Thursday, February 5, 2015

There Is No Such Thing as a Free Launch

It is far easier to introduce a government program than to get rid of it. There is almost always a good reason for introducing it, but the program will not go out of existence if the initial need for it passes. The road to Leviathan is paved with good intentions.

Milton Friedman, in Two Lucky People, Milton and Rose S. Friedman Memoirs, University of Chicago Press, 1998

I am pleased to announce the second of my tetralogy of books on the ObamaCare story, There Is No Such Thing As A Free Launch, will be available later this month. This book, like the first book, The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions, is a Kindle E-book.

The title of this second book is a play on words of Milton Friedman’s oft-quoted line, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Friedman (1912-2006), a conservative economist, won the Nobel-prize for economic science in 1976. He wrote two classic books with the help of his wife, Rose, also an economist, Free to Choose (1980) and Capitalism and Freedom (1962).

The Friedmans believed capitalism, with the freedom of individuals to choose, propelled by economic growth, was more efficient and humane than Keynesianism , government stimuli and control with economic stagnation.

The contrast between these two belief systems is what the conflict between Republicans and ObamaCare supporters are all about. Republicans believe private citizens and the private sector should be free to choose their doctors and health plans and to set health care fees while the Obama administration insists government should be in the driver’s seat in designing the system, dictating the rules of engagement between doctors and patients, and controlling the fees.

Higher taxes with redistribution of incomes and benefits, Obama believes, are more “fair” and are necessary to increase federal revenues and expand the safety net. The Friedmans thought a robust free economy was more reliable way to increase revenues, grow the economy, and shrink the need for a safety net.

This second book does not choose one system of care over another.

It seeks to explain why ObamaCare’s implementation and rollout has been so rough.

It documents the chronology of daily events that followed the launch and the first six months of those events, from October 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014.

It sets forth difficulties of an activist government managing massive change of a complex health care system making up 1/6 of the U.S. economy.

It comments on Americans’ resistance to fundamental changes that upsets traditional relationships between government, employers, and caregivers and that impacts every American.

It dwells on the politics and clashes between conservatives, liberals, and ideologues of other stripes and their different world views.

It dives into the nuts and bolts, pratfalls, pitfalls, and bear traps of top-down government command-and-control versus bottom-up entrepreneurship and individual freedoms with choices.

It reveals broken promises and unintended consequences.

It outlines the restructuring of American health care.

It speculates about the future.

We do not, of course, know the future. We know that so far has cost $2.1 billion and may run $40 billion or more in annual subsidies; that, as of yesterday, three Senate Republicans outlined an alternative to ObamaCare; that Congress this month again voted to repeal ObamaCare; that President Obama has vowed to veto any repeal; and that in June, the Supreme Court will rule if federal health exchanges are legal under the language of the health law. Speculating beyond these knowns into the unknowns is beyond anybody's depth perception.

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