Obamacare, The Islamic State & Vietnam-Three Friday Links

Avik Roy is working towards Obamacare alternatives, but has always supported some form of universal coverage, about which this blog harbors doubts. Perhaps much in the same way that human rights and human rights institutions have become part of the foreign policy institutional landscape, so too could universal coverage become part of the furniture.  Big, heavy furniture.

A healthy skepticism might recognize that such a delivery system could likely create too tantalizing a prize for Leftward ideological interests and perhaps too immovable an institutional object to remain nimble and responsive to We The People over time.

Nevertheless, Roy is really working on rising health-care cost problems, and it addresses many of the flawed incentives and ridiculous complexity and overreach of the ACA:

‘One of the fundamental flaws in the conservative approach to health care policy is that few—if any—Republican leaders have articulated a vision of what a market-oriented health care system would look like. Hence, Republican proposals on health reform have often been tactical and political—in opposition to whatever Democrats were pitching—instead of strategic and serious.

Those days must come to an end. The problems with our health care system are too great. Health care is too expensive for the government, and too expensive for average Americans.’

Bing West at The National Review on the Islamic State, and possible options:

‘As war author Karl Marlantes has written, don’t treat a human life as a bargaining chip, unless you are willing to be that chip. Too many policymakers and generals think of violence, if they think of it at all, as a negotiating tool.’

If we go in with guns blazing, aren’t we aligning ourselves with Iran and their proxy war in Iraq and Syria and goals for nuclear domination?  I mean, as far as nuclear negotiations, we’re already out on a limb with an increasingly desperate American President and a repressive authoritarian regime in which the Ayatollah has final say over a very real divide between Iranian and American interests.

Perhaps we have interests to let both sides fight it out. This could weaken both Tehran and IS.  We could help arm the Kurds and see if the branches of the Peshmerga are up to the task of battling IS, try and have Maliki’s departure not devolve into a bloody mess, keep channels open with the Turks, Jordan, Lebanon and…develop something vaguely representing leadership and protection and advancement of our interests and alliances.

Lead!

But how aggressively?

Meanwhile, given the extreme lunacy and violence of IS against the Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, and others in their path, and the clear security threat they post to Western interests, even the humanitarian interventionists and the American public are beginning to see the tatters of current foreign policy and the fires raging throughout the Middle-East.

On that note, it’s nice to relax and read about another part of the world, even if it has an old Communist structure in place.  Michael Totten visited Vietnam:

‘Some parts of Hanoi are a bit messy, but aside from the outdated rat’s nest of electrical wires, its messes are the kind you make in your house when you’re in the middle of a remodeling project. Parts of the Old Quarter still look a little decayed, but even there the decay is like a holdover from the past that’s being blotted out with one high-end boutique store after another.’

Two Tuesday Links-Roger Scruton & Thomas Sowell

Roger Scruton at Forbes: ‘Is Europe Still Defensible From Invasion?

Bankrolling European security with our military is probably not sustainable in its current form.  Many European interests naturally diverge from our own, and an intellectually lazy anti-Americanism can easily become political currency in the Eurozone.

***European interests naturally diverge wildly, and I have my doubts about the current Eurocratic political union being able to channel such political, ethnic, historical, cultural, and economic forces towards a common defense.  I suppose we’ll see.

Scruton:

‘The American people cannot go on defending a country like Germany – a country that enjoys a standard of living calculated to arouse envy in its impoverished Eastern neighbor, while self-righteously preaching ‘soft power’ and ‘non belligerence’ to its pampered people. At some point Americans are going to wake up to the fact that they are being unscrupulously exploited. Their armed forces are trained to fight and die in Europe, on behalf of people who would not dream of doing the same for America, and who are not prepared to die even for their homeland’

As always, at the end of the day, I think we’re on our own in this world, while alliances come and go.  In the wake of our withdrawal from the Middle-East and with Asia rising, as Americans, we’ve got our work cut-out for us.

Ukraine and Putin’s ethno-nationalist thuggery is just a reminder.

Did NATO go wrong as well?

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Thomas Sowell remembers Gary Becker.

‘Despite the contempt that some economists have expressed toward sociology, Gary Becker went from being a professor of economics at Columbia University to being a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago. No doubt sociology was improved by Becker’s contributions.’

I can imagine Becker made waves in the social sciences. As I’ve experienced with Charles Murray, social scientists who go against the grain often face a tough slog, especially introducing a rational model of behavior into the mix:

 

Remembering The Marathon Bombing-Roger Scruton At Forbes: ‘A Triumph For The Boston Bombers’

Full piece here.

