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One thing Libertarians and Communists alike agree upon is the special status of Government.
There’s something mythic, something mystic, some existential quality of Government that renders it unique among forms of organization. The details of what that quality might be differ according to ideology, but that the quality exists is taken for granted.
Libertarians regard Government as uniquely evil because it uses force and violence to achieve its goals. Bulls*t. A common street-gang or playground bully does the same, and we don’t call them “Government” (though perhaps we should). So did the East India Company, and all the other early precursors of the modern Corporation.
Liberals — “Founding Father” types, not modern Progressives — see Government through the lens of Sovereignty, a mystic quality that grants personhood to Government. According to them, if the Government accedes to the Will of the People, the Sovereignty rests with the People and all is well.
Communists and their bastard children Progressives take that a step farther — Government is the embodiment of The People (or The Public, the Proletariat, etc. etc. ad nauseum) and by virtue of that should be in control of everything.
It’s all BS. Government is neither more nor less than a form of organization, no different from a major corporation or the Podunk, NY Lions’ Club. Human beings are nearly helpless as individuals, and have to assemble in cooperative groups to survive — but at the same time they are individuals, and if there is no management of the group it doesn’t cooperate, it falls apart in bickering. That’s what management is all about, and Government is neither more nor less than the senior-most management organ.
Government is staffed by people just exactly like the ones who staff every other organization. There is nothing magic about turning affairs over to “The Public”, because “The Public” doesn’t exist — what you can do is turn affairs over to The Government. If you expect that to solve all the problems, you will be severely disappointed. It’s just another bureaucracy, with the same imperatives as any other bureaucratic group, from ass-covering by the minions to empire-building by the bosses, and the only real difference is that you can get it big enough that it consumes all the resources in internal shuffling.
The Marching Morons, a Fifties-era 1951 science fiction novel short story by Cyril M. Kornbluth, describes a future in which people of lower intelligence have continued to breed while the smart ones use birth control, with the result that the average intelligence of humanity is drastically reduced. The protagonist, a time traveler, is taken for a ride by an ordinary citizen in a flashy car that makes lots of noise and seems to be going quite fast, but he notes that it really doesn’t get anywhere very quickly.
Prof. Reynolds links to a NYT article: Hybrid Cars May Include Fake Vroom for Safety. Kornbluth would no doubt be delighted at the vindication of his prediction. I’m not totally sure the rest of us should be quite so pleased.
Over at Suburban Guerilla, Susie describes talking to Arlen Specter about the wave of entrepreneurship that would be set off by Government-provided health insurance. After all, single (non-group) health insurance is extremely expensive, and freed of that expense everybody would be free to start their own company, right? By her account Specter agreed to think about it, and I suppose you should give him a little credit for trying something he isn’t really suited for. (via memeorandum.)
It won’t happen.
Entrepreneurship requires capital and the ability to operate. Specter, like all his buddies in the Big Government, regards any form of “capital” as a piggy bank they can (and will) smash for the contents at any instant. A small entrepreneurial business requires capital equipment — a building, a truck, a welding machine, something — and as soon as you get the money together for it somebody’s going to start shouting “Look! A rich person! Take that money for the Poor!” It’s the reason there’s no manufacturing in the United States. They’ve already gobbled up all the capital at the level of a GE or GM, and all that’s left is the small entrepreneurs. They have to get money from somewhere.
Commenter Mike Fennel, a contractor, fills in some details. Why, with free health care he could pay his people more and charge less for their services! Win-win for everybody!
Sorry, Mike, somebody is going to pay. The outgo is going to be the same — the doctors have to be paid, the hospital has to make mortgage payments and taxes, the drugs have to be paid for, the equipment still costs money. The money has to come from somewhere, and that “somewhere” is going to be you and your $17/hr employee. You’re going to see your taxes go up, and your employee is going to see his taxes go up, and the total collected is going to be about the same as what the insurance company is charging now plus the overhead for managing a gigantic Government department. (And if you think that will be less than what a private insurance company takes in profit, I invite you to investigate the finances of the Postal Service.)
Yeah, if health care were free a lot of the burdens of small business would be removed. So would a lot of the burdens of Big Business — and keep in mind, Big Business already has money to hire lawyers and lobbyists and pay for “campaign contributions”, so they’re relatively confident that they can shift their costs to somebody else. That “somebody else” is YOU. You don’t have a big-time lobbyist working for you, and you can’t afford to pay your Senator $50,000 for an exclusion, much less the $1 million your major competitors will be happy to fork over to the same end. So on top of all the inevitable costs that get moved from the “health insurance” account to the “taxes” account just to make the system work, you’re going to be subsidizing Kellogg Brown & Root’s provision of health insurance.
If health care were free we’d be better off. Yeah, and if a pig had wings it’d need a pilot’s license. This isn’t about cost saving, it’s about cost shifting — and contractors like Mr. Fennel, along with other small and medium size businesses, are the only ones left to shift the costs to.