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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Another Responsibility Shirking Government Panel

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government | Posted on 25-11-2009

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Some in Congress are calling for a bi-partisan panel on ways to cut the deficit. As you can imagine, I’m laughing my butt off right now. Can you imagine telling your spouse you  need to get an outside advisor to help you figure out why you are getting further into debt as you go out and buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need on your credit cards?

By JONATHAN WEISMAN and JOHN D. MCKINNON

WASHINGTON — The White House is considering a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation’s swelling deficit, as it seeks to show resolve on a problem that threatens its broader agenda.

Top White House officials, including budget director Peter Orszag, met Tuesday with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad to discuss establishing such a commission, which has been pushed by Mr. Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, and his Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

Chuck Marr, a budget aide to the Democrats’ former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, said some kind of commission or budget summit could be the only way to bring Republicans into the decision making in the hopes of generating support for cutting cherished programs or raising taxes.

So now the Democrats want to bring in Republicans to support cutting cherished programs. Isn’t this as they are about to pass a huge new program that isn’t supported by Republicans?

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.) and senior Democrats such as House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin have vociferously opposed delegating tough decisions to outside panels or commissions.

Taking concrete steps to cut spending and raise taxes, always politically difficult, has become even harder given the U.S. economy’s weakened condition. With projected deficits averaging more than 5% of gross domestic product over the next decade, the enormity of the task makes it more daunting. So does the looming 2010 election, when Democrats face the possibility of big losses.

via White House Weighs New Panel to Tackle Deficit – WSJ.com.

Holy crap! Who would have thought I would ever agree with Nancy Pelosi. I better reconsider my belief. I was under the impression that we elect these idiots to make the tough decisions. I didn’t think we elected them to create panels anytime things are politically tough to do. They say it’s politically difficult, but yet it seems people on all sides are complaining about the deficit. The only difference seems to be where each side thinks the cuts should come from. I have a great idea that will solve this. Cut everything. Pass legislation that will move towards the end of medicare, social security, etc while protecting those who are on it or will be on it shortly. Young people know they will not get any of these benefits, so quit robbing them to pay for a failing system. For the left, shut some damn bases down around the world. Do we really need the cost of bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, etc?

Was that hard? Do we really need a commission to make a report that probably wouldn’t include common sense ideas anyway? Now that this has been put out there, congress can use it. They don’t even have to pay me. Well, maybe they could let me not pay taxes for a few years.

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Don’t follow Europe’s example

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, Health Care, Video | Posted on 03-11-2009

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This is a great video from a post on HotAir that hits the nail on the head of why we have problems with our health care, THIRD PARTY PAYER.

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Health Care Reform – A small example of free market solutions

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, Health Care | Posted on 18-10-2009

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Over the past week, I’ve been writing about how the free market is the best solution to health care reform. I also argued that the best way to fix health care is to get rid of third party payer, typically employers, from the health insurance purchase. The second fix was to get rid of third party payer for day to day medical expenses. For some reason, despite the fact that the market delivers food to you to survive, Americans think the market without the government involvement would not provide the insurance and medical solutions needed.

Now I’ve already argued that they would. Examples like walk-in health clinics, $4 prescriptions, and HSAs abound. The biggest fear for most people though is the pre-existing conditions and finding health insurance. I’ve exclaimed and still do that the market will address this need, because that is what the market does. It addresses needs.

The change that would help propel the creation of new insurance products is the consumer of the insurance actually purchasing the insurance. When we purchase goods and services for ourselves, we seek out the goods and services that address our needs effectively at the best possible price. This shopping will create a educated consumers and will generate competition among the providers of insurance and medical services.

Today while doing my bills, my mortgage company sent me this offer: “You can now get $100,000 of accident hospitalization insurance coverage for one full year for free.” Wow, free. Let’s take a look at the fine print. First, let’s make it clear this coverage is for accidental hospitalization. It is not for going to get your flu shot, which as we said before should be paid our of pocket. If our real concern is making sure we do not go bankrupt in the event of an unplanned disaster, surely a plan that covers accidents would be on the top of our list. So, this plan covers hospital stays and emergeny treatments. It even has an option to add your family and include doctors visits. Doctors visits are limited to one per month with a lifetime limit of 60 visits. Wow, I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve been to the doctors in the past 20 years.

