FREEDOMSITE.US

Editorials: 

 

 Tying the Issues Together

 

If you read the lead essay, at the top of this page, then you know that I argued that all other issues that might divide us must be set aside in favor of our fight against creeping socialism. However, it must be noted that SOME issues are inextricably tied to that fight. If you read the essay here about the definition of “socialism”, then you will understand that practical socialism requires control of the populace, and that is the area wherein the issues coincide.

 

We are working on several different fronts to tie the many other issues – health care, religion, civil rights, etc. into the main topic of the fight against socialism. Some of the results of this effort are printed below, and others will be added as we complete those projects.



 

 Other Issues

by F. Eric Saunders

 

 

The main theme of this website is that creeping socialism is THE main enemy that we must fight against if our great country is to return to prosperity, and to continue to act as the best agent yet devised for worldwide humanity and advancement. That does not mean that we have to ignore other issues. Indeed, as argued in the lead article on this site, one of the most wonderful things about our country is that we are free to discuss, argue about, and eventually act upon the myriad problems of mankind. But ONLY in a country free enough to allow such debate, AND also prosperous enough to carry through with the necessary actions, can we hope to really make these advances. The problem with socialism is that it is a two pronged attack against humanity. It destroys BOTH the prosperity and the freedom necessary to achieve these goals. And so, socialism, which purports to help the poor, the underprivileged and the “working class” is exposed, if one truly understands, as the enemy of all mankind – most particularly those whom it purports to help the most.


Nevertheless, some issues present both good and necessary goals in their own right, and also are necessarily part of the struggle against socialism. Obviously, anything that attacks real and effective freedom of speech is a problem. Government is supposed to be an instrument of the people. But as socialism creeps in we will see government beginning to act even where the will of the people, as a whole, opposes such action. The only effective means to oppose this is through active, vocal, rational and directed actions by the people. The most effective movement presently working for the will of the people and against the will of big government is the “tea party” movement. That this movement is potentially an effective means in our fight against socialism is made quite clear by the efforts of the present administration to denigrate and diminish it (“teabaggers”).

 

In addition to the necessity to maintain and protect our cherished right to free speech, it is equally necessary to retain some modicum of power to the people. Any student of world history will clearly see that a populace that has no power ultimately to stand up to the government is powerless to retain its right to free speech – or any other right, for that matter. Therefore, any successful attack on the inherent right to self defense and autonomy, as codified in the second amendment, is a boon to socialism and a defeat for the people. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” And as George Mason said, “To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."


Another important area of interface between the fight against socialism and other issues occurs whenever the government attempts to get bigger, as by creating a new bureaucracy or extending its jurisdiction over a new subject matter, and particularly when it attempts to provide “entitlements” to a group or groups. Experience has shown that it takes something almost akin to a revolution to step back from “entitlements”, and so whenever the government can create new entitlements, it “locks in” the bigger government. That's why the passage of Obamacare is such a setback for us – it is not only a big increase in the size of government, but it is as near to permanent as governments get (unless we succeed in nipping it in the bud right now).


The ever increasing “bigness” of government IS creeping socialism. And it is just about impossible to combat directly. Every time government purports to “help” a group, that group will set aside its general concern about the growth of centralized power, and will concede that, perhaps, “just this one” exception is in order. That is why this author believes that there is only one way to combat government growth, which brings us to another area wherein the fight against socialism intersects with another issue. That issue is TAXES.


I have long maintained that the only way to stop big government is the same way you kill a malignant tumor -  cut off the blood supply which, in this case, is tax revenue. Of course, a simple direct approach even to that will not work. There are too many tricks already in place to ever so subtly, gradually, but inevitably increase our taxes. As I write this they are passing a tax on sodas. Whether you think that is a good idea or not, IT IS ANOTHER DAMNED TAX, and yet another morsel to feed the monster. One of the most insidious taxes is the “special purpose” tax- to improve libraries, to build a new school, to pay for universal ambulance services, or any of the many causes that people support in general. BUT THESE ARE JUST ANOTHER DAMNED TAX. If those things are so important, then they should be paid for out of the mountain of taxes we already pay – and something less important should be let go.


The reason that the government can get so bloated is that most taxes are “hidden:. PLEASE read the main article about taxes on this web site. The most hidden of all taxes are the taxes on “the other guy” - such as taxes on the “rich” and taxes on corporations. YOU will end up paying those taxes, but you gleefully support them because it seems on the surface that it is a chance to stick it to those other guys. Again PLEASE read the main article about taxes on this web site. In short, the way to get rid of taxes is to focus all our efforts toward UNHIDING taxes. I am convinced that almost everyone, if they feel the sting of the taxes as they pay them instead of just being able pretend they are not there – even assuming that it is actually the same amount to them either way – will join in our fight to reduce taxes.


So, those are some of the subjects of main concern. In order to put this in perspective, let's look at some other important issues that GENERALLY are not directly related to the fight against socialism. National defense is one such area. While we may differ greatly in how, and when, and how much we need to do in that effort, all concerned citizens are in favor of national defense. In order to make my point here, I need to point out that different people are attracted to the different political parties for a variety of reasons. If you are a staunch Republican or a staunch Democrat (I am neither), then you might buy in to the whole package of beliefs – the whole “platform”. But I, personally, differ on many issues from my fellow advocates against socialism. And, certainly, a proponent of socialism, such as President Obama, may vary from his fellow “liberals” on issues that are not pertinent to his main cause.


Bill O'Rielly, who I find to be always entertaining and thought provoking, but not always entirely accurate, argued the other day that Obama is NOT an extremist liberal – on the theory that he is not because he supports some non-liberal agendas, such as increasing our presence in Afghanistan. Of course, by our definition of extreme liberal (read “socialist”), that is not part of the definition. I'm sure that President Obama (again, whether your agree with his policies on this subject or not) wants to preserve and defend our country against foreign enemies. But, whether that is the case, or even if he just doesn't care about that (which I don't believe), this has nothing to do with his extremism in pushing his socialist agenda. A mindless Democrat sycophant will blindly follow the “party line” on all issues. But Obama is NOT mindless. He is a very intelligent socialist. I am personally convinced that the only reason he does some things, such as opening up areas for oil drilling, are strictly an attempt to counter his unpopularity. But he has that sort of currency to work with, as long as such actions are not in conflict with his one true goal.


There are many other concerns which are, at the same time “important” (at least to some of us), but also not really relevant to this, the most important of issues. I need to point out here that ANY issue can impinge upon the socialism/anti-socialism issue IF it also entails an increase in government bureaucracy, an additional tax, or the like. But, for the most part, such issues as “gay rights”, “women's rights”, racial equality, “right to die”, “right to life”, and so on, are IMPORTANT issues that REQUIRE that we keep this country both prosperous and free in order to see their rightful conclusion.


The one issue that I have saved till last is that of religion. We purposely keep religion out of most of our discussions here at freedomsite.us, because we want and welcome intelligent, responsible, and caring people of every race, color and creed to join with us in this fight that we believe is a fight to benefit EVERYONE. But a friend whose opinion I value has argued that the most important issue in this country today is a “takeover” by “the radical Christian right”. I respectfully, but strongly, disagree.


I certainly don't want the country being run according to ANY religious dogma. I am particularly glad that we don't live under sharia law. But as one who dabbled in religion in my youth (a confession hauntingly similar to an admission that one has dabbled in drugs) – I “experimented” with transcendental meditation, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, and even attended a couple of those meetings where guys set around beating drums and go into sweat lodges – I am not in a position to “throw the first stone” (no religious reference intended) toward anyone else's religious practices. (I would tell you what my religious beliefs are now, but it's none of your damned business.) But I do object when someone argues that our country's policy should be such and such “because God says so”. In a world of diversity such as ours, there is simply no need, and no place, for such dogma as law. People are, and should be, free to believe what they like, as long as they do not attempt to impose their beliefs on others. This is not to say that a belief held by a religious group cannot also be the best policy. But it is to say that the justification for such policy cannot rest on the religious belief alone.


