URLs du Jour


Proverbs 19:21

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

There are many modern variants. Yiddish proverb: "Man plans and God laughs." Woody Allen: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." John Lennon, less theologically: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

On the other hand, kids, I wouldn't let this deter you from maxing out your retirement fund contributions.

■ Do you know what to do about health care? Writing at NRO, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry would disagree: Nobody Knows What to Do about Health Care.

Conservatives have a simple dream when it comes to health care, and that dream has a name, and it is “Singapore.” And it is a beautiful dream. If Milton Friedman and Elon Musk sat down together to design a health-care system, it would probably look like Singapore’s. In outline, it’s very simple to understand: Everybody gets a health savings account, into which a portion of their paycheck is automatically deposited; from that health savings account, they can purchase catastrophic coverage. The elderly get a voucher for their choice of private insurance plans for age-related illnesses. The poor get top-ups to their health savings accounts and a special insurance scheme.

Sounds great! But keep reading: Gobry argues, convincingly, that it would be a disaster to implement in the USA.

Is there a solution? "No, there isn’t. We’re all doomed."

The article also has a first-paragraph bunch of links to Gobry's previous articles; I encourage you to check them out as well.

[Amazon Link] ■ Also at NRO, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles write on The Conservative Inequality Paradox.

Conservatives have two intellectual commitments that are increasingly incompatible. They believe that the American economy is clogged up with crony-capitalist corruption that hands out special favors and protections to organized interests. They also hold that economic inequality — in particular, the surging share of total income earned by those at the very top — is morally justified by the rights of property and the tendency of free markets to raise living standards overall.

These two commitments can no longer be squared. If our economy really is riddled with cronyism, then the beneficiaries must have pocketed large amounts of ill-gotten loot. The existing distribution of income and wealth, therefore, does not deserve the deference it would be due if all gains were derived from spontaneous, unregulated market transactions. Call it the conservative inequality paradox: Either conservatives have overstated the amount of crony capitalism, or their dismissal of the concept of inequality as envy is misplaced.

Lindsay and Teles have a new book out [Amazon link above] that I've placed on my library-get list.

■ But it's not just "crony capitalism" that tilts toward the well-off. Megan McArdle writes on How the Republicans' Tax Plan Threatens Higher Ed. The headline (Threatens? Eek!) might obscure some relevant facts, for example:

As a proud alum, I’m glad that the University of Pennsylvania has a $12 billion endowment to sustain it into the future. But it’s hard to see why the school needs a tax subsidy from the government to educate students with a median family income of nearly $200,000 a year. I suspect those parents will ensure that their children get educated even if the government offers no subsidy at all -- and that the students could probably manage to learn even without the shiny new buildings and extensive renovations that have appeared since I left the campus 23 years ago.

I dug this quote out of Milton & Rose Friedman's Free to Choose back in 2013, and it's gotten truer since its original writing:

We know of no government program that seems to us to be so inequitable in its effects, so clean an example of Director's Law, as the financing of higher education. In this area, those of us who are in the middle- and upper-income classes have conned the poor into subsidizing us on the grand scale—yet we have no decent shame, we boast to the treetops of our selflessness and public-spiritedness.

■ Pierre Lemieux writes at EconLog about Puerto Rico's electricity system: Big Brother Does Not Always Help, or Only at a Cost. One of the roots of its woes: it was established in 1941 by then-Governor Rexford Guy Tugwell, FDR crony and ardent advocate for the Planned Economy.

Tugwell thought that competition was a waste and should be replaced by government planning and industrial democracy. Or else, he wrote in his 1933 book, The Industrial Discipline and the Governmental Arts, "we are surely committed to revolution." It is not clear how he reconciled central planning and industrial democracy, by which he meant that firms would be run by their workers and engineers. He was an admirer of the Soviet Union.

1941's shiny monument to Progressive Fascism is today's cesspool of political patronage, corruption, and inefficiency.

■ As always, Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback is an entertaining read even if football bores you silly. Consumer note: I haven't watched a single NFL game so far this year; I did tune in for a lot of the Iowa-Ohio State game, and was pretty excited to see OSU get badly beaten by the Hawkeyes.

But anyway, a note on Donna Brazile:

Maybe Russians Hacked the Donna Brazile Copyedits. Less than a week after publishing a book that claims the Democratic primaries were rigged, Donna Brazile denied they were rigged. This isn’t just a politician trying to have things both ways. Brazile’s claim is a celebrity publishing gimmick: Include scandalous declarations in a manuscript to draw media attention and get the book selling, then have the celebrity make TV appearances denying the claims. The next step, perhaps coming soon, is that Brazile will ask for sympathy by saying she is the victim of a smear campaign, which her own book set in motion.

Perhaps one should place quotation marks around her own “book,” which relies extensively on fake quotes that purport to be exactly what was said, word-for-word, though no one was taking notes. Unless Brazile was wiretapping her phone calls to Bernie Sanders! The “book” is not bound for the Ghostwriters Hall of Fame: “I started to cry, not out of guilt, but out of anger. We would go forward. We had to.” Maybe Brazile is denying the content of her own “book” because she hasn’t gotten around to reading it.

Of course, if you're an NFL fan, Easterbrook's pretty interesting on that subject too.