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Incentive-based government?

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 May 2017

Socialism has been — until recently — a bad word for most Americans. With good cause, I say. It doesn’t work very well.

To most Americans, socialism means “sorry, you can’t open your lemonade stand until you get approval from these five petty bureaucrats — who hate you, and have lots of obscure and confusing forms you need to fill out.”

But there’s a lot about socialism to like. Not everybody can be a rugged individualist who takes care of all his own issues. There’s something to be said for a safety net, and — let’s be honest — some redistribution of wealth.

People can get filthy, stinking rich for very arbitrary, accidental reasons. It’s not fair. And that’s not just a matter of envy. There is a moral case to be made that people who have a lot should share with those who don’t. Even (to some extent) if they don’t want to.

The world is not a fair place, and efforts to make it fair will cause more harm than good. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make it fairer.

The trouble is, most efforts along those lines involve giving the government lots and lots of power, which is a very bad thing. Power not only corrupts, but it develops an attitude. It doesn’t care about making you stand in a line for three hours, just because it can. The MVA has no reason to make your experience pleasant.

But there is hope.

A friend of mine tried to start a brewery in my town, which straddles two counties.

The one county treated him like some sort of pest. “What are you doing trying to start a business in this county? Why are you making more work for us? Here, go fill out these 100 forms and leave us alone.”

The other county said, “Great. We’ll help you.”

Guess which county is getting the tax revenue from that brewery.

In this case, the difference was a matter of culture with the bureaucrats in the two counties. But you can’t rely on having a pro-business culture, just because. There needs to be some reason for it.

So … why can’t governments be structured with better incentives? Why does government have to be an obstacle to business? Why can’t they be an enabler?

Also, we have to get away from the idea that the solution to every problem involves the government. It often doesn’t.

It seems to me that some genius political thinker could come up with a better idea for all this and invent a way to give government workers the proper incentives to make things work better.

Government doesn’t have to be Big Brother, or the vindictive bureaucrat that opposes every good idea, or the sluggish, overfed behemoth that swallows more and more of the economy. In short, it doesn’t have to be the enemy. But it does need to be reformed.

I’m not opposed to many socialist ideas in principle. Universal health care, or universal basic income, or guaranteed jobs, or any number of socialist ideas sound like good things.

I am opposed to giving any current government the power to do any of that stuff, because they’re guaranteed to make things worse.

2017-05-05  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 63

  1. Don Stallone
    5 May 2017 @ 6:00 pm

    How would you like to start?

  2. Don Stallone
    5 May 2017 @ 6:01 pm

    How do we get this going?

  3. Don Stallone
    5 May 2017 @ 6:07 pm

    If I were an asked (and I wasn’t) to write an abstract for this blog, it would be this:

    Why does government have to be an obstacle to business? Why can’t they be an enabler?

    Would you care to modify it?

  4. William
    5 May 2017 @ 6:14 pm

    Like Don, I’m curious as to your thoughts on how value-added socialist principles could happen, in a systemic, sustainable manner (within a complex society), without government power? Is your thinking that government should be totally exempt? Or, various entities within government play a role but each have limited power? Or, something else?

  5. Don Stallone
    5 May 2017 @ 6:26 pm

    And immediately I start out confused. What does “value-added” mean?

    <>
    Exempt from what, please?

    This will do for the minutes.

  6. Don Stallone
    5 May 2017 @ 6:28 pm

    How do I edit my own posts, please?

  7. Greg Krehbiel Gregk
    5 May 2017 @ 6:35 pm

    Okay, how about starting by reacting to these principles.

    1. Government does some things well. E.g., nasa, the military, police,

    2. Government does some things poorly, esp. when it has no incentive to do otherwise. E.g. dmv.

    I assume we all agree on that. Do we?

  8. Greg Krehbiel Gregk
    5 May 2017 @ 6:40 pm

    @don, in order to edit your comments you need to have a username and password. Do you want me to create an account for you? (You set the password, of course.,)

  9. William
    5 May 2017 @ 6:43 pm

    @Don, in it’s colloquial form…value-added simply means something that contributes to increasing in worth of something else. IOWs, benefits that come from taking an action.

