Thinking in public about anything that matters.

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 2)

Cutting out the Third Party in Medical Care

‘Three years ago, Dr. Keith Smith, co-founder and managing partner of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, took an initiative that would only be considered radical in the health care industry: He posted online a list of prices for 112 common surgical procedures. The 51-year-old Smith, a self-described libertarian, and his business partner, Dr. Steve Lantier, founded the Surgery Center 15 years ago, after they became disillusioned with the way patients were treated at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, where the two men worked as anesthesiologists. In 1997, Smith and Lantier bought the shell of a former surgical center with the aim of creating a for-profit facility that could deliver first-rate care at a fraction of what traditional hospitals charge.’

And it appears that they’ve been very successful in accomplishing their purpose.



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Obamacare’s “Independent Payment Advisory Board”


I believe in government as policeman.  Its job is to be the legal power that pursues those who commit violence and fraud, who initiate physical force against others.   Its job is to punish right’s violators.  It’s job is to go after criminals and defend against foreign aggressors.  It’s job is the use of force in retaliation against those who initiate it and to stop those who threaten to initiate it.

It is *the* legal entity that has the right to use violence in pursuit of rights violators and to use violence, if necessary to stop, to imprison, or even to kill those who do not demonstrate through their actions a willingness to avoid initiating violence or using fraud against their fellowman.  That job is complex enough and requires vigilance on the part of the population to ensure that the coercive power of the state doesn’t get out of hand.

But there are many people who think that government should not be limited to the policing power.  It should provide a security net for senior citizens and for the poor, it should pay for or at least help with health care, and a whole host of other duties that are not normally coercive… except that when government gets into them, they become so.  At the very least, the taxpayer is forced to pay into funds that he or she might otherwise opt out of, on pain of some legal punishment.  But beyond that, there is the addition of layers of bureaucracy and the expense and complications that that brings.  And there is the narrowing of choice, in order to make the administration of the sphere involved simpler and less expensive for the bureaucracy to handle.  Instead of the expansion of alternatives, bureaucratic management tends toward a one size fits all model.

This is one of the reasons I don’t approve of government involvement in health care insurance.  As long as it’s guarding against fraud in the industry, it’s doing its job.  But when it interferes in the market itself, things get complicated.  And coercive.

Sometime I’d like to explore the case for alternative solutions to our health care cost/payment troubles instead of the government-controlled ones.  But the topic I want to put up for discussion  is a particular part of Obamacare: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Howard Dean,  governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002 and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has written an article for the Wall Street Journal.  Unlike me, Mr. Dean favors Obamacare overall, but like me he sees that the IPAB – Obamacare’s health-care rationing body – is a serious threat to individualized care necessary to suit the needs of actual patients.

Here is an excerpt from his article:

“One major problem is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.

“There does have to be control of costs in our health-care system. However, rate setting—the essential mechanism of the IPAB—has a 40-year track record of failure. What ends up happening in these schemes (which many states including my home state of Vermont have implemented with virtually no long-term effect on costs) is that patients and physicians get aggravated because bureaucrats in either the private or public sector are making medical decisions without knowing the patients. Most important, once again, these kinds of schemes do not control costs. The medical system simply becomes more bureaucratic.

“The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has indicated that the IPAB, in its current form, won’t save a single dime before 2021. As everyone in Washington knows, but less frequently admits, CBO projections of any kind—past five years or so—are really just speculation. I believe the IPAB will never control costs based on the long record of previous attempts in many of the states, including my own state of Vermont.”

I invite readers to join a serious discussion of a serious topic that will affect us all in the near future.  If you take part in the discussion, please do not resort to deliberate personal attacks on your opponents, no personal insults or moral accusations that can distract from dealing with the very important matters at hand.  Everyone needs to sort out the complex of issues here, to understand them and think seriously and honestly about them.   It’s our health and perhaps even our lives at stake.



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Happy Independence Day, 2013!

Learning Liberty - (c) Barbara A H Marinakis

When the American colonies finally agreed to separate from England in order to establish a country where liberty was the law of the land, it was a turning point for liberty in the world.  The American Founders declared their reasons for the separation in the Declaration of Independence.

