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Mark Steyn: “When Responsibility Doesn’t Pay”

National Review Online:

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?

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  • 16 comments

    16 Comments so far

    1. Brian Brady February 28th, 2010 10:24 am

      Steyn identifies the problem perfectly. We’ve been dancing all night not realizing that we are really playing musical chairs.

      I fear the California bailout and am on record with the Indianans and Texans that I’ll be screaming in protest, as loud as you will be.

    2. Mike February 28th, 2010 12:34 pm

      Were Republican outlets (like the National Review) as outraged when the Republicans raised spending by 46% in the 6 years they were in charge?

      And if a government run health care system is so expensive and unsustainable, then why do Germans, French, Canadians and everyone else pay less for health care than we do? Some of it, for sure, is because the service isn’t as good. But right now, we pay about 16% of GDP and the other countries mentioned pay about 10%. Is our care really 60% better? The facts seem to indicate that a government run system is actually more efficient than ours.

    3. Greg Swann February 28th, 2010 1:22 pm

      > The facts seem to indicate that a government run system is actually more efficient than ours.

      That’s your claim, that Greece is bankrupt because it is so efficient? Good luck with that.

      We’re not talking about a rivalry among sports teams. Millions of people the world over are going to die because governments have systematically made war on the iron laws of economics. Feel free to shout whatever slogans best fit your temperament as they perish.

    4. Jim Klein February 28th, 2010 1:58 pm

      >But right now, we pay about 16% of GDP and the other countries >mentioned pay about 10%. Is our care really 60% better? The facts >seem to indicate that a government run system is actually more efficient >than ours.

      Darn…I’m facing a paradox. Your wrote this, and the blog’s instructions say, “Leave a civil reply…” It seems nearly impossible for me to integrate both, simultaneously! I guess I’ll go with the owner’s wishes…

      Which facts, Mike? Your figures are a subset of the facts. Did you not read the opening article? The point is, or will be, that eventually there will be no place to run, or in this case nobody to subsidize the work. “Health care” is a vast conglomerate of human action, from research to technology to the art of implementation. The fact that various schemes have been devised to hide the truth of the matter, doesn’t really change any of the facts. And the fact is that regardless of what production is looted from whom, and how it’s spread around, and how much INefficiency is created from the vast administration of the fraud, the work itself is still done exclusively by researchers, technologists and health care professionals. And those people will do their best work, when they are both allowed and have incentives to do exactly that. And “incentives” here does not mean only money, though that’s an awfully big part of it, but also the incentive to live the lives they wish to live. And while we know that many people these days would actually prefer to live as dogs, it’s still the case that most would prefer to live as humans, and that means using their own minds to achieve what they choose to achieve, in the manner they wish to achieve it. That’s why you have a computer to post with, a car to drive and nice movies to watch on DVD.

      If you haven’t read _Economics in One Easy Lesson_ by Henry Hazlitt, I’d strongly suggest that you do so. It will explain everything relevant there is to understand about both economics and economic theory. Yours is a simple fallacy, which is the point of that very short and easy book. You are looking at what has been produced in spite of the madness, and totally disregarding everything that the madness has caused not to be there. As time goes on, with more and more madness, the class of “things which aren’t here” will grow ever larger and larger.

      The very real risk to you is that by the time you need it, health care could be one of them!

    5. Jim Klein February 28th, 2010 2:03 pm

      >Feel free to shout whatever slogans best fit your temperament as >they perish.

      Now wait a second…is it this or “Please leave a civil reply!”

    6. Greg Swann February 28th, 2010 2:42 pm

      > Now wait a second…is it this or “Please leave a civil reply!”

      There’s a skeezy little attorney in New York who, for a while, was insisting that I should ban myself from BloodhoundBlog — presumably for being too good at rhetorical rudenesss.

      (FWIW, I do occasionally delete my own comments, if I decide that I have gone over the line. Judging one’s own behavior is never easy — motes and beams — but I make an effort to do my best.)

    7. Mike February 28th, 2010 4:20 pm

      That’s your claim, that Greece is bankrupt because it is so efficient?

      Absolutely not! Greece has never been know for efficiency. Our GDP per capita is about 50% higher than theirs. I don’t think gov health care bankrupted them. After all, the UK and Canada both have gov health care, and are less bankrupt than we are.

      Which facts, Mike? Your figures are a subset of the facts.

      The facts I mentioned above. Health care spending as a percent of GDP. Do you know of better facts? Can you site them? Table 7 is one of my sources.

      If you haven’t read _Economics in One Easy Lesson_ by Henry Hazlitt, I’d strongly suggest that you do so.

      No thanks Jim, I read my beginners economics books decades ago.

    8. Don Reedy February 28th, 2010 8:09 pm

      Mike, honest, you should keep on writing, because you’re sort of sounding like a late night liberal comedy show.

