Monday, September 21, 2009


Does nothing ever change? Looking back on the so-called "Golden Age" of the Roman Empire, 50 years after the death of Nero, here is the emperor Hadrianvs Avgvstvs (Hadrian), the second of the adoptive emperors advertising his standard method of mollifying the Roman population to keep them quiet in the face of his foreign and domestic policies. Like Barack Obama, Hadrian toured Europe and visited Egypt, giving speeches and making his presence known. And like Barack Obama, Hadrian used his government to provide cash handouts for his clients and supporters. He issued coins like the one above and similar ones, in their millions, commemorating his every exploit, as if they were tweets, the better to remind the people of his generosity and his patronage.

On the reverse of the coin above, a silver denarius, the emperor is shown sitting on a raised platform behind two officials, one with an abacus, while the other dispenses cash to a citizen who stands, unapologetically before the dais, the folds of his robe open to receive the coins. Under the dais the inscription reads LIBERAL AVG, a commemoration which remains to this day, 1,890 years after the minting of this coin, an easily understood paradigm for political success.

Like Hadrian, Obama is a famous patron of the arts. Like Hadrian, Obama has the the support of the glitterati and the governing elites. Like Hadrian, Obama has forbidden torture.
Like Hadrian, Obama is a fervent (albeit hetero), supporter of gay rights. As Hadrian did, so is Obama in the process of surrendering his predecessor's conquests in Mesopotamia to the Persians. Like Hadrian, Obama has taken the side of the Palestinians against the Jews. In fact, it was under Hadrian that the land formerly known as Judea came to be called Palestine for the very first time. Like Hadrian after his death, Obama has been "deified", despite being still in office. It remains to be seen whether Obama will continue to channel Hadrian, that most benevolent of autocrats, in forming his own version of the frumentarii: loyal followers who, at the the emperor's insistence acted as his personal spies.

Despite being called by some of his critics ignorant of the past, it seems pretty clear that Barack Obama is well on his way to re-enacting almost verbatim, a fairly sophisticated slice of history. Of the ancient and imperial variety.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sustainability: Graft for the Earnestly Spiritual, Planet-Saving Rent-Seeker. Green is the new Gold

All too often, in today's greenspeak parlance, "sustainable" means subsidized. It doesn't have to be, but it has been and continues to be the most disingenuous and egregious of eco-jargon patois passed-off as earth-friendly by the progressive non-profits , corporatists, and other rent-seekers of the left. All of the HOV pomposity of the planet-savers and the LEED certified architects at their conventions can't make it otherwise, despite all of their earnest declaiming and seriousness of purpose.

Here's the reality: if a green system, concept, product or energy solution is being offered as "sustainable", and its use therefore imperative, it should be assumed unless it can be demonstrated otherwise, that there is a government subsidy embedded somewhere within it to propagate it. It might be a mandate, it might have its production or labor costs underwritten, its competition may be abolished or selectively taxed, or perhaps some level of government is its primary customer. If any system or concept or energy solution is being referred to as "unsustainable", then, almost invariably, it is privately financed, already, or about to come under government oversight, and probably involves hunting, mining, drilling, manufacturing, cropping or fishing, in one form or another in exchange for money at market prices. The trendier opponents of such "unsustainable" activities will tend toward, or even fully embrace, the beliefs that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and a poison and contraception is "the cheapest way" to combat "global warming". Doomsday is right around the corner.

Rent-seekers are completely predictable (and sought after) by government bureaucracies, and their goals are therefore "sustainable". They are the segment of society the bureaucrat can most readily plan for--and measure. Instead, the entrepreneurs, the wildcatters, the venture capitalists, the innovative production farmers and independent inventors of all stripes, who, by engaging in risk-taking endeavors beyond legislative imagination create and maintain with their hard work and incremental improvements the technical and theoretical bases of all advances in civilization, these are the "unsustainable" ones: yet they are as indispensable as they are incommensurate. These are the people who have no need to fill in the endless and intricate government grant and assistance forms that keep the union bureaucrats at their desks working so diligently day-in and day-out. They ask for nothing more than an opportunity and a marketplace. In a politically-driven economy such behavior is discouraged to the point of being unsustainable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Magic Beans of ObamaCare

The Democrats controlling the U.S. Congress are ready to trade the worn-out cow of economic sanity for the magic beans of ObamaCare. For many of us, like silly Jack, magical thinking transcends good sense and a hopeful and enticing story is enough to persuade. Leading us along down this road, are our representatives, and others with a callous will to power and political advantage.

The story is that the American "healthcare" system is "broken" and can only be fixed by falling one and all, into the welcoming arms of the federal government. As has become customary, the government will use private businesses to the greatest degree possible to implement their plans, just as they currently compel them to be their (uncompensated) revenue collectors and record keepers for sales, income and excise taxes to fund everyday government operations. Yet the proposed government plan can only claim success by virtue of adding more regulation.

Nominally accounting for some 20-30% of the current "healthcare" costs are the salaries of paper shufflers inside the care providers' offices who send (meaningless) invoices to patients, while at the same time processing claims upon their patients' insurance policies, all of which makes the satisfaction of a medical bill a lengthy process. These workers, while dedicated & skillful at what they do, are drawing-off some very big money which adds substantially to the cost of insurance premiums, without ever providing a lick of actual "healthcare" themselves. In addition, there are the government bureaucrats in their thousands, who, at every level, spend their lives as the polar opposites of their private counterparts, sorting, approving, collating and monitoring their reports. They, in turn, report to their current legislative and executive political wings who never stop creating evermore time-swallowing procedural mandates and substantive regulations requiring timely compliance from medical practitioners within the ever-larger loop they create. All government-driven costs.

Add to that the extra 10% or 15% Americans pay for all of the medical research and development financed by American medical device and drug companies that off-shore socialized governments don't perform but benefit from, and another 10% or so for individual state-mandated coverages, plus the aging, litigious, and increasingly risk-averse U.S. population that expects to live forever at any cost, (taking their treatments in the new standard marble-and-oak-paneled clinics and hospitals), and there you have the reasons that the healthcare sector is marauding through the U.S. economy and fast gobbling-up the rest of it. Not to mention the small army of actuaries and attorneys at $200K per year, both in and out of government, that are milking the system on a daily basis.

Lost somewhere in that cacophony of compliance behaviors, lawsuits, marketing costs and paper-pushing are the patients, their doctors and their nurses. Much of the conundrum is a direct result of the legal, financial and social interventions of today's government policies and prescriptions imposed upon the business of doctoring and patient care. So, as is typically the case in Washington, the solution for bad government today is even more government tomorrow.

As Mark Steyn has put it:
Well, says the president, shuffling his cups and moving the pea under another shell, we’re spending too much on health care. By “we’re,” he means you and you and you and you and millions of other Americans making individual choices over which he casually claims collective jurisdiction.

And that, ultimately, gets closer than anything else he says to giving the game away. For most of the previous presidency, the Left accused George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq. Since January, his successor has used the economic slump as a pretext to “reform” health care. Most voters don’t buy it: They see it as Obama’s “war of choice,” and the more frantically he talks about it as a matter of urgency the weirder it seems. If he’s having difficulty selling it, that’s because it’s not about “health.” As I’ve written before, the appeal of this issue to him and to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, et al., is that governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture — one in which elections are always fought on the Left’s issues and on the Left’s terms, and in which “conservative” parties no longer talk about small government and individual liberty but find themselves retreating to one last pitiful rationale: that they can run the left-wing state more effectively than the Left can. Listen to your average British Tory or French Gaullist on the campaign trail pledging to “deliver” government services more “efficiently.”
When Jack finally climbs his beanstalk, ascending into the clouds, the giant he finds there will be a leviathan federal government, devouring everything it can grasp. And Jack will hear the giant bellowing as it bears down upon him, as children have heard since long ago, "Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread..."

And that's what passes for "heathcare" reform under this Congress and this administration.