Friday, August 28, 2009

Celebrating Oil Business Heroes

Because it's even more important to celebrate the good than excoriate the bad, here's a snippet from an IBD guest editorial by Alex Epstein. In it he shows just why we should be, paraphrasing Rand in an essay from her anthology The New Left, kissing the nearest oil derrick.
Producers of oil-based kerosene won out due to superior quality and price. Where whale oil was lighting homes for $3 a gallon in 1860, kerosene was lighting homes for 9 cents a gallon by 1880 — giving millions of Americans the gift of illumination at night.

In the early 20th century, as the electric light bulb outcompeted kerosene, oil producers focused on producing automotive fuel — and beat out steam, ethanol and — the front-runner at the time — electric batteries, through a combination of affordability, safety and convenience.
The men and women of the past several generations who have created and sustained the oil-related businesses are true unsung heroes. Celebrating their birthdays, and those of their achievements, is infinitely more important than marking Earth Day or Labor Day.

I live on 5 acres of heavily forested land, surrounded by hundreds of similar plots. But I'm still of the view that there is more beauty in an oil platform than a giant cedar, even though I love both.

In that spirit, I offer tribute to the engineers who envisaged British Petroleum's Thunder Horse, a "$5 billion semi-submersible platform 150 miles southeast of New Orleans. Fifty percent larger than the next largest such rig in the world, it includes more than 100 technical firsts that will enable it to process 250,000 barrels of oil and 200,000 million cubic feet of natural gas per day - enough to supply 6.5 million American homes with energy."

Thank you, David Rainey, Mary Heinking, and all the other unsung heroes in the world. I am forever in your debt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teddy Kennedy, Dead at 77, 50 Years Too Late

Following is only a minuscule encapsulation of the evils this power-hungry, egalitarian aristocrat helped inflict on Americans:
Kennedy cobbled together legislative majorities (often bipartisan) that expanded the federal government's role in health care, boosted immigration levels, raised the minimum wage, increased environmental regulations, and enhanced legal protections for the disabled.
By all means, let us not speak ill of the dead, unless the dead happens to be someone who spent a lifetime violating the rights of his fellow man.

Edward Kennedy, may he RIP - Roast in Perdition.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Greens Expose Black Thumb(s Down)

Well, the viros are at it again, blocking development of badly needed resources. Nothing unusual about that, but what's interesting in this case is how the fight is Green on Green, in a way.

As a recent IBD editorial reports it:
Last week, [Democrat New York Governor] David Patterson released a draft report of his Energy Planning Board that does something Democrats are loath to do: It proposes developing a domestic energy resource — the huge amounts of natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale formation.
Geologist Gary Lash of State University New York at Fredonia and colleague Terry Engelder of Penn State estimate that Marcellus holds 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. About 20 trillion cubic feet are produced in the U.S. annually.

Lash notes that successful wells have already been drilled in Pennsylvania — one near Pittsburgh and the other in Susquehanna County. A Penn State report that was requested by state legislators predicted that Marcellus could add $14 billion to the state's economy in 2010, create more than 98,000 jobs and generate $800 million in state and local tax revenues.
The Potential Gas Committee of the Colorado School of Mines reported in June that the U.S. has 1,836 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas locked up in formations like Marcellus, the Bakken formation centered in North Dakota and the Green River Formation in the Rocky Mountain West.
[Yet] Robert Kennedy Jr.'s Riverkeeper and other greenie groups object to the means of extracting gas and oil from shale — a technique known as fracking.
Kennedy and the rest of the fracking opposition say that since the technique uses a lot of water, we should worry about possible groundwater pollution and the impact on water supplies, rivers and streams. Proximity of the Marcellus formation to New York City's watershed has caused concern.

Roger Willis, owner of a hydraulic fracturing company in the Pennsylvania town of Meadville, says thousands of frack jobs have been done on rock formations above and below the Marcellus shale in New York state with no aquifer damage.
"This 60-year-old technique has been responsible for 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas," according to Inhofe. "In hydraulic fracturing's 60-year-history, there has not been a single documented case of contamination."

And, still, the Greens oppose it. Wonder why?... No, neither do I.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Health Care Trojan Ass

Well, here's an unusual bit of honesty from the Left on "the Public Option."

