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28-12-2013, 08:55 AM
RE: "Obamacare"
(27-12-2013 05:10 PM)frankksj Wrote:  Checkmate.

Seriously? Checkmake? Dude, you're not playing chess. With that childish analogy, you're plaing Candyland.

But, ok, let's play: In all 3 of your questions the hikers don't consider the dangers at all because one of them is Wolverine, who heals instantly, and the other is Superman, who is impervious to injury unless someone put Kryptonite on the trail (which, given how stupid these questions are, I guess is not beyond the realm of possibility at this point). But, the questions are so childish, so intellectually stupid, they don't deserve an answer. They have nothing to do with reality at all. Seriously, someone goes on an African safari and suddenly "oh shit, the local bush hospital may not take my fucking Cigna card, so I should go right instead of left!"???? Are you reall that daft? None of this has any basis in reality. The questions don't deserved to be answered.

But, here is actual reality: our screwed up system means that health insuracne equates to health care. If you don't have one, you don't get the other. And who did not traditionally have health insurance? Generally, they fall into two groups (obviously there are exceptions to this):
1. people under 30 who did not have jobs that provided it and did not take on the expense on their own, because people under 30 believe they are immortal; and
2. poor people.

People under 30 are their own case but they tend to engage in riskier behavior. Fast driving, drinking, etc. I did so many stupid, life threatening things by the time I was 30 I don't even like to think about it. But, we can put those people aside because they will either die (a small percentage) due to their actions or they will out grow it. The real issue is with catagory #2.

People who are poor tend to be at much higher risk for a lot of health problems. Poor people smoke more, drink more, and tend to have a lot more assciated health problems, mostly because they don't see doctors. They are not suddenly going on African safaris either. But, they tend to live in higher crime neighborhoods with more violence and a higher chance of dying due to violence. There were countless articles churned out during the health are debates that talked about the impact of not having health care on people in our society and how they did not live as long or have as healthy lives.

The idea that people in our society who don't have health are are going to engage in riskier behviors upon receiving it is completely, utterly, demonstrably wrong. They are already living risky lives, without any coverage. Which brings us to the real point of the argument: Gupta is arguing that in a society where health care access requires health insurance, there is a "morale hazard" to giving people who are already at the highest risk access to health care.

The only morale hazard I see is giving fuckwads who believe this crap a forum to publish this dribble, because there are enough morons out there who will look at it and say "damn right! Now all those poor people are going on dangerous African safaris and taking the dangerous short cuts because they have health care!!!" Please. Spare the rest of us this nonsense. The real argument being made is about how we should continue to deprive a percentage of the population access to healthcare, period.

And, the real tragedy of all this is that our health care system sucks. Compared to the rest of the world, we are spending significantly more and getting significantly less. But, until Obama made this system accessible to more people, no one really cared. Now I have to deal with people like you and your "Obamacare this!" and "Obamacare that!" crap, like it was a healthcare paradise before this law was passed. Newsflash for you - it was not. We had all the problems prior to the law that we have after. All Obama did was get more people access to it and close down some of the loop holes. From a care perspective, it improved an awful system (kind of like polishing a turd). From a cost perspective, who knows. I don't see how it's going to save us any money, but it's tough to say if costs will actually increase at a higher rate as a result, given how out of control they were already).

But, please, spare me these stupid "heads I win, tails you lose" fantasies and saving them for kiddie table.

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28-12-2013, 10:37 AM
RE: "Obamacare"
Yes, a debate is like chess. When you're trapped and can't move, that means you're on the wrong side. When I ask basic questions that you know the answer to (you know the answer is 'yes' to those 3 questions), but you cannot answer them because saying 'yes' will PROVE beyond any doubt that you are wrong, and saying 'no' will make you look stupid, so your only option is to refuse to play along and just say the questions are 'irrelevant' or 'undeserving' or throw out stupidity like 'Wolverine', then that means you're wrong. The difference is that if I got trapped like that, I'd just admit that you were right, and I'd change my views. It's a sign of your stubbornness that you cannot admit you're wrong. The very term moral hazard actually COMES FROM THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY! Your insistence that insurance doesn't introduce a moral hazard is ludicrous.

But here's what's more telling. You talk about wanting to help poor people. But, you've proven it's far more important to you to be right than to help them. See I've shown that by changing the way you look at the problem you can not only get poor people health care, but actually lift them out of poverty, eliminate inter-generational dependence, and give them a stronger incentive to live a long, healthy, happy life.

See we both agree poor people need access to health care. Your solution is the government gives them health insurance or free medical care. Fine, that solves the health care need. But the poor people are still poor, they're now dependent on others, there's no incentive to reduce costs so the burden on others will be great, and you don't add any extra incentive to live a healthier lifestyle, in fact you actually reduce the incentive by taking away any accountability for making bad choices. If I smoke and don't exercise, somebody else pays to fix me up. You accomplish very little if anything.

Consider another way. Instead of the government writing a check for $500 each month to an insurance company, they write it to the individual's own health savings account, which they can choose where it's invested, but they can't spend it on anything but health care until a certain age. Now, every month, they see a statement with THEIR name on it, showing how much money THEY have. And it compounds quickly. Start when they're out of high school, and by the age of thirty they'll like have over $100,000 in their account. Each month, include a picture of what their will be like when they retire if they live healthy: a nice house, millions in their HSA, financial independence, and a juicy inheritance to leave their children and break the cycle of dependence. BUT, it depends on them managing their HSA wisely. If they smoke, statistically the odds are this will cost them, say, $1 million in their HSA, and they'll be much poorer and have less money to leave their children. We already know smoking is bad for your health, but that isn't enough to get people to stop. However, if it hits their pocketbook and they have to pay for the damages out of their own savings account, and their children have to pay in reduced inheritance, that's an extra incentive on top of the health benefits, which likely will tip the scale for some on the fence. Similarly, if they're reminded every month that by getting their annual checks, exercising every day, and eating healthy, they'll like have several million more in their savings account, it's an extra incentive. And then when they need something done, like a hip replacement, they have the choice: Take $125k out of their HSA to get it done in the US. Or take $7k in Mexico. Or go to another 1st world country like Belgium and get it done in a nice private hospital for $13k, maybe $20k total if you add airfare for you and your spouse and 2 weeks stay in a posh hotel. And you still get to save $105k on the procedure that's YOUR money and you get to keep it. With your way, the poor person gets a hip, and that's all, and it costs society $125k. With my way, the poor person gets the same quality treatment, and gets a luxury vacation abroad, gets to see other parts of the world, and gets to keep the $105k in savings! However, with your system, there's a total disconnect. There's zero incentive for the patient to go to Belgium where the cost is 90% less since he doesn't pay either way—so surprise, surprise people who have insurance rarely choose the low-cost options. Also, there's no financial incentive to exercise and eat well, since whatever problems develop aren't paid for out of your pocket. However, if each person manages his own HSA, and his medical costs come out of his own pocket, and he sees his HSA balance drop every time he makes bad choices, that is an extra incentive to be smart, get your checkups and preventive procedures, and live healthy.

You know you're wrong on this issue because you're backed into a corner and can't answer even basic questions. But pride is more important to you than the well-being of poor people, so you'll argue for a system that really fucks poor people over, and refuse to a consider an alternative that is much better for poor people, because you don't want to admit you're wrong.

I'm NOT saying the system pre-Obamacare was a good one. Ever since the government took over after WWII by imposing wage controls, but allowing employers to offer comprehensive health care, we've had a system full of perverse incentives. Right now, the individual doesn't pick his doctor—his insurance company does. And he doesn't even pick his insurance company—his employer does. And the insurance companies have every incentive to collude and keep medical prices high. Ask yourself, if you need a hip, WHY won't the insurance company send you to Belgium to get it done for 1/10 the price? Don't they want to reduce payouts? It's obvious. If one insurance company does it, they'll all want to do it, and this will pressure them to lower premiums and the insurance companies will lose profit. So they're better off to make sure that the US system is as broken as it is, and that every insurance company is forced to use only the US system. Obamacare didn't create this perverse incentive, but it just injected it with steroids making it all much worse.

BTW, your statement that “If you don't have [health insurance], you don't get the [health care]” is demonstrably wrong. I'm 40 years old, and get my annual checkups and great health care, and have never once used health insurance. RE: “Compared to the rest of the world, we are spending significantly more and getting significantly less. But, until Obama made this system accessible to more people, no one really cared”, the first statement is correct, the second is wrong. For decades we libertarians have been saying how fucked up the system is, pointing out WHY the US pays significantly more and gets significantly less, and explaining what needs to be done to fix it. But the rest don't want to listen, and just preferred the status quo. FINALLY, you (collectively) decided to address the issue, but instead of fixing it, you're just making it worse! You just took the current broken, fucked up system, and injected it with steroids to ensure Americans pay EVEN MORE and get EVEN LESS.
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28-12-2013, 04:52 PM
RE: "Obamacare"

Here's another serious but simple question for you:

Imagine the government said to everybody "smoking is bad for your health". Is there a percentage of people who will still smoke? Obviously 'yes' since the government DOES say that and people still smoke.