Clearly, there ARE people who would have it otherwise. Certainly, at least some Muslims believe that God has decreed that we should all live under sharia law. And certainly some radical Christians would impose their beliefs on the rest of us. But, in this country, any such persons are a VERY small minority. No matter how vocal or obnoxious they get, there is no evidence that they are actually directing national policy. And no matter how annoying you may find them, they are not our primary enemy. Because, even if you were to imagine that they are being more successful at dictating policy on certain issues than they really are, the issues that are of main concern to such groups are those very issues that I have explained, above, are NOT those that are crucial to the survival of our county. Also, even most of our national leaders who are strongly religious agree with me – that, while they do sincerely believe in the rightness of their religious views, imposition of those views on others (on religious grounds alone) by the Government is in opposition to the intention of our founders and is outside the rightful purview of government.


And so I tell you, if you strongly oppose the views of any religious group, get out there and oppose them. Use logic and reason and, if our underlying theories are at all right, then your logic and reason should eventually prevail. But DO NOT confuse those issues with the one critical issue that looms either to destroy or to save our country – the fight for or against socialism.



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 Health Care


by F. Eric Saunders

 


As I am revising this editorial for publication, the Obamacare bill has, just last week, already passed and has been signed into law. So perhaps it is too late to argue the merits of that law and of proposed alternatives. But, without going into detail, I think that there may be other rounds yet in this debate. So, the assumption here is that a continuing discussion of the issues is not moot.


The debate prior to passage of Obamacare was channeled so as to prevent any real alternatives. We could offer amendments to the bill, or refrain from doing so. But the one real alternative – to scrap the whole thing and instead consider some of the individual fixes that had already been proposed by Republicans - was not even a possibility, given the overwhelming majority of the Democrats in Congress. (For more on how such arguments are “channeled” away from the real important issues, see articles in the “Logic” and “Tactics and Tricks” sections of this website. There are some articles there now and more to come, as this is an important subject.)


Of all the many problems with Obamacare, one of the most egregious is the abandonment of older people who have planned for their retirement counting on Medicare. The immediate cuts in services to Medicare will cost the lives of many of our senior citizens during the initial three year period, and will cause untold suffering. And, according to the Obamacare plan, they never will recover the home care benefits, assisted living benefits, or end of life care that they have under Medicare. Of course, this unconstitutional “taking” is one of the grounds for fighting Obamacare in court, but a lot of damage will be done before this can be corrected. If you followed the health care debate, you know that this is no accident – it is integral to the plan to sacrifice older people in order to insure all the young people, and proponents of Obamacare have “admitted” so (although they were bragging, not admitting when they said it).


But, anyway, back to the substance of the “health care debate” proper. If you believe, as I do, that the finances of the present health care law are are a complete fantasy – that it has no chance in hell of actually becoming a viable working health care system, then there are only two ways to go. One of those ways is to “correct” it by converting it to a “single payer” system. If you have read other articles on this page, you know that we believe that was what was intended all along – to get this bill passed and then to convert it to a single payer system later. But this, too, is irrelevant to the debate at present.


What then is wrong with a “single payer” system? Well, experience in other countries has shown that, in order for a single payer system to work, then everyone MUST not only participate, but they also MUST be limited in their choices as to what services they can get outside the system. Otherwise, doctors and hospitals will naturally divert resources to those people who can participate in the system AND pay for their additional care outside the system, and the remainder of resources left for caring for the poor will be so small that the care they are getting now, before Obamacare, will seem like pure luxury. So, you may ask again, what is wrong with that – with forcing everyone to participate and also to ONLY get health care through the system? Well, there are many potential ways to explain that – but let me just say this: I believe strongly that in a great country, such as ours, EVERYONE should have adequate food, adequate shelter, and adequate health care. But to dictate that everyone should have THE SAME health care is absolutely no different than saying that everyone should have identical houses and should eat identical meals at identical restaurants. If you still can't understand what is wrong with that, then I guess we have no common ground.


So, what CAN be done to improve our health care delivery system? The place to start is to clearly understand how health care “insurance” differs from all other kinds of insurance. That is, health “insurance” is made up of two parts: (a) insurance and (b) a prepaid services account. “Real” insurance is provided through a pool of potential payees. The object is to insure against catastrophic costs that would otherwise be unaffordable. This is only possible because only some members of the pool will ever have to collect. Put another way, if we knew that everyone was eventually going to have to be paid off, then the cost of the “insurance” would have to be exactly the cost of the payoff (minus interest on the money advanced) and such cost would be, by the definition just given above, “unaffordable”. Real insurance is possible ONLY by virtue of the fact that only some actuarially calculable portion of the potential payees will ever, in fact, be paid.


On the other hand, a substantial portion of the cost of “health care insurance” will be paid out annually and will be divided among almost all of the “insureds”. As you can see, that does not fit our working definition of “insurance” at all. It is merely a prepaid medical account whereby each person pays for his routine doctor visits, annual checkups, and such, except that instead of paying for his own (as in a Health Savings Plan) he pays for the AVERAGE cost of all persons in the plan PLUS a “handling fee” for the insurer (which will be modest if is a private insurer but very substantial if it were to be the government). But since here, by definition, we have segregated the first discussed REAL insurance factor from this portion, such “average” cost will not be very greatly different than the actual cost from person to person – with some deviation caused by different tests being required for different age groups, sexes, state of the individual's health, and the like, and also by the fact that some people will go to the doctor for “routine” visits more often than others – such final variable not necessarily being a function of the actual health of the individual at all.


Probably the main reason that these two different types of accounts are mushed together into what we call “health insurance” is because of the difficulty of seeing where one leaves off and the other begins - particularly, if an individual were to have the prepaid account aspect with one account holder (notice that I did not call it an “insurer”) and the other aspect – the “real” insurance with a real “insurer”. If that were the case, there would be constant bickering over which payer is responsible for which cost, which would be totally unproductive. There are other reasons, too lengthy to go into here, that we find ourselves in our present “health insurance” position and, to be complete, I need to acknowledge that we do also presently have available specific catastrophic care insurance, but that is a “special” insurance that kicks in ONLY after the regular “health insurance” is exhausted.


So, given the above understanding, instead of taking the socialist approach of trying to centrally manage such a complex system as health care, which approach has been proven time and time again not to work, let's just try and fix what is broken.


First, there are a few general fixes that I would recommend. They are to (a) pass a law against collective bargaining by insurance companies for health care services. (b) pass a law that health insurance be transferable across state lines. The second law is clearly within the powers of congress under the Interstate Commerce Clause, as the inability to transport insurance is a hindrance to interstate commerce in that an insured may be “stuck” in a state and unable to move to another state – even to seek work – if he will lose his insurance and is unable to obtain insurance in the new state. The “side” benefit will be that people can shop for insurance across state lines and, thus, force the cost of insurance down. (Although, admittedly, this last benefit will be only marginal, as costs are already forced down by competition even within states.)


The first law might require a bit more justification. But it would definitely put us on the right track. One problem with the present system is an unintended consequence of what seems like a good thing. That is, insurance companies bargain with health care providers to get the best prices for their insureds. But that means that the rest of us are fair game. Those who do not fall within the scope of such collective arrangements are forced to pay an exorbitant price to make up for the bargain basement prices paid by the others. The proposed law would require that providers give the same price to all as they have bargained for with the insurance companies – which would mean that they could not go as low as they would otherwise. The end result would be that insurance prices would go up somewhat, BUT the cost of taking care of the uninsured would go down by AT LEAST as much.


A few other “general” issues need to be addressed, as well. Firstly, whatever is done, there MUST be a disincentive attached to going to the doctor for frivolous reasons. The co-payment should be on a sliding scale – it must be small enough to be within the means of individuals, and yet large enough to allow the person to feel that he or she is paying at least some small but significant amount for the service they are requesting. I would not be opposed to the co-payment being waived once a year for an annual checkup.


Secondly, we must address Tort Reform. This is not as impossible as some would have us believe, nor easy as others would have us believe. We simply cannot eliminate punitive damages, as they are one of the most important protections we have in our legal system. Nor can we greatly curtail contingency fees, as doing so would simply shut many people out of our courts. We certainly cannot go to a European style “loser pays” system, as it too often results in terrible injustice. But we can put reasonable caps on punitive damages, and we can also take some measures to limit nuisance suits. The details are too lengthy for this article, but while this aspect certainly needs work, it will neither break nor save the present system or the one I am proposing here. So it can wait.


Having set the foundation with the above measures, now let's tackle some more specific problems. While you might disagree, as I see it, the two problems that should be addressed first are (a) lack of means for adequate health care for those who cannot afford to pay either for their care or for insurance – which is quite a few people today – and (b) what to do about those who cannot get insurance because of preexisting conditions.