‘Nevertheless, we cannot simply disregard the evidence, that there are Muslims among us who interpret their religion in another way. The liberal mind-set, which blames their crimes on ‘Islamophobia’, as though we, who threatened no one, were to blame for the attacks on us, shows a wilful disregard of the truth, and a crazy inversion of cause and effect. No doubt we should be careful not to be provoked. And the peaceful ceremonies with which the people of Boston have marked the anniversary of the bombings show that they have not been provoked, and that they continue to live in the open and charitable way for which the bombers chose, for reasons of their own, to punish them. But let’s face it, planted in the heart of Islam is the worm of contempt for the infidel, and this worm can lodge in the brains of otherwise reasonable people and gnaw away at their conscience until no conscience remains.’

I’m not sure the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, in the months and years leading up to the Marathon Bombing, was always what we’d call ‘reasonable,’ but point taken. A siren song reaches some Muslim men, often younger and trying to forge identities of their own as they drift between civilizations. Charismatic Islamist Imams, often through online channels, urge rediscovery of Islamic roots and joining of the ‘front lines’ of a holy struggle. A few go in for it, sadly, usually over many months time and after a meeting or two, ending-up on a dangerously radical path.

Whatever their thinking, they pretty clearly had a plan:

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Wherever the Tsarnaev clan started out back in Chechnya and Dagestan, and whatever experiences they had as immigrants to America, I think we can safely say they ended-up a disgrace. Through bad decisions, family failures, and what is likely religious ideology, the two sons chose to commit an act of murderous terrorism designed to take as many innocent lives as possible. They wanted to injure what matters most to Americans and then afterwards tried to make a cowardly, murderous escape.  To top that off, Ma Tsarnaev scurried home without so much as an apology, thank-you or goodbye, perhaps either unable or unwilling to process the event and after years of collecting benefits.

Such gratitude.

I don’t begrudge the city of Boston its plain sense and Puritan work ethic, its civilized, educated roots and liberal, crusading bent along with waves of hardscrabble immigrants and many rough edges. Frankly, I don’t necessarily begrudge the secular humanist ideals that likely guide many of the people running institutions in Boston which provided shelter and opportunity to the Tsarnaevs.

But shouldn’t we be establishing and looking at facts in a cold, hard light?

The victims and families deserve that much.

Below, Scruton discusses Islam and the West and his views in general.  He’s a conservative Briton.

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Some of his essays here.

Interesting quote at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Related On This SiteA Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key

Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’From CSIS: ‘Rick “Ozzie” Nelson and Tom Sanderson on the Future of Al Qaeda’,Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

The Hitchens factor, and a vigorous defense of free speech: From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’Islamism, Immigration & Multiculturalism-Melanie Phillips Via Youtube

From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

In The Mail-More On The Boston Marathon Bombers: ‘The Fall Of The House Of Tsarnaev’

Two Monday Links On Media-Who Do You Pay For Information?

Thanks to readers.

From The Economist: Rethinking The Bundle:

‘With NYT Now The Times is trying to keep readers in its embrace, rather than have them wander in and out through social networks or search.’

If the purpose of mass media communications is adapting the latest technology to the greatest number of readers possible in order to broadcast information, then many print publications still lag behind the tech curve. They’re making pronouncements from older soapboxes and not necessarily from the device in your pocket.

So, who’s doing well?

One answer may surprise you. From Forbes on Vice Magazine:

‘Vice has relentlessly pursued every possible profit opportunity, including becoming a sort of in-house ad agency for its client, and aggressively pursuing branding opportunities and other non-standard advertising opportunities, rather than simply splashing banners on its website. It has focused heavily on video–good, watchable video–, the most lucrative segment of online advertising.

But other than just “news can make money”–which is still something–the other less on Vice might be: target a demographic and own it. In a sense, that’s always been true in media, but Vice shows it especially works on the internet.’

It’s tough to imagine older readers going in for VICE, but that’s much the point. Maybe it’s just as important to be ahead of a cultural curve.

A diversion to politics:  One demographic danger on the liberal end of the spectrum may well be observable at NPR: Aging liberal/progressive boomers need the support of young people in order to pledge and keep them in business, and also to transmit principles. They need a younger cohort, but many possibly future NPR listeners don’t have the money and inclination in their youth to support Terry Gross and The Splendid Table, at least not until they age-up.

Libertarian Reason magazine has an endowment, and compared to Vice shares in a similar spirit of punk, youthful rebellion, and flirtations with anarchy, but also offers deeper discussions on political philosophy and economy. Many libertarian principles are a tougher sell to a broader audience.

