NBC nonplussed about slavery, mass murder, cannibalism

We wrote previously about how NBC, in its Olympic coverage, deployed an appalling euphemism by referring to the Bolshevik revolution as a “pivotal experiment.” Well, NBC wasn’t done yet, because later in the week, Meredith Vieira declared the demise of the Soviet Union to be “a bittersweet moment.” As Jim Geraghty noted, this line was even worse than the “pivotal experiment” euphemism

because it suggested there was something sad about the greatest retreat of oppression in modern history. The phrase “pivotal experiments” is cowardly in its unwillingness to judge, but “bittersweet” is worse because it’s the inverse, saluting the oppressor and lamenting his departure.

NBC’s nonplussed attitude toward the crimes of communism was also noted by Jonah Goldberg.

By the time Western intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world, Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery. Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

To read Anne Applebaum’s magisterial Gulag: A History is to subject yourself to relentless tales of unimaginable barbarity. A slave who falls in the snow is not helped up by his comrades but is instantly stripped of his clothes and left to die. His last words: “It’s so cold.”…

Multiply these stories by a million. Ten million.

“To eat your own children is a barbarian act.” So read posters distributed by Soviet authorities in the Ukraine, where 6 to 8 million people were forcibly starved to death so that the socialist Stalin could sell every speck of grain to the West, including seed stock for the next year’s harvest and food for the farmers themselves. The posters were the Soviet response to the cannibalism they orchestrated.

The awful details of the Ukrainian terror-famine, engineered by Soviet authorities in the early 1930s, can be found in Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow.

An agronomist describes finding, on a walk with another official between two villages, a young woman dead, with a living baby at her breast. He saw from her passport that she was twenty-two years old and had walked about thirteen miles from her own village. They handed the baby–a girl–in to the nutrition centre at their destination, and wondered if anyone would ever tell her what became of her mother.

Arthur Koestler saw from his train starving children who ‘looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles’; or, as he puts it elsewhere: ‘the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs and swollen, pointed bellies…’ And this was of families with at least the strength to reach the railway line.

There are many such descriptions of the physical condition of the children. [Vasily] Grossman gives one of the fullest descriptions of how they looked, and how it got worse as the famine closed in: ‘And the peasant children! Have you ever seen the newspaper photographs of the children in the German camps? They were just like that:  their heads like heavy balls on thin little necks, like storks, and one could see each bone of their arms and legs protruding from beneath the skin, how bones joined, and the entire skeleton was stretched over with skin that was like yellow gauze. And the children’s faces were aged, tormented, just as if they were seventy years old. And by spring they no longer had faces at all. Instead, they had birdlike heads with beaks, or frog heads–thin, wide lips–and some of them resembled fish, mouths open. Not human faces’. He compares this directly with the Jewish children in the gas chambers and comments, ‘these were Soviet children and those who were putting them to death were Soviet people’.

Slavery, mass murder, and cannibalism. For anyone like Meredith Vieira on NBC to euphemistically gloss over the enormities perpetrated by communism is absolutely reprehensible.

NBC whitewashes communism

NBC, in an apparent attempt to suck up to the Russian government, on which NBC depends for the privilege of broadcasting the Olympics, trotted out one of those euphemisms that Orwell warned about, which are “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.” Specifically, NBC referred to Russia’s so-called Bolshevik Revolution as “the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.”

First, the “revolution” was not a revolution but a coup; Bolshevik lowlifes armed with handguns broke into the Duma and arrested the parliamentarians. But more importantly, NBC’s “pivotal experiment” involved using unwilling humans as test subjects. And according to the definitive Black Book of Communism, the experiment resulted in the deaths of approximately 100 million of those unwilling subjects.

NBC_communismIn fact, communism in the 20th century constituted the most widespread, comprehensive, and systematic assault on human rights in the history of the world.

communism_tweetIndeed, communism is a murderous ideology akin to Nazism, yet NBC would never dream of trying to whitewash Nazism. The odd double standard is perhaps attributable to the fact that communism always employed the more skillful propagandists. Plus, unlike Nazism, communism as an ideology was never tainted by racism. Communism promises oppression on an equal-opportunity basis.

The NBC promo features beautiful images of Russian art treasures–produced under the regime that preceded communism. But here are some images from the communist era that you won’t be seeing on NBC.