To solve the first problem, we need an insurance “floor” - a minimum coverage that is available to everyone that needs it. That is what Medicaid was sort of supposed to be, but it was a disastrous failure because it is a terrible program. Not only do you have to be very poor to get it, but even most of the very poor are not eligible. And even those who are eligible often get very poor care, as the payout is so low that many health care providers will not accept Medicaid payments.  


The solution then, to this part of the problem, is to fix Medicaid – make it available to everyone that needs it for financial reasons, and fund it sufficiently such that it pays the same agreed upon price as the insurance companies pay for services. A side benefit of this is that it will help to curb the flight of doctors from the profession, as it will help to insure that they get a fair, but not exorbitant, price for services.  Some of my friends will disagree with this proposal.  They believe that Medicaid is "unfixable", and they have good evidence to support that - such as the 5 pizza parlors in Miami that are registered Medicaid and Medicare providers, or the dentist who averaged 983 procedures per day, or the people who cruise skid row districts in vans to pick up the unfortunate people there, perform unnecessary procedures on them, and then dump them back on the street.  But keep in mind that my purpose here is to propose a system that would achieve the Obama health care goals much more economically and with much less government intrusion.  And this proposal would do that, even WITH the fraud and waste in the present Medicaid system.  But, by all means, I am certainly open to ideas about how to get rid of that fraud and waste.  And experience has shown that privatization, to the extent possible, is generally the best way to do that.  But that should be the subject of another debate. 


It would be FAR cheaper to buy insurance (either by improving Medicaid or by some other method) for those that don't have it than to establish another government bureaucracy and suffer the mind and soul numbing experience of relying on DMV type administrators to get approval for health care services. One of the amazing things about government programs is that they cost so much, and yet get so little of that money into the hands of the people they are supposed to be serving. Just one example of this is that the Obamacare bill sets forth that 16,500 new IRS people will be hired to administer the income side of the program. While IRS enforcement of tax laws is necessary, it contributes nothing to the economy. Rather, it is total and complete drain on the income that is collected for this program. So, even before funds are channeled to the wasteful and inefficient “output side” bureaucracy all of this money comes off the top. How can anyone in their right mind contend that this program is financially sound?


Now turning to the question of how we can help people that can't get insurance because of pre-existing conditions. First let me briefly say that the Obama care solution is definitely NOT the answer. A pool for high-risk insureds will necessarily be VERY expensive, and so if it helps anyone at all it will only help those who are wealthy enough to afford it - or else the taxpayers will have to step in to pay these very high costs. And, it should go without saying that just requiring insurance companies to accept everyone, no matter what, would cause the cost of insurance for everyone to skyrocket. Requiring everyone to carry insurance on penalty of a fine – aside from being unconstitutional – will not help for the very reason that they know they can get insurance if and when they need it. I, personally, went over 8 years without seeing a doctor when I was young, and I know first hand that I would have gladly paid $300 a year for just the privilege of knowing that I could get insurance if I ever needed it, instead of paying thousands of dollars a year to carry insurance that I wasn't using. So, bottom line is – we STILL don't have a solution here even with Obamacare. Sure, it is a temporary solution for those that will now, for at least a short time, get this insurance. But it is far from a long term solution because this “solution” will eventually break the bank.


But there are some real solutions available. I will offer just one example here. First, keep in mind the distinction between the “real” insurance and the prepaid services account, discussed above. It is a simple matter to include those who can afford insurance, but can't get it through other means, to join into the same insurance plan that is offered to the poor – but for a price. This will allow for insurance for doctor visits, annual checkups, and routine problems. But, since there will be an annual ceiling, this is not a solution for the more expensive needs that people with preexisting conditions may have. We will address that separately. But here, let me point out that putting these people on “Medicaid” (or some equivalent) is not as bad as it sounds because, as discussed above, treating people with Medicaid, according to our plan, will be just as lucrative for doctors and hospitals as will be treating people with their own insurance, and thus they should get the same fine level of care.


As for the “catastrophic care” coverage needed by people with preexisting conditions – over and above the floor insurance; this is clearly the most difficult problem in this arena. It would be no more fiscally sound to decree that everyone should get the same health insurance as everyone else, even if they had already contracted a preexisting condition, than it would be to order that everyone have the same access to fire insurance even if their house is already in flames. This is not to say that measures cannot and should not be taken to help such people – far from it. But it IS to say that there HAS to be some compromise – some differentiation in either services and/or price – or the solution will simply not be economically sound. (See the Obamacare plan.) On the other hand, such differentiation cannot be so great as to make the insurance unaffordable or the service level unacceptably low.


Once we understand these things, at least one solution is almost self evident. If we only ALLOW by law that insurance companies can create different classes of insurance for different groups AS LONG AS such grouping is not based on a constitutionally forbidden classification such as race or sex, then the insurance companies WILL provide insurance to those with preexisting conditions because (a) it will be profitable for them to do so and (b) they will be able to offer it at a RELATIVELY low price, since part of the cost will be offset by the fact that such persons will have, as described above, a “floor” insurance plan to take care of their routine needs. I would not be opposed to a government subsidy here, either, for those that meet income criteria. Note that, the few government subsidies I am herein recommending are a mere pittance compared to cost of Obamacare.


The most important aspect here is that this plan leaves no incentive NOT to get insurance. With all of the several conditions above in place, a person who got insurance when he did not have a preexisting condition (either with or without government subsidies) could continue with that insurance for the rest of his or her life at a rate commensurate with any other person who bought their insurance BEFORE they developed a preexisting condition, even if no other alternatives were still available to that person.


Finally, on this point, I should note that the above solution is a “going forward” type solution. It leaves a gap wherein those persons who are ALREADY unable to get insurance because of a preexisting condition still are not being treated fairly. Under the above plan, if a person – even with all the incentives and subsidies being in favor of getting and maintaining insurance – CHOOSES not to do so, then he will be stuck in the high risk pool by virtue of his own choices (although, under our plan, that high risk pool would be expensive yet still much more affordable that the Obamacare high risk pool). But for those people in that situation NOW, before our plan is enacted, they would be stuck in the high risk pool, even though they wanted to but simply could not get insurance before. So, to be fair, we would have to grant some short-term subsidies to help those people offset the costs of the high risk pool.


There are other issues too, such as drug costs versus incentive to research, that need to be considered. But this example is already quite lengthy, so I will defer that discussion. But you get the idea. These problems CAN be solved with just a modest application of reason.


There! I solved the problems with health care in America. I did it in 4 1/2 pages, and for only a tiny fraction of the Obamacare scheme. What is more, my plan would work, while Obamacare will not. My plan would leave us a solvent and prosperous country, which would benefit all of us INCLUDING the recipients that Obamacare is SUPPOSED to be helping.


P.S.  As most of you know, there were provisions in the Obamacare bill that had nothing to do with health care.  Lacking a better place, I will mention one of them here.  This law provides for a takeover of the student loan program by the government and away from the private sector.  You probably have guessed that I do not approve of ANY enlargement of government or removal of any profit center from the private sector, no matter how small a profit margin there may have been in this case.  But the REALLY egregious thing about this is that the bill also provides that those who enter government service and those who go into low-paying fields will not have to repay their loans at all.  Not only does this put an extra burden on taxpayers, it removes the incentives for students to plan their educations such that they can go into lucrative careers.  Worse yet, it actually encourages people to go into government work (which we now know is, on average, already MORE lucrative than private sector work).  The very last thing we need is this sort of built-in incentive to grow government.  Pretty soon we will have more bureaucrats and social workers than we have engineers, Doctors and entrepreneurs.  Lord help us all!!!



If these following numbers don't give you pause you have already drunk the CoolAid. Boy, will you really be surprised when it's your health care that is in the balance.  

Obama Care is modeled on the England model with even more regulation on the private health care industry.  The big lie is that Obama Care will let you keep your private health care plan when it is designed to eliminate private sector health care plans and to force you into national health care system.     

Thousand of doctors are leaving private practice now and thousands more will leave when Obama Care is fully implemented.  When that happens the level of health care you receive will be like England's, but worse....   

 A recent "Investor's Business Daily" article provided very interesting statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization. (I could not verify this piece but if it was not done by IBD the numbers match others seen.)

Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:
U.S.              65%
England        46%
Canada        42%

Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within six months:
U.S.              93%
England        15%
Canada         43%

Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:
U.S.              90%
England        15%
Canada           43%

Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
U.S.              77%
England        40%
Canada        43%

Number of MRI scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per million people:
U.S.              71
England        14
Canada        18

Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in "excellent health":
U.S.              12%
England          2%
Canada          6%

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We have published a letter from a friend on the op-ed page so we could link to it here.  Howard, who is a health care professional,  has some interesting additional comments regarding health care:  Howard on Health Care.

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 Why We Fight

 

by F. Eric Saunders

 

A friend recently wrote to me with some of his observations about how bad things seem to be in our country, and how quickly things seem to have gone awry. He was understandably pretty depressed about the whole thing. While I understood and agreed with his observations, I did notice one, perhaps minor, point of disagreement – or at least of different focus. That is, while he observed that things seem to have taken a wrong turn in this country, I see our present problems as more a natural progression in a very long-term plan. It is the logical conclusion of the effort of the Fabian Socialists that was started in the late nineteenth century. Maybe, the decline my friend noted was inevitable. William Penn opined that any noble effort, such as the Quaker movement (and such as our own Noble Experiment) must necessarily be doomed to a finite lifespan, as hard work and good intentions would surely bring success, and success would surely bring prosperity, and prosperity would surely lead to decadence. While I appreciate that experience may make it seem so, as one need only look around to see the waste and ridiculous extravagance that our prosperity has wrought, I still will not admit to the inevitably of defeat.

 

Now that the Obamacare bill has passed, I hear some pundits opining that this is the end of the world, and others countering that this is not so bad – we will get power back and set things aright again. A pox on both their houses. It is not the end of the world, but it is very, very, very bad. If you read the lead essay at the top of this page, then you understand the tactic that was at work here. The “progressive” scheme never was to make a workable plan – but rather to create a monstrosity from which there is no backing out. It is just so very hard to take back entitlements! As planned, here we are with a disastrous, unworkable health care system, and the only way out short of taking back entitlements (which is a suicidal effort for any politician) is onward toward even more government involvement.

 

And so, as I concluded in my answer to my friend: To finally (after having laid out to him essentially the content of the opening article on this page) respond to your plea for encouragement, no, I cannot offer you empirically based hope. The evidence would seem to belie hope. But I can offer this; That absence of hope is a self fulfilling prophesy. That world history has seen crisis after crisis that would seem to be hopeless, and yet here we are. That although we must not, cannot, just assume that things will eventually work themselves out (all that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing), there MUST be hope.

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 Eric's List of Relevant Quotations

 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS!

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free...it expects what never was and never will be."
- Thomas Jefferson

"...they who do not learn from History are DOOMED to repeat it."
- George Santayana

"The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure."
- Albert Einstein

"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."
- Judge Learned Hand

 

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke (1729-1797)


"Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to

 protect the consumer from the government."

-  Milton Friedman


 

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE SCOPE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT.

"Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth."
- George Washington

"The Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms."
- Samuel Adams

"To disarm the people (is) the best and most effectual way to enslave them..."
- George Mason

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
- Thomas Jefferson

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good"
- George Washington

"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
- Mahatma Gandhi

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States."
- Noah Webster

"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms."
- Richard Henry Lee

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety...."
- Benjamin Franklin

"An armed society is a polite society."
- Robert A. Heinlein

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms."
- Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776. Papers, 1:353

"The militia is the dread of tyrants and the guard of freemen."
- Gov. R. Lucas, former Major General of the Ohio Militia, 1832

"The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise they will win and the decent people will loose."
- James Earl Jones

"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
- United States Constitution, Second Amendment, 1789

"The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age..."
- Title 10, Section 311 of the U.S. Code.

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
- George Mason

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
- Thomas Jefferson

"The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."
-Thomas Jefferson

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and duty to be at all times armed."
- Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824.

"Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed--unlike citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust people with arms."
- James Madison

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
- Alexander Hamilton

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined...The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.
- Patrick Henry

"To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them..."
- Richard Henry Lee

"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government."
- George Washington

"The simple truth -- born of experience -- is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people."
- Alex Kozinski, a federal appeals judge and an immigrant from Eastern Europe, 2003.

"Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense?"
- Patrick Henry


 

ARGUMENTS FOR RESTRICTING THE POWER OF GOVERNMENT.

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one."
- Thomas Paine

"I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive."
- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
- Thomas Jefferson

"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."
- Thomas Jefferson

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as they are injurious to others."
- Thomas Jefferson

"A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have."
- Barry Goldwater

"It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error."
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Parker, Chief Prosecutor for the United States of America at the Nurnberg Trials

"How soon we forget history..."Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
- George Washington

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."
- Dresden James

"The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
- Thomas Jefferson

"The nine most dangerous words in the English language are:  I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help."
- Ronald Reagan
 


 

ARGUMENTS FOR RESTRICTING THE POWER OF CITIZENS.

"This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!"
- Adolph Hitler (1889-1945), April 15, 1935

"The United States should get rid of its militias."
- Josef Stalin, 1933

"Our task of creating a socialist America can only succeed when those who would resist us have been totally disarmed."
- Sarah Brady to Howard Metzenbaum, 1984

"... History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjected peoples to carry arms have prepared their own fall."
- Adolf Hitler, Edict of 18 March 1939

When we got organized as a country and we wrote a fairly radical Constitution with a radical Bill of Rights, giving a radical amount of individual freedom to Americans .... That is, when we set up this country, abuse of people by government was a big problem. So if you read the Constitution, it's rooted in the desire to limit the ability of government's ability to mess with you, because that was a huge problem .... What's happened in America today is, too many people live in areas where there's no family structure, no community structure, and no work structure. And so there's a lot of irresponsibility. And so a lot of people say there's too much personal freedom. When personal freedom's being abused, you have to move to limit it. That's what we did in the announcement I made last weekend on the public housing projects, about how we're going to have weapon sweeps and more things like that to try to make people safer in their communities. So that's my answer to you.
- Bill Clinton, President of the United States, on MTV's "Enough Is Enough."


 

TAXES! NEED I SAY MORE?

"To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
- Thomas Jefferson

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."
- Thomas Jefferson

"Someday people will ask in shock - the same way we do about the old medical practice when we say, "You mean they used to bleed people to try to make them well?" - "Do you mean that they really used to tax INCOME?"
- (source unknown)

"You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money."
- P.J. O'Rourke
 

“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”
- Thomas Jefferson

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
- Alexis de Tocqueville

"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [another ]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression."

- Thomas Jefferson



 

STATEMENTS OF POSITION

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
- Samuel Adams

"It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."
- Declaration of Arbroath, April 6, 1320 (Scottish 'Declaration of Independence')

"I swear upon the altar of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
- Thomas Jefferson

"When you read in the newspaper that the government has taken Walter Williams' guns, then you will know that Walter Williams is dead."
-Dr. Walter Williams , George Mason University Economics Dept.

"Ditto"
- F. Eric Saunders

 

“Anyone in his twenties who isn't a liberal has no heart. Anyone in his forties who isn't a conservative has no brain.”
- Winston Churchill

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And…moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!
- Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)


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  CAUSE AND EFFECT

by F Eric Saunders

Among the fallacies which only experience can detect, there are some, of which scarcely experience itself can destroy the influence; some which, by a captivating show of indubitable certainty, are perpetually gaining upon the human mind; and which, though every trial ends in disappointment, obtain new credit as the sense of miscarriage wears gradually away, persuade us to try again what we have tried already, and expose us by the same failure to double vexation…  Of a great and complicated design, some will never be brought to discern the end; and of the several means by which it may be accomplished, the choice will be a perpetual subject of debate, as every man is swayed in his determination by his own knowledge or convenience. In a long series of action some will languish with fatigue, and some be drawn off by present gratifications; some will loiter because others labour, and some will cease to labour because others loiter: and if once they come within prospect of success and profit, some will be greedy and others envious; some will undertake more than they can perform, to enlarge their claims of advantage; some will perform less than they undertake, lest their labours should chiefly turn to the benefit of others.  Dr. Samuel Johnson

“Causality” is a subject wherein logic is intimately entwined with other disciplines.  It is also the least understood and least intuitive piece of the logical puzzle that is essential to sensible decision making. It is the weak point, the “Achille’s heel” of PRACTICAL logical thinking.  And so, if we are to think logically, we need to armor this vulnerability.  Here we go!

This is a very complicated topic.  We have struggled with it since the time of Aristotle.  Schools of thought such as determinism, existentialism, and others, each have their own ideas about it.  Recent scientific advances have even informed us that causality on the micro level does not necessarily adhere to the same rules as does macro causality.  But I am not asking you to become a causality maven.  In order to understand logical decision making, only a few simple concepts need be grasped.

So, this is a quick, two paragraph primer on the subject of logical causality.  If you understand this, then you will be ready to proceed to the next step – beginning to reason through political questions logically:  The first thing one should learn about logical causality is the relationship of necessary and/or sufficient conditions.  If an action is required to achieve a result – meaning that the result cannot occur without the action – then it is necessary.  But note that the performance of a necessary action does not mean that the result will occur.  If an action will inevitably produce a result – meaning that if the action occurs then the result will certainly occur – then the action is sufficient to the result.  But note that the result can occur even without performance of that particular action.  Only if an action is both necessary AND sufficient, will the result occur IF AND ONLY IF that action has preceded it.   Or, if you think in terms of set theory, if effect is a subset of action, then action is necessary to effect.  If action is a subset of effect, then action is sufficient to effect.  Only if an action is both necessary and sufficient to the effect will the domains of action and effect be identical.  

I went through the above to give you some background – and to get you started along this line of logical reasoning.  But “necessary” and “sufficient” are, at least alone, suitable analytical tools only for very simple systems.  And we know full well that economic systems are anything but simple.  So we have to introduce a third relationship.  That is “contributory cause”.  A cause may be classified as a "contributory cause," if the presumed cause precedes the effect AND if altering the cause alters the effect. It does not require that all those subjects that possess the contributory cause experience the effect. It does not require that all those subjects that are free of the contributory cause be free of the effect. In other words, a contributory cause may be neither necessary nor sufficient but it must contribute.  Almost all effects that we observe in our economy are the result of the confluence of a number of contributory causes.

So, that is your lesson in the terms of logical causality.  Now I need to introduce another factor, one that is not relevant to the logic of the question, but is to the perception of it.  That is: time.  Whether a contributory cause coincides in time with its related effect is not part of the logical equation (as long as the cause precedes, or at least is coincident with, the effect).  But time is an important factor in the way we perceive cause and effect.  To be as succinct as possible, the longer the time between cause and effect, the less likely we are to perceive the relationship – although, in a complex economic system, contributory causes are likely to precede their effects by years, decades, or even centuries.  

Finally, we need to discuss one other factor that tends to hinder us in our pursuit of the understanding of cause and effect relationships in economics (or in any such complex system).  According to a phenomenon known as Bonini’s Paradox, the simpler a model of a complex system is, the less accurate it is as a predictor for that complex system.  Alternatively, as a model grows more realistic, it also becomes more difficult to understand. Indeed, if the model were a perfectly accurate representation of a system, it would be just as difficult to understand as the real-world processes it represents.  Put another way, everything simple is inaccurate, but everything which is complex enough to be accurate is unusable.  This all means that we cannot know, with certainty, exactly what the causal relationships are in an economic system.  That is, we can neither build nor conceptualize a perfect model of an economic system.  But we can learn enough to recognize some faulty analysis. We also can become aware of our own limitations, and not ourselves fall into either the trap of oversimplification or into the error of unwarranted certainty.

The above concepts are our tools.  So, let’s do some analysis.  Assume that we are in a time of prosperity.  How much of the credit do we assign to the President? Indeed, what CAN the President do to affect the economy, one way or the other?  Well, the Federal Government does pass laws that affect businesses, collect taxes, and redistribute some of the tax money so collected.  All of these things can have some effect on the economy.  But the Congress must write and pass these laws, and it does so sometimes at the urging of the President, and sometimes in opposition to what the President would really want.  So, whatever power the Government has over the economy, we know that the President does not wield even the greater part of that force.

And yet people tend to blame or credit the president for whatever effect the government has.  Being careful to note that this is just one example – I will use the fact that, just now, we are hearing talk about our present bad economy being caused by “the disastrous policies of the Bush administration”.  But the facts are:  During the 6 years that Bush had a Republican Congress (a) consumer confidence stood at an all time high, regular gasoline sold for around $2.00, the unemployment rate was never higher than 4.5%, The Dow Jones hit a record high 14,000, Americans were buying new cars, taking cruises and vacations overseas, and we were prospering.  But in 2006 we wanted “change”, so we voted in a Democrat Congress and we GOT the change.  Consumer confidence plummeted, gasoline went to over $4.00 per gallon, unemployment went up to 6.1%, Americans saw their home equity drop by 12 trillion dollars, and the Dow plummeted.  Now, as I argue throughout here, it is illogical, without more facts, to either Credit Bush and the Republican Congress for the prior prosperity, or to blame Bush and the Democrat Congress for the collapse although, of course, each of these did have at least some influence.  But many of the contributory causes are of a much longer-term nature than this simple conclusion would admit.  The point here is that there is NOTHING on that record to educate an open mind toward a conclusion that Bush is responsible for our financial woes.  Then why do some of us think that it is so clear that he is?  There are two main reasons why we tend to do this.  The first is simply that politicians try to blame the key figures in the other party.  And so, knowing that most people will not give it a lot of thought, they make the appropriate accusations, and their loyal constituents soak it up.  The second important reason involves the pathological need of some people to have SOMEONE to blame.  I know you have caught yourself “blaming” someone, out of anger or other emotion, only later to realize that such person was not really the cause of your problem.  But I also know that you, because you are reading this, are self-reflective enough to try to avoid that mistake, whenever possible.  On the other hand, a lot of people go through life with that attitude, and see nothing wrong with it.  Blaming “Congress” is not sufficient outlet for such people – it’s not very satisfying to blame a faceless organization.  But being able to point to one man and say that he is the villain, now that feels good!  Here is a great short article that discusses this whole phenomenon, and succinctly points to how it interferes with our sound decision making:  Scapegoating.

But even more crucial to our analysis than the fact that the President does not control the power of Government, is the fact that Government, itself, does not have much immediate effect on the economy.  Can you imagine, in a robust, thriving economy, that Congress could pass a law or impose a tax so onerous that the economy would immediately collapse?  Maybe in some extreme hypothetical example it could. But, in the real world, I don’t think that could happen.  And it is just as ridiculous to think that, in a weak and floundering economy, that there is ANYTHING that the Government could do to turn it around immediately.  That is one of the reasons why it is wrong to blame the economic POLICIES of the present President for the failure of our economy to improve over the past two years.   And going back just a few years further does not make such accusations any less preposterous.

By far, the biggest effect a President has on the economy is on the morale and expectations of business people and/or of consumers.  That, of course, explains the timing of the nose dive taken by the economy in 2008.  Although the economy was already teetering on the brink of calamity, due to the ridiculously unsound mortgages being forced on us by Congress through Fannie and Freddie, and also do to several other factors, the TIMING of the collapse was triggered by the fact that it became clear that the next President was going to be one that was promising to push a severe anti-business agenda.  Put another way, the policies and conditions that brought about the collapse can, in no way, be blamed on Obama, and we argue that neither can they be blamed on Bush.  But it would not be unfair to say that Obama’s promises and proposals, and subsequent actions, have not exactly encouraged businesses to invest and take risks – at least in the short term.  And present policies, although they may not have great short term effect one way or the other, can (and will) certainly have adverse long term effects.  But, more germane to our point here, such long-term policies can, and do, have short term demoralizing effects.  For more on this subject, please read our article entitled Net Loss or Net Gain, wherein we discuss the issue of tax policies in more detail – concluding that the real focus of such policies should, indeed must, be long term effects.

I hope that, by now, it is clear to my readers that there are a number of factors that dictate the economic climate, and that these factors have come into play over an extended period of time.  So let’s look at some of them.  I do not pretend that the following is a scientifically determined list.  But, hopefully, it will at least be understandable and, therefore, usable as a learning tool, if not as a real world predictor.  So, with that proviso, some of the factors that contribute toward a prosperous economy are:

(1)  Our Constitution.  Actually that is several factors, as the guarantees of private property, specifically the provisions for patents and copyrights, the provision of a sound dispute settling legal system, and on and on, have all contributed to the greatness and prosperity of the country.  MOST importantly, the freedom entrepreneurs have traditionally had to act quickly, without burdensome government restrictions, has provided both the incentive and the opportunity for economic success.  And, of course, lack of a back-breaking tax burden is not just contributory, it is a NECESSARY condition for long term prosperity.

