How Government Makes US Poorer…

Many people believe (mistakenly) that “government” makes us better off…

The unfortunate truth is the opposite. The more that government interferes in the economy, the worse off we get. Increasing government regulation of more and more activities raises costs and reduces, not increases, the general welfare. Since World War 2, the role of “government” (federal, state, and local) has greatly increased from what it used to be. Our opportunity to “better ourselves” through providing goods and services has been reduced. More and more those who provide any “service” have to be “licensed” by government (federal, state, local). Services that used to be provided by anyone willing to do the work often now require a “license” from “government”. Usually the claim is made that this is done for “the protection of the public”. The truth of the matter is that the “public” is forced to pay higher and higher prices for services that used to be provided by those ambitious to work. To provide valued services at a price that people could “afford”.

This is an entirely different matter from government providing protection against “fraud”. As a general rule, most of these type of services are simple enough that anyone who has any understanding of the principles involved can determine for themselves whether or not the work is done correctly. And in any case a “government license” does not insure that the work will be done correctly or safely. In most of these cases we are not dealing here with something that is incredibly complicated or complex. Things like putting shingles on a roof does not require a great deal of education or skill. It is something that people have been able to do for themselves for centuries before government ever got involved in the issue. The only thing that “government” has been able to do is to increase costs to the consumer.

Government regulation also decreases employment by raising costs. It is illegal to hire someone and pay them less than the minimum wage, even if they are being taught how to do a job. My grandfather got his start in life back in the last years of the 19th Century by starting work as a “trainee” in a foundry. Through learning the foundry business he was able to increase his value to his employer until he ended up as “foreman” over the entire enterprise. He started BTW at the age of 13. His formal education ended with the 5th grade. Today of course no boy at the age of 13 would be allowed to drop out of school, certainly not to go to work in a foundry. And while the “minimum wage” did not exist at the time, the training wage he was paid would probably have been below “minimum”…

A young person today starting out faces “handicaps” that my grandfather never knew. He could work for any employer willing to take “a chance” with a youngster willing to learn a trade. Government at that point in time interfered very little in most people’s lives. If you had a useful skill, you could put it to use for your own benefit without any “licenses” or “permits” from government. You could go door to door seeking work. Today, where I live, you have to obtain a “permit” from my local city government to do such. This of course has “consequences”. Not only is it more difficult for anyone seeking work, it is also more difficult to find someone to do the work without having to search through a list of contractors to find someone willing to do the work. (at much higher cost)

When I was but a boy, we had a farmer who came around with a horse drawn wagon who sold fresh produce from his wagon. This was as I recall while WW2 was still going on and gasoline was rationed. We also had milk delivered to the door (by a milkman driving a truck). You could also call and have groceries delivered. All of these things no longer exist today. Yes, you can buy some food stuffs from Amazon, but there are practical limits on what you can buy this way. Plus there is a shipping cost (concealed in the price of the goods) so the cost is higher in most cases than buying from your local supermarket.

All of this leave little doubt that “government” does increase both our cost of living and the ability of those with lesser educations from using what knowledge they have for their own benefit. In effect government regulation has greatly narrowed what people are allowed to in the form of services to others without first obtaining a government license or permit. It is thus not surprising that we have so many unemployed or underemployed considering the obstacles that people today face in finding a means of supporting themselves! Naturally too this increases everyone’s own “cost of living” well beyond what it would be if government behaved the way that it used to behave back before it became the intrusive “Big Brother” that it has become today…

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Fixing Michigan’s Roads?

Here in Michigan we badly need road maintenance and repairs. Perhaps as much as a billion dollars a year worth! The problem is: Where do we get the money to do it? When Governor Snyder cut taxes on business (under the previous governor, business here in Michigan was heavily taxed), he had to raise taxes on the people of Michigan to balance the budget. Even so, cuts had to be made. Schools had to “make do” with less. The state “Earned Income Tax Credit” was cut, and senior’s pensions were now “taxable”. The gasoline tax was raised, but the sales tax portion didn’t go to the roads, but to schools.

