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Could non-profit co-ops and “mutual aid societies” help make basic health care available for all?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Could non-profit co-ops and “mutual aid societies” help make basic health care available for all?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Question:

I think part of the problem with today’s health care system is the over-reliance on insurance companies. They are (rightfully) in the business of making money, and as a result they keep raising premiums.

care

What about the idea of competing with them by fostering the creation of non-profit insurance and/or medical co-ops? In a co-op, any profits would stay in the co-op to offset the additional cost of helping those currently lacking basic care.

Answer:

You’ve pretty much described the “mutual aid societies” that once protected Americans against medical disasters — before government regulated them out of business for the benefit of the doctors and insurance companies.

David Beito’s wonderful book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State describes them in detail.

The AMA condemned doctors that worked for a flat fee for these societies. Since the AMA controlled the licensing boards, physicians didn’t want to incur their wrath.

Even though the mutual aid societies served their members well during the Depression, insurance companies successfully lobbied for regulations requiring that mutual aid societies have large amounts of financial reserves on hand.

Thus, these effective co-op-like groups were essentially regulated out of business, putting us at the mercy of the often less efficient and less compassionate insurance companies.

The free market and human ingenuity creates amazing protection for us, but government intervention destroys it!

After Obamacare, Let’s Repeal All Government Involvement In Health Care

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

After Obamacare, Let’s Repeal All Government Involvement In Health Care

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Everyone is talking about health care.

If you consider yourself a conservative, you might have felt a spark of excitement when Congress motioned to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, only to be let down once you learned lawmakers fell short of putting an end to President Barack Obama’s signature law.

obamacare

But to those who are serious about free market principles, the entire debate revolving around the end of of ACA is somewhat frustrating. That’s why health care in the United States hasn’t been good for decades, and Obamacare just made it a tad worse.

By the mid-1960s, the United States started to experience what heavy-handed intervention in the market does to supply and demand of services, and how it inflates the costs of such services.

With the passage of Medicare and Medicaid and new regulations that artificially trimmed the supply of doctors and hospitals, Americans noticed an increase in health care prices that, according to Mike Holly, “responded at twice the rate of inflation.”

Over time, medical special interests continued to lobby government for more regulations, further restricting competition and making it harder for members of the medical profession to make their services available at a lower cost.

With government’s involvement, demand for medical services increased thanks to subsidies, but with the restrictive regulatory monster only growing stronger with each passing decade, the supply of physicians, clinics, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals was further restricted.

As consumers began reporting hardships having access to care thanks to government’s overbearing involvement, government decided to act once again, targeting high costs by “partnering,” once again, with well-connected service providers and offering even more subsidies.

ACA, or Obamacare, is what happens when government tries to fix the problem by repeating its past mistakes.

With the passage of Obama’s signature health care law, the government ramped up subsidies, causing demand to continue to grow artificially while the supply was reduced thanks to the greater number of restrictions imposed on the market. As a result, powerful health care industry leaders grew into more powerful monopolies while entrepreneurs and independent physicians and clinics became overwhelmed and were forced to succumb to the system or get out of it completely.

So when Congress talks about repealing Obamacare as the only measure necessary to put an end to the incredibly maddening situation we find ourselves in today, don’t believe them.

For America to have a true free market system that will guarantee lower prices and increased supply of health care services to everyone, we must look beyond Obamacare. Or, as Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken put it, we must “focus on repealing and undermining the edifice on which Obamacare was built: the highly regulated, subsidized, and manipulated healthcare markets that dominate today.”

Is Congress listening?

Health Withers As Bureaucracy Devours Physicians’ Working Hours

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Health Withers As Bureaucracy Devours Physicians’ Working Hours

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act did not represent the death of free market healthcare in America. I was just the last nail in the coffin.

healthcare-1Health care services and their consumers have been hurting ever since the United States government initiated its policy of industry regulation. With the inclusion of so many requirements and mandates, the common physician saw his options vanish. And as a result, the cost of having access to skilled physicians shoot up. Seeing the crisis this vicious cycle created, lawmakers saw yet another opportunity to act, passing a cluster of laws designed to fight “abuse” called The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare.

The goal behind ACA may have been to protect the consumer from unfair costs, but the result is nothing short of disappointing. Instead of keeping the cost of health care low, Obamacare artificially increased the cost of doing business to the insurance and healthcare industries.

What’s worse, ACA lowered standards of care as a result.

As physicians find themselves buried in paperwork, they lack the time to dedicate to their craft. Who suffers? The patient.

According to a study published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2546704), doctors spend two additional hours on paperwork for every patient they see.

While this is certainly one of the few studies into the subject, it isn’t the first time physicians noticed a problem with the increasing bureaucracy associated with practicing medicine.