People dead from starvation during the Ukrainian famine/genocideHolodomor 14Holodomor

We agree with the great Garry Kasparov.


No, UD profs, communism doesn’t protect the environment

French scholars put together The Black Book of Communism, which carefully documents that international communism during the 20th century was responsible for the deaths of something like 100 million people. A number of years ago, however, we heard that a UD professor thought that communism nonetheless had a silver lining–protecting the global environment. The professor was telling his students that a downside of the demise of communism was that the newly capitalist countries would produce more pollution. The professor’s idea is an interesting one. Interesting because no one with even a casual acquaintance with the facts of reality could take it seriously for even a nanosecond. Colin Grabow, in a new article at thefederalist.com, shows that communism was in fact much worse, and capitalism much better, for the environment.

When the Berlin Wall came down and the Iron Curtain was finally lifted to expose the inner workings of communism to Western eyes, one of the more shocking discoveries was the nightmarish scale of environmental destruction. The statistics for East Germany alone tell a horrific tale: at the time of its reunification with West Germany an estimated 42 percent of moving water and 24 percent of still waters were so polluted that they could not be used to process drinking water, almost half of the country’s lakes were considered dead or dying and unable to sustain fish or other forms of life, and only one-third of industrial sewage along with half of domestic sewage received treatment.

An estimated 44 percent of East German forests were damaged by acid rain — little surprise given that the country produced proportionally more sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and coal dust than any other in the world. In some areas of East Germany the level of air pollution was between eight and twelve times greater than that found in West Germany, and 40 percent of East Germany’s population lived in conditions that would have justified a smog warning across the border. Only one power station in East Germany had the necessary equipment to clean sulphur from emissions.

East Germany even had a town in the running for the title of Most Polluted Town in the World.

Pronounced by Der Spiegel as Europe’s dirtiest town, Greenpeace as well as government statistics suggested it may have been the filthiest in the entire world. Home to a variety of manufacturing facilities which spewed a witch’s brew of chemical and industrial byproducts into the air and water, Bitterfeld was nothing less than an environmental horror show. This is how the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher described the town in the spring of 1990:

“Here, rivers flow red from steel mill waste, drinking water contains many times the European Community standards for heavy metals and other pollutants, and the air has killed so many trees — 75 percent in the Bitterfeld area — that even the most ambitious clean-up efforts now being planned would not reverse the damage. East Germany fills the air with sulfur dioxide at almost five times the West German rate and more than twice the Polish rate, according to a recent study. One chemical plant near here dumps 44 pounds of mercury into the Saale river each day — 10 times as much as the West German chemical company BASF pumps into the Rhine each year.”

Writing for The New York Times in September of that year, reporter Marlise Simons said of Bitterfeld that “[t]he air stings, and the water in brooks and rivers has turned to syrup[.]” And a 1994 article in the UK newspaper The Independent recalled that in communist times the town’s leaves would turn brown by June, a local guest-house featured “gas-masks lining the walls of the lobby,” and that in the years since reunification “Bitterfeld’s children were sent for up to a month each year to the coast or the mountains” to give their lungs a break from the relentless assault.

The problem was not confined to East Germany. All the other East Bloc countries were polluted too.

[A] 1992 Cato Journal paper noted that “[c]hildren from the Upper Silesia area of Poland have been found to have five times more lead in their blood than children from Western European cities,” while half of the region’s children suffered from pollution-related illnesses. Some areas of Romania, the paper added, experienced such heavily polluted air that horses were only allowed to stay for two or three years.

A similar story was found in the Soviet Union. Writing for the now-defunct (and Ralph Nader-founded) Multinational Monitor in September 1990, James Ridgeway noted widespread pollution of both the air and drinking water:

“40% of the Soviet people live in areas where air pollutants are three to four times the maximum allowable levels. Sanitation is primitive. Where it exists, for example in Moscow, it doesn’t work properly. Half of all industrial waste water in the capital city goes untreated. In Leningrad, nearly half of the children have intestinal disorders caused by drinking contaminated water from what was once Europe’s most pristine supply.”

A 1996 Russia country study published by the Library of Congress’ Federal Research Division described the country’s air as “among the most polluted in the world,” and found that 75 percent of its surface water was polluted and 50 percent of all water not potable according to 1992 quality standards.

The Soviets trashed the environment.

The Soviets trashed the environment.

