Tuesday, June 19, 2007

And then they came for those of us without health insurance

I'm glad I don't live in Massachusetts. Check out the Cato blog, which has a copy of a letter sent to Massachusetts residents without health insurance.

I'll ask everyone again - is this the sort of world you want to live in? Remember now, the question isn't whether or not health insurance is a good idea (although for some of the people of my generation, it might not be), the question is whether we want big brother all up in our business.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Come On ... Are Things Really WorseToday?

Here's more class warfare from Barbara Eherenreich, the woman who brought us the book Nickel and Dimed. This particular article recites the same tired canard that the rich are making the poor poorer.

Before I get to what Eherenreich actually said in her piece, I would suggest a bit of reading that challenges the conclusion that we are somehow worse off today then we were thirty years ago. First, give this piece by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, on the benefits of free enterprise that economic statistics can miss, a try. And then, take a look at Brian Doherety's blogging about research which points out how income statistics fail to take into account the effects of immigration.

Eherenreich cites four problems with the "super-rich," which we can look at one-by-one. First,

"the Clemens example [the example pointed out that Roger Clemens salary doesn't impact most of us] distracts from the reality that a great deal of the wealth at the top is built on the low-wage labor of the poor. Take Wal-Mart, our largest private employer and premiere exploiter of the working class: Every year, 4 or 5 of the people on Forbes magazine's list of the ten richest Americans carry the surname Walton, meaning they are the children, nieces, and nephews of Wal-Mart's founder."

Eherenreich is right that most of us love to hate trust fund babies- but that's more class warfare than economic fact. Just think about Wal-Mart for a second- if Wal-Mart, from the very start, offered lower wages than people otherwise had the opportunity to earn in their communities, no one would have ever gone to work there in the first place. So obviously, there is some segment of the population that has benefited from the jobs Wal-Mart has to offer. And of course, rich people being rich doesn't make any of the rest of us worse off.

Second, though a lot of today's wealth is being made in the financial industry, by means that are occult to the average citizen and do not seem to involve much labor of any kind, we all pay a price, somewhere down the line. All those late fees, puffed up interest rates and exorbitant charges for low-balance checking accounts do not, as far as I can determine, go to soup kitchens.

Ahhhh- now this is what I've been blogging about the past few months- the fees and interest rates that make it possible for low income people to get credit, buy homes, and maintain a bank account. Yes, I'm sure there are people making money on all these low income people- but if no one wanted to make that money, than no one would offer these services to low income people in the first place. Business doesn't exist to serve people, it exists to make money, and lower income people face higher fees and higher interest rates because they are more of a financial risk. The real question is, does having these opportunities make low-income people worse off? I don't think so.

Third, the overclass bids up the price of goods that ordinary people also need -- housing, for example. Gentrification is dispersing the urban poor into overcrowded suburban ranch houses, while billionaires' horse farms displace the rural poor and middle class. Similarly, the rich can swallow tuitions of $40,000 and up, making a college education increasingly a privilege of the upper classes.

Eherenreich may have a point about gentrification pushing the poor out of cities (at least in certain cities), but this tends to be the result of government policies- urban renewal and eminent domain and the like- and not the result of the market. And I'm not quite sure if "overcrowded suburban ranch houses" are worse living conditions than the urban tenements my relatives lived in when they first came to this country one hundred years ago.

And I just have to point out the utter ridiculousness of this tuition example. Yes, the rising cost of education is troubling, but the fact of the matter is, a greater percentage of kids are going to college today than ever before. Certainly a greater percentage of kids are going to college today than went thirty years ago.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the huge concentration of wealth at the top is routinely used to tilt the political process in favor of the wealthy. Yes, we should acknowledge the philanthropic efforts of exceptional billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates.

But if we don't end up with universal health insurance in the next few years, it won't be because the average American isn't pining for relief from escalating medical costs.

Yes, the wealthy have political power, but I mean, come on. Factor in federal, state, and local taxes, and many of the very wealthy pay up to 50% or more of their income in taxes- that hardly sounds like a system completely controlled by the wealthy. And ... yeah ... we've talked about universal health insurance before.

Life Imitates Southpark

I was forwarded this story the other day and just had to link to it here: Ginger family forced to move. (Thanks John.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Parties With Your Mom Home ... Priceless

I love Radley Balco and I'm glad he's back in the states and blogging on a regular basis again. That being said, allow me to link to his post on a Virginia woman who is going to spend 27 months in jail after serving alcohol at her teenage son's party. Oh, and by the way- this was one of those parties where she took all the kids keys so that none of them would drive drunk.

Yes, I do understand that the law was broken, but what good does it do for anyone to send this woman to jail for over two years? (I suppose if you're a strong believer in deterrence theory, then maybe this sentence wasn't harsh enough, but then again, how bad was this behavior that we really need deterrence in the first place?) Personally, I think this is just the perfect example of how our laws go too far- too far in that we take a social problem (either real or perceived) and address that problem by passing what end up being draconian measures that far exceed the scope of the problem in the first place. I'm curious as to other people's thoughts. Is this as ridiculous as I think it is?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

More From The Global Warming Front

I found this response to global warming critics by author Joshua Frank on Counterbias.com to be quite revealing. Frank's response is, in part, a response to a number of columns by Alexander Cockburn, a liberal who has attacked "greenhouse gas fear mongers." Here's the money quote:

Yet climate change, as I noted earlier, is a symptom of industrialization. It cannot, and will not, be tamed until we acknowledge as much.

There is little risk in playing it safe — go ahead and consider the possibility that human industry is contributing to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. The only harm in calling for a dramatic curb in CO2 emissions, I see, is that large oil and gas companies will have to radically alter their destructive ways. But if global warming serves as a gateway for people to openly criticize our global economy, and God forbid, industrial capitalism — all the better.

At least Joshua Frank has the balls to admit it- global warming provides a scientific cover for criticism of the global economy and industrial capitalism- you know, our modern way of life.

And Frank can quote all the financial data he wants- yes, of course global warming skeptics tend to receive money from oil companies- oil companies are going to send research money to those researchers who support their views, not researchers who think global warming is a man-made impending disaster. This follow the money argument adds nothing to the actual debate. But what about Frank and those like him- those who think industrial capitalism is a problem. Is it at all possible that their views on the issue of global warming are clouded by their political views of just how the world should be?

Let me just say, I know my views on global warming are certainly clouded by my politics. But I at least can say I have history on my side. History that tells us that climate change, in one form or another, is always occurring, and history that tells us that capitalism has provided the best mechanisms for dealing with environmental changes, in the form of technological and scientific advances.

And I hear they have that freedom of speech too

See! I promised I wouldn't disappear completely. I just wanted to point out this "I never thought of that" post from Megan McArdle at Asymmetrical Information. She points out how strange it is that Cuba is often referenced in the health care debate in this country. After all, it is a totalitarian communist country! Are any of their health statistics verified by independent researchers or do they come straight from the Castro administration?

Monday, June 04, 2007


I really, really, really hate to do it, but I think the lonely libertarian is headed for a two month hiatus. There's just no way I can squeeze blogging in with work, studying for the bar, and time with Larissa, friends, and the dogs- at least not on a regular basis.

Maybe I'll post something here and there, but look to see the lonely libertarian back at full strength this August. We can talk about Harry Potter, football, and the numerous ways government is trying to interfere with our lives. Thank you to all my readers and commenters, who have made the last few years of blogging extremely enjoyable. See you all in August.