Emily Skarbek (who, BTW, earned her Econ Ph.D. at GMU) talks with Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie about the Independent Institute’s Government Cost Calculator.  It can handle big numbers.

Relatedly, in this video Duquesne University economist Antony Davies discusses what Social Security means to a typical 22-year-old American.

James Warner explores a policy debate between Dostoevsky and Tolstoy on whether powerful governments should intervene in global trouble spots for humanitarian purposes.  Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. (HT Walter Grinder)

In this paper, University of Michigan law professor Douglas Kahn and Washington & Lee law professor Jeffrey Kahn question the strength of the free-rider argument for justifying the “individual mandate” in Obamacare.  Here’s the abstract:

Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act added section 5000A to the Internal Revenue Code to require most individuals in the United States to purchase a minimum level of medical insurance. This requirement, which is enforced by a penalty imposed on those who fail to comply, is sometimes referred to as the “individual mandate.” A frequently stated defense of the individual mandate is that there are a vast number of persons who do not purchase medical insurance and then obtain free medical care when the need arises, and the individual mandate will require those persons (often referred to as “free-riders”) to pay their share. It is the significance of this free-rider justification that we question. We conclude that the free-rider problem, if it existed at all, likely was of minor significance and can hardly be said to justify the adoption of the new health care program. The actual congressional reason for adopting the program seems to rest on an entirely different purpose, and the debate over the desirability of the program should focus on the merits of that other purpose.

Cato’s Dan Ikenson – and The Atlantic‘s Megan McArdle – each, in his and her own way, explains that (in McArdle’s words) “GM’s profits are still a huge net loss for taxpayers.”

The Washington Post discusses Russ’s and John Papola’s remarkable rap videos.

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Randy May 17, 2011 at 8:32 am

I do not accept “free rider” arguments, because I understand that the sole purpose of political organization is to create free riders.

Dan S May 17, 2011 at 9:58 am

The free rider argument as used here is based on the notion that healthcare is a public good and therefore a right. If one accepts that fallacious primary, then it sets loose all the morally hazardous and bankrupt ideas which follow…where the collective is the solution to every problem (which requires that one forgets that the collective is the source of every problem, as well).

Ken May 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Dan S,

Are public goods and rights the same? Do people make this argument? I agree that that premise is fallacious, but I don’t recall anyone making this equivalence. Do you have examples?


Peter McIlhon May 18, 2011 at 1:47 am

Ken, I think he’s referring to Healthcare not as a public good or commodity, but rather good for the public.

P.S. I’ve also heard my liberal friends try to explain why Healthcare AND Education are an intrinsic human right. I laughed a lot.

Chucklehead May 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I love how at the end of a rare balanced WPO article, they steer you to the Daily Kos, where they spew the usual:
“Keynesians have one big advantage in policy fights. Their policies are common sense. If people are out of work because of falling demand, use government spending to drive demand back up. It just makes sense.”

Ken May 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm


The best part is the WaPo comments, where Russ is just a Koch brother pawn. This sentence is fantastic : “The Koches may call themselves libertarians, but they’ll clearly trade a free society for a tax cut.” where these dunces actually think a government run society is a free society.


Bill May 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Although on the right track, I have a small gripe with the presentation of what Social Security means to a 22 year old, because it left out the disability insurance aspect, which is a huge benefit. Private disability policies are very expensive, and hard to get for anyone not in decent or better health.

Also, while Social Security benefits do not go to one’s estate when one passes, often times there are survivor benefits for children if one passes before receiving benefits and has eligible beneficiaries. This benefit must also be counted, if one assumes that most people leave their estate to their spouse and/or children.

Also the assumption that a private investment will return inflation plus 3% is quite an assumption. It can safely be made looking at the last 110 years, sure, but we don’t yet spend 110 years in retirement. Let’s say someone retired in 2000 when the DOW was over 12,000, and spent the last 10 years drawing down their account, at times when the market was at 7,000. Ouch.

Social Security, on the other hand, does not necessarily need to promise future returns as a percentage of past payments, as it is more a social contract to tax young productive workers in some amount and give to older exhausted workers. So, if 30 years from now people are paid in new form of currency, lets call it “future bucks,” and the DOW and NASDAQ have tanked because energy is produced through one cold fusion machine and the world only needs one super computer that writes its own software, bonds in IBM and Shell won’t be worth much. The ability of the goverment to tax productive citizens in whatever form wealth and productivity take in the future will continue to be viable though. Not likely, but worth considering when trying to compare the two.

