Tag Archives: state

Libertarians Choose “Marriage Equality” over Individualism

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Rebecca Traister at New York Magazine offers some important considerations on the ruling’s lesser-known implications, specifically with regard to single people. She paints a rosy picture of how legal same-sex marriage will relieve the stigma on those who choose not to marry in the first place:

“Gay marriage has presented a challenge to straight marriage in part because it resists the mandate that everyone be straight married. It also, ideally, takes the great things about partnership—love, companionship, commitment—and makes them the basis of the institution.

[…]

The freedom to marry someone of the same sex is the freedom to not have to marry someone of the opposite sex, which in an ideal universe should be tied to the freedom not to have to marry, period.”

The author raises some good points, but while I agree that the Supreme Court ruling underscores a new social order that more readily accepts abstention from marriage, the legal inequalities will persist into the foreseeable future. Further, libertarians, who are best positioned to spearhead this issue, are conspicuously absent from the debate.

The goal of marriage equality, as most understand it, is inherently a farce. Equality is a property enjoyed by individuals, not by socially-constructed associations between those individuals. Even if we achieve total marriage equality, extending the government-conferred benefits of marriage to those partaking in any conceivable union (polygamy, bigamy, human-animal marriages, etc.), single people will always be denied those benefits. Singles will remain, as Bella DePaulo laments, “second-class citizens.”

The social conservatives, despite their faults, are the only ones to voice a consistent answer—albeit an unsatisfactory one, for several reasons—to this inequity. They maintain that promoting marriage serves a public interest through its role in sanctioning and facilitating procreation. They would oppose extending government benefits to single people for the same reason, purportedly, that they oppose extending them to gays and lesbians.

The proponents of same-sex marriage, however, cannot consistently oppose equality for singles. If they truly believe that love, companionship, and commitment should form the basis of the institution, they should want to end government privileges for married individuals altogether. While modern liberals could claim that government privileges for marriage are consistent with democracy in that majorities can grant privileges for whomever, whenever, this too would be inconsistent with their calls for equality.

The truly perplexing case here, however, is the plight of libertarian same-sex marriage proponents. Libertarians generally do not see (or care about) a public interest in the government promoting marriage, nor are they pure majoritarians. Rather, they often assert that government has no business sanctioning marriage at all; but this makes their vacuous celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling perplexing, since the ruling does not bring about libertarians’ ideal—it in fact reinforces the current government-marriage paradigm.

If libertarians truly wanted to achieve equality for all individuals, regardless of marriage status, why are they so fixated on the courts? A quick search of the libertarian Cato Institute’s website shows that it has filed amicus briefs in numerous high-profile cases like Hollingsworth v. Perry, Kitchen v. Herbert, Bishop v. Smith, and United States v. Windsor. But where was Cato in January of 2014, when Oklahoma legislators pushed to repeal government licensing of marriage altogether? Where were they when Oklahoma legislators tried this again in March of 2015? Where were they in April of 2015 when Alabama legislators made similar efforts? And where are they now that legislators in both Utah and Michigan have drafted bills to remove the government from marriage in those states?

Libertarians have called for “privatizing marriage” before, but their focus and tenacity in that regard has dulled, and these days the idea warrants only an afterthought. Some liberty-oriented groups, as well as several individual libertarians, grasp this challenge, but anyone who highlights these mistaken priorities, even merely implying that the courts are a counterproductive course, risks accusations of bigotry or homophobia, even from other libertarians. Why is there such hostility here?

My guess is that libertarians have for so long been relegated to the sidelines of American politics—nobody really cares about libertarians’ positions on boring ol’ fiscal policy, foreign policy, regulation, etc.—that when a popular social movement arises that (somewhat) comports with libertarian philosophy, they cannot resist latching on to it. Libertarians are so hungry for acceptance from mainstream voters, activists, and ideologues that they will follow this fad to the end of its rabbit hole, even if it takes them through the court system, and further ossifies the butchered notions of Due Process and Equal Protection that have so supplanted the original meaning of the Constitution, a document many libertarians claim is important.

Actions speak louder than words. Libertarians who yearn for true individual equality before the law should not celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision—at best, the decision is morally neutral. If they support true equality, they cannot ignore the plight of single people while remaining logically consistent. The only way to achieve true equality, for straights, gays, lesbians, singles, and everyone else, is to remove the government from marriage entirely. Any effort that does not do that is at best a waste of time.

Immigration, and the Multiculturalist’s Paradox

One of the perks of working as a writing tutor is getting to help students with a variety of assignments from an array of academic disciplines. During one particular appointment, I met with a student who was writing an argumentative essay on American immigration and multiculturalism for her English class. She employed many familiar arguments, and though it would have been improper for me to impress my own political beliefs upon a student during a tutoring session, I nonetheless felt compelled to offer some counterarguments here, on my own time.

One of the student’s arguments was one that I’ve heard many times before: “America is a nation of immigrants, and immigrants are responsible for the huge economic and cultural progress of our country, particularly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Therefore, limiting immigration would gravely harm our society.”

