The Free Market… What It Is, What It Is Not!

People often confuse the free market with economic systems. The free market is “not” the same thing as “free enterprise (capitalism)”, “group enterprise (technically syndicalism)” or “socialism (government owned and controlled enterprise)”. These are just means to the production of goods and services for sale. The free market is the sale of goods and services to consumers in return for money (or what passes for money). A true free market is devoid of regulation except to control fraud or attempts to “deceive” the consumer which itself is a form of fraud. Any additional regulation makes the market less “free” than what it would be otherwise. Reduces the freedom of the consumer to make economic decisions that are freely based upon what they consider best for themselves. Once regulation is introduced, the freedom of the consumer is reduced accordingly. This is true even if the regulation in question is thought to be of benefit to the consumer. What is forgotten here is that the consumer may sometimes find it necessary to expose themselves to some risk. This is especially true when it comes to their own health care. Medicines do have “side effects” that have to be taken into consideration. However one might “tolerate” certain side effects in order to gain the greater benefit from taking the medicine. For this reason the FDA should not be the final arbiter as to what medicines people are allowed to buy and use. Naturally drug company that conceals adverse side effects is legally liable for what does happen to those consumers who use the product in question.

It will be argued here that “regulation” is necessary because otherwise the producers of goods and services will defraud the consumer with inferior and sometimes hazardous goods. That without the FDA we will go back to the “snake oil” medicines of the past, our food will be unsafe to eat, and no one will know whether or not the products they buy are in fact safe to use. We’ll have environmental pollution, poisoned land, much as can be found there where the Soviet Union once ruled. The Communists having had little if any concern of the long term consequences of their industrial policies. Or the low quality of the items produced, “worse” some will say than what will be now found anywhere else.*

*As we had to rely upon the Russians for transport to the Space Station, one wonders…

Oddly enough, even with the regulation we have, we still get sick at times from food that is contaminated with disease producing bacteria or viruses. Our automobiles despite all the government regulation still have manufacturing defects that sometimes kill people. Doesn’t really look like all this regulation has really done all that much good, does it? It does add additional cost, however. However most businesses are deterred from selling known harmful products because of legal liability. Because of this, most businesses do actually take precautions against possibly harming those who consume their products.

Another issue here with “government regulation” is that a government agency decides for itself what is to be produced and what is not to be produced. It appears that sometimes corporate interests are able to “covert” government agencies into a method of keeping any who might compete with them from being able to do so. Ever notice that today you cannot buy a VCR with a tuner capable of converting digital to analog so that you can record the TV shows you might like to record? If you will check eBay, you will see that people are in fact selling used machines for more than what these sold for brand new! So why isn’t anyone today building new VCR’s capable of recording TV shows. Nor for that matter do you see DVD recorders that could do the same thing? Yes, you can buy an (expensive) DVR-DVD recorder ($300 at Amazon) to do this. Or “rent” such a device from your cable or satellite provider. Curious isn’t it how something once popular no longer exists. You can buy a VCR-DVD machine without a tuner, but it is designed to require that you use the more expensive converter box to connect it up. Obviously the “demand” is there, but it appears that something has happened to make it increasingly difficult/expensive to record TV shows. It’s not a matter of copyright either, as the cable companies and the satellite companies will “rent” you a DVR. Obviously political “pressure” has been applied…

This sort of problems comes about once we started allowing the government to decide what we are allowed to buy and what we are not allowed to buy. This goes back a century or more when the American people allowed the government to pass laws regarding what you could buy and what you could not buy. Note these laws were not about fraud or any sort of action that harmed people. As first the laws applied to certain drugs, mostly those in the narcotics family. Then marijuana (a product of a certain type of hemp plant) was outlawed despite the fact that it did not appear to cause harm. This was followed by the idea of the prohibition of the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Then in 1938 the AMA got the FDA to grant doctors a monopoly over access to medical drugs. Of course this did create problems as it increased the cost of health care. But for doctors, it was effectively about as close as a “license to print money” as anything. Just as government regulation gave the legal profession monopoly status over legal matters. For a minority of people, government is a benefactor, but for the rest of us, not so much…*

* In a previous post I have shown that the same amount of money that is collected by the payroll tax would actually create greater benefits if it was allowed to be invested instead. The same thing is true in health care. Better service for less money without “government”.