(2)  An abundance of natural resources.  We have been blessed.  Although some countries continue to remain poor despite such abundance, and some countries have prospered without it, most economists agree that this is an important contributing factor. 

(3)  The so-called “protestant work ethic” – beginning with changes in views on salvation such that religious beliefs tended to dictate industry and hard work. No offense intended here to our Catholic, Jewish and other fellow citizens.  That is just a name.  And there is some disagreement about how important it is.  But I do think, and would defend the position that, we have been a nation of industrious and proud people, and that has certainly helped us.  Whether or not a “Protestant” movement might have started this ball rolling, certainly Americans of all faiths jumped on the bandwagon.  (Please forgive the libertine usage of my metaphorical allotment in the preceding sentence.) This goes back to the idea that attitude is an important factor in success, whether it be that of an individual or that of a country.

(4) Innovation.  We have benefitted by the frequent injection of energy into our economy by new and exciting technologies – from the steam engine to the latest high tech excogitation.  Witness the dot-com tech bubble that Clinton rode through his administration.

(5) Education.  The fact that we have traditionally been one of the best educated nations has, undoubtedly, contributed to our past success.

Now, let’s look at some of the things that can CONTRIBUTE to damaging the economy:

(1) Incursions into the protections offered by the Constitution.  There is a direct tradeoff between prosperity and Government intrusion into the economy.  Given the efficiency of the free market system, it is almost axiom that the more interference there is with business, the more burdens and restrictions that are forced upon it, the less efficient it will be.  Now, this is not to say that “interference” with business is never justified for extrinsic reasons.  Certainly, it is.  But that fact does not detract from the inherent truth of this assertion.

(2)  Taxes.  No need for further explanation.

(3)  Natural cyclic variations.  I am using this as a sort of catch-all here.  This recognizes the fact that the “technology bubbles” that are part of innovation must mean that there are non-bubble periods.  But, more than that, it acknowledges that, just as we trust that systems will regress toward a mean, we must acknowledge that those same rules of nature dictate that there will be variations from the mean.

(4)  Malaise.  Just as the importance of a good attitude bolsters a good outcome – as discussed above under “Protestant work ethic”, so are fear and uncertainty self fulfilling.  It is paradoxical that a President must acknowledge this as abstract fact without allowing that it is real and present.  You will recall President Carter’s famous “malaise” speech that, while probably quite accurate, was also at least somewhat counterproductive.  This does, however, illustrate the one area wherein the President does have great power.  He is, in a manner of speaking, almost the “spiritual” leader of the economy.  What he says, at least if it is not untruthful on its face, can have significant impact, though he might be relatively impotent in other ways.

(5) Exigent circumstances, such as attacks on our country, increasing competition from abroad, and the like.

(6) Anything that tends to undermine the power of the free market – such as being forced to buy, forced to sell, or forced to lend at a certain rate or to certain entities.

You may notice that many of the items on this second list are inverses of those on the first.  Indeed, a thoroughly complete and accurate accounting would probably comprise a list of matched pairs with each entry in one list denoting an opposing condition in the other.  But, as excused above, these are not intended to be exhaustive lists.  But they are, I hope, at least lists that we can agree upon – if not in every detail then at least in their generalities.  These ARE some of the causal factors that contribute to the condition, for better or ill, of our economy.  The purpose here is only to learn what can be derived from an examination of the characteristics of such factors.

There are some valuable lessons that can be gained here by just perusing these samples, without the rigor of exhaustive investigation.  For instance, it is clear that some of these factors have changed little in centuries, while others are of far more recent vintage.  It is clear that some are changeable very quickly, as an attitude of optimism, or the opposite, is fickle - while others take time to produce an effect, even if implemented immediately – some a very, very  long time.

But, without arguing that these are the exact lists with which we should be concerned, I do assert that these proposed causes are the TYPE of thing we need to be concerned with when looking for the roots of problems and solutions.  This is so when looking back in an effort to place blame, but it is even truer, and infinitely more important, when looking forward for solutions.

As complicated as this subject is, the one lesson that you should take away from it is very simple.  While it is true that we cannot, with great certainty, establish a causal link between any action or set of actions and their myriad diverse results, this does not mean that we have to abandon logical reasoning altogether.  At the VERY least, we can tell when someone else’s accusation of causality is complete nonsense.  And, by far the most obvious example of this is when someone blames (or credits) a person, or a body (such as congress) for a result.  There simply is no logical chain there.  True, if a causal action is so simple, and so directly tied to its result that the action and the causal link can be implied, or if they understood by the listener, then there is an exception to this rule.  For example, it is, clearly, Mark David Chapman’s fault that John Lennon died when he did.  But in complex matters like the economy it is ridiculous to state simply, “Bill Clinton is the cause of the relatively good economy enjoyed during his administration.”  That a ridiculous statement, not because it is or is not true, but because there is no causal relationship stated, nor is one obvious, nor can one be implied from the context.  And, if you care at all about truth and logic, you should think far less of anyone who would make such a preposterous illogical statement, just by virtue of their having insulted your intelligence thusly. 

If you have read this far, you know that the prosperity enjoyed during the Clinton administration COULD have been (at least in part) the result of his good policies, or even of his ability to foster confidence in the populace.  Or, it COULD have occurred (at least in part) despite his having done just about everything wrong regarding the economy.  If you have read my other editorials, then you will know that I believe that he did about everything wrong, and that the economy flourished because he walked into a situation where it could hardly have done anything else - ust as I believe that George Bush came into a situation where the economy was doomed to failure, given the exigencies and expenses of war (whether you believe our going into Afghanistan and Iraq were necessary or not, just the homeland expenses of the “war on terror” have been significant), the crisis of our older industries reaching their failing point under impossibly burdensome union contracts and aging technologies, the preposterously overpriced housing bubble (almost completely a result of Democratic congress pressure on Fannie and Freddie) and, of course, the final straw that broke the camel’s back – the impending election of a stridently anti-business president. 

Saying that any four year period of government intervention is the overriding cause of any economic outcome is ridiculous on two levels.  First, it ignores causes that lie outside that four year period.  And, if you have been following along, you now know that those extra-temporal causes may be, and probably are, the most important contributing causes.  Secondly, and this is the one that I really want to impress on you, it is logical error, given the complexity of the question, to name a person or group as a cause.  It behooves the speaker, instead, to name the action to which he is referring.  Did “the past 8 years drive the economy into a ditch” as we have been hearing over, and over, and over, and over, and over?  Obviously, no.  Did something that either the past President or the past Congress did during the past 8 years contribute to our problems?  Whether or not that is true is certainly not revealed in the ad hominem accusation.  To avoid letting my bias color this treatise, I will admit that I think that Bush did pretty well, but not great, on his economic policies UP UNTIL the bail-out bill – which was a critical mistake.  His record on the economy wasn’t perfect but, in general, his policies were about in line with what I consider to be sound economics.  But which of his policies do his present accusers say were to blame?  You don’t know, do you?  I have heard some reference to the fact that he was a “big spending” president.  But that was mostly either because of the expense of the war or because he was unable to curb the Democrat congress.   (And, in any event, that would be no excuse for continuing the same mistakes now, nor of multiplying them many fold.)  I have not heard any reference to his having caused the housing crisis – because broaching that subject might lead to scrutinisation of the real culprits:  Barney Frank, Sheila Jackson Lee, et al.  Nor have I heard any reference to his having forced the Auto companies to provide ridiculously extravagant retirement and medical benefits to their workers.  That was more of a Democrat trick and, besides, it happened WAY outside the 8 year time frame.  Finally, while we have heard a lot about the “Bush tax cuts for the rich” (which were, of course, really the product of Congress during the Bush administration), that was sound, long term, economic policy.  And, now that they are pushed to decide on it themselves, even most Democrats are siding against Obama to stress the importance of continuing that sound policy. So surely that can't be the cause of which they are still complaining!

By now you should be able to see past any accusation thany one individual is responsible for the state of our economy, either good or bad, and you should start to concentrate on policies and actions.  As stated above, I fail to see what policies are being referred to when I hear accusations that our present economic woes are “the fault of” the prior administration.  If someone disagrees with me, fine.  Let’s discuss it.  But, so far, I have not heard a cogent word in person, or in the media, discussing that.  On the other hand, there is plenty of discussion about how the profligate spending, increases in government interference (even ownership), debt that will be impossible for our grandchildren to pay back, indebtedness to China, and the like, are policies and actions that are headed in the exact wrong direction.