      After all, the UK and Canada both have gov health care, and are less bankrupt than we are.

      Less bankrupt??? I haven’t read the Economics book you guys mentioned, so “splain that one to me, would you?”

      By the way, that’s the point Greg and Jim were making. Bankrupt means bankrupt. Pointing out current GDP’s and other stats while ignoring the bankruptcies that are occurring all around us is, well….a bankrupt idea.

    9. Mike February 28th, 2010 9:56 pm

      Don,

      I’m sorry if I was unclear using the term ‘less bankrupt’. I thought it was clear that I meant ‘less in debt’. After all, bankruptcy is usually caused by too much debt. So let me try again. Canada has less debt than the US does. And of course you have to look at debt compared to GDP for it to make sense. If you don’t understand why, I don’t have enough time to ‘splain it to you.

      US Federal Debt = $12.4T
      US GDP = $14.2T
      US Debt to GDP ratio = 87%

      Canadian Federal Debt = $514B
      Canadian GDP = $1.32T
      Canadian Debt to GDP = 39%

    10. Michael Cook March 1st, 2010 1:10 pm

      Interesting discussion going on here. National healthcare vs. state subsidies. Two very different animals in my opinion. I would love to see California go bankrupt as a lesson to other states that feel like the laws of economics, nay, basic math dont apply to them.

      Entities that dont print money have no ability to sustain spending beyond their income levels and income does not rise indefinitely. Key lessons that should have been learn in the first economics class in college.

      As for entities that do print money and how we are going to pay for universal healthcare, well that seems to be another debate within itself.

      To Mike’s point, the US is one of the more capitalist centered healthcare systems (still quite far from pure capitalists) and this has led us to have the best healthcare system in the world for those that can afford it and one of the worst for those that cannot. There is no question that people come to the US from Canada, the UK and everywhere else to get the best medical treatment on earth if they can pay.

      Its the disparity on the lower end that we need to fix in my opinion. Unforutnately, it looks like we might be doing that by sacrificing the methodology used to created the best medical research on earth, capitalist medicine. Its a very challenging situation that we should not take lightly, as I prefer to be in the nation leading medical research as I get older.

      As an aside, have you ever used the healthcare systems in Canada or Europe? Unless you have, I wouldnt hold them up as the picture of greatness. They have their own problems,as the residences will tell you. My brother lives in London and he is far from impressed. You definitely dont get what you dont pay for.

    11. Mike March 1st, 2010 2:38 pm

      Michael,

      Well said, I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned in my first post, one reason why health care is cheaper in other countries is because it’s not as good. I know a Canadian who had the choice of waiting 18 months in Canada, or paying his way to the US. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota took care of him within 2 weeks. (Ironically, his decision further cut the cost of health care in Canada!)

      I would really like to see an honest discussion of the problems our health care system is facing. (Instead of just preaching from the left and scare tactics from the right.)

    12. jay March 3rd, 2010 6:52 am

      Mike, a quick answer to your question about outrage at Republican overspending is the following:

      YES (please note the 2006 and 2008 elections)

      For years on right wing talk radio–those nut jobs that believe in fiscal conservatism and preserving individual liberties versus bureaucrats making countless decisions for people such as how and where to educate their children, how they are allowed or not allowed to deliver their children, what light bulbs to use, how many overlapping business licenses and certifications you need to serve people….—well for years Republicans were whipped and ripped to shreds for their irresponsible ways and having lost their vision that led to a balanced budget in the 90s a few years after the 94′ ascendancy of more conservatives (I’ll call them temporary conservatives as the DC bubble tends to corrupt almost everybody) that forced Clinton’s hand on the issue.

      Unlike the left that just looks past indiscretions—notice the deafening silence of the left as Obama, Reid and Pelosi have their ongoing threesome of orgasmic spending the past year dwarfing previous administrations–republicans are better at burning their own at the stake in higher ratios than democrats. The talk radio front is a good example of this. You just don’t get Charlie Rangels or Chris Dodds or Murthas or William Jefferson (90K in the freezer) staying in office on the Republican side shamelessly. Usually they get hammered–the hammer Tom Delay–and thrown out on their backside in good order.

      [one of my favorite videos on Dodd and Frank and Boxer speaking for themselves http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MGT_cSi7Rs ]

      Maybe commons sense moderates on the left care about fiscal responsibility–but the the blue dogs that were elected under such a political scam certainly do not….And those who believed them were stupid and got punk’d intellectually as those who bought into man made global warming. More people need more sources of information because news is censored on mainstream media weekly in the United States and the people don’t even know it.

      Mike, the health care system that effects its very bloated and inefficient costs $$$ is very broken. Much of due to the government rules and intervention by crony capitalistic bureaucrats and insurance companies, etc.