BTW my email address is “jerbigge@toast.net” for those who wish to write me.

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The “Shareholder” economy versus the “Stakeholder” economy…

Many people mistakenly believe that only a “capitalist” (shareholder) economic system allows for the maximum level of personal individual freedom. They also now mistakenly believe that the only choice is between the private ownership (shareholder) of the means of production of goods and services or that of the government now owning the means of production as was practiced in the USSR. (supposedly in the name of the people) Also some believe that once the government starts providing “welfare” in the form of services (and goods through public assistance) that economic freedom is diminished and those who are “productive” are excessively burdened by taxes to pay for the welfare of those who are not (workers). Question any of today’s Republicans, Tea Party member, or many libertarians and you will see in fact that the great majority of them will agree with what I’ve just written. That the capitalist (shareholder) economy is superior to any other…

There is, however a superior form of economic organization that historically has done far better. That survives economic downturns much better, that resolves the growing “gulf” between the increasingly wealthy shareholder class and the increasing poverty of those who do the actual work. One reason for this is that the shareholding class’ major concern is “Return On Investment”. Seeking the highest ROI is the major reason that the share holding class has created the sort of society in which we find ourselves today. If nothing else counts but the highest possible ROI, then the ruling shareholder class through their control over elective governments will do what is necessary to produce the maximum ROI’s.*

* Return on investment in the form of interest, dividends, or increasing value.

The economic interests of the shareholding class is opposite that of the “worker class” (stakeholders). Improvements in the quality of life for the stakeholders means a lower ROI for the shareholder class. Free trade as practiced today among economic unequals means that obtaining maximum production at the lowest possible cost while beneficial to the consumer, is even more so to the shareholders. However, most consumers are of the stakeholder class, not the shareholder class. What “savings” they receive through being able to purchase consumer goods at lower cost hardly make up for their loss of income caused by free trade with countries with much lower costs of production. The decline in unionization also means less income and job security. So while the shareholders have in fact gained better returns on investment via “Right To Work” legislation, their gains have been actually in truth at the cost of lower incomes and job security for the stakeholders…

The book “Capital and The Debt Trap” goes into detail about “stakeholder controlled enterprises” and is well worth seeking out through your public library system. The fact that “stakeholder controlled enterprises” actually did do much better than “share holder controlled enterprises” leaves little doubt as to the superior of the stakeholder controlled enterprise as compared to the shareholder controlled enterprise as a basis for an “free enterprise” economic system. Perhaps for the major reason that the stakeholder has a vested interest in the enterprise where he or she works while the shareholder can easily sell their investment on the stock market and seek out other investments that might provide a better rate of return on the investment. Especially since the shareholder’s interest in any form of enterprise is mainly one of obtaining the best possible return.

This also appears to have been one of the driving forces that was behind the “sub prime mortgage” crisis of recent times. “Profit at all costs” created the system of “fraud” that underlaid the securitization of mortgages that were known to be likely to soon default. The idea was to make a quick profit and then bail out just before everything collapsed. The fact that these actions were (at least in the moral sense) “criminal” meant next to nothing to those seeking the maximum profit. Nor did the government even attempt to prosecute those responsible. Some relatively meaningless fines were handed down, but as these fines were “tax deductible”, they amounted to a “slap on the wrist” if even that! It appears likely that if organized crime could offer stock on the stock market, that there would be ample numbers of investors who would buy in, despite the actual nature of the “business” involved! Just as German corporations (and some American owned) provided the necessary means to the Nazis to kill millions of innocent people. Our own “military-industrial complex” is also in the business of “killing people” when it comes down to it. Profiting off the misery of others has been going on for a long time, unfortunately…

