Health Care Payment Reform

From 25 years ago: My Proposal for Health Care Payment reform.

Still, I think, more rational than anything else I’ve heard. Agree with me or convince me I’m wrong — either is a good outcome if it means we end up with something that actually works without destroying either health care or our culture of liberty or both.

The original cover letter to the Concord Coalition and to various Senators and Congressmen

The original cover letter to then-Governor Howard Dean, of Vermont

The proposal

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Socialism, Capitalism, and the Liberal Republic

It is true that people — not only ignorant self-described “conservatives” but also many ignorant self-described “Socialists” — often throw the word “Socialism” around without seeming to understand what it means.  But,it is also true (OK, it is at least my not-so-humble opinion) that the many articles published recently trying to explain why various brands of “liberalism” are not actually the same as “Socialism” have been overly narrow and parochial in their view of what Socialism is and entails, limiting their argument to the simplistic (and flawed) formulation that it can’t really be Socialism if the government doesn’t “own” the means of production.

But, if that isn’t the defining nature of “Socialism”, then what is? For that matter, what is the defining nature of “Capitalism”? And how do either interact, for better or worse, with the moral premises and practical structures of our Liberal Republic?

In five parts:

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Solar Power, Revisited

Ten years ago, I wrote a post about the cost-ineffectiveness of solar power. Things have changed.

Today, we have a solar power array on our house that has, over the two years of its operation, supplied about 86% of our overall power needs and saved us about 6% on our electricity bill after accounting for the cost of the array, itself.

That glowing summary, however, reflects not actual day-to-day array performance but only an annualized average, made possible by a “net metering” policy that allows us to use the local electric grid as a “battery” and that provides some fairly generous — if hidden – subsidies to help defray the cost of the system.

That glowing summary also hides some fairly strict logistical limits that put an upper bound on how much solar power the grid can support without the net metering policy falling apart.

This is my report on my two years of experience with solar power, along with some musings on its benefits and constraints.

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The “public spiritedness” of government

Regarding the question of private vs. public agency/employee performance and, specifically, the question of “conflicts of interest” when private entities are doing public work: Why does everyone seem to assume — and why do you and most of those you invite to speak on your program grant — that “public servants” are immune to the lure of self-interest and conflicts-of-interest that are presumed to be the hallmark of “private enterprise”?

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Rational spending: it’s a matter of (dis)trust

What assurance can you offer me that, if I go along with a robust governmental stimulus financed by debt and inflation now, then the Congress and the President will follow through with austerity programs to resolve that debt and inflation later?

Because, unless you (or someone) can provide such assurances, can convince me that our politicians and government bureaucrats will suddenly change their approach to fiscal policy and behave in the rational way that economists would advise them to do, I and many like me cannot support such stimulative policies.

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Citizens United

“No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry of the American revolution, an explicit acknowledgement that the role of taxpayer — the role of providing financial support to government — is an overtly political one. If corporations are not individuals for political purposes, then they should not be taxed as individual entities. If corporations are really no more than aggregates of their stakeholders, and have no right to political participation other than through those stakeholders, then political duties, including the paying of taxes, should also apply strictly and purely through those stakeholders.

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Estate taxes and other tax oddities

I actually think the Estate Tax has a beneficial consequence in preventing the establishment of multi-generational economic dynasties. Apart from the potential detrimental effects of such dynasties on society and the economy, they do spiritual damage to those who inherit them: handing someone “success” without any need for effort or sacrifice is almost always a recipe for intellectual, psychological, and moral dissipation.

My objections to the estate tax — and to other tax policies — are based more on basic ideas of economic fairness and on the cultural ideals of “family”.

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