Friday, July 31, 2009

On Villainy of Insurance Companies

Demonizing the insurance industry in the call for socialized medicine is not as strong a strategy as people think. Both funding mechanisms suffer the same flaw. Both systems transfer control over health care that should belong to the individual.

An oft repeated partisan theme is that insurance companies systematically deny claims because they are motivated by greed, while government agencies approve claims because they are motivated by altruism.

The truth, of course, is that the motivations behind both funding mechanisms are remarkably the same.

Both the claims adjusters in private insurance and government pools are driven by altruism. Both are constrained by economic reality.

The partisan theme that insurance companies exist for the purpose of denying claims is absurd when one considers the purpose of insurance.

Insurance companies exist for the purpose of lavishing resources on people in times of need.

This lavishing of resources is their product. Insurance companies are judged on their ability to deliver their product. The manufactured partisan theme that insurance companies don't pay claims is absurd.

Insurance companies scrutinize claims. They do reject claims. This is not unexpected as the companies are judged on their ability to handle claims.

If anything, insurance companies are guilty of not giving medical expenses the same scrutiny that individuals were they spending their own money. The spendthrift nature of insurance is a primary reason for the rising costs of insurance.

There are many serious problems with fraud. Even worse, since pooled insurance wants to impress powerbrokers, they will lavish more resources on insiders to the cost of outsiders. Government run insurance has exactly the same problems. The system will try to impress decision makers at the cost of commoners.

Even worse, when politicians have their hands on the purse string of health care, the system will be used in the game of rewarding friends and punishing enemies.

Government controlled healthcare necessitates a system of lobbyists and political intrigue for individuals to get the care they need.

The system will necessitate that doctors pay lobbyists to protect the interest of their specialty.

The current press to attack insurance companies as enemies of the people will backfire as soon as people realize that the power grab simply moves the pool from one rogue entity to another.

The two forms, socialized medicine and insurance companies, have the same form. They are pools that transfer health care decisions to third parties. Both private and public insurance are driven by a desire to appear as great altruists. Both private and public insurance are constrained by economic forces.

The well funded and carefully orchestrated effort on the part of the left to frame insurance companies as villians is meaningless because the socalled reforms really aren't fundamentally changing the form or short comings of funding health care through a third party pool.

Future Clunkers

As I understand, the plan for GM is to put a few billion of taxpayers' dollars on the line in a major retooling effort to build new fuel efficient and alternative energy cars.

Before the retooling effort, we are engaged in a massive "Cash for Clunkers" program that will flood the economy car market with the current generation of economy cars.

In effect, the taxpayer is currently in the process of undermining its big investment in retooling.

It appears that Obama is doing exactly what happened in the Carter years. We are dumping tons of money into alternative energy. The inept government is flooding the market in ways that is likely to undermine the very market they are trying to establish.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health of the Nation

I worked for a state run health care fund.

One day I asked the all important question: What is the incentive for pooled insurance to control costs?

I asked the question to everyone I could.

Generally the response was moral platitudes. We keep costs down because we are public servants charged with seeking the public good.

The closest that anyone came to a systemic argument was that they had to keep costs low or the agencies insured would seek coverage from private pools.

It is true that, to an extent, competition among pools helps keep prices low. Insurance companies do not want their product undercut by other insurance pools.

There is a systemic fault in this argument. It is this systemic fault which is at the root of our health care woes.

The fault is that pools are concerned with relative costs. Their concern is with costs in relation to other pools … their competition.

They are not concerned with baseline costs.

Pooled insurance is a numbers game. Insurance companies calculate the cost of delivering a service. They then add a percentage on top of that.

The insurance industry has a very perverse set of incentives. Yes, they want the cost of their product to be low in comparison to other pools, but they want the baseline cost of healthcare to increase each year because their profits are calculated as a percent of total costs.

Let's say there is a market where expected health care costs are $10B a year. Insurance companies compete for this market with the promise that they will help people avert risks and even out costs. For this service the insurance companies charge 10% and make a $1B profit.

If something happens in this market that increases expected costs to $20B, the insurance companies will see their profits double to $2B.

Don't you see? The profits of insurance companies increase with baseline costs.

As such, insurance companies benefit from anything that can increase that baseline costs.

For example, big malpractice claims increase baseline costs. Insurance executives might grumble about malpractice claims by they benefit from them at multiple levels. High malpractice costs force doctors to buy extremely expensive insurance. The insurance companies make a percent on this market. The high cost of malpractice insurance increases the baseline cost of health care. This increases the profits insurance companies make on health care insurance.

I worked in public health care. Artificial increases in the cost of health care increased the amount of money flowing through the department which increased our budget.

The perverse incentives apply to both government and privately owned insurance pools.

These perverse incentives work directly against the needs of the people. As the baseline of medical care increases, the more insurance companies save by denying care to individuals.

I emphasize that the flow of care follows the flow of money. As our health care dollar currently flows through pools, the expenditure of money is optimized for the benefit of the pool.

Were we to switch the system so that money flowed through individual accounts, then the system would become optimized for the needs of the individual. Which, as Adam Smith pointed out some two centuries ago, would improve the Health of the Nation.

The only way out of this trap is the creation of a medical funding system that returns control directly to the people. Individuals will seek out the best care for their dollar. If we were to switch from insurance to Medical Savings and Loans we could break the incentives of the insurance companies to keep jacking up prices.

Unfortunately, the MS&L has to reach a critical mass before it can accomplish its task.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Forgive My Carbon Foot Stomp

Forgive me Al Gore for I have sinned.

Today I violated Gaia with a carbon foot stomp.

As you are aware, I have taken thousands of digital pictures in an online celebration of beauty, bounty and diversity of the Mountain West. I have posted these pictures on line in an effort to raise awareness of the beauty around us.

In all of these years of taking photos, I have taken great care to never print any of the images that I have taken.

Today, at the request of parental units who wanted some photos I took at a wedding, I strayed from the path of righteousness and engaged in the carnal act of printing photographs. This sin against nature included the consumption of toxic inks and glossy photo paper. I dare not even think of the gasses released in the generation of electricity … greenhouse gasses that lead to global warming.

I pray to you, the Great Al Gore, balancer of the earth and sayer of the inconvenient truth. It is through your holiness that Gaia has revealed that our collective conscious controls the weather.

