Recap of SiCKO Film Forum

This morning, Ezra Klein and Stuart Browning joined me for what I think was an entertaining and informative forum on health policy.  (Keep an eye on this page for the archived webcast.)  Thanks to both of them for participating.

Over at his blog, Klein offers his thoughts on the discussion:

What always strikes me at these panels, though, is how much agreement there really is. Michael Cannon and I would build very different systems, to be sure, but at base, we both believe the employer tie to be awful, and the insurers to suck, and the hospitals to be performing below expectations, and on, and on. The obstacles to reform are not intellectual disagreement or policy uncertainties – they’re interest groups trying to protect a system that benefits them.

To be clear, we have serious intellectual disagreements.  I am an obstacle to Klein’s preferred reforms; as he is to mine.

I don’t expect that to last, however.  I have sensed this for some time and now I’m ready to predict it: Ezra Klein will die a libertarian.  And it won’t be a deathbed conversion, either.  Right now, I think he would call himself a progressive, which is fine.  He could even keep that label: it better fits someone who’s committed to expanding liberty anyhow.

Tech and the Environment

Valleywag has an excellent rant on the problems with environmentalists’ blackmailing the technology industry:

To ignore the wider benefits of the digital revolution is obtuse. Here’s the fundamental truth: the more human activity is pursued online, the less the environmental footprint. Apple’s pioneering of desktop publishing did away with much of the filthy print industry; its easy video-conferencing will make some business trips unnecessary; Ebay’s person-to-person marketplace bypasses cumbersome retail logistics; and Google is replacing inefficient physical libraries and filing systems across the world. Frankly, if a few computers end up in dumps, rather than recycled: so what.

I can understand why it would be convenient to go after Apple. Steve Jobs’ computer maker is more easily pressured than most companies, because of its pristine brand, and because so many of its customers are environmentally conscious. Al Gore, the planet’s foremost defender, is on the board. Apple makes things, which are messy. And, given the holy war against climate change, and the political correctness that stifles critical thinking, the company can’t defend itself.

The green lobby may choose to target high-tech companies rather than, say, the oil, coal or auto industries. The ex-hippies in charge of Silicon Valley companies are easy targets. But any victory, in converting them to the cause, will be purely symbolic, useful for fund-raising, maybe, but ultimately meaningless. This campaign against Apple is, at best, moral blackmail and, at worst, a cynical shakedown. Shame on them.

Thanks to Joe for the pointer. There’s a broader point here, that was best articulated by Julian Simon: in the long run, free markets and technological progress are good for the environment, because reducing costs often means reducing waste, and reducing waste often means reducing your environmental footprint. Technological progress and rapid economic growth also allows us to devote more resources to cleaning up the environment. Plus it leads to more people having the luxury to spend their time hectoring companies like Apple for their environmental records.

Build a Wall

The prize for the best policy idea of the week goes to Steve Ahlenius, the president of the Chamber of Commerce in McAllen, Texas on the Mexican border.  As reported in The Monitor, a local newspaper:

McAllen, Texas calls for a wall around Washington, D.C.

We feel the need to protect ourselves from bad legislation, bad ideas, and a waste of taxpayer money.

A wall around their homes and businesses will give the legislators and Washington bureaucrats a better understanding of what kind of message this action will send.

Let’s see if they decide to climb over it, tunnel under it, or walk around it.

My 56-Word Review of SiCKO

SiCKO was a very funny film, and I praise Michael Moore for starting the conversation and pointing out many horrors of the U.S. health care system. 

But from a policy standpoint – and I say this more in sadness than in anger – SiCKO was so breathtaking a specimen of ignorant propaganda that it would make Pravda blush.

Oppressed Canadians Finally Reach Tax Freedom Day

American taxpayers worked until April 30 before they earned enough money to satisfy the rapacious demands of federal, state and local tax collectors. This is discouraging, but Americans should be grateful that they don’t live in Canada. The Fraser Institute has revealed that the average Canadian worked until June 20 before quenching the appetites of the political class. Taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador are still working as serfs for government. Their tax freedom day won’t arrive until July 1:

Starting tomorrow, Canadians have paid off the total tax bill imposed on them by government and can finally start working for themselves, according to The Fraser Institute’s annual Tax Freedom Day calculations. “If you look at the average Canadian family’s total tax bill, each and every dollar they earn before June 20 would be required to pay the taxes owing to all levels of government. It takes until June 20 before they begin earning money for themselves,” said Niels Veldhuis, The Fraser Institute’s Director of the Centre for Tax Studies. …This year Tax Freedom Day falls four days earlier than in 2006. The latest Tax Freedom Day in Canadian history was in 2000, when it fell on June 25. Tax Freedom Day moved forward to June 17 in 2001 before steadily retreating to June 24 in 2005 and 2006. “Even with the recent improvements, Tax Freedom day still falls almost two months later than in 1961, the earliest year for which we have calculations,” Veldhuis said. …Tax Freedom Day varies from province to province, depending on the taxation levels of each provincial government. Alberta enjoys the earliest Tax Freedom Day on June 1, followed by New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (June 14), BC and Manitoba (June 16), Ontario and Nova Scotia (June 19), and Saskatchewan (June 22). Quebec has the second-latest Tax Freedom Day, on June 26, while Newfoundland and Labrador wait the longest, until July 1.