    Also, in my question to Greg…I was asking him to clarify if his intent was that government should be completely exempt (meaning not involved at all or totally excluded).

    Lastly, I haven’t rendered an opinion thus far. I’m seeking further insight and clarity from Greg. In doing so, I’ve offered random thoughts as a potential basis for further explanation.

  10. Greg Krehbiel Gregk
    5 May 2017 @ 6:44 pm

    @william, I’m not saying without government power. I’m not against government power so long as it is limited, defined, and checked.

  11. William
    5 May 2017 @ 6:47 pm

    @Greg, despite having a username and password, I’ve still not discovered how to edit posts. If would be great if you could share the procedure. Thanks!

  12. William
    5 May 2017 @ 6:50 pm

    QUOTE: I’m not saying without government power. I’m not against government power so long as it is limited, defined, and checked.

    Okay, thanks for the clarification. That helps me understand your thoughts better.

  13. Greg Krehbiel Gregk
    5 May 2017 @ 6:51 pm

    Unfortunately, I’m on mobile right now and my options are limited. When I get to a real computer I’ll figure it out and send the instructions.

  14. William
    5 May 2017 @ 6:57 pm

    Thanks!

  15. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 7:22 am

    Greg — Please create an account for me.

    William — {… government should be completely exempt…}
    Exempt from what?

    All – This app is NOT made for smart phones. LOL

  16. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 7:28 am

    Greg — I worked for the National Weather Service 9 years and Amtrak (a quasi-government company) for 11 years. I can assure you that individual employees are rewarded for superior/outstanding performance.

    The problem, or at least -part- of the problem, is that the rewards are not handed out fairly.

  17. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 7:32 am

    Greg — I’m sorry. It seems I am incapable of typing something without ypographical terrors. I request and require everyone’s indulgence for a while.

  18. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 7:37 am

    The weather service is another example of something the government seems to do fairly well. Amtrak — I’m not so sure. I don’t know if Amtrak’s troubles were the result of mismanagement, or because the market simply moved away from trains.

    It seems to me the issue of rewards or incentives is more complicated than whether or not they have them. (Thanks for clarifying that they do.)

    The rewards need to be applied in a way that encourages the behavior we want. There’s no reason in the world that government can’t do that. It just seems they often don’t.

    For example, in the example I mentioned about the two counties and the brewery, there’s no reason there couldn’t be a business development guy working for the county whose salary is (at least in part) determined by how much new business he brings in.

    Also, you should have received an email with account information.

  19. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 7:38 am

    @Don, I have always considered the rule to be that typos are somewhat inevitable on discussion boards (especially when using mobile) so don’t sweat it.

  20. William
    6 May 2017 @ 7:59 am

    @Don…I wasn’t suggesting the government should be exempt. I was asking Greg to clarify if he meant that government should not be involved in implementing socialist principles. He’s since responded to that question.

  21. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 8:12 am

    One thing I associate with socialism is progressively (ha ha) more and more weird rules that have nothing to do with the purpose or goals of the agency.

    You have to have this many women, this many Asians, this many blacks. You have to give preference to veterans, but you can’t discriminate. You have to have classes on rape culture and sensitivity training. You have to use energy efficient light bulbs and have a “green” building. And once you’ve done all that, if you can deliver the mail that would be good.

    All these mandates start with the government and then they “trickle down” to businesses, as government agencies require anybody who does business with them to follow suit.

    As William will quickly point out, it’s a matter of balance. You can’t have, on the one hand, agencies that are so performance driven that they have an insensitive rape culture that abuses the environment and only hires white people. But you can’t have, on the other hand, agencies that are hamstrung by all this.

    My Dad was a NASA engineer. He watched these things change through his career, and my friends who work at NASA now say the place is so tied up with politically correct nonsense that they can’t get anything done.

    That’s part of my suspicion about handing things over to the government.

