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Obama's Shutdown and Public Choice Theory

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It's Not Just Failed Obamacare

by Christopher Chantrill
October 14, 2013 at 12:00 am


OBAMACARE ROLLED out last week in utter chaos. The ruling class conceit that anyone could stitch together a national system of health insurance exchanges went up in a billowing cloud of failure. Who could have seen that coming?

So what went wrong?

Let’s start with the usual liberal narrative. Back in the bad old days capitalism was an engine of exploitation and oppression as the bosses sweated their laborers in miserable work conditions. The workers died young with lung disease if they were lucky enough not to be killed due to unsafe work conditions.

But then came liberals and their beneficial legislation limiting hours of work, mandating safety codes, providing pensions, health care, education, and welfare. Finally the darkness of those satanic mills was brightened with a new day of decency and compassion.

But suppose all that beneficial legislation had very little to do with it. Suppose that capitalism was showering untold wealth on everyone from $3 per capita per day in 1800 to the present $120 per day with or without liberals to help. Suppose that, whatever the ethics of businessmen, prosperity encourages workers to balk at work in dangerous mines, and it provides them the means to protect themselves against hard times and build a little nest egg.

Then liberals have spent the last century taking credit for capitalism’s triumphs.

In reality, the ruling class has made a dog’s breakfast of everything it has attempted. Forget the mess of green energy killing birds and “affordable housing” killing the credit system and all the other horror stories. Let’s just look at the Four Bigs: pensions, health care, education, welfare. I use them as examples because usgovernmentspending.com shows that the Four Bigs plus the Pentagon account for most of government spending.

In pensions the ruling class decided that it was better qualified than the workers themselves to organize and maintain custody of worker savings. The big idea of the time was Defined Benefit. How’s that working out for Social Security and the pension systems of many state and local governments?

In health care the ruling class encouraged the idea of pre-paid health care coverage. How’s that going as health care is forecast to eat the federal budget in the next 20 years?

Hey Barry! How are those entitlement reform ideas of yours coming along?

In education, the government has utterly neglected education for the poor while grossly subsidizing the college education of the professional class. How are those student loan payments going, millennials?

In welfare, the government has encouraged the growth of a gigantic non-working underclass, and now even 60 Minutes has discovered the monstrous middle-class scam of disability fraud. And you thought that welfare was solved when Bill Clinton signed welfare reform in 1996?

What is going on here? It’s just politics as usual.

Politics offers two temptations. It offers power to the ruling class, and it offers loot to its supporters. It’s just like the Middle Ages. Or the Conquistadors. Or the absolute monarchs. Or the modern big-city machine.

Notice the difference between politics and capitalism. In politics the ruling class succeeds by offering free stuff to its supporters. In business the CEOs win by offering good products that consumers want to pay for. You tell me which is morally superior.

Obmacare therefore offers power to the liberal ruling class and loot to the liberals’ supporters. On this view, it doesn’t matter if Obamacare doesn’t really work, as long as it’s free. Loot is loot; you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and about 40 percent of Americans have thought that Obamacare was going to be free.

But if the majority of Americans was once happy with its own health plan and its own doctor, then the failures of Obamacare matter. Free stuff is one thing, and everyone can applaud the idea of health care for everyone. But if you discover, as retired teacher Cindy Vinson just did, that your old health plan has been canceled and that your premiums are up sharply, and that you are going to have to pay for other peoples’ free stuff, that changes things.

Cindy may decide that the problem with Obamacare is not just that its bureaucrats are incompetent, or that the president’s waivers to his special interest pals are corrupt. She may decide that the whole system of Obamacare domination can be summed up in one word: injustice.

Then US politics becomes a contest to see who can be the first to tell President Obama to his face: Mr. President, you lied!

They call it speaking truth to power.

Conservatives would like to persuade America that it’s not just Obamacare, it’s the system that’s unjust, the whole unjust system of the liberals’ authoritarian welfare state, from health care to welfare.

But will the American people ever allow conservatives to fix it?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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