The author of this article not only did a superb job summarizing the evidence of environmental destruction, he even put his finger on the economic reason why communism was so bad for the environment: the lack of property rights.

[C]ommunism means an absence of property rights, having all been surrendered to “the people,” which is to say the state. As that which belongs to everyone in fact belongs to no one, who is to be confronted over the factory sending toxic plumes into the sky which then descends on the cornfield, or the dumping of waste into the river plied by tourists on cruise boats? And who really owns the cornfield or the boats?

Property rights are in fact the single most important reason why capitalism is better than communism at protecting the environment. So long as property rights are enforced, nobody can pollute someone else’s resource without compensating them.

In any event, the idea that communism was good for the environment is so ludicrous that the UD professor who espoused it became a laughingstock on campus, so that he was embarrassed to even show… Oh, who are we kidding. As far as we know, nobody on campus ever expressed disagreement with him. Except us. We ran into students who believed him, and when we tried to set them straight, a lecturer from finance told us we were wrong. A lecturer with a PhD.

Regulation as Crony Capitalism

Most people view regulation as something that government imposes on business against its will. The idea is that regulation threatens business profits by restricting freedom of action, and as a result, business will resist being regulated. This view of regulation was expressed by someone we know who (allegedly) teaches economics. Specifically, she suggested that auto companies would prefer not to be subjected to auto safety regulations (seat-belts, air-bags, shatterproof glass, etc). She was taken aback when we informed her that the auto companies supported, and in fact were the catalyst behind, the enactment of auto safety regulation.

Consider also the ban on the manufacture of standard incandescent light bulbs that went into effect on January 1. As Tim Carney reminds us, the lighting industry was instrumental in enacting the ban.

This wasn’t a case of an industry getting on board with an inevitable regulation in order to tweak it. The lighting industry was the main reason the legislation was moving. As the New York Times reported in 2011, “Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards.”

Why would a firm support banning a product that it manufactures and sells?

Answer: To sell more of a substitute product that the firm has an advantage in producing, relative to its competitors. 

The standard incandescent bulb is a simple device, relatively easy to manufacture. Entry to the industry is therefore not difficult, and as Carney notes, even the threat of entry holds down prices and profits.

Competitive markets with low costs of entry have a characteristic that consumers love and businesses lament: very low profit margins. GE, Philips and Sylvania dominated the U.S. market in incandescents, but they couldn’t convert that dominance into price hikes. Because of light bulb’s low material and manufacturing costs, any big climb in prices would have invited new competitors to undercut the giants — and that new competitor would probably have won a distribution deal with Wal-Mart.

So, simply the threat of competition kept profit margins low on the traditional light bulb — that’s the magic of capitalism.

In a search for higher profits, GE and Sylvania invested huge resources into developing new types of bulbs such as compact fluorescents, but couldn’t improve the price or the quality sufficiently to induce consumers to abandon traditional incandescents; the traditional bulbs still occupy some 70 percent of home sockets. Banning the incandescents forces consumers to buy the new bulbs, which GE and Sylvania have an advantage in producing because they developed them. The key here is that GE and Sylvania don’t need to worry–at least for now–about their profits getting undermined by upstart producers or cheap imports from the Third World. Meanwhile, the consumer loses.

Similarly, auto safety regulation was enacted at a time when the Detroit automakers were facing increasing competition from foreign producers, especially in the market for economy cars. The Detroit automakers, unlike their foreign competitors, had engaged in considerable research and development of various safety mechanisms such as shatterproof windshields, collapsible steering columns, etc. The Detroit automakers supported the legal mandate of these safety features because they knew they could more easily comply with the requirements than could their foreign competitors.

Furthermore, installing the safety features is costly, and this cost must be passed on to consumers in the form of a higher car price. The additional costs, however, had the effect of increasing the price of economy cars, the forte of Detroit’s foreign competitors, relative to the price of Detroit’s product line. Hence the safety requirements served to put Detroit’s foreign competitors at a price disadvantage in the U.S. market. Like the light bulb ban, safety regulation benefited the domestic industry by effectively banning a low-cost substitute–a cheap car without safety features. The motivation for the regulations had less to do with safety than with protecting corporate profits, just as today’s light bulb ban has relatively little to do with saving the planet.

