Free Markets, Free People

Nanny State

Democrats Unveil Their “Affordable” Health Care Plan

And yes, that’s right, just because Democrats put “affordable” in the title doesn’t mean it is anything close to being affordable (unless another trillion in spending is something you find affordable). In fact, you can almost count on the opposite being true.

Another vitally important point to keep in mind is that trillion we’re batting around like we’re talking about spending ten bucks, is a government estimate. Anyone remember the government estimate about the cost of Medicare and how that turned out?

The Democrats are claiming the CBO “scored” this bill and it came up under the “affordable” column.  But the RNC says the CBO didn’t actually score the language in the bill:

In the second paragraph of CBO’s letter, it says, “”It is important to note, however, that those estimates are based on specifications provided by the tri-committee group rather than an analysis of the language released today.” So they scored what Democrats asked them to score. Not the actual bill.

Yes, in this infernal rush to get a bill out, we obviously couldn’t be patient enough to have the CBO score what the bill actually said vs. what the committees declared the bill would say. And we all know how honest our Congress is about such things, don’t we? Last but not least, the politics of the thing. Here’s a graph to show you how the planned appropriation of your money will take place:

houseDemHC Note carefully when the costs will actually begin to kick in. Yes, when Obama is safely in his second term and hopefully, at least as the Democrats reason, still with a Democrat majority Congress (since both the 2010 and 2012 Congressional elections shouldn’t be effected). Note the slope of the curve after that. Philip Klein, who put the chart together, explains:

It’s important to keep in mind that the most costly aspects of the legislation involve providing subsidies to individuals to purchase health care ($773 billion) and to expand Medicaid ($438 billion), but it takes several years for those provisions to kick in. As you can see from the chart below, that means that the costs start out relatively modest but ramp up over time. In the first three years of the plan the cost of the subsidies and Medicaid expansion is just $8 billion; in the first five years, it’s $202 billion; but in the last five years, it’s $979 billion. Put another way, 17 percent of the spending comes in the first five years, while 83 percent comes in the second five years. What this means is that the American people see $1 trillion over 10 years and they think that means the bill would cost about $100 billion a year — but the reality is more than double that. In the final year of the CBO estimates, 2019, the spending hits $230 billion.

Another important note – at the end of 10 years, that line on the graph isn’t going to drop to zero. It’s going to continue to climb. That’s “affordable?” If so, Democrats have given new meaning to the word.  And all of it to be paid for by taxing the rich.

Yes, in the midst of an economic crisis, the con artists in Washington are at it again.  They’ve co-opted “affordable” to sell their snake oil, ignored the impact of such a bill in a weak economy but carefully weighed the politics of it, and have decided that funding it on the back of “the rich” won’t have any adverse consequences when it comes to the economy and its health.

You can see this train wreck coming from miles and miles away, can’t you?

~McQ

Questions and Observations #4

For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” stands for.

  • I thought one of the things the Obama administration was promising it wouldn’t do was use signing statements to ignore the law? Apparently not.
  • It would appear that a witch-hunt for “extremists” in the military is building. First we had the DHS warning claiming veterans might be recruited by right-wing extremist organizations. Then Alcee Hastings proposes law (a law already on the books, btw) to prohibit “extremists” from joining the military. Now the Southern Poverty Law Center is asking Congress to investigate the military based on a couple of postings it found on a suspect website.  The premise, of course, is because we now have a black Democratic president, there is more of a threat from such extremists who might be in the military.
  • Government’s attempt to regulate every aspect of your life takes another step in that direction, but in an unexpected area – licensing yoga teachers. Of course, government knows so much about yoga to begin with. In fact, all this will do is add cost and paperwork to something which is at the moment, self-regulated by the market.  What it will do for yoga is present an government imposed bar to entry.  And, of course, create another revenue stream where none previously existed.
  • Electric cars? The panacea? Not according to the Government Accounting Office which claims, at best, they’d reduce CO2 emissions by 4 – 5% but would see that negated by increased travel because users would drive more believing their use isn’t a threat to the environment. And then there’s the lithium problem.
  • David Brooks sat through an entire dinner with a Republican Senator’s hand on his inner thigh? Really? Why? And what does that say about David Brooks?
  • Corporations which have taken taxpayer money are on notice not to book meetings at fancy resorts. But government (which exists on nothing but taxpayer money)? No problem.
  • Mark Steyn wonders if the era of “soft despotism” has begun here? It’s a good description of what is going on I think.  For the record, Obama isn’t the initiator of it, he’s just an accelerant. The only problem with “soft despotism” is it usually turns to the garden-variety hard despotism after a while.
  • Timing is everything, isn’t it? In the midst of the recession, the federal minimum wage is scheduled to increase by 70 cents an hour to $7.25 on July 24th. That’ll certainly help the recovery and create jobs, won’t it?

