Did you miss me?

Honey, I’m home!

My campaign for Congress is officially over, and here’s the wrap-up.

Grannis for Congress

I hope Reasonable Minds will forgive this intrusion between installments of Tim Peach’s annual equine handicapping extravaganza, but I have some news I want to share.  I am running for Congress.  I will be the Libertarian candidate for Chris Van Hollen’s seat, representing Maryland’s 8th District.  That’s the same Chris Van Hollen who serves as Assistant Speaker, chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and has a gazillion dollars in campaign contributions already in the bank.  Three strikes, I say. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Tax Complexity Marches On

The gist of this post is so obvious, it’s hardly worth writing.  But I sometimes find myself unable to remember specific examples of April income tax silliness when I’m discussing the need for fundamental tax reform at election time.  So here are some of my favorites from this year’s Maryland return. Read the rest of this entry »

The Census

I received my census form the other day, and fortunately it was the short form.  That spared me from a lot of questions I wouldn’t dream of answering.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get me completely out of the woods.

As most readers probably know by now, Question 8 asks whether we are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?”  If we are, then we are invited to be more specific, distinguishing Mexican ancestry from Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.  Question 9 then asks for each person’s race, offering us 14 specific options followed by “Some other race.”

I hate these questions.  For one thing, it seems to me there are now large numbers of people who have parents or grandparents in at least two of the Census Bureau’s 14 “race” boxes. What box are they supposed to check?  What box is President Obama going to check?  During the campaign, people used to write a lot of nonsense about whether he was too black, hardly black at all, not black enough, etc.  It was somewhere between unseemly and repugnant then, but now it seems the Census Bureau really wants an answer. Read the rest of this entry »

A thought for the day, or maybe the decade

The following is from a copyrighted newsletter by Bill Bonner.  I find it so insightful that I have to pass it on.  I sure hope it’s “fair use” under the copyright laws:

Neither limits nor adversity are what ruin men. Under pressure, they handle themselves pretty well. It’s the lack of limits they can’t handle. That’s when they run amok. So, if you really want to see what a man is made of let him think he can get away with something.

How true!  And how much of our recent past this explains.  Perhaps such reflections will make it easier to embrace the coming adversity.

Fear the Boom and Bust

À propos of the upcoming vote on whether to confirm Ben Bernanke for another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, I pass along the following video.  Proving once again the capacious bounds of human imagination, it presents some of the basic differences between Keynesian and Austrian economic perspectives by casting Keynes and Hayek as . . . well, you’d better just watch it yourself.  (Bernanke and Geithner make an appearance (in character at least) at 4:28.)

One of the creators, Russ Roberts of George Mason University, has a weekly podcast called Econtalk that’s terrific.

One More Thing that Won’t End Well

I don’t have time for a long discussion of President Obama’s speech on health care; I suspect many of you are grateful for that.  But enough people have e-mailed me for a reaction that I thought I might as well respond briefly here. Read the rest of this entry »

Fresh Air for Health Care (Third in a Series)

At the risk of wildly oversimplifying, my last two posts have argued that private health insurance stinks but it’s mostly the government’s fault. Because I hold these two opinions together, I am at odds both with those who favor a strong government intervention (including both “single payer” models and other highly prescriptive approaches to insurance regulation like “pay or play”) and with those who oppose government intervention on the dubious ground that our current health care system represents some sort of triumph of free enterprise. The truth is that our current health care system is dumb, but government can almost certainly make it dumber.

But what if Congress and the President cared more about promoting a sustainable long-term approach to health care expenditures than they care about the next election? If they really wanted to do something to help, could they? Maybe.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »