Monday, March 22, 2010

House passes Obama's health care bill

43 comments:

Troy said...

Bad news for right-wingers, good news for the American people!

Lee said...

Bad news for America, good news for comissar wannebes.

Thomas said...

That's obviously a straw man. The government is not taking over the means of production.

Isaac said...

Bad news for doctors. Thousands of dollars and years of work at med school for a low salary. Personally I wouldn't want a bitter doctor treating me.

Lee said...

The issue really is, who gets to make the decisions? This bill represents a major shift of decision-making power from individuals to the central government. So what if the govt doesn't "own" the means of production, as long as they have the whip hand?

Economic decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats are made for political reasons, not economic. Always.

As P. J. O'Roarke said, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait 'til it's free." We will now learn the hard way what the Soviet Union learned last century, and what Western Europe is learning now: we can control prices, but not costs. As Mark Steyn noted, Greece (and soon, Spain and Portugal) are facing the bitter end of the 20th century Bismarckian welfare state, as they have finally run out of people to screw over. In Washington D.C. (and Sacramento and Albany), they're screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, there are no kids or grandkids to screw over.

Thomas said...

So being in favor of public schooling makes one a communist as well?

Troy said...

...or roads or parks...

Lee said...
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Lee said...

> So being in favor of public schooling makes one a communist as well?

If carried far enough? Yes. Local school board decisions, though political, are much more responsive to the desires of local parents and taxpayers. The trend to centralize decision-making results in more decisions made by the Feds, fewer by the locals, and a net loss of freedom.

Speaking of straw men, who says communistic policy is a boolean? It's a sliding scale. Political power is a zero-sum game. If the Feds have it, others can't have it.

Thomas said...
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Thomas said...

If it's a sliding scale, aren't the public education system, the police forces, the roads, the parks, and so on communistic? If you define communism that way, the only thing that's not communistic is the completely unfettered free market, with absolutely no government intervention, or, put another way, anarchism. By your logic, if you're ok with having the cops, you're a communist.

Lee said...

> If it's a sliding scale, aren't the public education system, the police forces, the roads, the parks, and so on communistic?

It depends on the kinds of intrusions they make in the economic sphere.

The philosophy of free-market economics presumes that the government enforces the law and that contracts are enforced under tort law. The line is clearly crossed when the government starts functioning not as a referee but as a competitor or an advocate for other competitors.

> By your logic, if you're ok with having the cops, you're a communist.

No, that's not my logic, that's your straw man. The police are there to enforce the law, and nobody is arguing we need zero law. If the law encroaches on enough of our economic liberties, they quit being Andy of Mayberry and start being the KGB.

In a free society, some areas of decision-making belong to the government, and others belong to the people. This government is taking over more and more areas that once belonged to the people, and solidifying the inroads made against the people by previous congresses and administrations. Taking over 18% of the (formerly) private economy, and doing so without any blessing from the Constitution, I believe is a sufficient cause to ring the alarm.

Lee said...
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Thomas said...

That is not an entirely free market, the police are publicly owned and run. It's a mostly free market that communally owns certain mechanisms for enforcing the law. A truly free market, such as has been advocated by Hoppe, would leave these functions to the private sector as well.

But you're missing the bigger point: communism is where the government takes over a nation's means of production. That's not what has happened here. In fact, there's not even a public option; it's just a regulatory overhaul. Those who equate this with soviet style communism are not aware of what communism actually is, or else have let their hysteria get the better of their reason.

Lee said...

Thomas, you said this:

> "That is not an entirely free market, the police are publicly owned and run."

...after I already said this:

> "The police are there to enforce the law, and nobody is arguing we need zero law."

...and:

> In a free society, some areas of decision-making belong to the government, and others belong to the people.

The police are an extension of the state, not an outgrowth of a free economy. There were police before there ever existed a free economy, and no doubt there will be police after the last free economy on earth has expired. The existence of the police is not by itself an indicator of a free or a slave state. Free vs. communist depend on what kinds of laws are enforced, and how large and powerful they need to be to enforce them.