So, imagine that in addition to telling people smoking is bad for you, the government said 'we'll pay smokers $1,000 to quit'. Q: Would that financial incentive persuade some to quit? Now what if the government say 'we'll pay smokers $1 million to quit'. Q: Would that encourage more people to quit? And what if it were $1 billion, would even more people quit?

If you're honest with yourself I think you have to admit that people DO respond to financial incentives, rewards and punishment. Everybody's threshold is different; some may quit smoking for $100, others won't quit even for $1 billion. But most are in between, so the more people's finances are directly affected by their actions, the more likely they are to act in a way that maximizes financial gain. While it's good to want those with more to help those who have less, if you ignore this simple fact of human nature, you end up introducing perverse incentives. What you've essentially done is create one giant credit card account for all 300 million Americans, and issue a card to every American so that at the end of each month we each pay 1/300m of the total bill. Thus, reckless behavior, like spending $1,000 on a haircut, has virtually no direct impact on that person's portion of the bill each month. Then you get frustrated when you can't figure out why everyone's spending has gone through the roof. And I'm saying that if you want to help poor people out, there are better ways to do it while still preserving individual accountability and the necessary incentives to encourage people to do the right thing.
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29-12-2013, 08:44 AM
RE: "Obamacare"
Ok, you've changed arguments a bit, but that's ok as this one at least is relevant to the topic.

I never said, implied or inferred that people were not movivated by incentives. That's basic human nature and basic economics. What I disagree with is your implication that providing health care to people is providing perverse incentives. It is not. It is demonstrably not. Please not that I used the word "people", not "person". You seem to confuse the two. It's like arguing with a climate change denier because it was cold on one particular day. Global warming is not about weather change, it's about climate change. Economic discussions are about populations, not individuals. That's why your previous questions have no basis in reality. Aside from the situations themselves being absurd and not in any way based in reality, who really fucking cares about one idiot in Africa or anywhere else? That scenario is no less realistic when you throw in Wolverine and Superman.

Back to the matter at hand; I agree with you - and have said this several times - that our current method of managing health care sucks ass. It is inefficient and inherent in the system is cost multipliers. A combination of fee-for-service payments, 3rd party for-profit in the middle of every single transaction that require unique forms and rules for billing that drive up staffing needs, as well as now having 51 different regulatory schemes that these 3rd party payors must comply to are all combining to drive out costs through the roof year on year. It's not really a mystery why this is happening, but no one will call it what it is because turning on the insurance industry who donates millions of dollars to politicians is not "business friendly". But, it's the system we have. Oh, two other important clarifications you seem to be ignoring. 1) this system existed long before Obama was elected president in 2008 and 2) the terms "our" and "we" refer to the United States. Saying "but I go to Mexico!!!" is completely irrelevant to any discussion about "our" health care system because going to Mexico is not a real option. Again, we are talking about populations and because 50 people out of 313,000,000 go to Mexico or India or wherever does not change our reality. As a side note, arguing free market economics while taking advantage of the socialized, tax payer funded health care systems of other countries is flat out hilarious, as well as hypocritical. And, it's even funnier when you factor in its Mexico, who's economy is a total wreck and who's cost of living is peanuts by American standards largely because of the failures of their government to control anything. It's oppressive for Mexicans but for Americans with cash it's a gold mine. No morale hazzard there at all.

So, getting to the point: we have historically had a health care system that has exlcuded a percentage of the population. That system has had a societal cost. The cost comes in to these people almost never getting any preventive care or education on how to improve their health and ending up in hospistals when they are really sick and to a point where we won't/can't turn them away. That runs up costs on everyone because everyone else pays the price. People without health care die younger. That has been proven. They leave their families without a means of support, children without parents, and everyone else picking up the tab for what kills them and what they leave behind. Claiming there is a moral hazzard to include the last few people in the health care system is ridiculous. To the extend that health insurance has a morale hazard attached to it, that ship has long, long ago sailed. Tha morale hazard that exists today is in exluding a percentage of the population. They already are less healthy, they already die younger. The idea that now, suddenly, when you give them access to preventivite care and routine health screenings they are going to do sky diving and start smoking more is absolutely preposterous. Gupta's basic argument is now we are going to put these people at more risk. This is consistent with him being an idiot.

Finally, regarding your diatribe on poverty, that is a completey different topic but I will say this: despite what the Ayn Rand accolytes of the world like to claim, the simple fact is that for most of this countries history we had that utopia she wrote about. No safety nets, no regulation, etc. And, the results were not anything near what she predicts. That's because life is not a text book. From the orgins of the country up until the New Deal we've had roller coasters of economic upheavel, and loads of poverty. There was no real middle class in this country until after World War II. That is a relatively new phenomenan. When I see people try to argue things like "regulations against pollution are causing pollution", I like to point out that we have the regulations because when we didn't, we had a lot more pollution. One of my favorites is the arguments against the Federal Reserve and how we should go back to the Gold Standard. Go back and look at the history or the US economy under the Gold Standard and pre-Fed Reserve. You'll find it was not the utopia the Ron Paul's of the world claim it will be.