In 2005, Hames Sanders, MD wrote that, “As physicians, we are inundated with paperwork in every area of medical practice.”

Due to the time spent on bureaucracy, Sanders continued, the “time and money we desperately need for patient care” is gone. And while physicians “moan and groan about federal and state regulations that are responsible for much of our paperwork burden,” Sanders accused he and his colleagues of having “succumbed to a system that produces more.”

Despite some of their best efforts, things have only gone worse, with physicians now spending 49.2 percent of their time outside of the examination room, and 37 percent of their time in the room with the patient doing paperwork.

With President-elect Donald Trump and his administration showing signs they may not put an end to the Affordable Care Act, we might have to continue experiencing the same problems for 4 more years.

Use “Venture Buyers” to Show the Hidden Dangers of Government Spending

in Liberator Online, Monetary Policy, One Minute Liberty Tip, Taxes by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Use “Venture Buyers” to Show the Hidden Dangers of Government Spending

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

You’re probably familiar with venture capitalists. But what about “venture buyers”?

I encountered that term this week in an excellent short article entitled “Federal Spending: Now for the Really Bad News” by Forbes Political Economy Editor John Tamny.

“Venture buyers” is a nifty phrase and concept that can be very helpful when you’re trying to persuade skeptics that government spending has terrible consequences.

Traian_vuia_flying_machine

In his article Tamny points out that government spending is not just ridiculously wasteful, bad as that is. It also deprives the people who earned that money of the ability to spend it themselves, on the things they consider most important. And this not only deprives them, it harms the rest of us — in unexpected ways.
One of those ways is that “venture buyers” don’t get to spend their money on new, innovative, risky, expensive and important items.
What are “venture buyers?”

“We sometimes hear them described as ‘first adopters,” Tamny explains. “These are the people with the means to experiment on what is new, frequently expensive, and possibly even life-threatening. Their buying habits tell businesses what consumers want, how they want it, and [by] doing that signal to entrepreneurs where the profits will be if they can turn what is frequently a rare luxury into a common good. But with government so aggressively spending the resources we’ve created… there’s much less ‘easy money’ in our pockets that would reveal our preferences for what is [currently] expensive and largely unknown.”

Venture buyers, then, are the people who are the first to buy new, promising, risky and costly goods and services, try them out, and bring them to the attention of the rest of us. As we watch them using and playing with their new products and toys and benefiting from exciting new services, the rest of us start clamoring for them as well. And businesses are motivated to discover how to quickly lower prices so the rest of us can enjoy them, too.
Venture buyers thus play a huge role in bringing life-changing new products and services to
society.

Think of all the things we commonly use today that began life as expensive and/or startlingly different products only used by those on the bleeding edge. Cars were once crazily expensive and dangerous, as were airplanes. Portable phones were luxuries for the rich. Home computers, VHS players, fax machines, Uber, Airbnb… it’s an endless list.

And an important note: it’s not just fun and seemingly frivolous products that venture buyers popularize. Take health and medicine.

Writes Tamny:

” [C]onsider the health implications of our free spending government. … Thinking about cancer, how much experimentation has never taken place over the last 80 years thanks to government spending having greatly shrunk the total availability of resources necessary for it? Was a cure (or many cures) lost as politicians falsely promised growth through spending on the proverbial bridges, grants, and yes, medical studies to nowhere?”

The more government spends, the less venture buyers have to spend. And that means far less experimenting with new and innovative products and services — including critical and life-saving ones. And that in turn means businesses and entrepreneurs receive far less information about society’s greatest needs and desires — and the best ways to fulfill them.

Of course, we never see the inventions, the cures, the innovations, the services that don’t come into being. We don’t know what we are missing. But we can understand that we are far poorer because of it.

This is a powerful and persuasive indictment of government spending. (There are many others, of course.) I love the catchy, intriguing phrase “venture buyers” and how using it helps explain the little-understood but crucial role early adopters play in raising living standards for everyone.
Share it, and open minds to overlooked dangers of massive government spending.

When Will the EPA Adequately Clean Up Its Mess?

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

When Will the EPA Adequately Clean Up Its Mess?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Sept. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency officials released new data that indicates that surface water concentrations from the Animas River are returning back to normal.

Samples collected on Aug. 16 and 17 “have been validated,” the agency said.

animasThe EPA review of the data included a comparison to screening levels for exposure during recreational river use to see if the metal concentrations in the water are consistent with levels prior to the disastrous 3 million-gallon spill that contaminated the river in early August.

“Based on the results of the surface water samples in the Animas River, surface water concentrations are trending toward pre-event conditions,” the EPA said.

However, experts say that metals lining the riverbed could continue to cause long-term effects for agriculture, aquatic life and the health of those along the Animas River.