I know that in your greatest, o' Nobel Laureate of peace and keeper of the climate, that you have little time for us earth bound mortals as you circle the globe in that great jetliner in the sky. Yet I beg of you to forgive my printing 12 sheets of paper and the carbon foot stomp that the transgression entailed.

Having just printed several photos, I find myself desirous of a really nice printer that would allow for the printing of fine art quality prints. Printing images would probably help improve the quality of my photography. For that matter, it would be super fun to see if I could make a business of printing and sharing images.

Oh that the Senate might pass the Cap and Trade legislation so that us humble sinners could buy indulgences from your greatness as you circle the globe and look down upon mankind from above.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Culture of Corruption

I guess Obama's plan was to stimulate the economy by making Conservative books fly off the bookshelves. Of course Bush made progressive books fly off the shelves. I added tomes of Chomsky and others to my bookshelves during the Bush administration.

My observation is that the country almost always heads in the opposite direction of the US president.

I've been seduced into buying Michelle Malkin's Culture of Corruption.

For folks wandering what Obama's organized communities will look like in ten years time, they might check out The File which explores Timothy Garton Ash's encounter with the East German version of Acorn in the 1980s.

Nien Cheng had provides a look at her life through the Cultural Revolution (a change campaign by Moa) in Life and Death in Shanghai.

It is sad. The left is slamming Michell Malkin with racial slurs for daring to criticize the annointed one. I suspect that many oriental Americans had enough experience with Mao to know that annointed ones aren't quite as nice as they are cracked up to being.

Healthcare Advocates

The Medical Savings and Loan helps restore direct negotiations between doctors and patients. Because patients are spending their own money, the system greatly reduces the role of the insurance claims adjuster.

Unfortunately, a MS&L cannot completely eliminate the role of an adjuster. The system will need people to review and approve claims to prevent fraud. For example, the system would have to prevent a person from using a medical loan to buy a car.

Considering that there needs to be an adjuster role in a medical savings and loan, I began to think about the direction I would to take this role. In this thought experiment, I came to a startling realization.

I realized that the form of the financial system directs the flow of care.

In pooled insurance (this applies to both employer based and government based care), payments come from a pooled resource.

Since the payments come from the pool, the primary goal of the claims adjuster is to protect the pool.

In theory, protecting the pool protects the interests of the people in the pool. Ask people whose claims have been denied. They will often tell you that they don't feel protected.

In a medical savings and loan, payments for health care will come from the patient.

Changing the form of health funding from a pool-based to an individual-based creates a shift in the actual delivery of health care.

I imagine that in the Medical Savings and Loan, the claims would transform from a bureaucrat charged with protecting community resources to becoming an advocate of the patient who helps the patient spend resources wisely.

The structure of the financial mechanism determines the flow of care. When payments come from a pool, the system must protect the pool. When payments come from the individual, the system will morph into a design that helps protect the patient's interests.

My interest in the Medical Savings and Loan goes beyond the simple government v. private industry conflict. I realized that a system based on personal accounts would effectively create a more patient centric health paradigm.

Readers of this blog have probably noticed that I have a strange fascination with doulas. A doula might be described as a lay position that works with doctors, midwives and nurses in the birthing process. I called the doula a lay position as the training is intense, but less intense than a professional degree like an RN.

I keep bringing up doulas because I actually see them as a model for the health care advocate.

Healthcare Whisperer

Anyway, my reason for staying up late is that I discovered a fun site called Healthcare Whisperer. This site was established by a nurse practitioner who is creating a team of healthcare advocates.

Judging from the HealthCare Whisperer's blog, the owner of the site was really hoping that Obama's healthcare reform would open room for her type of services.

Having worked in government run healthcare, I fear that she misunderstands the structure of the system. Pooled insurance requires strict regulation and standardization for the uniform delivery of care.

The HealthcareWhisperer has a truly beautiful vision of a patient advocacy program that helps navigate the waters of the medical system. There are some many wonderful options for care these days.

We cannot realize this vision as long as the paradigm is based on pooled insurance.

The Medical Savings and Loan is the one structure that truly allows people to design the right health care regime to fit their life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Take What You Need

I came up with a catchy slogan for the loan component of the Medical Savings and Loan. It is:

"Take what you need. Repay what you can."

The guaranteed loan in an MS&L covers the gap between savings and high deductible insurance. The loan is funded by a premium charged to all accounts. When a person is debilitated by injury or illness, they will default on the loan. Those that recover repay the loan.

The system is progressive in that it transfers wealth from the healthy to those with debiliting ailments.

The Medical Savings and Loan is conservative in that it restores the direct negotiations between doctor and patient.

It is the type of thinking one would pursue if they are serious in bipartisan reform.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Death of the HSA

Proof of the partisanship going into health care legislation are regulations designed to eliminate HSAs. (Cato: Attempted Murder of Home Savings Account).

The ideological goal of Obama, of course, is to eliminate any direct negotiations between doctors and patients. All service negotiations must involve a government agent.

This has me sad as the modest expansion of HSAs was one of the few bright lights of the Bush administration.

Establishing a Medical Savings and Loan will be illegal after the passage of the Obama plan, but I think it is worthwhile for people to discuss the doors being shut during the biggest partisan power grab in American history.

Untold Riches

I did it!

I just came up with a way to fund health care and eliminate the national deficit.

It's simple.

Just find all of the people offering get rich quick schemes on the Internet.

You then tax them on the income that they claim to be making.

The amount of money people claim to be making by selling content free ebooks on how to get rich selling content free ebooks is several times our national deficit.

No Funny Lawyers: Why You Should Do Business on a Handshake

No Funny Lawyers penned a truly insightful post.

In Why You Should Do Business on a Handshake, Jim Thomas points out that the reason for writing contracts isn't to avoid litigation, but to have ammunition when litigation occurs.

In quality business negotiations the process of communication and trust is far more important than the legaleese of the contract. The handshake is more important than the signature.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Medical Savings and Loan - The Domain

With health care reform on everyone's tongues, I wanted to find a way to drum up interested in the Medical Savings and Loan idea.

Being of limited imagination, I pushed my small grey brain cells to their maximum limit and decided to buy the domain

My intention is to continue writing all of my thoughts on Medical Savings Accounts in my blog. Readers of this blog know that I really think some wild thoughts. I suspect that many people who like the concept of MS&Ls would like to talk about the concept, but really don't want to link to that crazy gentile.

