Public Education – A View From Outside The Matrix

Posted by Jason | Posted in Education, Government | Posted on 30-11-2009

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If you have not read my previous post, Thanksgiving, Statism and Life Outside the Matrix, you may want to do so first. This will be my first post where I will challenge the assumption of public education, which is what provides us our programming to live within the Matrix.

As I said in my previous post, both sides of the Matrix structure argue about how to best improve public education. One argues for more money. The other argues for more localized control. Neither side questions the existence of government controlled education, the results over the long term, or whether we’d be better off with no government education.

To start, why do statists claim we need a public school system? They claim that all children need an education, and only government can make sure all children regardless of race, class, and gender receive an education. That sounds reasonable, but are the children, especially the poor really getting educated? According to The Daily Beast, 7,200 students drop out every day. In some cities (usually ran by socialists), it’s even worse. In Detroit, only 25% of students graduate. According to CNN, the nationwide dropout rate is 16% or over 6 million students.

Every single school day, more than 7,200 kids, on average, drop out of high school—1.3 million each year. In many American cities, including Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Minneapolis, most public school students don’t graduate. In Detroit, the unhappy poster child for American industrial decline, a study from last year showed that a mere quarter of students earn high school diplomas.

via America’s Dropout Crisis – Page 1 – The Daily Beast.

Nearly 6.2 million students in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2007 dropped out of high school, fueling what a report released Tuesday called “a persistent high school dropout crisis.”

The total represents 16 percent of all people in the United States in that age range in 2007. Most of the dropouts were Latino or black, according to a report by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Alternative Schools Network in Chicago, Illinois.

via ‘High school dropout crisis’ continues in U.S., study says – CNN.com.

As you can see, the groups most affected by the dropout rate are the groups that socialists claim to champion. Students are dropping out left and right, which does not provide them many options for the future. Then again, why worry? We have a “safety net”. You know if you don’t go to school, you can at least live off the government dole. On top of that, you can partake in criminal activity and receive tax free income. “Cash only please for all drug and stolen good purchases”.

“Yeah, OK Prof, but literacy was horrendous.” Well, let’s take a look at the “improving” literacy. As we all know, slaves were systematically prevented from learning to read and becoming educated, so we can’t really count their literacy under slavery. We can look at how quickly they became literate after slavery ended.

Although the black literacy rate soared from 20% in 1850 to nearly 80% in 1890, blacks were still having a difficult time finding work.

via ljonespage4content.

Wow, that’s damn impressive. Black literacy reached 80% in 1890. Well, what is it now? Hmmm, under our socialized, secular government ignorance programs, it stands at about 60%.

Six decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy doubled, white illiteracy quadrupled.

via Intellectual Espionage – John Taylor Gatto.

White literacy was near 100% at the beginning of the 20th century, and as you can see, it is now at about where the formers slaves were in 1890. According to John Quincy Adams, only 4/10ths of 1 percent of New Englanders were illiterate. Also, I think everyone would agree the books that were read back then were much more challenging.  Isn’t progress wonderful?

How about math and science scores? Well, according to international testing, American children are not what they used to be. The bad news is the longer they are in school, the worse they get.

At science and math, American students trail those in other advanced democracies. The longer students are in school, the worse things get. Among fourth graders, U.S. students rank high on the International Test of Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Despite this head start, by eighth grade, American adolescents have slipped to the midpoint on the TIMSS; by age 17, their scores trail all but those in a few developing countries

via Hoover Institution – Hoover Digest – The Decline and Fall of American Education.

So as you can see, the public schools in our country have failed as all government planned goods and services do. The debate then goes straight to “how do we make them better?” This is the debate that rages inside the statist Matrix. Both sides argue back and forth about how to improve it. The cheerleaders hooray their side and boo the other side, and it’s completely incomprehensible to them that maybe the government should not be forcing people into government schools. All coercive monopolies are bad, and government is a coercive monopoly. If you do not believe so, try to “choose” to keep your children out of government approved schooling. See how long before you go to jail.

What is the solution? Well, let’s start off by agreeing that we should not stick a gun to people’s heads and tell them they are either going to send their children to government schools, or else they will go to jail. Can we agree that is the moral thing to do? I’m sure some will argue that some parents just are too stupid to make sure their kids get educated, so government must stick a gun to your head. The argument goes that because a small group isn’t responsible with their children, the government should stick a gun to everyone’s head and force their kids into public schools. Pro-government school people argue it’s child abuse to not let your child get an education, but then have no problem with the abuse government schools are inflicting on our children at increasing rates as the statistics above show. Let’s not even get into the lunch programs they inflict on children.

Next, let’s let people choose how they want their kids to be educated. If you do not want to send your child to a government school, there is no reason you should have to pay for government schools plus a private school. Do you think this has something to do with why poorer students are worse off? Their parents cannot afford to pay for public and private schools, so they suck it up and send them off the the ignorance factories. You should be able to keep your money. At the very least, you should be able to take your tax dollars to the school of your choice.

Then the government should allow the free market to deliver education options. They should not set standards, because their standards are pretty much useless. They deliver horrible results. Private schools will have to deliver to the parent’s liking, or they will automatically be punished with lost tuition. Government, on the other hand, has no accountability. If you don’t like the results, you still pay for it. If you try not to pay for it, well you know what happens.

Why is it so hard to imagine a world without public schools? It’s hard to imagine because it’s part of your programming. You were brought up in public schooling and taught that you must have public schools. It’s like most of society in the early 1800s, who couldn’t comprehend how former slaves and former slave masters could live in the same society if slavery was abolished.  Instead of admitting it was immoral, abolishing the institution, and letting free men figure their own way out of it, the government legalized slavery every step of the way. They couldn’t see outside the Matrix in which they were living. If the government had not enforced slavery through fugitive slave laws, it’s hard to believe slavery would have lasted long at all. It would have cost plantation owners too much money to chase slaves down when they escaped. They were only able to do so, because government (really the tax payer) ate the cost of chasing them down and returning them. It would have actually been cheaper for plantation owners to hire the slaves or any other workers had they not forced the cost of fugitive slave laws on the society as a whole. What I am saying here is just because you can’t imagine something other than government schools, because you have been programmed to only see it that way, doesn’t mean it’s not possible and better.  When men are free to make choices in their best interest, society progresses more quickly. It is not happenstance that the least regulated areas in our life are all the fast growing and evolving areas, and there is no reason education cannot be the same.