According to a recent IBD editorial:
As American Prospect Executive Editor Mark Schmitt notes on his magazine's blog, Roger Hickey of the leftist Campaign for America's Future (CAF) as early as 2007 "went around to the community of single-payer advocates" selling the public option as a ruse.

Hickey pointed out in a New Jersey speech, for instance, that "the hard reality, from the point of view of all of us who understand the efficiency and simplicity of a single-payer system, is that our pollsters unanimously tell us that large numbers of Americans are not willing to give up the good private insurance they now have in order to be put into one big health plan run by the government."

When ill-fated Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, at CAF's behest, embraced a public option on NBC's "Meet the Press," said Hickey, "he was very clear that his public plan could become the dominant part of his new health care program, if enough people choose it."

The Obama and Hillary campaigns soon also embraced a public option. The political purpose of all three, according to Schmitt: "convince the single-payer advocates, who were the only engaged health care constituency on the left, that they could live with the public option as a kind of stealth single-payer, thus transferring their energy and enthusiasm to this alternative."

I'm not sure whether the speaker intended to quite so forthright, but I always like to give a Progressive credit when one is. One of the major reasons they continue to enjoy some success in the public square, after all, is the continual cover-up, the pretense of favoring prosperity, justice, and freedom, while doing everything possible to undermine it.

To be honest about one's dishonesty is rare, and we should applaud the frankness here. I think.

Joaquin Sorolla, Painter of Joy

The Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla (Born February 27, 1863 Valencia, died August 10, 1923) produced a very diverse output. Bright beach scenes, warm portraits, and more that vary in subject matter and style. Yet all are suffused with a spirit that says "Life is joy!"

Here are a few samples:

The White Boat


And They Still Say Fish are Expensive!

The Actress, MarĂ­a Guerrero

Boy with a Ball

Before Bathing

and, a Self-Portrait

For a complete catalog, and to view the images at a larger size, go to: Joaquin Sorolla y


Monday, August 17, 2009

New Blog Featuring New Art

A new blog - Art, Love, and Philosophy with an anonymous author - has begun very well indeed. Featuring Frank Lloyd Wright homes and many little known sculptures, there's already much to feast on. Here are two works in particular that struck my eye.

Elena Study II by Richard MacDonald:

and the same artist's The Three Graces:

It's always a deep joy to discover a great artist previously not known. When it turns out to be a contemporary, the pleasure is multiplied manyfold. There may yet be hope for humanity, after all.

[Hat Tip to Peter Cresswell of Not PC who is one of the best "flame spotters" around.]

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quin Hillyer on Fascist Parallels

Quin Hillyer of American Spectator, one of today's finest political commentators if not the best, explains the similarities between the policies of the U.S. Federal Government and that of Mussolini in 1920's Italy. (From an April 2, 2009 column):
Just as Mussolini did (in slightly different words), Obama repeatedly talks about using government to "leverage" private investment for the greater good. And now, as of this week, he actually dared to force a private corporation, General Motors, to fire its CEO. Meanwhile, his close ally Barney Frank introduced a bill to give the Treasury Secretary the power to set all salary levels for all employees of any companies in which the government has a capital stake.
Meanwhile, in Congress's rush to pass a huge expansion of "national service" programs, almost exactly as outlined by Obama in a 2007 speech, few congressman likely realized that the details included "campuses" with "superintendents" of uniformed youth, formed into "cadres," and indoctrinated even in math and science classes in the ideals of "service learning" financed through a "social innovation fund" funneled through favored "community organizations." (ACORN, anyone?) Even elementary school students would be recruited for these government-sponsored efforts.

As the Washington Examiner editorialized, it all sounds like a "creepy authoritarianism" on the loose. (See these examples just from last year's campaign.)

Again and again, Obama has called not just for a change of policies, but to "change America" or to "remake" this nation. And here, from his national convention speech last August, is his notion, his collectivist notion, of change: "That's the promise of America — the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."

Well, no, not when it comes to state power. Government should have no authority to make us be our brothers' "keepers," lest the state itself become Big Brother. [emphasis mine]
Naturally, he was accused in short order by The Economist, the New York Times, and others of speaking the truth exaggeration or worse.

A final excerpt:
All of this economic intervention and government expansion, all of this use of collectivist language and collectivist goals, combined with the first big steps towards Obama's goal of "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the American military, is straight out of Mussolini's playbook.
Here, here.