> A truly free market, such as has been advocated by Hoppe, would leave these functions to the private sector as well.

The crucial variable is, who commands the police and what kind of power do they have? If NYPD hired nothing but private contractors to be policemen, but then used them to enforce rent control, then regardless, they are still being used to promote a communistic government agenda.

Gotta keep your eye on the ball, which is the degree of economic decision-making assumed by the government.

> But you're missing the bigger point: communism is where the government takes over a nation's means of production.

Define "takes over." You're still going for the "all or nothing" definition of communism, or so it seems to me. If there was one independent sausage vendor in Irkutsk, then the Soviet system wasn't really communist, was it?

If you want to buy a car and I get to tell you what car you buy, how much you will spend, how much you will get to drive it, and to where, and when, and how many passengers you get to take, then who has the power? You or me? If an industry is nominally owned privately, you can still effectively turn it into a government institution.

> In fact, there's not even a public option; it's just a regulatory overhaul. Those who equate this with soviet style communism are not aware of what communism actually is, or else have let their hysteria get the better of their reason.

It's a giant step in that direction. I'm not supposed to worry about it until all that's left is a single baby step?

Thomas said...

Contract law is not enforce in tort the two are distinct areas of the law.

You clearly don't understand the distinction between ownership and regulation. I'm glad you used the car example. The government regulates the material used to make the car, how it's made, the work conditions within which it is made, zoning laws govern the property on which the factory sits, if the car is imported a host of conditions must be met. You are told not to drive over a certain speed, to wear a seatbelt, to have insurance, to not drink alcohol, to not have certain kinds of lights on your car, and so on. You might think of each of these regulations as steps towards communism, or you might think of each of these as operating within a system of private property and protecting the common good.

Lee said...

> Contract law is not enforce in tort the two are distinct areas of the law.

Fine, in that case, I stand corrected, but my point still stands. You cannot have a free market economy without the law.

> You clearly don't understand the distinction between ownership and regulation.

You clearly don't appreciate the distribution of decision-making power and its effect on private property.

> I'm glad you used the car example. The government regulates the material used to make the car, how it's made, the work conditions within which it is made, zoning laws govern the property on which the factory sits, if the car is imported a host of conditions must be met.

And these things have all been part of the various platforms of various leftist parties since 1910 or thereabouts. Various "workers" parties, including Communist, Fascist, and Nazi, have all argued for increasing such regulation. Any such regulation is not enough, by itself, to allow us to point and shout, "Communist!" But it's a step in that direction.

> You are told not to drive over a certain speed, to wear a seatbelt, to have insurance, to not drink alcohol, to not have certain kinds of lights on your car, and so on.

Mostly, these comprise is a different sort of regulation, namely, to facilitate common use of a public work like roads. Such regulation is not communistic by itself, but can still be abused (e.g., passing regulations that favor certain producers over others for political reasons, or persecuting one producer for the benefit of others).

> You might think of each of these regulations as steps towards communism...

I do.

...or you might think of each of these as operating within a system of private property and protecting the common good.

Who gets to define the "common good"? The people, or the central government? In the current mess, I think it's clear: the government is defining it, over and above the will of the people (if the polls tell us anything).

I have grown weary of trying to use a fine-tooth comb to build a precise taxonomy of the Left. Mostly, these are arguments over quibbles. Of course, I understand that the Left has no wish to be characterized as communists, fascists, or Nazis -- they have all been thoroughly discredited for one reason or another. They would prefer liberal or socialist, I'm sure -- until those have been completely discredited too, as was "Progressivism" (which is when the term "liberal" was adopted).

I'd be happy to substitute the term coined by Friedrich Hayek -- "collectivist". It means anyone who wants to centralize economic decision-making power to the extreme. If the power is centralized enough, it doesn't matter who owns it on paper. All that matters is what the State wants.

Martin Cothran said...