My hope is that people who find the Medical Savings and Loan an intriguing idea will link to the concept site. The concept site will only have a small number of pages including a link page back to everyone who blogs writes about the idea.

If you blog about this idea; tell me about your post and your post is actually about the subject; then I will link back to you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Giving the World a Tonsillectomy

Conservatives have lambasted President Obama for a press interview in which the president intimated that it is routine for money grubbing doctors to do unnecessary surgery to take advantage of a fee schedule.

President Obama was correct to note that the fee schedule published by the government or by an insurer has an immediate and direct effect on the services provided by doctors.

The fundamental flaw of all third party payment systems is that the person paying the bill is the one in charge.

The way an economy works is that people pay for things and get what they receive.

Medicare (and to a lesser extent insurance companies) publish fee schedules. As these third parties are the buyer, decisions will be made by the fee schedule.

This is not necessarily an evil. There may be times when the government wants to pay doctors for a service. For example, if the medical community was seeking to eradicate a disease, they could pay doctors to administer a vaccine.

In the vaccine example there is a clear public need and the government is paying doctors to fulfill that need.

Most health care decisions are driven by private needs. When a third party pays for private needs, they are likely to end up muffing things up.

If you really wanted the decisions to be made in the best interest of the patient; then you would redesign the health care funding system so that the patient was the buyer who negotiates with the doctor.

The Medical Savings Account is the one reform on the table that makes the patient the buyer.

Conservatives are wrong for framing the video below as an attack on doctors. In the video, Obama points out a fundamental flaw of all third party payment systems including the reform currently debated in Congress.

Minimum Wage Goes Up Today

The raise in minimum wage means that it is that much expensive for the poor and lower middle class to receive services.

The primary beneficiaries of minimum wage labor is low and lower-middle class people. Hence the primary cost of the minimum wage increase will be born by this group.

The minimum wage has funny effects on communities. The increase rarely has effects in expensive areas like San Francisco, Boulder or Park City. People in rich areas usually have to pay more for labor since the cost of living is higher.

Minimum wage increases tend to have a big impact on jobs in poor neighborhoods where it is difficult to raise prices to cover the new expense.

Another really strange effect is that the people who lose their marginal job in a poor community, then have to start competing for the service jobs in rich communities. This creates a downward pressure on wages in rich 'hoods.

The minimum wage is a great feel good issue for the ruling elite as the legislation will have very little effect on their pocketbooks. Whereas the poor, who are the supposed beneficiaries of the legislation, have to bear a much larger leap in prices along with a drop in the number of local jobs.

The minimum wage laws only make sense when people look at one side of a transaction. Transactions, by their nature have two sides.

Minimum wage increases have consistently been followed by a drop in jobs available to low income Americans (Cato at Liberty). The 2006 legislation that set the currently schedule in minimum wage increases should be numbered among the blunders of the Bush Administration. Clearly this legislation has increased the depth of the current economic downturn.

How much of the job loss in recent months was from businesses that realized that they couldn't afford the increased liabilities that went into law today?

Insurance Companies and Investment Portfolios

I am surprised that I have not heard much debate about what will happen to the massive investment portfolios of insurance companies under various health care reform proposals.

The concept behind insurance is that people should pool their resources to pay for medical expenses. The result of this paradigm is that insurance companies end up with massive amounts of money to invest.

These investments provide grundles of jobs.

Moving millions of people from private to public insurance necessarily means a massive drop in this investment portfolio. Will it mean a massive drop in jobs provided by the investments?

The market is a very strange thing. Investments don't just disappear. As pooled insurance companies sell off their portfolio, others will end up acquiring the stock. Removing the pooled insurance will decrease the amount of stock owned by pooled entities ... the elimination of pooled insurance is likely to increase the ownership of the uber. It might hasten the flow of capital from American hands to foreign entities.

It is an interesting question: "What will happen when our pooled insurance companies sell off their investments in the new health care regime?"

PS: One of the reasons I like Medical Savings Accounts is such accounts improve the overall investment portfolio of our nation.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MSL Article

I just published an intro to the Medical Savings and Loan.

I did not have time to read and edit it. I have to take someone-else's dog for a walk. (Grumble, grumble).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pioneer Day Floats

In the heat, I skulked off to Sandy to take pictures of the Pioneer Day Parade Floats. Apparently, the floats go on display in the South Towne Exposition Center a few days before the parade proper. The float preview allows people to examine the floats close up at their leisure in an air conditioned room.

Having seen the floats, I then took a brisk walk along the Trax line to the Sandy Trax Station, through Sandy proper and back to my blistering hot car.

I had a root beer float at the Sonic Drive Inn. It was the first time I had eaten at a Sonic since my childhood in Oklahoma. I like the shape of the building, but I find the food served at the Sonic to be very scary.

Back to the pictures: I will be busy cropping and labeling the pictures for the rest of the night. I uploaded the first dozen shots. I also put a float in a bubble for the image link below:

pioneer day floats

Tribulations of Trial Lawyers

One interesting result of Obamacare is that we are likely to see the Democrars throw the trial lawyers and Conservatives become their defenders.

Trial lawyers played an important role in the progress toward socialized medicine. Medical malpractice lawsuits dramatically increase costs of care and raise angst.

Once the foot is in the door and a subsidized public option is in place to drive the scattered remains of the free market out of health care, then cost cutting and good public relations will become the marching orders.

Conversely, Conservatives will notice that the only way to get good care in socialized medicine is to hire lawyers and to develop good relations in the health care bureaucracy.

Likewise doctors with any private equity invested in their practice are likely to need substantially more legal protection under a socialist system.

Already, I've noticed an increasing number of Conservatives speaking more positively about the role of lawyers in health care while progressives appear to be eyeing their take in the current system.

It is odd. Conservatives tend to be the first to criticize a group, but are often the last standing up to defend them.

The Consttituion in an Image Driven World

During her confirmation hearings, Sonya Sotomayor wanted to dodge the negative label "activist judge." When asked if she held to the idea that the Constitution was a "living document," she gave the answer that the Constitution does not change but that society changes.

Sadly, she is right.