I’ll add more as I find them – check back throughout the day.

~McQ

Waxman Questions GOP’s Patriotism

First Paul Krugman calls anyone who opposes climate change legislation “traitors against the planet”. We then have Al Gore claiming fighting those who oppose such legislation akin to fighting Nazis. The latest to resort to ad hominem is Henry Waxman, who claims the GOP, and by implication, anyone who is against the nonsense he just pushed through the House is an unpatriotic so-and-so:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has had an eventful couple of weeks to say the least, believes House Republican opposition to climate change legislation and the stimulus indicates they’re cheering against the good ol’ US of A.

“It appears that the Republican Party leadership in the Congress has made a decision that they want to deny President Obama success, which means, in my mind, they are rooting against the country, as well,” the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman told WAMU radio host Diane Rehm on Tuesday morning, promoting his new book, “The Waxman Report.”

Yeah, see it couldn’t at all be that they’re concerned with the crippling effect it will have on the economy or that it is based in bad science that is daily being successfully challenged.  Or that the stimulus was a bad idea that put us into much worse shape fiscally while doing very little to help the economy.

Nope, it’s all about wanting to “deny President Obama success”, and that, of course means it is OK to question their patriotism.

Because, as we’ve all learned, since the election of Obama and the rise of the Democrat left, dissent is no longer the highest form of patriotism, is it?

UPDATE: Oops – looks like Michael and I came to the same conclusion at about the same time.  Ah well, such is blogging – read ’em both.  They’re just different enough (and short enough) to warrant it.  And btw, Michael, it doesn’t surprise me that Steve Benen, hack that he is, doesn’t find the rhetoric to be “over the top” when a Democrat says it, but would be devoting a full week of outraged blogging if it had been the other way around.

~McQ

A Closer Look At European Health Care

We continue to hear how wonderful it is as compared to the horrible US system.

But is it? One of the fundamental truths of any health care system is you have infinite demand meeting finite resources (beds, doctors, availability, etc). Whatever system a country has, that truth doesn’t change.

So, regardless of system, there is going to be some sort of rationing. It is unavoidable and inevitable.

Now add a desire to control and cut costs associated with the provision of health care to the mix (the promise of every one of these government systems). On the one side, as European nations have done, access to health care is expanded to include everyone. On the other hand, these same nations attempt to control health care costs.

The result? Very mixed. France is always held up as the exception to the rule that government health care can’t be both good and inexpensive. But a closer examination seems to indicate that it isn’t an exception at all:

A World Health Organization survey in 2000 found that France had the world’s best health system. But that has come at a high price; health budgets have been in the red since 1988.

In 1996, France introduced targets for health insurance spending. But a decade later, the deficit had doubled to 49 billion euros ($69 billion).

“I would warn Americans that once the government gets its nose into health care, it’s hard to stop the dangerous effects later,” said Valentin Petkantchin, of the Institut Economique Molinari in France. He said many private providers have been pushed out, forcing a dependence on an overstretched public system.

Why have private providers been “pushed out”? Because government has provided health care “cheaper” than do private providers (and obviously at a loss given the deficit). Notice I said “cheaper”. That doesn’t necessarily mean “better”.

And the same thing is being seen in other European health care systems which are considered “models” of government run health care:

Similar scenarios have been unfolding in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where everyone must buy health insurance.