It’s very easy to see how education if unleashed from government shackles could quickly skyrocket in the success it delivers. It’s not hard to envision bountiful options to meet the needs of all children. Does your child excel in math? How about a school that focuses on math, engineering, and computers? Has your child always loved being the center or attention? How about a school that focuses on the arts? Does your child love to fix things and find out how they work? How about a tech school? Do you want your child to focus on reading, writing, and math? How about an elementary school that focuses exclusively on fundamentals? Does your child have special needs? How about a school that specializes in teaching kids with the same needs as your child? Does your child have many interests? How about a school that brings in great teachers from around the country via video conferencing? Better yet, if your child goes to any of the other schools mentioned, how about those schools bringing in the best teachers in their focused area via video? How about sending your child to a school whose competitive advantage is small class sizes? How about a retired NASA scientist being able to teach students without a teaching degree? How about parents, who know their kids best, deciding what school is best for their child. It is not hard to imagine options and schools opening all over the place.

Why would so many schools open? Because there are greedy profiteers out there, and guess what. They have to deliver a quality service in the private sector. According to the 2007 census, the average cost per student in public schools was $9,000. Do you think for one second there wouldn’t be businesses competing for that $9,000 per pupil and driving the cost down? It happens in every other sector of our economy. Well, it does until the government gets jealous and decides to jump into the game.

While I’m sure the diehard statists can never imagine education without Uncle Sam forcing us into a one size fits none system, I hope some of you question your assumptions about our supposed need for public schools. Hopefully, when you hear politicians debating more funding for education, higher national standards, or any other top down school program, you will question it more deeply. You will ask why they would do that in the first place. How does that open up choices? Does not having choices provide better results? Who benefits from this?

Take the Red pill, and ask yourself, “If I could disregard all laws related to education, what would I choose for my child or for myself when I was a child? Would I send them to government schools, or would I send them to schools who must prove themselves in order to get my money?”

PS. Please ignore all spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. I learned those in public school.

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Thanksgiving, Statism And Life Outside The Matrix

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Education, Government, Gun Control, Health Care, History | Posted on 28-11-2009

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Over Thanksgiving dinner, my brother and I began our normal debates of politics, war, health care, etc. This year was  a little different.

I’ve always been the typical conservative, who believes the government is a necessary evil that wants to control us more and more with healthcare, welfare, net neutrality and on and on, but we need to maintain a strong military and remain on the offense in the war on terror.

Having always considered my self a free market capitalist, I was reading pro-capitalist books, websites, etc. Eventually, I found myself in a world that challenged my own contradictions. I’ve always realized that liberalism was irrational and illogical, but I always thought conservatism was rational and logical. After reading Ron Paul’s book, End The Fed, I started a debate on Mises.org, a pro-free market site founded to spread the economic ideas of Ludwig von Mises. Like most conservatives, I liked Ron Paul’s belief in the constitution and his domestic policy beliefs, but I thought his foreign policy was isolationist and unrealistic. In the forums, I said I like Ron Paul and would vote for him, but I didn’t believe in his isolationism and questioned whether he believed in a strong military. Having always laughed at liberals and all their contradictions, it was now I who seemed to be the one with contradictions.

Not being used to people debating with logic and reason, I quickly felt like I was being presented an option. The forum users were offering me the Red Pill, leading me on a path which would challenge my assumptions and the Matrix in which we live, or the Blue Pill, in which I could ignore their arguments and stay in the comfort of what I’ve always believed and had reinforced by the Matrix. Having always believed in pursuing TRUTH in spite of fear, ostracizing, or ego, I took the Red Pill. Quickly I realized I was outside the Matrix looking in.

The first thing you realize is the Matrix is constructed of two sides who are opposites of the same contradictory, statist coin. Both believe in using government force in order to compel the populace to live by their terms. One side believes in “national greatness” while the other believes in “national virtue”. Neither fulfills their stated goal, and neither believes in individual liberty. Both sides benefit from the endless debate and the “my team is best” mentality. The Matrix was not constructed over night. It was developed over time piece by piece and quickly became the known world to those who know no alternative to life inside the Matrix. Current generations have had the programming loaded into their minds through the government schools. Even if you attend private schools, you must meet certain mandated “standards”. As an adult, your programming is reinforced with TV shows, news programs, and “educational” programs that reinforce the assumptions that were programmed into you as a child.

The founding institution of the Matrix, the State, is formed by competing parties, which you are encouraged to cheer one as your team and boo the others as the enemy no matter what the topic. Debates rage with differing opinions, but never involve root causes or underlying assumptions. Both sides debate particular wars, but never discuss what caused the war or whether foreign intervention is just and in our best interest (ex: Should our military is deployed in 150 countries). We debate how to best raise the standards of public schools, but no one questions the existence of the public schools or the historical failure of them(ex: Black Americans went from 20% literacy rate in 1860 to 80% by 1890. Now, black Americans have a 60% literacy rate). They debate how to best handle retirement savings, but neither questions whether the government should be handling it at all or the consequences of their mishandling (ex: Inflating Wall Street pay via 401ks and IRAs). Currently, we’re debating health care. One side argues for national health care, and the other argues against it. Neither side debates government involvement and it’s effect on skyrocketing prices in the first place.

It’s not hard to understand why the Matrix is so hard to break free from. It’s all we’ve known. We haven’t experienced schooling without public schools, health care without insurance, a world without US policing, or life without so called “safety nets”. During the debate with my brother, who always argued with my beliefs on foreign policy when I was inside the Matrix, agreed Americans were not looking at the issue properly because they are surrounded by re-enforcing factors such as the media. The media never gives a historical perspective. They only ask what should be done about terrorism or which war we should fight. They never ask why is there terrorism or if we think punishing civilians via embargoes will help them overthrow tyranny. They never ask if we believe it creates less responsibility for Wall Street executives when the Fed drops interest rates to zero and promises to prevent bank failures. They are only asked whether we should have bailouts or not.