  22. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 3:39 pm

    William:
    {I wasn’t suggesting that the government should be exempt.}
    I never got that impression. I was wondering what the government should be exempt from.

    {I was asking Greg to clarify if he meant that government should not be involved in implementing socialist principles.}
    .
    What do you mean by “socialist principles”. I do not see the government implementing any socialist principles.

  23. Greg Krehbiel Gregk
    6 May 2017 @ 3:42 pm

    Don, wouldn’t social security count as a socialist idea?

    I realize the word was “principles,” not “idea,” but I think it’s a relevant question.

  24. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 3:48 pm

    Socialism
    .
    —noun
    1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

    — Dictionary.com

  25. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 3:55 pm

    By that definition, the caps on National Weather Service is socialist. By that definition, Amtrak is quasi-socialist.
    .
    Amtrak is a private, for-profit business who’s stock is almost entirely owned by Congress. Amtrak is generally recognized as quasi-government.

  26. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 3:57 pm

    Greg — I would say Social Security is socialist.

  27. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 3:57 pm

    Yes, I know the definition, but the word is broader than that and — as wikipedia says — it denotes a range of economic and social systems. E.g., when Bernie Sanders praises various forms of socialism around the world, he doesn’t mean the dictionary definition you cite. (At least I’m pretty sure he doesn’t.)

    So while I agree with you that social security is not “socialism” by that definition, on the continuum between various political and economic theories, it is in that general area of things. It is more socialist than capitalist, for example.

  28. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 3:58 pm

    Okay, sorry, I wrote my post before I saw your other comments. I think we agree on this.

  29. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 3:59 pm

    Greg — WordPress informs me that it is waiting for you to approve my membership (?).

  30. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 4:00 pm

    I would say social security is not “socialism” by strict adherence to the definition — since it doesn’t involve government ownership of the means of production, etc. — I still think is is “socialist” in a broader sense.

  31. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 4:08 pm

    Greg — {I would say Social Security… is socialist in a broader sense.}
    I agree.

  32. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    6 May 2017 @ 4:40 pm

    So the really important question is this. How do you structure a government that achieves these quasi-socialist goals without falling into the socialist traps?

  33. Don Stallone
    6 May 2017 @ 6:15 pm

    Greg —
    {…these quasi-socialist goals…}
    Do you mean Amtrak, the NWS, and Social Security?

    {… without falling into the socialist traps…}
    What are the socialist traps, please?

  34. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    7 May 2017 @ 7:27 am

    The goals I mentioned in my original post are these. “Universal health care, or universal basic income, or guaranteed jobs, ….” We could also include social security.

    The socialist traps would include these.

    1. Power corrupts. As the government gets more power — as it inevitably will as it becomes more socialist — it will be more corrupt, and people will abuse that power. This power will be abused in big and small ways. E.g., by the system as a whole, and by individual, petty bureaucrats.

    2. The bloat and ineffectiveness that seems to accompany socialism. Bloat and ineffectiveness seem to be symptoms of all large organizations, but in business there’s a natural process for getting rid of it. The business fails, or is purchased. Once you get a government program, you’re pretty much stuck with it forever.

    3. Big, corrupt, powerful, bloated government organizations tend to get their priorities all messed up and start putting obstacles in the way of things rather than facilitating them.

    IMO, all these things can be solved. They just usually aren’t.

  35. Don Stallone
    7 May 2017 @ 6:41 pm

    Of your universal goals, the only one I can speak to with any authority whatsoever is universal healthcare.

    By virtue of an aging population Medicare’s clientele has grown larger, but I am unaware of any concomitant growth in power of the agency responsible for Medicare’s administration i.e., the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

    Am I missing something?

  36. Don Stallone
    7 May 2017 @ 6:43 pm

    BTW when I try to login at crowhill.net I get the following message.

    ACCOUNT PENDING: Your account is currently not active. An administrator needs to activate your account before you can login.

  37. William
    8 May 2017 @ 12:20 am

    QUOTE: I was wondering what the government should be exempt from. What do you mean by “socialist principles”. I do not see the government implementing any socialist principles.