“The minute you make health insurance mandatory, people start overusing it,” said Dr. Alphonse Crespo, an orthopedic surgeon and research director at Switzerland’s Institut Constant de Rebecque. “If I have a cold, I might go see a doctor because I am already paying a health insurance premium.”

Cost-cutting has also hit Switzerland. The numbers of beds have dropped, hospitals have merged, and specialist care has become harder to find. A 2007 survey found that in some hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne, the rates of medical mistakes had jumped by up to 40 percent. Long ranked among the world’s top four health systems, Switzerland dropped to 8th place in a Europe-wide survey last year.

Dr. Crespo’s point is simply an astute observation of human nature. If something doesn’t directly cost the user, why would the user ration the use of such a benefit?

The use, however, still costs someone or something. The doctor must be paid, the institution must be paid, etc. So in the end, the only way to control costs is to cut payments. Eventually, the incentives to enter the health care field become less attractive (unless you like long hours, overrun waiting rooms, minimal time with patients, being second-guessed by a bureaucracy and making much less than a private system allows for compensation) and there are fewer that enter the field. Hospital beds then drop, hospitals merge and there are fewer specialists available to serve the population as Switzerland is discovering.

And then there’s the lack of innovation to face.

Bureaucracies are slow to adopt new medical technologies. In Britain and Germany, even after new drugs are approved, access to them is complicated because independent agencies must decide if they are worth buying.

When the breast cancer drug Herceptin was proven to be effective in 1998, it was available almost immediately in the U.S. But it took another four years for the U.K. to start buying it for British breast cancer patients.

The promise that has been made in the US is health care reform will return the decision making to the doctor. But that’s simply a false promise given the priorities of the reform we’ve been promised. It is to cut cost and make care “affordable” to all. Somewhere is a bureaucracy in waiting which will decide what “affordable” means – and it won’t include your doctor.

So you can expect innovation to begin to slow. Why invest billions when a bureaucracy will decide whether or not it’s a medicine or treatment worth the cost. The same bureaucracy will also decide what it will pay for your innovation. Of course, if the innovator can’t recover the cost of development and make a profit as incentive toward more innovation, the probability exits the developer will simply stop such research.

“Government control of health care is not a panacea,” said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think-tank. “The U.S. health system is a bit of a mess, but based on what’s happened in some countries in Europe, I’d be nervous about recommending more government involvement.”

Words of wisdom most likely to be ignored by our legislators here. And the unfortunate thing is it will not only destroy an excellent health care system here, but, given the level of government spending forecast, tank the rest of the economy as well.

~McQ

[HT: Carol D]

More Health Care Lies

I don’t use the “L” word very often but in this case it seems completely appropriate.

The question:

Would a government-run health plan upend the employer-based health insurance system used by 160 million Americans?

The Democrats claim the answer is ‘no’.

Here’s their rationalization:

Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., say their plan would preserve employer-sponsored insurance coverage and create an affordable public option for those who need it.

“The … bill virtually eliminates the dropping of currently covered employees from employer-sponsored health plans,” Kennedy and Dodd said in a letter to members of the Health Committee, one of two Senate groups working on health reform.

The bill includes a “pay or play” provision that would require employers to provide adequate coverage for their workers or subsidize a system that will.

“Pay or play” would require companies to pay the government $750 per full-time worker per year ($375 for part-timers) if they don’t offer health coverage, or if they offer “qualified” coverage but pay less than 60% of workers’ premiums. Small businesses that employ fewer than 25 workers would be exempt.

The Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed the legislation, estimated that by 2019 the same number of workers would be covered by employer-based plans as would otherwise be the case under the current system.

“It tracks what we’re seeing in Massachusetts,” a senior Democratic aide on the Senate Health Committee said on a conference call with reporters.

I’ve put the lie in bold. Why is it a lie? Anyone out there have a $750 a year health care plan? Anyone? I don’t know of a plan for an individual that costs only $750. If there is, then there’d be no reason for any of this nonsense would there?

And Kennedy and Dodd (and the Democrats), the supposed “experts” on health care know that very well. This is pure disingenuousness on their part. This is a blatant attempt to launch a lie to get them past a very important sticking point in the public perception of the bill.

But the average – average – individual health care insurance cost in the US is almost $4,000. And then there’s the cost of administering it.

Hypothetical – you employ 100 people. Let’s say your company pays full health care coverage at the national average (for simplicity sake, assume they all have individual policies). You have two people who administer the coverage at $35,000 each. Your total cost each year to cover your employees is $470,000.

If you pay the federal government $750 per employee a year, your total cost is $75,000. But you can let the two people you’ve had administering your health care program go, saving $71,500 (includes -$1,500 for 2 less employees). Total cost of “pay or play” for you? $3,500 the first year ($73,500 vs. $470,000 every year afterward). In reality, however, it is a net savings of $466,500. You don’t have to be a very good businessman to figure out that one do you?

And remember – these figures only involve “individual” coverage. Family coverage is much more costly, but I see nothing from our two Senate experts which even addresses that. So obviously, the cost of the health care of 100 employees could be vastly more than my simplified example.

No wonder we see corporations coming out now to back this sort of a program. For the vast majority of them, $750 per employee is a huge savings not to mention getting them out of the health care provision and administration business. They’ll pay it gladly. If you like your doctor or your plan, tough beans. You’re going on the government plan. And, of course, the administration will be more than happy to blame your problem on “greedy corporations.”

When they do, just consider the lie and the incentive it provides and then lay the blame precisely where it belongs. Not that it will do you any good where it concerns your present doctor and plan.

Just another step along the road to single-payer brought to you by two lying Senators and backed by the CBO.

~McQ

Health Care: “Special Interest Democracy”

It may be hard to believe [/snark], but it appears when Democrats speak of “fairness” they define it in their own special interest kind of way.

Take the talk about taxing your private health care benefits (something adamantly opposed by Obama during the campaign).

Originally it was going to be everyone. But other Democrats complained mightily to Senate Democrats who were considering such a tax to pay for the conservatively estimated 1.5 trillion necessary to pay for “health care reform” (PAYGO? HA!). So they modified it a bit – tax the “rich” – those who had the best of coverage. Always a popular populist fallback, Sen. Dems were sure that would work.

Alas it was soon discovered that a huge number of those holding “Cadillac” health care policies were unions. Yes, the special interest group in the pocket of the Dems (and vice versa) would be heavily hit by such a tax. As you might imagine, they were not happy.

Solution – drop this bad idea?

Of course not. Instead exempt the unions, you silly person:

Mr. Baucus officially floated his plans for a tax this week, only with a surprising twist: His levy will not apply to union plans, at least for the duration of existing contracts. In other words, Mr. Baucus intends to tax the health-care benefits only of those who didn’t spend a fortune electing Democrats to office. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is circulating his own health-care reform, has also included provisions that will exempt unions from certain provisions.

The union carve-out is designed to allay the fears of many Democrats who remain outright hostile to a tax on health-care benefits, whether out of principle, political fear or union solidarity.

This is not your grandfather’s America. Pay czars who arbitrarily set arbitrary pay limits based on what they “think” (according to presidential spokesperson Robert Gibbs) is “fair”, a government appointed CEO for an auto company who admits he knows nothing about cars and the government hijacking of health care.

If you’re not concerned, you’re not paying attention.

~McQ

Socialism? Why Not Call A Spade A Spade?

One of the things we talked about on the podcast this week is how, in the broadest sense, socialism is a growing phenomenon in our country. As I mentioned, while government may not actually own the means of production, if its regulations are such that they dictate how a company must operate, then government exercises de facto ownership.

What is happening in the financial sector right now serves as a perfect example.

The Obama administration plans to require banks and corporations that have received two rounds of federal bailouts to submit any major executive pay changes for approval by a new federal official who will monitor pay, according to two government officials.

[…]

Others, which are being described as broad principles, would set standards that the government would like the entire financial industry to observe as they compensate their highest-paid executives, though it is not clear how regulators will enforce them.

So regulators will have the final say on compensation. That, of course, is an ownership function. The de facto owner then is who?