This was the great failure of Proposal 1. In exchange for raising the state sales tax from 6% to 7%, the state would be able to start fixing the roads, give the schools more money, and restore the state Earned Income Tax Credit. The problem was that there was a lack of trust as to “where” the money would go once collected. Sufficient that Proposal 1 went down to defeat by a margin of 80% against to only 20% for. Michigan’s Republican administration doesn’t want to have to raise taxes, but there is little choice but to either raise taxes or start cutting funding for existing programs to find the necessary funds. There are three possible places where this could be done. State support of the tourist industry, state support of economic development of businesses, and the state support of movie makers. The last really doesn’t amount to much, and cutting the others would likely do more harm than good.  There also doesn’t seem to be much interest in raising the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes further, although this to me seems to be a better choice it is “road users” who are paying the tax that goes to support maintenance and repair of the roads on which they drive. And “user fees” (which fuel taxes are) puts the tax directly upon the “users” instead of taxing everyone else as raising the state sales tax would do. Especially now with the much lower prices being charged today for gasoline and diesel fuel. The objections appear to be upon the basis that the working poor would have to pay higher taxes to drive to work.

There is also the problem that Michigan allows trucks weighing up to 82 tons on its major roads. That is a “lot” of weight! And one of the reasons our roads are breaking up. Massive weight causes a road to develop hairline cracks. In the winter, these cracks fill up with water which freezes. When water freezes, it creates irresistible force that widens cracks. The wider crack fills with water, freezes, crack grows larger. The process continues until a chunk of pavement is forced up, knocked out by passing vehicles, and then we have a pot hole that will continue to grow larger and larger with time. It is noteworthy where there are no heavy trucks using the road, there are usually very few pot holes. Proof if any is needed where the damage is being done and “who” is doing it! It makes a lot of sense to tax those who are the major creators of the problem, which can be best done by a “user fee” system that is based upon both mileage and vehicle weight. Or in “ton/miles” here. Taxes would be accessed based upon odometer readings and vehicle weight. Fuel taxes would be eliminated, so the cost gasoline and diesel fuel would be lower than it is now. Collections would be perhaps on a monthly or quarterly basis. Since the weight of all makes of cars is well known, it is only necessary to read odometer mileage every so often. There are various means of doing this, but it is relatively simple and could do done at say a car dealer’s. The “details” of all this would have to be worked out by the state government.

A “user fee” using “ton/miles” would be based upon a fraction of a cent per ton/mile. Todays cars range in weight from about 2500 lbs to about 4500 lbs. Or 1.25 ton/miles to 2.25/ton/miles. A maximum weight truck would be 82 ton/miles. Effectively everyone pays according weight and miles traveled. The roads are financed, taxes are “pay as you go” and only road users end up paying.

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Libertarian solutions to today’s problems.

We seem to be beset with problems that our present political administration appears to be incapable of resolving. Nor do “solutions” like “Obamacare” appear to be “real solutions” to our incredibly expensive utterly monopolistic health care system where for all practical purposes we end up paying twice as much as others do for health care. Our aggressive foreign policies and eagerness to use military force also create additional problems for us. We are creating more enemies, people who hate us for what we’ve done to them, or to their families, their relatives, friends, companions. Sometimes simply because we saw people gathered and a decision was made to launch an attack from one of our drones, often high enough in the sky that only the most careful watch could have detected them up there.

Then we have our problems at home. A divided administration of a Democratic President and a Republican controlled Congress along with an increasingly “conservative” Supreme Court. Higher education that leaves even successful students in debt for years to come, while others, who left college without a degree, are burdened down with tens of thousands of dollars of debt while earning little more in many cases than the minimum wage. And while we have recovered economically to some degree from the “Great Recession”, we still have millions of former workers who have effectively “given up” searching for paid work. Some of them have either “retired” (if old enough) or have eventually qualified for disability payments under Social Security. Creating future added costs for the taxpayers. We tend to have forgotten that our skilled trades people are getting older and retiring without enough young people taking their places. Have you seen what a plumber charges?

Why do we have all these problems? Part of the problem is due to actions in past years and decades by the federal government. We tax our businesses at a higher rate than is the case in virtually all the rest of the developed world. While at the same time the percentage of federal revenue received from the federal corporate income tax continues to fall when compared with the percentage of revenue that we used to collect. Obviously something is seriously wrong here! Another problem is because we have the world’s most expensive health care, employers are paying increasingly high premiums for health insurance for their employees. This of course means that there is less money to pay for everything else!