Thomas,

The government is not taking over the means of production? I presume you are talking about the health care industry in particular, which provides a service rather than a "product" in the traditional sense. But once health insurance companies have gone out of business because only people with health risks have an incentive to buy insurance (because of the restriction on rejecting people with preexisting conditions), the only provider may very well end up being the government. At that point, the government becomes the only service provider.

Also, you must have missed the fact that the U.S. Government purchased controlling interest in GM. If that's not owning the means of production, then I'd like to know what is.

Thomas said...

To my knowledge, the government has not become a provider at all, under this bill. And you likewise have confused regulation with ownership. That the government regulates an industry does not mean that it owns it.

Do you have some reason for implying the public option is back in the bill that the media has missed?

Out of curiosity, what is your plan for providing for, say, a 23 year old Walmart greeter with a pre-existing health condition that makes him uninsurable, that causes chronic pain, and that requires fairly expensive treatment that will persist until he dies?

And you might want to provide some actual evidence that the government will drive out insurers. Because mandatory health insurance works in Germany, and their health care system dates back to Otto von Bismarck.

Lee said...

> And you likewise have confused regulation with ownership.

Earlier, I asked you, what's the difference between state ownership and a high degree of regulation by the state?

I asked, "If you want to buy a car and I get to tell you what car you buy, how much you will spend, how much you will get to drive it, and to where, and when, and how many passengers you get to take, then who has the power? You or me? If an industry is nominally owned privately, you can still effectively turn it into a government institution."

Your response was to ignore the essence of the question. I'd still like an answer. Is it even theoretically possible, in your view, to retain only paper rights to a piece of property, while all of the prerogatives of decision-making fall to the government? And if that does happen, can you still maintain it isn't in any sense of the word 'communistic'?

Lee said...

Here's Wiki's lead sentence on communism:

> "Communism is a social structure in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled, as well as a political philosophy and social movement that advocates and aims to create such a society."

"Commonly controlled", not owned by the government.

You also didn't answer Martin's question: even by your own definition, isn't the government owning GM and Chrysler stock communistic?

> Out of curiosity, what is your plan for providing for, say, a 23 year old Walmart greeter with a pre-existing health condition that makes him uninsurable, that causes chronic pain, and that requires fairly expensive treatment that will persist until he dies?

In a free society, individuals named Thomas, or Frank, or Harry, can start private organizations named, "Foundation for Helping the Uninsurable". Give as much as you want.

In a society with socialized medicine, on the other hand, they say, "Sure, we'll treat you! Here's the waiting list...." And five years later, you get treated, or die in the meantime. That's the part about economics that always fools the liberals. They deny that treatment is denied under government care. Of course it might be denied, only it's called a waiting list.

That's what it is meant when economists say you can't control costs, only prices. If the gentleman in question ever gets treated, it's free -- to him. But the costs are still there and still paid -- by the taxpayers, by the doctors, and by all those who would have a more efficient medical system if the government would leave more things alone.

Thomas said...

I agree that the government shouldn't own GM stock. I'm not hysterical enough to say that that makes us a communist country, since the general character of the market is left relatively intact, but that would be a step closer. To start drawing moral equivalences between the United States and the Soviet Union is really absurd, and obscene given the tremendous amount of suffering caused by Stalinist policies.

The thing that made the Soviet Union so monstrous was not so much that they held property in common (the first generation of the Christian church was communistic), but that they were willing to pursue a political agenda despite the suffering of their people. The closest parallel today is not with government programs that try to satisfy the basic needs of citizens, but to those so attached to a free-market policy that they are willing to let thousands suffer, go bankrupt, and die.

The idea that charity will cover the health care costs of the 45 million uninsured is a huge claim. Do you have any kind of factual support this would happen? Any examples of other countries who have covered these costs through charity? Because that sounds like a fantasy to me.

Of course, this isn't happening currently. A Harvard study estimated that 45,000 people die annually in large part from lack of insurance. Most bankruptcies now are caused by health costs. Charity can't cover it now, and there's no reason to think it will in the future.

Really, I don't have to argue with you. I just have to wait a few decades, and then the right will look at this much like they do Medicare now (which was also denounced as a socialist program).

If you want to know what ownership is, I suggest you start here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_%28property%29

Lee said...

> I agree that the government shouldn't own GM stock. I'm not hysterical enough to say that that makes us a communist country, since the general character of the market is left relatively intact, but that would be a step closer.

"Hysterical"? Is it okay to be, say, concerned and upset that we are heading in the communist direction?

> To start drawing moral equivalences between the United States and the Soviet Union is really absurd...

If a loved one points out to someone that he has gained a hundred pounds and that he is heading for morbid obesity, is the proper response to say drawing a moral equivalence between him and the circus fat lady is really absurd?

We took a huge step toward a lot of things yesterday. Fortunately, I suppose, it will break the bank long before we can become another Soviet Union. It's bad enough that we're becoming another France.

> ...and obscene given the tremendous amount of suffering caused by Stalinist policies.

Stalin took the identical principles behind the health care bill -- centralization of economic decision-making power -- to their logical extreme. It wasn't the intention of the October Revolutionists to impose Stalinism for thirty years, but it was the result of all of that centralization of power.

> The closest parallel today is not with government programs that try to satisfy the basic needs of citizens, but to those so attached to a free-market policy that they are willing to let thousands suffer, go bankrupt, and die.

Ah. It is obscene for opponents of the bill to cast Obamacare as a Soviet-style enterpreise. But it is okay for you to cast opponents of the bill in the worst possible light, as neo-Stalinists.

You said, "...try to satisfy." I wish all public policy could be judged based on intention to do good. What will happen is that 18% of our economy will be wrecked, become less productive, expand the public sector obscenely, create unsustainable debt, and place lots of power that used to be in the hands of the people into the hands of bureaucrats. I am not prognosticating, I'm just looking at what's going on in Europe.

Thomas said...

The first century Christian Church was communistic. I suppose you think that makes them close to the Soviets? If common ownership of property is bad, then they were worse than we are. (Though, strangely, you support some common ownership like that of roads as being beneficial).

So tell us, Lee, what is your plan for the poor? Would you do away with Medicare and Medicaid, and let even more people go bankrupt or die for your political philosophy? Or is some socialism ok?

Martin Cothran said...

Thomas,

All of them were communistic? And it would be nice to have a definition of terms here. What do you mean by "communistic"? Are you simply referring to the care which Christians practiced toward each other, or did they all literally live in the same physical community?

Thomas said...

Acts 2:44-45 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.


I'd say selling all one's goods, holding all things in common, and distributing to every man as he has a need is pretty close to communism. Not Marxism, of course, but certainly the communal ownership of property.

Martin Cothran said...

Thomas,

This was certainly the case in Jerusalem at the very beginning of the church. How prevalent was it when the Church started to grow? And what do we infer from this fact? Is the practice of the early church in this instance a universal imperative for all Christians?

Lee said...

> The first century Christian Church was communistic.

I already pointed out that the arrangement was voluntary, which makes it unlike every communist government to date -- and unlike participation in Obamacare.

> So tell us, Lee, what is your plan for the poor?

What is your plan for the poor, Thomas, after the U.S. is bankrupt and can no longer sustain the unsustainable entitlements? It looks to me like Obama's plan for the poor is to make more.

The poor will not be helped by destroying the economy. Killing the golden goose is a leftist obsession, and ultimately will cause far more damage than good. They're like a four-year-old in the pilot's seat of a 747 at 30,000 feet. They're having a great time, but the passengers are screaming.

> Would you do away with Medicare and Medicaid, and let even more people go bankrupt or die for your political philosophy?

Don't think of my political philosophy as something abstract and unreal. Think of it as the system that enables you to get out of bed every morning not facing 16 hours of grueling work just to scratch out enough to eat -- the way the vast majority of all the people who have ever lived have had to do it. Think of it as the system that provided you with a home, and cars, and too much food, and a computer that you can use to denigrate it. I'd think you'd be more grateful.

> Or is some socialism ok?