The big corporations usually get the regulations they want. The 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation marks the most significant regulation of the financial industry in decades. People naively believe that the law will rein in the big banks. In his excellent book The New Financial Deal, law professor David Skeel relates a story about how the 1,000+ page law came to be written. Before Treasury sent an early draft of the bill over to the House Banking Committee, they neglected to delete from the document an electronic watermark of the law firm used by the big banks. The banks had written the bill.

But despite all the evidence that regulation serves the interests of corporate cronyism and hurts consumers, leftists remain faithful to their statist beliefs. Their dissonant battle cry: “The corporations control the government. We need more government regulation to protect us from these corporations!”

Embedded below is a fascinating video showing how incandescent light bulbs are made. The ingenious and efficient activity depicted in the video is now unlawful in America. If someone set up that production facility in the U.S., the government, which itself hardly produces anything of value, and demonstrates no efficiency or ingenuity, would presumably send armed men to shut down the facility. That thought provides a rather revealing insight into the true nature of government.

Krugman wrong again

Ronald Reagan, during the 1976 presidential campaign, told the story of a Chicago “welfare queen” who drove a new Cadillac. Paul Krugman, court economist to the Statist Establishment, wrote in 2007 that Reagan’s story was false.

Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud.

A new piece by Josh Levin at Slate, however, demonstrates that Reagan was right.

Paul Krugman.


did not invent that woman in Chicago. Her name was Linda Taylor, and it was the Chicago Tribune, not the GOP politician, who dubbed her the “welfare queen.” It was the Tribune, too, that lavished attention on Taylor’s jewelry, furs, and Cadillac—all of which were real. . . As the Tribune and other outlets stayed on the story, those figures continued to rise. Reporters noted that Linda Taylor had used as many as 80 names, and that she’d received at least $150,000—in illicit welfare cash, the numbers that Ronald Reagan would cite on the campaign trail in 1976.

Reagan 1, Krugman 0.

One would think that someone with a Nobel Prize in economics would demonstrate a stronger commitment to probity.

“Good Glitches”: Paul Krugman vs. Reality

Everyone now knows Obamacare’s healthcare.gov website to be a clusterfark of epic proportions. But back on the October 1 launch date, Paul Krugman, the world’s most famous statist economist, called the website’s failures “good glitches.”

So, very early reports are that Obamacare exchanges are, as expected, having some technical glitches on the first day — maybe even a bit worse than expected, because it appears that volume has been much bigger than predicted…

Here’s what you need to know: this is good, not bad, news for the program… Lots of people logging on and signing up on the very first day…is an early indication that it’s going to be fine, that plenty of people will sign up for the first year of health reform.

Yes, there may be some negative news stories about the glitches. But Obamacare is not up for a revote. As Jonathan Bernstein says, the only thing that matters is whether it works. And today’s heavy volume is yet another sign — along with abating health costs and below-expected premiums — that it will.

Nearly every word that Krugman wrote is utterly divorced from reality. We now know that the website did not crash due to high volume; the site in fact, was incapable of handling any appreciable volume at all, as shown by the government’s own tests in the days preceding the launch.

HealthCare.gov was unable to consistently handle 500 users at once in the testing, and tests failed with 2,000 users over a three-day period, according to a series of emails between members of the information technology team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

The problem was not “lots of people…signing up on the very first day.” In fact, due to the website’s dysfunction, the number of people who successfully signed up on that day was…wait for it…SIX.

Krugman clearly communicated misinformation to his audience of statist acolytes and admirers. We would have thought that a prominent scientist with a Nobel Prize would demonstrate a higher degree of probity. We also wonder how often Ruling Class apparatchiks have to end up with egg on their faces before losing all credibility.

The Age of Stupidity

Historians sometimes refer to the medieval period as the Age of Faith, which was later followed by the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. Dennis Prager has designated our current era the Age of Stupidity. The designation seems entirely appropriate due to the fact that our Ruling Class and intellectual elites cannot even identify, much less solve, the critical issues facing our society. Consider for instance, the priorities of the Ruling Class in Training, aka Harvard undergraduates.

Harvard University students agreed by vote that plastic single-use water bottles should no longer be sold on campus, leaving the fate of plastic water bottles in jeopardy at the Ivy League institution…

“We will be working with the administration to make sure student wishes are met,” Katrina Malakhoff, chairperson of the Harvard Environmental Action Committee, said in an email to The College Fix.