This plan is not total coverage, but it does address a need, accidental coverage. There are exclusions to this plan. The accident cannot be the result of drinking, drugs, committing a felony, flying a plane, war, accidents outside the US, etc. By limiting their exposure, they are able to offer a reasonable amount of coverage for a very low price. How much is this plan? After the free period, it goes up to $9.95/month. To add doctors visits, its $13.95/month, and for a family it’s $19.95/month.

So what does it say about pre-existing conditions? “All eligible customers who complete and return the Activation Form will be accepted. There are no medical questions or physical examinations required for enrollment.” Sounds pretty good for pre-existing conditions to me.

Now, I am not saying this plan here is the answer. It does not cover all scenarios. It’s for accidents. It does not cover cancer, heart attacks, or diseases. I think we could all agree, how could it at $9.95/month? What this highlights though is companies including your home mortgage company will offer solutions. When you are shopping for your own insurance, you will make good decisions to address your own personal needs. You will not be pigeon holed into a plan that doesn’t apply to you because a co-worker has different needs. You also will not go without options. The market is where options are created, and the government is where options are few and usually all bad.

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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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Responding to a Nobel Laureate’s article in the WSJ

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

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After reading the following editorial in the Wall Street Journal this morning, I had to send in a letter to the editor. While I doubt it will get published, it will here. That’s another lovely thing about the free market! Here’s the editorial followed by my response.

By VERNON L. SMITH

There is widespread agreement with the principle that our health-care system needs to be reformed. But our representatives and our neighbors have much trouble in reaching agreement on the particulars. There have been many legislative bills offered and hundreds of amendments with no clear path to a resolution.

Health-care systems everywhere encounter cost overruns and rationing devices, like queues, in their diverse attempts to deliver products for which demand has long grown faster than other economic sectors. Why is it so difficult to find the private and public means, the combination of markets and government assistance, that enables a preferred outcome to emerge?

This question has a simple answer that plagues health care everywhere.

The health-care provider, A, is in the position of recommending to the patient, B, what B should buy from A. A third party—the insurance company or the government—is paying A for it.

This structure defines an incentive nightmare. You do not have to be an economist to realize that, when phrased in this way, nobody knows how to solve this problem. Hence the many experiments, all of which have been deemed less than satisfactory.

I don’t know whether this problem has a solution. If it does, I think it requires us to find mechanisms whereby third-party payment is made to the patient, B, who in turn pays A, supplemented with any co-payment from B for services. Hence, from the moment B seeks services from A both know who is going to be paying A for what is delivered. A and B each has need for what the other brings to the table, and this structure carries the potential for nurturing the relationship between A and B. B is empowered to become better informed about the services recommended by various A’s that he might choose among, and the A’s might find it particularly important to build good reputations with B’s.

Mr. Smith, the 2002 Nobel Laureate in economics, is a professor at Chapman University.

via Vernon L. Smith: The ABC Dilemma of Health Reform – WSJ.com.

Subject:  In response to “The ABC Dilemma of Health Reform”

Leave it to the intellectual to turn the simple into the complex. Mr. Smith, a Nobel Laureate, says “I don’t know whether this problem has a solution.” Is he serious? Any economist knows the disaster that ensues when price signals are not available to the purchaser.

The entire system can be fixed by addressing third party payer in respects to the purchase of medical services and the purchases of the insurance. Instead of further incentivizing the distortion of the market via the tax code’s promotion of employer purchasing of insurance, we should incentivize the individual. When the individual purchases his own insurance, he’ll make better puchasing decisions, such as buying a catastrophic plan instead of a plan that covers everything down to teeth cleaning. The individual will also make better purchasing decisions when the doctor tries billing him $10 for a band-aid.

When the accumulative effect of millions of these first party payer transaction kick in, you will see prices come back in line with the rest of the market. You will see entrepreneurs battling it out for the consumers dollar.