There is an unfortunate worship of “profit about all” that infects our modern capitalist society. An idea of “business before people” that has grown with time. Aided no doubt by the power of massive corporations to propagandize the voters into believing that there is “no alternative” but to accept the nature of share holder controlled business as the only “way” to organize an economy. Unfortunately too many “libertarians” have accepted this idea as being right and proper. That in a libertarian society it is “sink or swim”. No doubt a part of this is due to the thinking and writings of Ayn Rand, who virtually worshipped a sort of self centered individualism over everything else. The fact that no society has ever been successfully organized on those principles in all of human history going back to the hunter-gatherer cultures of the Stone Age is the best refutation of such ideas. Nor can we ever have any effective political role to play when we simply repeat these kind of ideas. For libertarianism to be accepted by a majority of the people, it must offer the hope of a better life than that offered by conservatives or liberals. To do this, we have to offer “more” than they can offer. Less government, work for everyone, greater freedom.

 

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“Facts” that don’t really hold true…

You’ve probably heard that health care costs are “less” in (insert name of country) than in the US. That their “vital statistics” are “better” than ours. Supposedly proving that government run health care delivers better results at lower cost than does our own.

So, is any of this really true? Most people would compare the difference in cost and say that it is. And it does appear to be true at first glance. They do pay “less” and do “better”.

However, there are reasons why. Under a single payer health care systems doctors are effectively employees in that they have little choice but to accept what the system has agreed to pay. Additionally the the doctor in most of these countries has his or her own education paid for by the government. This means either much less money out of their pocket or student loans. Plus the government sets what the rate of pay will be for the educational system so that too is more like working for an employer. Organizations like our AMA are either not allowed or become more “company unions”. The idea of being a self employed health care provider as exists here in the USA doesn’t exist in the same form there. In effect while the pay is fairly good (middle class level), they don’t make in fact the same level (relative to everyone else) that doctors can earn today in the USA.  It compares in some ways to what working for the VA was like before the Republicans got the idea of cutting payments which then resulted in veterans not getting the care they deserved. (there was also now apparently a certain level of “fraud” going on there too) The quality of service was generally good, but not as outstanding as could be found in some centers of medical excellence where the best medical providers preferred to work. The VA did make some “advances” that exceeded the general level of health care, but in ways that were more possible for a government agency (use of computers for one) where a level of standardization could be established over the entire system. Something in fact far more difficult when dealing with thousands of private independent establishments.

If you spend enough time studying these issues, you will also note that the US is where a lot of advanced medical innovations start. The same is true of medical drugs, although in some cases other countries will “OK” a new and still rather experimental drug before the US FDA does. Obviously we could do the same thing (and we should) giving people the choice of trying new drugs and/or treatments before they get a final clearance. The main reason we don’t has more to do with our legal system and resulting concepts of liability culture than anything else. However this could be easily changed by granting patients an enforceable legal right to use the treatment and drugs they felt best fit their situation… Something more likely to be supported by libertarians than by today’s Democrats or Republicans. Both of whom have drunk deep of the sweet seeming poison of statism.

We could easily reduce the cost of US health care by a large percentage simply by now removing the statist laws and regulations that make US health care so expensive.  The elimination of prescription laws alone would reduce health care costs by hundreds of billions of dollars. The elimination of medical licensing (replaced by certification) also would reduce health care costs by comparable amounts. The “replacement” of health insurance by medical savings accounts that can be “invested” at good rates of interest effectively decrease costs by 20 to 25% compared to private health insurance.  All told, we could drop US health care costs to levels as low if not even lower than what the other developed countries are paying for health care. It hardly makes sense to copy them when we can obtain equal savings by simple elimination of all the “waste” built into our health care system. We do need to also look at reforming patent and copyright to control the monopolistic aspects, but that is a part too of getting rid of “Too Big” government….