    Don, these concepts were posited by Greg and it’s not appropriate for me to respond on his behalf. That said, it seems Greg’s follow-up comments addresses your questions.

  38. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    8 May 2017 @ 9:08 am

    @Don, that’s a fair question, but can we really answer it?

    First, if CMS had more authority, how would I know? They could be pulling strings in Congress, or in other behind the scenes ways, and I’d have no way of knowing about it.

    Second, there are probably inflection points in growth. For example, back when I was in seminary they spoke of the problems of getting past certain membership thresholds. It’s relatively easy to get from 100 to 200, but getting past 200 is difficult because it requires a different type of organizational structure.

    So just because a certain level of growth doesn’t show an immediate change in power, that doesn’t mean the general principle isn’t true.

    I can’t prove that bigger organizations get more power. To prove it would require a pretty serious study. But I believe in two principles that I think are generally reliable. (1) As an organization gets bigger it accumulates more power, and (2) power corrupts.

    About the account problem, that is weird. When I log in as an administrator it doesn’t prompt me to do anything, and when I look at your account there’s nothing to approve. I’ll have to consult the WordPress community about it.

  39. Don Stallone
    8 May 2017 @ 1:20 pm

    {{that’s a fair question, but can we really answer it?}}
    Thank you and maybe. (See below.)

    {{First, if CMS had more authority, how would I know? They could be pulling strings in Congress, or in other behind the scenes ways, and I’d have no way of knowing about it.}}
    This is true.

    {{Second, there are probably inflection points in growth. For example, back when I was in seminary they spoke of the problems of getting past certain membership thresholds. It’s relatively easy to get from 100 to 200, but getting past 200 is difficult because it requires a different type of organizational structure.

    {{So just because a certain level of growth doesn’t show an immediate change in power, that doesn’t mean the general principle isn’t true.}}
    This is true.

    {{I can’t prove that bigger organizations get more power. To prove it would require a pretty serious study.}}
    This is true.

    {{But I believe in two principles that I think are generally reliable. (1) As an organization gets bigger it accumulates more power, and (2) power corrupts.}}
    Probably and sometimes.

    Given the constraints you proferred and I agreed to, I’d say we’re pretty much limited to anecdotal evidence. If I’m limited to the topics of universal healthcare, universal basic income, or jobs then, except for universal healthcare, I got nothin’. If I were allowed to hold forth on Amtrak, or the NWS I’d have more to say.

    But rules are rules.

    Yet, this is a conversation, not a debate, yes? As such, I care more about learning (unpleasant) truths than winning.

    Comments?

  40. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    8 May 2017 @ 1:30 pm

    Don, I don’t mean to say that you can’t talk about those other things. Sorry if I said or implied that. If you can offer some insights from those other areas, go for it.

    I think I’ve made my general attitude towards socialism clear. If you can come up with counter examples, I’d be glad to hear them.

  41. Don Stallone
    8 May 2017 @ 5:13 pm

    TOPIC: {{So … why can’t governments be structured with better incentives?}}
    AGENCY: Natl. Railroad Passenger Corp. a.k.a. NRPC a.k.a. Amtrak
    EVENT: Major snow storm that effectively shut down airports and most ground transportation from Richmond or thereabouts to north of NYC
    DATE: Every time it happened.
    MISC.: The NRPC is a private, for-profit corporation whose stock is almost entirely owned by Congress. It is considered to be quasi government.

    N.B. Metroliner service was annulled indefinitely between WAS and NYC. That’s how bad the snow was.

    W/o ever being asked, w/o extra pay, the entire Marketing Department from the junior VP on down turned out and checked into Passenger Services (PS), Washington Union Station to receive assignments to assist with the crowds any way they could. (Hey, those airline passengers had to go SOMEWHERE.) They stayed until PS gave them the high sign. We helped people with every damn thing you could imagine; panic attacks, lost children, drunks, lost luggage, abandoned luggage (exciting!), missed trains, lost tickets, wheel chairs/luggage carts on the escalators (extremely dangerous practice that could, and did, result in the escalator bannisters being slick with blood from top to bottom)………

    ……..and emergency transport of a criminal escorted by two U.S. Marshalls (PS arranged for them to be sequestered in the rear cabin of an AEM 7. One door in. One door out. Highly irregular but PS made it happen.)

