Thursday, August 30, 2007

Excerpts 3

"SACRAMENTO - The prognosis for universal health care in California is grim this year, and experts say a failure could set back similar efforts nationwide for years to come."

"But support for his ideas has slipped as the debate has bogged down. In December, the nonpartisan Field Poll found it was favored by 52 percent of voters. By August, that had fallen to 33 percent; that is about equal to the number who said they supported a single-payer system run by the government."

A glimmer of hope for freedom-lovers on the health care front? Yes and no.
Note that the opposition, as least according to this article from the Associated Press, is focused on specific concretes of Liberal Democratic (excuse me, Republican) governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's scheme to impose socialized medicine on California. The doctors and unions say it would cost too much for the "working poor"; the Republicans say it would be too expensive; and the Democrats say it is not expensive enough.

What's missing in this debate is any mention of individual rights, the proper role of government, or any serious proposal to role back the tax and regulatory policies that are strangling our health care industry. There don't seem to be any actual opponents to the Governor's plan, just some quibbling over the sundry details, as if the debate over socialized medicine is over, and freedom has lost. But despite the seeming (again, according to the AP) lack of any coherent opposition, public support for Schwarzenegger's plan has plummeted.

And therein may lie some reason for optimism. When confronted explicitly with a chance at the ballot box to implement socialized medicine, Americans have always rejected it overwhelmingly, as in Maine and Oregon early in this decade. Hillary Clinton's attempted government takeover of medicine in 1993 not only failed, but led to the Republicans' landslide takeover of congress a year later. Only in Massachusetts did it "succeed", where another Liberal Democratic (excuse me, Republican) governor, Mitt Romney, snuck his plan through under the guise of "free market choice".

What California, and America, are ripe for (and deserve) is a principled and moral campaign against socialized medicine coupled with a comprehensive plan of action to restore a free market in health care; i.e., one in which every individual is free to make his own decisions on health care, with his own money, free from state
interference. Any politician willing to mount such a campaign will, I believe, find wide support as he will be stepping into an intellectual vacuum (in the political realm).

This may be the true lesson behind the poll results reported in this article.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Response to A.P. Article

The Associated Press reported that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority would now accept stock in lieu of cash payments due on loans made to private companies, ostensibly to set up or expand operations in the state. Archive Systems Inc. became the first company to participate in this program, with a payment of $250,000 worth of stock.

Many states and cities follow this contradictory approach. Having spent six years under Governors McGreevy and Corzine slamming business with higher taxes and increased regulations creating a hostile business environment, the state turns around and dishes out taxpayer-subsidized loans to attract the business it drove away or discouraged to begin with.

But that's not the worst of it. The loans must inevitably go primarily to the worst types of businessman; i.e., those with political connections, or those who don't qualify for private bank loans or can't attract private investors. "Rick Kushel, CEO and chairman of Archive Systems", the A.P. reports, "said the program allowed the company to gain access to money it otherwise wouldn't have had." (emphasis added) Is it any wonder that the state is having a hard time getting repaid?

So our state has managed to create a lose-lose-lose situation. We first drove away or discouraged independant, self supporting enterprises, then attracted favor-seekers who can't pay their bills, and now, in apparent desperation, we make them in effect wards of the state by accepting worthless stock in hopes they can somehow turn themselves around.

There is a danger in this. Stated Kushel, "We think it's a great opportunity to have the state as a supporter". To "have the state as a supporter" means that Archive will now be backed by the taxing (i.e., coercive) power of the state. To understand fully the nature of this danger, the principle one must grasp is that, in any society, the government is the only entity that can legally use force against that nation's citizens.

So consider what it will now mean for Archive's competitors. Rather than compete on a level playing field, the competitor will face a company whose "supporter" has the power of taxation, regulation, audits, prosecution, inspection, etc. This opens up the potential for all kinds of mischief (tax audits, "investigations", etc.) initiated by Archive's "supporter" (the state) against the competitor. In an economic downturn, the competitor may face tight credit conditions in the private market, possibly leading to a capital shortage, while Archive can enjoy a stream of liquidity courtesy of a state agency (the New Jersey Economic Development Authority) because, says EDA's Technologies Director Kathleen Coviello, "We want to make sure that the funding is there to support these entities".(emphasis added)

At this point I want to state strongly and unequivocally that my intention here is NOT to accuse anyone of any wrong-doing. I have no reason to believe that Ms. Coviello and the E.D.A., or Mr. Kushel and Archive are anything but honorable and well-intentioned. Rather, I am using the Archive-EDA stock arrangement to demonstrate what I believe to be the unfairness and potentially dangerous course the state has taken in enabling private companies to in effect tap into the taxing and regulatory powers of the state.