One of the strangest, most contorted, deviations from a sound examination of cause and effect is found in several recent arguments I have heard, that go something like this:  “Whether you agree with President Obama’s policies or not, you have to give him credit that he has gotten a lot more done than any recent past President.”  Now, surely, I don’t have to tell you what is wrong with that!  Sound policies and correct actions – that will lead to the desired effects, are the goal.  Avoidance of unsound policies and giant steps in the wrong direction are equally important.  So how is it logical to argue that success at doing what is wrong is a good thing?  That is like saying that Satan and Hitler were both quite good at achieving their desired effects.  It just doesn’t make sense.  But, the real question here is, why do those people make such an absurd statement?  Do they really believe that this is logical, or do they just believe that they can sucker you into so believing?  Or are they just so desperate to point to so POSITIVE achievement, that this is as close as they can come?

What I am imploring here is that you not be deceived by the rhetoric.  Look not to the speaker, to the scapegoat, or to your affinity for either.  Look instead to the actions.  WHAT did they do?  What do they propose?  I have heard people called “ideologues”, as though that is some sort of pejorative.  That is exactly what you should be.  Have a philosophy.  Make sure it is based on exhaustive study, sound reasoning, and avoidance of illogical diversions.  Decide what long-term effect you want.  (I think that, basically, we all agree on that.)  Then, decide what actions will actually result in such effect.  As Davy Crocket said, “Make sure you’re right, and then go ahead.”  DON’T allow policies that will negatively affect our nation, the world, ourselves, and generations yet to come to come, to be based on the absurd path of so-called reasoning that present politicians would have you follow.

So, do you still think that it is logical to argue about WHO caused a problem or WHO might correct one, as opposed to WHAT ACTION caused the problem, or WHAT ACITON might we take to correct it?  Do you think that politicians that do argue “who” instead of “what” do so (a) deliberately to obfuscate the situation and confuse the voters, (b) because they have no real ideas themselves and need to hide that fact (such as, when all your ideas stink, you can accuse the other party of being “the party of no” and charge that they have no ideas at all, despite the fact that taking no action at all would be far superior to following your path off the cliff) or (c) a little of both?  Do you think that politicians that argue “who” instead of “what” (a) know that they are being illogical but do it anyway to curry votes, (b) are too stupid to know that they are being illogical or (c) a little of both?

Finally, there is a way to shortcut this complicated subject and cut to the chase.  (I’ll bet you wish I would have told you that at the outset.)  Of course, business not only drives the economy, it IS the economy.  And it is not really at all difficult to figure out what is good for business. Low taxes and lack of government interference are what is good for business.  Therefore, if you see a policy that tends to increase taxes or interference, you know that it is bad for business.  No matter what BS politicians try to push on you, when they are talking causality, whether it be for placing blame or taking credit, you really need look no further than to make this simple analysis.  If someone’s policies are bad for business, then they certainly cannot take credit for a thriving economy (Clinton).  If someone’s policies are to lower taxes and regulations, then they certainly cannot be blamed for a bad economy.  Of course, as discussed at length above, there are MANY other factors at play.  BUT, no matter whatever else you may not know or be able to figure out, this much you do know: Lower taxes and less regulation equals good for the economy.  Higher taxes and more regulation equals bad for the economy.  Now, of course, there may sometimes be reason to deviate from what is “good” for the economy, if there is a social need AND IF we can afford the blow to the economy.  But that does not detract from this simple truth.

 
Addendum:  By the way, I highly recommend a fun little book entitled How We Know What Isn’t So.  It is not a political book, as most of the examples are taken from sports and everyday life.  But it is greatly entertaining, and is an interesting read regarding how we deceive even ourselves regarding causality.


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 THE VALUE OF AN EDUCATION

By F Eric Saunders

"A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic." Dresden James

It’s just a fact that young people tend to be liberal and, as they gain experience, tend to become more conservative.   This has been documented throughout history, long before Sir Winston Churchill’s famous comments on the subject.  Some have tried to excuse this away by alleging that people become more jaded as they get older.  Some have tried to argue that people tend to get more self-centered, and less concerned about others, as they age.  But that is ridiculous.  In fact, people who feel compassion and have learned to be concerned about others tend to nurture and increase that concern as they mature.  Assuming that you are such a person, I presume that you can verify that from your own experience.  On the other hand, psychologists will verify that sociopaths tend to degenerate into an even more self centered perspective with age.

It is not difficult to understand why children are liberals.  We often hear little boys and girls making the accusation that something is not “fair”.  But, as we get older, we learn not even to expect the childish notions of fairness.  We learn that what is “fair” is much more complicated than just equal distribution of candies, or seeing that everyone gets his turn at the game.  In short, the children are right that things should be fair, but they lack experience to understand that what appears to be fair often is not – that the world is a complicated place, and not the tidy and safe little world their mothers made for them.  That is the exact distinction between liberals and conservatives.  Both want fairness, but conservatives have thought the problem all the way through, rather than stopping at the point of comfort where it occurs that if we were all just kinder and better to others, then we could eliminate want and the world would be at peace. 

The reason why people tend to become conservative is that they tend to grow up as they get older.  They learn. Everyone learns.  The more you live, the more you learn.  But some learn more than others.  Some of the most brilliant people I know do not have extended formal education, and yet they continue to learn into old age.  On the other hand, some people I know do have a formal education, and yet they seem to have just about stopped learning long ago.  So, it is clear that formal education is neither necessary to, nor is it a guarantee of, continuing development and mental growth.  But I don’t think we can deny that it helps.  Learning about a subject in a structured environment, with the help of an expert teacher, while taking the time to devote at least a part of your day to it, certainly has to be one of the best ways to learn. There are, of course, other ways.  But formal education is one good way there.

There are those who don’t like people being generally educated.  During the reign of terror in Cambodia, educated people were so hated that everyone who wore glasses was summarily put to death, on the theory that they were the most likely to be educated. After the communist revolution in China, educated people were given menial jobs and uneducated people were elevated to higher positions.  For example, all surgeons were made laundry workers, and all laundry workers made surgeons.  The theory was that the laundry workers could be taught how to do surgery without giving them a broad general education.  But letting people with broad general educations stay in positions of influence was dangerous to the state.  In both cases, unfortunately, the despots were right.  A broad general education is dangerous to those who would reduce us all to being the slaves of socialism.  A broad general education does not guarantee it, but it does help people to mature and expand their thoughts beyond the daily grind of making a living.  That is precisely what socialists don’t want.  Orwell was exactly right in his vision of a socialist state, wherein thoughts of anything except what is ordained to be politically correct are absolutely forbidden.

So what do socialists want?  They want people to be taught to do a job with as little learning as possible outside that required to do that job.  They want a population of highly skilled, but otherwise unthinking, automatons.  If they could, they would have a Huxley like Brave New World served mostly by Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, and pacified with soma.  But, for now, this is the best they can hope for.

Now, I have to be careful here.  I don’t want my readers to think that I am an education elitist, who thinks less of those who don’t have as much formal education.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Some of the people whose opinion and insight I value the most have modest formal educations. But they have acquired an advanced state of “real” learning, else I would not hold them in such high esteem.     Alternatively, some of the biggest bone heads in the world are the “best educated” – particularly since many of those who go on to achieve doctorates spend their entire lives in academia, where their environment is little different from the safe little world their mothers kept for them, and where they never have a chance for the “real world” experiences that help them to grow past their naïve childhood fantasies.  But, as I argued above, while it is true that there are many paths to knowledge, a broad general formal education is certainly one of them, and one of the most important quantitatively, if not qualitatively.

Finally, dear readers, I will get to my point:  I have been, for years, concerned about what seems to me to be a growing trend to view education as simply a means to make a better living.  That is, of course, one important and necessary aspect and, given the harsh realities of the world, it is certainly understandable that we are most concerned with improving our individual lots in life, and those of our children.  So, taking the shortest path to a decent job and a decent life is not only understandable, it is commendable. This aspect of education not only provides for the individuals and their families, it benefits us all with their acquired skills.   But if this were the only benefit to be found in education, then where would we acquire the diversity of ideas that not only help us to envision a better future for all of mankind, but which light our path there?  Where would we learn, as just one example, about the autocrats, from both the past and present, who have perverted governments according to their own twisted ideas and to suit their own ends?  How could we possibly be equipped to recognize such people in time, let alone to stop them?

