Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Health-care debate VII

Do we want to fix health care? Health care is a cross roads where health-care providers, health-care consumers, health-care insurers and government all meet up. I can not talk about reforming those things without getting into pretty serious conversation what government’s role in society is, and here is my “simple” answer…

Government has a legitimate monopoly on force. If the mafia says “Give us 30% of your paycheck, every paycheck, to spend on protecting you and if you don’t we will take your stuff and/or lock you up in a small room with highly abusive people,” we would call that a protection racket, a form of organized crime. The reason the government is allowed to do this, and other groups are not, is because the government has a legitimate monopoly on force.

Under normal circumstances, a person exposes themselves to force by contract. Your collectors have the right to take your stuff if you don’t pay because you signed a contract saying it was OK. The fact that you have many contractors to choose from and that you enter the contract of your free will, makes this type of force self regulating and legitimate.

Government, on the other hand has this right regardless of contract, and there is no competition. So, in the absence of voluntary contracts serving as a control to the force, freewill is expressed through democracy.

However, democracy requires a system in order to function well. The simple will of the majority for every government tasking would be disastrous, even it it were logistically feasible. Fifty-one percent could (and would) use their power over the government to use the government’s monopoly of force to seize the money and resources of the remaining 49%.

Also, the fact that the government has monopoly on force doesn’t mean the government is the best instrument to accomplish every job. Socialism basically means the rich pay more taxes and the money taken from the rich provides for the poor. In a totally socialist state, the government would make all economic decisions for the people. Historically, this works very poorly.

Americans, justifiably proud of their economy, often complain about socialist economic control. However, if people take the time to think, few people really want a totally capitalist society, in which the supply of anything is controlled only by market demand, and not by the government’s monopoly of force.

Prescriptions are a good example. In a totally capitalist society, people could buy whatever drugs they wanted. The supply of drugs would be controlled completely by the demand for them. However, we impose non-market control over drugs, denying people access to drugs regardless of their demand because, in this case, capitalism harms rather then helps society.

Why? Because capitalism is a means to an end and not an end to itself. Capitalism is great at providing a variety of products, and using competition to drive the price of those products down, but capitalism, like many tools, is without morals. It is neither good, nor bad; it just is. Sometimes we stop capitalism from working on moral grounds.

The military is another good example. Bill Gates pays about 15 million times more taxes than the average American. Yet, he receives exactly the same level of military protection as the homeless who live nearby. That is socialism at its most basic. Yet few Americans clamor to have the US military dismantled and replaced with competing mercenary bands. We turn capitalism off and utilize the government’s monopoly of force when it seems that taking unequally from all to provide equally to all is more moral than not. In a totally capitalist economy, the rich would have the best police, the best roads, the safest airplanes, just as in our current economy they have the best cars, the best houses, and the safest neighborhoods.

Morality is the test. The poor people in a police district get the exact same protection as the rich in the same district, flying first class is just as safe as flying other classes, and the military protects us all to the same degree regardless of income, because we have decided to tax those with money, to pay for a service for all.

The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, thus everybody pays what the government thinks they are able, to receive the exact same level of military protection. This does not mean there is a universal right to military protection, for there is no such thing as a right to a service when no contract has been made; it simply means the government has a responsibility to provide the best military the people will fund.

Health-care is no different. The government has a responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens. If 50,000 people a year die in attacks, the government acts through the military. If 50,000 a year die in traffic accidents, the government acts through the Department of Transportation. If 50,000 a year die from inaccessible health-care…well then let’s not do a fucking thing because that would be socialism?

My. God. Obviously, morality calls for the limited suspension of capitalism in this case. France has the the highest value health-care on Earth. In a few other countries, people pay less but get far less (Chad for instance). In most other countries people pay far more and get a bit less. There are three keys: (1) There is a single payer (the government) for everything; (2) The book keeping is state of the art; (3) The doctors strike regularly.

It’s that simple. In response to the will of the people, the government sets price caps as low as possible. In response to the health care providers, the government raises price caps. Between the two, the providers get the incentive they need to stay in the market, and the people get what they need to be able to afford health care.

And it will not work in the U.S. for just as simple a reason – we lack the sort of democracy that allows it. In the U.S.’s single-member-district plurality representation, it’s all or nothing; 100% or 0%. That simply will not work for government price fixing. Let us suppose the Republicans side with the doctors, and the Democrats with the “more-for-less” voice of the people.

When the regime is Republican, the doctors will do well. When the regime is Democrat, the doctors will do poorly. In a society like France’s, the doctors will always win something, but never as much as they ask for…every year. The people will always win something but never as much as they ask for..every year. In the U.S., doctors will spend 4-8 years going broke followed by 4-8 years of getting paid. Though this averages out to the same thing, the fact is after 8 lean years, doctors will be leaving the field in droves. The profession of medicine cannot survive the zero sum game (0% or 100%) method of democracy; it needs proportional representation.

If we really want health-care reform, we need to partially socialize medicine. If we want that, and we want crops of new doctors to replace the retiring ones every year, we must have proportional democracy.

Proportional democracy, however, only works for large bodies of many representatives, like the House. For things like the Senate, or the Presidency, we still need to vote for one person. No matter how democratic the House, unless the Senate and the President are elected differently, we will have made huge change with no positive effects. The two-party system would still rule the executive branch and the Senate.

For these, we need a Condorcet vote. In this system, the voter rank candidates, and the overall winner gets the seat. This breaks the back of the two-party system and puts the President and the Senate in the same democratic boat as the House.

