Yes, I’ve been ignoring this blog. I apologize. The dereliction of duty began when I bumped up against a principle of economics: you can’t spend more time than you actually have. Someday the Federal Reserve folks will probably figure out how to create new time out of thin air (the result being that the time we already have will be worth less), but for now, time is still limited.
After we bought a mini-farm that requires extensive renovations, I took a full-time contract programming job at BMI to pay for them. I also took on side programming projects that occupy part of my evenings and weekends. With little time to spare, I elected to keep the Fat Head blog current and let this one slide for awhile.
While I’ve been out of commission, I hope those of you who are political and economics junkies have been keeping up with The Older Brother’s blog. When it comes to nutrition science and economics, he and I are sort of like mirror images of each other: he got me interested in economics – his number one passion — and I got him interested in nutrition science – my number one passion.
Eventually I’ll find the time to keep up on the political and economics news (which I’ve been ignoring) and resuming writing my smart-aleck posts, but in the meantime I thought I’d share an email debate I’ve been waging with one of my liberal pals from Hollywood. (Yes, I had liberal pals in Hollywood. The other option was to have no pals.) He and I used to engage in spontaneous debates now and then when I still lived there, and for some reason he decided to start new rounds via email after I paid a visit in August – even though I’m pretty sure he knows the odds of convincing a 52-year-old dedicated libertarian to convert to socialism are somewhere south of zero.
I’ll post rounds of the debate over the next few weeks … maybe several weeks if he doesn’t give up. Here’s the first one. Names have been changed to protect the progressive. I’ve also edited out some just-between-friends exchanges that have nothing to do with the political and economic debate.
ROUND ONE – PAUL
Yesterday’s NY TIMES pointed out that since the beginning of the recession, millions of people have lost their jobs and have therefore lost their health insurance.
Since you seem to believe the un-insured are not a significant group, I am wondering what your comment might be. Do you think market forces will eventually correct this problem (without “Obamacare”)?
Or will you present that tired argument that by allowing insurance companies to market across state lines, insurance will get magically affordable? ..Beware that in presenting this tired argument, you will be ignoring what happened when we allowed retail banks to cross state lines. They all merged into 5, too-big-to-fail banks!!! (Remember First Chicago? We thought they were huge but they disappeared into Chase).
Or maybe you’re going to say, that through Tort Reform, insurance will become magically affordable for the unemployed. The idea being that a 50-something couple, getting by on Wal-Mart jobs, will somehow be enabled to get health insurance (because malpractice awards have been capped).
Indulge me, Tom. I’m dying to hear your answer.
ROUND ONE – TOM
Ha, happy to indulge you.
I think health insurance should be disconnected from employment. My car insurance has nothing to do with my employer. Neither does my homeowner’s insurance. The only reason health insurance became attached to employment is that FDR (being one of the biggest economic ignoramuses of all time, even according to friends and colleagues … we are, after all, talking about a guy who was a lousy student, failed miserably at his few attempts in business, and maintained his wealthy lifestyle by writing letters along the lines of: Dear Mommy, I need more of Dad’s money. Love, Franklin) froze wages during WWII. Since governments can’t wave a magic wand that causes the forces of competition to simply vanish, employers competed for employees by offering free health insurance in lieu of higher wages to get around the wage freeze.
Yes, I think insurance should be sold across state lines. You’re worried that we’ll only end up with five national insurance companies, seriously?! As opposed to the situation many people find themselves in now, where they’re only allowed to buy a policy from the two or three companies operating in their state — policies that are juiced up with all sorts of mandates imposed by state legislators to suck up to their big contributors, thus driving up the cost?
No, of course market forces won’t correct the problem … market forces haven’t been allowed to work in that business for decades. For market forces to work, we’d have to actually have something like a functioning market.
And how exactly will Obamacare solve the situation? By driving up the cost of insurance policies, as it’s already done? Yes, the prototype federal solution: we’ll pass a gazillion laws that make a necessity far more expensive than it should be, then we’ll rush in to fix the problem we created by subsidizing the necessity.
We didn’t see double-digit inflation in health insurance until the feds got into the health-care business. Same old story. If you’re concerned that old people can’t afford insurance, you can think your precious government for driving up the cost. Take a look at the industries with little or no government involvement, and prices have often gone down over time when correcting for inflation.
How was that?