The first premise of this argument is true on its face. America is indeed a nation of immigrants. However, immigrants are not all the same, and today’s immigration is different from that which helped fuel America’s rapid industrialization. The immigrants of yesterday were confronted with social pressures which facilitated their rapid assimilation into the greater society. For example, our public education establishment stressed the learning of English and American history. In addition, immigrant groups were widely dispersed across the country, and ethnic enclaves never grew so large as to challenge the dominant culture. These, coupled with the absence of numerous welfare programs, meant that immigrants needed to adopt the practices and attitudes of their new nation in order to avoid destitution.

Today, immigrants do not face those same pressures. A massive welfare state insulates a large number of immigrants from the annoying language barriers which inhibit the hunt for employment; bilingual education programs have shifted from emphasizing English to preserving immigrants’ home languages; and increasing numbers of immigrants arrive from a relative handful of regions around the globe, creating large ethnic communities and stunting assimilation. Historian Stephen Tierney observed this phenomenon and its possible implications in his book Multiculturalism and the Canadian Constitution:

In a situation in which immigrants are divided into many different groups originating in distant countries, there is no feasible prospect of any particular immigrant group’s challenging the hegemony of the national language and institutions. These groups may form an alliance among themselves to fight for better treatment and accommodations, but such an alliance can only be developed within the language and institutions of the host society and, hence, is integrative. In situations in which a single dominant immigrant group originates in a neighbouring country, the dynamics may be very different. The Arabs in Spain, and Mexicans in the United States, do not need allies among other immigrant groups. One could imagine claims for Arabic or Spanish to be declared a second official language, at least in regions where they are concentrated, and these immigrants could seek support from their neighbouring home country for such claims—in effect, establishing a kind of transnational extension of their original homeland in their new neighbouring country of residence.

Also, unlike the immigrants of the past, today’s immigrants do not share the same cultural heritage as America’s dominant socioeconomic groups (mostly European and protestant). The spread of collectivism throughout Latin America and East Asia has fostered a political culture in which government is seen as a provider and caretaker, rather than a protector of individual rights. This attitude manifests in immigrants’ overwhelming support for leftist/Democrat politicians. This is understandable because the American Left is familiar to them. Its promises are similar to the ones they heard made by the demagogues and despots back home, the only difference being that American politicians are slightly better equipped to deliver on their promises, having a bit more of “other people’s” money with which to buy votes.

To put all these facts in perspective, we need to consider the concept of culture: A term used to describe the shared characteristics of human beings within a group (e.g. shared thoughts, behaviors, values, etc.), “culture” characterizes a society and serves as the root of all its institutions—from government and politics, to economics. Since culture varies widely from nation to nation, it is integral in answering questions pertaining to immigration. Specifically, what effects will immigration have on the cultural makeup our nation, and, in light of those effects, what policies should we implement to control it?

The policies my student put forth in her paper to answer this question were based on the theory of multiculturalism. This theory holds that all cultures are equally deserving of respect, and that no one culture is inherently better than another. Immigration policies based on this theory would entail that no priority be given to different people(s) in the immigration admittance process. This would purportedly result in a “salad-bowl”-type society which has no dominant culture to which immigrants could assimilate, and in which individuals of many different cultural backgrounds can harmoniously coexist while still retaining fundamental characteristics of their old culture.

Is such a theory actually viable? If there is any nation on Earth where it could potentially work, it’s America—or so it might seem at first glance. America was unique at its founding: In the late 18th Century, almost all nations of the world were ethnic nations (i.e., their shared cultural characteristics were based on race, religion, or bloodline), and the few political nations (i.e., nations in which people are connected primarily or exclusively by the status of citizenship) were all ruled by (near-)totalitarian governments. America was the first political nation in which the defining cultural characteristic of its people was not subservience to the state, as had been the case in all political nations previously, but instead adherence to the ideals of republicanism (that all people are equal under the law, and that individuals should be free to live their lives unimpeded by government). For most of American history, these ideals constituted a dominant culture, and all other aspects of culture were subordinate to them. As a result, America became a place where people could act in accordance with their own values, as long those values did not undermine republicanism.

Such a setup is not impervious or immutable, though. If the culture of a nation becomes fragmented or divided, it is only a matter of time before the nation itself fragments and divides. America in the 1850s and 60s was a prime example of this: Interpretive disputes over the country’s founding republican principles led to a great political schism, effectively creating two competing, irreconcilable cultures—one which sanctioned slavery, and one which did not. The resulting American Civil War jeopardized the fabric of the whole nation because, for the entirety of that period, a dominant culture did not exist to instill political order.

This would seem to raise an issue with multiculturalism. Is the salad-bowl society, with its notorious lack of a dominant culture, not also prone to that kind of instability? Proponents of multiculturalism may try to assert that conflicts of this sort are the result of only large groups competing for power; that a more pluralistic society with many tiny cultural groups—none of them large enough to assert dominance—could be peaceful. That is all very well and good, but the main tenet of multiculturalism does not allow for an immigration policy (or any kind of policy, for that matter), to be used in such a way as to bring about this outcome, since giving priority to immigrants of one culture, even for the purposes of balance and pluralism, would violate the principle that all cultures are equal.