On another topic, I have argued that religious freedom is an “individual right”, but that no one has the right to force their religious views upon others. Unfortunately, at least two of the major religions don’t agree with this. At the current time the Supreme Court has decided on a 5 to 4 decision that employers don’t have to pay for insurance that covers certain reproductive issues if it happens to violate their religious beliefs. The problem here is that an insurance policy that does not cover these things is no longer “legal” under the rules of Obamacare. As a matter of fact, as a private individual, you cannot buy a private policy under Obamacare that does not meet the standards set up under the Obamacare law. So even if you object to the policy having coverage for those reproductive issues that are against your religious beliefs, you cannot use “freedom of religion” to refuse to purchase a health insurance policy under Obamacare except under certain circumstances where you do not rely upon medical means for health care or are a member of a “health sharing ministry” where the cost of health care coverage is shared by the group in question.* There is also an exemption for religious groups themselves.

*Here on WordPress there is a “blog” about paying cash instead of using health insurance with doctors willing to discount their services if paid in cash instead of having to bill an insurance company. Google for “selfpaypatient.com” for more information. Apparently you can qualify under Obamacare for “coverage” by joining one of the health care sharing ministries. Which would likely result in savings for those of higher income.

This creates a very “interesting” issue in that private individuals cannot use “religious freedom” to exempt themselves from the purchase of an insurance policy that meets the requirements set out under the law. So a man who buys a health insurance policy also has to pay for childbirth costs even if he will never have any children. Apparently this was done since otherwise women will have to pay higher premiums than men would!

I have suggested that a much better solution to all this would be to use “Health Savings Accounts” where the money that is not used for immediate care can be invested. It is not that difficult to obtain a return of at least 5% on the money invested*. Effectively the money in a health savings account has no actual “overhead”, and with a return of 5%, actually gains 25% over premiums paid to health insurance companies.  This could also be “backed up” by a major med policy that has a very large deductible. These policies at the current time are far less expensive than a general full coverage type of insurance.

* Vanguard index funds invested 50/50 in stocks and bonds.

 

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Medical Freedom… More Money In Your Pocket!

One thing that most people don’t understand is that part of the reason our present health care system costs so much is because we lack the freedom to make choices for ourselves. Doubt this?  “Google” GoodRx. GoodRx gives you the prices charged by drugstores for various medications. You will note that these prices vary both by the drugstore and according to the type of medicine you are purchasing with your doctor’s prescription. Take for example of the cost of insulin for diabetics. The cost effectively varies from about $1000 a year (Novolin 70-30 at $25 a vial) to about twelve times ($12,000 for 40 vials of Humalog or Lantus). There is some variation among insulins, but they all reduce blood sugar for diabetics. Of course for those with health insurance, the insurance company will “pick up” some of the cost, with the rest being up to you to pay. Obviously controlling your blood sugar can result in considerable savings, especially for those dependent upon insulin. As diabetes is caused (type two) by excessive consumption of carbohydrates, it makes sense to do what you can to avoid becoming diabetic in the first place…  At least dependent upon insulin to control excess blood sugar.

The type of insulin the doctor will prescribe for you of course makes a big difference in costs. Unfortunately doctors do not usually consider “cost” as their first priority, and getting a doctor to start with the lowest cost and work up from there can be a problem. Part of the problem here is that the drug companies would “prefer” that your doctor only prescribe “brand name” medicines since these are what the drug companies make the most profit off. The doctor may “justify” to himself (or herself) that the drug prescribed is “better” than any of the lower cost generics available. Or simply figure you can “afford” it.

The real problem here is prescription laws that give your doctor a legal government enforced monopoly over access to medical drugs. Without these laws patients would likely decide for themselves how much they feel is worthwhile to pay more for medicine. This is one of the major advantages of life in a libertarian society over the “statist” society we now live in. Effectively, when you are allowed to make these decisions, your own decisions will be different in many cases from what your doctor is likely to suggest. It should be understood that with few exceptions, people generally prefer to make more than less money, even if the individual seeking their services would prefer to spend as little as possible. Of course someone with “first rate” employer paid health insurance is less likely to care because the cost of the more expensive medicine is coming out of his employer’s pocket, not his. Such a person is also much more likely to “go along” with whatever his or her doctor recommends than someone who has to watch every penny!

