Posts tagged ‘New Year’

Inherent Political Failure of Technocracy

Supporters of Obamacare argued that it would reduce costs because decisions to fund or not fund certain procedures and drugs would be left to panels of experts (later derisively labelled "death panels").

I have argued many times that these panel's job is hopeless.  Solutions and products that may be right for one person may be a waste for another situation, and there is absolutely no way they have the information or the scope to make decisions with any kind of granularity.  One-size-fits-all solutions result.

But let's hold that thought for a minute.  Let's presume that these supposedly non-political boards will make near-perfect decisions.  Then what?  Those decisions become the law of the land?

Hah.  We have a parallel situation in the military, where DoD procurement supposedly acts as the disinterested expert, which Congress frequently ignores to pay off various constituencies.

If Congress is looking for New Year's resolutions, it could start by breaking the habit of funding programs the government doesn't want. A case in point is the attempt to throw another $450 million at the development of a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plan that Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the military doesn't need.

In what has become an annual ritual, Congress is weighing whether one of the largest weapons programs in history should support the development of F-35 engines by both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. In 2001, GE's engine lost in the procurement competition to the one designed by Pratt & Whitney, as F-35 developers Lockheed Martin and Boeing preferred the latter version.

To hedge its technological risk, the Pentagon nonetheless sought financing for the GE engine as a backup through 2006 in case the Pratt & Whitney version fell short. That hasn't happened, and as budgets have tightened the Pentagon has understandably decided that it needs only one engine design. As Secretary Gates put it, "Only in Washington does a proposal where everybody wins get considered a competition, where everybody is guaranteed a piece of the action at the end."

The Pentagon's opposition hasn't stopped Congress, where the usual parochial suspects are still stumping for GE. And the White House appears to be bending.

Of course they are -- the GE CEO carried a lot of water for Obama on health care and energy policy, and will be expecting a pay back.  Someone has to be terribly naive to believe similar shenanigans won't take place with health care.

But we don't have to wait to test this hypothesis.  The fifty states all have must-carry rules in their states, which have a lot more to do with political pull than science - more here and here.

News from the Corporate State

I have argued for a while that Obama is building a European-style corporate state, where a troika of powerful government officials, unions, and the largest corporations run the country for their own benefit.  As far as the economy is concerned, this means legislation that cements the position of large, powerful competitors against smaller competitors or future upstarts.  You can see this in Europe, where for decades the list of largest corporations seldom turns over, as they have entrenched themselves in government to protect their position  (description of the model in more depth here).

Here is today's episode, from the Obamacare law:

Under the headline, "Construction Stops at Physician Hospitals," Politico reports today that "Physician Hospitals of America says that construction had to stop at 45 hospitals nationwide or they would not be able to bill Medicare for treatments." Stopping construction at doctor-owned hospitals might not seem like the best way to boost the economy or to promote greater access and choice in health care, but that exactly what Obamacare is doing.

Kenneth Artz of the Heartland Institute explains, "Section 6001 of the health care law effectively bans new physician-owned hospitals (POHs) from starting up, and it keeps existing ones from expanding." Politico adds, "Friday [New Year's Eve] marked the last day physician-owned hospitals could get Medicare certification covering their new or expanded hospitals, one of the latest provisions of the reform law to go into effect."

This little-noticed but particularly egregious aspect of Obamacare is, by all accounts, a concession to the powerful American Hospital Association (AHA), a supporter of Obamacare, which prefers to have its member hospitals operate without competition from hospitals owned by doctors.

New Year's Resolution

In my column this week at Forbes, I discuss my New Year's Resolution, which has not changed over several decades, and how it helped me this year to solve some difficult philosophical issues regarding my business.

Almost exactly thirty years ago, I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, probably the single most influential book I have read in my lifetime.  Before I read it, I was on a path to becoming a traditional Conservative in the mold of my parents, and in retrospect my thinking on a lot of issues was quite muddled.

I am no longer the exclusive Rand fanboy I was back in college, if for no other reason than I have since found many authors who come at the topic of capitalism and freedom from many different angles, but Rand was certainly my gateway drug to liberty.

Like many people, around the new year I set various goals for myself over the coming year.  Some I have achieved (e.g. getting myself out of corporate America and into my own business) and on some I have fallen short (e.g. learning to play the guitar).  But every year I have renewed just one resolution, which I took from Atlas Shrugged.  It is

I swear"“by my life and my love of it"“that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

I then discuss this resolution in the context of approaches my business has had this year from lobbyists.  I discuss how lobbyists have approached me about an effort to make some tweaks to the health care law (it is particularly punitive to our labor model where we hire seniors part time and seasonally) as well as efforts to promote privatization of recreation (my business) and to help me obtain new contracts.    The article has much more discussion about details, but my resolution for a lobbying policy turned out as follows, in a rough parallel to the resolution above:

"We will use lobbyists to defend ourselves when the government is trying to gut us like a fish, but we will attempt to do so with generic amendments rather than through special exemptions for our company alone.  We will not use lobbyists to create new business opportunities, even when the legislation to do so is consistent with our principals."

By the way, I actually sent notes to several readers out there (you know who you are) asking them their opinions on some of the ethical issues I saw in these issues, and I appreciate the feedback from all of you.

Happy new year to all of you.

The Official End of Sanity

From Q and O:

CARMEL, N.Y. (AP) - It was quite a New Year's Eve at the home of
Richard Berger in Carmel - in Putnam County. Someone in the house broke
a rectal thermometer and the family called 911 around 10:30 to report
the small mercury spill.

Several dozen volunteers [the headline says 100] from the Carmel Fire Department responded to the house on Brookview Drive.

Fire Chief Darryl Johnson says mercury is a hazardous material that can cause stomach problems if inhaled.

Men wearing protective gear used wet sponges to clean up the puddle.

It was packaged and brought to the Carmel firehouse where the county health department will dispose of it today.

The Berger family was not hurt.

I remember breaking a few thermometers when I was a kid.  You took a piece of paper, creased it into a cup shape, and used the edge to pick up the little blobs without touching them.  I still seem to be alive today.  I am sure those little blobs are buried deep in some landfill now, a ticking time bomb for future generations.  And people wonder why gas prices are so high.  A country this panicky over a fraction of a gram of mercury will never let a new refinery get constructed.

New Year's Resolution

I think I will just repeat last year's, courtesy of Ayn Rand:

I swear--by my life and my love of it--that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

The
only exception to this is my immediate family, which is really not an
exception - I think the very definition of family is those people you
move under the umbrella of your own self, to join you as part of your
"I".

Happy New Year!

New Year's Resolution

Beyond the usual promises to work out more and shave off 15 pounds or so, I can't think of a better New Year's Resolution than this one, from Atlas Shrugged:

I swear--by my life and my love of it--that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

The only exception to this is my immediate family, which is really not an exception - I think the very definition of family is those people you move under the umbrella of your own self, to join you as part of your "I".

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays

Hope everyone out there has a fantastic Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Winter Solstice, New Year, etc. (did I get everyone?)  We try to do something different each year for our holiday card.  Here is this year's.

UPDATE

I realized from fellow Arizona blog Speed of Thought, in their link to my post (cool, am I a moonbat?) that I left out Kwanzaa.  Oops, I hope there are not protesters outside my door.  Next week I plan a post on Kwanzaa -- I have zero problem with people making up a new reasons to celebrate, since life is worth celebrating.  However, I will look at the 7 values celebrated by Kwanzaa and consider whether these 7 values are really helping African-Americans (hint:  think socialism).

By the way, Speed of Thought has a very moving image here.