    And why did we do it? Because it was the right thing to do. Just another day at the office.

  42. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    8 May 2017 @ 5:22 pm

    More later when I can type, but yes, utility-like organizations have an incredible ethic of serving the public selflessly.

  43. Don Stallone
    8 May 2017 @ 5:35 pm

    TOPIC: {{Why does government have to be an obstacle to business? Why can’t they be an enabler?}}
    AGENCY: NRPC
    EVENT: Coordinating conductors, ticket takers, engineers, preventative maintenance, cleaning with state rail commuter agencies
    DATE: Ongoing

    Amtrak had customized (as requested by the states) contracts with the following state rail commuter agencies: MARC, VRE, ConnDOT, SEPTA, CALTRAINS, MetroLink to provide conductors, ticket takers, engineers, equipment preventative maintenance, equipment cleaning, equipment service.

  44. Don Stallone
    8 May 2017 @ 5:51 pm

    TOPIC: {{Why does government have to be an obstacle to business? Why can’t they be an enabler?}}
    AGENCY: NRPC
    EVENT: Real Estate
    DATE: Ongoing

    NRPC used to – and might still – coordinate with state and local governments and businessmen to rent the air-rights over the tracks for new construction of commercial real estate wherever the customer wanted consistent with local building codes, and zoning. Basements and below ground parking was Right Out. (There used to be one of these buildings in downtown Bethesda somewhere around Elm Street and Wisconsin Avenue.)

  45. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    9 May 2017 @ 7:22 am

    Don, your examples remind me of an experience I had about 20 years ago, which highlights both the good and bad sides of government.

    I was doing research for a book on electric utility regulation, and I was at a conference on some new FERC rulemaking. There were several interests represented, but the two major ones were the environmentalists and the utilities.

    The issue under discussion was monitoring of smokestack emissions. The environmentalists —
    government and private, I should point out — were insisting on continuous monitoring. It was very clear they believed that if they took their eyes off the utilities for even one moment, they would take the chance to flood the planet with toxic chemicals. The hatred was palpable.

    Never mind, of course, that power plants don’t work that way and can’t change on a dime.

    The mutual distrust and hatred went the other way as well. A utility executive got up to rebut the environmentalists, and he was almost shaking with rage.

    “You candy @$$ know-nothings,” he might have said, “this is all some sort of game to you. To me what this means is that on a night of high winds and freezing rain I need to send some young father climbing up a frozen metal ladder to swap out a monitoring box so you can feel all warm and secure with your fuzzy blanket, sipping herbal tea.”

    The whole conversation was astonishing. The only other time I’d seen such pure hatred (in a white collar, polite environment) was at a conference on banking regulation.

    Anyway, you are absolutely right that utilities have an incredible ethic of public service. They do whatever’s necessary to keep the lights on.

    Of course utilities are not government, and the organizations you’re talking about are quasi-governmental, but still — it’s possible for big, bureaucratic organizations to have that sort of an attitude of public service.

    They also can have the anti-growth, anti-capitalist attitude of the EPA. Or the at times overly suspicious, at times overly accommodating attitudes of the financial regulators. Or they can be like the VA, which seems (from my limited vantage point) to be a classic example of bumbling incompetence.

    Perhaps part of the answer to the question (why can’t government help instead of be an obstacle) is that it comes down to good management. Although the mission of the agency is a big part of it as well. A financial regulatory agency created by Elizabeth Warren is going to have a different ethos than one created by Rand Paul.

  46. Don Stallone
    9 May 2017 @ 7:52 am

    How many employees work for:
    Amtrak — 20,000
    NWS – 5,000

    I googled it and even I don’t believe it. Please feel free to check my work. I won’t mind (honest).