Conservative publications have a tougher slog still. Aside from the general liberal bent of many who work in media, the transmission of conservative values and principles to the young (fiscal responsibility, social and/or religious conservatism, depressive and/or sober realism) has always been unsexy and uncool.  Add to this many recent cultural trends, and those are a lot of grains to run against.

Classic Yellow Journalism by malik2moon

Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon

Related On This SiteFrom io9 Via An Emailer: ‘Viral journalism And The Valley Of Ambiguity’

From The Nieman Lab:-An Oral History Of The Epic Collision Between Journalism & Digital Technology, From 1980 To The Present.

Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Could Amazon and Jeff Bezos Make the Washington Post Profitable?’…‘Sorry, Jeff Bezos, the News Bundle Isn’t Coming Back

Michael Kinsley At The New Republic Via Althouse: ‘A Q & A With Jill Abramson’

From Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

You could do like Matt Drudge, but the odds are stacked against you.

From The De Blasio Files-Howard Husock At Forbes: ‘Risking Mediocrity For Fairness’

Full piece here.

Those pesky philanthropic fat-cats, running some city parks efficiently and well, with a free and genuine spirit of giving:

‘In the de Blasio era, both charter parks and charter schools are under fire—in ways that would effectively tax the philanthropic support they receive. Mayor de Blasio, in part because of professed concern that some charter schools are “well-resourced,” has proposed (without specifics yet) that the city charge the 119 charter schools housed in city property rent. Similarly, he has endorsed proposed state legislation that would require that park conservancies—what I’m calling charter parks—be required to divert 20 percent of philanthropic support they receive to the upkeep of less well-maintained parks, perhaps in poorer neighborhoods, that are the responsibility of the city’s Parks Department.’

The lever is City Hall, which progressive ideological and political commitments will use to control the time and labor of everyone according to their ideals.  The reality will be much messier.

NY times piece here on the Sandinista connection.  De Blasio’s inner circle.

***Perhaps, according to a certain point of view, many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will be co-opted by the government (the De Blasio coalitions no doubt see many things this way).  Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

Related On This SiteRichard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’...The Irish were a mess:  William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Josh Barro At Business Insider: ‘Dear New Yorkers: Here’s Why Your Rent Is So Ridiculously High’

Two Wednesday Obamacare Links

Reasonable people can agree that health-care and education are among the most vital interests in our society, and to individuals within it. But reasonable people can also agree that some folks seeking to control health-care and education are guided by unsustainable ideals.  They bring with them political coalitions and interests that often end-up free-riding on the public good, and make promises to individuals which can’t be kept.  They often succeed by directing as much public money as possible towards their own coalitions while keeping political power close, punishing political enemies, and bending as much public sentiment as possible toward their ideals.

We now have an enormous, hastily-passed, partisan bill seeking to further entrench many of the unsustainable portions of our health-delivery system, while adding many layers of interests, bureaucrats, and politics atop that.

At what price inclusion of some previous groups and peoples into the ‘greatness’ vision of America and its institutions?

Yes, it’s an anecdote-Walter Russell Mead: ‘I’m Calling It Kafkacare: One Reader’s Obamacare Experience

‘Short version: We met with our broker the second week in October. It’s nearly February. We still don’t have our coverage figured out. From now on, I’m calling it Kafkacare.’

Mead publishes a pro-Obamacare reader response.

You’ve got to get the incentives right. From The Apothecary: ‘Surprise, Massachusetts is Home To America’s Worst Performing Obamacare Exchange:’

‘Connector staff members have admitted privately that the generous flow of federal dollars was the primary motivation to rebuild the entire website. The federal government was requiring additional functionality of the site under the ACA, but it is unclear if the Connector could have saved taxpayers millions by simply building off the foundation they already had in place.’

Politically and ideologically, money and career-wise. some folks will keep pushing until it sticks.

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘How Many Healthy People Are Signing Up For Obamacare? The White House Won’t Say’

Full piece here.

Healthcare.gov is working better now, but the full spin is still on.  Of those new enrollees:

What we need to know is: What is the breakdown of enrollees by age? What percentage have chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure? This is the kind of data that can help us compare the pool of enrollees in the exchanges to the normal U.S. population.

It’s almost certain that, so far, this enrollment data is not encouraging. Because if it was encouraging, CMS would have released it.’

Politically and ideologically, money and career-wise. some folks will keep pushing until it sticks.

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Full piece here.

Let the markets work!

Click through for some spit-balled suggestions, including some kind of mandate upon all individuals to purchase a basic minimum plan (as Martin acknowledges, this is always open to abuse and expansion of power).

‘Whatever solution we look for though, the really important point is this: the whole basis of Obamacare, the notion that we can have more people, getting more benefits, and pay less, is just impossible. The arithmetic doesn’t work. And if you think that’s “unfair,” I’m sorry.

Avik Roy addressed this before the 2012 Romney/Obama presidential election, before we really started taxiing Obamacare down the runway:

‘Obamacare’s approach to pre-existing conditions, in summary, may help a tiny minority with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage in the short term, but the law will drive up the cost of insurance for everyone else, leading to adverse selection and higher premiums for all. And the price of Obamacare is steep: the individual mandate; trillions in new spending and taxes; deep cuts to Medicare providers.’

Epstein’s position:

The best way to deal with the risk of catastrophe is for people to buy their coverage early, when they are young, so that premiums are low. In any well-functioning market, they can acquire a renewable policy with guaranteed rates. At that point, does it become morally reprehensible to deny additional coverage to those individuals who passed on this possibility? No. Sadly, the abysmal performance of the American healthcare system lies not in the market economy that Kristof deplores, but in the elaborate network of regulation that shrinks the domain of voluntary choices, and leaves consumers with fewer choices than they would have had if the government had just stood by.’

Now the government isn’t just standing-by, it’s forcing people out of their current plans onto exchanges that don’t function, exacting high costs on individuals as part of an enormously flawed law in theory, which is being put into practice.

George Leef At Forbes: ‘A Tale Of Two Bubbles-Housing & College’

Full piece here.

‘To recapitulate, in the housing market, government meddling led to a widespread mania that drove up prices and caused many to think, “I’ve got to buy even if I can’t afford it because housing is a sure thing.” Similarly, government meddling in higher education led many to think, “I’ve got to get a college degree no matter the cost, because a college degree is the path to prosperity.”

Even if we’ve seen profound changes in our economy and social structure from previous generations; even if technology and globalization are dramatically changing our lives, people going to respond to incentives, flow through established channels, and pursue their interests accordingly.

The opportunity in D.C. is mostly about politics.  A bigger government is subject to ever more fingers in the pie.

I like this quote by Ira Stoll found here which I keep putting up:

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

Many people have been flowing to universities and Washington D.C.  just as they flowed into housing, because that’s where a lot of money and opportunity are.  For my piece, people who are Left-of-Center tend to flow to these places first, gravitating towards health-care and education and other rent-seeking enterprises, but also to activism and government.  No surprise there.

That said, whichever party is in charge would also face municipal bond defaults, farm subsidies, the looming failure of Medicaid, a huge national defense budget with numerous contractors suckling away at the teat, a huge Department Of Education etc.  Our government has been inflated larger and larger over time, and I think we’re getting a terrible return on investment.

Is the situation in our universities similar?

Is government behind the bad incentives or has it simply amplified deeper currents?

Is higher-ed a bubble and will it pop like housing?  Slowly deflate?  Keep right on going?

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Related On This Site:  Repost: Mark Cuban From His Blog: ‘The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon’…From The New Criterion: ‘Higher Ed: An Obituary’,,,Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’

Analagous to old media? What to change and what to keepFrom The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Unpublished CRS Memo: Obama Administration Has Missed Half Of Obamacare’s Legally Imposed Implementation Deadlines’

Full piece here.

Oh, but it’s still coming, fellow citizens:

‘Obamacare may fail at reducing insurance premiums, or at wisely using taxpayer funds. But the law is scheduled to spend $1.9 trillion over the next ten years. At that, it is unlikely to fail.

A significant amount of that money may not go to the people for whom it’s intended. It may not have the benefits on health outcomes that the law’s most zealous supporters insist it will. But barring substantial Congressional action, that $1.9 trillion will still get spent, along with trillions more thereafter. Only new laws, not wishful thinking, will change that.’

The White House’s Site.  Remember, they have to pitch, cajole, entice and market this to young people at this delicate stage.  The money, sweat and compliance of the young will make it run.

I’ll still take Chicago school law/economics thinker Richard Epstein’s suggestion:

‘As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.’

That’s a start.

This newly forged relationship between you and your government will be the doorway to all sorts of new intrusions, like what and how much you eat, how much exercise you get, where you spend your money and who has the moral authority to be in charge of you.

The nationalization and socialization of health-care has been one of the primary goals all along.

Related On This SiteFrom The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

Covering the law and economics from a libertarian perspective: Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution Journal: ‘Three Cheers for Income Inequality’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Death By Wealth Tax’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’