Sixty-four percent of students who voted in Harvard’s fall referendum late last month supported “ending the sale and distribution of plastic non-reusable water bottles on campus (including at Harvard cafes and Crimson Catering events) and making drinking water more accessible through the installation of additional water fountains and reusable water bottle filling stations.”

Harvard University officials did not respond to phone calls and emails from The College Fix asking if they would support the student referendum’s majority vote to end the sale of bottled water on campus.

Malakhoof, in her email, said “now that students have shown their support, we are optimistic that these stations can be installed within the next few months.”

Funding for the new water stations will be shouldered by a grant the environmental action committee received, as well as support from the Harvard Office for Sustainability and other campus coffers, Malakhoff said.

Ah yes, sustainability. Academics love that word, except they use it only in relation to phony crises, like plastic water bottles, and never in relation to the real crisis of sustainability.


The real crisis is not environmental sustainability but financial sustainability. The trillion-dollar deficits that the government has been running in recent years are totally unsustainable. In the longer term, all the government’s major entitlement programs–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid–are insolvent and, absent drastic reforms, totally unsustainable.

Not a priority.

These programs are actually imposing an enormous burden on younger generations, including the generation of current undergraduates, and putting their economic futures in jeopardy.

While many seniors believe they are simply drawing out the “savings” they were forced to deposit into Social Security and Medicare, they are actually drawing out much more, especially relative to later generations. That’s because politicians have voted to award the seniors ever more generous benefits. As a result, while today’s 65-year-olds will receive on average net lifetime benefits of $327,400, children born now will suffer net lifetime losses of $420,600 as they struggle to pay the bills of aging Americans.

If Harvard undergrads were smart, they’d hold a referendum calling for entitlement reform and cuts to government spending. But instead: water bottles.

Of course, financial sustainability is not the only problem. A number of additional issues threaten the very foundations of our economy and our society. What the issues all have in common is that the political and intellectual elite do not want to talk about them. Off the top of our heads, here’s one that might end up being important: the demise of the family. Forty years ago, 40% of households consisted of married parents with children. Now it’s 19% and falling. Among women without college degrees, nearly 60% give birth to their first child out of wedlock.

This family breakdown seems to have disproportionately adverse effects on boys, which probably goes a long way to explaining why elites don’t want to talk about it. Boys without fathers, raised by single moms, do worse in school and in life. They are more likely to be suspended from school, more likely to be arrested.

Even controlling for mothers’ age and parents’ marital history, boys in fatherless homes were still getting into more trouble compared with their sisters and male peers with married parents. Autor and Wasserman cite a large study by University of Chicago sociologists Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan, showing that, by fifth grade, fatherless boys were more disruptive than peers from two-parent families, and by eighth grade, had a substantially greater likelihood of getting suspended. “The gender gap [between boys and girls] in externalizing behavior in fifth grade and suspension in grade eight . . . is smallest in intact families,” the authors summarized their findings. “All other family structures appear detrimental to boys [my italics].”

A survey of the Harvard landscape won’t uncover many resources devoted to the problem of boys without fathers–no seminars, teach-ins, sit-ins, or campus referenda. But: water bottles.

We can cite, unfortunately, many more problems that pose dire threats to our economy and to our society. Social capital is in long-term decline. The authorities are printing money, tripling the monetary base in just five years. We could go on, but we think we’ve made our point. While Rome burns, the next generation of the Ruling Class is focused on saving the planet from plastic bottles.

George Carlin had it right. The planet is doing fine. It’s the people that are screwed up.


Warning: NSFW.

Obamacare con job targets young adults

One of the primary objectives of Obamacare is to get young and healthy people to overpay for insurance in order to subsidize care for people who are older and sicker. Since Obamacare deliberately overcharges the young– in effect, taxes them–they are generally better off not buying the insurance. For them, it’s a rip-off. If they don’t buy, however, the health insurance companies, which the federal government has now adopted as pets, will suffer heavy losses.

To convince young people to sign up against their own interest, the Political Class is now subjecting them to an agitprop con job. Working that con job is Aaron Smith, a tool who is currying favor with the Political Class by co-founding an agitprop non-profit called Young Invincibles, and writing op-eds for CNN online. Here is Aaron (never to be confused with Adam) Smith’s anecdote intended to demonstrate why young adults should sign up for Obamacare.