  47. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    9 May 2017 @ 8:02 am

    Don, why don’t you believe it? CSX (a freight rail company) has 36,000 employees.

  48. Don Stallone
    9 May 2017 @ 8:08 am

    I know your opinion of government “managed”(however you want to interpret that word) healthcare. I’m reasonably certain you know my opinion of government managed healthcare. I’ve heard many, many, many stories about how the ACA has screwed up people’s lives. I’ve also heard stories of how the ACA has saved people’s lives.

    What are either of us willing/capable of learning from the other if we rehash the whole, dreary subject again?
    I’ll make a deal with you. If you would suggest a book from which I will read two chapters of your choice, I will do it, IF you will do the same for me. I promise that the chapters won’t be long, and the reading will not be tedious. (Keep in mind that I am trying to develop a taste for unpleasant truths.)

    What are your thoughts, please?

  49. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    9 May 2017 @ 8:21 am

    I know it’s hard to believe in our healthcare-obsessed society — where healthcare and health insurance has been the constant topic of conversation for decades — but it’s really not my biggest concern, except in the sense that it contributes to and expands the welfare state.

    I have a general unease about the government running things. I have a more acute unease about making the government any bigger than it is. And I have an absolute dread of creating unaccountable bureaucracies, or of government doing something for which it doesn’t have a constitutional mandate.

    Having said all that, I have no objection in principle to any particular way of doing health care. I’m not against single payer, per se. I would just insist that it be done constitutionally, that there would be checks in place to control abuse, and that they would find some way to introduce competition as much as possible, since competition is the most effective mechanism we know of for maximizing freedom and controlling costs.

    All that’s to say that healthcare is not all that big a deal for me, and I would be happy to read two chapters of whatever book you recommend.

    My larger concern is about runaway government in general. Healthcare is just one symptom. It’s a very large symptom, of course, but it’s just one.

  50. Don Stallone
    9 May 2017 @ 8:44 am

    Greg —
    Before the EPA:
    • Pop-pop this smells. Take me home NOW!” If memory serves me right, we were closing in on the Anacostia River and I was about, maybe, four years old. I was born in 1951.
    • The Cuyahoga River fire. 1969, the year after MLK was assasinated; the year I graduated from H.S. (Even dad was appalled.)

    After the EPA:
    • The water in Flint, MI is poisonous. I have documentation that blames, in part, the EPA because they weren’t doing their job.
    • The Elk River chemical spill, 2014. (Up to 300,000 residents within nine counties in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area were without access to potable water. The Environmental Protection Agency had found no violations and had not taken enforcement actions against the Freedom Industries Charleston facility within the last five years.)

    Anecdotal evidence. Are we better off with or without the EPA?
    ¯\_(?)_/¯

  51. Don Stallone
    9 May 2017 @ 8:45 am

    Greg —

    OK, I believe the employee count.

  52. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    9 May 2017 @ 8:55 am

    Are we better off with EPA or without it? That’s a bigger question than I can answer. As you indicate, you can tell stories going both ways, but individual stories don’t necessarily represent the big picture. (Which is why politicians use them all the time. 🙂 )

    I would guess that both EPA and industry do good and bad things.

    I don’t believe that industry, left to themselves, would gleefully ruin the environment. That’s a ridiculous caricature. But I do believe that there are bad actors out there who have to be watched. IMO it’s at least possible that they could be watched just as effectively by the rest of the industry / unions / other interested public parties with an “enforcement only” function from the government. But … that’s just my opinion.

    I’m fairly confident assuming that parts of the EPA do regular, day to day, competent work that helps out, and that other parts get over-zealous and do a lot of harm.

  53. Don Stallone
    9 May 2017 @ 10:55 am

    Greg —
    Information on the VA.

    https://www.facebook.com/don.stallone.0/posts/10210810744297794

  54. Don Stallone
    12 May 2017 @ 9:58 am

    So where does this leave us?