July 4th, 1776 was the day that the Declaration was officially adopted by Congress.

From The Charters of Freedom – Declaration of Independence: A History:  “Jefferson’s account reflects three stages in the life of the Declaration: the document originally written by Jefferson; the changes to that document made by Franklin and Adams, resulting in the version that was submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress; and the version that was eventually adopted.

“On July 1, 1776, Congress reconvened. The following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Immediately afterward, the Congress began to consider the Declaration. Adams and Franklin had made only a few changes before the committee submitted the document. The discussion in Congress resulted in some alterations and deletions, but the basic document remained Jefferson’s. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late morning of July 4. Then, at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted.”

This should be a precious document to anyone who knows the crucial value of living by his or her own honest intelligence, free from those who would impose their own beliefs and will through coercion.   Liberty enables the honest and the intelligent to go their own way (as well as the dishonest and stupid to go theirs, as long as they don’t use force or fraud to gain their ends), and to thus live with self-respect and to pursue happiness  according to their own judgment and conscience.  The result is an outpouring of intellectual, scientific, and material discovery and invention, a contentious but productive marketplace of ideas and goods.

When all agree on the principles of liberty, the widest variety of views can live in physical peace with each other (although the field of argument can become verbally heated and even ugly), and live by their own judgment and conscience.  It is when someone’s conscience includes the view that he must enforce his own particular ideology or religion on his ideological opponents that the protective wall of liberty is broken and a society of free people needs to rally against that breach. Continue reading

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Student Governments Against Free Speech

I’m still reading Greg Lukianoff’s book “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” .  Truly hair-raising.  (Lukianoff isan attorney and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, aka FIRE.)

I’ve just finished the section called “Student Government Gone Wild”, about the shocking – but not surprising – tyrannical nature of many student governments at colleges across the USA.  I say that it’s not surprising because, after having read the previous 10 chapters of this book, I can’t imagine that a significant portion of the student body would not have learned how to be tyrants against non-PC points of view.

Here are a couple of excerpts from this chapter:

EXCERPT: “Something that should probably keep you up at night is the fact that student governments, which are often seen as training grounds for future politicians and lawmakers, harbor attitudes towards basic free speech and due process rights that are more akin to petty dictatorships than to the American Founding Fathers…”

EXCERPT: “At the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009, students organized to get rid of copies of a conservative newspaper that mocked student government officials.  A UMass police officer stood by as angry students tore copies of the newspaper out of the hands of another student.  Rather than distance itself from this effort at censorship, the student government later passed a resolution in support of shutting down the newspaper if it did not apologize for mocking them.  The university eventually rejected the resolution to punish the paper, but only after FIRE stepped in.”

COMMENT: Since student government and student journalism are both rehearsals for real-world government and real-world journalism, the student government should be held to the strictest standards of respect  for freedom of speech and press.

We do not and should not legally punish regular newspapers for editorials mocking government officials.  University administrations should have the sense not to allow student governments to infringe on the right of the student press to mock the student government *or* to mock the university administration, for that matter.

That it took an organization like FIRE  to get the university to do the right thing should be troubling to everyone who understands the importance of freedom of the press.  This is not an isolated incident – the book is rich with examples of tyrannical breaches of freedom of speech and failures to uphold the individual rights of students in other areas as well.   FIRE is overwhelmed with cases that need defending.

I believe that college campuses are among the most important – if not the most important – places to take a stand for individual rights.  This is where young people should be learning about the principles and procedures that keep corruption and dictatorship at bay.  That’s why I’m bugging people to read Lukianoff’s book and – if they agree that it’s an important book – to blog it and Facebook it and tell their face-to-face friends about it.

I’ve been talking to people about the topic of the book, and it looks to me that a lot of people have no idea what’s been going on at colleges in regard to this most important aspect of our liberty.




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Non-Objective Law and the Economy

Rob Tracinski comments on the Dodd-Frank finanacial reform bill.