What about the insurance company? Do they care what the doctor prescribes? Not all that likely as they can “recover” the additional cost through higher premiums in most cases. So insurance companies really don’t worry that much about the cost of medical care. This is especially true today with Obamacare where people are forced to purchase health insurance (from a private provider in most cases) or pay a “fine” to the IRS.  Too, as with prescription laws you are “stuck” with what the doctor prescribes, you really do not have that much of a choice in the matter. You may be able to switch doctors, but for the most part, thanks to their professional organization, the AMA, you are dealing with people who for all practical purposes are as “unionized” as any labor union member is!*

*This is why the members of the “licensed professions and occupations” earn the money that they do. They have the power of “government” standing behind them, which gives them the power to extort more money from people than they could without government.

This is why as I have pointed out in previous posts, that “breaking the power” of the organized licensed professions and occupations would result in savings of over a trillion dollars a year if not more. Without the power of government behind them, they would have to “compete” in the free market like anyone else, which historically has always been one of the best ways to hold down the cost of goods and services to the general public. It would be necessary that people “educate” themselves about these things, but this isn’t all that difficult to anyone who is willing to take the time to “educate” themselves about these issues. Not much different than educating yourself to obtain a better position and income. Yes, it would take “time”, but the money you could save would certainly be worth it…

You will note in all this that neither of our two major political parties is willing to support anything like this. Most likely because a large number of elected officials are in fact members of the licensed professions and occupations.  Who naturally watch out for the interests of their own group. And oppose any idea that might reduce the incomes of their “group”. So we have a group of people, generally upper middle class and above, who are the ones regulating what we do. The laws that we are forced to obey. Unfortunately many of our own libertarian candidates have come from these groups, which is one very good reason (as I’ve discovered) that libertarian organization appear to have little if any interest in resolving these problems. One group which I corresponded with considered the “legalization” of marijuana to be of greater benefit than the repeal of prescription laws! So we have libertarians who believe it is more important that people are allowed to smoke or otherwise consume marijuana than it is to repeal laws that add hundreds of billions of dollars to our health care costs!

 

 

 

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What if there was no government regulation of people’s lives?

Let’s assume that we live in a society without a  government that is allowed to pass laws that favor some people over others…  There are no copyright or patent laws. Early in our history we didn’t pay attention to such things.  No licensing, regulation of business as now. Anyone is free to offer whatever services they feel able to provide. No drug laws, no prescription laws, no laws against importing things from other countries. No zoning laws that limit what people can do with their own property. “Minding your own business” is the rule of the day. There are traffic laws, but the only law is regarding harming others. There is a strong prohibition against the passage of any law where there is no “victim”. People are free to make their living any way that they wish, as long as they do not use force or fraud. Violence against others is prohibited except in cases of self defense.

Much of the legal system we have today dates back in history to when monarchs had the authority to grant legal rights to certain people regarding what could and what could not be done. Copyright and patent date from this era. The king (or queen) could give you a “royal monopoly” to do certain things that were denied to everyone else. Groups of skilled artisans would form a “guild” (like a professional organization) to prevent others from providing the same goods or services. The guild effectively reduced the supply of goods and services which allowed its members to earn higher incomes than before. The first labor unions were limited to skilled workers (craft unions) as “bargaining units”. Again the idea was to obtain a higher income through reduction of those allowed to provide the goods or services. Restriction of supply has always been a method to gain higher incomes, a policy that appears to go back some thousands of years with the formation of cartels, trusts, various economic monopolies over some needed substance.

All of these sort of things require the use of “force” in one way or another to function. One method is to hire “thugs” to beat up (or even kill) those who refuse to “go along”. Anti-union actions by business in the 19th Century sometimes even went to this point. Another “tactic” was to use law enforcement or if necessary the military to “break” the attempts to form labor unions. The owners of the big corporations of the era were often ruthless men willing to do whatever was necessary to prevent the unionization of their workers. It was a considerable “help” to have a national government that would agree to do most anything that “big business” of the day wanted done. This is also why there was a sometimes violent “anarchist” movement in reply, as many people understood that it was the combination of “big business with big government” that was the “problem”… In effect, it was understood that without the armed force of government, big business was limited in what it could do to prevent the organization of workers for an improvement in their pay and working conditions. As a matter of fact, throughout our national history, the US government has been more often on the side of business than the people. It has also been “on the side” of certain groups, assisting them through law and regulation to earn higher incomes than what they could ever earn without the power of government behind them. So reducing the power of government is one way to “balance the scales”.