The funny thing was as soon as the debate turned to public education, my brother was back in the Matrix. I asked the question of why there should even be public schools, and immediately his programming took hold. “You have to have government schools. How would people get schooling? I don’t think the schools are bad. It’s our culture. Teacher unions aren’t to blame, it’s the parents. You can’t teach a child who’s parent is a drug addict. What about the poor?” On and on the debate raged, but he could not get his head around the fact that the government has created the disastrous system in the first place. He could not comprehend a world without the government. It was if nothing comes about without the government. It’s understandable. Can you imagine arguing what life would be like without slavery in the early 1800s? Surely, you would have been nuts. They were living inside their Matrix, created by generations that came before.

Over the coming months, I will attempt to touch on some of these topics. While I am not an expert, I will present you with Red and Blue pills. The Red pill will question whether our lives our better with government involvement in all aspects of our lives. Is the government really protecting us? Could we live without government? You will have to open your mind and challenge your assumptions if you take the Red pill. On the other hand, you can take the Blue pill. You can stay in your comfort zone, fight the same old fights, assume the government is there for your protection, and live out the consequences of those beliefs. The choice is yours, but you must make a choice.

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Here comes the fatty wagon

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 10-11-2009

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The writing is already on the wall. Government is poised to take over health care. The next logical step in controlling the cost of this “public service” will be controlling your eating habits. While I believe that people should pay for their eating habits via increased insurance premiums, I do not believe the government should be telling people what to eat, trying to change the way people eat, or getting involved in people’s eating habits what-so-ever.

Instead of hoping that individuals can muster the self-discipline on their own to avoid processed foods, fast food and days without physical exercise, the idea is that governments must actively work to change environments and reduce the menu of harmful options available in everyday life.

As a result, hundreds of towns in Europe and elsewhere have adopted a version of this strategy, aimed particularly at preventing children from becoming overweight and obese. They hired dietitians to counsel children and their families in schools, organized walk-to-school days, hired sports educators and built new sporting facilities. The U.S. government, meanwhile, is increasing its funding for cities and towns to pursue so-called community-based obesity prevention, in an effort to gather data about which kinds of tactics work best.

“People are finally acknowledging that the obesity problem is so pervasive that it isn’t just because people are making bad choices,” says Laura Kettel Khan, an obesity expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which makes grants to states for community obesity-prevention programs.

via New Obesity-Fighting Programs Enlist Entire Towns – WSJ.com.

The free market has a way of dealing with obesity via health insurance premiums. It also would deal with it, if the government would stay out of the free market. The government encourages bad eating habits. It does this by promoting the idea that no one should pay increased insurance costs because of pre-existing conditions, obesity or any other higher risk factor. Once government controls health care, there will be no penalty what-so-ever for bad habits.

Also, the government subsidizes corn more than any other crop which is used in most fattening foods to the tune of almost $10 billion a year. Because corn is so cheap, things like high fructose corn sryup have been developed to make food cheaper. Corn is also used to feed most live stock, which makes live stock cheaper as well. This is why fast food is so cheap. If you remove the government subsidies, corn prices will go up. With corn prices, the cost of some of the worst foods will also increase, which would result in less consumption of those foods.

We are watching the same old sitcom. Government side effects cause or contribute to our societal ills, and the government inserts itself to be our saviors willing to take our freedoms in order to fix our problems. Unfortunately, the people are all too willing to take the government solution.

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Senate Alters Taxes for Big Companies – WSJ.com

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government | Posted on 05-11-2009

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The Senate, including Republicans, continue to alter incentives by passing tax cuts and tax increases. In other words, favors and punishments. And people whine about lobbyists. Well, of course, big companies are going to send lobbyists to Washington. Don’t you want to get the favors? If you don’t your going to get the punishments.

So let’s see how some of this effects the market. I’m guessing senators passed this without a care in the world about it’s effects.

Senate Alters Taxes for Big Companies

By JOHN D. MCKINNON and LAURA SAUNDERS

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that would give tax breaks to big companies hit by the recession and expand a credit for homebuyers, while raising other corporate levies, particularly for multinationals.

….

The Senate has passed a bill extending unemployment benefits and the popular tax credit for homebuyers. It also includes proposed tax increases to offset the costs that may be hard for some businesses to swallow. WSJ’s John McKinnon explains.

The senate passes the tax credit for homebuyers again. We are in the midst of a collapse in housing because of easy money by the Fed, which they are doing again, and because the government’s push for “everyone should own a home” social engineering. So what does the Senate do? Just more of the same. Incentivize people to buy houses. If it is in the homebuyer’s best interest to buy a home, they will do so without the government. Incentivizing them changes the behavior of purchasers and will make people who otherwise wouldn’t have purchased a home purchase one. This is what happened during the housing boom that led to this mess.

“We clearly are going to have tax increases going forward,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The latest changes to business taxes are contained in a measure that would extend unemployment benefits by as much as 20 weeks from the current 79 weeks. In a bid to aid the property market, the bill would also extend for five months a tax credit for homebuyers, and expand it beyond first-time purchasers. That move is estimated to cost about $10.8 billion over the next decade.

So, we are going to extend unemployment by another 20 weeks. What does this incentivize? You can go without work for almost two years. Does the Senate believe that this doesn’t effect peoples behavior? Surely, many people won’t even attempt to look for a job for over a year and a half if they have two years before they are without money. Also, unemployment insurance is insurance. You pay for unemployment insurance in the event of losing your job. Those people who now are going to have checks rolling in for two years did not pay enough in for the two year pay off. So, who pays for this? That’s right. The productive workers of society have to pay to cover the difference. That’s real motivating for those who are producing and keeping this country afloat.