America has survived since its Civil War largely because a dominant culture, the republican ideal, reasserted itself. Though the growing preeminence of leftism has eroded that ideal, we are still largely a nation in which minor cultural characteristics such as language, work ethic, spiritual faith, cuisine, music, art, dance, and etiquette, may coexist peacefully. This may be possible under a scheme of multiculturalism too, but even if it was, the coexistence of these minor traditions would be a hollow victory. The true merit of multiculturalism can be measured by the ability of major cultural traditions to coexist, and by this standard, multiculturalism falls short. There are some cultures in the world which include violent traditions. For example, a literal interpretation of the Koran informs us that all must submit to Islam, that God’s law is supreme, and that those who refuse to follow him may be killed. It is (more than) conceivable that immigrants who follow such a religion could create conflict in nations where the natives do not conform to that way of thinking.

Some multiculturalists may dismiss these occurrences as a mere technical issue: They might concede that multiculturalism cannot grant true equal status to all cultures, because some cultures include violent behavior, and it would be a completely untenable position to assert that violence and non-violence can enjoy the same moral status. However, they would insist that these violent acts, if not representative of a larger, concerted movement, may be dealt with through the criminal justice system, and that the republican government which spawns that system can still be trusted to allow coexistence of non-violent behaviors. Unfortunately, this creates somewhat of a paradox: Not only are the multiculturalists effectively conceding their core principle, but the remnants of their position depend upon the existence of a “live-and-let-live,” republican form of government. Now, what happens when the institutions of a republic are themselves attacked and/or supplanted by opposing cultures?

Multiculturalism has no answer for this. A republic, through limited government and its grant of equality under the law, is alone capable of supporting the coexistence of non-violent cultures within a country; but the insistence upon such a form of government presupposes the propriety/superiority of the culture which underlies it. This is multiculturalism’s paradox. It calls for equal respect to all cultures, but is silent when a culture arises which is decidedly not multicultural.

Because of multiculturalism’s paradoxical nature, it is patently unsuitable as a basis for our immigration policy. If we wish to have a non-violent, republican society, we cannot be completely indiscriminate in our immigrant admittance process: We must assign first priority to those immigrants who already support and adhere to the republican ideal. If there are no prospective immigrants with that cultural background, we must then prioritize immigrants who are apt and willing to assimilate to it. Unfortunately, merely suggesting that someone assimilate to the dominant culture is likely to get you labeled “old-fashioned,” “racist” or “xenophobic,” as if the task of assimilating was somehow insurmountable or even immoral.

The fact of the matter is, however, that immigrants come here for a several different reasons (freedom, opportunity, prosperity, etc.), and whether or not they realize it, those reasons are born out of our culture. Unfortunately, our current policy of admitting immigrants who enjoy the fruits of our republican cultural heritage, but who either do not understand it, or do not respect it, amounts to a robbery of sorts. A robber has no regard for the culture of his victim (his work ethic, his resourcefulness, or his ingenuity—in other words, that which renders him an attractive target in the first place). He only has regard for the spoils of his trespass. But reaping America’s fruits without supplying her ample water and sunlight in return is not a practice which can go on for long. The sustained importation of immigrants who subscribe to the politics of leftism will cause the republican ideal to wither and die, destroying that which appealed to immigrants in the first place.

A more prudent immigration policy is needed. Immigrants should be prepared and willing to relinquish the culture of their home, and to ally themselves with the republican ideal. There is no other way that the nation can survive. If multiculturalism is allowed to persist, America will fracture and cease to be the great beacon for freedom and opportunity which has for so long attracted immigrants to our shores.

Compromise in Politics

You hear about it all the time: Americans, left and right, are concerned with the efficiency of government. They are frustrated by the near-constant government gridlocks, whether on the state or federal level, and they feel that their positions are not represented through legislation. I too have felt this on a few occasions, and like many Americans, have also felt an accompanying sense of betrayal. Some may complain that their vote doesn’t count, others may say the system is broken, but most people eventually resort to the blame game: “if only such-and-such a party would stop being so stubborn and work with the other party, they could reach a compromise and actually accomplish something!”

Compromise has become a golden mean of sorts in the realm of political rhetoric. Almost every politician that has ever campaigned has advocated bipartisanship and compromise.  But perhaps we need to step back and ask ourselves why this is the case, and whether or not compromise is even desirable. In doing so we find that there are a number reasons why compromise is impractical. Specifically, it is unattainable in any homogeneous way, it decreases voter efficacy, and it distances politicians from their principles and temporarily subscribes them to opposing principles. Because of these factors, compromise is something that should generally be avoided.

Who advocates compromise most often in legislative politics? It’s usually not the majority party, unless they do so as a game of political quid pro quo. Rather, compromise is generally pushed by those in the minority party. The reason for this is simple: compromise is a tool of the minority party to regain power lost at the ballot box. It gives the purveyors of unpopular positions the ability to influence policy, even when they have no mandate to do so. Many Americans forget that we do not have systems of proportional representation in this country, and that the winner-take-all plurality systems we employ create no obligation to honor the viewpoints of every constituent. Nevertheless, compromise is designed to do just that. It makes the losers happy.

