Quick Roundup 224

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Free Drugs

A supermarket chain based in Florida has accomplished what no government can: Provide free drugs to its customers without enslaving a single physician or stealing money from anyone.

Publix supermarket chain said today it will make seven common prescription antibiotics available for free, joining other major retailers in trying to lure customers to their stores with cheap medications.


Wal-Mart last year started offering hundreds of prescription drugs of all different kinds, ranging from diabetes medication to high blood pressure drugs, for $4. It hopes it can draw more shoppers into its stores who may come for prescriptions and then stay to buy in other departments.

Kmart, a unit of Sears Holding Corp., began last month offering a 90-day supply of generic drugs for $15. Now, more than 300 drugs are included in that program.
Of course, nothing really is "free". Some of Publix's customers, for example, will subsidize the free drugs of other Publix customers. However, it is important to remember that Publix, unlike the government, cannot make people go to its stores. All the cost-shifting stays within the Publix customer base and those who don't like it can shop elsewhere. Under socialized medicine, no such option exists.

Interestingly enough, Wal-Mart, with its free prescription drugs on the one hand and its reliance on Medicaid to cover employee benefits on the other, is a mixed case that gives us examples on both sides of the current medical payment debate:
[T]he costs (in taxation) of Wal-Mart in terms of its employees' reliance on Medicare are not Wal-Mart's fault. Its workers, after all, are free to seek other employers and other medical plans. It is the government, by guaranteeing medical coverage to certain income groups, that is in fact, adding to the "cost" of Wal-Mart to the public. Worse still, it does this not just to customers of Wal-Mart, who would (and should) be the only ones affected were Wal-Mart to offer comparable medical coverage to workers currently accepting Medicaid, but to every non-customer taxed to support Medicaid.
So Wal-Mart's cheap drugs show us the morality and practicality of capitalism while its "cost-cutting" on medical benefits shows us the opposite with respect to government "solutions" to high medical costs.

The difference we see here between government power and economic power (i.e., between government force and profit-driven efficiency) is worth remembering when leftists finally come to and decide to pile onto Publix for being so cynical as to offer free drugs.

Unionizing the Blogosphere

Reader Dismuke emails me to the effect that some leftist bloggers want to -- chortle -- unionize.
In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards. [bold added]
Yeah. I want to pay money to some left-wing organization in return for its insistence on deciding whether I meet its idea of "professionalism". That makes loads of sense!

And then there is the following rather revealing, if unwitting confession by would-be union blogger Susie Madrak:
Madrak hopes that regardless the form, the labor movement ultimately will help bloggers pay for medical bills. It's important, she said, because some bloggers can spend hours a day tethered to computers as they update their Web sites.

"Blogging is very intense - physically, mentally," she said. "You're constantly scanning for news. You're constantly trying to come up with information that you think will mobilize your readers. In the meantime, you're sitting at a computer and your ass is getting wider and your arm and neck and shoulder are wearing out because you're constantly using a mouse." [bold added]
So rather than learn a few keyboard shortcuts or get up off one's duff to exercise from time to time, one should seek refuge from personal responsibility within the collective.

If the bloggers' union lobbies for socialized medicine, will Madrak accept obesity being used as a rationing criterion for medical care, as it is starting to be used in that Moore-ian paradise of the British National Health Service?