The Senate on Wednesday approved the measure 98-0. The House was expected to pass the measure quickly and send it to President Barack Obama.

I’m sure glad this was unanimous. Goes to show we don’t have one intelligent politician in the bunch.

House Democrats, led by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, shown in February, still seek a full corporate-tax overhaul.

Hey, let’s have someone write the tax laws who doesn’t even follow the laws himself. Genius!

via Senate Alters Taxes for Big Companies – WSJ.com.

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The idiocy of the intellectual

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics | Posted on 03-11-2009

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In a very long article in the Wall Street Journal today, they are highlighting a supposed genius economist who is developing a new paradigm of thinking of how the markets work and in particular the use of leverage by banks. Unfortunately, in the entire article, the writer and apparently the economist never mentions monetary policy, negative interest rates, or incentives and their effects on behavior. These supposed geniuses start off with the assumption that the market is irrational and just decides to go haywire out of the blue. They completely ignore incentives and how the change in incentives changes behavior. The new paradigm was reached a while ago. Someone tell this genius to grab some books and read up on Austrian economics.

Mr. Geanakoplos is among a small band of academics offering new thinking about those cycles. A varied group ranging from finance specialists to abstract theorists, they are moving to economic center stage after years on the margins. The goal: Fix the models that encapsulate economists’ understanding of the world and serve as policy-making tools at the world’s biggest central banks. It is a task that could require a thorough overhaul of the way those models work.

via Crisis Compels Economists To Reach for New Paradigm – WSJ.com.

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Net neutrality – Is it worth the loss of innovation and liberty?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, Technology | Posted on 20-10-2009

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Thursday, unelected bureaucrats will be making a major decision on behalf of the American people that can have far reaching implications to our freedoms. Here is an article from My Way News with my commentary.

Oct 18, 12:57 PM (ET)

By JOELLE TESSLER

WASHINGTON (AP) – With Democrats in charge in Washington, supporters of so-called “net neutrality” rules seem poised to finally push through requirements that high-speed Internet providers give equal treatment to all data flowing over their networks.

These rules – at the heart of a five-year policy debate – are intended to guarantee that Internet users can go to any Web site and access any online service they want. Phone and cable companies, for instance, wouldn’t be able to block subscribers from using cheaper Internet calling services or accessing online video sites that compete with their core businesses.

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on a proposal by the agency’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, to begin crafting regulations to prohibit broadband providers from favoring or discriminating against Internet traffic.

Broadband providers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. argue that after pouring billions of dollars into their networks, they should be able to operate those networks as they see fit. That includes offering premium services over their lines to differentiate themselves from competitors and earn a healthy return on their investments.

Genachowski’s proposal has also encountered misgivings among Republicans on the FCC and in Congress, who fear network neutrality rules could discourage broadband providers from continuing to expand and upgrade their systems.

“The risk of regulation really inhibits investment,” said Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell. Noting the agency’s estimated price tag of up to $350 billion to bring broadband connections to all Americans, he added: “How do we pay for all that?”

via My Way News – Hurdles remain as FCC ponders Internet data rules.

To start, what gives the government the right to tell private companies, who invest their own money in building these broadband networks, that they have to provide unfettered access to all internet users whether customers or not. This is rediculous enough, but let’s show how the free market would do this without the loss of liberty?

First, in most places there are multiple internet providers. For example, where I live in Pittsburgh, I can get internet from Comcast via cable, Verizon via DSL, Verizon via FiOS, and other providers of DSL and satellite services. If for example Comcast decides to limit monthly download to say 250GB, which they did, then customers will decide whether it is worth it for them to abide by their rules or switch to Verizon.

We make these decisions all the time. For instance, last year I switched from Comcast to Verizon for my internet. Why did I do this? Because Comcast thought they could hold me hostage to purchase all their services or rape me on the remaining ones. Surely enough the free market delivered. I dumped Comcast, went to Verizon for my internet, Dish Network for my TV, and Phone Power for my phone. I cut my costs and got more service. What government doesn’t seem to understand, probably because they only know force, is that the free market cannot coerce you into doing anything.

“Well, the internet is interconnected, and if Comcast decides to restrict access to a service that if offered by a competitor,  they can hurt the competitor even if the end user isn’t a Comcast customer. For example, if Verizon’s customer’s traffic has to travel over Comcast’s network to get to its destination, then that customer can be harmed even though they aren’t a Comcast customer.”

Hmmm, let’s think this through. If the internet is interconnect, which it is, would it make sense financially for Comcast to start a war with another carrier? Also, the internet is interconnected, but it is not one link. Most carriers have a plethora of routes to use to get to the destination they are seeking. They also have protocols that decide which route to take based on things such as available bandwidth. With this technology, they would bypass Comcast. (Warning: I’m using Comcast as an example. They aren’t the target of this legislation that supposedly is going to help consumers.)

Also, in a free market, companies are incentivized to innovate and offer new services because of profits. If profits are cut because of government force, then it is without a doubt going to cut into innovation, which ultimately hurts everyone.

Providers don’t only provide one solution. If they are providing phone services to businesses and end users, they must be able to meet that service obligation. If they are required to ignore those needs in order to provide “net neutral” access to their broadband, then those services become worthless. Those services cannot sustain, because they would be unreliable. This would decrease their profits (which we already explained hurts innovation), and hurt the consumers of those phone services. Now you have less competition in the phone service arena.

Government always seems to want to address problems that do not exist. Where has this been a long term problem? Where has the consumer, who has no right to these services, been harmed by the monstrous internet providers? I think one could argue that the most unregulated part of our lives these days, the internet, is without a doubt the most innovative and quickly advancing parts of our lives. This isn’t happenstance. This is because the government isn’t dampening the motive of companies to make a profit, not yet that is. It would appear that the government can’t stand to see a sector of our economy flourishing without it.

If you want the internet to continue it’s phenomenal advancement and betterment of our lives, I’d suggest you let your representatives know that “net neutrality” is disaster. Let them know your vote could be swayed by their stance on this legislation, and that internet service providers have delivered as promised in regard to our communications needs. We can decide what providers to use and punish ourselves. We do not need them taking our liberty in order to do it, which we already know they can’t.