The problem is that even in compromise there are going to be winners and losers.  By definition, compromise can never make anyone or everyone completely happy, unless compromise in itself is your goal. But by not compromising, you can make the majority of people completely happy. This seems like the much better option, given that this is what a winner-take-all system is designed to do in the first place.

Compromise is often touted as a remedy for the feelings of voter inefficacy felt by the losers of an election, and it seems that for this reason, Republicans and Democrats alike often claim to be open to compromise. However, it’s unclear as to whether they or their constituents actually understand what that entails, so let’s think a little more deeply about the mechanics of the compromise we like to demand from our representative officials. We know that politicians are the public conveyors of ideals, and that legislatures are the forum by which politicians can encapsulate their ideals in legal construction. These ideals represent the sides of a given issue, and to hold an ideal means to have taken a position on an issue. Now, a law can only have one outcome–which is decided by the ideals encapsulated therein. Whatever effect a law based on one ideal has is reduced or nullified by the injection of any opposing ideal(s), which is what occurs during a compromise. Likewise, since the ideals of politicians mirror the ideals held by the majority of their constituency, any reduction or nullification of those ideals through compromise is a slight to the majority of the people. To compromise the principles which the people have publicly supported through their votes is to render the entire election a pointless exercise. When this happens, there is a loss in voter efficacy even greater than the loss felt by a minority party after an unsuccessful election.

The last, and probably most detrimental effect of compromise is that it distances politicians from their principles, and temporarily subscribes them to opposing principles. This confuses voters and distorts the credibility of legislators. When politicians subject themselves to the pursuit of compromise in the debate of a bill, they inevitably allow more into a bill than what they would normally like, and likewise more than what the majority of voters would like. Sometimes politicians sign on to a compromise bill because they feel there is no other way to pass what they see as beneficial. Other times, however, politicians vie for compromise in order to force the hand of their opponents. Those in the minority party know that their positions are unlikely to pass by themselves, so they actively look for opportunities to tack their ideals onto a more popular bill. This puts majority politicians in a bind: they can either pass the unpopular ideal along with the popular ideal, or they can pass nothing at all. This complicates future elections, since it is no longer clear whether or not a representative’s vote on a bill can be considered reprehensible. Therefore, instead of compromise, strictly partisan bills should be the goal. This not only allows the majority party to pass what it considers to be beneficial, but also allows voters a clear picture of who to oust in the next election should the law have detrimental consequences.

Compromise as an Unavoidable Political Phenomenon

There are a couple reasons why compromise can be considered inevitable, and in some cases, beneficial. First, representatives sometimes have great differences in political ideology, and they don’t always vote along party lines. In situations such as this, like factions from opposing parties often unite to pass a recently popularized ideal. Another way compromise may be useful is if there is a fifty-fifty split among representatives in any one chamber. In such a case, both political parties would have equal power to influence policy, and it would be impossible not to compromise in order to accomplish anything.

In Summary

Compromise may ultimately be seen as a necessary evil. Ideally, we should refrain from chasing after virtually unattainable satisfactory agreements, we should respect the sense of political efficacy to be gained from a winner-take-all election system, and we should be able to hold representative officials one-hundred percent responsible for every vote they make. But in the real world, the legislative process can never be so cut-and-dry. We can always expect to see issues on which politicians of the same party differ in positions. But even though no structural change to the legislative process seems imminent, perhaps this can be taken as a lesson to lessen our reliance on the crutch that is compromise, and to quell the rhetoric designed to legitimize its use at every turn.

A Piece on Health Care “Reform”

Here we have the champion issue of the Democrat Party, the Holy Grail of leftism, President Obama’s “Waterloo;” it is the quintessential form of federal government control over the lives of Americans in a modern world. This issue has recently been the centerpiece of mainstream, left-wing reporting, and every day we hear the latest propaganda supporting the so-called “healthcare reform” proposals circulating within congress. This is a large topic, so I will break the left’s arguments down in to its components of philosophy, and statistical rationale.

The ideological foundation for this debate is the question “Is health care a right?” The Democrat Party’s proposals rely on an affirmative answer, but in taking a closer look beyond its emotional appeal, we find that the question must first be broken down into two more basic questions: (1) What is health care? (2) What is a right?

Most people seem to have a good concept of what health care is. When patients are administered medicine, they are receiving a tangible good. When a patient visits a doctor or nurse, they are receiving the tangible services of those professionals. Regardless of what the particular good or service is, health care is something that professionals in the field own and provide at a cost to themselves.

Defining a right is a little bit trickier. The conservative perspective holds that a right is a product of natural law; natural law is based on morality, and morality is based on human nature. Still, the concept of rights seem nebulous and intangible, so it’s best to start with its most basic characteristics. Most people would agree that in order for something to be a right, it must be inalienable from an individual, undeniable to them by both other individuals and by government. If rights are inalienable from individuals, then the rights of one individual necessarily cannot contradict the rights of another. Given these stipulations, let us consider the example of health care.