Additionally, to compound our problems we have a public infrastructure that is frankly “falling apart”. We apparently can no longer afford to maintain it properly. We used to pay for our roads (and their repair) through taxes upon fuel. However today we have more fuel efficient vehicles, so there is less tax money now flowing in to repair and keep up our infrastructure. Here in Michigan it is proposed that we raise the state sales tax from 6% to 7%, with the largest portion of the money collected to be spent upon the roads. However this idea is not all that likely to pass when the people of Michigan vote upon it here in May. One reason of course being that while everyone will have to pay the higher sales tax, part of the money collected won’t go towards the roads or infrastructure, but will go to the public school system which is constantly seeking more money despite little results from what is already spent. It would make more sense to tax those who drive upon a per mile basis instead of passing the burden on to everyone, regardless of if they drive or not. Which makes more sense, not that it is likely to happen given our present politics…

Oddly enough, we now support our state parks here in Michigan by a “user pays” system. Those who wish to use the state parks pay $10 additional registration fees and have a sticker on their license plate that shows that they have paid to use the state parks. So the idea of a “user fee” system certainly is viable. Also, the stress on roads depends upon weight. 40 tons of truck puts a lot more stress on a road than a car weighing at most one twentieth of the same weight. So it would be quite practical to tax road users on weight and mileage. As a libertarian, I see lots of sense in imposing “user fees” than imposing a tax on everyone to pay for solving a problem that is proportionally mostly caused by a few.

I’ve repeatedly given my “solution” to the problem of health care and how to pay for it, so I’ll skip repeating myself on that issue except to say that far too much of our health care dollars is now being spent upon things that have little actual benefit for most people. At one time a doctor’s office only had the doctor and an “office nurse”. Now the same sort of office will have several more people just to do billing, check insurances, and so forth here. Needless to say, this is one of the reasons why our health care is so costly today. Along with the invention of “malpractice” by the legal profession that greatly adds to our costs.

For some reason the government of the United States of America has decided that we should be the “world’s policeman”. That we should use military force to resolve problems on a world wide basis. We have also engaged in “preventive wars” against nations and their national leaders simply because some of our “leaders” have decided that the head of some such countries is a “threat to us” (or “world peace”). We tore Iraq apart in disposing of Saddam Hussein. The “consequences” of this have been the political destabilisation of the Middle East. Then the revolt by some groups in Syria against its dictator with weapons supplied by “interested parties” has led to the creation of an extremist Islamic organization that performs acts so barbaric that the entire world is appalled by them! This organization (ISIS) also has a good supply of US military arms that we left there in Iraq when we left…

Here on the North American continent, we have destabilised Mexico because of our drug laws that have “encouraged” the development of “drug cartels” to supply US addicts. This has also caused “illegal” immigration by Mexicans seeking to flee the terrors of their own country caused by these drug cartels. Add to this the “militarization” of our own police in their increasing futile attempts to control the flow of “illegal” drugs to the point that the police are now becoming more “an army of occupation” than a normal police force. Our drug laws are misguided in that they increase the problem, not decrease it. We also are paying a great deal of money in the form of taxes to support all this. Especially since now due to our drug laws, we now hold more people in total in prison than any other country on Earth! We are 5% of the world’s population, but we hold 25% of total prisoners world wide. Needless to say, since the states pay for most of the cost of prisons, the cost of all this is coming out of your pocket in the form of higher taxes. Too, our civil forfeiture laws are another consequence of our “War on Drugs”. These laws also “encourage” law enforcement to take money from people on mere suspicion that they are “dealing in drugs” without any need for legal proof that this is the case. Especially as the police get to keep the money until the actual owner is able to prove in court that they are innocent of any wrong doing! A few states have acted to resolve this issue, and hopefully more will follow their path.

All in all, we seem to be worse off than we were half a century ago because of the growth of government and its increasing intrusion into more and more of our lives. Unfortunately neither of our two major political parties appears to actually want to “shrink” government. Republicans may claim that they wish to do so, but their own actions are the opposite in that they want more and more regulation of our lives. And of course Democrats now worship the idea of the “nanny state” with “Big Sister” watching over us all…

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Why Government Enriches The Few While Impoverishing The Many.

There is a common delusion that because we can vote for our representatives, that once elected they will act in our favor… However, why should they? We, the common people did not provide them with the economic resources to run for public office. All we provided was our votes. Those who they truly serve are those who made it possible for them to run for public office, provided them with the economic resources to purchase the many thousands of dollars necessary to have even the remotest chance of being elected in the first place.

