Our most frustrating and dangerous political problems are emerging from the tension between complexity and liberty. The rising tide of crazy sweeping across our political landscape reflects a single core difficulty. The 20th century bureaucratic regulatory state simply does not work in a world of rapidly accelerating technological and cultural dynamism. We have to find an alternative.
Expanding democracy and increasingly complex global capitalism have led to the emergence of new demands. The devolution of power that accompanies expanding personal liberty is stifling the ability of government to actually create and administer the services demanded by the public. Call it the ‘Death Panel’ problem. We cannot administer the public services along the lines of the old 20th Century template without creating unaccountable bureaucracies, sufficiently insulated from political pressure to conduct their mission. These bureaucracies can get the job done, but only by becoming so expensive and unaccountable as to threaten public sovereignty.
Accountability erodes effectiveness and vice versa. Meanwhile the public grows frustrated as their demand for public services goes unmet, despite ever larger electoral mandates. The Politics of Crazy: How America Lost Its Mind and What We Can Do About It describes two sets of initiatives that could help us move beyond the spasm of irresponsible, dysfunctional politics that has seized public life.
Simplify Government Services
The most obvious public policy solution to the challenge of complexity is to build public programs in a way that dramatically lowers their administrative burden. That doesn’t mean stripping government to an 18th century model. Capitalism, liberty, and public safety would be immediate casualties of such a retreat. Instead, we should explore ways to deliver the core public services we need with a thinner, more nimble layer of bureaucratic administration.
Instead of maintaining a massive bureaucracy of regulators to enforce carbon emissions, build markets to “price-in” the climate impact of carbon fuels. Instead of trying to ban firearms, require registration and liability insurance. A vast web of social safety net programs employing tens of millions of bureaucrats to deliver could be replaced with a basic income. Our drift toward a massive government bureaucracy for health care administration could yield to universal, tax-funded insurance delivered vouchers for the purchase of private insurance. A well-structured market could even resolve our immigration problems, cheaply and peacefully.
Wherever possible, use carefully crafted markets to internalize the externalities so many government programs are designed to address. Markets let us meet public demands without creating government bureaucracies too expensive, unaccountable, and complex to maintain. With less need for direct public sector oversight, governments can deliver vital services without the need for heavy-handed, expert oversight. Market driven public services can effectively be ‘hardened’ against a potential decline in political effectiveness.
The public hasn’t embraced these ideas mostly because no one has had the courage or insight to present them. Between a Democratic Party with no ideas and a Republican Party with terrible ideas, the public is left in the gap. Whichever party is first to seize on this approach could enjoy a significant advantage in coming years.
Address the Decline of Social Capital
The devolution of power that has come with a faster, freer, more prosperous world has delivered some unintended consequences. We have not just been freed from government. The bonds that tied us together in local communities have also been weakened.
Our political system is built from the ground up on the assumption that we are tied together in a deep web of local social networks. The steady of decline of those networks, often described as “social capital,” has opened up new windows through which extremists, opportunists, and your garden-variety weirdos have been able to gain public influence. Without powerful social networks, we are largely defenseless against the politics of crazy.
Recreating some of the institutional firewalls that we’ve lost in the transition to a faster, richer world will not be easy, but technology offers us some fascinating opportunities. The book explains what some of these opportunities look like, but also seeks to make the public more aware of some the “old school” public capital institutions that can still offer an avenue to greater involvement.
Neither party offers any unique protection from the politics of crazy and neither party has a lock on the potential solutions the book describes. In fact, neither party has at this point demonstrated any general awareness of the problem.
Needless to say, the political bloc that recognizes and responds to this problem first will have an advantage going forward. For all the dysfunction that has gripped the GOP, it may actually have an advantage.
Being pressed to the breaking point may force the party into a reckoning on this issue. Many of the most obvious solutions, with their emphasis on carefully crafted markets, may be a unique fit for the Republican Party’s traditional base. Being the first of the major party’s driven to the breaking point by the politics of crazy might turn out to be a long-term edge.
Assuming that the “politics of crazy” includes irrational thinking, the 6-year Transportation Bill proposed by Senate leader, McConnell, and Democrat, Barbara Boxer, funds in two parts: the first three years with offsets(see Politico below); the second three years, well, that’s for the next Congress to figure out…..Huh?
Turns out that the Dems are concerned because one of the funding offsets “takes” money from the SS trust fund…..a fund which The Hill reports is due to be insolvent in 2034. Given this projection why bleed any assets away from SS when doing so will make it insolvent even sooner! But, I love the GOP second half funding deferral… is this sort of like how the Medicare RX plan and Iraq War were funded? Kick that can down the road, baby! (Hint: it’s ok when the GOP does it (-: )
McConnell has big problems within his own party as he has piggy-backed re-authorization of EX-IM Bank and because the TP wing wants full funding with offsets…no new taxes, Grover says NO! The Transportation funding bill have been patched many times for short periods. Funding runs out 7/31. Then Republicans get to play around with another shut-down. We’re in for some more hits to our savings, folks.
Politico: …Details on what made it into the Senate bill and what didn’t: The assumption of $9 billion in revenue from selling 101 million barrels of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: http://politico.pro/1CP5tR0 | New crude-by-rail safety standards: http://politico.pro/1LCdgmC | Seven tax-compliance offsets totaling about $7.8 billion: http://politico.pro/1Ii1YCX | No government pension money as a pay-for: http://politico.pro/1g3Eoj0.
The devil will be in the “details” for funding offsets indicated above.
On another subject – we are seeing a new coordinated attack extending the argument for “religious right” that can be applied to any number of circumstances. Of late, legislation has been filed in Congress (both H & S) to allow employers the legal grounds to fire unmarried, pregnant employees. The Hobby Lobby decision opened that door and the religious right is working it any way they can to advance traditional marriage and sexual conduct.
Here’s what I would like to ask those who propose to fire pregnant workers: Are employers also going to start firing the men who impregnate the unmarried women? Fair is fair, right?
Sounds like a whole new jobs market to me! Imagine how many positions there will be to fill
This is almost unbelievable 1mime.
Usually the religious right at least TRIES to hide their real motivations (RFRA laws, for example, don’t cone right out and say “we just want to discriminate agaibst gays” even though that’s Cleary the intent)
There’s no spinning this in any way. It’s just a blatant attempt to punish other people for not living the life that THEY think everyone should live. And of course it only punishes women.
How can they think this would be in any way a good idea?
In general, the religious right has two choices:
A) Sit and wait quietly for the rest of society to repeal Hobby Lobby.
B) Get as much benefit as they can from Hobby Lobby before it gets repealed, accepting that by doing so they annoy everyone and thus significantly hasten that repeal.
Were I in their place, would have chosen A, because the consequences of B are potentially vastly worse for them in the long run. However, I am neither a priest nor a demagogue. Perhaps those two trades attract people less likely to make rational decisions.
EJ, the “religious right” deeply believe that they will prevail. There is no way to appeal to people who base their every action on what they believe is “right” – irrespective of law and the rights of others. I don’t think time will change their minds; rather, America desperately needs a paradigm shift in tolerance. That will require a new generation.
The blatant double standard has always been a big failing of those conservatives preaching sexual morality.
Elected Republicans take up more oxygen than they are worthy of.