If health care is declared a right, then the rights of those without health care must necessarily contradict the rights of those with health care. If I walk into a hospital and demand treatment, claiming it as my right, I am actually claiming as my right the service of whoever provides the treatment–if they are unable to refuse, it would render the health care provider a slave. Because this would contradict the rights of the health care provider, health care cannot be a right. The same is true for all other goods and services, such as food, clothing, and housing. These things are produced by individuals at a cost to themselves.

Rights are not something that can be granted or confiscated by government, but goods and services are. In its endeavor to provide health care for all, government has fostered a sense of entitlement in people that causes them to view goods and services as a right. The irony is that the government’s reforms aren’t even focused on health care, but rather health insurance coverage. Health insurance coverage is a promise, and nothing more. Promises are something the government has an abundance of.

I also want to address the left’s use of the word “reform.” Its adoption for this context is no accident, though the way they use it is dishonest. There are two types of large scale change: Reform and Revolution. Edmund Burke, known as the founder of modern conservatism, knew from his observations on the French Revolution and the surrounding time periods what the characteristics and effects are of each. Change through reform is a healthy practice to amend and refine current systems which are believed to be effective, but inefficient. Change through revolution (also referred to sometimes as change through innovation) radically alters a system to the point of being unrecognizable (or does away with a system altogether), based either on the assumption that the current system is horribly inadequate, or that the new system will be so wonderful that continuation of the current system in any way is unacceptable. The two types of change are mutually exclusive, with reformation producing results opposite to those of revolution, which often have unintended consequences, and as Burke put, “A spirit of reformation is never more consistent with itself than when it refuses to be rendered the means of destruction.” The healthcare proposals originating in the U.S. House and Senate are not reform. They are a complete short circuit and doing-away-with of the current healthcare system of America, including its positive aspects. It is revolution, and if implemented, will be disastrous.

The Problem According to the Left

Dearth of Insurance Coverage

By now, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the figure thrown around by Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and several media pundits that there are at least 47 million uninsured Americans in this country. According to them, there is a crisis in the United States of such magnitude that you wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without seeing uninsured Americans sprawled out on the sidewalk, or spilling out of emergency rooms. They would have you believe that unless a great, new, federal government insurance agency is created, there will be a profusion of sickness, injury, and death in America for which we would all share blame.

The first problem with this is that I don’t see uninsured Americans sprawled out on the street. I assume this is because I live a very sheltered life, but still, one must be at least a little bit skeptical. 47 million Americans is over 15 percent of the current United States population, so one would think that this crisis would have been all over the news for years up to this point. 47 million uninsured Americans don’t just appear over night, but I seem to recall only hearing about this figure during the 2008 election as one of the Democrat Party’s talking points, so where did this figure come from? It turns out, the figure originates from the 2006 U.S. Census Report. As with most statistics, these require more than a face-value appraisal. In his book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, Mark Levin digs deep into the report and points out a few problems with the Democrats’ conclusions:

“In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that there were 46.6 million people without health insurance. About 9.5 million were not United States citizens. Another 17 million lived in households with incomes exceeding $50,000 a year and could, presumably, purchase their own health care coverage. Eighteen million of the 46.6 million uninsured were between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, most of whom were in good health and not necessarily in need of health-care coverage or chose not to purchase it. Moreover, only 30 percent of the nonelderly population who became uninsured in a given year remained uninsured for more than twelve months. Almost 50 percent regained their health coverage within four months. The 47 million “uninsured” figure used by Pelosi and others is widely inaccurate.”

The existence of 10-15 million truly uninsured people is no small problem, but when we honestly consider all the facets of the data, we must seriously question the exigency of overhauling our entire health care system. The coverage of non-citizens and people who, for whatever reason, abstain from purchasing health insurance, all in hopes of helping a small percentage of truly disadvantaged Americans, is not wise, and we must give fair examination to less drastic policy alternatives.

The Insurance Companies

How did this problem start? If and when one accepts the “47-million-uninsured-Americans” figure as accurate (ignoring the facts mentioned earlier), one must wonder where all these uninsured Americans came from and how they got to be in their current situation. The talking heads on the left, including politicians such as Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, seem to have decided upon private insurance companies as the culprit. They constantly re-iterate the horror stories of how people cannot acquire health insurance through their employer, or how skyrocketing health insurance premiums are preventing individuals and employers from purchasing a policy or prescription drugs, or how they are denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, etc. The fact is that some of these stories have some elements of truth to them, and there are a few cases in which people more or less fall “victim” to these situations. The health insurance system in this country is far from perfect, and it could stand to be reformed in many ways.

