Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy of Non-Interventionism

During the presidency of George W. Bush, those of us who criticized U.S. foreign policy as overly hawkish tended to be considered “liberal,” a tendency neoconservatives had little reason to resist.  I personally found this very frustrating, for reasons that probably mystify some readers.  Does it really matter whether any given position is suitably “conservative”?  It does to a conservative, because conservatives are supposed to obsess about continuity with the past.  Conservatives are, by definition, strongly committed to the proposition that our received political traditions represent centuries of political wisdom which, at least in the ordinary case, should trump all but the most extraordinarily well-founded private judgments.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Found and Lost?

Forgive me if this is old news, but I’m just hearing about the legal dispute between Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. and the government of Spain.  In case anyone else has missed this story so far, the dispute is about who owns $500 million in gold and silver coins that Odyssey Marine retrieved from the bottom of the ocean.  I don’t know which side has the better legal argument, but if it’s Spain — backed by our own Department of Justice — then it seems like a real miscarriage of justice to me.

Here are the basic facts:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Chief Cause of Excellence

This morning’s disturbing Washington Post op-ed by Colbert I. King describes a sexual assault that took place in one of D.C.’s public high schools — an assault committed by an adult whom the D.C. schools placed there as a “mentor” for the children. Mr. King is dissatisfied with the D.C. government’s response to the incident.

Horrific things happen even in good schools, so I do not bring this up in order to bash the D.C. schools or public schools in general. Indeed, these things happen in private schools as well, and Catholic institutions in particular have come in for more than their fair share of bad ink on the subject of adults imposing themselves sexually on adolescents.

But the incident does call to mind a quotation I’ve been meaning to share with Reasonable Minds since I first heard it last spring.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, History, Liberty, Public Policy. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on The Chief Cause of Excellence

How Could the Private Sector Do This to Us? (More Observations on Why Health Insurance Stinks)

In my last post, I nominated my candidate for the Biggest Problem with Health Insurance, which is that in most cases it’s not insurance at all but rather a pre-paid medical services plan. This has had at least four extremely unfortunate consequences.

  1. Because most plans now cover not just catastrophic expenses but also routine and even elective expenses, almost all health care transactions are marked up 30 to 50 percent to cover the “insurance” company’s administrative expenses.
  2. Because health care services are almost entirely pre-paid, people have a tendency to think of them as cost-free and use them far more often than they would if price mattered to the patient.
  3. Because we persist in calling this arrangement “insurance,” we delude ourselves into thinking that drawing the uninsured into the risk pool will somehow lower per capita costs.
  4. Because the whole system runs almost entirely on the principle of cost-shifting rather than risk-spreading, people are now basically addicted to Other People’s Money.

In addition, another very serious problem arises from the fact that so many people receive their health care as a condition of employment.  This causes people to worry that losing their job will cause them to lose their access to health care.  And the worry is most acute for those who already have a chronic disease or other health condition that may be uninsurable under a new plan sponsored by a new employer.

Partisans on both sides of the current health care “reform” debate agree that the status quo is unacceptable.  Partisans on both sides also tend to agree that the status quo is more or less the result of private enterprise.  The debate is about the extent to which today’s free-market failures can or should be corrected by more government intervention.  The history of private health insurance, however, seems to me to cast serious doubt on the premise of free-market failure. Read the rest of this entry »

“You are always near me.”

If the comments on YouTube can be trusted, the artist’s name is Ksenia Simonova, and she’s performing on a lighted sandbox in a Czech version of America’s Got Talent.  If anyone here wants to translate the Russian, have at it, but I doubt you’ll translate it better than her hands do.

Rival Histories of the Great Depression

Whatever one thinks about history repeating itself generally, the case for repetition is pretty strong in economics because economic activity is by its nature cyclical.  Yes, times change, and no two business cycles are ever exactly alike, but there are certainly recurring patterns and it makes great sense to try to understand what worked and what didn’t in past cycles.

Ever since late September, it has been difficult to discuss the economy in much depth without encountering simmering controversies about what did an did not work during the Great Depression.  But there is a problem.  Read the rest of this entry »

The best conservatives are liberal, and vice versa

I watched the inaugural address from the crowded and noisy balcony of the canteen at a local ski area.  There was some applause, though less than I expected.  There is, however, probably some sampling bias at work, considering that each and every person in the room could easily have been on the Mall but deliberately chose to ski instead.

I liked the speech very much, partly because its sobriety matched the seriousness of our problems, but perhaps more because of its repeated reliance on the broad sweep of U.S. history.  While some pundits have seemed unable to find any common theme in the speech, Read the rest of this entry »