Tracinski is not in favor of the bailouts or the “stimulus”, but points out that stimulus spending usually has a short-term success before the bubble it creates bursts – a success which isn’t happening.  This article is his take on why it isn’t happening.

I’ll tell you what, the stimulus here in Australia isn’t doing much for the shops on the main shopping strip in our suburb of Richmond.  So many shops are up for lease.   So many businesses are closing down.    I’m buying less, and yet my money is disappearing faster than ever.    Is Australia making the same kind of errors as the USA?  (Eh… I suppose some different kind of errors would suffice to screw up recovery.)

Aside from the above article by Tracinski, I’d also like to recommend a book I’ve recommended before, Thomas Sowell’s The Housing Boom and Bust.  If you get the book, be sure it’s the one in the blue cover, not the yellow one.  The blue one is the revised edition.  It contains all the same information as the original edition, plus extra information that has come to light since the first was written.

If you believe the financial crisis was caused by a too-free market, you need to read Sowell’s book.   And if you read it, you’ll see why I’m disgusted by any attempt by Barney Frank and Chris Dodd to pose as saviors of our economy, when they contributed so bloody damned much to the housing bubble that has exploded into such a friggin mess.    These two guys either know nothing about how markets work, don’t care to know, and are merely opportunistic politicians, or they’re trying to undermine the economy.   

My opinion: they pushed for the expansion of housing loans and bad policies out of political opportunism and economic ignorance, and now they’re trying to deflect attention from their own implication in the boom and bust.

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Tea Party Time

OH_NO_signedHave you happened to catch members of the media and some politicians making out that the “Tea Party” protesters are racist or are an “angry mob”?

If you’re firmly convinced that government botches up more than it heals when it steps outside its proper role as protector against fraud and against the initiation of physical force, you know very well that those Tea Parties have nothing to do with Obama being black or with any other racial concern.  You know that the principles of individual liberty and of reducing government to that specific role is what the fuss is all about.  It’s a color-blind issue.  It just so happens that the president that is in charge of creating a raging deficit, pushing for giant bail-out funds and a “stimulus” package and attempting to entrench government even deeper into our medical system happens to be black.

So what?

What I care about is the status of my freedom in relation to those in power, whatever color they may be.

I’ve been convinced of my political principles for about 50 years, more or less, and as I questioned those principles and tested them over the years against my experience and my growing body of information, I have only become more firmly convinced than when I started.

Here’s a link to Rob Tracinski’s article entitled:

It’s the Liberty, Stupid

I couldn’t have put it better, myself.

At the link for the photos of Tea Party placards, I like Rob’s sign that says “Brother, you ain’t my keeper!”

I also especially like the ones that say: “Read the bills or get off  ‘The Hill’.”

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Eat at Home

The Australian Government must be motivated to get people to eat at home and to kick a lot of restaurants off the face of the planet along with the entry-level jobs they provide.  Prodos and I will probably not be holding our two weekly meetings anyplace but our own home if this plan goes ahead.   Maybe we can get our participants to each bring a pot-luck dish…

Restaurant Awards Hike Hard to Stomach


Unions Opt for Jobs Over Pay

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Cruel Bastard!

For some reason Thomas Sowell thinks it’s wrong for taxpayers to bail out people who just wanted to have a house that they couldn’t afford.  He is mean and heartless and doesn’t care about the little guy! 

I just love him.

Go HERE to read the rest of this:

Since the average American never took out a mortgage loan as big as seven hundred grand— for the very good reason that he could not afford it— why should he be forced as a taxpayer to subsidize someone else who apparently couldn’t afford it either, but who got in over his head anyway?

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Green Blasphemy

This link – The Rise and Rise of Climate Blasphemy –  is to an article posted in July, 2008, but I only just came across it at Spiked-Online.   Another Brendan O’Neill gem.

“You don’t have to endorse Durkin’s film, or the ‘alternative’ climate-change theories that he and others have put forward (I, for one, do not), to be concerned about the censuring of anyone who challenges any part of the politics or science of climate change today. Rather, this is about upholding openness, scepticism and the right to question everything, in the world of journalism and in the world of science. “

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