Sandra Bland audio/video. I want all to notice how little traffic there is on the roadway where the state trooper pulled Ms. Bland over for “failing to signal a lane change”!!!!!How many of you out there have ever changed lanes without signalling? And, again, notice how little traffic there is on this roadway. Do you think maybe there was something else motivating this trooper?
Listen to the audio. If you have ever been stopped, have you been treated like this? Notice that the trooper got her to the ground out of view of the cam recorder. Can’t have a little pesky thing like video messing up the story. Notice how harrassing the trooper was to the woman. It’s not like she had just run a stop sign or a traffic signal, or side-swiped a car, or….
This is why the Black community rightfully believes they will be arrested while simply being black. So incredibly sad. A college graduate, a state trooper. This should have never happened. Now Ms. Bland is dead. Wonder how the trooper feels about his role in that?
“Do you think maybe there was something else motivating this trooper? ”
Out of state plates.
“Listen to the audio. If you have ever been stopped, have you been treated like this?”
Did you watch the full video at the bottom of the page? He started out very polite. Once again, if you have an attitude with a cop, it usually doesn’t go well. That’s just the way it is, no matter your skin color.
Police’s job is to enforce laws, not attitudes.
Be sure to explain that to the next cop that pulls you over. Let us know how it goes.
The Black community know full well that they can be stopped for any reason and treated badly and get away with it. Law enforcement has a lot of changing to do in this regard and America has a lot of changing to do as well. This was a young woman, nicely dressed, licensed, and had not committed an egregious traffic offense. The trooper handled it poorly.
Should I EVER be stopped and treated in this manner, I would seek redress – on principle, if nothing else. Even if I were ultimately unsuccessful, I would feel that I had the power to pursue my concerns. Black.people.don’t.feel. they.have.this.right. It doesn’t do them any good. Law enforcement needs to change how it handles people. Again, the trooper is alive; Ms. Bland is dead. A young, educated, going to a job in a new state, Black woman. What an absolute loss.
This should never have happened. It was extremely poorly handled by the trooper. I don’t blame Ms. Bland for being upset. There is a lot of history here going through the mind of this young woman. No trust. Too many unjustified stops. (I notice you didn’t comment on the “reason” for the stop. Trooper must have had a quota to meet that day. Out of state plates in TX!!!Really? TX? Come on. Unless the plate was expired, which there was not mention of, that was not causative. This was an avoidable situation, all around.
No, this escalated way beyond reason. If all trooper was going to do was write her a “warning” ticket, he could have told her that up front and helped put her at ease. Other than changing lanes w/o signaling, she was driving lawfully. I mean, really! These kinds of confrontations are why there is no trust.
And, I have been stopped a handful of times in my 70+ years and NEVER treated like this. Nor, have I been stopped for something this innocuous. One would hope law enforcement would have bigger things to be concerned about. It is obvious that this trooper started off well (except he didn’t put Ms. Bland at ease) and then totally lost it. He doesn’t need to be reassigned to a desk; he needs to be released. He contributed to this woman’s death and that will never change.
“Once again, if you have an attitude with a cop, it usually doesn’t go well. That’s just the way it is, no matter your skin color.”
So she deserved to die for “attitude”. Doug that is crazy even for you. That area has a long and bad history on race relations. But as usual in your view it is the victims fault.
Does anyone find curious that those that continously complain that government cannot do anything right are so willing to give it a free pass when it comes to killing people.
Their history is replete with justification to be afraid and angry. There is a lot we don’t know as the dash-mounted camera didn’t show how Ms.Bland was handled on the ground and being cuffed. BODY CAMERAS are essential in this era for justice to be verified….both parties. The fact that law enforcement is resistant says a lot. Their job is not easy but I wonder if anything is being learned by law enforcement from these events as they keep recurring.
And, yes, Turtles, it’s all in whose ox is being gored, swift-boated, etc.
As far as I’m aware, cops “lawful orders” extend only as far as it relates to the law.
It is not, for example, a lawful order if a cop demands you stop chewing gum.
Since smoking in your car is not in any way against the law, his demanding she get out of the car for refusing to out out her cigarette makes everything that follows an unlawful action by the cop.
It was merely a way for him to exert his power and dominance over her, by forcing her to do something she otherwise doesn’t want to do, even if I is something innocuous like putting out a cigarette. He became enraged when she did not allow him to exert his dominance over her and was wrong. Period. Full stop.
Waller County will likely pay a few million on this one too.
“Did you watch the full video at the bottom of the page? He started out very polite. ”
And doing his job required that he stay polite. She absolutely had an attitude going, but nothing that justified him demanding that she get out of the car.
If you can’t deal with attitude, get a different job.
Fly, here’s a legal analysis from Slate regarding the Bland event. What was surprising to me is that even if the officer’s original stop and detention were illegally executed, the person stopped still is required to comply….thus, your admonition to “zip it” is wise but very sad under TX law and under the 4th amendment. The opinion goes on to describe where the officer went outside the law. Of course, with no witnesses around, it’s the trooper’s word against the video – which didn’t record handcuffing and putting Ms. Bland on the ground. Body cams!!!!
I still am confused about why Ms. Bland was held for almost 3 days without legal counsel or bail opportunities. I assume it will come out in the investigation.
Mime, interesting developments in that case, the video appears to be edited.
Here’s a blog post from a guy who edits videos for a living and he explains how he came to that conclusion. It of course begs the question what is edited out.
This case stinks to high heaven. I’m ALWAYS suspicious when a suicide happens in jail that isn’t caught on camera (aren’t all cells supposed to be monitored?) by people who are there for what should be only a short amount of time (incidentally, why was she even IN jail 3 days later? Even if this was a lawful arrest, it should have been a few hours to fill out paperwork).
I’m even doubly suspicious when the victim is black and the jail is in an area that has a history of strained race relations including up to the present day.
And triply so when the person commiting suicide is a known race activist. Bland was an out spoken activist in the Black Lives Matter movement.
You would think that she would bw itching to get out of jail and tell her story, c9nsidering the very thing she fought so hard to change happened directly to her.
This doesn’t pass the smell test at all.
I haven’t seen the video yet, but I did hear audio on the radio this morning. My take is that both parties contributed to the escalation, but the cop should have brushed it off and kept his cool. The insisting on putting out the cigarette thing was when he crossed the line and it all devolved into “respect muh authoriteh!” Just give the grumpy lady her ticket/warning and move on.
I’ve been pulled over a few times. Your best bet is to say as little as possible.
For white people, keeping quiet pays off. We can afford to hire an attorney. We can make a call to our white sheriff or councilman. For Black people, it just adds to the list of abuses that never end. Submission is expected of Black people and it doesn’t seem to matter how serious the problem is. I am sick of it and I hope that something good comes out of this inexcusable event other than the loss of this young woman’s life.
Fly, I didn’t know she had been in jail 3 days which begs all sorts of questions, doesn’t it? Why didn’t she have legal counsel? Why didn’t someone make bail for her?
I suspect coming in from out of state might have complicated getting bail, but it does seem odd that she’d have to spend the entire weekend there.
No doubt that being White when pulled over helps. But the advice to say as little as possible is useful for everyone. The cop was absolutely wrong to get into a power struggle over a stupid cigarette, but bad decisions on both sides lead to that. It’s always best to live to fight another day.
Explains a lot.
Awesome. Are you sure Trump didn’t really write it? 😉
It’s actually pretty accurate.
I want to see how far it will go. It’s like two trains steaming towards each other.
I’m horrified, and yet I can’t look away.
Another great example of Republican social policies at work.
A child missing school because her brain cancer required long hospital stays as well as an inability to control her bodily functions gets her family kicked off the welfare roles for “truancy”. Government denies apeeal, and she finally gets a court to overrule the decision….but not before her daughter dies of brain cancer. One has to imagine her last few months were more stressful then they needed to be due to lack of any money coming in.
Proving, of course, that the point of such rules is not to raise school attendence rates, but to punish the poor and get ppl off the welfare roles.
I agree, getting ppl of the welfare roles should be the end goal….but not by denying benefits due to legal loopholes to families that really need them.
Just now thinking about this after being out of town last week. There is a sense that government regulation is inefficient, which I won’t doubt is true. Let’s take as an example the FDA, which employs legions of inspectors and rule-writers in an attempt to keep our food supply reasonably safe, a job they do acceptably well at a direct cost of $4.7 billion (and an indirect cost to companies for compliance that is probably higher than that). Let’s now move to a market-based approach in which the civil tort system is supposed to keep food processors on the straight and narrow. How, exactly, would this work? Let’s say I get gastroenteritis (“the runs”) from improperly handled ground beef I bought from Supermarket X. How do I prove my illness is related to crappy hygiene in their processing plant? Do I culture the E. coli I’m shitting out? By the time I’ve recovered and hired a lawyer, they’ve cleaned their machines so there’s no trace of it there. Do I compare my bugs to those from other victims? What is the gamut that an individual citizen would have to run to get satisfaction from the supermarket chain? I’d have to prove that I handled the product correctly, that I can conclusively trace my illness, down to the strain of bacteria, to the store source, that this was negligent on their part, and that there were no other potential sources. What is the proper compensation for losing a couple of days of work to diarrhea? What if it spreads to a generalized infection and I end up in the hospital? This is madness, and is beyond the resources of all but a few people to wage such a Quixotic battle. The government, though, has the resources and legal ability to shut down a food processor suspected of contamination, the ability to recover and type isolates to document the source of contamination, and the legal wherewithal to issue penalties.
The illegal immigrant issue is another one: let undocumented immigrants sue for a 1.25x pay and bay wages. How are they going to prove this? How are they to afford a lawyer to sue? Ah, of course, they strike contingency deals with noble attorneys who will prosecute their cases for a portion of the winnings (which are in any event likely to be too small to attract much interest, so this portion will be high). Who profits from this? Nobody but the lawyers – certainly the poor guy screwed by his bosses won’t get much out of a lengthy court battle.
This does sound like a fantastic jobs program for lawyers, but they are not the members of society about whom I am most concerned. Nor does this sound like a particularly efficient way to “regulate” industries. It simply changes the battle from one between corporate lawyers and government regulators to one between corporate lawyers and John, the $20/hour pipe fitter whose leg was shattered when the improperly-secured scaffolding he was working on collapsed.
JG, and the conservatives keep trying to limit your ability to bring corporations into court. Your local Supermarket(tm) would make you sign an arbitration agreement before you could buy anything, putting any disputes into the hands of an arbitrator that they choose and pay.
We do things a bit differently here (NZ) – the food system is similar – except that the food manufactures have learned that doing it properly is the most effective way and the government inspection system is treated as a valuable resource to help them to keep it right
I used to work for Cummins in the USA – some plants had a similar attitude and they would look forwards to the corporate audits as a way of ensuring that they were doing it right
For a lot of the rest of the things that you guys use the court system we have a double approach
This is a general “insurance” and covers all accidents
If you have an accident you are covered – and until you are fit and back to work you get paid
This is paid for by levies on income, businesses and motor vehicles
In exchange you lose the right to sue
(2) NZ – Office of Health & Safety
These guys go after anybody who “causes” an accident
This is the only part of our law when “innocent until proven guilty DOES NOT apply”
The argument is that the accident has happened
Therefore it is up to the company to prove that they have
“Taken all reasonable precautions”
This takes 90% of the lawyers out of the system so it costs a LOT less than a “tort” system would
Rob & Fifty – Here’s a “happy” tome for you.
Since we’re still talking about the “politics of crazy”, take a look at the latest assault on women by Republicans. They just can’t help themselves. They don’t want to offer contraception, and they also don’t want people on welfare. Women do and will get pregnant, if they don’t/can’t work, what are they supposed to do? I get it: they are NOT supposed to get pregnant unless they are married – it’s the “traditional marriage thing” again. Earth to Pluto (again) – it happens. Wonder if the law will protect these women and/or if this is just another base-pleasing piece of vile legislation.
Here’s a good analysis on the “Iran Deal”, from The Atlantic.
“…Opponents of this deal should be forced to come up with a better alternative. I haven’t come up with anything. I do think, in the absence of a deal, we would be looking at an Iran soon at the threshold, or at a military operation to delay the moment when Iran could cross the threshold. (Delay, not defeat, because three things would happen in the event of an American military strike: Sanctions would crumble; Russia would become Iran’s partner; and the ayatollahs would have their predicate to justify a rush to the bomb. Only more bombing could stop them, and then, of course, we would be talking about a never-ending regional war.) Jeffery Goldberg.
That’s an interesting article. Thanks for linking it. It has confirmed my low opinion of David Frum, but Beinart and Goldberg raise some solid points.
The Atlantic is one of my favorite journals for comprehensive analysis and excellent writing. If you didn’t get to read the Atlantic link I posted earlier in this blog, “A World without Work”, you will find it equally thoughtful. Here’s another that may surprise you on Saudi Arabia’s move into solar energy. These titans of oil are hedging – smartly.
On the same “Iran deal” theme, here’s an interesting piece in the NYT suggesting that Israel benefits from the deal.
“It was Israel that decided years ago to give priority to the nuclear issue, as an existential threat, over all other Iranian transgressions, and concluded that if we can just resolve the nuclear threat, that would be good enough. Malign as Iran’s other actions are — its regional role, support for terrorism and more — they can be dealt with at a later date; the overriding priority is the nuclear threat.
By portraying the issue in absolute terms, Mr. Netanyahu obfuscated the fact that the agreement is not the end of the story, merely another stage in a decades long struggle to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Both Israel and the United States wanted a knockout blow; what we got was a punt.”
EJ, Charlie Rose had Israeli writer Ari Shavit on his program last night to discuss his views of the Iran Deal. He is more pragmatic and reasonable than the egotistical Netanyahu.
Well, looks like Trumps run will come to a screeching halt. Can’t imagine any candidate cn say something like this and survive very long atop the polls.
Finally, the GOP field of twenty-something has been handed an issue on which they feel free to attack Trump. It only took a month.
McCain has his flaws, but he is a genuine war hero and has the respect of our nation for his POW experience. I can’t imagine any outcome but negative for Trump from this poor judgment. By condemning McCain, he offends military families everywhere as well as the hawks within the GOP. But, you’re correct, sad that it took the other Republican candidates so long to “dare” to confront the front runner – even though Trump was outrageous in his comments. How principled.