A key element to the classical liberal world of the Founders that produced the Constitution was their commonsense approach to logic. The Founders received a distilled version of the Aristotelian tradition (The Port Royal Logic, etc.) that seemed to preserve the best in western thought without the divisiveness that kept Westerners at each other's throats throughout the Dark Ages.

Sir William Hamilton wrote in the introduction to the 1861 translation of the Port Royal Logic:

"The severity of self-consuming dialectics was tempered by a more varied range of study and a wider sphere of sympathy. Metaphysics and physics, philosophy and science, were pursued harmoniously together; and, as the natural result, there appeared a spirit of freedom, a love of truth and tone of health, in philosophical writings to which they had previously been strangers."

The love of liberty comes from an appreciation of rationality and a love of truth.

The modern tradition (Kant, Hegel, Marx, Dewey, Moa, Chomsky, etc.) realized that if one changes language and logic; then one can effectively change the interpretation of the artifacts at the foundation of society. This tradition elevated Plato, Sun Tsu, Machiavelli, Rouseau, Voltaire and others to the forefront of discourse. The modern tradition placed dialectics, paradox and conflict at the foundation of reasoning. The modern thinker created a new paradigm where manipulation in the grub for power is central.

The difference between classical liberalism and modern liberalism is largely an approach to reason.

The American Revolution was the Classical Liberal Revolution. It led to a Constitutionally limited government and a free market that produce a leap in prosperity.

To preserve the Constitution, one must preserve the classical liberal approach to reasoning.

Unfortunately, the defenders of liberty seem to be dominated by people like Bill O'Reilly who has apparently accepted modern dialectics by positioning himself as a Sun-Tsu general in a "culture war," or by Glen Beck who pounds the drum that the exceptionally elegant appreciation of reason that occurred at or nation's founding is "Common Sense."

If the freedom granted by the Constitution were common sense, then it would have evolved naturally in most societies. The historical truth is that the freedom that modern liberals are eager to toss aside for promises of free health care was one the greatest exceptions in history.

It was the product of unique circumstances which distilled out a very solid system of reasoning.

The distillation of logic that we call common sense is an exception. It is not the rule.

The rule is a class society with a contemptuous ruling class driven by political expediency and the majority tolling away as slaves hoping not to be crunched by the Machiavellian machinations of the elite.

Conservatives lament that activist judges are systematically destroying our Constitution. In reality, the nasty work was done in the highly partisan public education system which yanked the study of logic from the curriculum last century.

Sotomayor's approach to law--along with content free confirmation hearing--are simply the fruits of the deep capture of the education system long ago.

Without an understanding of informal logic, Americans systematically lose their appreciation for reason. Without an appreciation of reason, one can neither appreciate the reasoning behind the Constitution, nor figure out how to apply the principles therein to life.

Yes, there is a large number of conservatives who publish books listing sets of principles. But if we don't know how to apply prinicples, then the stated principles mean little. Even worse, the logically inconsistent principles in the self help literature simply feed the modern belief that everything is paradox.

By yanking the study of logic from the classroom some half century ago, the left won the war. To a world weaned on dialectical materialism taught in our nation's schools, the Constitution is nothing but a bizarre artifact of a "failed" bygone era. We know it failed because our leader lays on the label "failed" in just about every speech.

In a world trained to react to images, the struggles of the founders are nothing but a remote and quaint image competing with sexier modern images.

Our Constitution is a relic because our public education made it a relic. Regardless of whether our rulers are Republicans (who start wars without declaring war) or Democrats who seek to socialize medicine, the Constitution is a relic so long as our schools hold to dialectical mateerialism in lieue of classical logic.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I realize that the site I am reviewing is probably a prank. It was probably made by some kid in a basement fantasizing about what health care would be like in a free society.

There is no way that American medical establishment or bureaucracy would allow a company like this to exist.

But, as readers of this blog know, I really like the fantasy of a country that actually valued the freedom and limited government that the founders of the United States fought for.

The web site of interest in called MediCruiser. It is a clinic owned by a Dr. Gahlinger in Salt Lake City. A central feature of the clinic is an advanced piece of engineering called a PT Cruiser. In some instances, the doctor travels in the PT Cruiser (loaded with other state of the art equipment) to a patient's house.

For those unfamiliar with the history of medicine. This process of a doctor going to a patient is called a "house call."

What does a house call cost? You wonder.

To tell you the truth. This part of the site shocked the socks off of me. I almost had to call the good doctor for a house call when I saw it.

I've reviewed hundreds of medical sites in CommunityColor. I always find myself wondering about the price of services. Of course, clinics rarely divulge that secret. The MediCruiser site has a page titled fee schedule in which they list the fee for service.

I stared at the page for about 20 minutes in utter amazement.

I actually checked the home page to make sure I wasn't looking at a veternarian site. Vets are in a competitive free market and have to post prices and provide customer service to keep customers and stay viable.

Imagine if we lived in a world where people paid most of their medical care upfront and in cash. Doctors would bowl over each other in providing services and publishing their fees.

But we haven't had a free market in medical care for at least a half century.

Speaking of absolutely-astounding, unheard-of, incredible things: MediCrusier is doing something else out of this world.

You know how doctors are always taking notes and measurements. When they do this, they are creating a thing called a medical record. I have never personally seen a medical record. But I have seen them referrenced in TV dramas.*

Most doctors treat medical records as proprietary information to be used by the clinic, the insurance company or government bureaucrats.

MediCruiser offers a service that is absolutely unheard of. They let the patient see their medical records. Your medical records get put into a little package that they call an Owner's Manual.

The concept that a patient owns their own health is diametrically opposed to modern medical thinking. It is one of the lost concepts of the classical age that progressives soundly reject. This is the type of stuff that Socrates favored with the dictum "Know thyself."

Doctors of the progressive age hold with religious fervor to the notion that medical knowledge is the exclusive domain of doctors and the state.

MediCruiser is perhaps the most radical site I have come across in the health care debate.

Again, I am sure it is a fictional site. There is no way the medical establishment would allow such a company to exist. But I confess, I am very intrigued and drawn to this fantasy.

(I must explain the *. I saw thousands of medical records when I worked in the insurance industry. I never been allowed to see my personal medical record. I asked. But was soundly rebuked by a contemptuous doctor.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Free Market Medical Care Causes Cancer

Cato is mocking a pro-Obamacare ad campaign that appears to be touting Obama's health care plan as a cure for cancer.

Cato seems to misunderstand that one can trace a great deal of the skyrocketing number of cancer deaths directly to health care in the free market.

Prior to the prosperity of the free market, few people lived long enough die of cancer.

The free market gave individuals and families the freedom to invest their health care resources as they saw fit. The result was that people invested their resources in things that prolonged their lives.

Go figure?

Greedy doctors, seeking to cash in on the market, pursued research that cured disease after disease until we got to the place where a very large number of people finally succumb to the cellular degeration of their own bodies.

Greedy doctors' greed didn't stop with researching parasitic diseases. They've made massive investments in researching cancer itself. They've made massive investments in genetic research and seem to be finding cures for many of the once seemingly incurable cancer.

It is now not unusually to nurse people beyond one or two formerly incurable cancers. People will go through a couple cancers until they finally succumb to one too many cancers.

A person who had cancer. Lived fifteen years and died of another cancer still died of cancer ... Proving to the halfwits on the left that the free market is fundamentally flawed.

When government and partisan groups are in charge of resources, they inveset the resources of the community in ways that entrench or magnify the powers of the elite. After we pass Obamacare and destroy the free market in medicine; then we are likely to see the fate of our children return to the medical paradigm of the age of serfdom when most people just kind of died and nobody really cared.

With the earth in the balance, I doubt a truly globally centric medical bureaucracy would want to waste valuable community resource on baubles of the bourgeoisie like the artificial heart or advanced cancer treatments. I imagine a science czar who openly discusses the need for forced sterilization would realize that such niceties do not benefit the commune in relation to the resource cost.

As health rationing takes hold under the new community centric health bureaucracy, we may return the the glorious days when fewer people lived long enough to die of cancer and we will be able to praise government run health care for saving us the ravages of cancer.

High Desert Rock Gardens

Last week I penned a post on water conservation. I had been digging up the dry spots in the lawn and removign clay layers and stumps that impede the growth of roots.

Bradley Ross made the astute observation that underground rocks are also a big problem.

An extension of that observation is that rocks on top the ground can help conserve water.

In the desert, one battles the forces of evaporation. Rocks atop the soil can help hold in moisture while reducing the number of plants (weeds) competing for water.

When placing rocks, the goal is to creat a design with places that concentrates and holds water from the wet season into the dry season.

The rock garden is the preferred landscape design in the dry mountain west for more than just aesthetic reasons.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Burden of Health Care

One of the themes pounded by the proponents of government control health care is the bizarre notion that health care is some sort of burden. Statists put a great deal

Progressives know that if they can frame an issue as a burden, then they can frame their power grab as an altruistic act.

"That bar of gold you are carrying sure looks heavy. Here, let me take that for you. There. Now isn't that better."

Considering the state of man, one realizes that health numbers among the most valuable thing a person has; therefore health care is the most valuable investment that a person can make.

When you look at health from an individual perspective, you find that it is a great asset. When you look at health care from an individual perspective, you find that it is not only an investment, good health care numbers among the best investments that a person can make.

It is only when health care is thrust into the hands of a third party that it becomes a burden.

If we had a system based on lifecycle analysis, in which people were charged with caring for the bulk of their health care, then health care would behave as an investment.

The phenomenon is clear in athletics where athletes invest a great deal of their resources in tweaking their health for maximum performance.

My niece went into the field of athletic training. Her degree involved intensive training in state of the art sports medicine. The teams that hire folks trained in sports medicine don't see sports medicine as a burden; they see it as the asset that keeps their team competitive.

Many of the greatest innovations in medicine actually come from sports medicine where people are making tremendous investments to get an extra edge. One need simply look at the sudden explosion in marathons around the country. When I was a kid, many saw the completion of a marathon as an exceptional feat. Today's events have people by the thousands applying the discoveries of sports medicine to complete the events.

Healthcare only starts behaving like a burden when it is placed in the hands of third parties.

The third party health schemes favored by progressives (first employer based health care and now socialized health care) create the situation where health care becomes a burden. The reason that filing a health claim is such a hassle is because the investment you want to make in your health shows up as an expense (a burden) to the third party funding it.

In several speeches, Obama has positioned expanding government control of health care as necessary to maintaining a competitive economy.

It is only when the funding for health care is thrust on a third party that it behaves like a burden on the economy. Because the employer is not the beneficiary of the care, employer based insurance transforms from an investment in one's health to an expense that companies need to control and reduce.

When government takes over healthcare, it transforms what would be an investment on an individual scale to a burden on a national scale.

Government care is a burden that must be paid for from higher taxes. As the taxes are a serious burden, the government inevitably begins a system of aggressive rationing of care. Already we hear Pelosi and Obama talking in terms of squeezing dollars out of the health care system when faced with questions about the burdens created to our society by their schemes.

Much of the modern progressive movement is based on Hegel's dictum that freedom is slavery and slavery freedom. The traditional claims that the path to serfdom is a path to a greater freedom. However, one finds that healthcare was really lousy back in the glory days of serfdom.

Although the king's court was full of great talk about all the hard, altruistic work done by the lords for their serfs, the serfs were seen as a burden and were usually left to die in destitution.

The great advances in health care occurred precisely because people in a free market valued their health and figured out ways to improve it.

If, instead of finding ways to increase the third party stranglehold on healthcare, we were talking about ways to help individuals finance their care (the Medical Savings and Loan); we would continue the process of innovation and move the medical industry from being perceived as a burden to being perceived as a benefit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Label Dodging

I only watched portions of the Sotomayor confirmation. I was disappointed with what I saw. Al Franken praised Sotomayor as the most experienced candidate for the supreme court for the last century.

If she really was one of the greatest jurists in history; I would have expected both the hearings and the news stories about the hearings to be flush with conversations on legal theory.

I switched through various chanels. The commentators I saw on CNBC, MSNBC and CNN were talking about strategy of the getting their candidate past those horrible racist Republicans.

The strategy focus was odd as the Democrats have a super majority. The racist Republicans, who hadn't posted a Latino to a position higher than Attorney General, were pretty much vanquished from the political scene in 2008. The nomination process would have been an ideal time to talk up judicial philosophy.