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Federalist Papers – Using “the people” to hide your dangerous ambitions

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, History | Posted on 18-10-2009

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Today I finally picked up my own copy of The Federalist Papers at Half Priced Books for $3.48. Thank God For The Free Market #TGFTFM as I like to say on Twitter. Anyways, I only made it to the third page before I found my first gem.

Alexander Hamilton wrote, “.. that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of goverment. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants”

What he was saying here is there are people who will benefit from weak or inefficient government, and those people will use their fake concern for the people to hide their bad intentions. While I don’t believe our government is weak. It would have been weak if the Constitution was not ratified. In that circumstance there would have been people who benefited from the chaos. There were those who argued against the Constitution to maintain the weak Articles of Confederation. Many of them claimed to be looking out for the people, but they were really trying to maintain their status and power.

What we can take from this is the warning about inefficient government and the warning about those who are excessively for “the people”.  Surely, in our current day and age we can see how inefficient our government is compared to the government that our founders envisioned. How many times have you heard of unaccounted for billions in HUD, the department of education, or medicare?

Surely, you can recall how those who pushed these inefficient programs screamed their great attentions, “zeal”, from the rooftops. They are looking out for the people, the down trodden, or the most often group of concern, “the children”. How about this one? “We have to bail out Wall Street in order to bail out Main Street.” Really? It’s not because you want to bailout your buddies at your former companies? That’s right. Of course, not. It’s for the people.

The waste is horrible, but the second part of Hamilton’s warning is more disturbing. He warns that listening to the people who proclaim to be the champions of the people are the ones who more often than not are the ones who overturn liberties and become tyrants.

Keep this in mind next time you hear politicians claiming to be looking out for the people with health care, student loans, jobs, or the myriad of other government programs. The next three years are sure to be a case study on the warning above from Alexander Hamilton.

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Health Care Reform – The red herring of the pre-existing condition

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, Health Care | Posted on 17-10-2009

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Earlier this week, I posted a two part series on how to fix the health care crisis. The solution was to get rid of third party payer in respect to the purchase of health care and insurance. Immediately, I got and was glad to have received the red herring question of the pre-existing condition.

Let me start off by saying, that I have a child with special needs. My 9 year old son has cerebral palsy and has gone through years of physical therapy and occupational therapy to be able to walk on his own. He still wears braces on his legs. In additions, my niece has a severe case of autism, so bad that she is fed through a feeding tube. I say this because I know personally what parents have to deal with when it comes to pre-existing conditions.

With that said, free markets and freedom in general are principles on which this country was founded. Principles are meant to be applied in all circumstances, because they prevent us for choosing the wrong path. Our founders knew this. It is by veering off these principles that we are in the mess we are in now. Just because there is a hard issue to be addressed, doesn’t mean we throw away our principles. We don’t teach our children principles to guide them through life, just to have them toss them aside at the first circumstance that challenges their principles. Principles are meant for the hard issues. The are not meant for the easy issues.

“OK buddy. Enough preaching already.”

Agreed! We must start off this topic discussing the morality of government health insurance. Then we will move on to the economics of the issue.

In Thomas Paine’s great work “Common Sense”, he lays out how and why governments come into existence. He describes a civilization with two people, and how with two people you do not need government. Those two people can discuss their problems and come to a solution directly. As more and more people come into this society, they can no longer work out their disagreements directly. There are just too many of them, and they have other duties that require their attention and time. This is when government comes into existence. They decide to appoint select members of the society that they believe will represent their best interests. Those representatives will then setup laws and rules that protect all members of the society. What are they protecting each member of society from? They are protecting them from each other. They are making sure that one member doesn’t use coercion on another member. This coercion can be in the form of theft, fraud or even murder. This is how government is supposed to function in a free society. I think we would all agree that the government that functions in this manner is a just and moral government.

If we all agree to that, then we must acknowledge that coercing someone against their will directly or through the government is an immoral act. This is why the free market is always moral, and all other systems are immoral. The free market allows people, in pursuit of their own interest, to peacefully without coercion come to an agreement on trading a product or service between themselves. Both parties in the transaction walk away from the transaction better than before.

As soon as the government becomes involved, with the exception of preventing coercion (contract law, prosecuting fraud and extortion, etc), they then become the coercive power. Just because they may be acting on something that the majority agrees with doesn’t mean that coercion is now moral. I’m sure the best case of this was slavery. The majority approval for the government coercion did not make slavery moral. Immoral acts are always immoral.

What I am leading up to here is having the government force any individual to pay for another individual’s health insurance is immoral. Also, forcing an individual to buy his own insurance is immoral. In a free society, people are free to pursue their self interest. They are free to be miserly, charitable or neither. They are free to be successful, and they are free to fail. This is a just and moral society. As discussed earlier, this is a principled society. As soon as you veer away from this principle, no matter what your intentions, you then cannot say that another act of coercion, say Wall Street millionaires taking our tax dollars, is immoral.

I know this may sound like great theory, but the truth is life would be much better if we stuck to the principles of our founding fathers. I think we all know and agree to that, but then for some reason we immediately find that this special circumstance is different. It isn’t different. Our founding fathers had many reasons and opportunities to take the path we are now taking. They decided to take the principled stand. They decided to take it for us. George Washington could have easily been a king. He could have setup a monarchy that would have passed from generation to generation. Read history, and you will find how easily he could have done this. People were begging him to be king. Instead, he stood on the principles they professed during the revolution, and he stepped down after two terms.

Now, enough of my moral argument. Morals are great, and we’d all be better off if we lived by them, but how will the free market address the question that prompted this blog?

