Friday, May 23, 2014

Anti-Piketty: VA is part of the "social model"

Our liberal friends like to talk vaguely about "working families," although their core voters are often neither workers nor families. But euro-lefties like Thomas Piketty, he of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, are more direct about their agenda.  They call it the European Social Model.  They mean that the state provides basic services like free education, free health care, pay-as-you-go pensions, and income supplement.  And this is a good thing, even if it costs 40, 50 percent of GDP in taxes.

Just like the US Veterans Administration.  It runs a cafeteria of free services for US veterans.  Want health care?  Go to the VA hospital.  It's run just like every government department: for the benefit of the managers and the bureaucrats.

So the VA is hiding its waiting lists.  So President Obama is shocked, shocked that waiting lists are going on.  So everyone is piling on.

Who are we kidding?  The VA operates a government-furnished, government-run "free at the point of delivery" health care system.  Which means that there will be waiting lists.  There's no mystery about this.  It doesn't take dysfunctional bureaucrats or incompetent managers to muck up waiting lists. It's a basic fact of life, courtesy of Economics 101.  Supply and Demand, baby.  If you price some thing at zero, the demand for that thing will be infinite.

Every scarce thing in this world must be rationed.  You can ration it by price, or you can ration it by waiting lists.

And that applies to the VA and everything else in the European Social Model.

Now I know that for our graduates of the French grandes ├ęcoles like M. Piketty, there is nothing more progressive or more just or more social that the "social state" and its "social model".  But you may have a tiny little question mark in the back of your mind about it.  I certainly do.

Because there is an interesting thing about the European Social Model and all its brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts.  It's indistinguishable from the Looting and Plunder Model.

So you're the Frankish king sitting in you capital city of Trier, just west of the Rhine, way back in the good old days of the Frankish empire.  It's spring and it's time for the campaigning season.  What do you do?  You say to your noble supporters and your peasants: Hey, pal, want some loot and plunder and free stuff?  Follow the Frankish banner and come and get it.  So when the snows clear and the forest paths harden up you lead your merry band of pranksters into Saxony and teach the Teutons a lesson.  In the fall you return to Trier with your bags full of grain and silver and loot.

You tell me what is different with the modern politician and his supporters.  What does he say once the election campaigning season comes around?  He offers his supporters free stuff. Health care for the uninsured!  New subsidies for community college students!  No cuts to Medicare!  Higher minimum wage! And at the end of the campaign after the office is won, then it's time to divide the spoils.

Now there is a very advanced and sophisticated way to look at this.  It is the pragmatic method that William James taught us over a century ago.  He said: never mind about realism or transcendentalism or any of that stuff.  Think of things pragmatically.  If the way you deal with A is the same as the way you deal with B, then A and B are, for all practical purposes, the same.

So if the European Social Model is indistinguishable from the Looting and Plunder Model, maybe it's because they, for all practical purposes, the same.

Of course, there's a middle way in this, the medieval feudal system.  In those days the supporters were mostly serfs.  They weren't recruited for loot, but served in the feudal host as part of a system of loyalty and obligation.  They served the lord, and the lord protected them from other lords and the Vikings.  And the lord kinda sorta looked after them, throwing them a few bones every now and again.

But today we are trying to blunder a way out of the Loot and Plunder model to a new system. It's not a looting system, or a servile system, or a free-stuff-social-model system.  It's the system of individual responsibility.  It's completely upside down from the old system.

In the old system you were recruited and you joined up for the loot, the free stuff.  And you fought or worked in the fields in order to get your loot, your right as a loyal servitor.

But in the new system you start not with your loot but with your contribution.  You have to figure out: how can I make myself useful, how can I add value in this crazy, complex world?  How can I make a difference?  How can I find a niche to fill?  Then, you hope, the money will follow.  It's a great system because it doesn't need a great lord divvying up the spoils in some complicated administrative system with its waiting lines and waiting lists.  It just requires people eager to serve and people willing to pay them for their service.

The problem at the VA will not be solved with more money and better administrators.  It will be solved only when we abandon the free-stuff model.  Let's offer the veterans a choice.  You can stay with the free-stuff model, or we can give you an equivalent chunk of change so you can buy health insurance on the open market.

Oh dear.  I see there's a problem with that.  President Obama and his Democratic army just overran the open market for health insurance with their centralized bureaucratized costly unaffordable uncaring unprotected Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

So the president and his party are making things worse instead of better, for veterans and for everyone else.  They are turning the clock back to the days of serfdom and looting and plunder.

And so it goes.

And so it will continue to go until the advanced progressive ruling class finally gives in and abandons its primitive free-stuff model and joins the modern era and its radical idea of individual responsibility.

When that day dawns we may truly say that the state has become social.

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