Who are these people? They are the ones who seek the economic advantages of favored positions in our society. The corporations, the banks, the licensed professionals, anyone who will earn an income or hold a position greater than what they could gain in a true free market economy. The medical profession. The legal profession. The educational profession along with those who “work for the government” . The corporations that seek various tax exemptions, favored trade rules, along with “support” when needed from the Treasury.

Also, those who benefit from government want to make sure that their control of the political system will never be endangered. For this reason the US political system from the beginning was designed to be effectively “controlled” by the upper class, the property owners mentioned in the Constitution as being the group who held the right to vote. Effectively they are about 10% of the population in total or perhaps a bit less here.

If you read the Constitution, you will see that our “Founding Fathers” designed things this way right from the start… Only a relatively small minority of white men had the right to vote. Women, racial minorities were not allowed to vote. Senators were “selected” by state governments, not the voters. The electoral college was designed to ensure that Presidents would be elected by the “proper people”. The Founding Fathers were slave owners, owners of businesses, professionals, and effectively at least “well to do” by the standards of the time. The idea that the “common people” should have a “say” in things was still well in the future. The idea that “business” should be free to treat its workers any way it wished was also a part of things all the way until after the start of the 20th Century. The Civil War ended slavery in 1865, but acceptance of racial equality didn’t begin until a century later.

The major reason we are as we are today is because of the fact that we elect people to public office. Naturally any time you start electing representatives, some will be made “offers they can’t refuse”. This is especially true today given the cost of political campaigns. For all practical purposes, unless you have one of the major political parties supporting you, or are a billionaire (like Ross Perot), running for political office and expecting to win is simply unrealistic. The way the “system” is set up it is impossible for anyone not already a “tool” of the vested interests to win election to anyone more than some local political office. And even here it is extremely difficult to win against those representing the major political parties. This is “why” any libertarian has to run as a member of one of the two major political parties to have any hope of winning any important political office today. Justin Amash of Michigan in the House and Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky.

Which brings us to the question of what is the best solution to this problem? It is obvious that neither of the two major US political parties are able (or even interested) in resolving this issue. However we can look at recent modern history and see a partial solution. The legal changes in the laws regarding marijuana leave little doubt that “change”, if driven by sufficient numbers of politically involved citizens can exert an “influence” on the political system. The same thing applies to the changing public viewpoint of our sexual minorities. Gay marriage is now legal in a number of states. The status of gays and lesbians along with “transgendered” people has changed considerably just in this century alone! States are now finding that the economic costs of our drug laws, the resulting costs of putting millions of people in prison for activities that are not directed against persons or property is becoming increasingly “unaffordable”. The taxpayers are sick and tired of paying taxes just to house people in prison when these people were only a “threat to themselves”…

Then there is the changes in our laws regarding firearms and the carrying of personal firearms for self defense. There are now only a few states left where anyone with a “clean record” cannot obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Much of this is due to one of our major political parties finding that support of this idea was a definite “vote getter”.  So there is ample evidence today that with sufficient popular pressure that seemingly once “unchangeable” laws can indeed be changed or repealed. It is quite likely that one of the reasons for the success of the Republican Party was the support of gun owners. When you are talking millions of voters, it becomes quite obvious that the Democrats made a very serious “mistake” here, one for which they have paid and will continue to pay, a very high price. It is also quite obvious that support of more personal freedom is a winning political policy today. Should the Democrats for example start to support moving many of today’s “prescription” drugs to “over the counter, adult signature required” status, it would be a winning policy for them. Especially as it would reduce the cost of taking care of your health. It is true that Obamacare has reduced health care costs for some, but at the cost of additional taxes on everyone else. Whereas changing our prescription laws would reduce the cost of health care for everyone. And since we’re paying $3,000,000,000,000 a year for health care, anything to reduce that economy crippling cost is an excellent idea…

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Where Libertarians Can Make A “Difference”!

Where can we make a difference? Objectively in order to win support we need to express ideas that will attract support from those who currently support (or vote for) either the Democrats or the Republicans. Ideas that will “win” the support of people who would not normally be considered “libertarians”, but who can “understand” that supporting these ideas will benefit “them”. That they will in fact pay less for certain services once changes are made so that these services are no longer monopolies exempt from the cost reducing power of free competition in an increasingly freer economic market. For the consumer “competition” is a good thing in that it holds down prices and gives you a greater choice.