Lifer, I think you have a new “devotee”. In a scathing column in today’s Houston Chronicle, Leonard Pitts, Jr. gets right into your “politics of crazy”. He reacts to the fact that one in five Republicans back Donald Trump, a “vivid illustration of the anti-intellectualism and deep-fried yahoo-ism now holding the Republican Party hostage…..but he also cautions that, “We should take no solace in the fact that Trump will eventually fall from his lofty perch. Rather, we should wonder what it says about the GOP that he was up there in the first place.”
And, as you pointed out, the rest of the Republican Presidential field has remained silent despite Trump’s “loud-mouthed, attention-seeking, self-aggrandizing carny barker” behavior (Pitts description of Trump). Is it because Trump is stating what they really believe deep down, or, are they so afraid of their own shadows that they won’t speak up for fear of alienating the 20% of their base who actually think Trump is the best in the field…..because, “He’s got some backbone,” as one admirer posited.
Fasle bravado by the gop Chris, where was the concern when Kerry got swift boated?
Here’s an article backing up your comment, TX. How easy it is to stand on principle when it’s your ox being gored.
Yes, it’s entirely false, Texan. Kinda safe, though.
The wisest thing about the whole Republican race thus far has been said by the Huffington Post.
When the Huffington Post is the voice of reason, you know you’re in bat country.
EJ, Some of us have known for a long time that we live in a “bat” country (-:
Great post from Huffington….Trump as entertainment, indeed! In fact, Trump doesn’t deserve any serious commentary from anyone. Good for Huffington Post for leading the way to ignore him to death. Isn’t this always the best way to treat any bully/braggart!
I knew Trump wouldn’t be able to keep his yap shut for long and would start issuing vile insults. Remember when he called Rosie a fat pig or some such? I was, at least, waiting for him to issue vulgar insults at Hil during a debate but he’s already blown it. First, Abbot, who I’m not crazy about, but, come on, mocking his disability is low and now a former POW. Ouch, that’s going to alienate a whole lot of people.
I swear he’s a stealth Democrat trying to make the R’s implode from within.
I like people who aren’t chickenhawks.
Looks like Trump is doubling down. More popcorn!
I’m watching Trump’s phone in interview on “This Week” right now. It’s like an audio version of so many derp-filled comment sections.
Poor baby, you get comments about your hair?
I won’t be surprised if Trump manages to hang in there with a core base of supporters. After all, McCain is a RINO. Trump also has unlimited funds and and keep going on his own all the way to the convention.
If you want to discuss McCain’s record on veteran’s affairs, that’s fair game. My brother is an Army vet, living in Tucson, and he’s no fan of McCain. But no way he would be disrespecting McCain’s military service or his ordeal as a POW. That has zero bearing on the issue and isn’t even valid enough to be a cheap shot.
Trump dodged a question of how should McCain avoided getting captured. My dark side is amused by the notion of Trump getting a little Hanoi Hilton style hospitality until he answered that question (com’on Donald, tell us what YOU would have done!). The whole notion of “well McCain wouldn’t be regarded as a hero if he hadn’t have been captured ITFP” is the biggest WELL DUH!!!!!!! of the year. Being heroic by definition requires some element of personal danger. Something a pampered, entitled jackass like Trump would have no clue about.
Somehow Trump’s comments about John McCain don’t seem to be hurting him, in fact he might be doing even better. Perhaps it’s because the Republican far-right hates the relatively moderate (if flawed) McCain as much as he does?
In other news Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley get heckled by members of BlackLivesMatter at a progressive conference, with them shouting over Sanders while he tried to address their issues and despite his progressive record on racial issues. Some were caught making statements such “burn this shit down” on national television. Bad news for Sanders but perhaps good news for the Democratic Party in the long term. The “reactionary” far-left doesn’t seem interested in joining up with the Democratic Party and actually making a change just with causing them trouble much like the extreme sects of the New Left in the 1960’s.
However the most unfortunate part of this is it may be used to dismiss racial issues in America by generalizing all activists on this issue as extremists, even among traditional allies of the black community such as white liberals who are irritated with how this particular group went about promoting their views. It’s (unfortunately) a good day for racists and white supremacists.
Well this was a depressing last couple of days.
Correction: What Trump said doesn’t seem to be helping him, but it hasn’t hurt him yet as much as one would think.
Morning. Saw this and thought of “the politics of crazy”.
Yep, all familiar faces…..maybe a poster is called for, entitled: “What goes around, comes around”…..and, around, and around….
Shades of Goldstein.
You have some really great ideas, Chris. Most I very much agree with and some not so much. I’ll keep my point brief and not go through the whole list.
You say that the 20th century bureaucratic regulatory state will not work in the modern world of politics (basically). But I would say that it seems that way because the 20th century regulatory state was almost completely dismantled within the final 15 years of the 20th century.
We’ve had similar problems in the past. Teddy Roosevelt set up regulatory programs that successfully squelched the problems of the Gilded Age that had spun out of control. The Glass- Seagull Act (Banking Act of 1933) helped control the banking system that brought us into the Great Depression. The Voting Rights Act in the 1960s helped against discrimination and improved our democratic voting system.
Even gun control helped the mob problem in 1934 with the National Firearms Act, and more regulation came in with the Gun Control Act in 1968. The NRA agreed with both of these measures at the time.
We used to have systems that prevented the large corporate off-shoring that has decimated our economy and crippled our former leadership in invention and innovation — things that helped grow the strong middle class we used to have.
We used to have laws that prevented the insanely out of control spending on political campaigns, and TV and radio used to have to provide equal time to each candidate so one or another couldn’t just buy all the commercial time because they happened to be the richest. Corporations were also not allowed to fund candidates.
It had been proven numerous times throughout the 20th century that without regulations, the free market gets swallowed up by greed. Even though there might only be a few bad apples, they’re the apples that rot the whole cart.
Nearly all of these regulations have been dismantled.
So I argue against your statement that the 20th century regulatory system no longer works. It was working well when it was still up and running, and when we were actively seeking ways to improve it.
You are right to point out that government would function better today if it had not been systematically stripped of resources over the past few decades. That said, I disagree with your conclusion.
Even half a century ago the burden of the regulatory state was a significant drain on business productivity and innovation. It was, and is, entirely necessary. But it was expensive. In the intervening decades the explosion of complexity in nearly every aspect of public life has rendered the task absurd. Give government every resource of every kind that it might ever desire it could never hope to keep up.
There are lots of examples, but financial regulation may be the area where the situation has become most ridiculous. Financial regulators are hopelessly outclassed by the ever-accelerating complexity of financial instruments they are charged with regulating. The simplest solution – to bar insured entities from engaging in unregulatable instruments while leaving the unregulated space mostly to its own devices – was unacceptable because it would have forced banks to choose between public support and enormous risk dividends.
Dodd-Frank basically gave the banks the best of both worlds in exchange for a curtain of documentary requirements that no one has the capacity to follow up on.
In short, no entity small enough and weak enough to be subject to authentic public oversight can perform 20th century-style regulation of a major global industry.
There is an alternative. Set more modest goals, leverage structured market mechanisms wherever possible, and allow more room for failure. That’s what I’m proposing. A leaner, more modest regulatory environment that sets enforceable goals and targets rather than trying to dictate each and every step of everything an industry tries to do.
And by the way, the best template for this kind of approach is an old one. The Securities Act of 1933 is mercifully short and to the point. It left most enforcement to the private sector by creating a very broad new right to private litigation. It was elegant and very effective.