Sincerely,

Jason Vanzin

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The power of price – Washington Times

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

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Finally a politician that gets it! This is spot on. I believe someone else said this. Hmm, who was that?

By Rep. Bill Cassidy

Price is power. Given limited resources and infinite wants, price empowers us to determine the best use of limited resources.

With health care, the closest most patients come to price is the $15 or $20 co-pay. When we leave the doctor’s office, we don’t know if we received $5 worth of health care or $500.

On the surface, it’s a bargain. But the “bargain” hides and contributes to higher insurance premiums and massive medical inflation.

Our current system ignores the power of price. We can’t know or compare prices, much less be rewarded for acting on them. Because there is no incentive to control costs, we don’t. At $15, why not request any test? According to a McKinsey Quarterly report, the disconnect between price and cost is a leading driver of skyrocketing medical inflation, along with the burgeoning cost of treating chronic disease and the expense of administrative overhead.

via The power of price – Washington Times.

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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 – Market principles to deliver real reform – Part 1

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, Health Care | Posted on 15-10-2009

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The health care debate has been taken to the next level since Barack Obama’s election. While I completely disagree with his approach to fixing health care, I must say it is a good thing to bring the issue to the forefront and try to come up with some solutions. As mentioned in an early post though, you have to look at the root causes to see what problems you need to actually address.

For those of you who might not have read my previous post, the problem with health care is the third party payer model we use, which blocks price signals from properly stabilizing the supply and demand of goods and services. In other words, we take actions that drive up the demand for more services and products while not increasing the supply of those services and products at the same time. We also add unnecessary costs on top of those services and products that then is passed onto the consumer or the insurance company.  A government take over will not address the issue of increasing demand without rationing of either quantity of services or quality of services. I know, “Hey fella, the Baucus bill doesn’t have a government take over.” The Baucus bill is leading the way to a government take over. It is creating a massive amount of increased cost on individuals, employers and medical companies. Once merged with other bills, we’ll probably end up with a government take over trigger. This is setting up a straw man that is doomed to failure. It shouldn’t be called a trigger but a lit fuse slowly moving to the bomb of government health care. Instead, we should see bills that address these problems with free market solutions.

So, what are the free market solutions? While I don’t claim to have the genius to provide all the solutions, I do believe there are some simple but hard solutions that can be implemented. Free market solutions must address the issue of rising demand that is the result of third party payer and the state of health for average Americans.

To address the third party payer problem, we must look at the biggest provider of health insurance, employers. Employers offering health care benefits was originally used to compete for employees. It quickly evolved into something that was encouraged by the government and expanded by unions. Government encouraged the expansion via the tax code and mandates. With this constant push towards more and more coverage, insurance began to take care of everything a person needs or wants in regard to health, dental, vision, and mental health.  One can quickly see that more and more people demanding ever expanding coverage only has one effect, increased cost of insurance. Then the very nature of insurance, where it takes the end consumer out of the value decision of the purchase, drives up the cost of the actual service or product. This must be addressed by fixing the root cause, which is third party payer of the insurance by the employer and the third party payer of the service or product by the insurance company.

The first step has already been enacted, but needs to be encouraged and sold to the public. Under President Bush, Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, were passed into law to address the health care crisis. Like every other issue under Bush though, it was never sold to the public. It’s just not as sexy as “free” health care, even though it actually works.  The gist of an HSA is people purchase high deductible, low premium health insurance that would cover expenses after a certain dollar amount. In addition they can put tax free money into their HSA to cover the deductible. When they go for a doctor visit, they write a check to the doctor from their account. Once their deductible has been reached, the insurance company takes over.

