes it the perfect candidate to provide some much needed counterpoint to the entrenched, politicized views of the IPCC.

Life never stops being interesting!


Climate change policy: A treatment worse than the "disease"

Disease is in quotes, because catastrophic anthropogenic global warming in not a proven fact.

Poverty is the problem.

Wealth (including the cheap, abundant Wealth (including the cheap, abundant energy of fossil fuels) is the solution.