Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Capitalism from the Brilliant Mind of a Brit…


The link below was sent to me by a friend of many years. Of all his great accomplishments throughout the years, the least is his inability to see the Liberal/Socialist/Progressives for what they are - a group dedicated to changing our system of government, disregarding our Constitution, and substituting an anarchist/Marxist regime. Said regime would right the entire world’s unbalances by “sharing the wealth”, or more interestingly by doing away with wealth, and destroying the engine that allows one to become wealthy. That engine is Capitalism.

I seldom, if ever, include video or links in my pieces. There are so many available on the Internet that it is hard to decide what one would best fit the theme of an article. In this case, however, the idea for the article came because the friend mentioned above sent the link below to me along with a brief message that read: “As the subject [line] states…this is brilliant…enjoy and share…”

The Subject line read: FW: Interesting (iconoclastic, irreverent, creative, entertaining, heuristic, provocative, challenging) take on capitalism and the world economic crisis... (from the U.K.)

I suppose I should have been wary of the way Capitalism would be treated given that the UK is basically a Socialist County, rapidly becoming a Theocracy. However, I watched the video, and was amazed at how such a “cute” cartoon presentation could be so lean in the careful analysis and conclusion area. I started to respond to the email with a few lines of analysis, and soon I had a page of analysis [I publish it here for your perusal, and comment.]


Thank you for sending the video.

One can never read too much Hayek or Adam Smith for that matter.

The problem with all of these presentations is that they are simplistic, not necessarily unbiased, and never suggest a system that works better, or for that matter a solution. His talking points are old, and never seem to get past the nagging phase, and do not introduce any new arguments. The real talent here was that of the cartoonist.

You and I should know better than most that a failure of a system node does not mean that the system is necessarily faulty. To be incredibly simplistic, one could say that flight itself is a failure because in the last month two major crashes have taken many hundreds of lives. Engine failures that were caught "just in time" saved hundreds more. In these cases something went wrong, and most likely someone did not do his or her job. Alternatively, inherent in any human endeavor is fault. All systems will eventually fail. This computer that I am using will one day betray me and fail - causing me to lose a great deal of data and a fair amount of time. Does that mean that the entire computerized gestalt we live in is a poorly designed and overly utilized system? Not necessarily.

In a nutshell, Capitalism is a system of earning and distributing wealth through the creation of goods and services. In doing that, some become quite wealthy, others never do. I believe that those that don't are not victims of anything but their own personalities and actions. I believe by a simple code in that regard: "There are no victims."

I lost a great deal of money due to the machinations of Greenspan, and what those machinations did to markets - all markets. That's not Capitalism's fault, that is my fault for not acting with alacrity and doing more personal research. When Carter started the "everyone should own a home" thing, millions of smart investors should have said, that's not possible. Instead millions bought and sold homes to great advantage. Unfortunately they sold them to many who could not afford them, so banks failed, developers failed, homeowners failed, and systems failed. Each system failure has its starting point not with a Machiavellian plot, but with an error of judgment, or an error due not to human evil, but to simply being human and prone to error. Each failure must be accompanied by a self examination that amounts to taking responsibility for what one does or does not do in response to a system failure. If the current head of the Federal Reserve is a financial idiot - which I believe - then I need to acknowledge that, and take steps to protect myself and my family. To do otherwise is simply to lay the framework for laying blame on "The System" - whatever that system is.

I suggest a very nice little book that takes a different tact on money and budgets - after all, Capitalism is about money and budgets, and greed and stupidity, and humans ignoring the fact that the latter two are far more important than anything. The book is: "Economics in One Lesson", Henry Hazlitt, Three rivers Press NY, 1979. Additionally, if you are so inclined to understand more than the cartoon approach to Capitalism, try "Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to Understanding the Economy." by Thomas Sowell, Basic Books; Rev Exp edition (December 23, 2003).

Alternatively to understand why it is not possible to pit one system against the other in any meaningful way most of the time is to be found in "The Logic of Modern Physics", by P. W. Bridgman, Macmillan Paperbacks, 1960, wherein Dr. Bridgman suggests that many questions are meaningless questions, and to pursue them is a waste of time. Since one can never look at a phenomenon like Capitalism and compare it to other systems in real time, i.e. at the same moment, in the same place to pursue this type of question is to pursue a philosophical matter, not something that has any basis in fact. That defines most academics.

Mr. Harvey is an academic. Remember the old adage "Those who can do, those that can't teach." To wit: Mr. Harvey stated that wages have not increased for quite some time, and that is the fault of greedy Capitalists. Wrong. Let me tell you about reality. Our company (HCDS) hired and paid 150 employees each month. Each year the personnel budget increased substantially. Were we increasing wages? Not very much. So what were we spending the money on? Government mandates that's what. Increased Social Security, increased Medicare, Increased California taxes, increased unemployment insurance, increased government demanded audits of personnel records, etc.