Moving on:

In a sign of how eager corporations are to escape government diktats on pay, nine of the nation’s biggest banks are likely to repay bailout money as quickly as by the end of this month. The administration is expected to grant its approval this week.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and a handful of others have worked to rid themselves of their ties to government in order to shed restrictions on pay that they say put them at a competitive disadvantage.

But under the administration’s new plans, even companies that repay the taxpayer money will not escape some form of oversight on their compensation structure.

The set of broad pay principles being drafted by the Treasury Department would authorize regulators to tell a bank to alter its compensation arrangements if they are found to encourage too much risk-taking. It is not clear how the government will define too much risk.

Part two – no matter whether you pay the money back in full with whatever interest is owed, the government retains the right to dictate your compensation structure based in some arbitrary metric of “too much risk”, to be determined only by them.

They will apply to a broad swath of financial companies, even the United States operations of foreign banks, as well as private companies like hedge funds and private equity firms.

“This is the government trying to tell the TARP banks not to worry, because everyone else’s compensation will be monitored too,” said Gustavo Dolfino, president of the WhiteRock Group, a financial recruiter, of the industrywide principles. “We’re in a world of TARP and non-TARP.”

Clear enough? For those that like to quibble about the meaning of socialism and parse words, I’m eager to hear your spin on this. But, in light of the plan above you’d better be damned good at deploying the rhetorical smoke and mirrors if you plan to call this anything but a manifestation of the “s” word.

~McQ

“More Czars Than The Romanovs”

That’s what John McCain has said about the Obama tendency to appoint “czars” to oversee various issues. As McCain points out, these czars operate outside of any real oversight.

And apparently there’s going to be another new “czar” in town. A – are you ready for this? – “pay czar”.

The Obama administration plans to appoint a “Special Master for Compensation” to ensure that companies receiving federal bailout funds are abiding by executive-pay guidelines, according to people familiar with the matter.

The administration is expected to name Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to act as a pay czar for the Treasury Department, these people said.

A tendency toward fascism?

I’d have to say yes. There’s no question that this is a very deep intrusion into the management of a company which will have negative consequences on down the road (the companies still compete for talent in the same pool as companies not under these restrictions). But apparently their competitive health is less important than enforcing some arbitrary and political level of “fair” compensation.

~McQ

Socialism In America

Perhaps the time has come to be perfectly frank. We Americans live in a socialist country. In point of fact, we have for quite some time, even though private property has a long, continuing and still revered position in our society. To be sure, we aren’t an entirely socialist country, but instead a mixed one that teeters between the two extremes of collectivism and freedom (i.e. socialism and capitalism). In the past century or so, however, the scale tipped noticeably toward the socialism side, and we are now at the point where capitalism is not the dominant force. Of course, there are many who will disagree with my assessment.

Conor Clarke, for example, offers the following to dispel notions that we have become a socialist country:

Government vs. Private Ownership

Government vs. Private Ownership

Conor explains:

Have you heard that the United States is headed toward socialism? Jonah Goldberg says it is. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby says it is. Phyllis Schlafly says it is. Richard Viguerie says it is. The Republican National Committee says it is. We must be getting pretty close.

[…]

The hot-pink portion of this pie chart is the percentage of listed American business assets that have recently been nationalized by the American government (ie, General Motors). Obama’s version of socialism is so sneaky you can hardly see it!

(And there is some reason to think this actually overstates the portion of the corporate landscape that’s been nationalized, but more on that at the end of the post.*)

While the chart above would appear at first glance to be pretty dispositive of the issue (if the federal government owns so little, can we really be socialist?), it actually begs a huge question. If the segment of the economy effectively nationalized in the past several months is so vanishingly small, why is it necessary for taxpayers to fund trillions of dollars to save it? We’ll come back to that.

Next, Jon Henke observes:

NOTE: The fact is, American has always had a mixed economy, as do all modern, developed economies. The question is not one of category – capitalism or socialism? – but of degree.

[…]

Obama is not socialist. But he is more comfortable with centralizing economic power. As that centralization proceeds, the focus of public interest will shift from “how do we fix the immediate economic problems?” to “how do we fix the problems we created when we tried to fix that temporary problem?” That is when the pendulum can swing back towards decentralization and individual empowerment.