A final note: This was all written last April. It's August - a seeming lifetime later - and things have only gotten worse. Fortunately, the tide is turning. Keep those sails taut.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sweden Rejoins the Living

Sweden now has a chance of coming back to life.
Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg has seen the result up close and says it's not pretty for the economy or investors.

Anders Borg has a message for those who look to government to take over health care, rescue the financial system and run troubled corporations: I have seen the future--and it doesn't work.

As the finance minister of Sweden, Borg is the chief financial officer of a country long known as a walking billboard for a social welfare state. In Borg's view, the 1970s and 1980s were lost decades for Sweden. Left-leaning politicians pushed government spending, excluding investment outlays, from 22% of gross domestic product in 1970 to 30% in 1980. Real growth fell from an average of 4.4% annually in the 1960s to 2.4% in the 1970s and remained low for the next two decades.

"Like many societies, we went too far in our welfare-state ambitions," say Borg (pronounced "Bor-ee").
Borg's idols were free marketeers Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
He undercuts that by saying,
[I]t's quite possible to combine "a flexible, market-oriented system with the traditional values of Sweden." By "traditional" he means valuing social cohesion [and] a publicly financed safety net of some sort...
Even this mixed message is a big step forward for a soft-socialist state like Sweden. Best of luck to Mr. Borg.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quote of the Month, from Ayn Rand

Relevant not just to the ongoing health care/health insurance debate, but to the state of our current culture in general:
“[T]his is the issue at the base of all dictatorships, all collectivist theories and all human evils. I could not understand how any man could be so brutalized as to claim the right to dispose of the lives of others, nor how any man could be so lacking in self-esteem as to grant to others the right to dispose of his life.”
Observe that this is the fundamental modus and evil of Progressives. Beyond all the wonky debates about cost, efficiency, risk management, etc., apart from the faux concerns about "fairness," "greed," and so forth, Progressives simply don't trust free human beings, and therefore lust to chain them. It's reminiscent of the joke in the film Rob Roy: "Rob, do ya know why Calvinists dislike shaggin' standin' ooop?... They fear it'll lead to dancin'!"

And, indeed it will. Such is the mentality of all Puritans, whose basic view of human beings leads them to believe that they must, above all, not be allowed to exercise their own choices. Paraphrasing Mencken, god forbid, there might actually be happy people in the world!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jefferson vs. Hamilton Redux

A very interesting article at TCS Daily brings history to life by comparing the current debate over health care 'reform' to those that took place in the early republic:
Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, was a nationalist who had an expansive view of the powers granted to the nascent federal government under the newly-ratified Constitution. ... [H]e promoted federal involvement in manufacturing enterprises and other economic activities (something that had to wait for 20th century presidents for implementation).

In these endeavors, Hamilton faced the bitter opposition of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson warned that raising taxes to finance a growing national debt would spark resistance. But he went well beyond merely counseling the President and wrestling with Hamilton inside the cabinet.

In combination with James Madison, Hamilton's erstwhile collaborator in the ratification struggle who had broken with his ally over the Bank of the United States, Jefferson took the lead in organizing a "republican" opposition to Hamilton's "royalists" or "monocrats." He corresponded with activists in several states, toured the back country with Madison in search of supporters, and gave a hack writer a job at the State Department, helping him found a newspaper with which to savage Hamilton (who relied on his own allied newspaper to punch back).
The conflict took a dangerous turn with the outbreak of the Whiskey Rebellion, an uprising against an excise tax on spirits that Hamilton had recommended. Public protests erupted first in Pennsylvania and were mostly peaceful, but not entirely; there were several mob attacks on tax collectors.

Federalist forces struck back, painting the protesters as "a rabble" and "an ignorant herd" wedded to "worn out ideas." President Washington temporized, hoping that reducing the tax and emitting conciliatory messages would dissipate public anger. But official reports kept reaching him that characterized the protests, with more than a little exaggeration, "as a vast conspiracy of Anti-Federalist sympathizers bent on destroying the new national government."
The entire article is well worth a read, as is most of the material on that period. [Side note on that link: this ain't the dry stuff you were taught in school. This is high drama!]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yaron Brook on the Health Care Debate Debacle

Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, answers

Why Are We Moving Toward Socialized Medicine?
Government intervention in medicine is wrecking American health care. Nearly half of all spending on health care in America is already government spending. Yet President Obama’s “reforms” will only expand that intervention.

