Monday, February 12, 2007

For The Last Time,This Isn't Soviet Russia

One of the staples of the economy of Communist Russia (or any Communist nation, for that matter) was price fixing, a process by which a group of bureaucrats would decide that, this week, bread was worth 10 ruble, milk was worth 15, and meat was worth 50. Since they set the prices, they had to set the wages as well, because while the Soviets were no strangers to making their people starve, they couldn't be obvious about it and price necessary commodities higher than what the average prole needed to eek by. So, this group decided, being a doctor got you 100 rubles a week, and being a farmer got you 60. That a planned economy can work is a fiction no longer held even by the Chinese, whose government is inseparably attached to the political framework of Stalinist Communism.

You might then wonder why it is that there are factions of our government that wish to impose a smaller, but no less insidious, form of price and wage fixing upon the American market. It may be because the electorate is, unfortunately, not all that bright and only sees the promise of something for free while completely overlooking the consequences of those unending free lunches. Or it could be white guilt. Or it could be because too many somber college feminists get to go to the polls full of feelings of righteous anger that their Poems of Post-colonial Wymyn professor told them to feel, and have to get back at daddy for having all that money unfairly. I don't know, I don't care. Understanding the why would involve understanding the psyche of a public that has, in almost every important area of life, shown itself incapable of making a rational decision about anything.

The why aside, the central planning that has manifested itself in the forms of the minimum wage and "universal health care" will be no less harmful to our economy than the failed experiment of Communism was to the Soviets, and the threat to our freedoms is perhaps greater.

The minimum wage hits the low end, establishing a basement value for a commodity. The commodity in this case is labor, but that doesn't make a difference. Everything is expressible in terms of labor: how many man-hours did it take to make a car/house/hammer/cat carrier is no different a question than to ask how much steel it took to make those things. According to Congressional central planners and their 3rd Communist International supporters, there is no act of labor that is worth less than $7.25 an hour. 60 minutes of the least skilled, least valuable person in this country's time is worth at least $7.25.

If you're a Leftist, right now you're thinking, "But $7.25 isn't that much, and people need to earn a living wage", or some other nonsense, and if you're not a simpering college student, you're thinking "Man, that's going to jack up the economy". Either way, set that aside. I don't care about the pragmatic arguments for or against the minimum wage.

We're a nation built on laws which codify our rights and freedoms, as well as the powers our government has, and our evaluation of any policy should begin there. The minimum wage represents an egregious overstepping by the federal government. That it's happened before is no reason to let it go by without a whisper of complaint now. That's the road to pure apathy, because if there's a single freedom that you possess that the government hasn't brutalized, I haven't heard of it.

Who gave the government the power to decide for private businessmen what the cost of labor should be? Is the government comprised of magic fairies with special dust that give it super duper awesome insight into the inner workings of our economy? Were they reading a big book labeled "THE UNITED STATES ECONOMY", and noticed that there was some extra elasticity when it came to the cost of low end labor? No, they simply asserted that no business could pay less than an arbitrary amount for an hour of JoJo the Circus Boy swinging around a mop.

It is private businesses, and only private businesses, who have the right to determine the cost of labor. After all, they're the ones that pay it, not the government (of course, the government pays people with our money anyway). They're the ones who have the responsibility to their employees, customers, and families to turn a profit, not the State. And they've done pretty well on their own without Uncle Sam sticking his nose in it. The amount you're paid now is probably pretty close to what you're worth. But, in a desire to show that they mean business in the war between the peasants and the evil, top-hat wearing capitalists, the government is taking yet a little more of our freedom away from us, the freedom to run our businesses as our needs require.

So that's Nancy and Harry and Fat, Drunk Ted and all the rest hitting us from the bottom, instituting wage fixing. But they're not happy wreaking havoc on just one part of the economy, no. To jam us all from the top, the brilliant Socialists in Washington have decided that, you know what, it'd just be keen if the government (by which, of course, is meant the people of the United States) would just pay for everyone's health insurance. Again, the why is unimportant. Maybe some people just get their jollies from wasting billions of other people's dollars.

What matters is that "universal health care" is just another word for "price fixing". Under any "universal", tax-payer funded health care system, the government will necessarily set the price for medical care. How can it do that? Well, if everyone pays for their medical care through the government, that means that, essentially, the government has the buying power of 300 million individuals rolled into one giant customer. When you've only got one customer, you can't dicker on price too much if you want to work.

This, of course, means that the government will be setting arbitrary values on the labor of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners, the use of hospital facilities, the development of new medical technology, and a host of other things it simply cannot rationally succeed at. That decision will no longer be left to the people who, you know, practice medicine, or develop new drugs, or own hospitals, the people whom those things directly affect. Your rights as a consumer of medical goods and services will be limited by the desire of the state to impose its will upon you, as though your own concern for your health can be trumped by the abstract will of the progressive wave in Washington.

And yet, through all this, we stand there and do nothing. Nobody says a word when Sen. Obama, the first black candidate for President that the Left doesn't secretly cringe over, declares that there will be universal health care by 2012. Nobody says a word when the unworking, but often-protesting, mob of the Left storms state capitols and demands a "living wage". Every time the state engages in this kind of central planning, they're ripping your freedom to make your own value decisions away from you, and making you foot the bill. It's like paying someone to stun-gun you every time you reach for a piece of chocolate cake. Yeah, you might drop the pounds eventually, but only because you've been turned into cattle.


Anonymous said...

Great essay. Let's not discount the pragmatic reason to oppose Govt meddling in economies: It's well-established fomr long-run economic growth statistics that free economies grow faster than socialized economies.

Socialism is a prescription for poverty.
Socialized medicine is a prescription for poor healthcare.

Anonymous said...

"Nobody says a word when Sen. Obama, the first black candidate for President that the Left doesn't secretly cringe over, declares that there will be universal health care by 2012."

The dirty secret is that there pretty much already is 'universal health care' ... Govt programs are there for those who arent getting health care coverage already from employers, etc. the young, the old, the poor have programs, and even illegal aliens get treatment in clinics at taxpayer expense. See, simply because some dont have health *insurance* (and 90% of Americans *do* have it), doesnt mean they dont get health *care*.

It's a difference that the health-care socializers want to confuse people over, they have concocted a 'right' to 'health insurance' and concocted regulations that make it impossible for all american to approve such insurance, since that is the only way they can get the Govt to run not just 1/3rd of the health care economy that they already run, but the 2/3rds that is private-insurance covered.