However, this leaves out an important aspect of the debate, and fails to explain the behavior of the insurance companies other than through words like, greed, malevolence, and selfishness. The purpose of health insurance is not to act as a buffer zone for the entirety of a population. As much as it pains some people to hear, it was never designed to provide for all people and cover all medical conditions. The way all insurance works is that the participants pool against risk–in this case, the risk of sickness or injury. When an individual requires treatment for some affliction, the insurance company is required by contract to pay out the premiums it collects according to a payment schedule. We are most familiar with such schedules through car and home insurance. When accidents occur, certain damages are covered, whereas others are not. Even compensation for similar damages may vary depending on other circumstances, such as who was at fault.

There is a big difference with health insurance, however, in that participants are not always pooling against risk. Since the advent of health insurance, the coverage of most insurance plans has grown to grotesque proportions to the point that insurance companies are no longer insuring only against risk–regular check-ups and procedures, weight-loss surgeries, and prescription drugs are but a few of the litany of covered treatments today (this is the main reason health care costs are so high). Given this overabundance of coverage, it would not make sense for a healthy person to participate, because instead of paying only for the unlikely, occasional, catastrophic illness or injury–which health insurance was originally designed to cover–their premiums would instead be going to pay for the near constant claims of people looking to fund their own lifestyle. The system would basically become a transfer payment. As a result, we have 18 million young people who wisely choose not to buy health insurance.

Given the lack of premiums from healthy people to subsidize perpetually sick people, insurance companies have to be discriminatory in deciding whom to cover. An insurance company would go broke if it had to provide for every single sick person or every pre-existing condition because there simply are not enough healthy people to pay for them all, and this would ultimately defeat the purpose of having health insurance in the first place. This is the sad, ultimate truth about the current health insurance system, and although it is sometimes a painful truth, it is the only way the insurance system can function to provide for the truly needy.

The Solution As They See It

Nationwide Private Insurance Mandates

Here’s what the Democrat politicians plan to do about the problem: Because they believe the insurance companies to be acting out of greed, selfishness, and discrimination, denying coverage purposefully because it would diminish their profits, they intend to solve this problem by punishing the insurance companies in a variety of ways. First and foremost, they intend to use the law to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions in individual insurance markets. The problem with this proposal is not hard to understand. I just explained why insurance companies do not cover all people and conditions, and to force them to do so would be to force them out of business. Besides, the federal legislation HIPAA which was passed in 1996 already mandates insurance companies to sell coverage for groups such as businesses regardless of the health of its employees. They also wish to prevent insurance companies from dropping coverage of those who become sick, but this problem is pretty much imaginary, as HIPAA already prevents this for groups as well as individuals, and no business in their right mind would charge for a product and not deliver the goods. They would go out of business in an instant. They also plan to prevent insurance companies from “watering down” plans and paying only for a limited supply of drugs and medical procedures. Although I actually believe this to be a noble endeavor, I also believe an insurance company that did this would not last long in a free market, and it is because of current federal law that these companies are able to perform such practices and still retain consumers, but I’ll address this subject later. They also intend to disallow “arbitrary cap[s]” on coverage after certain time periods. Again, in a free market, this would not occur, and it is because of federal law that this problem occurs, though it even sounds preposterous in itself. They also want to limit how much a person can be charged for “out-of-pocket expenses,” which I’ll assume to mean co-pays for medicine, check-ups, and non-covered expenses. This has less to do with insurance coverage (although it does revisit the problem of forcing coverage for everyone) than it does with simple economics. You cannot limit the price of those health services and medical supplies through law without causing vast, negative repercussions for the companies and clinics that provide those commodities.

Public Health Insurance Entity

Here is the tricky part of the Democrat plans in congress: The “public option,” as the politicians evasively describe it. It has had many names over the months and been talked about by many people. It has been called names like “government co-op,” “public option,” “health insurance exchange,” “universal healthcare,” oh, and don’t forget “Hillary-Care.” As much as the left wants to deny it, they are all means to the same end: socialized medicine. Every name, every government plan described, takes the power of health insurance away from the private sector, and gives it to a government entity. Here’s what will happen: The government plan, if it doesn’t immediately become the only insurance provider by law, will gradually become this. It may start out as a “government co-op,” or a “health insurance exchange,” both of which are designed to compete with the private companies in the free market. Eventually, the private companies will go out of business, as they will not be limitlessly funded by the federal or state governments, and they will not be able to compete with something that is. This is simple economics. Anyone who says that people may retain their private coverage in this newly created, government monopolized environment with no negative consequences are simply lying. If the government does not immediately force people to sign on to the government plan, then those people who retain their private coverage will see dramatically increasing premiums, and soon their plan and their company will cease to exist.