Jon takes a more organic view of the subject. That is, he posits the governing structure of the US as subject to the tolerance of the polity for centralized control of the economy. In his view, just because Obama “is more comfortable with centralizing economic power” that does not mean that we have become a socialist nation. Instead, we are merely experiencing a swing of the political pendulum towards socialism that will inevitably swing back towards the capitalism node. Left unsaid is how often that pendulum has swung away from socialism in the past 100+ years. More importantly, Jon’s assertions beg their own question — i.e. how “comfortable” must a politician and/or the populace be with centralized power before we can safely label it socialism?

In addition to the above, another line of argument is sure to be made (if it hasn’t been already) that we cannot possibly be a socialist country because private property has not been outlawed and the people as a whole do not own and control the means of production. Truly, this is the argument that Conor attempts to support with his graph (not that Conor necessarily agrees with that argument, just that he is holding up evidence that would tend to suggest socialism is not at hand). Essentially, although socialism comes in many forms, a primary ingredient is that the state (on behalf of the people) have dominance over the means of production instead of private concerns. The most extreme form, of course, is where all private property is abolished and the state decides what will be produced, by who, when and how much. Much milder versions such as social democracy exist today that, while they allow private property and much more freedom than, say, Stalinist North Korea, maintain a firm grip over the economy as a whole. Is there any doubt that Germany is a socialist country for example? The question then is, where does America fit when it this spectrum of socialist possibilities, if it fits at all?

At bottom, the problem with these sorts of arguments is almost always definitional. If I start arguing that communism never works and use the Soviet Union as an example, someone is sure to pipe up “that wasn’t real communism” followed by a neat explanation how Lenin and Stalin perverted what the true communists wanted in order to seize power for their own means. In order to avoid that annoyance, let’s at least agree on the dictionary definition of socialism:

An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are [owned and] controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists.

The definition above comes from the The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition, and I think sums up the idea nicely. The one thing missing is the word “ownership” which, I expect, someone will insist upon, so I’ve inserted the words “owned and” into the definition. As luck would have it, this is the very concept that I think is missed by almost everyone who discusses whether or not we are a socialist country.

Specifically, what is the difference between ownership and control? Looking again to the dictionary, here is a good legal definition of “ownership”:

“one’s exclusive right of possessing, enjoying, and disposing of a thing.” 72 So. 891. The term has been given a wide range of meanings, but is often said to comprehend both the concept of possession and, further, that of title and thus to be broader than either. See 139 N.W. 101. See fee simple.

The primary concept behind ownership is that of exclusivity, such that if I own real property, for example, I can by right exclude all others. Without the ability to exclude, my “ownership” is something less than complete and the use, enjoyment and alienation (a fancy word for selling, trading or giving away) of property is limited.

To illustrate the idea, consider that you own a piece of real property (Blackacre) which is rich with gold and silver mines, oil, and an abundance of flora and fauna. In short, it is a little slice of heaven and it is all yours. Or at least it would be if were not for the fact that the flora are mostly designated as protected, the fauna are all listed as endangered, and the mineral deposits are tightly regulated, all to the extent that you cannot make any real use of your land except to look at it from a neighbor’s yard in humble admiration for its splendor. Not only are you prevented from drilling or mining on your property, you cannot even build a house or structure of any kind because that might disturb the protected species. The rules and regulations governing Blackacre are so ominous, that you can’t even sell it without first offering it to the government for a price it will set in its own arbitrary discretion. Furthermore, just on the other side of Blackacre is the Pacific Ocean fronted by a lovely beach, to which the law declares access must be allowed for the public, and there is nothing you can do to prevent them from traipsing across your wonderland. In short, you may own Blackacre in title, but you have very little, if any, control.

Of course, at least here in America, the laws and regulations aren’t quite that strict. And the vast majority of people would agree to at least some controls over private property to prevent the owners from harming other property or people (e.g. pollution, building setbacks to prevent fire, etc.)[ed. – let’s ignore Coasean bargaining for now, shall we?]. At some point, however, those restrictions on the owner’s use become so burdensome as to effectively deprive the owner of any real control. The same can be said for the ownership of capital, which can be anything from money to a large factory for building tractors. When the government sets up enough rules and regulations affecting the use and enjoyment of that capital, the fact that ownership is nominally in private hands does not somehow render that government as something other than socialist.