Those however who provide these services are well aware of the benefits of monopoly in allowing them to charge a higher price for their services. A good way to do this is to involve the government in the role of “consumer protection”. Of course no one dares to mention that the consumer is going to have to pay more both for the service under consideration and the cost of the regulation, most likely in the form of both higher prices and higher taxes. In effect “government protection” comes in the form of higher prices along with more taxation with often the “added benefit” of poorer service than what would have otherwise been the case had the “free market” now been allowed to operate without interference. Another aspect of this is that we are not given any “choice” in the matter. To an increasing amount government “regulation” is now driven by “special interest groups” who likely do not represent the viewpoints of a majority of Americans. Additionally these “special interest groups” do everything in their power to prevent the rest of us from having a “say”. Laws are passed that offer little benefit to most of us, but do require that we pay the costs of these regulations even if they are of no value to most of us. Our drug laws fall into this classification. We now spend something in the neighborhood of a hundred billion dollars a year enforcing laws against “illicit drugs”, prosecuting violators, and then paying the cost of imprisoning them. There is also the negative aspect that our police forces are becoming more and more like the military with an “us versus them” attitude now more commonplace. They are even now starting to look like members of the armed forces!

One reason our health care costs are so high is due to “regulation”. A true “free market” in health care would cost far less than what we have now. Calculating from my own personal experience if we didn’t have prescription laws my wife and I would now save about three thousand dollars a year! (we’re both on Medicare) And Medicare coverage would also cost much less if we had an actual “free market” in health care. Too, with a lower cost of living, all 321 million of us would be better off. Taxes could be lower, there would be little if any need for the massive amounts of health insurance we now have to pay for. Social Security checks would buy “more”, there would be more jobs, etc.  Paying almost three trillion dollars a year for health care is a terrible drain on our economy! Especially as it has been calculated that about 30% of that three trillion dollars is “waste”, “fraud”, along with various forms of “rent seeking” that accompany such large portions of our economy.

Our poorly thought out environmental regulations also add a lot of “dead weight” to our economy. They make everything more “expensive” as the cost of compliance has to be added into the cost of everything we make or buy. There is also the issue of “diminishing returns” in that trying to make things “cleaner” gets more and more expensive with more strict regulation. Eventually you reach the point where further improvement is so costly that it can no longer be produced here in the USA. So businesses move their production to other countries that aren’t so “fussy” about such things. This is one of the reasons why we have so much unemployment today. Why most working people today effectively earn just about the same amount of money as they did decades ago. “Regulatory overhead” also makes it harder to compete with foreign businesses who don’t have to pay such costs.  People may complaint about “taxes”, but dealing with all the various regulations that a business has to deal with today is also a reason why many people give up on the idea of starting their own business. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to start a business here today…

It appears that we also have organized groups who seek to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else. The “licensed professions and occupations” are the same as the “guild” of the Middle Ages where private monopolies were established with the objective of creating a “closed market” where they can charge higher prices to the consumer. Rather similar in many aspects to labor unions which operated on the basis of restriction of the supply of “available” labor with the result of pushing up wages and salaries above “free market” levels. We also have this same sort of thing with “price supports” on some agricultural products. Which means that everyone else has to pay more in turn!

These all appear to be things where a relatively small minority benefits at the cost of everyone else. Where it is easy to show people how they are being forced to pay more for the goods and services they buy because of government regulations that favor one group of people over everyone else. That in truth “Government Is The Problem” in that “special interests” have managed to get legislation passed in their favor. Legislation that forces everyone else to pay more for everything they buy than what they’d be paying without such regulations. That without these regulations, our cost of living would be much lower than it is today…

 

 

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An End To Corrupt Government?

Is it even possible to create a form of government that can’t be corrupted by those seeking their own gain and profit over everyone else? No doubt a lot of effort has been spent upon such an idea. Various “checks” and “balances” have been suggested. Our own “Founding Fathers” appear to have considered the idea, although their solution like all other so far has failed…

Part of the problem is caused by the idea of elections. If people run for election, they either must have either “support” from an organized group (political party) or be independently wealthy as Ross Perot was. Then there is the problem that we don’t elect just one person at a time, but a large number of people who represent various political viewpoints.  Here in the USA we have Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Natural Law along with others. Our elections decide “who” is to govern (or serve in a legislature) in local, state, and national government. Often one candidate will get more “support” than another, and since a certain percentage of the general public makes their decisions off of mass media ads, the more money you can spend, most likely the better you will do when the ballots are counted. So the political party that is willing to spend the most has a good chance of winning the election and taking office. Here locally one candidate for state representative vastly outspent the other, and it must have been felt worth it, because she won by a small percentage (58 votes among about 25,000 cast). Did the “best person win”? Who knows?