The free market operates in this manner. Individuals need many things for survival and pleasure. Because they cannot meet all their needs by their own action and invention, they offer what they are best and most efficient at creating and delivering for something they need that someone else is best and most efficient at creating and delivering. This is what is known as the division of labor. For society to benefit the most from everyone’s production, this must be voluntary and with out compulsion. When voluntary, people will seek to offer what they can create better and in more supply than everyone else. They do this based on their self interest. The more value they can create the more they will be able to get from others through trade. When government bureaucrats decide who should do what, you end up with people producing things that they are less efficient at producing. This results in a lower quality of life for us all.

This is apparent even in the most obscure products and services that are offered today. Do you think in government controlled economies, people with a fetish for purple, prince garbed, frog figurines could ever find the product they seek? In the free market, even products and services that seem so obscure that they wouldn’t be worth producing are produced. They are produced because there is a need, there is someone who can produce it, and there is a price at which both agree the product is worth producing and purchasing.

In the market of pre-existing medical conditions, this type of innovation would undoubtedly take place as well. There would be entrepreneurs that see a need that needs met. Typically, these entrepreneurs have experience themselves with being on the needing side of the tracks. They found that they couldn’t meet their own need through the market, so they say “Hey, I see an opportunty here. Why don’t I offer this to society. There has got to be many more people out there with the same need.” As we know, this happens every day, and this is why we as Americans progress so quickly. This is why the internet in a very short time went from bulletin boards to what we have today, where you can make video conference calls across the globe for FREE!

That is not to say you would not have some progress under a government controlled economy. The problem is you would only have progress in the areas that some bureaucrat, special interest or the majority believe should be pursued. If your child suffers from a less common ailment, you are out of luck.

With the free market, you will see innovation so much faster, and you will see prices of those innovations quickly drop. How much did a little 20″ LCD screen cost just 10 years ago? Politicians love to blast the rich, but guess who will fund that new medical treatment your child or you need? When it is first developed in the free market, it will be expensive. That is because of all the research and development costs that went into innovating the product or service. The rich will be the only ones who can afford it. There are only so many rich people, and eventually the manufacturer will have to figure out how to make it cheaper to gain access to a larger market. In this process, all the other companies that participate in the creation of the product will also be pursuing reductions in production costs. This will create a butterfly effect, which will result in rapidly declining prices. I know people think it isn’t fair for the rich to be the only ones who can afford it at first, but under the government controlled market or a market with out the rich, the innovation wouldn’t have taken place.

As I said previously, when you remove the third party payer from the insurance purchase, you will quickly see incentives to live healthier. According to the CDC, chronic illnesses that are caused by life style choices account for 75% of all health care expenditures. It would be a far stretch of the imagination to believe that this number would not be drastically effected if those life style choices were punished via higher premiums. A large decrease in chronic diseases would undoubtedly reduce insurance rates, and it would reduce the cost of health care in general.

Also removing the third party payer from the day to day health care purchases would drastically increase competition and lower prices for normal health issues. This would help those who have pre-existing conditions by allowing them to get the regular medical care at a fair price. Personally, this was my major issue when searching for insurance. My son’s pre-existing condition prevented him from getting even catastrophic care. The reason being is they assumed there would be a large amount of day to day care. I wasn’t concerned with day to day care. My concern was catastrophe. I needed coverage for the care that you can’t plan for. With the decrease in the cost of day to day care that would result from paying out of pocket and increased competition, you would see insurers more inclined to cover those who have pre-existing conditions. One can easily imagine an insurance company running a new marketing campaign stating that is is the “Only insurance company to offer coverage for children with autism”. That is a market that needs served, and they would be the first to tap into that market. Quickly competitors would step up to the plate, and prices would be driven down. Doctors who specialize in a particular affliction would compete for the dollars of potential clients by offering the newest and best treatments. These are the circumstances in which the market shines best.

The last wonder of the free market that would help those who really struggle financially is charity. Historically, charity has always been the way the poor was able to receive the services that they need but could not afford. Americans are the most generous people on the planet, and it would be almost a guarantee that with the government out of the market you would see increased prosperity. With that increased prosperity, you would see more charitable donations. Insurance companies and doctors would donate time and dollars to take care of the less fortunate. One must ask what would happen with charity under a government run health care plan. If the government turns you down, it would almost certainly be illegal or at minimum be detrimental to the doctors relationship with the government if he performed a procedure out of charity.

As I write this, I get super excited as a parent of a special needs child thinking of the innovation that would be unleashed in a completely free market. Unfortunately, we have already let the barbarians in the gates, and they are not going to leave of their own accord. The likely hood that we will drive them out and take back our economy and country is slim. It involves the unknown. It’s easier to accept the mediocrity of the known than it is to trust in what we know is truth but seems so far from where we currently are. I beg you not to fear. Can you imagine what fear our founding fathers, who never knew what life was like without the protection of the Royal Crown, must have felt? The amount of courage that it must have taken just amazes me, even as I write this. I’m sure we can all agree, thank God that they did. Let’s remember life isn’t only about the here and now. It isn’t just about take care of me, and the future be damned. Now is our turn to take the principled stand. It’s our turn to make the tough decisions for posterity. If we do the right thing, one day, our children and grandchildren will say, “Thank God that they did.”

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Health Care Reform – Market principles to deliver real reform – Part 2

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, Health Care | Posted on 16-10-2009

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In the first installment on free market health care reform solutions, I spoke of the problem with using third party payer in respects to health insurance and health care purchases. The effects of changing that one aspect of the health care industry would vastly improve our current system and would result in more jobs, better care, and a booming economy. To take the free market concepts even further, we must now look at how the uniqueness of the health care  insurance model makes it much more expensive than other insurances, how obesity is driving up health care costs for the obese and the fit, and how the market has already taken some steps to address rising costs.

Health care insurance is a very unique insurance purchase when compared to auto, health, or any other insurance product. When you purchase home owner’s insurance, you buy it in case of fire, flood or burglary. You do not buy it because you know you are going to need your roof replace, a new furnace installed, or your carpets cleaned.  If home owner’s insurance was treated like health care insurance, you would have to pay astronomical prices for the insurance because the providers of the insurance would have to cover maintenance, and in some plans would cover elective improvements like a deck or a finished basement.