But what will this new government insurance entity look like, and how will life change with it? Most likely the newly created entity will be a bureaucratic agency, far away in the distant realm of Washington D.C. It will be large, of course, and inefficient as most bureaucratic agencies are, and it will be expensive to run. Many people have listened to the president’s rhetoric, and come away thinking such a system would be benevolent, down to earth, and even cost effective. The biggest misconception today, however, is that the government can actually provide healthcare for us at all. The government does not produce anything; it only rearranges things. The politicians will say they have achieved “healthcare for all,” but what does that really mean? When you go to the doctor for a checkup, you’re not getting the insurance you bought. You’re getting the tangible services of another human being. When you buy and use a pharmaceutical drug, it’s not the health insurance that makes you healthier, it’s the tangible effect of medicine. Of course the government will provide free health insurance coverage to all people in America (including illegal immigrants), but what will we really be getting? The only thing the government can deal with is money–your taxpayer money: You will be using it to buy health insurance once again, only this time there won’t be any private insurance companies to blame for lack of care. There will only be the government. You won’t be paying for your own health insurance, nor will you be paying for the insurance of a group of people associated with a private business. No, this time, you will be paying for the insurance of everyone, whether they be sick or well, whether they pay taxes or not. The government will not discriminate in providing coverage. Everyone will get it, but only a few will pay for it. If you are healthy and don’t feel the need to buy insurance, that’s too bad. You have to pay taxes, and taxes are not a selective matter.

Now, it’s bad enough having to pay for the care of others in a totally cost-ineffective system, but what if you’re sick? The proponents of government run healthcare tout the excellent quality of socialized medicine. But what happens when the only window you have to obtaining state of the art healthcare is a cost-ineffective system? As the number of people who would require healthcare treatment by law would increase exponentially, and as healthcare costs continue to rise due to inflation, the government will inevitably be forced to ration care. This is where the “death panels” you hear about come in to play. The left-wing media uses that term to mock the opponents of socialized medicine, but when there is only so much healthcare to go around, and too many people to be treated, someone is going to be neglected. The bureaucracy, in its unending quest to be cost effective will have to start cutting healthcare options from the plan until costs can be met. This means the people with the most expensive ailments will be neglected first: People with heart conditions, trauma disorders, cancer patients, mental disorders, asthma patients, etc. These are the people that the far off bureaucratic agency in Washington D.C.—with no regard for the thoughts of the patient, the doctor, or the spirit of life that each patient holds—will cut first. These are what the “death panels” are for. They are to decide who is the most inefficient; who has the least bang for the buck. It doesn’t stop there, though. Coverage will continue to deteriorate until there truly are millions of people (most of them being senior citizens and the disabled) without healthcare in America. When there is no one else to blame but the government, it will be too late. Private insurance will be long gone, the deficit will have ballooned, and millions will have suffered.

Then there are always those proponents of socialized medicine that refer to the success of government plans in Britain, Canada, and other countries. I don’t understand exactly how they would define success, but if they mean substandard care, long waiting lines, and higher mortality rates than the U.S., then yes, I would say they’re successful as well. Here are a few examples of the many “success” stories coming out of those countries:

http://www.liberty-page.com/issues/healthcare/socialized.html

Even though we actually have the best healthcare system on the face of the Earth, and many people from other countries flock here because they are prevented from even purchasing privately state-of-the-art medical care, herds of drones on the left still rant about revolutionizing the healthcare system here. There are plenty of countries around the world with socialized medicine. If those countries are the wonderful utopias that they are purported to be, why don’t huge quantities of Americans flock to nations like Great Britain and Canada? Just leave here, and stop trying to ruin our system for generations to come. Here’s something for those who say that the healthcare system in terms of quality here in America is miserable:

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba649

The Problem As We See It

Misguided Federal Regulation

As for the proponents of new federal laws and increased federal regulation to solve the problems with America’s healthcare system (mostly Democrats and soft Republicans), it seems that the 1996 law HIPAA would be at least mostly satisfying. It provides for nationwide guaranteed issuing of coverage in group/business cases, and guaranteed renewability of coverage for groups/businesses and individuals. But apparently this doesn’t go far enough, hence the need for government run healthcare, and the inevitable destruction of the private insurance market. What most people fail to realize is that the laws of HIPAA already existed in many of the states to varying degrees. For example, by the mid 1990’s, 36 states had laws requiring guaranteed issue, and 46 states had laws requiring guaranteed renewability. I would see this as another strength of federalism, as it should promote national competition and give insurance shoppers more choices when it comes purchasing affordable plans that work for them, no matter their geographical location. Unfortunately, many states also have laws and regulations restricting which policies can be bought where.

The Solution As We See It

Tax Credits

Offering federal tax credits to individuals and families would significantly reduce the number of uninsured United States citizens, with a decreased risk of illegal immigrants or anyone else less inclined to pay taxes getting a free ride. It would also increase insurance participant pools overall, offsetting the spikes in premiums due to expensive, pre-existing, or other specifically designated conditions.

National Insurance Market

As of now, the tangle of state and federal regulations prevent individuals from shopping for insurance across state lines. Some policies and packages are only available in certain geographical areas. Reconciling state regulation through federal law could open up a national insurance market, increasing competition, driving down prices, and increasing levels of customization among plans.

Block Grants

If federal subsidies for insurance are absolutely necessary, they should be issued through block grants that allow states to control how much money goes to individuals and companies, and not waste money when it’s not needed.

Tort Reform

One of the biggest factors in the rise of healthcare costs in the United States is a plethora of malpractice lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, clinics, and HMO’s. Most of these cases are frivolous. Some experts say that 10-15% of the increases in healthcare costs are due to frivolous lawsuits, and federal law needs to be changed to limit them.

Where are the Republicans?

Although the left-wing media would have you believe that all the Republicans in Congress are a bunch of stubborn naysayers who only oppose real healthcare reform because they hate the president and want him to fail, the Republicans between June and the present day actually have had three pieces of legislation introduced in Congress (all three of them combined are smaller than any of the Democrat bills, and add to the deficit much less as well). None of them are really going anywhere, and they likely won’t because the Democrats have the majority in Congress. At least the rapid push to ram the government run healthcare bills down the throats of the American People is being slowed by the Republicans (besides Olympia Snowe and a few others), right?

I guess what the debate boils down to is this: If you support a destroyed private health insurance market, a government run health leviathan, rationed care, “death panels,” a ballooned federal deficit, substandard quality of care, long waiting lines, coverage for illegal immigrants, and higher mortality rates all for the sake of 10-15 million long term uninsured who will end up worse off than now anyway, then the Democrat proposals fit your bill. But if you believe that the system we have here, albeit imperfect, is the greatest healthcare system on the face of the Earth, and can be made better in a low cost and efficient way, without endangering the lives and prosperity of Americans for generations to come, while preserving and streamlining federalism, and while preserving coverage and quality of care for the most people possible, then not only do the Democrat proposals need to be opposed, but the Republican proposals need to be championed.

We do not elect our representatives or our president to authorize a cost-benefit analysis on the lives of their constituents, the American People. We elect them to preserve our freedom to choose the best path for our own lives.

Good Ol’ Master Nolan

I was on Facebook today, and I noticed one of my friends had used the Nolan Political Chart in the context of identifying political orientation. I’ve seen it loads of times before, but I never really thought about it much until now.

I find it very disturbing that David Nolan chose to gauge political standing using a diagram that separates economic and personal freedom. This is evidence of a society that does not fully understand the role of government and how personal and economic freedoms are all inalienable rights. A person and their family’s very well being is determined by their economic freedom. To say that a society is personally free when the government controls the means of achieving a desired standard of living is absurd, and a government that does not respect one facet of freedom cannot respect another. Abridging either facet only expands the power of government, and creates dependency in its constituency.

That being said, I also find it disturbing that Nolan associates the “right-wing” with having a lack of personal freedom. Not only are terms like these ambiguous, but they also show a lack of understanding of conservatism, the political philosophy most commonly associated with “right-wing”, and the United States Constitution. I outline conservatism in a previous blog entry of mine, show how conservatives have been labeled by common arguments and misconceptions, and how conservatism has been and always will be the philosophy of individual rights in an ordered civil society.

Lastly, getting back to rights: The only finite human aspect in the universe is time. By nature, humans base how to spend their time living on economic rationalizations. The time a person spends (or doesn’t spend) on economic productivity is directly related to the personal well being of them self and their family. Be abridging or delegitimizing the value a person’s economic productivity (labor or lack thereof) through government activity (taxes, welfare, etc.), you are delegitimizing the time they spend living, affecting all aspects of life, including non-economic, personal ones. Likewise, the abridgment of certain personal freedoms also decreases opportunity for economic endeavors.

Normally, I can somewhat sympathize with the libertarian viewpoint for many issues on a case-by-case basis. However, I am consistently annoyed with the general libertarian mindset that disregards the importance of constitutional government and ordered liberty in the civil society. When limited and controlled, government does provide protection for the citizens as well as other minimal, efficient services.

Keynesonomics

As I see it, the concept of using government spending to increase demand in the aggregate of markets takes for granted two assumptions that, though they should not be, are often overlooked:

1. The government has the money to spend in the first place. Since the federal government derives all power and funds from the people, Keynesian spending takes away from the very people (or at least the many responsible ones) we are trying to help. And to say borrowing from other nations is a viable solution to this dilemma is the other side of the same coin since the burden of repaying those debts will be placed on the American taxpayer anyway.

2. The government can effectively focus their Keynesian idiocy in the right markets as efficiently as private citizens and firms can. This assumption can never be fulfilled in reality, however, because before the government can spend money, it must first be consolidated in the form of revenue and then spent on huge magnitudes. Doing this contradicts the nature of individual actions conducted in the private sector, as many voluntary private transactions add up to build the economy, instead of spending from the top-down, and hoping some of the money goes where you want it to.

Federal Bailout Money for State Governments

Federal government bailouts for states are an absolute contradiction to the principles of Federalism. Now instead of state governments fending for themselves, the citizens of all states–whether they be fiscally responsible states or not–are forced to pay for the citizens of other states through the federal government. Unfortunately, the people of Wyoming have no say in the election of politicians in California. Irresponsible states have spent themselves into the ground, and we are supposed to pick up the slack? I say no. Not only is this irresponsible fiscal policy, but it is a complete smearing of states’ rights. This is a very dangerous path we have taken. Long gone are the days when states had any perceivable sovereignty at all. Now, the states are no more than appendages to the federal government; extensions of the bureaucracy.