The HSA addresses many of the issues that result from the unique insurance model that is used by the health care industry. In no other insurance model, does insurance take care of everyday occurrences. Insurance is to guard a person or organization against risk. The best example is car insurance. We buy car insurance to make sure that we can get our car repaired or paid off if we are in an accident. We also get liability insurance to insure ourselves against a law suite if one is filed by the other party in a vehicle accident. We do not use our car insurance for oil changes, new tires, or even an expensive item like a transmission replacement. These are wear and tear issues that are guaranteed to happen, while accidents are not. If we are responsible, we plan for things that are guaranteed to happen, and we insure against those things that may or may not happen. This model of insurance is why you can get an oil change for under $20, but a new fender for some reason costs thousands. Notice the part of vehicle repair that is paid by insurance is much higher compared to the part that is paid out of pocket. When we pay out of our pocket, we shop around and demand better deals. When insurance pays, we could care less.

For some reason though, with health care, we ignore this model, and we buy health insurance for our human wear and tear. We all know we are going to get sick. We all know we’ll need check ups. If you have kids, you know they will need vaccinations. For these items, we should be planning financially to pay for these. What we should be insuring against are things like cancer, heart attacks, or situations that can lead to hospitalization. With this change, you will see consumers shopping around and demanding better pricing. With this change in behavior, medical companies would have to compete more fiercely for your dollars, which would drive costs down.

While this addresses the third party payer issues from the actual medical purchase side of the issue, it still doesn’t address the third party payer side of the insurance purchase. Just as employers were encouraged to add health benefits via the tax code, they should now be encouraged to get out of the health care business. Businesses waste vast amounts of resources on the shopping, buying, and administering health care insurance for their employees. Does this add to their business production and to the larger production of our country? No it doesn’t. If employers handed the health care insurance purchasing decision to their employees, they would then be able to focus on what they do best, which is grow their businesses. They also would be relieved of a huge (huge really doesn’t do it justice) expense. This massive reduction in expenses would result in more jobs. There is no doubt that the cost of health care insurance has resulted in many companies not hiring that extra person. It’s a return on investment hurdle that is much higher as a result of the extra cost. In addition, the reduction in the cost of doing business would result in lower prices of the goods or services delivered by the company. As Thomas Sowell points out in his blog, Magic Numbers in Politics, prices are interconnected and the reduction in the price of one good filters through the economy and lowers the price of other goods. He uses a great example.

What does that mean? It means that a huge increase in the demand for ice cream can mean higher prices for catchers’ mitts, among other things.

When more cows are needed to produce more milk to make ice cream, then fewer cows will be slaughtered and that means less cowhide available to make baseball gloves. Supply and demand mean that catchers’ mitts are going to cost more.

via Thomas Sowell : Magic Numbers in Politics – Townhall.com.

As you can see, there would be a butterfly effect in the cost of goods in our entire economy. This would unleash business and job growth. “Hold up there buddy,” you say, “ultimately the worker would carry the burden of health insurance.” This is true, but as explained above, insurance is not meant to cover those things that are guaranteed to happen. If workers buy their own insurance, they will make wiser purchase decisions. They will plan for maintenance, and they will insure against the unknown. This will drive down the cost of health care insurance. In a future segment of this blog, I will expand on this more, but for now you can see the effect of this when seen in conjunction with the interconnectedness of prices. Also, the end user making day to day “maintenance” purchases will drive down the cost of those purchases. In May 2008, Watson Wyatt Worldwide released a study that argues that the rising cost of health care insurance is a huge factor of why employee pay has been stagnant for decades. With the removal of health insurance from the employment process, salaries would undoubtedly rise. Salary increases will also be the result of higher competition for employees. Many employees pick a job based on health insurance. With that removed from their decision, they will choose to go where the work and the salaries are better. They will also not be trapped in a job because they can’t afford to lose their insurance. They will have picked their own insurance, and it would not cease in the result of a change in employment status.

In the next segments of this blog on health care solutions, I will address the unique issues of health insurance that make it much more expensive, how our country’s obesity problem is a major factor in rising health care costs, and how the market has already taken steps in the right direction to address the rising costs. As you can see though, removing the market distortion of third party payer would be better for every part of our economy and every participant involved in health care purchasing. As I said in previous posts, when listening to the health care debate, ask yourself how the proposed solution addresses the root causes of rising costs. A government take over does not remove the third party payer issue, it does not increase competition, and it will actually increase costs. With out fierce competition, the only way for costs to be driven down is by mandate. The end result is a reduction in the availability of services and/or the quality of services.

