Et tu, Dear Reader?
“Markets and Money is too long.” That’s what readers tell us. We’re sorry. But we don’t have time to write something short.
And we promised to explain our Theory of Modern Politics…
The question before is, “Why have all governments – including the supposedly freedom loving U.S. of A – edged towards collectivism?”
We begin with a conversation we had with our bus driver. The last two days were spent at the Chateau de Courtomer, where we were attending a conference with Addison and Eric and many others on the Markets and Money team. The days were bright and sunny; the conversation quick and agreeable; the wine soft and smooth.
Coming back, we sat up next to the bus driver, where we could get a good view of the rolling Normandy hills.
“I worry about what will happen to our kids and grandchildren…about what kind of world they’re going to live in,” he said.
He was a very French-looking man of about 50, with a full head of dark hair with grey streaks in it, and an ironic smile. He wore a tie, and might have passed for a waiter in a good restaurant.
“I started my career as a chauffeur 30 years ago,” he went on. “Back then, you had no trouble getting a job. And they didn’t ask you a million questions or tell you what to do. You just had to drive the bus.
“But now, everything is regulated. Everything. I can’t drive more than 4 hours without stopping for a 45-minute break. That’s why I couldn’t move the bus out of the parking lot when we got to the chateau. I had to stay there and do nothing for 45 minutes. The 45-minute break is supposed to be a safety measure. But, the effect of it was that I was driving at night…and I was tired.
“Back when I started, I could decide for myself. But now everything is decided for us.”
We believe he is on to something. Just look at the current issue of Fortune Magazine for proof. It is supposedly the voice of conservative, capitalistic freedom lovers – people who treasure the liberty of the individual to decide for himself when to drive his bus…or how to organise his work…or how to spend his money.
“Fix the health care system: Raise taxes,” says the headline. “Sometimes raising taxes makes sense, even to conservatives.”
The writer, Matt Miller, goes on to explain that there is an “opening of the capitalist mind” going on, allowing the old robber barons to appreciate the benefits of taxation.
We almost fell out of our chair when we realised what he was proposing, we were laughing so hard.
The story is this: Employers are finding it hard to keep up with the cost of health care benefits. For example, another article explains that a 65-year-old couple, not covered by a private health care plan, should plan on spending USD$215,000 on health care through the end of their lives – an amount up 7% from the year before.
But far as we have observed, there is no direct relationship between spending money and enjoying good health. Many of the most expensive health problems are simply a result of bad habits. We suspect that 90% of heath-care expenditures is unnecessary or inefficient, or both. But if people want to spend their money on health care, well…it’s their money.
Already, company-sponsored health care is collectivised. But it is collectivised privately…and honestly. For the most part, employers and employees can decide for themselves what they want to do about their health and how much they want to spend on it. But employees want health care benefits…and many employers have health care plans with crushing legacy costs.
So what do they want to do? Own up to the fact that they their costs are out of control? Raise the standards…and cut the costs? Figure out how to fix their own health care system problems? No, they want to shove the costs of their health care obligations onto the general taxpayer! They want a program of forced collectivisation – where their employees spend someone else’s money on their health…and where the government will be ultimately responsible for the health care of everyone in the country.
Most likely, the pseudo-conservatives at FORTUNE will get their wish. George W. Bush went a long way towards forced collectivisation of health care costs with his big drug bill. The next president is likely to go even further.
And so…the whole world goes in Marx’s direction…in Bismarck’s direction…away from Liberté and towards Egalité…away from the Theory of the Individual and towards the Theory of the Collective.
Why? More to come…
Markets and Money