I don’t disagree with you completely. There were inefficiencies in these shelved 20th century methods. But I’m one who thinks it’s good to build something and keep striving to make it better as time goes on. The complete destruction of current infrastructure of policies that has been going on for about thirty years has not served us well.
I’m anxious to read more of your ideas and theories and am glad you’ve begun these discussions. Reading your posts and then your subscribers’ comments makes us smarter instead of dumber like so many other sources do.
Lifer, you write “Financial regulators are hopelessly outclassed by the ever-accelerating complexity of financial instruments they are charged with regulating. The simplest solution – to bar insured entities from engaging in unregulatable instruments while leaving the unregulated space mostly to its own devices – was unacceptable because it would have forced banks to choose between public support and enormous risk dividends.”
The simplest solution you are implying, a return to “Jimmy Stewart” style banking, if you will, is unacceptable to the banking industry because they make a lot of money engaging in unregulatable instruments and their lobbyists have made sure that government regulators don’t get in their way.
Too bad. As Warren Mosler explains in his proposals for the banking system ( http://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/pdfs/Proposals.pdf ), those instruments (credit default swaps, secondary market activities, assets other than loans, etc.) serve no public purpose and should not be publicly subsidized with either bailouts or guarantees. If people want to engage in these kinds of activities, they should have to do it outside the publicly subsidized banking system. The public subsidies should be restricted to operation of a payments system and funding of loans based on regulated credit analysis — the parts Jimmy Stewart would have approved of.
If the rest of the financial engineering structure blows up in people’s faces, the guarantees for the payments system and availability of government funded and regulated credit will limit the amount of damage inflicted on innocent bystanders.
(Full disclosure: I use the handle moslerfan for two reasons. Warren Mosler’s books started me down the path of learning about money and banking, and also it is to remind myself when I post to try to live up to the level of rationality and civility that Mosler always exhibits.)
I had to look up the 1933 Securities Act that Lifer touted. While not an economist, it does seem that the banking industry has failed in the very premise of this act. When given great latitude, they have failed to “self-police”. From what I have read, the real tragedy was the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Consolidation has created financial behemoths and I worry that they aren’t being scrutinized enough to protect taxpayers. I am thankful Elizabeth Warren sits on the Senate Banking Committee. Her questions to Janet Yellen when she appeared before the committee yesterday were smart and direct.
Never heard of Mosler before. Interesting guy. Looks like I have some reading to do.
“Turn about is fair play, Lifer!!”
I agree that Glass-Steagal needs to be re-implemented. I don’t think it is at all possible to keep up with the bank’s “flavor of the month” in terms of what form of derivative that they want. So, I think we should set up some form of banking “Las Vegas” where they can pretty much go all out and do whatever their greed moves them to (with probably a private right of action for downright fraud still in place). But, there needs to be a solid and significant wall between that and the bread and butter finance activities (loans, start-up capital, mortgages, etc.) so they don’t blow up the world when they get on a cold streak again.
I like the idea of “Markets” – except for one thing
A “Market” where you pay for a service inevitably allows a rich person to “jump the que”
That sets a precedent that says some people are more equal than others – I Know that already happens but a market for services will simply extend the already massive advantages that the rich have over the rest of us
Making the positive feedback system (Them as have – Gets) even worse
Frederic Pohl in his novel “Stopping at Slowyear” had a criminal punishment system that was totally fair,
For each offence you performed a type of Russian Roulette – for a minor offense you take a pill – 1000 pills in the bottle – one is poison
For a “Market for Government Services” you would need a similar (less lethal) system
You could get GovDolls (or some such name) everybody gets the same each year and spend them at your “markets”
I think those who see pure market solutions for every problem want the rest of us to butt out of the system.
Don’t be an involved citizen, the markets are making sure everything is okay. They have a natural balance..yadda yadda yadda, etc etc etc.
And since most of us are very busy, it is pretty easy to not be involved. It’s exhausting to vote and keep up with city council meetings and HOA rants.
If government-run organizations are the concern, I suggest that keeping our eyes on how well they operate is just as much trouble as keeping a market from crushing people.
There is no easy out.
I think you have a philosophical issue rather than a political one. If you establish a baseline for a service such as a medical care, then one can always supplement to the extent of extra income. Is this a real concern, the ‘massive advantages’ of the rich?
“Is this a real concern, the massive advantages of the rich”…(health care). It really is, Crogged. Access to health care is driven by affordability and employment. The ACA incorporates “basic” screening tests to advance preventative care and this is a good first step (which has received little recognition, sadly). A big next step is for Congress to authorize Medicare to negotiate (and therefore reduce) drug prices (as the VA does). This would save Medicare (aka “the taxpayers) and individual users huge costs and all income levels would benefit. It would also increase access to vital medical intervention and treatment – an advantage currently enjoyed by those who have insurance or wealth.
Back to the “massive advantages of the rich” regarding health care. Even if basic services/care were universal, there are health problems that are chronic or catastrophic. If one can’t access or afford the diagnostic and treatment protocols, they will suffer great pain, strip savings, and die – frequently passing along many costs to the survivors and the government/aka taxpayer. Is this what a humane health care system should look like? Should one’s ability to survive a health problem depend upon one’s financial resources? How would a universal health program handle conditions like cancer, heart disease, ALS, Parkinsons, MS, Diabetes – all of which are “treatable” and potentially, survivable. Poor personal choices impact health but genetics and misfortune are also causative. The health outcome is impacted by income and health insurance access. The difference is not just better choices but also access and treatment options.
It is my belief that health care should be a universal right irrespective of wealth. There will always be concierge medical care but that shouldn’t erode fundamental access to affordable care. It is simply not right. America’s political leaders lack a desire to develop a health care program such as Lifer has described that exist in many other countries. Yet they simultaneously criticize the one program (ACA) that has expanded health care access to millions, even as flawed as it is, and refuse to improve it with no alternative plan in sight. Those who lack the advantage of wealth or employer provided health coverage are simply screwed. There is one additional solution for the poor and uninsured/underinsured: our ER rooms. If anyone thinks that is desirable, visit your local ER for a few hours to access care. Does everyone here understand that this care is tremendously expensive and that it is paid for through taxes – at all levels? Compare the cost of receiving care at an ER vs care at a clinic or doctor’s office. It’s dumb. It needs to change.
Finally (sorry for tome but this is a subject that is very important to me), this Kaiser report offers interesting views on changes to Medicare and Medicaid that politicians should heed before making radical changes such as vouchers. I don’t oppose change; I do oppose change that doesn’t improve the system simply rearranges the deck chairs.
A market is a means of distributing scarce products efficiently by common consent and by pricing in information. For situations where you want to do that, a market works well.
Rich people will always be able to jump the queue: either by paying more, or bribing a bureaucrat, or simply hiring some thugs to break the kneecaps of anyone who disagrees.
EJ – “A market is a means of distributing scarce products efficiently by common consent and by pricing in information. For situations where you want to do that, a market works well.”
In your view, EJ, what societal situations are best suited for a market approach? Obviously, the privileged will always have the most options in a market-based economy, but, wages, education, housing and health care issues present real barriers for millions. There is no “common consent” when those at the bottom are not driving decisions that control their lives. Unions used to provide a means to help the laboring class price their services. No longer. Increasingly, social safety net programs are pilloried and have become increasingly vulnerable to changes by those who support an ever-smaller government model.
