Wednesday, October 30, 2013


In the conservative world, we’re fairly used to looking at wealth redistribution, and refuting any arguments for it. Because we believe in the basic economic/freedom principle that the person who earns the money should be the person who decides how to spend that money. (Milton Friedman argued the point decades ago.)
We’re a little less practiced at talking about, or even looking at, other forms of redistribution.
A few years ago there was a story going around about an economics teacher who arranged to “redistribute” grades in the class. The A students would “share” with the lower-grade students, to even things out—to be fair. Everyone would receive the class average. On the first test, everyone got a B. On the second test, everyone got a D. On the final, everyone failed. Why should anyone work, if the result was going to be squandered on those who didn’t put in the work? It was, of course, a comparison to socialism. And the final summary was this:
When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
I’m not sure of the origin, whether there actually was such an economics teacher. But the story caught on, and various college students took on the challenge of making videos of people being asked to sign a petition about GPA redistribution. (George Mason and Carthage, for example.)
So that was about equal opportunity for success based on grades. For some reason, hard-working students, even liberal ones, are reluctant to assume it’s unfair to lazy people for them to work hard and thus have greater opportunity to graduate/get good jobs.

Similar assertions about opportunity redistribution are used in affirmative action. The argument is, if there is racism, then there is an unfair advantage to favored races (Asians and whites, typically) and unfair disadvantage to non-favored races (namely African-Americans and Hispanics). If so, the argument goes, then there should be some “redistribution” of opportunity based on race—take from the advantaged races and give to the disadvantaged races, as if people are less individuals and more representatives of groups that share their skin color.
There was an satirical illustration of this concept, in the form of an affirmative action bake sale, done on some college campuses (Bucknell and Berkeley), and followed up in a mall by John Stossel. It got the conversation going, and even those getting the advantage saw the system as demeaning. However, it’s hard to tell whether the point got across, or whether the very subject of race was so taboo that discussion was shut down. But that’s a subject for another day.
I saw a somewhat unbelievable poster online, advertising a panel that would be discussing getting rid of all advantageous opportunities—evening things out. The panel theme is “No More Success Stories.” Why? Because for every 1 in a million success story, there are 999,999 left behind. Not kidding. Pretty sure this is not satire.
So, the question is, should differences in opportunity be evened out? Should opportunities be redistributed?
The concept behind Obamacare answers those questions with a loud yes. It is a simple fact that some people are healthier than others, and true that these healthier people can get by with paying less for health care, sometimes even opting to go without health insurance, or getting only a catastrophic protection policy. Others—the no-longer-young, the elderly, the already ill or injured—don’t have the luxury of going without health insurance coverage, or may have to pay more to get it. They are disadvantaged by less than peak health.
So Obamacare attempts to “redistribute” through financial measures the financial health advantages particularly of the young and healthy demographic, and make them pay more so that the older and less healthy demographics can supposedly pay less than they would. In reality, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in any demographic paying less for whatever coverage they had before the law, but that’s a discussion for another day. The point today is that the law was designed to “redistribute” good health advantages. And it is true that pretty much every single young healthy person will be required to cough up significant income that they wouldn’t otherwise have spent.
This isn’t a surprise. It was part of the discussion before the Supreme Court; it’s in the transcripts. (I wrote about the ruling before and after.) The law is a tax on healthy people intended to subsidize the less healthy.
One major problem with “redistribution” of any opportunity is that it uses some distant, powerful overseer (tyrant) to make decisions best made by individuals. Most young people are not as financially well off as most older people, nor as well off as they will be later in their lives. They are paying student loan debts, getting started in their careers. If there is a time to risk doing without comprehensive health insurance, they’re at the best time of their lives to do it. Maybe a catastrophic policy would be wise, if they can afford one. But chances are in their favor that their money is better spent on something else—and that’s why so many of this demographic have chosen to spend less on medical coverage.
Obamacare, in essence, forces young healthy people to impoverish themselves for a product they don’t need in order to help pay a subsidy for that product to people at the culmination of their career and lifetime of wealth building who can better afford to pay the higher costs. In the first year or two, paying the penalty/tax is a lower burden than paying for the actual product. It’s just money into a black hole, though—no actual benefit to the young healthy person being extorted.
On top of it all, the failure of the Obamacare website is just a little too much to believe. Here’s the summary: young people are forced to buy a product they don’t want, don’t need, and can't afford to help buy that product for those who are already affording it—and this tech savvy demographic is supposed to voluntarily sign up for this servitude on a website that doesn’t work.
Yes, that is centrally planned “redistribution” at its finest. Welcome to tyranny.

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