26 July 2017

A pretense of healthcare

So various exhortations show up to the effect of "stop trying to kill people by taking away their healthcare" in reference to the current American political situation.  ("debate" would be going somewhat too far.)

This is a reasonable thing to complain of, but I think misses the point.

"To spend is to tax", to quote Milton Friedman.  What's going on is the continued assertion that the government has no right to tax.

It has no right to tax because it spends money for bad reasons (that is, to benefit those whom God has judged and found wanting; you can tell because they're poor, or not pale, or female) and because to remove the wealth of good people (to be rich is to be good, and let us pass lightly over those who aspire to goodness but have yet to achieve it) is itself a sin.

That's it.  That's the whole thing. It's internally consistent, and it's easy, and it copies itself into the future really well. It's a looters ethos, indifferent to the simple fact that looting is destructive.  (You might get the gold and the jewels out of Lindisfarne, but you still burnt it down in the process.  People died.  People will freeze and starve.)

This seems to be an inevitable response to wealth concentration; insecurity management by wanting more money is not effective in the long term, because it will eventually break the economy, and then the money can't buy anything.

So right now there's a view that "you know, decency and efficiency and an awareness that we can't predict the future all indicate we ought to have a carefully regulated single-payer health care system" and a view that health and wealth indicate virtue and if you haven't got those things God doesn't want you to have them.  (Yes, this has something to do with White Supremacy the economic system, but it's not quite that.  It's more about who is allowed to be holy (wealthy, same difference) than it is about the direction of resource flow.)  It's not about healthcare or decency or even the strange and terrible religion that money is proof of holiness; it's about the legitimacy of taxation, which must be strongly asserted.

There's a simple fix -- coming up with a better distributed rationing system than money isn't simple, though I'm sure we could and I'm sure we need as good a rationing system as we can possibly obtain because food security's going away at a great pace -- which is to re-monetize, but not at one to one.  If you're rich, you stop being rich.[1]  (If you're a Russian gangster with bales of US hundred dollar bills, well.  You're an idiot, and now you're an unhappy idiot, which might not be an argument against.)  (This is, after all, why FDR is hated with such a complete hate; FDR effectively did this, and made the money less holy thereby.)

Easy, no, not easy, but if any outcome involving a surviving civilization is going to take a certain vehement insistence that the very wealthy participate in the statistics of doleful outcomes anyway, might as well try for better long term stability.

[1] cap income at 10 times the lesser of the mean or the median income; cap assets at fifty times the income cap.  (That is, you worked from 20 to 70, maxed out every year, and kept all of it.)  With a median income around 50 k, that's 500k and 25 million, respectively.  Not a threshold of suffering.)


John Snead said...

I entirely and completely agree. I did see one interesting proposal that would be slightly easier to implement than large-scale currency changes, a permanent WPA style government employment bureau: http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/44/youre-hired/ In combination with universal healthcare, I think this would alter power structures in an exceedingly positive fashion.

Graydon said...

+John Snead

It's just about impossible for a government to lose out by building lasting material structures, as demonstrated by the WPA, and I think such a thing would be good in and of itself. (Robots take all the jobs? Well, boy howdy do we have a lot of ecological restoration work to do; how are you with improving beach habitat? (diversity and disparity in a restored biome, et multi multi cetera.) Solves the unemployment AND artificial labour surplus problem caused by free movement of capital.)

So I think a WPA-like organization would be a good idea, but the other thing the New Deal and the Great Society demonstrate is that you just can't leave concentrated wealth present. There's way too much scope of choice involved in being really, really rich and it will eventually get around to people willing to commit gulag-scale genocide to keep from admitting the legitimacy of taxation again. I don't see anything short of hard income and asset caps that allow for a functioning society; there's some stuff past that, of course, but those are also things that make "functioning society" way less likely.

Mr Wiggles said...

Median income is always less than the mean.

In every economy I've every heard of, or can realistically imagine happening.

How much less than the mean is a useful measure of inequality.

Graydon said...

+Mr Wiggles
If the calculation is done on the same set of people, yes. I wouldn't want to suppose the calculation will be done on the same set of people. I seem to dimly recall that you can move the values rather a lot by defining who has an income or by counting all the people who don't as zero or as some arbitrary value.