Now, getting back to our definition of socialism, which is more important, “ownership” or “control”? To my mind, this isn’t even a close call. Without control, ownership is next to meaningless. Therefore, if the state has the ability to control the means of production (a.k.a. capital), whether directly through ownership, or indirectly through law and regulation, I contend that such state should be deemed socialist.

Think of a scale that measures the owner’s rights in her own property and how, with each new government missive, that ownership indication drops a little more. Where the state’s intervention becomes intolerable will be different for each person, but from a definitional standpoint, that intervention represents socialism. When the scale registers a significant enough intervention into the owner’s rights, socialism becomes the prevalent factor in the control of property, and private, capitalist “ownership” is either dulled or altogether neutered. Again, without the ability to control that capital, ownership is a meaningless concept that should be left out of the conversation.

Accordingly, when Conor suggests that we are not a socialist nation because the government only owns an almost immeasurable portion of the corporate assets of this country, I suggest that he use a new measurement. Specifically, one that measures the amount of control that “owners” have over their property/capital/etc. That graph would look significantly different in my estimation.

Furthermore, when Jon states that Obama is not a socialist, he’s just comfortable with centralizing economic power, I ask that he consider what ways centralizing power (i.e. control over the means of production) is not socialist, and that he provide a few examples for clarification. Also, if the pendulum is going to swing back towards more decentralization (i.e. less control over capital), how far back would it have to go before most people could be reasonably certain that we are not, in fact, a socialist nation? How far back does he think it would have to go, or is his contention that the pendulum simply hasn’t swung into socialist territory? In considering those questions, I’d ask that the concept of control, rather than titular ownership, be the dominant factor in deciding where the state stands vis-à-vis socialism.

As I see it, we’ve been living with socialism in this country for a very long time. The only difference has been one of degree and magnitude. Its pervasiveness has ebbed and flowed over the decades, but American’s tolerance for it has grown substantially, even if many of us don’t like to call the governance we desire “socialism.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it is, and it’s only going to become more prevalent and intrusive. After all, why would anyone who is comfortable with centralizing economic power stop it? They’ll just call it something else and move on with asserting they’re control until one day you’ll be gazing longingly at Blackacre from the public beach, because that’s the only place where you can legally see it.

Quote of the Day

Although Herbert Hoover is rarely cited when one thinks of “immortal words”, these few paragraphs from Hoover (from James T. Flynn’s “The Roosevelt Myth”, HT: the Heritage Foundation) should certainly give you pause:

In every single case before the rise of totalitarian governments there had been a period dominated by economic planners. Each of these nations had an era under starry-eyed men who believed that they could plan and force the economic life of the people. They believed that was the way to correct abuse or to meet emergencies in systems of free enterprise. They exalted the state as the solver of all economic problems.

These men thought they were liberals. But they also thought they could have economic dictatorship by bureaucracy and at the same time preserve free speech, orderly justice, and free government.

These men are not Communists or Fascists. But they mixed these ideas into free systems. It is true that Communists and Fascists were round about. They formed popular fronts and gave the applause. These men shifted the relation of government to free enterprise from that of umpire to controller.

Consider the “car czar”. Look at the Chrysler board. Imagine government run health care. Cap-and-trade. Etc.

After that bit of reality from today, read Hoover’s further observations:

Directly or indirectly they politically controlled credit, prices, production or industry, farmer and laborer. They devalued, pump-primed and deflated. They controlled private business by government competition, by regulation and by taxes. They met every failure with demands for more and more power and control … When it was too late they discovered that every time they stretched the arm of government into private enterprise, except to correct abuse, then somehow, somewhere, men’s minds became confused. At once men became fearful and hesitant. Initiative slackened, industry slowed down production.

Look around you and tell me what you see. The future? It’s to be found in Hoover’s words from 1940.

~McQ