Instead, the hearing seemed more about Democrats distancing themselves from judicial activism and distancing Sotomayor from Obama's comments about "empathy." I watched one Senator (perhaps it was Schummer) waste a great deal of time showing that Obama's statement on empathy did not play a major role in Sotomayor's career.

I would have been surprised if empathy was a primary theme of Sotomayor's career.

My guess is that the "empathy judge" comment didn't poll well.

Franken's performance was really bizarre. He opened with self-agrandisement about his oath to uphold the Constitution. He ended his speech with talk about rights that weren't in the Constitution. (Neither Reproductive Rights nor open acesss to the Internet are Constitutional rights.)

Franken doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on what the Supreme Court does.

Franken took a stab at rebranding the word "Activist Judge." His snide definition is an activist judge is one who "votes" differently than a politician wants. Franken enumerates activism by the number of times a judge overrules the legislature.

In the case of the Supreme Court, a judge is an activist based on his relation to the Constitution and existing precedence. A judge is not being an activist when it strikes down an unconstitutional law. For that matter a judge would be an activist if, for partisan ends, he failed to rule against an unconstitutional law.

The worst part of the hearing that I saw had Sotomayor pitted against a Republican senator. The Republican Senator was trying asking Sotomayor to give her opinion on a few terms like "constructivist" and "originalist."

I thought it was a great opening for the candidate to talk about different approaches to Constitutional law. Instead Sotomayor spoke about how she tried to avoid labels.

Sotomayor's answer really irked me as I believe a master of any given profession should have a good grasp of different approaches to the profession. The game of classifying and giving names to different approaches to a profession is quality reasoning.

The single minded focus on strategy in the confirmation hearing has me worried that Obama is simply dropping a partisan player in the court.

The Democrats have a supermajority. Obama ran on the promise to raise America to a new level of enlightened discourse. Yet watching a shoe-in nomination I simply felt that partisan players were trying to pull the wool over the collective eyes of the American people.

I learned very little about Sotomayor, beyond the facts that she loves Nancy Drew, loves Perry Mason and hates being labeled. The part of the nomination process I watched actually lowered my estimation of the Senate and Supreme Court.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Water Saving Effort

People tend to use the brown spots and dry areas on the lawn to indicate when to water. I used to believe that the way to reduce water consumption was to design the sprinker systems so that it hit the dry spots with extra water.

Last year I took a new approach. I decided to go to each of the terminally dry spots and find out what is underneath them.

I took a pick and dug and dug into each of the dry spots. I've found and removed old root systems. In another area I found a really hard clay a few inches from the ground. In this case, i broke up the clay, mixed in mulch and closed the wounds.

The places I treated last year are nice and green this year. I tackled several other dry yesterday.

I think the secret to a healthy lawn in dry country is to concern oneself with the quality of the soil six inches down. IF the soil can hold water several inches down, then you can reduce water consumption by watering longer for fewer times.

A Sequence of Stimuli

The official word this week from Vice President Biden is that the Bush Recession Depression was far worse than the doomsday rhetoric of the campaign and that the economy is likely to need a new stimulus to jolt it out of all the horrific mismanagement of the Bush Dark Ages.

I scratched my head. According to the structure of our Constitution, the Legislature holds the purse strings and consequently has a bigger impact on the economy than the presidency. So, I wonder why they don't call this the Pelosi/Reid Recession as it happened after their ascension into power.

Despite the sizeable effort on the part of the partisan press to associate the economic downturn on Bush, it is possible for a neutral third party to see the recession as a result of the transition of power.

Investors, after all, look ahead and not backward.

The 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections saw a massive leap to the left. Businesses and investors matched their strategy to the new economic landscape which means lower profits, higher taxes. Workers will become huge liabilities. So it is best to dump 'em.

I guess the thing that infuriates me most about a very calculated and concerted effort to blame Bush for all the world ills is that the speeches generally stop with the re-enforcement of a partisan theme without getting into details of why Bush, the father of all failures, failed.

At most we get vague platitudes about the failure of deregulation, or the failure of the free market. Democrats seethe with wealth envy and drizzle with accusations of greed.

We interrupt this post on the evils of greed for adulation of Michael Jackson. Now back to the partisan theme of deriding businesses for greed.

These moral platitudes kind of sit in the same bucket with all of the other such platitudes made throughout history.

The political blame game does not help us uncover causes.

I will outline a possible cause. The cause will even include an attack Bush to help make it palatable to the left.

Bush became the president in the midst of the dotcom bust.

Bush came up with a clever plan. He stimulated the economy with a tax cut.

The tax cut did not have a corresponding spending cut. That meant it was financed with deficit spending.

The wars were also stimuluses to the economy.

The same problem happens with spending based stimulus. When the government borrows and spends, then they must tax that money back at a later date. Failure to do so creates a recessive economic force. The out of control earmarks during the Bush Dark Ages were pretty justified as regional stimuli.

It is entirely possible that our primary economic problem is that government keeps trying to inject artificial stimuli into an economy that has become desensitized to economic stimulus but has developed a serious reaction to debt.

If this is the case, then doing another stimulus package is likely to do more harm to the economy than good.

But, Biden might be right. We are a poorly educated country and people might be fooled into responding possitively to another stimulus if the adminstration continues to frame economic issues as the fault of Bush.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Drug Trade, for example

Continued from last post.

I fear that many approach the world of ideas as if allegiance to an ideology dictates one's positions on all issues. A well formed system of thought will have some core principles and a logical framework for discussing ideas. However, one will find that, in any well formed systems of ideas, there are different ways to argue both sides of most major issues.

I present two examples: Libertarians tend to favor legalization of drugs. Conservatives tend to oppose it. So, I will present a Libertarian argument against legalizing drugs and a Conservative argument for it.

The beating heart of Libertarianism is the freedom of the individual. Libertarians aspire to a society where people are making rational decisions for themselves which cumulatively improve the quality of the society itself.

A great deal of Libertarian thought centers on resolving the paradox that society cannot give an individual the right to take liberty from others.

Psychoactive and addictive substances diminish the ability of a person to engage in rational decision making. Even worse, the drug culture often has people selling or giving away drugs in hopes of manipulating others.

A staunch Libertarian might argue that society must have a way of restricting any substance which diminishes the capacity of a person to reason based on the observation that the capacity of reason is the essence of the individual.