Government has a long history, at both the state and federal levels, of engaging in credit activities with private business, in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, subsidized loans, etc. (whether a government should engage in these activities is another issue). As a creditor, the state has no direct control over the business to whom it loans money. By accepting stock rather than cash as repaymant, the state is acquiring an ownership stake in a private company. This is an ominous turn of events.

To understand why, one must grasp the crucial distinction between government and private activity. As stated earlier, the government has a legal monopoly on the use of force. The private market is governed solely by the principle of voluntary association free from force or the threat of force. That is why it is called a free market. By taking an ownership position in a private company, the state is introducing force into the private market which, by it’s very nature,it must be free of. Since “[m]oney earned from investments…will go toward…expanding EDA programs”, there are apparently going to be more of these kinds of deals. This must necessarily lead to a crowding out of independent businesses in favor of state owned or controlled enterprises.

This smacks of “state capitalism”; i.e., fascism, or government control of the means of production. The EDA program is a direct threat to the free market and thus to individual liberty, because to be free, in essence, means to be free from force or the threat of force. In the 1930s, the FDR administration and Congress, in setting up the Social Security program, mandated that tax revenues coming into the program could only be invested in government bonds and not private company stocks or bonds, precisely because they recognized the threat that state ownership of private enterprise posed to liberty. The same logic should apply here.

The government already has too much control over the economy. The EDA program represents another step toward statism. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority should be banned from accepting anything but cash in repayment for it’s loans. Instead, New Jersey should make the state’s business climate more conducive to private investment, risk-taking, and production by lowering taxes, regulations, and other impediments.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Life and Liberty vs the FDA

Even by today's standards of bizarre judicial rulings, this recent federal appeals court ruling is truly shocking.

"In a 8-2 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled terminally ill patients do not have a constitutional right to have access to life- saving drugs that have passed only limited safety trials and have not been approved for marketing.
'We conclude there is no fundamental right deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition of access to experimental drugs for the terminally ill,' Judge Thomas Griffith wrote for the majority." ( emphasis added)

There is "no fundamental right" of a private American citizen to take whatever actions he deems necessary, short of violating the rights of others, to further his own life and well-being? What constitution is Judge Griffith and the court majority looking at? Is not the right to Life and Liberty "deeply rooted in this nations history"?. Does not the phrase "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men" in the Declaration of Independence constitute the very foundational principle upon which the American constitution in based?

The ruling overturned a previous court decision which upheld a dying patient’s “fundamental right to potentially life-saving medicine” because “[t]he decision threatened to shake the foundations of the FDA's regulatory authority, with the agency arguing such a right would create unacceptable risks for patients[?] and undermine the clinical trial system” (emphasis added). Translation: the bureaucratic power of government officials takes precedence over the rights and lives of private citizens.

What we are seeing is a concrete example of the nature of collectivism (the supremacy of the group over the individual) and it’s moral foundation, altruism (which upholds individual self-sacrifice for the sake of others as a person’s highest virtue), in action. Of what importance are the rights of a few terminally ill patients and their selfish desire to live, asks this court and the FDA, compared to the needs of “society”, as determined by federal regulators?

The government’s primary function is to protect the rights of it’s citizens, not to engage in the sacrifice of some for the benefit of others. Liberty includes the right to engage in the free and uncoerced trade of goods and services. A patient has the right to take on the risks of experimental drugs. A pharmaceutical company has the right to sell or give the medicine to the patient (as well as to deny it to the patient if, for example, doing so would jeopardize it’s clinical trials by shrinking the pool of potential volunteers) on it’s sole discretion. The government's role should only be to ensure that the medicines potential effects are not misrepresented (which is fraud), and that the patient (or his designated representative) is completely well informed.

This atrocious ruling is a violation of individual rights and of the government’s proper function and should be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

(For more on this case, see The Deadly FDA.)