To make it even more absurd, when getting your insurance through your employer, not only is your rate based on the amount of maintenance you use or the risk of your decisions, but they are also based on other individuals that you have no control over. Imagine if you invest in a security system, fire detectors and fire retardant building materials in order to lower the risk of your house catching on fire. This would be similar to exercising, eating right and having regular checkups. Currently, your home owners insurance would be reduced because of the responsible actions  you took. Now, if home owner’s was ran like health care, your rate wouldn’t be based on your actions. It would be based on your group’s actions. If a member of your group moves to a high crime area, has no smoke detectors and has very old wiring, your rates would need to take into account his chances of a fire. As you can see, you are punished for actions you have no control over. This model punishes the responsible and rewards the irresponsible. The effect is higher prices for all and no encouragement for good behavior.

As stated in part one of this blog, this third party payer model leaves you with a vicious cycle of increases in the price of insurance and cost of health care. With the removal of third party payer, we would be rated based on our own individual risk and behavior. By removing the group, you now  have an incentive to be responsible. Just like you may install a security system in your house to get a decrease in your home owner’s premium, you would be encouraged to get your BMI down to get a break on your health insurance. You cannot expect good health behavior patterns when people are shielded from the effects of their own actions by the group. You will also have the incentive not to frivolously waste health care services. You would not submit a home owner’s claim every time you need a shingle replaced on your roof, because your premium would rise to cover the risk of another shingle needing replaced. Your risk rating would be worsened by your continual submission of claims. Similarly, you would not run to the doctor every time you get a headache, and if you did you would be more inclined to pay out of pocket to prevent your risk profile being negatively effected. Paying out of pocket is a good thing. It cause you to shop and demand better prices, which results in more competition.

As you can see, the health insurance model is unsustainable as is. It must be allowed to move into the model of every other insurance plan we know of. People must be weighed on their risk. They must be rewarded with lower premiums for taking responsible action, and they must be punished with higher premiums for being irresponsible with their health.

Not being accountable for  your actions in respect to your health has helped lead to a large number of our population being extremely unhealthy. Currently, over 35% of our population is consider obese, and the number jumps to 65% when counting overweight individuals. What’s worse is the percentage has been climbing year after year. In 1990, no state had a over 15% of it’s population classified as obese. By 2008, no state had under 15%. Colorado is the only state with under 20%. The majority of the states now have over 25%. Does it surprise anyone with data like this, that we have a health care crisis? Obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, sleeping disorders, and countless other health conditions.  Ten percent of our yearly health care expenditure as a country is for obesity caused diseases. This is a huge burden on the insurance industry causing higher costs for us all.

Previously, we explained how rising costs come about. If demand is increased without increasing supply, then price go up. With the data presented in the previous paragraph, it is obvious the demand for health care caused by obesity would undoubtly drive up the cost of health care. Demand for drugs is driven up astronomically, because the treatment of these obesity related diseases last the remaining years in the life of inflicted. Our society has a very destructive pattern of treating diseases instead of removing the cause of the disease.

Now, I am not saying the government should step in and force people to get healthy. That is not needed. I am a freedom loving capitalist. If you want to fill up on Twinkies and Jujubes all day while reclining to the Jerry Springer show, have at it big boy. What I am saying is you pay for your actions. Do not expect those who make the tough diet and exercise decisions to subsidize your bad habits. If the free market reigned, third party payer would be gone, insurance companies would base your premiums on your risk and all the high fructose corn syrup lovers would pay for the medical resources they consume. You would quickly see the obesity rate decline, because the obese would be punished by higher premiums. With this decline, you would have insurance rates and demand on health care resources decline. Hey, didn’t we say earlier you have to decrease demand to lower cost. Well, voila, you just did it. Now you have a much healthier society both physically and mentally. The economic effects are too vast to even get into. Let’s just say everything has opportunity costs, and when we put more and more money into health care, that money it held back from other economic activities. With that money freed up, it can go into other parts of the economy that would more than likely improve our lives.

As you can see, both the first part and the second part of this blog really come down to one change. That change is removing third party payer. That one aspect of health care has caused this entire disaster we are now debating. The government cannot fix this by throwing more money at the symptoms. The free market is the only thing that can fix our health care system. It is the only thing that can fix any of our societal ills. Even though the government and the third party payer issues exist, the free market has already taken action to address issues with rising health care costs.

Let’s take a look at the regular doctors visit. Because of the demand for doctors, typically you have to schedule a doctors visit a few days out. When you do go to the doctors, you sit and wait in the waiting room. Then you sit and wait in the treatment rooms. Finally, when the doctor comes in, you see him for 15 minutes, and you’re done. This isn’t all just to have fun with you. This is because of the demand for the doctor’s services. The free market saw this an opportunity and developed the concept of walk-in clinics at your local pharmacy. These clinics are staffed by nurses that can take care of common illnesses. These nurses are schooled enough to address these issues and do so without the same cost of having a highly skilled doctor. Unlike government, the free market allocates resources based on the most efficient use those resources. When the power of the free market is released, it will create a plethora of solutions like this. Consumers will have many more choices and will be the beneficiaries of that horrible “profiteering”. Just remember profits are derived by someone developing and providing a solution to a need. Without that profit motive, that need would go unserviced.

While listening to the debate on health care, the problem seems so vast and complex. We really just touched the surface of the revolution  you would see if the free market prevailed. I did not even get into the disastrous effects the intrusion of the federal government has already wreaked on the health care industry. Hopefully, I’ve provided some food for thought and helped you realize just because a problem seems huge doesn’t mean that the solution has to be. The solution presented here is very simple, but the benefits are more than I can even touch on. As in any debate, seek the truth and use your logic and reason to come to a solution. Problems are exacerbated by those who think things are so complex that it requires “government experts” to fix it.

P.S. I’m sure as the debate progresses, I’ll have more topics to write about. Please provide feedback. Ideas are weak when not challenged. If you disagree, challenge my ideas, so I can either strengthen them or discard them. If you agree with them, share them with others.