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Health Care Reform – How free is the public option?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, Health Care | Posted on 13-10-2009

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Why are we Americans moving away from self reliance to the nanny state more and more every year? Do Americans truly believe because something comes from the government, that it is free? Financially, it is much more expensive than the private sector, but the most disturbing cost of government control is the loss of liberty.

America was founded on the belief that the government is a necessary evil, but an evil that must remain small and restrained to prevent it from becoming an unbearable evil. We used to always be skeptical of anything the government said knowing that government always wants more power to control us. Now we just seem to take politicians at their word that they want what’s best for us. Skepticism is something we much pass on generation after generation if we are to last as a nation.

Let’s take the health care reform debate. So many Americans are fed up with the rising costs, that they are begging the government to step in. They believe the government will take over health care, and some how they will be relieved of that burden. Not so fast. With the government controlling your health care, they will control your life on a much larger scale than ever before.

As I said in my previous blog, the economics of health care is suffering from price being hidden from the end consumer. Because of this, demand is constantly driven up with supply not keeping pace. This drives up cost, and the only way to bring cost back under control is to bring down demand. In a normal market this is done naturally through price signals. In a government controlled economy this is done by rationing or by force.

Let’s take rationing first. If the government’s budget for open heart surgeries is X and with the total budget of X only N amount of surgeries can be peformed, how does the government make sure there are not any more open heart surgeries than N? The government will setup strict criteria on who can have open heart surgery. If they find that criteria is allowing more patients than N, they will then make it even more stringent. So, knowing that this is the case, one must ask what criteria will they use? Will you be out of luck if you are too old? What if to keep the number of surgeries at N, you need to have a chance of survival at 75% and your chance is only 60%? What if that is your child’s chance of survival and now yours? As you can see, this is a very scary decision for us to leave in the hands of the cold, lifeless bureaucracy, but what’s worse is driving down demand by government force.

The second way I mentioned the government controlling demand is by force. “Now, come on.”, you say, “You are really going over the top here. Our government would never use force.” While you may see force as guns and tanks, that is not the only force the government uses. Again, as I mentioned in my previous blog on the root causes of rising health care cost, one of the biggest contributors to the demand side of health care is the obesity epidemic in this country. So as the government, how do you control the rate of obesity?

Is it too far fetched for government to outlaw certain foods? How about as mentioned above using criteria to control you? If you want to have access to X, you have to have an accounting of what you eat, similar to doing your taxes. Surely, we can already see the possibility of the government taking your kids away from you if the government deems that you are feeding them too much junk food and they weigh too much.  How about forcing everyone to have a chip injected into them for ease of keeping medical records and driving down cost via efficiency? Even worse, how about forced DNA screening and alteration to minimize the chance of cancer or other diseases? Science progresses so fast, we really have no way of knowing what the government may require of us five or ten years from now as part of the “public good” and “cost containment” when it comes to health care.

If you think the IRS is bad, how about the how about the Medical Records Service (I made this up, I think). Is it possible that the government would require an annual accounting of all medical services delivered to you to insure you are having regular checkups, following the doctors orders, etc?

“No problem.” you say, “I’ll just refuse this “required” screening or this “required” procedure.” Really? Can you refuse to do your taxes? There are already provisions in the bill for not having health care under either a private plan or the public option. If you don’t have health insurance, you will pay a fine and face prison time. If the government isn’t getting the results it wants, surely it will increase the fines and the prison time.

We have gone so far away in this country from what our founders believed, that they would roll over in their graves just at the thought of the IRS, and here we are today contemplating giving the decisions over our health to the government. Here we are begging the government to ration health care and force us into servitude so we can avoid going bankrupt or pay the family doctor out of our pocket for services rendered. We once believed that liberty was worth dying for in this country. Now it seems we don’t even think it’s worth being financially stressed for. Time will tell if we made the right decision, but I beg my fellow Americans to think this decision through with the worse case scenarios. Chance are those scenarios will come to fruition. Liberty is dear, so don’t give it away so cheaply.

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