Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks


Podcast for 09 Aug 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the furor over the Health Care bill.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


A Fork In the Road is Coming

As most of you know, I served on active duty as a USAF Security Policeman from 1984-1993.  Three of those years were spent in Brunssum, The Netherlands, working on the International Military Police force at Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT, now known as AFNORTH).  I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was there.  As any policeman know, sometimes, you have some unpleasant interactions with members of the community you serve.  In general, those actions end up with you forcing that person to do something the really do not want to do.

In my experience, this type of unpleasantness usually occurred when dealing with a German, or an American.  But there was something interesting about the outcome.  When you forced a German to do something, every time they saw you after that, they would approach with a smile, “Hello, my friend!  How are you?”  It was almost as if they’d discovered during the confrontation where they stood in the pecking order related to you, and henceforth treated you with respect and friendliness.

Americans, on the other hand, didn’t react that way.  Once a confrontation had gone against them, then every time they saw you after that, they’d shoot angry glares at you.  Maybe they’d remark to a friend, “See that MP over there?  He’s a dick.”  Once you’d had that confrontation with an American, you were never going to be friends.

Frankly, Americans resent authority. We accept some measure of it as a necessary evil most times, but there are limits.  We can be pushed, often quite far, but when we reach a certain tipping point, enmity quickly flares.   We can have quite heated arguments as equals, then knock off and have a drink. But once we have a heated argument, then are forced to do something we don’t want to do…well,  we don’t like it.

That piece of our national character is being tried this month.

Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen arguments about national health care erupt into incidents of local violence. Yes, we yelled at each other bit back in 2005 or so, when Social Security reform was on the table.  But now we’re seeing thugs in SEIU T-shirts showing up and throwing punches at people who are gathered to demonstrate against the current version of health care reform. We’ve seen a local Democratic Party apparatchik shove a demonstrator in the face.  Billy Beck has often said it, and now he’s saying it again: “You have always heard it here first: All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”

At this rate, I’m afraid that it’s going to become painfully obvious that a large number of people in this country are not going to politely doff their caps to the local SEIU grandees, once they’ve learned their lessons like good Germans.  Quite the reverse, in fact.

I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart.  There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists.  (Forget party labels.  The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.)  It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a  result of centralization of power in Washington.

Of course, the two philosophies have always been incompatible, but in a more federated America, the incompatibility didn’t matter as much.  People in Wisconsin could be as progressive as possible, and no one in New Mexico cared much.  And if people in Wisconsin or New Mexico didn’t like the local political climate, they could just move to somewhere whe the climate was more to their liking. But with the arrogation of so much power by Washington, that’s no longer an option.  In a federal system, nobody in Texas much cares if some yankees in a state far away set up The People’s Autonomous Oblast of Massachussets.  But if Bostonians think that some Alabama ‘seed  in Washington is gonna force them to dance while handling snakes and speaking in tongues…well, you can’t square that circle.

Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision.  And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point.  The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.

This has happened once before in American history.  Between the founding of the country and the 1850s, Slavery moved from an issue of local sovereignty to a national moral issue.  And as abolitionists gained power in both the house–and especially the Senate–it became clear to the Southern states that the abolition of slavery by Congress was inevitable.  Once that happened, given the temper of the times, secession was inevitable as well.

Whether the Civil War was inevitable is a matter of debate.  I tend to think that the peculiar character of Lincoln made it so.  Given a different president, we might have two very different nations–and probably more, in what is now the United States.

By the same token, I don’t believe we are in for a shooting war between the Red and Blue states. Quite apart from the fact that people in the red states tend to be the people with all the guns, there seems to be a declining interest in both Red and Blue states to live under the same political regime.  Blue staters are increasingly uninterested in delaying their march to Utopia by having to make concessions to Bible-thumping, gay-hating hayseeds, and Red staters are not willing to live in a Peasants’ and Workers’ Paradise run by Godless, unborn-baby-killing Commies.

We’re already struggling with the nearly impossible political task of how to reconcile two irreconcilable philosophies under a powerful central government.  Having union thugs show up and deliver beatings and intimidation is only going to raise the anger level among Americans who feel they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do, increase their resentment, and push the country closer to dissolution.