There are a lot of things in this country that can be improved. Our health care system sucks ass. Our welfare system and the economics around it certainly work to keep people in poverty. Note I said "keep people in poverty". It did not cause poverty the way some Libertarians try to argue. Poverty existed before we created the Welfare State. It was a well meaning, but misguided, solution to an exiting problem. But, based on several of your posts I don't think you're going to see it that way.

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29-12-2013, 11:27 AM
RE: "Obamacare"
BnW, you've brought up many good, valid points, and I like the tone of your reply. But the fact is that you keep refusing to respond to any of the questions I've asked you. The reason all my myriad threads/posts about Obamacare is so repetitive is because you guys insist that I'm wrong, or resort to name calling, or strawmen, or red herrings, or change the subject, but won't address the issue. So I keep bringing it up over and over and over again. Don't blame me for the repetitive nature. If you want to move on to more interesting, new topics, just address the issue:

I've contrasted 2 systems, where in both cases the government pays an amount, say $500/month, for health care for each poor person, but with 2 different payees:

1. The government pays an insurance company, and therefore costs are collectivized so the financial costs of some behavior (like smoking) are distributed amongst a large population and the individual making the decision sees no significant financial impact.

2. The government pays it into an individually managed HSA, which is invested and grows, and which the individual gets to keep. This way, if the individual makes good decisions—doesn't smoke, exercises, eats healthy—they will end up with millions more in their HSA and get lifted out of poverty, whereas if they make bad decisions it has a direct impact on their finances, dooming them to remain trapped in poverty, and squandering their children's inheritance, creating an inter-generational poverty trap.

In both scenarios there is an incentive to live a healthy lifestyle because of the health benefits. But we can plainly see that is not a sufficient incentive for every single person to do so. So, scenario #2 adds an extra financial incentive on top of it. You've insisted over and over that it's ludicrous to suggest this provides an incentive or that it would affect anybody's behavior. But, when I ask you point blank if the government would get any takers if they started offering people $1 million to stop smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle, which effectively IS scenario #2, you keep running from that and refuse to answer.

So come right out and say it. Answer this question:

Q: If the government were to offer people $1 million to live a healthy lifestyle, would that encourage some people to change their behavior?

Q: If you admit that the answer is 'yes', which is effectively saying scenario #2 above encourages better behavior than the insurance/free medical care of scenario #1, how can you keep denying that collectivizing the cost of medical care reduces the incentive to live a healthy lifestyle?

Just address that and we can get off this merry-go-round and on to a different topic.

Now to address a few inaccuracies in your last post:

(29-12-2013 08:44 AM)BnW Wrote:  the simple fact is that for most of this countries history we had that utopia she wrote about. No safety nets, no regulation, etc. And, the results were not anything near what she predicts.... There was no real middle class in this country until after World War II. That is a relatively new phenomenan.

Milton Friedman address this in the video below. The 'pure libertarian' system in the US was flawed in that only white men were allowed to participate, but for those who did participate, it worked incredibly well, and there actually WAS a thriving middle class and the lot of the common man improved at a rate never seen before. Millions of people responded to the call "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. If the first generation that immigrated to the US found themselves trapped in poverty and slaving for a handful of robber barons, they've have told their family back home that the promise of liberty was a sham and the immigration would have stopped. But it was the opposite. The common man found that hard work was rewarded like nowhere else on the planet and that this was the best system for the working class to enjoy a better life so that the flood of immigrants continued to swell and eventually most of Western Europe adopted the system. Besides, if you look at the history of innovation, for thousands of years there was very little progress. At the beginning of the Age Of Enlightenment when libertarianism was enacted life expectancy was 39 and life was miserable for the average working man. Innovation exploded at precisely the moment that libertarianism came on the scene, and precisely in those countries which embraced it. After thousands of years with little progress, almost overnight we had germ theory, modern medicine, evolution, modern physics, an industrial revolution where man invented machines to do the hardest, most dangerous work, so the average working man became a machine operator instead of a worthless ant forced to work until they dropped dead.

To discredit libertarianism you compare apples and oranges, comparing 21st century America with 19th century America. Well of course we're better off in the 21st century. Heck, life is better in 21st century North Korea than it was in 19th century America. Are you seriously going to say that proves North Korea has the better political system?! You have to compare apples-to-apples, compare two 19th century societies, one that practiced libertarianism, like the US and Western countries, and one that didn't, like Asia and the Eastern countries. Which did better? Or compare two 20th centuries societies, one that practiced libertarianism, like Switzerland vs. those that abandoned it. Which did better?