Mr. Harvey mentions "Greedy Capitalists" as one causes of economic failure. Yes, there certainly are greedy Capitalists, but there are also Greedy Russian Communists (Lukoil's billionaire owner & Putin to name two.), Greedy Chinese Communists (Try the one who gambles and loses $25,000,000 each year at the MGM Grand - personal communication), and Greedy Socialists - i.e. George Soros.)

While Mr. Harvey seems to want to promote Marxism, he fails to mention that it was tried, and it has failed miserably. You are old enough to remember the Russian food lines, the search for toilet paper, the need for heating fuel that only the rich Russians got, etc. Perhaps Mr. Harvey has never read Einstein's definition of insanity!

So yes David the presentation is iconoclastic, irreverent, creative, entertaining, heuristic, provocative, & challenging, but it is also Communist, & Socialist, Academic pap. This man has never had to meet a payroll, develop a budget, been made to stick to that budget, and survive in the face of the economic down turns that all systems of finance undergo.

Nice try - Entertaining but not terribly effective. I think that this lecture could just as well have been entitled "Class Warfare - Cartoon Version".

Thus far I have not received a response from my friend. I have a vague feeling that I shall not.

November 23, 2010

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dead People Walking...

Before beginning to write about my take on what has become known as ObamaCare, I need to make it clear that the notion of writing an article about this topic was catalyzed by an article written by Bob Webster, Editor of WebCommentary.com. After reading Bob’s Article, and viewing the included videos several times, I realized that we are all Dead People Walking if this criminal act is allowed to stand.

The salient points of one of the videos reduce to the bulleted points below. I realize that the health care bill is incredibly large, not well written and contains thousands of inaccuracies and faulty budgetary and health care projections. My goal here is not to enumerate every one of those but to “cherry pick” a few of the most onerous. I do this to make a point. To wit:

· Health care will be rationed. Single folks limited to $5000, and couples to $10,000.

· A government committee will determine levels of care – not your physician.

· A Health Care Commissioner chooses the appropriate health care option.

· A Health Care Exchange will be established and will be government controlled.

· Should anyone choose not to enroll in a health care plan, he or she will be taxed an additional 2.5%.

· The government health care minions will have access to all personal health care and financial records. [Illegal search and seizure anyone?]

· All care will be rationed, especially in those areas that are expensive to treat, i.e. cancer.

· All health care provided will be subjected to outcome measures that are defined by the government, not your doctor.

· Special needs patients will receive government determined care, for government determined periods.

· The elderly and the poor will be subjected to a Tele-Health care committee examination of their needs, and the committee will determine same.

· End of life services will be government controlled.

· Living wills and directives shall be approved by the government.

These are but a few of the problems identified in Bob’s article. Even though the above list paraphrases them egregiously, they are still pretty accurate as well as frightening. What can be done? I have pondered much that has been written and proposed by politicians opposed to ObamaCare, by elected Tea Party Candidates, and by Republican leaders. Given my age and my experience with politicians, I am not terribly sanguine about major changes, nor am I comfortable that the (new) leadership will have the intestinal fortitude to rescind the law.

If most of the tenets of this law are upheld, we – the people – are all either now, or in the near future, Dead People Walking. What do I mean by that? Before getting into that lets take a brief look at some readily available statistics about health care in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the United Kingdom. The data provide a bit of context without becoming a treatise on statistics, and statistical analysis. As with all statistics, there is generally more to the story than the numbers and even those are often contested. For example, the three illustrations from Investor’s Business Daily data below are considered meaningless by some, but not others. These data are not terribly different from similar data from other sources. The difficulty in comparing such data is that the study years, the population, the analytical methods and the political implications are usually not known. That in itself is instructive, but a topic for another day.

Source: Investor’s Business Daily

Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:

U.S - 65%; England - 46%; Canada- 42%

Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:

U.S.- 90% ; England - 15%; Canada - 43%

Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within six months:

U.S. - 93%; England - 15%; Canada - 43%

Lancet Oncology – a much respected Journal, offers this analysis when comparing Cancer survival rates in Europe and the United States. [Ardunio Verdecchia et al,”Recent Cancer Survival in Europe, 2000-2002 Period, Analysis of EUROCARE-2 Data” Lancet Oncology, 2007]

This analysis demonstrated that American men enjoy five year cancer survival rates of 66% and woman survive at a 63% rate. European Men’s survival rate is 47%. Only women of three countries - Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland enjoy a five year survival rate of 60%. Great Britain, known for its 50-year-old government-run, universal health care system, fares worse than the European average: British men have a five-year survival rate of only 45 percent; women, only 53 percent.

Canadian men and women fare a bit better with 58% of women surviving cancer by 5 years. The men’s survival rate is 53%. [These data are from a 2001-2003 study by June and David O’Neill of the USA Congressional Budget Office.]

The National Center for Policy Analysis [http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba649] in an article entitled “10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care” offers the following as one of the 10 indicated points:

Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.[3] Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit are taking statins, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease. By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons and 17 percent of Italians receive them.
I could provide more statistics, more studies and more opinions, but will not. We could analyze the methodology, vis-à-vis how these data were gathered, and examined, the conclusions vis-à-vis outcomes, cost to benefit analyses and other conclusions about various care systems. That may be an interesting and enjoyable exercise, but is beyond the scope of this article. We would be Dead People Walking if ObamaCare is implemented not because statistically we would most likely slide into the mediocrity of our Canadian and European cousins, but because we would forfeit our freedom of choice, our privacy, our independence and our health to an overarching bureaucracy. Imagine these same people providing health care services to three hundred million American citizens as well as millions of illegals. England with a population of 51 million, and Canada with a population of 34 million are unable to manage their systems, and provide the equivalent of our health care services. We believe that health care in the United States should be improved, and made more efficient, and less costly. We need to work on that, but not at the price of our freedoms, and our sanity.

ObamaCare may be the full employment act for an entire new cadre of government bureaucrats who will determine how our care is rationed. It will not be a good thing for American patients needing a physician. A recent Survey by the AMA (American Medical Association) indicated that as many as 46% of all practicing physicians will leave the medical field if ObamaCare is implemented. Given the estimated 32 million new patients that ObamaCare shall allegedly attract, who will treat them? In fact, if physicians, and most likely other medical professionals, leave the field, who would treat the existing patient load, let alone 32 million new patients? Where will these patients be treated? Emergency rooms, hospitals and medical clinics will be overrun with patients who need treatment by a physician, not a non-medically trained government employee.

A rejoinder may be that the government will hire as many physicians and health professionals as necessary to provide care. Many professionals including doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, etc. will simply not want to work in a rule bound, overregulated health care system where efficient and effective patient care, as determined by the attending professional, is the exception rather than the rule.

If we are not in control of our own destinies, and can no longer make personal decisions about our health care, our physicians, our health care plans, we have lost control over most of what is important to us – life. We are no more able to control how we care for ourselves than the proverbial fatted calves. We will, as we age, be Soylent Green material, and will be cast on the dung heap of those not worth the effort, or the funds necessary, to keep us alive. (Illegal immigrants excepted) If we are no more than a ratio of cost to age, and fail to meet whatever is determined to be in the appropriate cost to age benefit cohort – the one that dictates we are “OK to treat”, what are we? Dispensable, that’s what.

If we can come to terms with being Dispensable, we can then plan how we will live. Any reasonable person knows that we cannot stop aging, regardless of how we try to maintain good health and a positive approach to advancing years. (For those who are many years younger than me – you too will be old one day – God willing.)

Currently, how do we care for ourselves and try to maintain good health? We eat well, we exercise, and we stop smoking if we did. We drink moderately, and we take a fair share of vitamins and supplements. If we are diagnosed with a disease, we visit our health care providers, and we adhere to the treatment regimen that has been recommended. We drive carefully, we don’t do illegal drugs, and we stay away from places that are likely to impair our health.

If a healthy 73 year old breaks a hip, some high grade dull normal in Washington will divide the cost of care by the age, and decree that my care will be too expensive, and that the costs to care for an old person would be better spent on a teenager who broke a hip while drag racing. After all, he or she has a lot of taxpaying years ahead of him or her. A 73 year old has relatively few.

Prior to ObamaCare taking good care of oneself was reasonable. Now, given that some nameless bureaucrat will be suggesting – nay not suggesting but stipulating treatments, stipulating costs, stipulating medical venues, and then finally “approving” our living wills, why in hell should we bother to take care of ourselves? What would the point be? If we are to die at the hands of our government, why not live like there is no tomorrow?

So from now on, I will have bacon and eggs for breakfast each day, buy a Harley, drink more wine, eat more fat rich, and more flavorful salted foods, lie around the yard and soak up the cancer causing sun, buy a Porsche, and drive the way I really would like to drive, go on hunting trips that require a degree of risk, fly more, sail more and spend my money before the government gets it. Why not? As a Dead Person Walking, it does not matter anymore. In fact a quick death in an airline accident – while traveling to some exotic destination - would be far more enjoyable than being left to rot while a Washington bureaucrat decides what to do with me.

ObamaCare, with its Health Care Commissions and Health care Czars have given me permission to live life as if every day is the last, because if they have anything to do with it, it soon will be!

November 2010