I’ll post the promised musings on non-monetary incentives tomorrow, but given that today may spell one of the biggest shifts away from sane financial reasoning in American history, I ought to offer at least a few thoughts on the occasion:
•If Democrats haven’t already rallied the votes they need in the House by the time this blog entry posts, I trust that they soon will. They have already amply demonstrated a willingness to do the necessary deal-making and favor-granting to sway the handful of undecided Dems. No reason to believe they’ll stop doling favors out until the job’s done.
•As an aside — since I fear all of us free-marketeers need to get back to the boring but necessary business of reminding people of the simplest economic and political basics, after a couple decades of being distracted by the Internet and the presidential oral sex and the terrorism — let me note that we have this Constitution thing that not only (as people have been saying the past few days) instructs that both Houses must vote yes on a bill before it goes to the President to sign but also was intended to avoid bills of attainder and spending that was not for the general welfare, precisely to avoid federal money being spent on things that only benefit a select region or a single congressman or a special few constituents, but I suppose that highly corrupt ship has long since sailed.
•I should count my blessings, so to speak, that among the anti-superstition “skeptics” I know are a few who work in the sciences and are adamantly opposed to socialized medicine, despite the long history of centralization being falsely touted as rationalization. Those skeptics are looking at the facts, I’d say. By contrast, many skeptics of the self-proclaimed “humanist” variety — who would rightly turn their noses up at anyone who invoked the purported word of God to trump scientific or economic research — are happy to respond to historically-rooted pessimism about government’s ability to manage anything in an economically-efficient manner by asserting, in an almost mystical way, that “healthcare is a right.” Ah, metaphysics erases all the practical real-world problems, does it? Almost like Jesus magically erasing a person’s track record of sin and antisocial behavior. If skeptics took econ as seriously as they do science, we’d be getting somewhere.
•Lazy people valorize the sloppy thinking they prefer, whether it’s poetic flights of fancy, vague bursts of “political will,” or nigh-Dadaist rejections of the “straitjacket” of logic — and then rational, empirically-minded people set about cleaning up the resulting mess. After we’re done with a treasury-busting assertion of people’s metaphysical right to healthcare, we’ll find that the black markets, pharma bankruptcies, diminished care, and various other fallout and clean-up operations in the real world will occupy more sober heads for decades to come.
Disagree about the empirical details all you like, but every time I hear someone make a political assertion as if it trumps the empirical details, I feel a bit like I’m having the following conversation:
ME: Foolishly, the government just poured a whole bunch of sulfuric acid in that mustard jar, and now if people eat it, they will die, so I suggest they not eat it.
LEFTIST: But people have a right to food, you heartless monster!
•Medicare and Medicaid have become almost synonymous with fraud and waste, and, as the left has been fond of reminding people in recent days, these popular programs are run by the government (lest confused elderly GOP voters forget where their handouts come from). Who in his right mind thinks that the government has special non-money-wasting, non-bureaucratic methods at its disposal that will now be deployed in the running of ObamaCare but haven’t been in the running of Medicare and Medicaid? This is insanity. This is failure to learn from induction. But, hey, people have a right to healthcare.
•When did healthcare costs begin skyrocketing? Almost exactly a half-century ago, immediately after the government began taking over the subsidizing of hospitals, healthcare for the poor, and healthcare for the elderly. Government is not just slightly less efficient, it has been estimated to do things at about twice the cost of the private sector on average, and once people think something is “free,” they tend to stop shopping around for the best deal. ObamaCare will not help. And if the left says Bush’s Medicare prescription drug coverage was arguably a step down this road, the best response may be to say yes and that furthermore we have been headed down this road since around 1960, haven’t been enjoying the ride at all, and apparently have decided to step on the accelerator.
•As one little, admittedly anecdotal example of government trying to pick the best economic path, let’s just end with a link to the story of Gov. Granholm handing out rewards on TV to favored businesses in cash-strapped, taxed-and-regulated Michigan — only to have cops recognize one of the honored businessmen as a repeat fraudster now wanted for parole violation. Yeah, government will make things better. We’ll be fine — and Continental.