This is the same non-sense as saying “Go back and look at the history or the US economy under the Gold Standard”. For a thousand years countries around the world have been vacillating between representative currency (ie a Gold Standard) and a fiat currency. The fiat currency has been tried 3,000 times and it has a perfect 100% rate of failure. Can you name one time in all of human history when a fiat currency lasted more than 50 years before leading to either a total collapse, like in Germany, or a return to a Gold Standard? Look at the US gini co-efficient which measures inequality, and is a sort of barometer for how well the middle class is doing. In the 50's and 60's when the US was on a gold standard this got better and better, the middle class gained ground whether Democrats or Republicans were in charge, whether taxes went up or down. However, it reversed course precisely in 1971 when Nixon returned to a fiat currency and unleashed the Fed. Since then, the middle class has lost ground no matter who is in charge, whether the top tax rate was 70% or 28%. And the one country that kept the Gold Standard, Switzerland, is also the only country that eliminated poverty so the poorest quintile makes at least half the median, and the only country that all but eliminated inter-generational dependence on welfare.

If you compare apples-to-apples, countries do much better on the Gold Standard. Remember, too, the only reason for a gold standard is to prevent the government from paying its bills by printing money. The point of the gold standard is to force the government to pay its bills through transparent taxation, where everybody knows who is getting taxed and how much. It doesn't tie the hands of government--it just forces transparency. The only reason the government loves a fiat currency is that when they're spending money on something unpopular, like Vietnam, they can just print money to pay for it. It's STILL a transfer of wealth from the citizen to the government, it's STILL a tax. It's just invisible. People suffer ever-increasing prices, but don't realize that this is actually a tax. As the economy tanked in the 70's and the middle class lost ground, they blamed Carter, and didn't realize that this was just a tax which Nixon imposed to pay for Vietnam. And libertarians have pointed out that the inflation tax is born disproportionally by the poor and middle class. The historic gini co-efficient proves we're right on this. The fiat currency is great for politicians since they can spend all sorts of money and not have to (officially) raise taxes, but it's devastating to the common man who finds his salary and savings evaporate a little more every day.

(29-12-2013 08:44 AM)BnW Wrote:  Poverty existed before we created the Welfare State. It was a well meaning, but misguided, solution to an exiting problem. But, based on several of your posts I don't think you're going to see it that way.

You're wrong. I DO agree. What I've been saying all along is that libertarians think this stuff through a lot more because we reject the obvious solution—to use force. Everybody else sees a problem and the solution is always to just pass a law and incarcerate anybody who resists, and then they move on and don't think about the problem anymore. Because libertarians reject the use of force and insist everyone must exercise free will, we have to think it through carefully, figuring out how to align incentives so that the desired behavior is a win-win for all parties involved so people will do the right thing of their own accord without threats of force.

The scenario #1 and #2 shows this. Both sides agree we need a way to provide medical care for poor people. But non-libertarians go for the obvious solution: force everybody to pay for health insurance for the poor. They stop there and don't think it through any further. Libertarians, however, dig deeper and ask if this aligns incentives, or creates perverse incentives. Does this encourage poor people to do the right thing of their own accord? Does it encourage individual accountability? Or is there a better, more sophisticated way to accomplish the goal which people will do voluntarily because it's a win-win for everyone?

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29-12-2013, 12:47 PM
RE: "Obamacare"

P.S. Neither I, nor even Ron Paul, has advocated the government return to a gold standard. Rather, as libertarians, the ONLY thing we call for is that the government stop using violence to force us to use the US dollar against our will. Stop hauling off Americans at gunpoint who try to use alternative mediums of exchange, like Liberty Dollars. Stop arresting bankers who open multi-currency accounts. Stop invading countries and murdering innocent people every time they sell oil in other currencies.

Naturally, _IF_ the government stopped holding a gun to our heads, the US dollar would collapse. And obviously the government knows this since they wouldn't be killing people for not trading in US dollars otherwise. If people are allowed to exercise their free will and experiment with competing monetary systems (like Switzerland does where people have a choice), then the best monetary system, the one that benefits the common man the most, will rise to the top. It might be gold. It might be bitcoin. But we'll never know until the government puts the gun down.
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29-12-2013, 01:30 PM
RE: "Obamacare"
I have not read this thread thoroughly and certainly will not get into the debate which is raging above.

I will relate an interesting story about health care in the US.

My son caught the wheels of his bike in the street car tracks on Market St. in San Francisco. He spent a night in San Francisco General getting one front tooth reinstalled and under observation for a potential concussion. His health insurance was billed something like $17,000.

