Archives For Massachusetts Senate Race

Two accomplices get arrested for a number of crimes. The police have enough information to assure they both get a two year sentence. But they think they could connect them to another, much bigger crime, so they make both criminals an offer. If one informs on the other, he’ll go free, while the other will certainly get a ten year sentence. However, if both inform on each other, the police will have enough to ensure they both get five years.

The above scenario is commonly given to explain one principle of what has come to be called Game Theory: that when everyone works in his own best interest, it is possible to end up in a far worse position than if everyone had worked in the best interest of the collective. In the above situation it is always in one’s best interest to inform. If the other prisoner informs, you only get five years instead of ten, and if he doesn’t inform, you go free instead of getting two. Nonetheless, when both prisoners follow their best interest by informing, both get five, whereas paradoxically both could have gotten only two if they’d kept their mouths shut.

Conservatives, Libertarians, and Classical Liberals* tend to hate the above conclusion. And perhaps hate is too soft a word. It is an anathema to liberty, and one is a despised Communist merely for thinking it. As we all know, unbridled liberty is the source of all prosperity. America won the Cold War, after all, by each of us concerning ourselves only with our individual prosperity, whereas those collectivists sank into economic malaise, which ruined the Soviets, and would have ruined China if they hadn’t reformed their economic system to be more free-market. At least, this is the prevailing wisdom among modern Conservatives.

The above argument does a serious disservice to the principle of individual liberty and small government. It reduces what is essentially a moral argument into utilitarianism. Classical Liberal thought is based on the idea that people have foundational rights, that these rights allow one to choose to do anything which is not directly belligerent to another person’s rights, and that no one’s rights may be morally infringed for the benefit of any number of others. The utilitarian expresses the last principle differently: that when no one’s rights are infringed, any number of others will benefit. Now, if we were to apply that to, say, our first amendment rights, we would arrive at the conclusion that we are permitted freedom of speech because it benefits society. But from here it is no great leap to conclude that where freedom of speech does not benefit society, it need not be granted. No such conclusion could be drawn from the moral argument, that no amount of benefit to society can ever justify the suppression of speech. For this reason, the moral argument is superior to the utilitarian: it isn’t weakened when the collectivists put forward arguments along the lines of the prisoner paradox.

What then should the response to collectivism? Friedrich von Hayek, perhaps destined to be considered the greatest of the 20th century’s Classical Liberals, wrote extensively on this topic. In his work, the Road to Serfdom, the argument was put forward that the level of regulation necessary to achieve any benefits from collectivism would effectively end human liberty. Our choices would all need to be made for us by central planners, because we wouldn’t comply with the best interests of the collective on our own.

Put another way, let’s return to the first scenario. The reason this situation is regarded as paradoxical is because it is always in one’s best interest to choose the option that leads to prison for five years, whereas it is never in one’s best interest to choose the option that only leads to two years. Even if both prisoners are allowed to get together and talk out their options, and they both see that a better outcome is assured if both of them keep their mouths shut, and they agree to this course of action, it still remains an even better option for each one to double cross the other. If the first double crosses the second, he gets even fewer years than the two he’d agreed to earlier, and if both double cross, he gets five instead of ten. The paradox of this situation is that if each individual is allowed to have any individual choice whatsoever, his best choice leads to the worse result, and his worst choice leads to the better result. In order to obtain the better result, these criminals can’t be allowed any say in the matter, and a central planner must step in and choose to make both of them keep silent whether they want to or not. So long as they have any kind of individual choice, this problem cannot be resolved.

