Re: CHP, #7 of n
15 Dec 1993
> I said:
> > [Does the CHP justify further restriction on our freedom ? ]
> [ If the CHP goes through are you willing to have your taxes go
> up to cover helmetless motorcycle riders, etc., instead of some
> laws restricting reckless behavior? Will you let their freedom
> become the "freedom" to take your money for their error? ]
I utterly disagree with the assumption in this rhetorical question.
No one then has "the freedom to have [me] pay". The government has
merely tried to pass the onus for theft onto someone else. I hold
the government (or voters, if you like) completely responsible for
all of the money that is taken from me by force. Here is how
I see it:
1) I promise to pay for all of your drinking expenses, including
mixed drinks at bars.
2) Your alcohol consumption goes up and you pass along to me a
$1000 bill each month (when it was previously only $50).
3) Later, I tell you that I'm stealing all of this money to pay
your expenses from Chau-Wen because he has money.
4) Do you owe all of that money back to him?
5) Even if you were to personally feel obligated, the fault would
clearly lie with me. Chau-Wen would not be in a position to
hold you liable.
This hinges on "Later", but I think that is appropriate here because
in the context of medical care people believe either that it is a
right or that they have personally paid for it in their taxes and that
they are not stealing anything (and the government lies to them
telling it is so). So, in the real case and in my analogy the recipient
has no moral culpability. The thief does in both cases.
So, the answer to your rhetorical question is that I would in no way
restrict anyone's freedom because of the presence of the CHP. I would
be happy if the only cost of the CHP were a few $100G every year.
That would be a bargain compared to the socialist behavior control
train we are going to get run over with.
Also, on the moral argument, I would say that people should accept the
full consequences of their actions. This includes taxpayers
accpepting the full consequence of their votes. If taxpayers vote to
give someone a subsidy as an act of generosity they should be able to
do so only in the same way that an individual can. I should not be
able to later use the force of law to make you pay for a gift, in
either cash or freedom. If I can somehow compel you to pay for it and
you offer the gift back to me then it is doubly outrageous for me to
force you to keep it so that I can charge the price you are unwilling
to pay (in this case your freedom to engage in certain activities
deemed dangerous by the majority).
So, taxpayers should accept the cost of 'their' generosity. Hopefully
the absurdly high cost will kick some sense into people (though
Medicaid does not seem to be having this effect).
> [ and you cannot leave the system, no matter how much you want to ]
Yes, the mugger has a gun at my back and I cannot just walk away.
Whether I pay or kill him depends on what exactly I can get away with.
Or, to make the analogy more immediate, what if a blackmailer asks for
a $1000 or he'll release the pictures and I pay? Next month he comes
back and wants another $1000. This is clearly not going to work. I
must either either have some guarantee the blackmail will stop or I
might as well suffer the loss of having the pictures exposed. So it
is with the government taking our freedom. Each loss begs the next
loss as a natural consequence. There is no end to this chain until
all is lost (if it were pursued by its own logic, instead it will end
when freedoms the majority enjoys are in danger of being taken away).
I am willing to stop now and have the pictures exposed (i.e. some
people using my tax $$$ to pay for their reckless behavior). As an
aside, when I was in high school there was an older kid who was
extorting several of my friends and eventually me. I refused. He
promised to beat me up. I turned him in. He was suspended (for some
other things too). He threatened to kill me for having turned him in,
in front of neutral witnesses no less. I turned him in, again. He
was expelled (again, for other things too). I was seriously scared he
would try to harm me. The point is regardless of whether or not you
think this was a good strategy, I'm clearly sincere when I say that I
will, within reason, stand up to the bully be it Richey Robertson or
the U.S. government, and am not just bluffing to make a reply.
Back to medical care, when the government passed medicare, they
promised they would not use it to control delivery or prices. When
they found that subsidized care was causing people to consume more of
it (imagine!) they called Pete for moral guidance and he said, oh
yeah, well it makes sense to prevent hospitals from buying new
equipment (on the theory that more competition raises prices and
therefore granting diagnostic monopolies would lower them). When that
failed, they went to price fixing in the form of DRGs. When doctors
stopped treating patients for which the DRG was insufficient, congress
forced them to treat them. When hospitals responded by shifting costs
to other sick people with insurance, congress (started) responding by
simply socializing the whole thing, and so it goes. When the
absurdist financing numbers don't add up, they'll raise cigarette
taxes and alcohol taxes again, outlaw motorcycles, bungee, skydiving,
and gawd knows what else (there is evidence that helmet laws don't
actually save lives in any case because people simply ride faster and
more recklessly). When that doesn't work they'll lower the
fixed prices a little more. When that creates people dying in queue
they'll 'rationalize' the system and exclude some kinds of care. Etc.
Let me take a slightly different analogy (shamelessly lifted from
"Economics in One Lesson" plus some extrapolation of my own) that
makes the case more clearly because the costs are by and large
measurable: rent control. First is that politicians observe that some
people pay 'too much' for rent. Their natural response is to
legislate lower prices. Now, no new (low income) housing is built.
Homelessness rises and of course capitalism is blamed. But back to
the main thread, existing landlords cut back on essential services
(like fixing the plumbing to make ends meet). The city council
(usually the responsible body in these cases) passes another law
giving the tenants the authority to demand repair. The landlord is
now stuck with forcibly losing money based on tenant complaints. The
landlord hates the tenants because they are costing him money. The
tenants hate the landlord because he will not provide any of their
'guaranteed' services. The city council thinking it has finally found
wisdom lets the landlord raise prices when new tenants move in. Now,
the landlord really hates the tenants because he needs to get rid of
them to become profitable again. He will do anything he can to make
their life uncomfortable. The tenants on the other hand dread moving
because their next apartment will be a lot more and they are inclined
merely to entrench themselves ever deeper. Under pressure from owners
of rental property, the city council may relent on 'luxury' apartments
and remove rent control because rich people don't need assistance
after all. Now landlords really have an incentive to dump low rent
apartments because they are permitted to make a fair profit on
'luxury' apartments (on all of the units instead of just some of them
as when they change tenants). The result is good housing for the rich
and no housing for the poor. And, of course, capitalism is to blame!
All of this is true and does happen (e.g. New York). Now, for some
speculation. What does our wise city council do next? Well, they
might be tempted to impose cost controls on building construction so
slum housing could be more easily built. But when the same fate
befalls the contractors as the landlords, does the government then
turn and price control the lumber industry? Maybe since capitalism is
doing such a bad job the city should just take over the housing
completely and eliminate that evil profit incentive that is
responsible for all of the woes? I think one only needs to drive down
Link Valley in Houston to appreciate what a good job this does.
The point is that each loss of freedom after the CHP follows logically
just as surely as each additional economic control in rent control.
Not only is the whole thing a slippery slope to disaster but each
individual step leaves us worse off than before, even though it seems
reasonable viewed in its own microcosm. The law of unintended
consequences applies just as surely in the realm of making people pay
with their freedom as it does to making them pay with their dollars.