I, through stupidity, was uninsured when a significant blood clot in my right leg landed me in Temple hospital in New Orleans. I must say here that the rather attractive young woman who ran a lubed sensor repeatedly up and down the inside of my thigh was almost worth the cost. I had to pay something a little more than $5,000 for the experience.

I will allow that my son demanded a semi-surgical procedure which should require more cost. The discrepancy however is telling.

I was uninsured and therefore the hospital was only interested in recovering something like their real costs plus a little. My son being insured was charged much more because the hospital could get away with it.

Within the last 6 months there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that had the different costs of a hip replacement (if my memory is correct) at various hospitals in the state. The differences were staggering.

As long as health service and health insurance are for profit entities we are all screwed.
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29-12-2013, 01:36 PM
RE: "Obamacare"
(29-12-2013 08:44 AM)BnW Wrote:  As a side note, arguing free market economics while taking advantage of the socialized, tax payer funded health care systems of other countries is flat out hilarious, as well as hypocritical.

No, the hospital I cited in Belgium was private, and not funded by taxpayers. It was a pure free market system. No hypocrisy.

(29-12-2013 08:44 AM)BnW Wrote:  And, it's even funnier when you factor in its Mexico, who's economy is a total wreck and who's cost of living is peanuts by American standards largely because of the failures of their government to control anything.

Factually wrong. Over the past 20 years Mexico has made HUGE improvements in reducing poverty and corruption. From 2009 - 2012 alone their per capita income (PPP) went from $13k to $16k. And one of the major factors that has helped the middle class in Mexico is the growing international trade, automobile factories, medical tourism, etc. So, by going to Mexico for medical care, I am helping their economy, helping poor people get out of poverty and have the resources to get education and eliminate corruption. It's absurdly hypocritical, imo, that you attack me for giving my money to poor people, and insist I should instead give it to rich, American insurance companies that use it to fly their executives around on private jets. And yet you'll take the moral high ground and claim to be champions of the poor.
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29-12-2013, 08:37 PM (This post was last modified: 29-12-2013 08:53 PM by BnW.)
RE: "Obamacare"
I never claimed to be the champion of the poor. Not sure where that came from. Anyway,.....

i don't understand the point of your question on not smoking for a million dollars. I already said that I agree that people react to incentives, so of course I think that people would stop smoking if they were paid enough to do so. I don't see how that is relevant. But, I think you have a misunderstanding of my beliefs as it pertains to this so let me present them. I believe people react to incentives. I believe there is no such thing as a free lunch, as that phrase is generally used by economists. I believe that there is a concept of a moral hazard and that when you absolve people of consequences for their actions you can get some very ugly results. Finally, I have no issue with the idea that insurance can cause a moral hazard in the sense that people who are insured may take fewer precautions. I never disputed that and, to be fair, you never specificaly asked. But I see all that as completely beside the point of the specific discussion.

To me, the point is this: we have a health care system where health insurance = health care coverage. That is an undeniable, indisputable fact. That you leave the country doesn't change that fact. That is our system. If you want to make the general argument that having health care insurance at all created an inherent moral hazard, then fine, I won't argue that. I don't really believe that but I am not enough a student of the human condition to say that is absolutely untrue. It certainly seems in complete contradiction to what I have observed of human nature but, for the sake of discussion, I will accept the general concept that health insurance could possibly create a moral hazard. What I don't accept, and what I think is demonstrably false, is the idea that our system, that has historically excluded the weakest and poorest among creates a moral hazard by now offering those people to the means to get into the health care system. It does not. It blatantly, undeniably does not. There is no shortage of studies that demonstrate that people on the lower end of the economic spectrum who don't have access to health care die younger. They smoke more, they drink more, they exercise less, and they have far less peventative medicine available to them and all of this combines to a much unhealthier, and shorter, life span. The moral hazard is in sustaining a system that ignores the health care needs of these people. For a guy with a national forum and the credentials of Gupta to imply that allowing these people in to what he takes for granted is now creating some new moral hazard we must all be protect from is disgusting and irresponsible. And wrong, as the entire argument is based on a completely flawed premise.

Regarding Paul and the gold standard, I do stand corrected. I remember him commenting on it but I just did a quick google and you are correct, he did not advocate a return to that. I did not recall that correctly. My bad.