Conservatives are dedicated to preserving and strengthening the moral fabric of a nation. As such, Conservatives tend to be strident supporter of strong anti-drug laws.

A conservative however, might notice that the strong drug laws are not stopping the drug trade, but appear to be providing a mechanism that is funding the moral break down of society. Such a conservative would argue for legalization with the hope that legalization might create a mechanism wherein one controls the harms of the drug trade. A law and order conservative might recognize that a law not well enforced can do more harm to society than the activity outlawed.

Conversely, I should note, an anarchist hates all laws. An anarchist might like the strong drug laws as the laws makes smuggling operations lucrative and have the potential to create an underclass that could be radicalized in revolution.

Anyway, rational systems (with a set of defined principles and solid reasoning process) are not as dictatorial as people make out. Having principles affects one's approach to the challenges of the day, but it does not dictate one's actions.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ideologies and Political Issues

One of the really odd things about the nature of ideas is that, within any well developed system of thought, there are arguments for and against any given political issues.

This observation is not really a paradox. A paradox is a conflict in base principles. My observation is simply a recognition of the multidimensional nature of logic and the universe itself.

On pretty much all major issues, you will find Conservative arguments for and against the issue, progressive arguments for and against the issue, Christian arguments for and against the issue, Libertarian Arguments for and against the issue and so on.

Societies tend to have a few foundational principles. The real divisiveness happens when intellectuals inject paradox or conflict into these foundational principles.

Anyway, I wrote up an example, but realized that our public schools and universities simply do not give people the training to appreciate or understand subtleties in arguments.

The post started with a foundational principle. It then showed how one could argue both side of an issue from the principle.

I despaired. Our modern education system has created an image driven culture that would simply cue off the examples and fail to notice that I am actually trying to discuss the way that different ideas lead.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Colorado Right to Life Blog!: Personhood Update: Colorado & Montana

According to The Colorado Right to Life Blog there is a new Personhood movement (SoW) afoot that seeks to extend the right to life, liberty and happiness to the tiny people who are temporarily biologically dependent on a host.

I suspect this means the pro-lifers will be loudly pounding drums in upcoming elections.

This single issue movement appears to be a bit hostile to anyone claiming to be Conservative who is not 100% on board with the most aggressive stand on the wedge issue.

The timing of this movement is unfortunate. The American system has been burdened with back-to-back progressive administrations. As mainstream Conservatives are trying to fight back against unprecedented expansion of the state, the loudest group within the Conservative movement is gearing up for a very loud campaign on a wedge issue that will drive away allies seeking the limited government outlined in the Constitution.

Please don't get this post wrong. My sympathies lie with the pro-lifers.

It simply strikes me that they are fighting on the wrong battlefront.

The battle for hearts and minds is far more important than one's posturing on the political stage.

The story of Jesus Christ is that the Son of God did not take the first boat to Rome to establish a perfect and just law. Jesus went out into the community where he engaged people in moral debate and education. Above all, Jesus provided people with alternatives.

As I watch the abortion issue, I notice that Christians win hearts and minds when they follow Christ and go out in the community to provide education and alternatives to abortion. They lose hearts and minds when they engage in political activities aimed at solving the issue through the law.

The real battle isn't at the ballot box. The real battle is happening in churches, schools and the street.

This strange notion that the law is the highest manifestation of the human spirit is something that belongs to the left.

The idea that we will change people by changing the law (or changing an administration) is the progressive position.

In my opinion, the heart of the conservative position is that our acts as free individuals are far more important than the dictates of state. A conservative defends the rule of law as one needs law for a civil society; However, a conservative does not see the law as the end all of existence. Conservatives are often willing to live with bad law as they see the turmoil involved in changing the law as worse than the law itself. After all, the law is not the primary game. The development of the individual is the primary game.

I suspect that many pro-lifers see the goal of overturning Roe-v-Wade as a primary aim of conservatism.

This is actually a paradoxical position.

In the broad sense, the term "conservative" refers to those who don't want a law changed.

In the sphere of abortion law, the ProChoicers hold the conservative ground, and the ProLifers (who want to effect change by passing new laws) are the progressives.

Respect for life should be a constant. But the political configurations mutate on a regular basis and political ideologies are almost always wrought with contradictions.

The contradictions are not unique to Conservatives.

Modern liberals are odd creatures: By advocating single payer health care, they effectively hold that the state should be the primary agent in health care. As the payer is the determining agent in the rationing of care; the modern liberal effectively relinquishes control over the rationing of health care to the state.

The ideal of the modern liberal is that it is for the state to decide who lives or dies.

The beating heart of the progressive position on health care is: As our physical bodies are entities that exist within a political state; then the state should be the primary agent in the care of our physical bodies. As the single payer is charged with rationing of care, then the single payer is charged with determining who lives and dies.

Oddly, while the modern liberal cling with religious fervor to this progressive position, they claim that a woman is the primary agent in deciding what happens to her body. The Pro-Choice movement holds that a woman should have the ability to kill any living being dependent on her for sustenance.

Modern liberals hold that women are the deciders when it comes to the fate of children in the womb, but are not the deciders in the care of her own body. That is the job of the single payer … the state.

Of course, political bedfellows change on a regular basis.

Were Christians to ever win the hearts and minds of the majority on the abortion issue, progressives would drop support for the pro-choice movement and become all self-righteous in overturning Roe-v-Wade.

This happened with Civil Rights. The Jim Crow laws and the concept of separate-but-equal were the products of the Left. When the issue no longer polled well, the left turned on its own and changed from passing intrusive laws that forced segregation to passing intrusive laws to force integration.

In the process of the Civil Rights movement, the left engaged in a massive disinformation campaign to frame the Party of Lincoln as the source of racism.

Racism was a wedge issue nurtured by the left to expand the scope of government.

Wedge issues will always work to the disadvantage of those who support freedom.

The way the game works is that the loud single issue voters in the Pro-Life movement will do everything they can to associate their cause with Conservatism (driving many away from the movement).

If the pro-lifers were ever to win the hearts and minds of the people; the progressives would then run a change campaign that vilified Conservatives as baby-killers and used the common cause of saving babies as a justification for ever more restrictive laws and centralization of the government.

