A Must Read

Want to know why the nation seems to becoming more polarized?  Walter Williams hits a home run explaining it in this week’s column, Conflict or Cooperation.

The prime feature of political decision-making is that it’s a zero-sum game. One person’s gain is of necessity another person’s loss.  The greater the number of decisions made in the political arena, the greater the potential for conflict.

To illustrate:

Different Americans have different and often intense preferences for all kinds of goods and services. Some of us have strong preferences for beer and distaste for wine while others have the opposite preference — strong preferences for wine and distaste for beer.

When’s the last time you heard of beer drinkers in conflict with wine drinkers…?

It seldom if ever happens because beer…lovers get what they want.  Wine…lovers get what they want and they all can live in peace with one another.

It would be easy to create conflict among these people. Instead of free choice and private decision-making, …beverage decisions could be made in the political arena. In other words, have a democratic majority-rule process to decide what drinks…that would be allowed. Then we would see wine lovers organized against beer lovers. Conflict would emerge solely because the decision was made in the political arena.

Very true.  If we keep pushing decisions into the political arena we will see more conflict.

Not only is freedom a basic right, it also produces the best results.

Poisoned the Well

When Steve Forbes writes about you like this, you have to question what you’ve done.  This is from Forbes’s most recent Fact and Comment column in Forbes magazine.

A Grotesquerie

With an ice-cold disdain for public opinion and an obsession worthy of Lenin, President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi rammed ObamaCare through the House by unprecedented parliamentary trickery, bribery and deceit. The President has thereby poisoned the national political well.

Good Intentions, Bad Results

A colleague today mentioned she is working with her employer and the IRS to straighten out her working relationship.  She’s been working as contractor for the employer for several years and for whatever reasons it suits her and her employer.

She said she understands that the IRS is trying to “protect” her from her employer, but in order to maintain the status she prefers the protection is going to make her unemployed for awhile.

This is a great example of good intentions that cause bad results as is often the case with government involvement.  Two parties, her and her employer, have entered into an arrangement willingly and voluntarily for their mutual benefit.

Government should be there to protect us from someone forcing us to do something we do not wish to do, not to protect us from our own decisions.

Food Control

In this post a few days ago I explained how politicians might make the case to control shelf space in your local grocery store to sell more wholesome foods like apples.

Coincidentally, I read this post today on John Stossel’s blog.  From it:

Congress is now considering the “Healthy School Meals Act,” which would give schools extra money for serving kids more fruits and veggies. Politicians in Washington think they know better than individual schools what food should be served.

As my blog post said, this sounds reasonable to many people.  Give our kids healthier foods?  Sure, why not?  We keep buying that rationale until we encounter a reduction in choice that directly impacts us.

In my blog post, I used the example of beer.  To make room for more apples the politicians decide that make less space for beer, for example.  That got the attention of one of my friends.

Later in Stossel’s post, he quotes The Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine and they say something I take issue with.  Part of the quote says:

By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products—the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease.

There’s only one root cause of obesity.  That cause is individuals choosing to consume more calories than their bodies need.

Slippery Slope

We’re on it folks.

HT to Cafe Hayek for the link to this video of Pelosi justifying government force.  It’s about a minute long and worth watching.

In it she justifies the penalty of jail time for not following the government mandate to purchase health insurance as better than someone being able to go to the emergency room for free and send the bill to you.

Pelosi correctly identifies that one of the problems with health care today is that people are not held responsible for paying for what they use.  Emergency rooms are not allowed by the government to deny treatment.

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What about those who can’t afford health insurance?

A family member asked me this as we discussed health care.  This question that rests on the minds of many who are convinced that the government must do something about health care and even those who aren’t so sure, but emotionally they feel like we need to do something.

I think Republicans and conservatives could do a better job of answering it.

The answer I gave went sort of like this:

  1. If you believe that health insurance is unaffordable, consider that bad government policy has helped make it that way.  If so, it would be wise to remove such policies.
  2. Is it really unaffordable?  True health insurance (plans that cover costs after the first $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000) is much more affordable than people think, especially in states that have not gone overboard with bad policy in the form of state mandates.
  3. Understanding how government policy has caused high insurance rates in some states may change some minds about the perceived state of health insurance in our country.
  4. For those people where the cost of insurance insurance is still out of reach, why not use a targeted program like food stamps to put in their hands the resources to decide what medical care is best?

First, if you believe health insurance is not affordable, then consider that bad government policy is a big reason why.

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The Only Difference is Who Decides

Ronald Reagan once said:

All systems are capitalist.  It’s just a matter of who owns and controls the capital – ancient king, dictator or private individual.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Phil Gramm expresses a similar sentiment about health care.

Any real debate about health-care reform has to be centered on solving the problem of cost. Ultimately, there are only two ways of doing it. The first approach is to have government control costs through some form of rationing. The alternative is to empower families to make their own health-care decisions in a system where costs matter. The fundamental question is about who is going to do the controlling: the family or the government.

And, for those who believe that Republicans opposed for politics instead of principle, Gramm answers:

President Obama and his congressional allies systematically excluded every major proposal to empower consumers to control costs. From beginning to end, they insisted on a government-run system. That’s why compromise was never possible.

The only difference in the way we run things is who decides.

In public education, years ago we reduced the ability for parents, teachers and administrators to decide what’s best.  Health care is moving in the same direction.  If we continue, I hope nobody is surprised when health care begins to look a lot like education.

Why K-12 Education Isn’t Working

From today’s Opinion in the Wall Street Journal, Why Freer Schools are Better Schools by Philip Howard.  I agree.

Public school failure can be traced directly to the technique of reform: centralized legal dictates. A steady accretion of law since the 1960s has smothered personality and individual responsibility in schools. There’s no oxygen left for educators to build healthy school cultures.

Looking at daily choices as a matter of legal rights polarizes people. One effect is paralysis: Educators will do almost anything to avoid yet another legal argument. Another effect is bureaucracy growing at warp speed, as educators write rules to validate the legality of ordinary choices. Fairness disappears when rules replace common sense, as in the recent suspension in Michigan of a 6-year-old for pointing his finger like a gun, mandated under “zero tolerance” rules.

And from the true measures department:

Experts say you can tell a successful school within five minutes: There’s a palpable sense of productivity, the low hum of activity, quiet classrooms, students striding purposefully to the next class, and an absence of loud disputes.

The last few paragraphs remind me of this post of mine from last October:

First, we must restore teachers’ authority to maintain order.  Teachers must be able to remove disruptive students immediately. Otherwise the other students have no chance to learn. Formal due process should be limited to severe suspensions and expulsion.

Second, we must replace bureaucracy with individual responsibility. Both teachers and principals are immoblized by law. The cure is mutual disarmament. Teachers must be given the freedom to be themselves.

At the same time, principals must have freedom to get rid of bad teachers. If teachers want to be free to use their best judgment, principals must be free to decide whether the teacher is doing the job.

Too bad only myself and Philip are the only ones that know the answers.  Actually, this is basic stuff.  It’s human interaction.  But we’re far away from it.   Human interaction and common sense have been replaced with rule books and dictates.