Finally, I have actually seen that Milton Friedman video before, although it's been a while. And, I agree with you that the pure libertarian society was flawed and I agree with you as to why it was flawed. But, and this is important - it was a pure libertarian society. That was the dream. No regulations, no interference. And, it was hopelessly flawed. It didn't work the way you say it will. Not everyone was equal. The market didn't sort out the problems of racism, sexism, discrimination. You can't dismiss it because it doesn't fit your ideal. Don't you see that it didn't fit your ideal is exactly the point? People were not excluded because of the government. The government had nothing to do with market discrimination. And, people continued to be excluded until the government stepped in. The major cities of this country used to have "Help Wanted" signs that had a caveat that Jews or Irish or Italians need not apply. There was no need to tell blacks not to apply, they knew better than to bother. It took laws and court decisions to change that. It took men with guns to forcibly break down the barriers of segregation.

Just to head off a few arguments I anticipate coming. First, Jim Crowe and similar laws. Yes, discrimination was codified in the south. But, society did not follow government but government followed society. The discrimination in the south was far greater than what was on the books. There were no laws that said you could not employ blacks (or other minorities). Businesses made those choices all on their own. Second, the power of the civil rights movement to effectuate change in the market place. There is no denying this happened in instances, the most famous example being the Montgomery Bus Boycott following the Rosa Parks incident. But, in all instances the market place was changed on the consumer side only. While Dr. King and others did a great job opening up the choices for blacks and other minorities as consumers, they had almost no impact on their opportunities for advancement in jobs and in universities. There was still rampant employment discrimination and universities still had quotas of how many Jews, blacks, etc. they were going to take on. That did not change until the courts and finally the US government got involved with the passing of the Civil Rights legislation in the early 1960s.

So, your argument that we can't count the Robber Barren era because it was flawed is, in and of itself, flawed. Life is not a text book. There are no absolute systems. The free market is not going to correct all of life's inequities and the invisible hand is not going to clean up racism, or corporate capitalism, or insurance short comings. It's not. Not without help from a referee in the form of a government.

Whether or not our government is a good referee is a different issue. I don't think it is and I think we are creating more problems than we are solving, but that is a different topic.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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29-12-2013, 10:35 PM
RE: "Obamacare"
I agree with everything you said on health insurance, but want to address this:

(29-12-2013 08:37 PM)BnW Wrote:  [19th century America] was a pure libertarian society... No regulations, no interference... It didn't work the way you say it will.

IMO, what you've done is watch a great skyscraper be built, and on the very last day of construction, you go and put one final brick in place and say “look at this magnificent structure I built.”

For SEVEN THOUSAND+ YEARS of human history we've practiced the system where the role of government is to initiate force to coerce individuals to comply with laws. For all these thousands of years no progress was made eliminating slavery or racism, women were always treated as property, and men were disposable worker ants who, no matter how hard they worked or how smart they were, their life consisted of misery, poverty, toiling for the ruling class, with nothing to look forward to but death by the time they turned 40. Even democracies like ancient Rome and Greece, were built with slave labor.

Then libertarian philosophers like Locke, Jefferson, Bastiat were given the opportunity to try the opposite system—where the role of government was to PREVENT the initiation of force and guarantee every man the right to exercise free will and enjoy life, liberty and happiness, with no barriers put in his way. The sky was the limit.

In only 200 years, practically the blink of an eye, those countries which practiced libertarianism changed the world. For the first time ever there was a middle class which saw hard work was rewarded with the “American dream”, a house with a picket fence. Human life was finally seen as precious and man spent their efforts building machines to do the most dangerous work. Workers unionized and were finally able to negotiate better conditions. And it worked so well for those who were allowed to participate that women and people of color demanded to be included.

And it's only BECAUSE of libertarianism that racism and slavery could finally be eliminated. Remember, before libertarianism slavery wasn't a racial thing—whites enslaved whites. When Thomas Jefferson was drafting the constitution he opposed slavery, believing all men should be equal. But the argument promoted by the slavery advocates was that a new species of high-level primate was discovered in Africa which was intelligent enough to be a very useful beast of burden, but lacked the mental capacity to be considered 'human' (not unlike women). Remember, even today with DNA testing scientists argue of what is genus vs a species vs adaptation, but back then they didn't know anything about genes or have modern science. When you read Jefferson's thoughts on the matter, he genuinely believed blacks were physically incapable of the mental aptitude necessary to participate in the system. Only after scientific knowledge advanced did we realize that blacks are genetically the same. Slaves who escaped to the North, like Frederick Douglass, the famous orator and statesman, proved blacks had equal mental capacity to whites, were key in building momentum for equality.

So, sure, in the US it was government force (the civil war) that finally ended slavery. However, in all the other libertarian countries in Europe slavery ended within a decade or two anyway, without the need to use force. Yes, government played a role, but, imo it was a very tiny role. It was placing the last brick. It never would have happened without the REAL work, building the foundation for a modern society with science, an industrial revolution, proof that all men are equal, that hopes and dreams could be achieved, and the yearning of women and minorities to participate.