The alternative to elections is to do selection by means of a lottery as the Greeks of Athens did. Then the amount of money that one candidate has or doesn’t have makes very little difference. Of course “the luck of the draw” can get you someone unqualified, but that is also possible in elections looking back at history. Every once in a while the “people” do manage to elect an “idiot” who after winning the election proves that he or she is truly “incompetent” to hold their position. Such, I suppose is “politics”… Such people at times do provide “comic relief”, but they can also do “harm” simply because they are “where” they are and their political party is willing to allow them to take “positions” where they are obviously working well above their level of competence.  This is also likely to be a problem from time with a government where representatives are selected by lottery instead of elections. Then there is the issue of “special interests” who want the government to “do things” their way…  We see a lot of this “behind the scenes” with today’s “politics”. Then of course there is the issue where “special interests” can literally “buy” legislation that they want! The most recent examples of this were the Wall Street banks and subprime loans. We came close to “crashing” our economy thanks to such “underhanded dealings”….

One solution to problems of this nature would be to use a lottery to select people whose own identities would be kept secret. Is it possible to do this? We do have the necessary technology to select citizens by lottery as representatives if only very few know their own identities. Each individual would remain in their own home and be connected to everyone else via high speed broadband. There are existing two way video systems for face to face communications. No doubt everything could be “scrambled” to better conceal things. No doubt there would have to be “records kept” somewhere regarding decisions and so forth, but we already have agencies that function for the most part today “behind the scenes”, especially those regarding our own domestic safety from terrorists. The idea is to isolate our political representatives from the sort of “offers” made by “special interests” that will cause them to put those “interests” above our own. This is how certain groups of people gain the “protection” of government from the cost controlling aspects of the free market. The licensed professions and occupations likely enjoy incomes 50% to 100% over what they could earn in a true free market where people were free to buy the medications they wish without having to first pay to get a doctor’s “permission” (prescription) to purchase virtually anything more than just simple OTC medications like aspirin. In effect we have given these people a “license” to force everyone else to pay them for the privilege of being able to take care of your own health. The legal profession is no better, perhaps even worse in their activities. This sort of procedures goes back to the Middle Ages when the “guilds” were organized with the express purpose of limiting people’s freedom to buy what they wanted. Generally at a price lower than what the guilds wanted. This is why the guilds were so willing to allow the governments of the time the power to control things. There is really nothing like “having the government on your side” when it comes to being able to earn (steal would be a better term) large amounts of money from everyone else.

The organization of labor unions is based upon the same basic principle. Employers are no longer free to hire (or fire) whoever they wish. Or set the rate of pay at whatever level is now needed to obtain willing workers. Instead, the union uses the power of “government” to force employers to pay wage and benefit levels higher than those that would be set by the free market. Of course since there are more “workers” than employers, the politician who supports “organized labor” will get more votes even the employers vote for the “other guy”. Thus we had the “Golden Age of Labor” that ended (Reagan administration) when the Republicans were able to create a situation where business could “de-unionize” itself by moving production outside the US to where labor was much cheaper. Mexico was the major beneficiary at first, but then China beckoned with labor costs much lower than those of Mexico. Previous to this time, items produced outside the US were often subject to the tariff, which made them as expensive as union made products built by organized labor in the US. Which issue I will leave for another as to the pros and cons. In any case the fact that American business was able to free itself of both unions and our historical tariffs did in fact greatly change our society from what it had been previously.

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Why We Don’t Have A “Cure”…

Ebola is not a “new” disease. It’s been in existence for centuries at least, perhaps as an endemic disease that existed among certain African animals for a long time. HIV is much the same, another endemic African disease that existed among primates before eventually “jumping” to human beings. Ebola has been known for decades now, but since it was a disease that killed only “third world” people, there was no incentive to seek a cure by the profit seeking drug companies. No drug company would spend millions of dollars creating a vaccine when those who were likely to become victims of Ebola had no means to pay for it. Drug companies are in business (like any other business) to make a profit from what they do. If you can create an expensive new drug, get it patented, you can not only cover the cost of the research, but sell it for many times what it actually costs to produce it. The price will only fall when your patent expires and generic drug makers can produce it for a small fraction of what it previously sold for as a “brand name” medical drug. For example, the popular anti-cholesterol drug “Lipitor” cost a couple hundred dollars a month as a “brand name” drug. Today one can actually get it for “free” from the Meijer chain of “superstores” as the generic atorvastatin calcium. The production cost is now so low that it is given away to encourage people to shop there! Proof if any is needed as to the cost of production relative to what the drug originally sold for! A small percent of its selling price.

What this means is that if a “cure” for a disease cannot be produced at a good profit, there will be no “cure” offered. Additionally, should a drug company discover a “cure” that cannot be patented, they will likely conceal the fact that there is a “cure”! There is some justification in that without a worth while profit, there is little reason to do research except as a “humanitarian” charitable action. This is why we shouldn’t expect “cures” for diseases where a good profit cannot be made from the drug or treatment as a rule. Especially as if there is already a “profitable” treatment available, those who now make their living from treating a disease are unlikely to switch to something from which they can earn little if any profit. Sometimes public support is sufficient if the taxpayers are willing to pay for it. This was the case with the polio vaccine, which was created through government paid research. The individual responsible for the discovery (Jonas Salk) did refuse to allow his product to be “sold to the highest bidder”,  but Dr. Salk was probably one in a billion who would do so…

For example, there is some evidence that a low cost generic drug used to treat high blood pressure is also capable (from tests on mice) of “curing” or reducing diabetes. However the drug companies that make injectionible insulin make a great deal of profit off of doing so. Sufficient levels that they can get Congress to offer them a great degree of “protection” from any possible “competition”. After all, the definition of an “honest politician” is someone who when bribed, remains bribed even if someone else offers them a yet larger bribe… This is so commonly accepted today that no one now thinks anything of it. Drug companies “bribe” doctors to prescribe their product through “under the table” payments. This is one reason why American health care is the world’s most expensive. Anyone with access to a good state wide public library system (as I am lucky enough to enjoy) can find this out this fact for themselves. The drug companies are in business to make money, just like almost any other kind of business. Nor are doctors anymore likely to put your interests first over their own than you would expect from any of the other licensed professions and occupations. There are enough “jokes” about lawyers to leave no doubt what people think of them, and the same holds true with all those occupations where someone stands to gain over someone else. We don’t expect “benevolence” from business, nor should we expect it from anyone else who is in “business” of providing a good or service for profit. It is how they make their living. There is even enough evidence that our “men of God” are quite willing to exploit those who believe in them… It is unfortunate that it is this way, but most likely the trait has existed since the very dawn of the human race. Observation has actually shown that even animals will seek their benefit over another of their species, so it is likely that seeking your gain by such means dates back to the dawn of life itself here on Earth. Since drugs cannot be legally sold without FDA approval, even if someone was to discover a “cure” for an existing disease using an existing FDA approved drug, the FDA would have to authorize such a use. Effectively the government and doctors have a legal power to keep people from treating themselves with a drug that is “legal for use” for something else. Just another way that we are deprived of protecting our health and welfare by both government and the licensed profit seeking professions who are effectively “parasites” living off of us!

Nor does it appear that elected politicians can be relied upon to serve the interests of the people over the interests of profit seeking business. We have plenty of examples that this is so. The professions also buy “protection” from the government from possible competition. The tens of millions of dollars (an estimated “FOUR BILLION” in our recent election) that end up in paying for political campaigns leave little doubt that our Representatives, Senators, and everyone else is “for sale to the highest bidder”. Even if we were to switch to a system where our representatives were selected by lottery from the general population, eliminating elections, we would still have a problem with those seeking political favors and offering briefcases of cash to get what they want. No one has ever invented (yet) a form of government that can’t be “corrupted” by those seeking political favors. All countries, states, localities have people in positions of power that can be made to “see reason” by those willing to pay for such services…  There may however be a solution to this problem which will be the topic of my next post.

Jerome Bigge (jerbigge@toast.net)

“muskegonlibertarian.wordpress.com”.

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