“The long-term effects are the concern that every time we have some sort of a high-water event, whether a good rain in the mountains or spring runoff next year, that’s going to stir up sediments and remobilize those contaminants that are sitting at the bottom of the river right now,” said Ty Churchwell, Colorado backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

Experts stress that the current disaster will severely damage the Animas’ fish population – one that has been diminished by heavy metals and sedimentation for years. The river has seen an almost 80 percent decline since 2000 in the fish biomass – the weight of all the trout collected in a certain area, said Jim White an aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Navajo Nation leadership also voiced fears of long-term impact as the contaminants from the Animas flowed into for 215 miles through Navajo land.

On Aug. 5, a team of workers contracted by the EPA spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.

Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President released a statement to the public in regards to FEMA and the EPA’s refusal for assistance in cleaning up the toxic water in the San Juan River:

“We are extremely frustrated with the news that both FEMA and the U.S. EPA have declined our urgent requests to continue assistance to the Navajo Nation. U.S. EPA caused this entire disaster, they have harmed the people, the water and the land. I appreciated the fact U.S. EPA took responsibility and I was hoping for the U.S. EPA to prove to the Navajo Nation they are willing to hold themselves accountable. This action clearly shows otherwise. For years, we have consistently been at the receiving end of toxic spills and contamination with no adequate relief as the United States Government and Private Companies became wealthy off of the natural resources of the Navajo Nation.

The EPA doesn’t seem to want to help the people that will be affected by their government intervention for the long-term. If these communities aren’t given adequate help in the wake of this environmental disaster, there could be thousands of people that suffer for years to come.

More Fit Than Fat

in Liberator Online, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

More Fit Than Fat

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

It is a new year, and like every January that I remember, many of us make resolutions to improve an aspect or two of our lives. Some of us want to spend more of our time and attention with loved ones. Others want to improve our health by kicking a bad habit, watching what we eat, or increasing the frequency with which we exercise.

I love seeing people make positive changes in their lives. It’s exciting. Lately though, I have noticed something of a trend among the more fitness-focused in my network. I do not mean the folks who joined a gym the last week of December or were “waiting until after the holidays” to start working on attaining a six-pack before swimsuit season. I mean the guys and gals who are pumping iron, taking a spin class, or running treadmill marathons every day (or so it seems).

fitThe trend I see is a tendency to begrudge having all these new bodies at the gym. I see tweets complaining about full parking lots that will be “back to normal by February,” Instagram photos of a rookie misusing equipment, and Facebook posts poking fun at someone who just began their quest to be more fit than fat.

This trend is recent, but feels very familiar. The familiarity I feel comes from some within the libertarian movement, who challenge, ridicule, and belittle new and prospective libertarians. My hope is that this is not being done intentionally.

I am sure you have seen a “seasoned” libertarian speaking to someone whose interest in freedom is relatively young. They are pontificating about the fundamentals of natural rights and natural law, quoting long passages from Mises’ Human Action, or challenging a new libertarian’s view on a principle or issue of which they have yet to consider or examine the “proper” libertarian position. Perhaps you have seen another longtime libertarian list all of the “essential” books on their bookshelf, intimating that until they have been read, no ounce of libertarianism resides within this n00b. Possibly, you have borne witness to a game I like to call “The Biggest Libertarian in the Room,” where the “winner” is a jerk who made everyone else feel like they are not libertarian enough to even remain there. Noted libertarian communicator Michael Cloud would probably classify each of these as examples of the “Libertarian Macho Flash.”

If you identify as having done any of the above or variants thereof, I ask that you think back to the time when you first found that thirst for liberty. You may not have protested the Federal Reserve on the first day after you realized your newfound political lifestyle. You may not have committed the entire e-book collection of the Mises Institute to memory during your first month as a new libertarian. You may not have begun to look for the unintended consequences in every new governmental proposal or program.

I admit that I am probably guilty of some variation of those dastardly deeds outlined above in the past, and, for that, I ask forgiveness. Today, however, is a new day where I know better than to run off the newly-interested while flexing my libertarian muscles and showing off my libertarian bonafides. I hope this opened your eyes to some of these behaviors, and you will join me in welcoming these new eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to the beauty of our philosophy.

Four Great FREE EBOOKS on Liberty

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Students For Liberty (SFL), in partnership with the Atlas Network, has published four outstanding libertarian books — great reading for student and non-student libertarians alike.

And you can download them for FREE as e-books or PDFs, or purchase paperback copies. (Note: if you’re not a student, ignore the “Expected year of college graduation” form box when downloading a PDF.)