The ways things stand is that Conservatives will be the first to stand against the legalization of abortion, and will be the last to stand against the change campaign to outlaw it. They will be vilified by the intellectual community regardless of their stand.

Conservatives will be the first to stand against the idea that gay marriage be recognized as the legal and moral equivalence to heterosexual marriage. They will be the last to stand with the homosexual population when a progressive inevitable turn on them and run a change campaign that vilifies and seeks to destroy the homosexual community.

I really don't have a conclusion for the post. Perhaps the conclusion is simply that politics is always a mess, as such the best approach to life is to look to ourselves for the improvement of society and not to the government.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Denial of Rationality

Attempts to deny the rationality of one's opponents numbers among the greatest affronts to rationality.

Rationality, after all, is the process of clearly defining and stating reasons for one's actions or beliefs.

By the nature of life, people will often find themselves caught in situations dominated by low quality discourse. Failure to match the style of the day means one's ideas go unheard.

It may not always be possible to engage in high quality reasoning. However, once a person takes the path of actively denying their opponent's rationality, that person becomes part of the problem.

Tea Party Photos

I started the process of uploading Tea Party Photos. I will finish the job tomorrow.

I admit, I was wanting to get a new set of photos of the Capitol after its big renovation last year; So, I took more pictures of the building than of the event.

Live Music ~ Utah State Capitol Building ~ Utah Tea Party

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4th Post

When the Founders of the United States signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they made all sorts of memorable quotes weighing the choice of freedom or death. Some debated the merits of hanging together or hanging alone. John Hancock figured that, if signing the Declaration was an invitation to the gallows, he might as well sign large. That way King George could read the hand writing without reading glasses.

The bravery involved in passing the Resolution of Independence on July 2nd, and the approving of the wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th was real. (The signing of the document in the National Archives was completed on August 2nd.)

According to the international law of the day, declaring independence from the king was an act of high treason punishable by death.

It is ironic that many people today seem to hold more faith with the nebulous, ever-changing International Law than they are with Constitutional Law. It is even stranger when people claiming to be Democrats prefer international law to Constitutional Law as International Law is really just an assembly of treatises created by non-elected officials, where as the Constitution sets the enactment of law to an elected legislative assembly.

When the founders passed the Declaration of Independence, they knew the law of the day would demand their execution. I don’t imagine that there was much whining about the unfairness of it all in Independence Hall. I suspect the founders were more prone to lament the failure of the English colonial system than to whine about the unfairness of it all.

For that matter, the classical liberals who founded this nation might find themselves fundamentally at odds with modern liberals who seem to hold that we must surrender freedom for security.

I am happy that the Fourth of July is a day full of celebrations, historic re-enactments and patriotic platitudes. Perhaps such efforts will remind people that the freedoms that we enjoy today are not inherent to the condition of man, but were the product of much work and sacrifice.

Anyway, I was planning on just doing the firework thing this evening. However, the Cap and Trade debate has me depressed; So, I decided to head out to one of these July 4th Tea Parties as it seems to be more in keeping with the real meaning of America.

The Role of Contradiction in Discourse

A few days ago, I wrote a flow of conscious piece titled "Contrived Markets." The thesis of the article was that many of financial tools created in the financial services revolution that took place last decade seem to be at odds with the concept of property rights.

A reader claimed that the post was rife with contradictions.

I thought the observation odd. The gist of the article was to point out conflicts between modern financial tools and the classical concept of property rights. Many of the tools of the modern capitalist are effectively the negation of property rights of others. Notably, short selling and certain methods of pooling risk undermine property rights.

A post with contradictions as it theme will, by its very nature, have contradictions in it.

This is simply a very simple application of the reflective paradox. An article with x as its subject will include x.

The comment, in and of itself, doesn’t merit a response; However, I feel that there is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

This issue is largely about the direction of the conversation. Is the conversation an attempt to expose faults that are undermining a system, or is the conversation about creating contradictions that will undermine the system in the future?

In my post, I was trying to explore the faults in the American financial system that led to a market implosion. I believe that this is affirmative discourse.

Were I simply spouting contradictions for the purpose of obfuscation, then I would be engaged in negative discourse.

The financial collapse of 2008 shows that there was something fundamentally flawed in tools of the modern financial system. The financial tools we have are a product of discourse. Much of this discourse takes place in Universities led by a professoriat enthralled with Hegelian/Marxist methodologies.

As there was something fundamentally wrong in the financial tools, I think one can conclude that there was something fundamentally flawed with the discourse that created the tools.

The discourse that takes place in Universities is flush with clever paradoxes and constradictions. Quality discourse would have drawn out and removed the systemic faults. The discourse that took place in our universities appears to have had the opposite effect. The discourse drove systemic faults in the foundation of the financial system. These systemic faults eventually created riffs which took the whole system down.

The nature of language and logic pretty much assure that there will never be a system completely free of contradiction and paradox. Complaining about the existence of paradox is a waste of breath. In my opinion, the real question is the direction one takes discourse on paradox. Is the discourse trying to expose and reduce the effect of systemic faults, or is the discourse driving systemic faults into the foundational level?

Answering this question is difficult as it involves divining the intent of the speaker. Despite what many pundits pretend, we cannot look inside the minds of others and perceive their intent.

We can, howover, look at our own intentions.

We can also look at the direction of past discourse.

Since the 70s, the financial markets have been dominated by the notion that one can create complex mathematical models to hedge risk. These mathematical models make heavy use of derivatives and programmatic trades.

Much of the hedging depends on short sales. Short selling is a fundamental negation of property rights.

The system of derivatives have has some other negative consequences. They have created mechanisms that allowed companies to list liabilities as assets.

In my life time, these complex mathematical models have led to a series of spectacular financial failures.

I believe that we can hold up the discourse that created these financial tools as examples of failed discourse.

Unfortunately, it appears that we have not learned from the recent past.

Congress is currently seeking the creation of a Cap and Trade market based largely on the thought process that created Enron and Credit Default Swaps.

Both of these contrived systems not only failed to achieve their goals. The systems created systemic faults that harmed the financial system at large.

It is a very painful thing to watch.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


That was odd. On June 29 someone called Qwest and had our phone and Internet disconnected. The phone finally came back online at 9:00 AM.

Here's hoping that Qwest does not hammer us with service fees.