      I recently got a bill for $10,000 for maternity services as our insurance at some scam health insurance co. canceled maternity coverage a few days before delivery. i went in to find out how much the bill woulud be paying cash: $4000. That is an awful lot of waste and overcharging due to screwed up insurance system that is NOT representative of capitalism. Let the insurance companies compete across states lines, let groups pool together to large numbers of members to get reasonable insurance costs for their members, let insurance companies get nichey and only cover certain illnesses for target marketing, let employees choose to buy insurance from any company in the country either directly by not having those costs taken out of their paycheck or through the employer without limitations on which company they can select and do aggressive tort reform so that doctors stop practicing defensive medicine which drive up costs to the nTh degree.

      And after a few years of that let’s see the impact on costs by empowering consumers and reforming the marketplace that still has the highest quality care but whose costs are out of control because it is not an open marketplace.

      Medicare, the post office, the war on poverty and Great Society, social security are all reason that thinking a government takeover of 1/6 of the economy is an intellectually bankrupt proposition based on blind faith. So is voting for those who want to control your life in countless ways. The drug laws are irrelevant here since both parties vote the same way so let’s not have anybody bring that up….

      One of the most important liberties of all is economic liberty which is being eroded through burdening future generations with the debt of idiots.

      Last time I looked into it a number of countries have a norm of 15% unemployment in Europe, populations that are literally dying out and losing their identities and underclasses that if offended will go out and torch 10,000 cars. I shouldn’t even bring that up as I’m sure some countries are doing better than others there.

      Health care in Canada and UK are quite unimpressive if you look at wait times for care, cancer survival rates, etc. The headlines from the local papers are horrifying to say the least.

      Fix our system by reforming it, not government takeovers to make it even worse without solving the real problems of costs and inefficiency.

      Maybe that wasn’t such a quick answer after all :)

    13. Mike March 3rd, 2010 1:42 pm

      Jay,

      For the record, I’ve been a libertarian since the mid-90′s, so I’m not here to defend democrats. I’m also not advocating government run health care, I am just pointing out that it’s cheaper than what we have now.

      As far as your assertion that republicans are fiscally conservative and respect individual liberties, I have to take exception. When it comes to gay marriage and abortion for example, republicans want to take away our liberties (yes, I believe liberty is for all Americans, not just straight Christian Americans).

      As far as spending goes, Bill Clinton increased spending 29% in his eight years in office. Bush increased spending 66%. In both cases they had a republican congress for 6 years, and democratic congress for 2 years, so giving credit to republicans in congress for the balanced budgets of the 90′s is a bit questionable.

      As far as Obama’s spending is concerned, the budget he just submitted for 2011 is $3.83T, compared to $3.10T in the final budget submitted by Bush. This is an increase of $730B with $555B of that due to the Stimulus and $175B in other increases. The Stimulus has $232B left in it for the years after 2011. If no additional Stimulus bills are passed, and if non-Stimulus spending increases at the same pace, total spending would be about $4.7T at the end of Obama’s second term*, for a total spending increase of about 51%. More than Clinton, but still less than Bush.

      *Not predicting the results of the 2012 election, just trying to compare total spending increases. ;^)

      As far as your points on health care, I agree with you. Our system is broken, but I don’t want a government takeover either. I would like to see health insurance that looked more like auto insurance – you only use it when you have an expensive problem. When you have a sore throat, just fork out the money for a short office visit and some antibiotics! Imagine how expensive and inefficient car insurance would be if it covered tune-ups, oil changes and flat tires!

    14. jeff Brown March 3rd, 2010 3:56 pm

      If Ayn Rand had been able to include the claims of ignorant looters in Atlas Shrugged she no doubt would have. This has been hilarious/sad to read. I’m reminded of the leftists in that book, who, when asked by the actual producers of the gold they consistently stole, asked them how they were supposed to pay even more to the government? Their stock answer was, “You’ll figure a way, you always do.”

    15. Mike March 4th, 2010 2:46 pm

      Jeff,

      Any particular comments you find hilarious/sad? Or is that how you feel about all opinions which differ from yours?

      And who exactly are the ignorant looters, the ‘leftists’? I guess you didn’t read my earlier post which points out that the biggest spender of the last 2 decades (at least) was a ‘rightist’.

    16. Michael Cook March 5th, 2010 11:03 am

      Mike,

      I would agree with you on quality of healthcare. I am not sure what stats people use to measure quality, but life expectancy should be a bellweather. Why are we ranked 38th, well below the majority of Europe if our system is so much better. There is a lot more to healthcare than just preventing cancer.

      We spend more per person and we get less, plain and simple. Sure, we dont die of cancer, but we still have people dying of turburculosis and other already cured diseases. The list of countries above us ranges from more capitalist systems like Singapore to pure socialist systems like France.

      I for one would rather live longer and pay less for healthcare, regardless of the system we choose.