19 July 2010

the cause of liberties

I've been engaged in trying to explain how a competitive market for schools would work to the economically challenged. It has not been going well.

But I suspect that this is hardly the only situation where a supposed "conservative" who might be reliably framed as favoring markets would in fact support something totally ridiculous instead (that is, the present system that creates parental oversight over ALL schools rather than simply allowing parental oversight over the school of their choice).

For example, conservatives have cynically been defending medicare against cuts (after decades of railing against the program's very existence. Of course, their passing a massive expansion of the program has not helped). They often suggest methods of cutting social security. Both of these are programs that I'd suggest should not even exist at all. As with schools, it might be a public good or a significant externality to require people to save money for retirement as a hedge against mass irrationality, just as there is a case to fund education through public taxation. But that case does not mean that the government should administer the methods of funding, and hence act not as an honest broker transferring funding to needed and desired public goals. Instead it seizes funding and presumes the public's goals. Similarly, there may be a strong case that consumers should in fact have some method of saving or insuring against medical risks and perhaps that should be a mandated requirement, with public assistance for those who cannot afford to do so. But this again does not mean that the government should thus decide which manner of insuring risks shall be used, what risks should be insurable, what methods of treatment should be deployed, etc. It may well be that the government can act to preserve transparency, to conduct studies on the efficacy of treatments, on the desirability of curing various diseases and conditions relative to the costs and benefits of such things in a general way, and also act to demand transparency of information and costs from providers of health care. These methods could act to preserve and extend markets into health care. But it makes little sense to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to the aged (and hence infirm) on the sole basis that they are aged. It should be the responsibility of the individual to assume control over their health care, its quality and provision as well as their own health maintenance over a period of a lifetime. A system which provides relatively free health care and medications to people on the basis that they "need" them, without a full regard for their private ability to provision themselves with such things is apt to be a program which transfers vast sums of money to people who do not need it and did not ask for it.

That is hardly "conservative" either, just as it is hardly conservative to demand all schools teach what a handful of active parents decide through local or state school boards.

I could of course go on at length on the subject of the flailing drug war and its costs to human life and liberties, and to the subject of condemning people to suffering and privation of abject poverty on the basis of their place of birth by excluding the possibility, indeed the hope, of improvement by relocation here. But after a while, it gets depressing to see such visions as those of drug warriors and xenophobes/nativists taken with any seriousness.
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