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Excerpts 2

"America is right to seek a model for delivering good health care at good prices, but we should be looking not to Canada, but close to home — in the other four-fifths or so of our economy. From telecommunications to retail, deregulation and market competition have driven prices down and quality and productivity up. Health care is long overdue for the same prescription."

The July 27, 2007 Op-Ed in Investors Business Daily

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Excerpts 1

"Environmental extremists see DDT in a different light. Alexander King, co-founder of the Club of Rome, said, 'In Guyana, within almost two years, it had almost eliminated malaria, but at the same time, the birth rate had doubled. So my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it greatly added to the population problem.' Jeff Hoffman, environmental attorney, wrote on, 'Malaria was actually a natural population control, and DDT has caused a massive population explosion in some places where it has eradicated malaria. More fundamentally, why should humans get priority over other forms of life? . . . I don't see any respect for mosquitos in these posts.' Berlau's book cites many other examples of contempt for human life by environmentalists and how they've made politicians their useful idiots."

From the essay "Deadly Environmentalists" by Walter E. Williams, Economics Professor at George Mason University.

"I see the third main threat to individual freedom in environmentalism."

"Environmentalism only pretends to deal with environmental protection. Behind their people and nature friendly terminology, the adherents of environmentalism make ambitious attempts to radically reorganize and change the world, human society, our behavior, and our values."

"Their recommendations would take us back into the era of statism and restricted freedom."

From a speech
by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic.

Never confuse Environmentalism with a cleaner environment, energy efficiency, or concern for humanity. It is a "religion" that places a higher value on "untouched" nature over man's well-being. Since man can only survive by adapting nature to suit
his own needs through technology and productive work, rather than adapting to nature as all other species must, environmentalism is an attack on man's very means of survival. "[Environmentalists] would shutter," to paraphrase a passage from Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED, " if they saw a [man] plucking the feathers from the wings of [a baby bird], then pushing him out of the nest to struggle for survival..." Yet that is what they intend for man. The environmental movement is an "anti-industrial revolution" (Rand) that is as much of a long term threat to civilization as Islamic

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Comments on Wall Street Journal Editorial

The Journal is certainly correct in pointing out the runaway costs that are inevitable under any scheme that disconnects the buyer (the patient) from the seller (the health care provider).

But the real cost of socialized medicine is the loss of our freedom under what would be a veritable health care dictatorship, especially for the doctors and other health care providers who would have to work under direct state control. Since it is the payer of goods and services who ultimately sets the terms and conditions of any sale, the state, having outlawed the free market (i.e., the voluntary, uncoerced trade between free individuals), would in effect acquire dictatorial powers over the lives and careers of doctors, medical scientists, investors in new medical technologies, manufacturers of medical products, and the entire health care industry.

The individual, in turn, would be compelled to turn his money over to the state, in exchange for turning his freedom of judgement over to the state, a lose-lose proposition (despite those who seek something-for-nothing or to evade personal responsibility).

America should move in the opposite direction and end the third-party-payer system altogether. One way this could be accomplished, under our current tax regime, is to simply shift all tax benefits to the individual, who would be responsible for funding his tax-free account out of his own earnings, starting with the funds used by his employer to purchase his health insurance, which are part of his compensation. Each individual (or his employer) would be free to add additional money to his account, and to roll over from year to year any excess funds and build a nest egg for his future needs, such as retirement. A true free market in health insurance would be restored by eliminating all government coverage mandates and barriers to interstate insurance trade, with each individual tailoring his insurance policy based on his own choices, needs, and available policies as the insurance companies compete directly for his business. Of course, he would be free to pool some or all of his funds into group plans as well, if it suits his best interests.

This brief outline certainly does not address all of the relevant issues involved in restructuring our health care financing system (such as the role the government should play, the length and terms of the transition period, etc.), and I intend to write more on the subject in the future. But the principle of my proposal should be clear- that each person's right to chart his own course on health care, free from the coercive interference of others (i.e., the state), is paramount.

Government interference in the health care market has been growing for decades and has failed. A larger glass of the same poison won't do. As President Ronald Reagan once said, "Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem". It's time for government to get out of the way. It's time for individual health care freedom.

(For another perspective on this editorial, click here).

Mike Zemack