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Once you get past the title, and the subtitle, and the equations, and the foreign quotes, and the computer code, and the various hapax legomena, a solid 50% English content!—The Proprietor

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sincere Advice to Progressives

If you are a smart progressive and think long term, listen to Krugman, listen to Yglesias: Pressure your leaders to pass ObamaCare now! Pass the senate bill, pass the house bill, pass it with or without a reconciliation side-car, pass anything—as long as the effect will be to push the already tottering private system over into a state of complete dysfunction (and any of the bills will do for that), you will have won an enormous long-run victory.

Do not delude yourself that this achievement will be without short-run pain. Probably it will increase Democratic losses in the 2010 elections.1 But permanently putting health-care on an branch-less path towards total state control will be more than worth the price to you. Henceforth, any deficiency in health care will be blamed on stingy Republicans who refuse to fund it adequately; large and powerful constituencies like health care workers, including doctors, will accrete to your base as well as that of your union allies; private health care will become like private primary and secondary education—a luxury good with a few percent market share used only by those rich enough or motivated enough to pay for the public version at the tax office and once more for their private version.

You and your successors will reap these benefits of these shifts for decades and generations when the outcome of the 2010 mid-terms will be a bit of trivia unremembered by any but the most devoted election geeks.

Needless to say, this author views this outcome with as much horror as you should view it with glee. If a similar opportunity had arisen in reverse—that is, permanently reforming the health care sector on a consumer-driven competitive-market basis in return for a temporary loss of political majorities—the author would have gone hoarse urging all who would listen to grasp it with both hands. So he is puzzled that progressives are letting victory slip from their hands so easily.

1 Of course, most of the losers will blue dogs, moderates, and other weak sisters, so don't shed too many tears for them. Most of your favorites will not lose their seats. You may even retain a small, but more ideologically homogeneous majority in both houses of Congress.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monstrous Fukuyama

Bryan Caplan catches Francis Fukuyama at his most monstrous:

I thought about the Horror File when Ron Bailey's Liberation Biology quoted Frank Fukuyama:

Life extension seems to me a perfect example of something that is a negative externality, meaning that it is individually rational and desirable for any given individual, but it has costs for society that can be negative.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Did Frank Fukuyama actually mean that when a person has another year of healthy life, the net effect on other people is negative? If so, why do people cry at funerals, instead of celebrating?

There is little to add to Caplan's evisceration of Fukuyama's attempt to justify this conclusion on the basis that death is necessary for progress, except to wonder why the advocates of the wisdom of disgust and horror so frequently feel free to make arguments which us worshipers of cold reason and rationality would reject out of hand as morally monstrous. The author of this blog—chosen pseudonym notwithstanding—is about as rationalist and—at least as far as economic, scientific, and technical matters are concerned—about as homo neophilus as it is possible to get. But even he would blanch at the price if it was causing (or even wishing for) the death of his parents, grandparents, and all other elders.

On Comity Between New England States

Some years ago, I participated in a D.C. Circuit case which involved, among other issues, the question of whether individual New England states could be counted on to voluntarily build reserve electric generation capacity or whether they'd ignore such obligations and just lean on the excess capacity of their neighboring states in times of shortage.1 The telegenic Attorney General of one state assured that the former would most definitely be the case:

Suppliers, PJM, and ISO-NE attempt to resurrect an argument that … states may not be permitted to set individual resource adequacy requirements because they will act parochially, in their own self-interests to “free-ride” on the reserves of other states in the region. … In fact, the New England states' self-interest dictates the same type of cooperation that has produced regional reserve levels in New England for decades[.]

Joint Reply Brief for Intervenors Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General for the State of Connecticut, et al. at 8, Conn. Dep't of Pub. Util. Control v. FERC (D.C. Cir. 2008).

One can imagine my surprise upon now reading the following pronouncement by the same telegenic Attorney General:

Blumenthal to Maine company: Hire Connecticut workers

“Workers and businesses in Connecticut need and deserve the benefit of jobs and revenue from this massive construction project, which must move forward as quickly as possible,” Blumenthal said.

“Amtrak's contract award may be final, but its practical effect may be improved by insisting that subcontractors and workers come from Connecticut.”

“I am deeply disappointed that Amtrak awarded this huge contract - one of the largest federal stimulus projects in Connecticut - to an out-of-state company,” Blumenthal said. “I will seek assurances that Cianbro will hire Connecticut workers and contractors, and ensure fair wages and equitable working conditions.”

“This federal taxpayer-funded project is designed to benefit Connecticut workers and businesses and kick-start the state's economy,” Blumenthal said. “Sending vital stimulus dollars out of state is unacceptable and unconscionable. I urge the company to keep in Connecticut as many stimulus dollars as possible - as Congress and the President intended.”

(emphasis added) Legal NewsLine, Blumenthal to Maine company: Hire Connecticut workers (Jan. 25, 2010).

Claims of comity and willingness to act for the general good rather than parochial interests may serve to attempt to bamboozle federal courts, but one could hardly expect an on-the-make politician to take such things seriously.

1The upshot of course being that all states would engage in this beggar-thy-neighbor strategy, nobody would buy reserve capacity, and in times of shortage the lights would go out all over New England, Tragedy-of-the-Commons style.