Non-libertarians always bristle at the notion that all this transformation was because of libertarianism. But, consider the facts... What if Darwin, instead of living in a libertarian society where the government protected unpopular individuals like him from force, he were born a couple hundred years earlier, when the role of government was still to initiate force to coerce individuals into complying with the will of the majority? Galileo provides evidence of that. He was alive only 150 years earlier, yet the world was a completely different place. He stood up to the ruling status quo in a fairly minor and trivial way, suggesting the earth revolves around the sun, which did very little to undermine their authority. Yet he was imprisoned for this. Imagine if someone had proposed something as earth shattering as the theory of evolution which threatened the very existence of the all-powerful church+state. What about germ theory? The ruling powers convinced people that their illnesses were the result of divine punishment for disobeying church+state. Back when the government's role was to initiate force on behalf of the ruling powers, such heresy would have resulted in being burned at the stake.

If the advancement of mankind wasn't the result of libertarianism, why is it that the explosion of progress occurred precisely at the moment that libertarianism was enacted, and only in those countries which enacted it? There were more people living in Asia, India and Eastern Europe. Yet all the great breakthroughs that made modern life possible, like germ theory, evolution, physics, etc., etc., they all came from the relatively small part of the planet that practiced libertarianism.

And during the 20th century as many of these libertarian countries switched back to the old ways where the government's role was again to initiate force and coerce individuals to comply with the laws that reflected the will of the ruling powers, the progress didn't stop completely. But, IMO, you can't credit the return to the old system with the continued progress, to the contrary, I believe mankind would have progressed much further by now if we hadn't forgotten how we got here. The example I often give is public transport. In the 19th century, all transportation was private. At it's peak in the beginning of the 20th century in the US we had 250k miles of railroad track with high speed air conditioned trains running at 100mph, and every town with a population over 10k had an electric metro system, so 90% of all trips were taken this way. And, they had modern roads and bridges, heck they even had synchronized stop lights. Then the government took over and introduced regulation and force. In the century that followed we LOST 90% of the rail we had, trains were running at half the speed they were before, 90% of all metro systems were gone, roads and bridges are falling apart, and we can only dream that cities will again synchronize the stop lights. But the government didn't take over the passenger car industry. That remained private, and it continued to innovate at a breakneck pace—compare the Tesla Model S to the Ford Model T. Except, of course, in those parts of the world where the government DID take over car building—remember the Trabant, the most technologically advanced car that was the pinnacle of government-run car manufacturing. Look at the explosion in the airline industry since deregulation in the 1970's. Fares dropped 90%. Now look at the explosion in the space industry since government got out of the way just a few years ago. SpaceX has similarly reduced the cost of getting cargo into outer space by 90% in this short time, and they're already recruiting people to form the first manned colony on Mars. Ten years ago this stuff was just science fiction.

(29-12-2013 08:37 PM)BnW Wrote:  So, your argument that we can't count the Robber baron era because it was flawed...

To the contrary, I DO count it, I just feel Robber baron is an inaccurate term. This was the period when the middle class grew. And sure, some got very rich. But look at what they did with their money before the government took over! Look at the list of the world's top universities. The US dominates. Now look at the ranking of the universities in the US. Every one of the top universities was founded by the 'robber barons'. Harvard, Stanford, Brown, you name it. Now the government has taken over education and rich people are no longer paying it forward by building universities, and look at what's happened! “In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year.” link

During the robber baron era, when people were not incarcerated for violating social norms, the focus was on education and hardly any was spent on prisons. Now, with the return to the old system where the role of government is to initiate force, the lion's share of government effort goes into locking up people for doing drugs and what not, and education is on the back burner.

(29-12-2013 08:37 PM)BnW Wrote:  The free market is not going to correct all of life's inequities

Nobody said the free market is perfect. It's a question of what's better. And it's not even the free market I'm defending. It's freedom in general, liberty. And which system worked better? Was there more progress under (a) 7,000 years of government initiating force, or (b) 200 years of government protecting individuals from force?

(29-12-2013 08:37 PM)BnW Wrote:  Not without help from a referee in the form of a government.

Here, imo, libertarians imo agree with you. I AGREE government should act as an impartial referee, making sure everyone honors the voluntary contracts they've entered into, blocking everyone from initiating force against another no matter who is on which side. That's the role of a referee. A referee doesn't play the game. He doesn't pick winners and losers. He's impartial.

What I'm arguing against is putting the government in the role of an active player in the game. Since the government has the exclusive power to use force, I believe it should be used impartially, like a referee does. I object to the government using force to pick winners and losers.

In fact, my biggest frustration is that, imo, most of the middle class don't realize that when the government picks the winners and losers, it's the politically connected that are 'winners' and the middle class are the 'losers'.
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