And this won’t be a case like 1860, where 70% of the country successfully forced their will on the remaining 30%.  We’ve got a nearly even 50-50 split between those two philosophies now. We’re too evenly divided to make force an easy, or even viable option.  If things keep going in this direction, then I think we’re on the way to divorce court, where we’ll be citing “irreconcilable differences”.


The Unread Health Care Bill

HR3200, the House’s version of health care reform, can be found here, at the GPO’s web site, in PDF format.  All 1017 pages of it. You’ll need some time to read it.  It’s dense.  Too dense, in fact, for Congressmen to read, apparently.

Or, you can read this PDF file instead, which is a summary of the high points provided by Liberty Counsel, a conservative, pro-life legal firm, which apparently did read it. They reference the GPO’s file directly, so you can quickly track down the references they cite.  A randon selection from the critique:

• Sec. 205, Pg. 102, Lines 12-18 – Medicaid-eligible individuals will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. No freedom to choose.

• Sec. 223, Pg. 124, Lines 24-25 – No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “administrative of judicial review” against a government monopoly.

• Sec. 225, Pg. 127, Lines 1-16 – Doctors – the government will tell YOU what you can make. “The Secretary shall provide for the annual participation of physicians under the public health insurance option, for which payment may be made for services furnished during the year.”

• Sec. 312, Pg. 145, Lines 15-17 – Employers MUST auto-enroll employees into public option plan.

• Sec. 313, Pg. 149, Lines 16-23 – ANY employer with payroll $400,000 and above who does not provide public option pays 8% tax on all payroll.

• Sec. 313, Pg. 150, Lines 9-13 – Businesses with payroll between $251,000 and $400,000 who do not provide public option pay 2-6% tax on all payroll.

• Sec. 401.59B, Pg. 167, Lines 18-23 – ANY individual who does not have acceptable care, according to government, will be taxed 2.5% of income.

• Sec. 59B, Pg. 170, Line 1 – Any NONRESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes. (Americans will pay for their health care.)

• Sec. 431, Pg. 195, Lines 1-3 – Officers and employees of HC Administration (government) will have access to ALL Americans’ financial and personal records.

• Sec. 441, Pg. 203, Lines 14-15 – “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it says that.

It’s actually quite an interesting read, even minus Liberty Counsels alarmist tone and worst-case-scenario suppositions.

The scary thing is…maybe they aren’t being alarmist.

Also, note the tax rates above very carefully for employers who don’t provide health insurance.  If you don’t think those rates are low enough to positively incentivize employers to dump private health coverage and turn it over to the government, then you just aren’t a very astute observer.  8% of payroll is nothing, compared to getting rid of the administrative headaches.

It’s not called “single-payer health care”.  But, objectively, that’s precisely what it is.  Private health insurance won’t be outlawed, of course.  It’ll still be perfectly legal to provide it, or acquire it.  It will just be starved to death under this plan, because employers will stop buying it.  It’ll be easier and cheaper just to push the employees over to the “public option”.

I wonder if our NHS ID cards will have our pictures on them.


Podcast for 26 Jul 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the controversy over the Obama presser on Monday, and the state of health care reform’s passage in the Congress.

The direct link to the podcast is unavailable this week due to technical problems, so you’ll need to listen to it at BTR.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Dems to Seniors: Drop Dead

And you can take that title literally, too.  Because that is where we are headed with the health care bill before Congress. As Erick Erickson points out:

I think, given that the member of Congress who drafted H.R. 3200 read and take seriously people like Klien, Yglesias, and Singer, we should be very troubled by Section 1233 of H.R. 3200. The section, titled “Advanced Care Planning Consultation” requires senior citizens to meet at least every 5 years with a doctor or nurse practitioner to discuss dying with dignity.

The section requires that they talk to their doctor, not a lawyer, about living wills, durable healthcare powers of attorney, hospice, etc. Given the progressive intelligentsia already being on the record in favor of euthanizing the elderly, it is no small leap to see where the Democrats are headed with this.

Legally forcing senior citizens to have “death with dignity schedules every few years is just another way to say the government wants to make sure seniors know it is time to commit suicide to save the system money.