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Health Care Reform – How about we look at root causes?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, Health Care | Posted on 11-10-2009

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Health Care reform has been a politically powerful, hot button issue in election cycle after election cycle. It appears to be coming to a head this year, with Democrats pushing a government run health care plan. Republicans on the other hand seem to be very splintered on what health care reform should look like. It seems many elders in the party believe Republicans should just capitulate to the Democrats because they don’t want to look like they don’t stand for something. They don’t want to look like they are a road block. This is why we have been progressively losing our freedoms and the state has been taking more and more control of our daily lives. Our supposed free market leaders just don’t seem to have the will or the insight to fight for the side of liberty and the free market.

The government constantly goes unchecked on their claims of why a system is experiencing issues. I consent to the fact that our health care industry needs some over haul. Surely, anyone who has had to take care of the health care of themselves and a family can empathize with those who say the system is broken. The question that must be asked is why is it broken? Once you establish why it is broken, you can then truly look at reforms that fix the system, reforms that actually get at the root cause of the ailing system. Why in our country and especially in our government do we always look at symptoms and claim they are the problem? This is a huge issue that will not be fixed by addressing some symptoms. One only need to look at the health of an individual to come up with the perfect analogy of how we are treating the health care “crisis”.

Say a man develops acid reflux. They start off treating it themselves with an antacid. This addresses the symptom. After continually taking over the counter medicine and bumping up their doses, they decide to see their doctor.  They go to the doctor and explain their symptoms. The doctor then explains that the stomach is tilted which results in acid coming out of the stomach into the esophagus. “Wow”, thinks the patient, “I can’t believe I have this condition. Can you prescribe something for me to fix it doc?” “Sure”, the doctor says, and the doctor prescribes an even more potent antacid that the patient will have to take going forward. Now, has the problem been solved? No, the problem has been masked. In the mean time, new issues are beginning, because the acid in the stomach, which is normal, is being suppressed.  So now, food might not digest properly, and the patient now has digestive issues. This is how we treat issues in our public policy.

What the doctor should have said is, “Look this ‘disease’ started because you put on 50 pounds, and the beer belly you now have is causing your stomach to tilt. If you want to fix the problem, your gut is root cause of your problem. Here’s a prescription to a healthier diet and exercise.” Instead, doctors many times treat patients like the government treats our societal problems. Diet and exercise are not as easy as popping a pill the rest of my life, so let’s just ignore the cause of the problem. The same goes for health care. Fixing the problem, because it involves real change, is much harder and scarier for people, so let’s ignore the problem and take the societal pill of government control. As with the patient, this will introduce new and probably worse problems in the future.

“So”, you say, “what are the root causes then big shot?”. Well, one must look at economics to understand how markets work. Everyone constantly talks about the rising cost of health care. What causes prices to rise? Prices are just a signal of where supply and demand are at in any given time period. So, if demand increases and supply doesn’t, prices go up. Contrary if supply increases and demand doesn’t, prices drop. What causes this not to function properly? I should rephrase that, because it does function properly, but it doesn’t function optimally when price is hidden to the end consumer and not taken into account when making spending decisions. So, the first big problem with our health care system is third party payer. If consumers don’t look at price, the demand side of the equation is going to unnecessarily grow. If price is taken into account, consumers may decide they don’t need this service or product at this price. They may also shop for substitutes. Both instances will work to drive demand down and thus lower the cost.

The second root cause of the rising cost of health care is the one who claims they are going to fix it, the government. We already explained why hiding price distorts the market and drives up cost. So what happens when you introduce a market behemoth into the equation. Now, you  not only have price signals being ignored, but you have the vast supply of government money thrown in to exacerbate the market distortion to the Nth degree. Government money always drives up costs. Look at all the money that goes into education and the cost of education. The most ludicrous claim of this whole health care debate is the claim that some how the government can drive cost down. Government control of health care can only lower cost by lowering demand. How would government lower demand? The only way government can lower demand is by refusing products and services to people via rationing.

The last root cause that I’m going to mention is what I explained earlier in my analogy between the person with acid reflux and the way government handles societal problems. Even though in general we live longer now than ever before, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with out a societal cost. Part of the problem we have is people live longer now with illnesses and sicknesses. How does this group effect the supply and demand curve. Of course, the more people you have dependent on pills to stay alive or to treat a condition, the more demand is driven up. I can understand that there are people with no control over these circumstances, but in many  more cases there are actions that people can take to fix their health issues themselves. In America, over 60% of the population is overweight, and roughly 25% of the population is consider obese. With excessive weight comes most of the illnesses that our population is dealing with and the popping pills at an every increasing rate. If we want to see a drastic change in the cost of health care and to see the demand side of the supply and demand curve driven down, we have to take action lower the percentage of populace that is overweight.

As you can see, these are real root causes. These don’t have easy to swallow answers that politicians like to use to address symptoms. It’s so much easier to say, “Oh no, you aren’t the problem. You don’t need to make changes. The government needs to take more action and help you.” Really? Do you think the government is going to fix the supply and demand curve to lower price? If anything, government control always lowers supply and increases demand, which, REPEAT IT WITH ME, raises prices. Do you think you are going to have the same freedoms after the government takes over? Not only will you pay for these programs in taxes, but you will pay a much heftier price in lost liberty.

I know, I know. “Well genius, it’s easy to stand on the sidelines and point out problems. How do you think we should fix this ‘crisis’?” As I said before fixes to all root causes are much more difficult to swallow than bandaids on the symptoms. The good thing is these fixes actually fix the problem, where bandaids just hide the problems. In my next blog, I will do my best to put out some ideas on how we can address the rising cost of health care. They will be fixes along the line of solutions to the root causes I laid out here. Until then, when watching the health care debate unfold, ask yourself when you here a so called solution espoused by a policitian, “How does this drive down demand or increase supply to lower price”. If it sounds like it will decrease supply or increase demand, you know the problem is only going to get worse with the prescribed fix.

Do you think you are going to have the same freedoms after the government takes over.
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