The claim will be made that “government makes life better” for most people. The idea being that without government regulation, we would suffer from unsafe food, drugs, unlicensed medical providers, and every other problem government supposedly solves. The major problem with this is that government does a poor job of seeing to our safety. Also it creates more problems than it solves. It increases the cost of living by as much as $6,000 a year per capita. People are prohibited from using their skills and talents to employ themselves and serve their willing customers because of government laws and regulation. All in the name of “public safety”, where it fails more often than it succeeds. It deprives the sick of medicines proven safe in other countries. Our government has also made enemies out of those who were “collateral damage” from our drone attacks. Then there are laws like “civil forfeiture” where you have to “prove” your innocence of a crime instead of the other way around which is the way it should be in a free society. Our drug laws have given us the world’s largest prison population both in absolute numbers and upon a per capita basis. We have the world’s most expensive health care, but despite the fact we pay “more”, our health statistics hardly qualify us as a “first world nation”. As for “food safety”, we allow things that the rest of the developed world doesn’t allow in theirs. Which may be one reason that our health statistics are as bad they are today.

In conclusion, it appears that we are losing more than we gain by allowing government to rule our lives as it does. And what applies to the federal government also applies to state and local government. The “harm” done seems to be greater than the “good” that it does. Part of the problem of course is politicians who fail to serve those who elected them to office. Many of them appear instead to serve those who financed their expensive political campaigns instead of the American people. We also have seen the consequences of the “cuts” in services to our veterans, some of whom have died waiting for medical treatment because Congress decided to cut the amount of money that was allocated to the VA for health care. Proof, I suppose, of the low value placed upon their lives by our politicians. Who live like the aristocrats of another era rather then serving the American people.

 

 

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Smoking… A question of personal freedom and social cost?

I will be 76 years old in October of this year, so you can see that I’ve been around for a while. I was born here in Muskegon, Michigan back when we were still living in the Great Depression back in 1938. At that time, most adults smoked cigarettes. My parents both smoked. My mother quit in the last few years of her life and died at the age of 87. My father smoked his entire life and died at the age of 82. You will note that both exceeded the average age at the time of death for Americans today, let alone what it was 23 years ago when my mother died. My father likely did die from smoking as he had a heart attack which had caused his death a few years earlier. My mother died of a disease that also did in her own mother back in the 1960’s, a disease (Alzheimer’s) which has no known relationship to smoking. I mention these facts to illustrate that the reality is actually quite different from the myths today told about smoking. Yes, people did die from the effects of smoking. It does damage your lungs, and in sufficient time, may kill you.  I had an uncle who died from smoking, although it is just as likely that it was exposure to lung damaging industrial smoke and vapors from working in a foundry that eventually killed him. We forget that in the past, workers were exposed to a number of hazards that are now prohibited by law. But for those who lived during the Great Depression, men did in fact take jobs that given time, could cripple or even eventually kill them decades later.

Today obesity is a major social problem. Oddly enough, it didn’t become a problem until relatively recently. Today there is a great deal of concern over the medical and social costs of obesity. It is really a late 20th, early 21st Century problem. It didn’t exist until about the time of the Reagan administration, which is when the anti-smoking campaigns got going. It is definitely a “growing problem” today, one that is of considerable concern. The obese not only die earlier, but they also often have expensive medical problems such as diabetes, which when you become “insulin dependent”, can also be extremely costly.*

* I used the cost of insulin as an example of high medical costs in my previous post.

One difference between the costs of smoking and obesity is that while smokers usually experience their problems towards the end of their lives, the obese experience problems sometimes as soon as they reach adulthood. Once insulin dependent, they are locked into expensive costs of medication, frequent lab tests and doctor visits. For those who are curious, I suggest a visit to “GoodRx”, which you will have to use Google to access until you can bookmark the url. You will see that the cost of a vial of insulin will cost from a low of about a hundred dollars to three times that. Granted, medical insurance will help, but the co-pay (all insulins are brand name, there is no generic) will be high. There is also the cost of the meter, test strips, needles, along with quarterly visits to the hospital or doctor’s office lab along with the cost of office visits to the doctor. Overall, the costs can easily run into the thousands of dollars a year. Which, especially for someone starting out in life, or paying off student loans, can be a heavy burden to carry. Plus, as a rule, diabetics will also suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, adding to the costs of their medications. So the problem of obesity and type two diabetes (which is the type of diabetes the obese end up with) run up our health care costs considerably. In fact, the health care costs of obesity and diabetes are likely greater than those caused by smoking!  In effect we decided to eliminate one medical problem that usually affected those later in life and replaced it with one that now is effecting people much younger at higher lifetime costs! Not exactly the most intelligent thing we could have done, I’d say.

One of the driving forces behind today’s obesity is that we have more carbohydrate dense foods today than we had in the past. More access to fast food, more candy, sweets, etc.  A smoker has a lower appetite, can skip meals easier, diet much easier if needed (voice of experience) than can the non-smoker. In effect, cigarettes to some degree replace food. Despite government efforts, the media, Americans are becoming more obese. One of the major problems here is that those who sell food have much greater economic power than the tobacco companies ever had. Plus, the obese diabetic is a “money tree” to the medical profession, to the drug companies. So we have entire industries, the medical profession who profit off obesity. Plus all the “diet” companies, who are also highly profitable.  This is likely why resolving this problem is likely for all practical purposes to be impossible…

We have exchanged one “vice” for another. And food addiction is likely even harder to control than smoking. No doubt a Libertarian society could go back to smoking, which would save considerable amounts of money, but politically, it is likely to be “difficult”. Oddly enough, smoking did prevent auto most immune diseases according to the book on ulcerative colitis that I read recently. Ulcerative colitis is an auto immune disease that only non-smokers can get according to the gastroenterologist who wrote the book. And of course obesity wasn’t a major problem back when most adults smoked. So perhaps we aren’t as “smart” as we thought after all…

Jerome Bigge, writing as “muskegonlibertarian.wordpress.com”

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How much less would medicine cost without prescription laws?

Check out this website below… A prescription for medical freedom!

http://www.fatalblindness.com/FREEDOM001002/htm

Return to blog:

Assume prescription laws are repealed (like the proposals to repeal marijuana laws), how much money could you save by practicing “self care” (doable today with adequate study and internet access) for many of the things you now would have to pay a doctor for a prescription for? (There are things you ‘d still need to have a doctor do for you and you will still need to have lab tests for some things, although not as often as a doctor might recommend.) As a Libertarian, you are now taking responsibility for your own health…

You will find if you take the time to study (time will depend upon previous knowledge and locating the sources of information that you need) that for many conditions there is a choice of medicines. Often there is an expensive “brand name” drug and a less to much less expensive generic drug, both of which can be used to treat the same condition. As a “rule of thumb”, start with the lowest cost medicine used for your medical condition and work up from there. Doctors should be doing this, but the drug companies “encourage” them to prescribe brand name medications when a generic might work just as well.  This is one reason “why” US health care is so expensive. As the doctor is in control of your health care and access to medical drugs, the drug companies are well aware that that if they can get your doctor to prescribe brand name medicines instead of generics, then they will greatly benefit financially. Nor is it difficult to get doctors to do this as providing doctors with “benefits” for prescribing a certain drug over another is apparently quite legal. Plus, doctors are “businessmen” who practice medicine, and like any businessman, are in business to make money. In most cases, they practice medicine as it pays better and offers the benefits of being “your own boss” instead of working for someone else. Granted, they will rarely admit this, but you will note that many of them refuse to take Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays less than does Medicare with private insurance paying the most. This is no different than any business. If you have as much business as you can “handle”, and doctors are in this position, then you naturally take the business of those who are willing to pay the full price for your services “first”, with any lower cost services or charitable services coming second. Lets be honest about this: Very few if any people are willing to work for “free”, at least more than just upon some occasions perhaps as “volunteers”. And since the doctor incurs costs for every patient he or she sees, naturally the incentive is to put those who can pay your fee those you see first…