If you can’t see this, then you’re just being intentionally obtuse.    Forget all the kind rhetoric about “dignity”.  Let’s call it what it is: Geriatric Euthanasia.  And let’s be very clear about why we want the old people to die:  We’ve sucked all the economic productivity we’re going to get out of them, and it’s more convenient to kill them than it is to assume the financial burden of their care.   You can pretty it up with all the flowery language you want, but at the end of the day, it comes down to, “You cost too much to keep alive. Just die.”

Frankly, it’d be far more honest just to have a “caretaker” just show up at the appropriate age, and double-tap the senior at the nape of the neck.  At least that would have the virtue of honesty, and would spare everyone the hypocritical stench of pretending to care about the “dignity” of the elderly when the real concern is to try to ensure they don’t become a drain on the public purse.

So forget any notion you have about producing wealth your whole life to save up for your golden years.  The new paradigm is to produce all the wealth you can, and when you’re done, you need to die so that those of us who remain can spend it instead.

And why should this come as a surprise?  This is the direction we’ve been going for a long time.  And it is, in fact, the logical end of the idea that health care is a “right”.  Because once the community as a whole has a “right” to the labor, property, or wealth of any individual member, then there are no rights at all.  There are only privileges that are extended at the wish of the community, and that can be withdrawn at will.

There is no liberty under any scheme of communal “rights”.  The highest value of community rights isn’t freedom, it’s democracy.  Whatever the “community” chooses is, by definition legitimate, as long as it’s democratically chosen.  No medical care for old people?  That’s fine, as long as the community decrees it.  The trouble is that democracy is value-neutral.  It is amoral.  if democracy is the highest expression of legitimacy, then it’s perfectly alright for black people to be slaves, as long as the majority thinks it’s OK.  Black people would vote against it, of course, but if they ended up in the minority, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  Sorry, black people.  You lose.  By the way, your name is now “Toby”.

Thanks for participating in the democratic process, Toby.  Now get to work.

We see the same thing in the Honduran situation.  Mel Zelaya was elected president.  Therefore he’s legitimate, so it’s a very, very bad thing to depose him, even if he acts unconstitutionally.  Because we’ve fetishized democracy, the Obama Administration and the OAS, assume that deposing him is a way of illegitimately thwarting the people’s will, rather than preserving a legitimate constitutional order.

That kind of thinking forgets that democracy is not a value.  It is a process that is only legitimate insofar as it is animated by constitutional order that values human liberty.  Without that, it is merely a form of tyranny, different only in process, rather than kind, as compared to the tryanny of a single individual.

For the most part, we’ve abandoned the idea of individual liberty as the primary American value among the political class.  So, we see nothing wrong with counseling senior to “die with dignity”.  It’s better for everyone, really, except, perhaps in the proximate case of the individual senior.

We’re now seeing the fruits of collectivism starting to bloom fully in this country.  The country I was born in is gone.  But I’m glad I got to see it before it died.


Podcast for 19 Jul 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, Bryan, and Dale engage in the usual libertarian carping about government, and whether or not we “owe” the GOP something.  We don’t, by the way.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Certified Honduran Referendum Results Found

Criminal investigators in Honduras have reportedly found computers containing the certified election results of the referendum which was to confirm Mel Zelaya as president for…however long he wanted to be president, I guess.  Anyway, the certified results contained voting tallies, information about the voters, and other electoral information.  An example:

One of the district attorneys that participated in the operation that took place this Friday showed reporters an official voting result from the Technical Institute Luis Bogran, of Tegucigalpa, in which the specific number of people that participated in table 345, where there were 550 ballots, 450 of which were votes in favor of Zelaya’s proposal and 30 were against, in addition to 20 blank ballots and 30 ballots, which were nullified.

That’s a very complete report of the election, and contains a wealth of details about the results that would be a credit to the authorities in charge of any election.

Of course, it would be even more impressive if the referendum had actually taken place.

There was no referendum.  It was aborted by the legal, constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya from power.

And yet, in the presidential palace’s computer, Mr. Zelaya apparently had a complete, certified result of an election that never took place.

If the Honduran authorities are to be believed, the evidence is that he had already completed a plan to steal the election, and the only remaining act to be performed was to conduct a sham referendum, whose results had already been determined.

Yet, this is the guy that the Obama Administration and the OAS thinks should be the legitimate leader of Honduras.