Here’s what SFL offers:

The Economics of FreedomThe Economics of Freedom: Selected Works of Frédéric Bastiat features a truly delightful and enlightening collection of essays. Atlas scholar Tom Palmer notes that Bastiat is “the clearest, most sensible economist who ever wrote. Bastiat can be understood by a Nobel Prize winner, a taxi driver, a student, an entrepreneur… even a politician! Read this book and get set for a life-changing experience.”

The Morality of CapitalismThe Morality of Capitalism edited by Tom G. Palmer: Outstanding short pieces by a fantastic line-up of philosophers, economists, Nobel Prize winners, and entrepreneurs, all making the case that not only are markets highly effective, a true free market system is a prerequisite for a just, prosperous, and cooperative society.

Why LibertyWhy Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: A great collection of articles that focuses not just on political theory but also on liberty through the lens of culture, entrepreneurship, health, art, technology, philosophy, and the transformative power of freedom. The book features articles from experts in the fields of policy, academia, business, media, and student organizing. This collection makes it clear that liberty is a dynamic and liberating force with the power to change the world for the better.

Peace, Love, & LibertyPeace, Love, & Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: Shows that libertarianism is the philosophy of peace — and how libertarian ideas are making the world a safer place. Drawing on the disciplines of history, philosophy, poetry, literature, and psychology, Peace, Love, & Liberty shows that peace is possible — and shows how we can achieve it.

These books can also be purchased, either individual copies or in packs of 100 copies at very low cost, making them great for outreach. Thanks, SFL!

Forbes Features Fascinating New Use of World’s Smallest Political Quiz

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Have You Significantly Changed Your Political Views Since Age 18? If So, How?”World's Smallest Political Quiz

That the title of a fascinating article at Forbes.com featuring the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

In it, economist Michael F. Cannon describes his intellectual journey from Big Government “socially conservative social democrat” in high school to socially conservative/free market-oriented university student… and finally, a few years later, to where he is today: a full-fledged libertarian, solidly in favor of civil liberties, free markets, and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Indeed, Cannon not only became a libertarian — he has become a remarkably influential one. He is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Though not a Republican, he served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, advising the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare, and the Second Amendment. His work has been featured in many of America’s most influential newspapers and magazines, and he has appeared ABC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel and NPR.

To illustrate his personal ideological journey, Cannon uses… the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. He draws different Quiz scores on the Quiz to indicate how he would have scored at different times in his life, thus creating the striking visual map of his political awakening that I’ve reprinted in this column.

I’ve never seen this done before. But the Quiz is a perfect — and crystal-clear — way to document and illustrate this. Kudos to Cannon for thinking of this!

I know over the past few decades, as libertarian ideas have spread, many millions of people have made intellectual journeys very similar to Cannon’s. (And for millions of them, the Quiz itself has been an important part of their intellectual awakening.) Whether starting from the left or the right, more and more Americans are finding themselves drawn to the logic, consistency and compassion of libertarianism.

Check Cannon’s article out — and consider using the Quiz to document and share the story of your own journey.

Great News! The World Is Getting Better: HumanProgress.org

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HumanProgress.orgThere is a large and growing body of evidence showing dramatic and remarkable improvements in human well-being in recent decades, especially in the developing world.

Unfortunately, this evidence is little-known and often overlooked. Bad news and predictions of doom and gloom are disproportionately reported. Many people, including the highly educated, simply have no idea of the great and ongoing progress in many crucial areas of human life around the world.

This exciting and uplifting news deserves far more attention. HumanProgress.org, a new website and research tool from the Cato Institute, hopes to accomplish that.

Many visitors who take the time to explore the site will be genuinely surprised by the well-documented major advances in world peace, living standards, environmental cleanliness, life spans, and much more. Crimes such as rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, and child abuse are all substantially down from the past. Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and well over half the human race lives in countries where average incomes have tripled or more. Technologies unimaginable just a few years ago are now commonplace even among the world’s poor.

HumanProgress.org provides tools that let users see the many documented ways in which the world has become a far better place. Over 500 data sets of human development indicators from a variety of reliable sources allow visitors to compare indicators with one another, create and share graphics, and calculate differences in human well-being between different countries over time. Visitors can explore progress in categories including: Communications, Education, Energy, Environment, Food, Gender Equality, Happiness, Health, Housing, Transportation, Violence, and Wealth.

By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, HumanProgress.org provides a fantastic documented resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

For a good graph-free overview of what it’s all about, go to the introductory essay “What is Human Progress?” which presents some downright startling figures and arguments and puts them in context.

And for an easy way to keep up with breaking good news about human progress — and to get a regular booster shot of reasons for rational optimism — you can like HumanProgress.org’s Facebook page.

Cato hopes that HumanProgress.org will lead to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world. Things are getting better in many areas, to a remarkable degree, and largely due to progress in markets, civil liberties and peace. That’s great news! Let’s spread the word.