[H]ealth care is too important for our generation to opt out. We recently met with Emily W. Wright, who suffers from aching pain caused by endometriosis and has been putting off badly needed surgery for the past five years because she could never afford health insurance, particularly with a pre-existing condition. Now, under Obamacare, she can afford a high quality, affordable plan and can get the treatment she needs.

The example of Ms. Wright, however, implies that young, healthy people are better off not signing up, the opposite of what Aaron Smith intended. The key point is that Ms. Wright is already sick. If, like most people, you don’t already have endometriosis, you should hold off buying insurance until you do. Under the ‘guaranteed-issue’ provisions of Obamacare, you can wait until you get sick before purchasing insurance, and you can’t be charged extra for your illness. Why start paying now for insurance you’re not using when you can wait until you really need it?

Aaron Smith: Propagandist

The only tricky part about waiting is that you might get sick outside the annual enrollment season, usually October to March. So for instance, if you start ailing in July, you will have to wait three months until enrollment opens in October. Under most circumstances, however, waiting a few months, while not ideal, is quite feasible. People in Canada, which boasts ‘universal’ insurance, routinely wait several months for treatment. In Aaron Smith’s chosen anecdote, Ms. Wright had already waited five years for surgery. What’s a few months compared to five years? Smith intends Ms. Wright’s experience to serve as a cautionary tale–this could happen to you! Sure, it could happen, but a rational assessment of that prospect still implies that opting out of Obamacare is preferable.

The broader point is that the purpose of health insurance is not to access treatment, but to protect financial assets. Uninsured people can still access treatment; the vast armies of the uninsured have not had to put up tent cities in hospital parking lots to beg for treatment. The risk of going uninsured is that, to pay for very expensive treatment, you could lose your savings, your retirement accounts, and maybe even your home. Young people, however, have not been working long enough to acquire substantial assets. In fact, they’re usually still desperately trying to pay off student loans. As a consequence, young, healthy adults don’t need health insurance because they have few if any assets to protect.

Let’s consider what would happen if you incurred medical expenses, but didn’t have insurance. We’ll consider in turn four levels of expenses: small, moderate, moderately large, and very large.

  •  SMALL. Obamacare plans cover routine preventive care such as checkups or pap smears. These can usually be obtained at clinics for a cash price of less than $200, often less than $100, or at some clinics even free. You’re better off paying these modest costs out-of-pocket than paying thousands for an Obamacare plan.
  • MODERATE. Let’s say you combine too much alcohol with skiing and fracture your ankle, incurring $5,000 in medical bills. Good thing you’ve got Obamacare, right? Nope. Unless you shell out huge dough for a gold-plated plan, the standard Obamacare ‘bronze’ plans carry deductibles of $5,000 or $6,000. In this case, Obamacare pays nothing, and you’re on the hook to pay the full cost yourself.
  • MODERATELY LARGE. You require an emergency appendectomy, which costs $28,000. In this case, you’re happy that Obamacare covers most of the cost. So does this case imply that Obamacare is worth signing up for? No, because as a young and healthy adult the odds that you’ll incur costs this substantial in any given year are quite small. Meanwhile, to protect you from this unlikely occurrence, Obamacare premiums would probably cost somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000 per year. Several years of premiums would eventually swamp the cost of the appendectomy. If you saved the premiums and went without insurance, you’d have to pay for the appendectomy yourself. But you could negotiate a price reduction, probably down to less than $20,000, and work out a plan to pay over time. Paying $20,000 is a lot of money, but really a pretty small fraction of lifetime income, and saving a few thousand per year on insurance would make paying the $20,000 a lot easier.
  • VERY LARGE. You’re badly injured in a car wreck and require multiple surgeries costing a total of $120,000. In this case, you’re glad that Obamacare has you covered. But how bad would it be if you weren’t covered? Rather than trying to pay this huge bill yourself, the wisest strategy would be just to walk away and declare personal bankruptcy. Your credit score would be ruined, but only temporarily, since it would re-set after seven years. And since you’re still young, you would not yet have any assets for creditors to seize, so you could end up paying nothing. Not paying may be morally dubious, but for most people the shrewdest financial strategy. But if your conscience still bothers you, it might help to reflect that being forced by the state to subsidize other people’s health insurance is also morally dubious.

Clearly, young and healthy adults don’t need Obamacare. But that doesn’t stop Aaron Smith from trying to convince them otherwise.

On its face, opting out of insurance under Obamacare makes no sense. Paying for financial insecurity is dumb. Purchasing health coverage is like buying a $10 umbrella when you see rain in the forecast. If you don’t purchase the umbrella, not only do you risk getting soaked from head to toe, you could end up ruining your new favorite pair of sneakers or iPhone, costing you a lot more than just $10.

A better analogy for Obamacare would be getting soaked from head to toe, even if it doesn’t rain. But in any event, we do appreciate the honesty that going without insurance is primarily about “financial insecurity” and not about health or treatment. The problem with Obamacare is that it amounts to over-paying for financial security that young people don’t need.

Young people with an inordinate faith in government should ask themselves why the Political Class is trying so hard to get them to act against their self-interest. Young people should also ask themselves what it says about the Political Class that they are targeting young people with stupid and creepy ads like the one below. Answer: They’re unscrupulous, and they think you’re stupid.


DC bureaucrats: We don’t need no stinkin’ public goods

Here at Yet Freedom!, we do not advocate anarchy, a complete absence of government. Economic theory tells us that government has a role in providing public goods. Public goods, like policing or national defense, share two essential characteristics.

  • “Jointness of Supply.” Providing the good for one also provides the good for all. In other words, an additional person can benefit from the good at no additional cost. National defense, for example benefits everyone in the nation.
  • “Non-excludability.” People can benefit from the good without paying for it.

Economics predicts that voluntary activity in the private sector will not adequately provide public goods. Government must therefore step in and tax people to pay for the goods.

Anyway, that’s the usual story, but in practice, things don’t always turn out that way. For instance, many examples exist of public goods provided by voluntary activity.

Although many people think a television signal is a public good, cable television services scramble their transmissions so that nonsubscribers cannot receive broadcasts easily. In other words, the producers have figured out how to exclude nonpayers. Both throughout history and today, private roads have been financed by tolls charged to road users. Other goods often seen as public goods, such as private protection and fire services, are frequently sold through the private sector on a fee basis. Excluding nonpayers is possible. In other cases, potentially public goods are funded by advertisements, as happens with television and radio.

For a nice recent example of private provision of a public good we can thank Mr. Henry Docter, the self-styled Phantom Planter who, on his own initiative, planted approximately 1,000 flowering plants at the Dupont Circle subway station in Washington, DC.

Flowers planted by Henry Docter at Dupont Circle.

Docter’s flowers meet the formal definition of a public good; anyone and everyone can enjoy them, without paying.

To complete the Man Bites Dog story, the public officials whose job is to provide public goods, responded by ripping the flowers out.

The transit system regularly pleads poverty, yet employees devoted supposedly valuable time to remove more than 1,000 morning glories, cardinal flowers and cypress vines that Docter donated to the city — albeit without permission. The plants would have bloomed from August to October in a patriotic display of red, white and blue.

Instead of greenery today and colors to come, the 176 flower boxes along the top stretch of the escalators at the station’s north entrance now feature dirt, a few straggling stems and the occasional discarded soda can.

“It never occurred to me that Metro would think it was more efficient to rip out the plants than to let someone water them,” Docter said.

Goodness only knows what motivated the bureaucrats to remove the flowers. Maybe they were ashamed because Mr. Docter made them look bad by doing more than they were to beautify the subway station.

In any event, here we have government, which exists for the sole legitimate purpose of providing public goods which the private sector supposedly cannot provide, destroying a public good provided by…the private sector. Just another daily reminder of the yawning chasm between how government is supposed to operate in theory and how it actually operates in practice.

Second look at anarchy?

Notable and Quotable

Charlie Martin:

According to a Cato Institute study published last year, the combined expenditures for Federal and state governments directed to means-tested public assistance — “welfare” — is approximately $1 trillion (yes, with a “T”) a year.

There are approximately 48 million people in the US with incomes at the poverty level or below.

The application of advanced mathematics — long division, and I did it in my head thank you very much — tells us that’s about $21,000 per person per year. Obviously, that’s $84,000 for a family of four.

That’s got a problem, though. According to the 2013 Federal Poverty Guidelines, the poverty level for a family of four is $23,950. The total of $84,000 is roughly 380 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Obviously, there’s no poverty left in America.

Unless, of course, that money isn’t actually being spent on the poor people at all. I wonder where it goes?