The Classical Liberal’s only recourse then is to try to eliminate any personal involvement in situations where these kinds of paradoxes occur, and they do occur often enough in our economy. When given a choice between an economic disaster or the loss of personal liberty, abstain altogether! I’ve harped on health insurance before, and have said most of what I think needs saying, but I think it provides a good example of how we ought to approach these problems. When health insurance is used as a payment mechanism for general medical care, the quantity of medicine you individually purchase has very little correlation to the premiums you pay, so frugality is not rewarded: you may as well use it to cover as much as you can; your costs will be divided among so many people that it’s hardly noticeable. But when everyone adopts this mindset, the costs of hundreds of millions of people splurging adds up, and premiums are forced to skyrocket just so insurance providers can break even. There’s still no point in being frugal, because that won’t lower your premium by more than a minuscule fraction of a cent, and even if everyone else in the country acted in the best interest of the collective and lowered their consumption, that only returns us to the position we were in at the beginning, where everyone is encouraged to buy lots of medicine for cheap, once again leading everyone to splurge. Just abstain: get catastrophic coverage, a cheap policy with a very high deductible, but pay for day to day expenses out of pocket and you’ll probably be able to save money. (That is, provided Washington gets its act together and allows tax-free personal health savings accounts.)

And, incidentally, this is another reason why the people in Washington trying to pass their insurance regulation “reform” bill (which I still doubt is going to make it into law, although the Dems are apparently more suicidal than I gave them credit for when I wrote after Scott Brown’s election and are trying to go Kamikaze to get it passed) are writing a simple disaster. The use of insurance as a funding mechanism for ordinary, expected health-care expenses puts everyone in the above paradox, which is causing the higher premiums we want to prevent. Abstention from non-catastrophic insurance is the only solution, yet the bill in question makes it illegal to abstain. This leaves us with one of two choices: premiums can go up forever, or a (death) panel of central planners will make our decisions for us, based on our value to the collective. The Democrats swear the latter will never happen, so in other words they plan on reducing premiums by forcing the market to raise premiums. Brilliant.

—–

*Try as I may, I cannot find an appropriate word for the philosophy upon which the idea of a limited government is founded other than Liberal. The word Liberal, from the Latin root meaning “free,” was applied first to the same people as invented the idea of defined and limited government powers as a vehicle for protecting freedom. This Classic Liberalism finds its expression most clearly in modern fiscal conservatives, whereas fiscal liberals, being statist and all too often authoritarian, do not deserve the term. Doubtless calling conservatives liberals and liberals illiberal is confusing, but it needs to be done, as the alternative is becoming more problematic. Fiscal conservatives, being unable to call liberals illiberal, have taken to calling them by names of other historically illiberal groups: socialists and fascists. This is not precisely accurate, and illiberals are all too ready to point out minor distinctions between their views which are supposed to deflect the accusation. A wider, blanket term for statists is required, and that term is illiberal. But to use that term, the fiscal conservative must also become comfortable with calling himself a Liberal.

There’s a new kind of flip-flop in Washington. The power flip flop. One day the Republicans are flying high with their man on Pennsylvania Ave and good footing in both houses. The next, Democrats are on top with a majority in the houses and their man in the Oval office. Then an election spins out of control and into the headlines in Massachusetts and suddenly the top dogs are scrambling to keep their footing again. Up and down and in and out, Republicans and Democrats all vying and campaigning to win their seats and stay in power.

Which, for me, begs the question, are the politicians in Washington too busy being representatives of their parties to be representatives of the people?

Consider. In Massachusetts there was a mad scramble of last minute campaigning by the Democratic party to try to save Ted Kennedy’s seat from the hands of an upstart Republican. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both put in appearances to this end, though in vain. Why? To get a Democrat back into the house. The desires of the people of Massachusetts seemed irrelevant (note: this is the second time in this paragraph that I have spelled that state correctly on the first try without the assistance of spell check), for when the desires of the people seemed to challenge the power of the party, the party flexed its muscles against them.

Last I checked the purposes and desires of our founding fathers, the goal of representative government was to represent the people of the nation, not some power hungry political party. The shift has been subtle, but its effects can no longer be ignored. No wonder the people of this country, and particularly young people, are disillusioned, cynical and frustrated about the government. They feel like they have no voice in the goings on of our country, and it is beginning to seem that this perception is not far off.