Into this mix, enter a vibrant, changing world in which traditional roles and institutions have been turned on their heads. As we consider fundamental changes in how we re-distribute revenue and organize the delivery of services, who will get to make these decisions? What will “common consent” look like?
Unfortunately, the term “market” has a certain connotation, implying a decision to just abandon a problem. Letting the market “sort it out” is usually code for let’s just let wealthy powerful people get whatever they want from the rest of us. That’s not really what I’m talking about.
Markets are actually a fantastic mechanism for setting a value where it needs to be, if it is structured correctly. It is probably better in this context to think of a market as a kind of game structure.
As an example, look at this piece that examines ways to enforce an immigration policy, http://blog.chron.com/goplifer/2014/07/markets-could-end-illegal-immigration/. That policy intends to:
1) Attract immigrants who are likely to be successful in the US
2) Discourage potential employers from hiring abusing undocumented workers
3) Reduce the number of undocumented workers in the US without a major public deportation effort.
All it does is require employers to pay undocumented workers a wage premium, in this case 25% higher than the minimum wage, and grant undocumented workers the right to sue to collect that wage plus back pay.
It basically shifts power and incentives in a way that makes it so risky for employers to hire undocumented workers that they will take extraordinary measures to insure that all their workers are legal. And it would cost $0 in tax money and require not one ounce of law enforcement effort. It’s a market.
You could adjust the structure and incentives to accommodate a different collection of policy objectives, but you see the point. That’s a lightweight solution that could actually work that would not require tens of thousands of bureaucrats working on it day in and day out in order to make it function.
That’s the kind of leaner approach to government services that I think should accompany an innovation economy.
In many of your solutions (e.g. financial regulation and this immigration proposal), you’re basically relying on private lawsuits to enforce regulations. In effect, you’re outsourcing regulatory costs into the private sector. While that may work, the total cost of using individual lawsuits (both for the state in providing judges, etc. and for the parties involved in the lawsuit) to effect adequate regulation is likely to be more than the costs of even a “bloated, inefficient” government bureaucracy. That it doesn’t show up on govt budget lineitems doesn’t reduce the overall cost burden on innovation and growth that seems to be your goal.
Furthermore, it’s less likely to be uniformly applied and much more easily gamed. For example, in your immigration example, you assume that illegal immigrants will have the confidence to fight their employer when they’re abused,and the financial resources to pursue those cases. I would argue that any number of incentives you put in place (allowances for attorney costs, getting a greencard for a year, etc.) will still not be enough to counterattack the massive disparity in power between an individual illegal immigrant and the large businesses he/she may work for. Just look at WalMart: even *legal* citizens, entitled to punitive damages and backpay with interest, are loathe to take on WalMart despite news reports of managers undercounting hours or violating overtime rules.
Similarly, on the business side, you assume a few lawsuits are all that will be needed to curb bad behavior. How many multi-billions has JP Morgan-Chase paid out in fines to the SEC for brazenly illegal activity including grossly criminal acts like laundering money for iran and Mexican drug cartels? And yet the board of directors hasn’t even fired their CEO for failing to curb these activities. When even multi-billion dollar payouts and threats of further action from the most powerful plaintiff on Earth (the US govt) is viewed as merely a cost of doing business as usual, are you sure that a few lawsuits by some illiterate strawberry pickers for a couple thousand each is going to shake agribusiness to its very core?
At the end of the day, the courts are no substitute for a public regulatory apparatus (including the enforcement side). Regulations are supposed to create broad, uniform standards, while courts are used to decide individual situations in which the rules and their appropriate application are unclear or conflicting. Otherwise, we could do away with our expensive police force, and just grant every victims’ family the right to shoot their loved one’s killer (after being found guilty in a court, of course :-). Should solve our murder problem lickety-split and save us money to boot, no?
WX, One of the biggest gripes I have with conservatives is their unremitting criticism of government. Business has not been honest or successful at policing itself for decades. Poor people – immigrants, blue collar workers, women – are essentially frozen out of the legal process. It simply costs too much to engage. I firmly believe in the need for clear, enforceable, sufficient regulations and laws to even the playing field between business and everyone else. The widening income gap illustrates clearly who is in control and, therefore, who largely benefit. Even as job skills and workplace needs change, people at every level deserve opportunity and protection from abuse. That will not be guaranteed by an “honor” system, it must be regulated.
I don’t know which is scarier: that this even exists, or the laissez-faire way this is presented.
How is it in anyway appropriate to create weapons like this at all? Let alone make it widely available to anyone?
The very INTENT of this weapon is to maim and destroy as much human flesh as possible.
Is there really a huge problem with people being attacked by crazed thugs that can’t be stopped by regular bullets? Is this such a risk to us that it’s worth the damage it will cause when it inevitably finds its way used against innocents?
Don’t believe the marketing hype. The bullet less effective than many standard hollow points. I would prefer the bad guy to use them, because his odds of a jam go way up.
It’s bizarre that neither the basic income or negative income tax are very popular ideas or at least not advocated by many big names. I’m assuming they will become increasingly important ideas as time goes on but the closest thing to those ideas is the Sanders campaign to expand social security benefits. I know Rubio made some reference to it as well but it didn’t seem to go very far nor was what he was advocating for enough.
Personally I think the next big fight between the left and the right is going to be the size of the negative income tax. I know in your book Chris you advocate for a floor of $15,000 which would be phased out by the time your income reaches $30,000, so I’m assuming you’d get 50% of the difference between $30,000 and your income. I think I would set it higher than that however. Say, just to throw numbers out there that are easy to work with, the floor is still $15,000 but instead of having $30,000 being where it phased we set it at $50,000. You would recieve 30% of the difference between $50,000 and your income, which would not only pull people out of poverty (as both versions do) but also boosts the income of the working class/lower middle class and makes it easier for them to become “middle class”. Obviously the latter would also require higher taxes or new taxes and spending cuts in certain areas (such as the military) but I think it’s a doable way of keeping the middle class afloat in a globalized world.
Interesting ideas, Griffin, but they can’t work in isolation of affordable health care.
Well it would have to go hand in hand with a system of affordable health care, one that either requires the purchase of heavily subsidized private healthcare or something closer to the British system where nationalized government healthcare competes with private healthcare. Honestly the results they achieve are similar in terms of giving healthcare to the entire populace I’m not terribly concerned which direction we moved in, it’s just clear that going nearly all private (almost like we have now) or nearly all public (almost like Canada has) both have issues.
The interesting question to me is whether, going forward, there is even such a thing as a traditional middle class any longer. If not, there’s no sense in trying to keep it afloat; we should instead work out what there will be in its place, and manage the transition to that state to be as painless and compassionate as possible.
The more I think about the matter, the more I believe I want to read a serious treatment of the journey towards post-scarcity and how it’s likely to work out.
“If it seems like the middle class in America isn’t what it used to be perhaps that’s because it doesn’t exist anymore. There is no longer a coherent block of Americans in the middle income range that shares a common culture, goals, and identity. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will depend on whether we are willing to adapt to the demands of this new reality.”
EJ & Lifer – Disappearance of the middle class. Great article, Lifer – I need to go into your archives to access more thoughtful, prescient pieces like this.