Some government is necessary. Anarchy can impoverish just as effectively as a rapacious communism. The free market has prerequisites -- sort of like the aforementioned golden goose, who needs the farmer to protect her from the fox. The problem comes when the farmer decides a roasted goose would taste great, same as when the elected representatives acquire a taste for roasted taxpayer.

Thomas said...

I never said that it was a universal imperative. The point is that if the US, by imposing more stringent regulations on insurance companies, is going to be tarred with the accusation of communism, one would do well to remember that the early Christian church actually held their wealth in common, and gave to those as they have need. So if we're going to say that the US moved closer to communism, we could just as well say that we moved closer to the Church in the book of Acts. And, actually, since the purpose of the early Church's communism was, in part, to care for the poor as indispensable members of the community, whereas the Soviet leaders viewed peasants as fairly expendable, the current health care legislation is moving much more distinctly in the direction of the early church.

The bigger problem, though, is that accusations of Nazism and Communism substitute for reasoned analysis.

Thomas said...

Lee,

I've become increasingly convinced that you have no idea what is in the bill and what the bill does. You don't seem to understand that it is projected to start paying off the budget. You don't understand the cost controls involved. You don't understand the regulatory mechanisms. You don't seem to be aware of the CBO score. You don't seem to understand that health care in our country has inflated more quickly than in countries with socialized medicine, but that we're consistently ranked under most first world countries. All you seem to know about it involves a four year old flying a 747. Unless you demonstrate some actual familiarity with the bill itself, it's pointless to talk to you about it. It certainly seems like you don't care to know what's in it, or the economics behind it. You could always prove me wrong, though; I've posted the CBO report on here a couple of times, you could start with reading it.

Thomas said...
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Thomas said...

Lee,

Since you're predicting that socializing health care will make the system vastly more expensive, you might want to try to square that view with reality:

http://www.photius.com/rankings/total_health_expenditure_as_pecent_of_gdp_2000_to_2005.html

Lee said...

What I'm predicting is that none of the predictions are reliable, you have to look at history and experience. All new entitlements, all of the time, come in over budget. If this one comes in under or on budget, it will be the first. If this one comes in anywhere less than wildly over budget, it will be the first.

It's not an accident. It's easy to spend someone else's money. It's easy for politicians to make economic decisions for political reasons. It's what they do.

Lee said...

> one would do well to remember that the early Christian church actually held their wealth in common,

The defining feature of communism is coercion. The early Christians were not coerced to live together communally. You can continue to ignore that distinction if you like, but it's the most important aspect of communism, socialism, and all the other isms so fond of it.

Lee said...

> I've become increasingly convinced that you have no idea what is in the bill and what the bill does.

Your arguments are always no more than an inch away from ad hominem. I have no need or desire to prove to you I know "enough" (however you quantify that) to discuss this issue. Discuss it or don't.

> You don't understand the cost controls involved. You don't understand the regulatory mechanisms.

Incentives are what counts. The incentive of government is to grow more, to tax more, to control more, all at everyone else's expense. It remains to be seen if all the regulatory mechanisms that are making you giddy will have any dent in costs, but nothing in that bill changes the incentives of those in the government.

Do remember, please, that the insurance industry was already one of the most highly regulated industries in the country. If liberals were still unhappy with that industry, why is the fix always more regulation and not less?

Thomas said...

That's false. The defining feature in communism is the common ownership of property. You seem to be confusing communism with Marxism, and that's not even true of all Marxist theories.

Let's see an analysis of the incentive structure in the bill, Lee. Specific provision. How will the bill alter the current incentive/cost structure specifically?

Lee said...

So you're denying, then, that communist governments coerce their citizens into complying with their directives?

Thomas said...

No, I'm saying that the general definition of communism is commonly or state-held property. There are plenty of communist theories that don't involve violence, and plenty of communist practices that didn't. Like the early church.

I assume you're going to be coming up with your report on the incentive structure in the bill. I look forward to seeing it, and will be relieved that you have taken some effort to know what you're talking about.

Lee said...

I'm not quite sure from your wording, Thomas, so I want things to be absolutely clear:

Are you admitting that a communist government uses coercion to redistribute wealth and allocate production, and to keep people where they want them (in the country, and living where the government wants them)?

Thomas said...

All communist governments that I know of do this. Of course, all governments use force too, which, under your rather indiscriminate reading makes them communistic.

But because some forms of communism have used force doesn't mean that all forms of communism have used force; since, as a matter of fact, they haven't.

Lee said...

> All communist governments that I know of do this.

Okay, very good. I will take that as an admission that all communist governments use force.

Now for the follow-up: in the early church, did they use force to compel church members to live together communally and share? Or was it a voluntary arrangement?

Thomas said...

Lee, all governments use force. Do you think it's a salient argument to say that because the United States government uses force it's similar to the USSR?

Communism is when property is held in common. This can be done forcibly, or it can be done peaceably, but that doesn't bear on the question of whether it's communism or not.

The uncomfortable reality for you is that your rhetorical strategy relies on the claim that by moving to universal health care (which we actually haven't, but we'll let that rest for now) is closer to communism than we were before. But it's also true that the early church in Jerusalem was communistic. So at the same time we move towards the Soviet Union, we move towards the early church's way of holding property (there's also no attempt to get rid of private property, but we'll ignore that too). The point is that your scale of politics moves between two poles (communism and a certain kind of free market), which is a very shallow form of political analysis. It doesn't allow one to distinguish between National Social, Communism, or Fascism, allow for things like distributism or Feudalism, or even tell us quite what to do with the authoritarian capitalism we see in Asia. As a tool for political analysis, your framework is incredibly limited.

Lee said...

> Lee, all governments use force. Do you think it's a salient argument to say that because the United States government uses force it's similar to the USSR?

I had a much more modest goal in mind, actually: to show you that your use of the early Church's communal lifestyle was an incorrect parallel to a modern communistic government.

Of course, all government's use force. This is why the government that governs best is the one that governs least. Wow! That's great! Somebody should have already written that. But we were talking about communism and government, and I kept wondering why a bunch of early Christians living in a voluntary arrangement had any bearing on the coercive practices of the U.S. Congress.

> But it's also true that the early church in Jerusalem was communistic.

And there you go again! Repeat after me...

1. The U.S. government relies on force.

2. The early Christians relied on voluntarism.

> So at the same time we move towards the Soviet Union, we move towards the early church's way of holding property (there's also no attempt to get rid of private property, but we'll ignore that too).

Only if the Soviet Union's edicts were optional. Ooops. They weren't.

> The point is that your scale of politics moves between two poles (communism and a certain kind of free market), which is a very shallow form of political analysis.

Yep. I know how much deeper you'd find it, though, if I were to compare compulsory government to voluntary associations.

> It doesn't allow one to distinguish between National Social, Communism, or Fascism

I don't know why not. Communism is International Socialism; National Socialism/Fascism are heresies of Communism. The heresy, in this case, is that communism (as Marx conceived it) held that a working man in Russia had more in common with a working man in Detroit than with the bourgeoisie in his own country. The shared goals of the workers all over the world were one day to rise up and shed their shackles, and take over the means of production.

However, by about 1910, the French philosopher and communist Sorel wrote that the international uprising of workers was a "useful myth." Mussolini knew and admired Sorel, and decided that if using a myth was okay, then let's use a really useful one -- Socialism for Italians, to solve distinctly Italian problems. This approach had the advantage of combining the allure of socialism with the nationalistic fervor of the previous century, and so Fascism was born. Hitler simply applied the same reason to argue for a German socialism.

The continuum still goes from most to least economically free, but there are variations (deviations?) on a theme. I consider myself to be a free marketer, but not a Randist nor a libertarian. Actually, I presume in favor of the free market, but don't necessarily follow it to the logical extreme that some do.

> As a tool for political analysis, your framework is incredibly limited.

I don't mind if you think so. It's fun watching you air-box.