What a radical day it would be if a Democrat or Republican began to run for office in a particular state or district and then dropped out on the grounds of “I cannot accurately represent the needs and desires of this constituency; my opponent will do a better job of that for these particular people than I” instead of scrambling, biting and clawing to win a seat for their party, regardless of the good of the people.

Obama ran under the banner of “change” and said he would be a new day for the American government, would encourage bipartisanship, would consider all interests, and even a few weeks ago derided the “permanent campaigning” of Washington politics. A funny thing from the mouth of a man who scant days before had himself been campaigning for Coakley. He has not brought change to Wasington. He is a democrat, representing the democratic party, and trying to work with republicans representing the republican party.

All America wants to know is when someone will show up in Washington who wants to represent people instead of a party.

To make a law, a bill must be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the President. This is what we all learned from the School House Rock song, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Both chambers want their say in a bill. If the House writes and passes a bill, the senate usually isn’t willing to just rubber stamp it into law. The senators want their own concerns addressed. So after the house passes a bill, the senate will usually write an entirely separate bill. Now we have a problem: no single bill has been passed by both chambers, so despite the fact both have passed a bill, nothing can yet be presented to the president. Here comes the fun part. Both bills are sent to a conference committee which creates a third bill. Now both houses vote on this, and then the president can sign it into law.

The Democratic “health care” “reform” bill is at the proper stage for conference committee. One bill has passed the House, and a second has passed the Senate. But Democrats can’t do this, because a committee bill would have to pass the Senate again. As of tonight, that’s not going to happen. The Republicans have picked up seat number 41 with the election of Scott Brown. This allows them to filibuster, or to essentially prolong debate on the bill indefinitely. Not only that, the fact that Brown was elected by Massachusetts is quite probably going to shake either Nelson or Bayh or Webb into the no camp. Remember: Obama’s been telling the Dems for months that the only way they can save their careers is to vote yes on Obamacare. Clinton has prolcaimed that the major Democratic defeat in 94 was caused, not by the same manner of voter disgust over Hillarycare as we see over Obamacare, but rather, by Congress’s inability to pass a bill. If that were true, we’d have a Senator Elect Coakley tonight instead.

If the Senate can’t be counted on to pass another bill, the only option Democrats have is to have the House pass the Senate bill which had already been passed verbatim. Through a process called reconciliation, which is immune to the filibuster but can only address strictly budgetary issues, the senate can pass modifications to the taxes planned to pay for this, but otherwise, the House has to accept everything the Senate gave them, or the bill is dead.

Is this going to happen? House leadership says yes. The average house Democrat, by all accounts, is much less optimistic. When the bill passed the house, it passed by 5 votes. One of those was the lone Republican, Joseph Cao, whom no one expects to vote for it again. Now if even two more Democrats flip, that means the bill will fail by one vote (because every vote which flips from yes to no subtracts one from the yes column and adds one to the no column, bringing the columns nearer by two).

Now, about twenty or so Democrats voted against the first bill, for various reasons. The House contains a coalition of “Blue Dogs,” or conservative Democrats. But these have been derided over the past three years as being all bark and no bite. It’s been argued that Pelosi is allowing these two dozen or so to vote no such that their largely conservative constituencies won’t vote them out, but if she needs the votes, she can get them. Nonetheless, if these representatives were allowed to vote no to save their jobs earlier, and now seeing Massachusetts have even more reason to fear for their jobs, one would have to be a pretty serious ideological liberal to flip one’s vote now.

So, for what it’s worth, I think this bill is dead. And I’m hoping to see one of the market-driven reform bills that have been written by the Republicans replace it after the Republicans either retake the house this November, or at least make the gains necessary to prevent the Dems from suppressing it like they have suppressed a half dozen palatable alternatives already.