Prior to the government’s entrance into medicine, health care was regarded as a product to be traded voluntarily on a free market--no different from food, clothing, or any other important good or service. Medical providers competed to provide the best quality services at the lowest possible prices. Virtually all Americans could afford basic health care, while those few who could not were able to rely on abundant private charity.

Had this freedom been allowed to endure, Americans’ rising productivity would have afforded them better and better health care, just as, today, we buy better and more varied food and clothing than people did a century ago. There would be no crisis of affordability, as there isn’t for food or clothing.

But by the time Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965, this view of health care as an economic product--for which each individual must assume responsibility--had given way to a view of health care as a “right,” an unearned “entitlement,” to be provided at others’ expense.

This entitlement mentality fueled the rise of our current third-party-payer system, a blend of government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, together with government-controlled employer-based health insurance (itself spawned by perverse tax incentives during the wage and price controls of World War II).

The resulting system aimed to relieve the individual of the “burden” of paying for his own health care by coercively imposing its costs on his neighbors. Today, for every dollar’s worth of hospital care a patient consumes, that patient pays only about 3 cents out of pocket; the rest is paid by third-party coverage. And for the health care system as a whole, patients pay only about 14 percent.

Shifting the responsibility for health care costs away from the individuals who accrue them led to an explosion in spending. In a system in which someone else is footing the bill, consumers, encouraged to regard health care as a “right,” demand medical services without having to consider their real price. When, through the 1970s and 1980s, this artificially inflated consumer demand sent expenditures soaring out of control, the government cracked down by enacting further coercive measures: price controls on medical services, cuts to medical benefits, and a crushing burden of regulations on every aspect of the health care system.

As each new intervention further distorted the health care market, driving up costs and lowering quality, belligerent voices demanded still further interventions to preserve the “right” to health care: from regulations mandating various forms of insurance coverage to Bush’s massive prescription drug bill.

The solution to this ongoing crisis is to recognize that the very idea of a “right” to health care is a perversion. There can be no such thing as a “right” to products or services created by the effort of others, and this most definitely includes medical products and services. Rights, as the Founders conceived them, are not claims to economic goods, but to freedoms of action.

You are free to see a doctor and pay him for his services--no one may forcibly prevent you from doing so. But you do not have a “right” to force the doctor to treat you without charge or to force others to pay for your treatment. The rights of some cannot require the coercion and sacrifice of others.

Real and lasting solutions to our health care problems require a rejection of the entitlement mentality in favor of a proper conception of rights. This would provide the moral basis for breaking the regulatory chains stifling the medical industry; for lifting the tax and regulatory incentives fueling our dysfunctional, employer-based insurance system; for inaugurating a gradual phase-out of all government health care programs, especially Medicare and Medicaid; and for restoring a true free market in medical care.

Such sweeping reforms would unleash the power of capitalism in the medical industry. They would provide the freedom for entrepreneurs motivated by profit to compete with each other to offer the best quality medical services at the lowest prices, driving innovation and bringing affordable medical care, once again, into the reach of all Americans.

Yaron Brook is the executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C. ARC is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Copyright 2009 by the Ayn Rand Institute. Used by permission.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Calling a (Fascist) Spade a Spade

Mr. Ponnuru of NRO is once again being very perspicacious. He quotes Michael Kinsley as asking:
"If the government requires insurers to accept all customers and charge all the same price, regulates all aspects of their marketing to make sure they aren't discriminating, and then redistributes the profits to make sure that no company gets penalized unfairly, in what sense is the industry still 'private'?"
Exactly so. What neither points out, though I will, is that this is the exact prototype of Fascism (in this case, in health care insurance). Yet, there are noisy Democratic Congress critters decrying comparisons to Nazis.

Forget the imagery of Brown Shirts or Black Shirts (they'll likely be Green or Red this time around anyway). Forget the violence of 1920s Italy or 1930s Germany (the Black Panthers and the SEIU are taking care of that this time around in America). Forget all the symbols, the wacky views about vegetarian living (promulgated by Himmler and Hitler both), and so forth. None of that is essential.

What counts is whether there is nominal private ownership (which includes the right of use and disposal according to one's own choices, not the government rulers) but de facto total control. That is the essence of Fascism and what is being proposed -- and has been accomplished already to a frightening degree in large swaths of the auto manufacturing and financial businesses, and medical care and insurance, too -- is exactly that.

