Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

Does Hurricane Harvey support socialism in Texas?—Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Hurricane Harvey socialism

Just before midnight on Sunday, while Hurricane Harvey was still raging through Texas and Louisiana, an acquaintance posted this on Facebook:

Everyone OK with using socialism to help clean up Harvey, or should we let the free market take care of it. Asking for a friend.

This is the essence of socialism: a protection racket on behalf of national-level socialist policies. Government takes resources from Peter and from Paul. Paul undergoes a disaster. The left asks, during a disaster, would Paul rather rely on his own resources and on whatever Peter can offer, or on the government? They ask this knowing that the government already has both Paul’s resources and Peter’s. The question is corrupt on its face. It reveals socialism as, literally, mafia-style government.

The non-corrupt formulation would be, would you rather we gave you and Peter all of your resources back, and let you keep them all in the future, and rely on voluntary assistance during this disaster? Or would you prefer that we provide assistance using whatever is left after we pay all the bureaucrats managing your assistance, after we buy things you don’t need because we don’t know your needs as well as you do, after we ignore corruption because it isn’t our money, after all, after we tell Peter to go away because he doesn’t have the right permits?

The free market is people working together without force. As a Texan1, I think it’d be a great idea to let Texans and anyone else who wants to provide assistance freely opt out of the federal taxes that pay for what the left is here calling socialism. Charity at the point of a gun is not charity. It is corruption to take taxes from people at the threat of prison and call it charity.

The Ultimate Government Accountability Reform—Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
California Proposition 8 county results

Which parts of California really agree with secession.

Californians want one. Texans think they can get one at any time, but would prefer California go first. Glenn Reynolds writes that only losers want one.

I think it would make the ultimate accountability reform.

What I’m talking about is state-level secession. It should be very difficult to secede, and it should require a supermajority vote of the state’s citizens, but having a clear, reasonable process in place for secession would make for the ultimate heads-up not just to politicians but to voters in the rest of the country that the population of entire state thinks the national government is wronging them, and badly.

This is not something that’s going to happen now. California isn’t going to leave over Trump. California needs the possibility that the federal government will bail them out in order to keep getting loans to pay off their spending. The California secession referendum could hit 100% and the California courts will still find a way to keep it from happening. And Texas doesn’t want to leave—we still think the constitution can work, if we give it a chance.

But having a clear and reasonable secession process in place would also elevate the discussion of why the people of a state want to secede, and that would, in turn, influence the behavior of federal politicians to the better. President Trump will tell you this: when partners in an enterprise have the option of leaving the enterprise, the rest of the partners have an incentive to please the disappointed parties.

To deal, in other words.

I suggest a constitutional amendment requiring something along the lines of:

  1. A two-thirds supermajority of the state’s legislature, signed by the governor.
  2. A waiting period of six to twelve months, followed by:
  3. A two-thirds supermajority referendum.

Step one will require that the reasons for secession be part of the state’s regular election process. The state legislature can start the process on their own, or they might add additional requirements, such as an initial referendum to gauge the will of the voters.

Step two will give the state and the national government an opportunity to both fix their differences, and/or to decide on the nature of the break.

Step three will ensure that the vast majority of the state’s voters desire a break with the national government. You want a supermajority so that next year the majority still agrees.

A direct line to the Charlottesville riots… from 1938—Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The correct response to the Charlottesville riots is to arrest the perpetrators, give them a fair trial, and put the guilty in jail.

It is the same as the correct response to the violent rioters in cities across the United States since last year’s election, and the violent rioters who “protest” when a speaker the left disagrees with is invited to speak at a college.

Police have literally been asked to stand down in some cases and let the rioters attack and destroy, as in Baltimore last year.

That we haven’t followed the correct response in those cases is why we have the Charlottesville riots.1 There is a direct line from the previous riots to this one. It runs from Seattle through Tucson, Dallas, and through every other violent left-wing fascist rally since the election last year. The direct line is the unwillingness of the authorities to arrest, charge, and imprison violent thugs rather than just make token statements and maybe arrest a handful.

Leftist “protestors” have been burning, stoning, beating people up, and even killing police officers for almost a year. The press hasn’t tied these rioters to the violent rhetoric of leftist politicians; they’ve gone out of their way to exonerate the actual rioters. So take it with a grain of salt that supposedly-right violence2 now has “a direct line to the president”.