Joshua May 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm

The other assumption is that a person can or will obtain and hold gainful employment their entire working years. Housewife’s husbands would need to contribute double. The infirm get nothing, addicts, the unemployable nothing.

Also, the contributions would have to be manditory, how would that be any different from a tax? If they weren’t manditory, people would opt out, gambling that they would get by (on society/charity/new legislation), or just not caring about their fate and being a burden down the line in hospital/shelter whatever, because unlike many cafe hayek posters (sorry to those who aren’t), I and many folks can’t just let a dying starving person on the street lay there.

Ken May 18, 2011 at 1:11 am


What stinking drivel.

“The other assumption is that a person can or will obtain and hold gainful employment their entire working years.”

Who is making this assumption?

“Housewife’s husbands would need to contribute double. The infirm get nothing, addicts, the unemployable nothing.”

What are you talking about?

“I and many folks can’t just let a dying starving person on the street lay there.”

You’re not talking about keeping a dying starving person on the street (of which I ask you to find me in the US). You seem to think that the government actually feeds people. It doesn’t. It is in fact the largest cause of famine in the world. You talk about government programs like SS as if they are compassionate. They aren’t.

You say dumb shit like “people would opt out, gambling that they would get by (on society/charity/new legislation), or just not caring about their fate and being a burden down the line in hospital/shelter whatever”, which is utterly false. SS, medicare, medicaid and all the other host of “caring” legislation incentivizes people NOT to save or take care of themselves. After all, why should they? Evil dumbasses like you tell them “No worries. We’ll take by force from others. All you have to do is give up all your freedom, go to the doctor we tell you to, take the medicine will tell you to, and ignore that the fact that I will exempt myself from all this legislation. After all if it sucks, I’m not going to subject myself to it.”



Dan May 18, 2011 at 2:00 am

I and many folks can’t just let a dying starving person on the street lay there.-Joshua

Great!!!! you have a couch or extra bedroom? Move them in.
Buy their meals!!! Their is no legislation stopping you………….. only your own discriminations.

kyle8 May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Unreal, I mean, just unreal, Social Security is a horrible, bankrupt Ponzi scheme and here are two ya-hoos actually defending it.

jeffrey neal May 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I’m certain I can’t solve the riddle that is created by the rationale of the liberal defense of ObamaCare.

Problem: There are too many free-riders [pronounced sneeringly and with moral approbation] taking advantage of free care at hospital emergeny rooms at an estimated cost to Americans of $XX billion per year.

Solution: Tax those same Americans $XXX billion per year, so we can do a better job of taking care of the poor [pronounced with great compassion] who need better access to free health care.

Riddle: Do we resent the free riders or have pity for the poor?

Answer: I’d prefer to keep paying my share of $XX billion, wouldn’t you?

Mao_Dung May 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm

A question posed to Stephen Hawkings:

Q. Though you avoid stating your own political beliefs too openly, you entered into the health care debate here in the United States last year. Why did you do that?

A. I entered the health care debate in response to a statement in the United States press in summer 2009 which claimed the National Health Service in Great Britain would have killed me off, were I a British citizen. I felt compelled to make a statement to explain the error.

I am British, I live in Cambridge, England, and the National Health Service has taken great care of me for over 40 years. I have received excellent medical attention in Britain, and I felt it was important to set the record straight. I believe in universal health care. And I am not afraid to say so.

Chris May 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm

You don’t think there’s a chance his iconic status got him to the “front of the line”?

Peter McIlhon May 18, 2011 at 1:54 am

Let’s put aside the fact that he’s Steven Freakin’ Hawkings for a minute ( a national icon). If 50 patients with his condition lived in the US, I’m willing to be all of the money in my pockets that more patients would receive better and more expedient care than those same 50 in the UK.

Peter McIlhon May 18, 2011 at 1:54 am

sorry, ‘willing to bet’.

Dan May 18, 2011 at 1:58 am

Does the Queen of England have spectacular teeth care, whilst the general population looks like they have swiss cheese dentures?

Mao_Dung May 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I still can’t get that scene out of my head where a demagogic “Hayek” is dressed in a military outfit with a helmet huffing and puffing that “wars only destroy,” and that you can’t eat bullets. The only thing missing was a little girl picking daisies when an a-bomb goes off in the back ground.


I think that propagandistic scene will be the Achilles heel of the video.

kyle8 May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm

you are really reaching.

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