Leftists can get as angry as they want at calling a jackboot spade a spade, but if you're digging a hole with one to bury all of us, the instrument is not hard to identify.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Mask Slips Again

Barack Obama, at a recent speech in front of an adoring crowd, said:
But I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don't mind cleaning up after them, but don't do a lot of talking.
Not surprisingly, the crowd cheered.

Set aside that the prospect of Obama and his cohorts leading Congress will clean up any mess, rather than amplify it, is ludicrous on its face.

Barack Obama shows once again how thin-skinned he is. Whenever criticism rears, his instinctive reaction is to snarl. (When this tendency becomes more widely reported look for him to make a point of denying it in his usual way. The one thing he can not abide is anyone, anyone disliking him or anything he says in the least.)

However, one thing needs to be pointed out. Many commentators are interpreting this to mean he was telling the American people to shut up. That's not a fair reading. He was clearly referring — though, as usual, he refuses to be specific or name names — to Republicans and, once again to George Bush. (Not that he would mind, mind you, if everyone just went along passively with anything he decided.)

Well, George Bush, to my knowledge, has made no remarks whatever about ObamaCare (or any other Obama policy). And, while Obama would be loath to admit it, the Democrats have been in the majority in Congress for more than two years now.

It's true that many Republicans too, may they roast, voted for TARP which got the recent snowball toward fascism rolling at accelerated speed. And, he should burn in hell for it first, Bush Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson devised it and pushed for it, with Bush cheering him on the whole time. But the Democrats embraced it lovingly. (They understand better than most Napoleon's dictum that: "When your enemy is making a mistake, don't get in his way.")

Also, Obama has continued — and put on steroids — not only TARP, but many "hated" Bush policies: the war in Afghanistan, medical welfare, Federal interference in education, auto company bailouts, and more.

So, one has to wonder just who it is Obama would like to shut up. Read a certain, plausible way it would be himself. Now wouldn't that be wonderful.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thin Edge of the (Progressive) Wedge

I can but echo Ramesh Ponnuru, here, and say "You've been warned."

Mr. Ponnuru is referring to remarks made by the Progressive insurance-company/medical-care-professional slavery advocate, Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic.
[I]t's not as if it will be impossible to scale up these reforms later on. If Congress passes and the president signs a bill putting in place the key institutional elements of reform now, they can always revisit, and strengthen, the measure later.

During the 1980s, Henry Waxman almost single-handedly expanded Medicaid to its current levels by gradually making more people eligible and securing the funding to pay for them. All he needed was the institutional structure--the program, the rules, and the basic funding stream--on which to build the new coverage.

The fact that Waxman is a chief architect for this year's program ought to give liberals confidence that, once again, these reforms needn't represent the upper limit of what might be achieved over the next few years. They are a start, and a very good start, but not a finish.
This is what happens when Progressivism takes over the culture and government. And, as Mr. Cohn confesses here, they're just getting started.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nanny State Fascism Arrives In Britain

It's a commonplace — and well-founded — truth that social/political trends in the UK often become mainstream in the U.S. a generation later. It's with great trepidation, even horror, therefore that I feel obligated to highlight a recent news story in the Daily Express. It outlines a not-entirely-new program for the government to place cameras inside private homes to monitor the inhabitants.

These are not criminals, but parents who may or may not, according to the government, be treating their children properly. Are they suspected of beating them? No. That would be bad enough; a form of preventative law. Instead, the pols are concerned that the children are not eating right, going to bed on time, not being given the proper lessons in values, and so forth.

THOUSANDS of the worst families in England are to be put in “sin bins” in a bid to change their bad behaviour, Ed Balls announced yesterday.

The Children’s Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.
It sounds like something out of The Onion — or Nazi Germany — but I'm reliably told by my British correspondent that this story is on the level. (That the minister pushing this has the title Children's Secretary, and is named Ed Balls, is just too rich. As a novelist, paraphrasing Rand, if I put this in a story I'd be accused of outrageous exaggeration.)

Worse, it's not being met with much in the way of outrage. Apparently, this sort of thing is now commonplace in the country that once deserved the name Great Britain. This kind of Nanny State fascism is worrisome, nay horrendous, for dozens of reasons that readers of his blog need not have spelled out. But it should serve as a warning for what the U.S. is likely to become — unless it's firmly resisted — in about 30 years.

[Correction:] According to Sec. Ed Balls, via Peter Cresswell at Not PC the Daily Express story is not entirely correct. There are, according to Mr. Balls, no plans to install cameras. But what they are planning is not much better, if one is to believe the government's own website. To wit:
While projects vary in the services they provide, they share key features which distinguish the family intervention project model.

The key worker is central to the projects. Their role is to manage or ‘grip’ the family’s problems, co-ordinate the delivery of services and using a combination of support and sanction to motivate the family to change their behaviour. Persistence and assertiveness with families is critical to keeping them engaged and following agreed steps.

If families start to disengage, services are stepped up and the key worker redoubles his/her efforts where mainstream services often withdraw. This comes as a shock to families who are often used to services pulling away and sends out a powerful signal to families that the service is not an optional extra.

A contract (also known as a behaviour support agreement) is drawn up between the family and key worker which sets out the changes that are expected, the support that will be provided in order to facilitate that change and the consequences if changes are not made, or tasks are not undertaken.

The use of sanctions is an important lever for motivating families to change. Demoting tenancies or gaining possession orders suspended on the basis of compliance with the projects or, for some, the very real prospect of children being taken into care, can provide the wake up call to take the help on offer. Too often these families have been told that action will be taken but is then not followed through, creating a sense among family members that they are untouchable.

These are intensely practical projects which focus on providing a structure for those living in chaotic circumstances – teaching parents basics such as how to get children up and fed in the morning, clearing up, preparing meals and bed time routines. Families are often learning these for the first time. Families report that their day to day skills such as cooking, hygiene and daily routines had often been taken for granted by other agencies.
Frankly, cameras might be preferable to veiled threats and constant hectoring from 'well-meaning' social workers with the power to withdraw welfare services.

We report, you decide.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

GOP Falls Short on Health Care Debate

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia is one of the better conservatives, often making a decent case for less government, more free enterprise. Regrettably, his recent comments on the health care debate are far less than ideal.

To be clear, we do not support the status quo. We understand the need for reform and we have put forward a set of core principles that must be a part of any health care package:

· A commitment that all Americans who like what they have – choice of doctor, timely care and access to the treatments prescribed by their physician – can keep it;

· Access to an affordable, basic plan for those who lack coverage;

· A strengthened safety net for those who need it;

· A renewed commitment to the research and innovation that will yield the best treatments and cures.
Sadly, Rep. Cantor fails to name the essentials that should be driving the GOP in this instance: the Federal Government has no proper role to play in health care AT ALL, apart from protecting the right of free trade among health care providers and patients.

It is NOT appropriate for the Federal Government to make any efforts whatsoever to make health care affordable for those who lack coverage, nor to provide a "safety net."

They should concentrate their efforts on removing barriers to lowering prices, but not for that purpose. Tort reform, for example, would help a great deal, but that is primarily an issue of improving protection for individual rights. It's only secondarily, though an important second, that the effect would be to lower health care costs for all.

We are NOT our brother's keeper. The free market will create the lowest possible price for health care products and services, as it does for every other good, if it's allowed to function. (Unfortunately, the history of the health care-related businesses in this country since WWII has been the exact opposite.) As I've written many, many times over the past two years, it's not about the money; it's about freedom. Freedom is the only right we have in this area, the freedom to seek medical care and the freedom of some to provide it.

The Feds should help every American by simply GETTING OUT OF THE WAY.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ten Reasons U.S. Health Care is Superior

For those who want some ammunition to argue the utilitarian case for health care freedom, Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution supplies a dump's worth:
"Ten reasons why America’s health care system is in better condition than you might suppose."

1. Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers. Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

2. Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians. Breast cancer mortality in Canada is 9 percent higher than in the United States, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher, and colon cancer among men is about 10 percent higher.

3. Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries. Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit from statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease, are taking them. By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

4. Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians. Take the proportion of the appropriate-age population groups who have received recommended tests for breast, cervical, prostate, and colon cancer:

* Nine out of ten middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to fewer than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).

* Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a Pap smear, compared to fewer than 90 percent of Canadians.

* More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a prostatespecific antigen (PSA) test, compared to fewer than one in six Canadians (16 percent).

* Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with fewer than one in twenty Canadians (5 percent).

5. Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians. Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report “excellent” health (11.7 percent) compared to Canadian seniors (5.8 percent). Conversely, white, young Canadian adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower-income Americans to describe their health as “fair or poor.”

6. Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom. Canadian and British patients wait about twice as long—sometimes more than a year—to see a specialist, have elective surgery such as hip replacements, or get radiation treatment for cancer. All told, 827,429 people are waiting for some type of procedure in Canada. In Britain, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.

7. People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed. More than 70 percent of German, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and British adults say their health system needs either “fundamental change” or “complete rebuilding.”

8. Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians. When asked about their own health care instead of the “health care system,” more than half of Americans (51.3 percent) are very satisfied with their health care services, compared with only 41.5 percent of Canadians; a lower proportion of Americans are dissatisfied (6.8 percent) than Canadians (8.5 percent).

9. Americans have better access to important new technologies such as medical imaging than do patients in Canada or Britain. An overwhelming majority of leading American physicians identify computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the most important medical innovations for improving patient care during the previous decade—even as economists and policy makers unfamiliar with actual medical practice decry these techniques as wasteful. The United States has thirty-four CT scanners per million Americans, compared to twelve in Canada and eight in Britain. The United States has almost twenty-seven MRI machines per million people compared to about six per million in Canada and Britain.

10. Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations. The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other developed country. Since the mid- 1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to U.S. residents more often than recipients from all other countries combined. In only five of the past thirty-four years did a scientist living in the United States not win or share in the prize. Most important recent medical innovations were developed in the United States.

[Hat tip Jonah Goldberg at NRO.]

That said, if U.S. health care were the worst, and the most expensive, adding still more bureaucracy, i.e. stifling freedom, would not be the way to improve quality and lower costs. More, if it were totally laissez-faire and - per impossible - still higher priced and positively putrid - that would still be preferable. Freedom is the highest social value, no matter what the business consequences.

It's no accident, of course, that freedom does, in fact, deliver the highest quality at the lowest possible price. But among the little noticed, less talked about benefits of living in a free society is the absence of having to listen to a lot of know-nothing, power-mad social engineers who want to run the life of every citizen. That benefit is, as the saying goes, priceless.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Steyn Reads Shaving Leviathan?

Apparently Mark Steyn, always one of the better conservative columnists, is now embracing an idea I've been arguing in blog comment sections for more than two years now. (I don't claim it's original, though.)
[H]ealth care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. That's its attraction for an ambitious president: It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in a way that hands all the advantages to statists – to those who believe government has a legitimate right to regulate human affairs in every particular.

That's not why it's tanking in the polls, of course. It's floundering because Obama sold it initially on the basis of "controlling costs," and then the Congressional Budget Office let the cat out of the bag and pointed out that, au contraire, it would cost $1.6 trillion, and therefore either add to an unsustainable deficit, or require massive tax increases, or (more likely) both.

All of which is true. But to object to the governmentalization of health care on that basis implicitly concedes the argument that, if we could figure out a way to bring the price down, it would be fine and dandy.

Right now, there are a lot of wonkish and utilitarian objections to what the Democrats want to do, and they're gaining traction. In The American Spectator, Brandon Crocker points out that this is exactly the way things went over Hillarycare in 1993: Americans took against the plan on practical grounds but not against the underlying principle.

"Since we did not win that philosophical argument in 1993," Mr. Crocker writes, "we now have to fight the same battle today." And, if we win on utilitarian grounds today, we'll have to fight it again in 10 years, five years, maybe less – until something passes, and then everything changes, forever: As the IRA famously taunted Margaret Thatcher, we only have to get lucky once; you have to be lucky every day. [emphasis added.]
Or, as I've been putting it for some time: It's not about the money; it's about freedom. So it is with Cap-and-Control, TARP, the auto bailout, and every other Federal intervention for the past year century.

Arguing the details is always helpful. It undermines the opposition. But at the same time, it's essential to argue the underlying moral case. It's the only way to permanent victory, the only way that Progressives can be permanently denied a seat at the table of public debate, as they should be.

You can't just kill the enemy, you have to remove their means of doing battle by interdicting their supply lines and conquering their will to fight. In this case, that means removing any and all public support for Progressive ideology, ethics most of all. Do that, and the Feds will retreat to the small sphere to which they belong. Then, mirabile dictu, they might actually become once again an ally in the protection of individual rights, rather than their chief contemporary violator.