I have often said that we shouldn’t have laws we aren’t willing to enforce; conversely, we should enforce the laws we have unless we are willing to repeal them. I can see no reason to repeal the laws against assault, arson, and murder.

When violent thugs see that they can get away with violence by coloring it as protest, it’s no surprise that you get more violent riots.

Community health acts to improve Obamacare—Wednesday, August 9th, 2017
Parkview Hospital Emergency

For years, Republicans have campaigned on one thing: the insane damage that the Unaffordable Care Act is causing to health care. The insane prices that people who don’t get their coverage from employers have to pay for health coverage, due to Obamacare.

And they failed to pass reform, partly because they tried to pass a huge complicated mess that did not state clearly what the benefits were. Politicians were able to hide behind platitudes, ignoring the real issue: the ACA has vastly increased the cost of health coverage, and vastly reduced the quality.

Even Democrats in congress recognize just how expensive ACA plans have become, and freak out when it looks like they might have to follow the same rules we do when paying for it. They’re also now talking about bipartisan ways of fixing the mess that Obamacare created.

Here’s my suggestion: one page bills that clearly state the benefit of that particular provision. Make it very clear what the anti-reformers are voting against, and make it very easy for their opponents to hand out the exact text of what was voted against and say, this is what they were voting against. This isn’t a summary, this is literally the bill that they refused to pass.

“All it does is let you have the same benefits businesses do, all it does is give you choice, all it does is bring innovation, and my opponent refused to let you have that opportunity. Here, you can read the bill yourself. Yes, the actual bill.”

The personal health savings parity and portability act

The main reason that health coverage is not portable is that employer-provided coverage gets tax benefits that private coverage does not. When your employer docks your pay to pay for your health coverage, that comes out before taxes. When you pay for coverage out of pocket, it comes after taxes. That makes a big difference, big enough that it isn’t worth it for you to have portable coverage.1

This system is crazy. If you got the same tax break on coverage you want that you get on coverage your employer chooses for you, you might be more inclined to carry your custom coverage from job to job. I know very well I would have. I looked into it, but it made no economic sense due to the insane privileging of employers docking my pay to choose coverage for me.

Democrat Chris Murphy: Obamacare is “the end of health care”—Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
If you like your health plan…

Now that congress is facing the joke, they’re no longer laughing.

Senator Chris Murphy is angry at President Trump, because Trump has “threatened” to enforce the law as written. The law in question is the misnamed Affordable Care Act, which, when congress passed it, required members of congress and their staff to live under its rules as well and pay for their own plans. But because it turned out the Affordable Care Act is actually Unaffordable, President Obama’s administration exempted them from that law, in a very convoluted manner that makes even less sense than the law itself and is almost certainly in itself illegal, not just unethical.

President Trump has threatened to revoke that exemption. Senator Murphy doesn’t want that. If President Trump requires congressional offices to live under the health care law that congress requires us to live under, Murphy says, that will “cut off health care”. It will “end health care”.

This is a clear threat to Congress: pass my health bill or as punishment I will end health care for you, your staff, & your constituents. Trump isn’t saying these things will happen naturally. He has the power to cut off health care for leg branch employees & crater exchanges.

That’s right. Democrats know what Obamacare’s effects are. They know that the ACA is really the Unaffordable Care Act. Just like its conservative critics predicted it would be, that it was for all practical purposes designed to be unaffordable.

And if they have to live under it the same way we do, it’s the same thing as ending health care, it’s as if Trump “cut off health care” for them.

He doesn’t seem to realize that this means that health care has already been cut off and ended for those of us who do not receive the special subsidies congress gets.1

The way the ACA originally applied to congress is that they were eligible only for the same subsidies anyone else using Obamacare would be eligible for. But most congressional staffers make more than $30,000 a year, some significantly more than that. That’s right about where ACA subsidies ended for individuals, at the time.

That’s also right about where the average personal income lands, too. And it turns out that the cost of health care plans under the ACA are pretty onerous when you’re only making $30,000 a year.

You would think this would be a clue: the ACA raised the cost of health care plans so drastically that the average American was going to have trouble paying it. Perhaps we should repeal the ACA and start over with something new that doesn’t hurt people so much.

Bipartisanship in the defense of big government—Monday, July 17th, 2017

Think about everything Democrats have been saying about Trump since he became the nominee. Why would they want to give the Trump White House more power?

I’ve long been critical of both Republicans and Democrats for not looking for common ground to advance their own views of freedom in the United States. There are always issues of commonality, or at least issues that the other side’s rhetoric makes it impossible to oppose, that could be introduced by the party that is out of power.

When President Clinton claimed that he was the victim of an out-of-control prosecutor, Republicans should have introduced legislation protecting people outside the beltway from out-of-control prosecutors.

When Democrats claimed to be worried about a President Trump’s executive overreach, they should have announced that they would support any Supreme Court Justice on Trump’s pre-election list: all of them would be strong opponents of an imperial presidency.

In my opinion, Donald Trump is mostly the fault of the political establishment, for failing to take advantage of opportunities to advance freedom in a bipartisan manner. Whoever is out of power complains about their power-hungry opposition, and whoever is in power uses that power. When politicians fail to live up to their campaign promises, voters will turn to non-politicians.

Democrats have decided, in the face of Trump, to continue blindly opposing literally everything he does, even things they called for earlier, such as firing James Comey.

But of course there is one policy they’re willing to work with Republicans on: increasing the power of an imperial presidency.

Why, after complaining that Trump is using the power of the White House to oppress Democrats, would Democrats introduce a resolution that makes it easier for Trump to act unilaterally? Why would they do this ahead of the 2018 elections, an off-year that traditionally goes in their favor?

Health insurance reform? What health insurance reform?—Thursday, July 13th, 2017

I recently received a “Truth About Republicans Survey” which asks me a whole bunch of questions about topics the National Republican Congressional Committee thinks are important. And then it asks me for money, of course. Which they are not going to get because one very important issue is missing:

Truth About Republicans Survey July 2017

Where in this survey is a question about restoring our ability to purchase health insurance? The closest is question 14, which, given how they literally left out any question about their number one promise over the last seven years, I’m surprised they included.

In good news, the Senate today added the Cruz-Lee Consumer Freedom Option to the Senate version of the repeal. Given the intransigence of Republicans on living up to their past promises, this may be the best option to reduce the cost of health insurance and health care after the ACA caused them to skyrocket.

Economies of scale and government-run health care—Friday, July 7th, 2017
Reagan For the Little Guy

One of the common arguments in favor of government takeovers of a service is that government agencies can perform the service cheaper because of “economies of scale”.

Since insurance is a requirement… more premiums should bring the price down.

This argument shows a profound misunderstanding of what an economy of scale is and how scaling up works to raise the quality of a service or product while also bringing the price down.1

More premiums, like more of any service, only bring prices down when people are free to buy or not to buy, and when buyers are free to negotiate with sellers for what they want to buy and what they are willing to pay for it. The ACA, for example, mandates what people are required to buy within very narrow boundaries, and mandates that they must in fact buy it (or pay a penalty). This is guaranteed to cause prices to rise drastically. The skyrocketing prices and reduced access to health care providers that we now see was predicted during the law’s passage based on that simple economic principle.

Economies of scale only work when they allow a leaner competitor to discover a way to provide the same or better service at a cheaper price.2 An economy of scale doesn’t automatically cause the same old processes by the same old business or government agency to suddenly become cheaper. If anything, large scale in a monopoly will cause prices to rise and quality to drop as competition moves from competing to reach more people and persuade them to purchase the service, to instead competing for turf inside the bureaucracy.

This shift to bureaucratic infighting causes increased prices to pay for the extra soldiers in the turf war; and it causes lower quality service as the employees turn inward and pay more attention to the bureaucracy than to their customers. Why shouldn’t they? Their customers have no choice.

But even worse, increased scale in a government or government-created monopoly also results in increased complexity for the people who need the service. The inevitable turf wars mean that individual services become spread across multiple departments, any one of which can block or delay service—such as some person’s needed health care. Navigating the system becomes an essential skill, and it is one that people with more resources—who can hire dedicated navigators—will do better at than people with fewer resources.

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