Without these, any attempt at health-care reform is so much verbal masturbation.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, Science, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Food Crisis

NOTE: This written a while ago.  Its not that great.

You might be aware of the impending world food crisis. People in the less affluent world are going to start dropping dead like flies, apparently, because food is too hard to get or too expensive.

There are a number of micro-explanations for this, but pretty much everyone agrees that the macro-explanation is a causal chain which goes like this: America and other rich powers consume too much. This overconsumption causes overconsumption of fossil fuels, as fossil fuels are the backbone of their economies. This fuel consumption causes global warming, which causes climate change, which causes crop failure. Crop failure raises the price of food. Further exacerbating this is the use of food crops as hydrocarbon substitutes, i.e. biofuel. The conversion of land from food to biofuel, and the reduced supply of food, work to further increase the price of food.

In essence, rich nations caused the global food crisis, and it is they who are therefore responsible for fixing it. Ronin says, bullshit.

The whole food process is a series of interlocking non-sequential factors. The following things must exist for the food process to take place.

  • There must be local buyers who can get a surplus of calories out of the food, spending less calories working to get it than it provides.
  • There must be sub-distributors who can make enough surplus buying it in bulk and selling it to be able to afford their own food.
  • There must be a transportation infrastructure that can make enough surplus moving food from rural regions to urban regions and food payment from urban regions to rural regions that they desire to do so.
  • There must be farmers who can make enough of a surplus selling their food that they have enough surplus to maintain their farms.
  • There must be laborers at every stage who can make enough of a surplus working that they prefer to work.
  • The buyers must be able to pay enough that by the time payment gets through the many hands to the farmer, the farmer will have enough of a surplus to desire to sell his grain.
  • There must be land and water for the food to grow.

Any failure of the above 7 points will result in famine. If you noticed the word surplus over and over, you might have remembered the other word for surplus is profit. I postulate the following very simple axiom:

The solution to famine is surplus (in a non-money economies) or profit (in money economies).

Evidence offered:

  • The worst famines in modern history occurred under Marxist regimes which had completely dismantled Adam Smith’s “guiding hand” of free market and attempted to control every aspect of the economy from a central government. For instance, Mao’s great leap forward (30 million dead.) or the Holodomor famine (3 million dead).
  • Famine in Europe during the middle ages was directly related to market distortions caused by the aristocracy.
  • The Irish Famine was caused by Protestants not allowing Catholics to own land or learn to read. This created a market distortion where the people who worked the land were not allowed to sell what they produced, but instead had to give it to the landowners without charge.
  • The State of Arizona is geophysically incapable of growing its own food. Statistically, all food is imported. Yet there is never a famine. Everyone in the state has access to sufficient resources to pay for food even if a food shortage raises the price.
  • No functioning democracy has ever had a famine. There is a correlation between political and economic freedom.
  • The Netherlands, which have relied on importation to fully satisfy economic need for over 400 years, have not had a famine in that time (despite numerous famines over Europe during that period.) A complex and rich economy has always allowed them to trade sufficiently with other nations to cover the increased cost of food during a food shortage.

This might lead you to the conclusion that in the coming global food crisis those who have the least surplus will be the most affected. True. Sustenance farmers, who by definition have no surplus, are the group most at risk for famine at any given time. The cost of food is pretty much fixed world wide. World wages are not. A pound of rice is about 25 cents in the US. It’s about that everywhere. It’s just that in, say, Angola, more than half the population makes less than $18 a day. For us in the States, food costs about 15% of our income. For much of the world it costs around 75% of their income.

We don’t have a world food crisis. We have a world capitalism crisis. The question is not “Why is food getting so expensive?” Food gets expensive from time time. The price goes up, which decreases the supply, increasing the demand and thus the price. When the price goes up people buy less, and the supply increases, lowering the price. The question is, “Why isn’t capitalism taking it’s natural course of improving lives in places like Africa, the way it is in places such as India and China?”

The answer is as tragic as it is simple. World aid destroys developing economies. Remember the first 7 points? If the UN brings in grain, that means grain is free. If grain is free, farmers cannot make a living selling grain. They leave their farms to seek their fortunes in the city, exacerbating the grain shortage by removing local grain as well as consuming the aid grain.

The US rose because no one was there to help it. China has refused help. India refused colonization at any cost. As long as there is United Nations Aid presence in these impoverished countries, they will not go through the fire of developing the methods to deal with local crop failures on their own.

The process of economic freedom is the lifeblood that feeds the process of political freedom. It is awfully hard to revolt if you can’t afford any bullets.

Capitalism is the glove on the hand of self-determinism. Economic freedom buys all the other freedoms. Economic freedom buys lobbyists, education, and simply buys opportunity.

Sadly, the United States press has laid the fault of the impending global food crisis on the economic policies which prevent famine in the affluent world (free market and democracy), rather than on the polices which cause famine in the poor world (controlled market and autocracy). Furthermore, they have stated that the solution is reduced economic freedom…

Prices must be fixed, after all it worked so well for Mao.

Biofuel must be stopped. (Even though mixed agricultural economy is what ensures a nation has something valuable to trade for food in a food shortage.)

And of course, Aid must be increased, even though it bankrupts the local economies which receive it.

How many more millions must die to prove the point that wealthy educated people such as the UN, the Soviets, and the Chinese Central Government do not know what is better for poor uneducated people than those people themselves?

Read here for a more scholarly look at the situation:

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Ecology, Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments