More Bipartisan Foolishness

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Members of both parties have introduced to Congress a bill that would ban "genetic discrimination". Don't look for our President to veto it, either. He called for such legislation recently in a speech before the National Institutes of Health.

The bill would prohibit employers from using genetic information about an employee's predispositions for certain medical conditions when making hiring, firing or job placement decisions. The bill's proponents paint fears about a world in which genetic risks for certain medical condition will lock people out of jobs. A world where your uncontrollable physical characteristics can keep you out of certain jobs sounds scary. But that is until you realize that we've always lived in that world. You won't find people the size of hobbits in the NBA, and you won't find people with below average IQs as Ivy League college professors (OK, OK, well, not many).
And what the bill's proponents do not do is get the picture of what the proper function of government is: namely, the protection of individual rights.

No one has the "right" to a job or service provided by someone else, to set the price another will get for providing a service, to force someone not to avail himself of the best information available when making a decision, or to force someone to do business with someone he does not wish to.

Unfortunately, this bill ignores exactly these things as it threatens the ability of every employer and every insurer to make rational decisions about whom he will do business with.

-- CAV

8 comments:

Galileo Blogs said...

Unfortunately, this type of regulation is fully consistent with existing regulation of the health insurance industry. It is an extension of widespread regulations such as "guaranteeed issue" which mandates the offering of health insurance to anyone who asks for it (whether they are healthy or sick) and "community rating" which forces insurers to ignore many individual differences among health insurance customers in setting rates. Instead, everyone must be offered the same rate as if they all have the same statistically average level of health.

Laws such as these (and there are many more) have made health insurance absurdly expensive, which the advocates of socialized medicine then use as an argument why "free market" medicine failed and why it must be socialized!

Controls breed controls, and the bad consequences of controls are used as an argument for still more controls.

Of course, that remains true until the proper philosophical and economic principles become widely understood. When that happens, lawmakers and voters conclude that the solution to the problems caused by controls is *repeal*. It happened in the 1700s and 1800s. It will happen again in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

Gus Van Horn said...

It also builds on the current state of confusion about whether the government should merely not treat certain classes of citizens differently (as it should; e.g., not have Jim Crow Laws) or should actively force people to accommodate others (as it should not; e.g., impose such measure as racial quotas).

Galileo Blogs said...

Yes, government actively manages our lives through prohibitions and mandates, rather than simply enforcing laws against the initiation of force so that each of us can be left alone.

It is the difference between how a parent treats a young child versus how one adult interacts with another. Instead of "live and let live", it becomes, "live as I say... or else."

From a psychological perspective, what strikes me about government mandates and prohibitions is that lesser minds than mine can tell me what to do. A busybody in some agency can tell me what pesticides I can spray on my trees, what substances I can ingest, what I can watch on television, what medicines I can buy, how much I can pay my employees, etc.

Regulation really is the "tyranny of little minds." These are small, busybody minds. I have met many regulators (in the electric utility industry, in particular). Nearly without exception, these people are not the best and brightest. (Even if they were, they could not regulate properly, because of the problem of information and preferences, but that is another discussion.)

Even if a regulator has relatively benign motives, nearly all regulators share a common characteristic: they *believe* in regulation. So, when they take office as a regulator, they *regulate*. They (almost never) stand back, and reduce their role as regulators. They expand it, because they believe in it. An example of this type is Christopher Cox, the head of the SEC. While reportedly "pro free market", he has stepped up SEC activity in many areas and enacted new regulations. I am sure that he rationalizes all of it, in his mind, as necessary for "preserving the free market." If only there were a truly free market anywhere left to preserve.

I did get to know one rather "good" regulator, once. Unfortunately, she was a minority of one on the regulatory body she sat on. If she were part of a majority, she very well might have been similar to that historical regulator, Alfred Kahn, who pushed for legislation that led to the elimination of the regulatory board he was head of, the Civil Aeronautics Board. He was no advocate of laissez faire, but he was the architect of the large-scale partial deregulation of the airlines in the 1970s (under Pres. Jimmy Carter, no less). Alfred Kahn is an extremely rare exception to the typical regulator.

Gus Van Horn said...

[begin misanthropic semi-rant]

"From a psychological perspective, what strikes me about government mandates and prohibitions is that lesser minds than mine can tell me what to do. A busybody in some agency can tell me what pesticides I can spray on my trees, what substances I can ingest, what I can watch on television, what medicines I can buy, how much I can pay my employees, etc."

This really struck a chord with me, but for slightly off-topic reasons. I find it personally very annoying (and to a fault, because it causes me to tend resist good suggestions if they remind me of meddling) is the whole mentality of the meddler (and I am sure regulatory agencies attract them in droves). It's as if they don't feel like they're doing productive work unless they insert themselves into everyone else's decision process, and regardless of whether their "help" is requested or appreciated.

It's the psychological equivalent of having a pebble in your shoe. As I once barked at someone: "I don't need or want an intermediary between my mind and reality."

Meddling strikes me as profoundly disrespectful of the intelligence of the "meddle-ee".

[end misanthropic semi-rant]

Galileo Blogs said...

Pebble removers = lawyers. Lawyers who work for business are largely pebble-removal specialists. Of course, there are some lawyers who specialize in trying to insert pebbles into the shoes of competitors (e.g., via the antitrust laws). But for the most part, lawyers in business exist to find ways for businesses to get their jobs done, despite the regulatory pebbles that slow them down.

As for how a pebble feels, I agree with you completely. The best psychological balm for those pebbles is the writings of Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged or the The Fountainhead or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal in the hands of a business executive gives him the psychological fuel to run, despite those damn pebbles in his shoes!!

(But I suspect you knew that already, Gus!!)

Gus Van Horn said...

My wife thinks I'd be a good lawyer as do my in-laws. I am not so sure. I can argue very well, but keeping track of all those pebbles would drive me batty, for starters.

(This comes up because I contemplated a career move into IP law some time ago.)

Inspector said...

"My wife thinks I'd be a good lawyer as do my in-laws. I am not so sure. I can argue very well, but keeping track of all those pebbles would drive me batty, for starters."

Funny, lots of people say that about me, too. My father, a lawyer, is always nudging me toward law school. I've tried to explain to him and others how the non-objective law we have in this country would cause me to go insane if I had to deal with it every single day. Memorization of arcane tomes of useless minutiae ("legal precedent") is not my idea of a good time. Yes, I'd be good at the logic part of the job. But I'd be utterly miserable with the other 60-90% of it.

At least my wife gets it.

Gus Van Horn said...

You jogged my memory with your mention of non-objective law, which is a big part of what would drive me nuts....

Back in college, a friend suggested, based on my opposition to taxation, that I become a tax attorney! I am sure that in his mind, he somehow saw this as the best way for me to make myself able to "do something about" taxes.

I saw immediately, though, that I would be beating my head up against a wall, having to study the minutiae of something I opposed at root and worse, operating within (and depending upon for survival) a system I despise, one that effectively takes as an axiom the premise that private property does not exist by right.

This would be psychologically impossible for me. But it was good for a very good inward chuckle back then!