Global Warming Heretics' Tactics Flawed

Allen Prather pointed me to a story about how the left is pushing the notion of a vast, well-funded conspiracy of what Newsweek calls "global warming deniers". What I found most interesting was the following passage:
Groups that opposed greenhouse curbs ramped up. They "settled on the 'science isn't there' argument because they didn't believe they'd be able to convince the public to do nothing if climate change were real," says David Goldston, who served as Republican chief of staff for the House of Representatives science committee until 2006. Industry found a friend in Patrick Michaels, a climatologist at the University of Virginia who keeps a small farm where he raises prize-winning pumpkins and whose favorite weather, he once told a reporter, is "anything severe." Michaels had written several popular articles on climate change, including an op-ed in The Washington Post in 1989 warning of "apocalyptic environmentalism," which he called "the most popular new religion to come along since Marxism." The coal industry's Western Fuels Association paid Michaels to produce a newsletter called World Climate Report, which has regularly trashed mainstream climate science. (At a 1995 hearing in Minnesota on coal-fired power plants, Michaels admitted that he received more than $165,000 from industry; he now declines to comment on his industry funding, asking, "What is this, a hatchet job?")
This doesn't just ignore the question of whether government funding (far more ubiquitous and plentiful than private) might influence the objectivity of "pro-warming" scientists, and it isn't just an ad hominem attack on anyone who doubts that the scientific question of whether there is global warming has been settled. It is also an allusion to a crucial truth I have discussed here before:
[T]here is a debate (i.e., concerning the proper role of government) which should be going on, but isn't -- that is furthermore being concealed from view by [the left by means of] a poorly-presented scientific debate. But then, that is one of the major purposes of making such a big deal of the scientific debate.
In other words, even ignoring the possibility that the science behind global warming hysteria could be correct, to fail to address the fact that the solutions offered for it violate individual rights is to concede the whole debate to the recycled socialists of the environmental movement.

correctly sees that most global warming "deniers" are failing to oppose its socialist agenda on principle. This is a serious mistake.

This is your brain on Libertarianism.

Via Instapundit is a particularly annoying bit of context-dropping by a Libertarian who thinks he is making the case for anarchy as an effective type of "political-economic organization" by pointing out (1) that even pirates realize on some level that if they don't have some form of social contract, they could all end up dead; (2) that people can and do occasionally, through trickery, keep marauders from simply taking everything they have over and over again on successive raids; and (3) that some governments are so bad that even anarchy is preferable.

His most interesting example comes from the African Interior during the nineteenth century, in which some tribesmen kept themselves from being marauded by Europeans by coming up with a credit-like scheme in lieu of government protection:
Here's how the credit institution worked:

Producers would not produce anything today but would instead wait for middlemen to arrive in their villages looking for goods to plunder. With nothing available to steal the middlemen had two options: return to the coast empty-handed after having made a trip to the interior, or make an agreement with producers to supply the goods they required on the basis of credit. In light of the costliness of their trip to the interior, middlemen frequently chose the latter

According to their credit arrangements, middlemen advanced payment to producers and agreed to return later to collect the goods they were owed. When they returned for this purpose all that was available for taking was what they were owed, so stealing was not an option. Instead, middlemen frequently renewed the credit agreement, which initiated a subsequent round of credit-based trade, and so on.

This simple arrangement performed two critical functions in allowing producers to overcome the threat of force that middlemen presented. First, it enabled them to avoid being plundered, as though they had not produced anything at all, but also to realize the gains from trade, as though middlemen did not pose a threat of violence. Second, it transformed producers in the eyes of middlemen from targets of banditry into valuable assets they had an interest in protecting. If middlemen wanted to be repaid they needed to ensure that their debtors remained alive and well enough to produce. This meant abstaining from violence against producers and protecting producers against the predation of others.
This is indeed remarkably clever, but as Peter Leeson apparently fails to realize, what it (as well as his other examples) fails to do is to protect individual rights -- a goal which does in fact require the existence of a government, and which is the only legitimate purpose of a government.

Note that these tribesmen, rather than being free to trade with others or produce what made the most economic sense, had to plan their entire productive lives around the threat of mass expropriation. They did live, in the bare physical sense, just like many in Soviet Russia "lived" and people in North Korea "live" today, but they did not live lives proper to man.

Not only does Libertarianism show a rather Marxist conception of the progression of history, it also likewise mistakes man for a mindless piece of meat, for which the definition of "survival" need not take into account his nature as a rational being who needs freedom to live properly.

It makes absolutely no sense to discuss how human society should be organized without taking into account what humans are: rational animals.

-- CAV


: (1) Added clause on possible influence of government funding on scientific objectivity. (2) Other minor edits.

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