    I think — with regards to constitutionality, and watchdog groups — we are in complete agreement. With regards to size, we agree on some things — maybe the DoD (but very possibly not), maybe the CDC and NIH, the DOJ (maybe yes, maybe no), NASA, NWS.

    I can assure you that single payer healthcare not only requires competition between the health providers, but is good for business, and it’s a boat load cheaper than anything we have ever had. On the other hand the VA is, at best, a mixed bag.

    So where does this leave us?

  55. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    12 May 2017 @ 12:02 pm

    I think you’re right that we agree on a lot of these issues.

    I have noticed recently that a big part of disagreements is a matter of labeling. Or perhaps posturing. And that once you go through things you usually find more agreement than you suspected. (At least if you’re dealing with a reasonable person.)

    Most people start off with some sort of bias — for Trump, against government, or for Democrats and against large corporations, or whatever — and they immediately react to an idea based on that bias. But when you talk through the actual details, they soften and moderate their initial reaction.

    I’ve noticed this especially talking with a friend, who is an Eastern European socialist. She and I both say outrageous things — from inside our own frames of reference — but when talk it through we find we agree more than we would have thought at first.

    I feel that talk radio and personality driven “news” and Facebook and all that is leading us deeper into that hole. People express things outrageously as a kind of virtue signalling to their own group. It’s not a good thing.

    Anyway, Don, you owe me the two chapters you wanted me to read.

  56. Don Stallone
    12 May 2017 @ 12:58 pm

    I recommend this: Reid, T. R., The Healing of America
    http://tinyurl.com/m2jgmdy
    <bEight – Canada: "Sorry to Keep You Waiting"
    Appendix: The Best Health Care System in the World

    This not the whole story. There is this: tinyurl.com/hr676gt

  57. Don Stallone
    12 May 2017 @ 1:00 pm

    I recommend this: Reid, T. R., The Healing of America
    http://tinyurl.com/m2jgmdy

    Eight – Canada: “Sorry to Keep You Waiting”
    Appendix: The Best Health Care System in the World

    This not the whole story. There is this: http://tinyurl.com/hr676gt

  58. Don Stallone
    28 May 2017 @ 10:58 pm

    God speaks:
    • “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8).

    • ‘ “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” ‘ (Genesis 4:9-10)

    • “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

    • Jesus cared for whoever needed attention the most – regardless of status, wealth, or employment. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) shines a spotlight on the responsibility to care for the stranger. And pay the bills.

    • “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

  59. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    29 May 2017 @ 8:11 am

    Don, how is that relevant to the discussion? People are able to help the poor in many ways. It doesn’t have to be through government programs.

  60. Don Stallone
    29 May 2017 @ 9:25 am

    Greg — I changed the subject. I hi-jacked the thread. I say this with sadness and shame. It was thoughtless.

    I apologize. Please forgive me.

  61. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    29 May 2017 @ 9:32 am

    Actually, that’s perfectly fine, Don. We’re lose about such things around here. All you had to do was say, “On another topic ….” 🙂

  62. Don Stallone
    29 May 2017 @ 10:40 am

    On another topic:

    I believe that Americans who die or go broke because they happen to get sick represent a fundamental moral decision our country has made. Despite all the rights and privileges and entitlements that Americans enjoy today, we have never decided to provide medical care for everybody who needs it.

    ACA was designed to increase coverage substantially — but it really didn’t work. In the debate over the ACA, efforts to increase coverage tended to get derailed by arguments about “big government” or “free enterprise” or “socialism” — and the essential moral question got lost in the shouting.

    And the essential moral question is this:
    Do we believe that healthcare for everyone as it is implemented (more or less) in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, and Canada (pick one) is a right not a privilege?

    If the answer is “no” then it will never happen.

    It really is that simple. I can argue ethics, religion, economics, domestic policy, political theory until I am blue in the face. The only thing that will happen from that is that the goalposts will continuously move.

    Thoughts?

  63. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    29 May 2017 @ 11:38 am

    I made this question its own thread, and will post a few thoughts shortly.