Too, in the case of primary care physicians, the “demand” for their medical services exceeds the supply of available physicians, so there is even less incentive to provide services without payment. It also appears that many of those now signing up for Medicaid under Obamacare will find at least some level of difficulty in finding a primary care doctor willing to take them as a regular patient. There is also the problem that the American Medical Association is strongly opposed to using physician assistants and nurse practitioners as independent providers of primary care services despite the fact that with today’s technology, the development of medical computer software, the task of diagnosis of disease is less difficult than it was in the past before these developments took place. I should also note that the ability of doctors to accurately diagnose disease is considerably less than thought. I speak here from personal experience. The problem is due to the amount of time necessary to deal with the research and checking your own diagnosis against the available data. Realistically, no doctor can afford to do this today!

A private individual on the other hand, given internet access and the knowledge to know what to look for, can do a more accurate diagnosis than a doctor is likely to do simply because the private individual can spend the necessary time (perhaps measured in hours) to actually determine the true diagnosis. The doctor probably could do this faster thanks to greater knowledge, but he or she simply cannot afford to spend the time doing the necessary research either in reference books or on internet websites such as WebMD or the Mayo’s website among others that provide much the same sort of data to search.

Returning to the issue of prescription level medical drugs, the number of such drugs and their effects has grown to such levels today that expecting your doctor to know what all the side effects of the drug of choice actually are. You can obtain a list of these from sites such as WebMD and Mayo’s, as well as from “Drugs.com”. Again, this is time consuming, enough that while you may be willing to spend the time, it is unrealistic to expect your doctor to do so. All this indicates that “prescribing for yourself” might well be “safer” than having your doctor do it. Especially as your doctor is very unlikely to be able to give you a list of all of the possible side effects and warnings any drug may cause you.

In conclusion, it may be concluded that patient safety is likely to be higher without our prescription laws because the patient is far more likely to take the time to research the effects of the drug in question than the doctor. Of course there are those who do stupid things, and no doubt they would do so too with medicine, but prescription laws really cannot protect people from their own stupidity. Just as no law can prevent a drunk driver from speeding down the freeway at 100 mph to crash against a bridge abutment with the result that the wreck will have to be torn apart to collect what remains after the crash…

So what about cost?  I refer the reader to check out “GoodRx.com.” Here you will find the various retail prices of medical drugs. You will also note that the cost of drugs even in the same “medical family” varies quite a bit, depending upon the source and type of drug. Let’s take “insulins” for example: You will see that there is about a 3 to 1 variation in the costs of insulins. The “novolins” appear to be the cheapest of the insulins available and for a cost conscious diabetic who is “insulin dependent”, would likely be their first choice. However, a doctor might have other opinions, especially if he or she is being “influenced” by the drug companies, who would of course prefer that he prescribes one of the more “profitable” drugs. Today you hardly have a choice except to either go along with the doctor’s prescription, or find a different doctor more willing to prescribe what you want. However, without prescription laws, the choice is yours to make, not the doctor’s. That is one of the major advantages of libertarianism. You, the patient, are the one who makes the decisions, not some MD who might be overly influenced by the drug company. Don’t forget here, US drug companies earn one of the highest return on investment of any class of business, and this is doubtlessly one good reason “why”!

However, unlike with Democrats or Republicans, who are both “statists” when you come down to it, libertarians of all types oppose giving government this sort of power over you. Realistically, only libertarians can reduce the cost of health care without introducing some sort of “rationing” of services or choice of medicines. No other political party can claim this. Not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not the Greens, only Libertarians!

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