So, folks, there is more to going to college than just learning how to make money.  It is good for individuals, and it is good for us as a nation.  True, it is no guarantee of wealth.  Indeed, one must make quite a lot of money after the education is finished, else the total lifetime balance will be a negative.  I, myself, for example, who went to school well into my mid thirties (taking 4 years “off” for military service and a two year respite to work for Western Electric full time) will HAVE to earn a pretty hefty salary just to break even.  And yet, today, I find myself thwarted toward that end by being classified as “rich” and taxed accordingly.  But individual prosperity aside, it is essential that we remain a nation of people who value education for its own sake.  Otherwise, we should just go ahead and take the soma now.  You hear people saying, “You should consider not going to college.  You may be better off financially if you don’t.”  Those people are enemies of the future.  They are propagandists for socialism, for socialism can only prosper in ignorance.  They might even be right in some cases IF AND ONLY IF you consider life to be measured by your accounting ledger.  And, sure, some people can and will choose that route, and more power to them.  But if it becomes the norm to heed that advice, as though a broad general education and lack thereof were mere lifestyle choices with no meaning or importance beyond that which can be measured in dollars, then we are doomed.  As wrote Donald James Wheal (Dresden James), “The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."

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Viva la Différence (Not!) 

By F Eric Saunders

7/15/2011

"Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.” French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929).  Note that this appears to be the true origin of the similar saying often attributed to Sir Winston Churchill:  “If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart.  If you are not a conservative at 40, you have no brain.”

 

A ‘neoconservative’ is "a liberal who has been mugged by reality".  Irving Kristol

 

Good healthcare for all, food for the hungry, care for the aged, affordable housing, inexpensive quality education, plentiful resources to aid victims of disasters, and on, and on:  These are all good things.  Is there anyone that is against these things?  Maybe a very few sociopathic individuals – but with those negligible exceptions, I think we are all pro “good things for the people” - liberals and conservatives alike.  (For a more expansive discussion of this see our article, True Compassion, on Freedomsite.US., wherein we mention that conservatives are for these things both for altruistic reasons and also because, if you think the problem all the way through, improving the lot of the populace is good for the populace, but it is also good for business, good for the economy, and good for the long term prosperity, liberty, and stability of the nation and its citizens, rich and poor alike.)  Why then, do we so often bicker, and especially why do we differ over these very issues that we would all seem to agree upon?

The difference has to do with the same sort of phenomenon that we all face in our personal lives.  Think about all the things you would like to have?  Do you have them all?  Of course not.  Why?  Because you can’t afford them all.  Will you ever have them all?  Well, maybe you will, if you work hard enough and save, and plan correctly.  What would be the surest way to insure that you will NEVER have them all?  That would be to go out and buy as many of them as your available credit will allow RIGHT NOW.  If you did that, you would likely spend the rest of your life, or most of it, getting out from under the burden you had just placed on yourself.  You would have sacrificed the ability to eventually obtain your goals for a little immediate gratification.

I have argued elsewhere on Freedomsite.US that a primary difference between conservatives and liberals is that, while we share the same goals, liberals always seem to think the problem only half way through.  I think that this is perfectly analogous to Sir Winston’s observation, above.  All of us who share the desire to see a better world for everyone see the same problems.  We all see what needs to be changed in the long run.  We would all love to see all of the changes effected immediately.  Indeed, some of us vote for the politicians that promise to make all these changes immediately.  But some of us realize that such promises are lies, because we have finished the thought process.  In order to achieve these goals we MUST avoid either doing anything that either robs us of the long-term prosperity that could pay for these things, OR doing anything that would rob us of the freedoms necessary to continue to strive for these goals.  Socialism, or Big Government, or whatever you want to call it, destroys both.  We have several articles discussing the processes of why and how that occurs on Freedomsite.US. 

What prompted me to write this article was something that I heard Sean Hannity say yesterday on the radio.  It was really quite a simple statement, and really not very different from my own previous thoughts that have I discussed here, above.  But it was an interesting new perspective.  What he said was just this:  “Liberals have the advantage that they can be FOR EVERYTHING”.  That’s right.  While we all share the same long term goals, conservatives must often draw the line.  We simply cannot afford all of that right now, children.  We will have to be more “conservative” in our choices.  But liberals can be, and indeed are, FOR it all.  Conservatives have oten failed, over the past few decades, to act like conservatives, usually out of necessity, so that they can get elected or re-elected.  It is very hard to garner votes by telling the people what you will NOT do for them.  It is much easier to placate the masses by telling them all the good things you WILL do for them – even if, as in the last presidential election, keeping all the promises would have been such a fantastic stretch that it would have increased the national debt by twenty-fold, or more.  One does not have to institute a research project to discern that the majority of American people would rather ignore the preposterous nature of those assurances, to vote for the candidate that promises such good things, than to face reality and vote for the candidate delivering the bitter truth.  That research was done for us, at the polls.

All of this comes ‘round to my same old lament:  Big Government is simply incapable of doing anything efficiently.  There are NO examples in human history of an efficient big government.  Those countries that have gone to socialized type medical systems have very, very, very poor care.  (See the footnote to the Health Care Debate article on Freedomsite.US for details.)  President Obama, himself, once rightfully remarked that Fed Ex and UPS are examples of efficiency, and that “… it is the Post Office that is having trouble”, before he realized what he was saying, and changed course. And on, ad nauseam.    

So, do we want to hand our money to Big Government now, in the vane hope that it will institute all of these programs, or leave the money where it will do the most good – in the private economy – thereby building for the future so that we CAN eventually achieve these goals?  Given the debt that Big Government has piled upon us, do we even have a choice any more?

To end this somewhat dismal exercise, wherein I have dwelt mostly on the discouraging fact that we simply cannot have it all now, let me point out that there is one very bright glimmer of hope in all this.   If Churchill, and Permier Clemenceau, and I are right, and the differences between liberal thought and conservative principles are points along a continuum, rather than along diametrically divergent paths, then there is, indeed, hope for the world.  We just need to help each other on the path.  That’s why we’re here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









































                                                                                   


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IN DEFENSE OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF SOCIALISM

By F Eric Saunders

28 August 2011

 

Much of the harm that has resulted from Keysian economic policies is not directly attributable to the teachings of Keynes, himself.  His ideas have been expanded upon and, in some cases, distorted into the policies that drive modern day “progressives”.  But the same can be said of the policies of Marx and Engels.  Marx was, himself, much more practical than today’s progressive socialists.  And, in his defense (you won’t often hear me defending Karl Marx), a lot of ideas sound pretty good until they are really put to the test.  Prospectively, many aspects of socialism do sound good.  And they would, indeed, be good – provided that they worked as theorized, all things and all aspects of the complex economic and human systems involved being considered.  But, as we know, they don’t work.  Socialism depends upon assumptions about human behavior and motivation that are simply not correct.  There has been ample proof through the past 120 years or so of attempts and failures – most bought dearly with the blood and freedom of the experimental subjects.  The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

 

Now, if only we can get past the era of Keynsian economics the way we weathered the storm of popular Communism.  Most economists know, by now, that Keynsian policies are a disaster.  The so-called “stimulus” failed.  Of course it did.  For it to have worked, government would have had to efficiently decide where the money should go, and then efficiently distribute it in a timely manner.  How naïve would anyone have to be to think that either of those conditions could be met by any big government?  And even if the money were distributed ideally and efficiently by the government, it remains a fact that all the money FIRST had to be removed from the private economy.  (Government can only distribute to one what it takes away from another.)  I guess the plan was to take money out of the economy, spend most of it on inefficient bureaucracies, let government bureaucrats decide where the remainder should go (instead of efficient markets), and distribute a few cents on the dollar back into the economy, meanwhile stifling investment and real recovery just by the very message that “stimulus” sends to business people and investors.  I sure don’t know why that wouldn’t work!  And yet some fools persist that it did work – “millions of jobs were saved.”  “The only reason we are not entirely out of trouble is that we didn’t spend enough borrowed money.”  How dumb do they have to be not to see that crushing debt is our main problem?  Knowing that, how could they think that borrowing more to feed the government monster is the solution?


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