Postscript:


About two hours after the election was called, I read that Barney Frank, who is no Blue Dog, has stated that the Democrats are not going to be able to continue as if the Massachusetts election hadn’t happened, and will have to try to pass a revised version of the current bill through the Senate. If the House leadership can’t get Frank on board with the pass-the-Senate-bill-verbatim strategy, it’s not going to happen. The day after the election was called, we have Obama himself making similar, if cryptic statements. Democratic leadership has awoken to the fact they overstepped with Obamacare, and do not intend to destroy their party with what everyone would now see as cheap antics. There is still talk of a compromise which would be diluted so that it can get the approval of Senate moderates, but such, if even possible, would require foundational and revolutionary changes such that it wouldn’t even be the same bill, I think I’m justified in reiterating, this bill is dead.

The national political scene was thrown squarely upon its crown last eve, when upstart GOPer Scott Brown won a senate seat in the most liberal state in the country formerly held for half a century by Ted Kennedy we learned that Massachusetts Senator-Elect Scott Brown has two extremely cute daughters. Rarely does a newly elected national figure / giant killer use his first moments on the public stage to make the comment that his daughters are “available”. Scratch that – just the tall one?

Since Mr. Brown notified the nation that his daughter is someone we ought to consider a relationship with, how could we turn away from analyzing the prospect? It would be frankly irresponsible. So. Let us ponder whether or nay you should invest your heart in pursuing Miss Ayla Brown.

The first thing to consider here is that she is tall and athletic. She is so gifted in the field (court, whatever…) of basketball, that for Boston College. This seems super nice at first, but… keep in mind that it could potentially prove dangerous. Imagine for a moment that you”re out with the young lady, and she teases you. Just imagine. Now, that”s all good, because she could say you looked like a refrigerator and it wouldn”t diminish your affection for her. However, she might attempt to punctuate this jibe with a playful jab to your shoulder (we”re told athletic girls do this at times). She doesn”t mean to be bellicose, but because she is so strong, she will knock you down. On the ground. The floor. What have you. According to the babynamesocean.com, the name “Ayla” is Hebrew for “mighty Oak Tree”. Think on that.

One additional caution on that – tall athletes are rumored to be strong and unhappy. They are unhappy because they are in shape – thus requiring them to spend endless (and, we”re told) painful hours in buildings allegedly termed gymnasiums and work out facilities (?). This can apparently lead to sudden bouts of extreme moodiness and general rancor.

Moving on, not only is Ayla Brown a pretty young woman – she is also apparently a talented singer. It seems that she on a fairly well known talent program… something about worshiping golden calves and Ryan Seacrest?!

In addition to her TV fame, she starred in a presentation of Andrew Lloyd Webber”s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This is impressive! There is a singing, dancing camel in that show! Buuutt… there could be red flags here as well…

Do you know who the most famous dude ever cast as Joseph in aforementioned stage affair was? Donny Osmond. And do you know what Donny Osmond”s publicist once advised him to do? Make people think he was having problems with substance abuse so people would think he was more “with it”! Clearly, this connection establishes that Ayla”s publicist may someday tell her to do the same. Food for thought there.

Lots of great qualities, a pretty sweet Hebrew name, but some terrifying possibilities – such is the story of this week”s most famous single, Republican daughter – Miss Ayla Brown.

The good news is that you probably don”t need to spend a great amount of time philosophizing over whether you should attempt to win her heart as the chances of such a victory are akin to those of Keith Olberman offering a warm, bearhug-ish embrace to James Dobson.

Then again, there really was no chance that a little known, pickup truck driving state senator was going to beat the Democrat machine & storied Kennedy legacy to win a Massachusetts senate seat either. Hmmmm.

Follow Ayla on twitter here, on Facebook here, and visit her official website here.

Update: The Boston Herald reports that, according to Miss Brown, Ayla”s dad asked Governor Mitt Romney if he “had any more sons he could sell me to”. That is the funniest thing I have heard all week.

TWG Podcast Update – The voters of Taxachusetts just did something profound. They replaced the late Ted Kennedy as their senator in Washington with truck driver Scott Brown. TWG examines the consequences of this seeming lunacy on Obamacare and the big man himself (hope guy). What ARE the Dems going to do now? Continue Reading…