Ah, the Middle Class. I am concerned with “why” the middle class is disappearing and the structural changes that will emerge and frankly am pessimistic about what comes next. Is this cultural and social phenomenon unalterable? Lifer, you stated: “Our goal in coping with the end of Middle Class America is to preserve meaningful equality of opportunity in an era of vast economic and cultural dynamism. In particular, we need to find ways for those in lower income households to get a solid shot at participating in a knowledge economy.” How is this possible when there is such a disconnect between the classes?
This IS the fundamental challenge and one that is not just a boulder in the stream but a mountain slide across the road. From my perspective, conservatives have taken the fork in the road to cultural indifference to those who they have determined “don’t belong”. The reason given is that these people are “takers” and therefore basically deserve their lot in life. Success is a bridge that is allowed but race and gender still are barriers and too few have the opportunity to move up in society. Democrats get the culture part but lack enough political cohesion to translate concern into meaningful, sustainable reforms that will improve mobility.
So, where does that leave us? No middle class, an income divide that continues to expand with no end in sight, and a ruling party that frankly, could care less….the old “47%” thinking. The idea of “poor choices”, the mantra of conservatives as the de facto reason for poverty, etc., is a sad reminder of just how culturally segregated Americans have become. People have so segregated themselves by class that they “truly don’t understand the cyclical nature of poverty”, and, therefore, lack empathy, and have only criticism for those locked into the bottom.
Where is the leadership on this problem going to come from? Frankly, I don’t think conservatives care. What will force change? How do you open peoples’ hearts and minds to another reality? If, as EJ posits, this is the “new normal”, and we must therefore must focus on making the best of it, what will that “best” be?
The future is fairly simple. We can all see it coming, one industry at a time. Let’s take music as an example because it shows the pattern very clearly.
In 1985, there were many professional musicians. You could make an uninspiring living off of releasing one hit song. More importantly, you could make a decent living out of working for a music company and helping to produce and sell this music. Music costs money to buy, on cassette or LP. We will buy a new musician’s album and listen to it until we get bored of it, then buy another.
In 2015, music is free. The marginal cost of opening Youtube, Spotify or any other service and finding a song is zero. If you can’t find a particular musician, you can find one just like them. Technology has enabled hobbyists and bedroom enthusiasts to make their music every bit as good as that of the professionals, meaning that professionals can no longer charge any more than hobbyists do. A few people have become *incredibly* wealthy off the whole process, but it has destroyed all the middle income jobs that existed within that field. None of the consumers care, because they now have access to more music, better made, at a lower price than ever before.
LinkedIn is killing the recruitment industry. In place of a large number of professional recruiters, you now have a small number of people who started it and are now incredibly wealthy, and a large number of workers who are happy because changing jobs now became easy.
Kindle is killing the publishing industry.
Uber is killing the car rental and cab driving industries.
Craigslist and SpareRoom have severely hurt the real estate industry. Something else might come along and finish it off.
The newspaper industry is dying a death of a thousand cuts. Other print media isn’t far behind. Television might not last long either: if hobbyists on youtube can make things as good as they currently do, then why pay a non-zero price for watching anything? Why watch things you can’t adblock on?
In all of these cases, the consumers don’t care. The quality of product went up, and the price dropped to free. This is great unless you used to work in that field. You’d better find another job, otherwise you’re locked out of our economy.
One by one, industries die. As they do the fraction of our economy which consists of a few hyperwealthy, a better service for consumers but no respectable jobs, increases. One day this fraction will be large enough that our entire economy looks like that. This could be a utopia, or it could be a collapse. Much of that depends on how we manage the transition.
I don’t disagree with your assessment, EJ, but the transition is going to be painful – especially for those with limited education/skills and financial resources. I wish I had more confidence in those to whom this transition process will be entrusted. I wish I felt they cared more or understood the problems that people with few options have. We do a great job of insulating ourselves according to our lifestyle choices. We live in gated communities; place our younger children in daycare and our older children in private schools or top tier public schools; place our parents in assisted living and nursing homes. In effect, we have “outsourced” those areas of life that are personally difficult or unpleasant to deal with. Will we lose our sense of humanity in the process?
My brother, who is a physician, and I were talking about the coming of the ACA. He commented (prior to its passage) that “change is coming, but you may not like the change that you get”. I wonder if the changing world will follow this pattern.
This article from The Atlantic, “A World without Work” touches upon several posts on the subject of our changing workplace and world.
“…leaving aside questions of how to distribute that wealth, the widespread disappearance of work would usher in a social transformation unlike any we’ve seen. If John Russo is right, then saving work is more important than saving any particular job. Industriousness has served as America’s unofficial religion since its founding. The sanctity and preeminence of work lie at the heart of the country’s politics, economics, and social interactions. What might happen if work goes away?”
And, this: “…there are now three broad reasons to take seriously the argument that the beast is at the door: the ongoing triumph of capital over labor, the quiet demise of the working man, and the impressive dexterity of information technology.”
But, will the world be better, or just different?
There are some risks (hazards of life) we can socialize and improve the consequences to the individual, thus ensuring the maintenance of a civilized society. Trying to do so by maintaining artificial ‘people’,(corporations or labor unions, or imagined social constructs as ‘middle class’), is inefficient, costly and creates artificial shortages. We don’t have to let improvements to machines imperil people.
I think the key is that, instead of replacing work completely, computers and the internet have just caused a massive seismic shift in the type and nature of work that is available. I see that in a lot of places, there is more work than ever to be done, but there aren’t enough ‘skilled and qualified people’ to pick up the slack. The vast majority of people who were displaced by the Great Recession have a skillset that would get them a job easily forty, thirty maybe even just twenty years ago. But now, a completely different set of skills are required, leaving many people just completely lost and SOL.
I like the idea of a universal basic income
But I don’t see why it should be “phased out” as your income rises
All that does is add complexity and increase the “effective marginal tax rate” of the poor
The best thing to do is to make it UNIVERSAL – and increase the taxes higher up
Actually thats the plan described by Charles Murray.
I definitely like the idea of having it be universal but the main disadvatage it has to the negative income tax is that the NIC makes it much more affordable to get more money into the hands of poor people, whereas the universal income might go to everybody but would probably be overall lower in value. Perhaps there is a way to send everybody a check for 15000 dollars (in which case I’d be supportive) but it would require far more overhaul than a negative income tax.
Ive also read that sending a check to everyone might distort prices but I’m not sure about that, it may require more studying to be certain.
Who would have thunk it, something that The Donald and I can agreed on!
Donald J. TrumpVerified account
.@GovernorPerry failed on the border. He should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.
Yep, truer words were never spoken. Then, there are the “intelligent” ones who could definitely pass a test (Jindal, Cruz) but I would never want to have the red phone on their nightstand.
If I may veer off the crazy trail for a moment, I just want to post that I am deeply affected by President Obama’s visit to a prison today.
What does it say when a US president visits a prison? In our culture, isn’t that something a religious figure would do? in a long-ago parable?
I’ve never been arrested or have any family member in criminal system trouble, but the thought of being in prison seems like the worst possible thing to experience.
How people get over it and re-establish themselves — if they can — seems more difficult and less forgiving than climbing Everest.
I heard a couple of interviews with former inmates given a presidential pardon by Obama. One wished he could be back in that prison, the one Obama was visiting, so he could thank the president, shake his hand, give him a hug. I was moved.
I hope his visit and his work to reform the justice system pays dividends on many levels.
Bobo, I think history will be very kind to Barack Obama. He is a good man.
Bobo – Could it be because we have a larger percentage of our population imprisoned than any, and I mean *any* nation on earth? It’s a huge problem. It’s destroying our nation from within.
Yes, 50, it is a terrible problem. In addition citizens’ lives being ruined, we now have commercial organizations that provide private prisons. That’s just wrong.
50, Bobo, I couldn’t agree more. More power to Obama in dealing with this issue. The fact that the Koch brothers are also on board is a good sign I think. Private prisons should be outlawed yesterday. While accountability to voters isn’t perfect, accountability to shareholders is far, far worse in this situation.
Here’s an interesting study/comparison of some of the health plans of some of the major countries in the world.
Click to access 1802_mossialos_intl_profiles_2014_v7.pdf
Lifer, I enjoyed your book, “The Politics of Crazy” and found your conclusions and ideas most interesting. One specific area that are less clear to me involves your concept of “voucherization” of health care. From a practical standpoint, it sounds good: give all individuals a flat amount with which to purchase the health insurance of their choice to handle “normal” health care. Unfortunately, there are things that aren’t as neat and tidy to control – including catastrophic illnesses and accidents, chronic illnesses, major events that wreak devastating harm, pandemics, and all are impacted by one’s personal financial circumstances.
I have yet to find a simple health care solution that adequately answers the challenges posed by the outlier events that any of us may experience in life. I don’t have a solution but I do recognize that it needs to be both humane and economically sustainable. The health care arena is far more complicated than a simple voucher fix. Forgive me for being a senior snob on this, but the challenge of health care is one that demands broad generational input in developing a workable plan that will take people from childhood to old age. And, yes, it will require changes, but I am not at all convinced that a voucher plan will work practically, effectively or humanely.
You are correct in pointing out that health care finance is complex, but there are many examples of systems that have worked. One common misconception is that health care in European countries has been “socialized,” in other words – replaced with a single-payer system.
In fact, that is only true of some of the least effective European systems, like Britain. It is also true of Canada. In the highest performing and most efficient systems, like France, Germany and Holland, insurance and care are delivered by private companies but the entire system is heavily subsidized.
The Dutch have a health insurance mandate forcing people to purchase deeply subsidized insurance plans from private insurers. Low income people get their insurance very nearly free. There are also additional private health insurance options for less essential care like orthodontic services and so on.
Here’s an overview of health care in Holland, http://www.expatica.com/nl/healthcare/healthcare/Healthcare-in-the-Netherlands_100057.html
Germany delivers health care through plans organized by the various states. Everyone gets universal access to a basic tier of care, through private insurers using negotiated rates. Additional tiers of care are available through additional private contracts.
The gist is that we have lots of options for how to structure this. It all starts with getting both parties to recognize that 1) universal access to health insurance is important, and 2) A complete nationalization of the health care system is not a great idea.
Thanks for the health system links, Lifer. Reinventing the wheel on something this important, complex and expensive is foolish. You mentioned that Dems don’t have any ideas, Repubs have terrible ideas, and the one idea that was finally adopted, even though clearly imperfect, has at least extended health coverage to millions and made some peripheral improvements. How have other countries been able to find the political will to agree upon a national health plan and America can’t?
What is your opinion on Paul Ryan’s plan, since it is based upon a voucher concept?
But each of Holland and Germany have those terrible insurance mandates which take away your freedom to impose the costs of necessary medical care on others……
The largest health care provider in the US does not use insurance companies (VA). True, they had some bad press recently because of slow delivery of care, but then to their credit this came out because the VA started measuring delivery times. I’ve had several acquaintances with direct experiences with the VA system, with nothing but good things to say. One, my partner’s employer, provides insurance for his employees but uses the VA system himself because that’s what he prefers.
Seems to me that insurance companies are just an added layer of bureaucracy, whose employees’ year-end bonus depends on denying my claim.
The VA also negotiates for its drug prices with pharmaceutical companies with the result that the cost to beneficiaries is a fraction of the cost to Medicare beneficiaries. When the Med. RX was passed in 2003, the pharmaceutical companies brokered a deal with Republicans that prohibits the federal government from drug price negotiation for Medicare. It’s a glaring inequity between the VA and Medicare programs and it was purely political.
Lifer, you refer to “single payer” and “socialized” health care such as Britain’s as if they are the same thing. But under the British system (as for the VA), the health care providers work directly for the government. Under a single payer system, such as Medicare, the health care providers are all private companies: the government has only taken over the role of the insurance companies.
Isn’t this a critical distinction? Health care providers profit by providing (or at least making people think they’ve provided) effective health care. Insurance companies profit by NOT providing health care, or at least by providing as little as they can get away with. That is why the ACA heavily regulates insurance companies, including limiting their overhead. I don’t think anyone on the left likes that level of regulation, except as compared to what we had before.
I have heard no one argue for complete nationalization of out health care system. The question is entirely one of your first goal: providing universal access to health insurance. If the Republican Party adopted the latter position, I think the parties could get together to “build real-world solutions that can lead to better health outcomes, limited government scope, lower costs, and preserve the greatest possible range of individual autonomy.”
TheMeans, you raise pertinent points about the distinction between insurance-based, single payer, and VA-style government-owned and run systems. I’ve often thought that these could coexist. The government could provide a basic set of services, covering treatments highest on the cost-benefit list, and also treatments that are devastating financially, like cancer diagnoses. Beyond that, people would be free to pay for whatever they want, including gold plated insurance, out of their own pocket. When talking about health care reform, we seem to often fall into the “excluded middle” trap.
Also, I don’t like the term “nationalization” because it implies you can only do things the government’s way. Under a mixed system, doing it the government’s way is just one of the options.
Another thing, we should be talking about Big Pharma’s role. Seems like the public sector could be doing more here, too. Conservatives would start shouting Solyndra! but the government’s record in R&D is really at least as good as private industry’s.
Lifer, I still don’t understand why a government-paid program would work through private insurance companies, as Netherlands and our ACA system does. This only amounts to paying a third party for administration, and insurance administration, as demonstrated by Social Security and Medicare, is one thing the Federal Government seems to do cheaply and effectively.
Thanks, Creigh. I used the term “nationalization” because my impression is that under the British system, if you don’t want to use government-paid doctors you must pay for it all yourself. No one has suggested such a thing in this country — there is no plan for “socialized medicine” in the USA, even as one option among many.
I entirely agree with you that there should and could be multiple health insurance options. “Medicare for all” is an example of socialized health insurance (using private doctors) that could exist alongside other kinds of health insurance, as the current Medicare system does.
You raise a good point about Big Pharma. In my experience, corporate research is good for relatively short term goals — well duh, the point is to make a profit. Longer term research must be funded by some form of non-profit group, such as the government. When I was in college there was no internet — it was still the ARPAnet, funded by the DOD’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, which connected research institutions and was itself the subject of much research. The whole internet came about because of government-funded research!
I largely agree with your post. My exception is medical care. The various market failures are so great that no developed country functions without countrywide regulations of medical care.
You are right. It is impossible to build a market for health care. I described some of the reasoning here:
However, a market for health care finance and administration can be done. In fact, the best European systems (France, Holland, Germany) use many private insurers.
Combine that fact with this assumption – it is better to build a major public program on the basis of existing, functioning institutions than to try to build new ones from scratch – and you get a program model that looks something like this: