The Consequences of One's Own Behavior

foodhorizon.jpgAny free society requires an individual to bear the consequences of his behavior; otherwise, it's not a free society. This simple fact escapes the logic of most government intervention.

Radley Balko makes this point in his latest Foxnews article:

If I?m paying for my neighbor?s high cholesterol, I?m more open to the idea that perhaps government ought to start regulating what he eats. If we?re all paying for one another?s trips to the doctor, we?re all more likely to support government regulation of what McDonalds can and can?t put on its menu, what Safeway or Kroger ought to stock on their shelves, and maybe it?s not such a bad idea to ban Kraft and Nabisco from advertising cookies and corn chips ? especially to kids.

Conversely, if I know my health is my own responsibility, and that my medical bills will be coming out of my own savings account, I?m a little more likely to take care of myself.

Personal responsibility goes hand in hand with personal freedom. We can?t regulate away responsibility without regulating away consumer and personal choice. Worse, countries that have attempted the social engineering efforts now advocated by Jennings and his ilk (Sweden, for example) have seen poor returns, leaving the citizens of those countries both overweight and less free.

Andy Duncan makes a similar point at Samizdata.

Take, for instance, asthma patients who smoke. I came across many of these, as a medical student, when I worked in the Northern General Hospital, in Sheffield. So why do they smoke when this lands them in an oxygen tent manned by a medical student making a mess of their right-arm, in his pitiful attempts to take blood samples from them every morning? Because the NHS supplies all of the Ventolin Inhalers they may need, supplies all of the incompetent medical students they may need, and supplies all of the sick notes and hospital beds they may need, to help their damaged lungs recover from their stupid and continuing nicotinic self-abuse. Some of them were even happy to be there, to spend a few weeks away from home, relaxing, getting paid on the medical sick note, watching television all day, and chatting to nurses and medical students. Oh yes, and when well enough, slipping outside for a quick smoke.

Would they abuse their bodies as much, smoking with asthma, if they had to supply their own wages insurance, had to pay the full cost for their own Ventolin supplies, and had to pay for their own hospital treatment insurance, to pick up the pieces, at a special ten times rate for asthmatics testing nicotine-positive on their blood samples? Of course they wouldn't. And will more social engineering and more extravagant government targets make them quit smoking? Are you kidding me? They're in hospital, facing death through smoking, right in the face. And a subsidy on Kumquats funded by a tax on chocolate Kit-Kats is going to make them give up? Beam me up, Nanny. Even an outright ban on smoking would only stop them for a few weeks, until the rapidly expanding tobacco and chocolate black markets got them hooked back in again.

One of the most popular catch-phrases of public health bureaucrats these days is "preventative medicine". Of course, being bureaucrats, they see preventative medicine as a "system" of top-down diktats of Burger Taxes and Wars on Junk Food. A true plan for preventative medicine already exists; it's called the free market. In it, individuals bear the responsibility and costs of their own health care decisions. Destructive behavior imposes costs on the individual engaging in it. Prudent behavior rewards the individual leading a life of moderation. The best preventative medicine is letting the individual bear the consequences of his behavior.

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Jonathon Wilde: A true plan

Jonathon Wilde: A true plan for preventative medicine already exists; it's called the free market.

Actually I think it is more accurately called The Laws of Physics. I?m not clear on why you believe the ?free market? deters crime or immoral behavior?

Jonathon Wilde: In it, individuals bear the responsibility and costs of their own health care decisions. Destructive behavior imposes costs on the individual engaging in it. Prudent behavior rewards the individual leading a life of moderation. The best preventative medicine is letting the individual bear the consequences of his behavior.

Wouldn?t a Society want to encourage behavior that was beneficial to the Society, and discourage behavior that was harmful to the Society?

And since a ?Society? is made up of Individuals, what is good for the Individual is ultimately good for the Society. In other words, the concept of what is ?beneficial? is only meaningful to a Society in terms of Individuals within that Society.

Now with Individuals you have a different situation. It may be in a given individuals best interest (i.e. most beneficial) to use other individuals for his own selfish purpose. In other words, an Individual will often benefit at the expense of harming other individuals.

Serpent, if you want to pay

Serpent, if you want to pay for those 3 fat pigs bypass surgery, and all the other 200 million pigs with a 'gunt' go ahead, its your choice. we/i don't have a choice. thats socialism 101. i also don't want to pay to educate said fat pigs about food or anything else, as it was that kind of socialist goverment mindlessness that is digging my grave. i don't care what happens to them, just don't make me pay for it. they can eat themselves into oblivion.

if health insurance

if health insurance companies started going out of business (I wish), I could envision a future where individuals join shopping clubs for their specific health needs. For example if a smoker needs Ventolin, nicotin gum, etc. he/she would pay for membership at the "Smokers Price Club" and at that point get discounted prices because the club has negotiated bulk discounts with health care providers. An individual could join multiple clubs depending on their situation (i.e. overweight, elderly, etc)

at the end of the day though, health insurance isn't going away because people in general have a tough time administering "tough love" for those who abuse their bodies. Stories of crack babies and injured war veterans will always create sympathy in our hearts, maybe not Jonathans, and lay the groundwork for taking care of everybody.

if health insurance

if health insurance companies started going out of business (I wish), I could envision a future where individuals join shopping clubs for their specific health needs. For example if a smoker needs Ventolin, nicotin gum, etc. he/she would pay for membership at the "Smokers Price Club" and at that point get discounted prices because the club has negotiated bulk discounts with health care providers. An individual could join multiple clubs depending on their situation (i.e. overweight, elderly, etc)

You realize this would be anti-democratic, right?

ha ha. unlike you, I don't

ha ha. unlike you, I don't think free market and democracy are contradictory philosophies, but rather different forms of expression for individual beliefs and preferences.

ha ha. unlike you, I don't

ha ha. unlike you, I don't think free market and democracy are contradictory philosophies, but rather different forms of expression for individual beliefs and preferences.

You're contradicting yourself. The scheme you outlined above is anti-democratic. It is a free market system. If it were democratic, we'd all vote for which system we wanted, and the system that received the greatest fraction of votes would be implemented for everyone.

If you are pro-democracy, you cannot espouse "individuals [joining] shopping clubs for their specific health needs". Otherwise, you are contradicting yourself.

I respectfully

I respectfully disagree.

Take the following scenario: Farmer Micah forcefully takes some of Farmer Jonathan's land. What recourse does Farmer Jonathan have? What is the free-market answer to this problem? You may say that Farmer Jonathan should pay a private company for security services. That may be fine for Farmer Jonathan because he can afford private security. But what happens when Farmer Micah now wants to forcefully take some land away from poor Farmer Spoonie? Is it just tough luck Farmer Spoonie because he can't afford enough security?

Inversely, are we going to have a populous vote everytime a criminal act is committed? Of course not, everyday citizens don't have the time to give their opinion on every crime. That's why we have Democracy. To elect representatives to handle the problems we cannot deal with on a daily basis. Again, we can argue all day long on how those elected representatives have overstepped their bounds and how we can improve Democracy. But I still don't believe that Democracy and Free-Markets are contradictory philosophies.

Take the following scenario:

Take the following scenario: Farmer Micah forcefully takes some of Farmer Jonathan's land. What recourse does Farmer Jonathan have? What is the free-market answer to this problem?

The free-market answer given by economics is that property rights should be enforced. Politics seeks how those rights can be best enforced.

Yet, you are avoiding my question. How can you be pro-democracy and still espouse "shopping clubs" for health care needs? Or be pro-school vouchers? Those are anti-democratic measures.

actually you are

actually you are contradicting yourself.

The free-market answer given by economics is that property rights should be enforced. Politics seeks how those rights can be best enforced.

Who is going to do the enforcement? Who in politics is going to seek how to enforce? How does these people get into power?

As far as your question, for which you will never accept an answer. We live in a capitalistic society where money is an incentive. Whether the incentive comes in the form of free-market competition or performance-based funding, Democracy is simply electing the politicians to craft how the "enforcement" is done.

Democracy is simply electing

Democracy is simply electing the politicians to craft how the "enforcement" is done.

Then why do you want to take politicians out of the picture in health care and education? Why do want people to choose for themselves?

That's not democracy, that's the free market.

you didn't answer my

you didn't answer my question.

Who is going to do the enforcement? Who in politics is going to seek how to enforce? How does these people get into power?

I think there some things that Free-Market is better at deciding (i.e. Health care and education) and some things Democracy is better at deciding (i.e. protection)

Spoonie, What are the

Spoonie,

What are the special features of protection that make it better provided by the state than the free-market, compared to health care and education?

Micah, if protection

Micah,

if protection services were solely based on free-market then the folks with the most money would have the best protection and may even use their "protection" to infringe on other people's property. Enforcement of property rights should be equal for everyone regardless of their wealth.

Spoonie, I want you to

Spoonie,

I want you to consider some difficult issues that arise from your quote above. You may not agree with Micha and I right away, but if you truly have an open mind, you will at least consider some of these issues.

You say:

if protection services were solely based on free-market then the folks with the most money would have the best protection and may even use their "protection" to infringe on other people's property.

If that is the case, let me make some observations. Bill Gates has a lot more money than me. Yet, I am as likely to go hungry as he is. And in America, the minimum wage worker is as likely to go hungry as Bill Gates is. In other words, even though food is a good left to the free market, people are well-fed pretty much regardless of socioeconomic status. Same thing with clothing. And we're approaching the same thing with the personal computer. Do you think food/clothing/computers would be best provided to those less well-off by the market, or by the state?

Conversely, education and health care are not provided by the free market. Do you think education and health care are best provided to those less well-off by the market, or by the state?

And by extension, would personal protection be best provided to those less well-off by the free market, or by the state? And if you answer "state", what are the economic properties of the good called "protection" that separate it from other goods that you believe would make it better provided by the state rather than the free market?

Enforcement of property rights should be equal for everyone regardless of their wealth.

One could make a similar statement such as "Food should be equal to everyone regardless of their wealth" or "Education should be equal to everyone regardless of their wealth". Yet, societies in which food was to be provided by the state equally to everyone regardless of their wealth without fail resulted in starvation to those at the very bottom. And today in America, the poor are trapped in a failing government school system while the rich can take alternatives.

Other services such as legal services are more easily obtained in a higher quality by those better off than those less well off. Similarly, personal protection, left to the state, is provided in horrible quality to those less well off; any trip to an inner city ghetto will reveal that.

Why do you think that the good called "protection" should defy the trend of all other goods and be better provided to those less well off by the state rather than the market?

you didn't answer my

you didn't answer my question.

Who is going to do the enforcement? Who in politics is going to seek how to enforce? How does these people get into power?

Umm, isn't it implied in

Umm, isn't it implied in what I wrote? A market for protection, involving subscription services, protection agencies, etc. Other people would rather have mutual aid associations, citizen militias, etc. Whatever floats your boat, as long as it's not coercively funded.

So how about taking a gander at my questions in return?

no, the answer is not

no, the answer is not implied in what you wrote. I think education and health care are better provided by the Free-Market but I think protection is better provided by the State.

Complete Free-Market protection would result in a mafia-like situation where the guy with the most money wins by taking all the smaller guys property. Basic protection should be provided by the State in the form of police, courts, and jails. If someone chooses to have additional protection at their own expense, let them spend whatever they want.

so I repeat my questions.

Who is going to do the enforcement? Who in politics is going to seek how to enforce? How does these people get into power?

Umm... are you actually

Umm... are you actually reading what I write? This is my answer:

A market for protection, involving subscription services, protection agencies, etc. Other people would rather have mutual aid associations, citizen militias, etc. Whatever floats your boat, as long as it's not coercively funded.

That is what would provide protection.

Complete Free-Market

Complete Free-Market protection would result in a mafia-like situation where the guy with the most money wins by taking all the smaller guys property.

Why don't the smaller guys join together to counterbalance the big guy?

Basic protection should be provided by the State in the form of police, courts, and jails.

Shouldn't we provide basic food, shelter, clothing and healthcare to all, even those who cannot afford it? After all, dying from a mafia leaves you just as dead as dying from starvation or cancer.

"If protection services were

"If protection services were solely based on free-market then the folks with the most money would have the best protection ... "

Spoonie, that's already the case. Bill Gates has better protection because he can afford to pay for security guards, alarm systems, etc. to supplement the "protection" provided by the State--when it comes to property, the man who has the most to protect is going to spend the most on protection. On the other hand, there's Joe Blow who's living in a slum in Seattle, where the cops won't even come into his neighborhood. So Joe essentially gets *no* protection, and non-State protection agencies are basically priced out of the market for him because he's been already been forced to pay for the State-provided protection through taxes--hopefully Joe can at least afford to buy a revolver to protect himself. And since Joe is paying taxes for protection, but getting no protection, all he's doing is subsidizing security for Bill Gates! What's up with that?

"... and may even use their "protection" to infringe on other people's property."

When does that special transition happen, when rich people become evil? Is it at a certain income level? What you're saying here is that a person with a lot of wealth that they earned through peaceful means would suddenly start robbing people, and that the security personnel they hire would have no problem with this. That sounds kind of strange to me. Can you tell me what would cause this radical change in behavior?

"Enforcement of property rights should be equal for everyone regardless of their wealth."

People are always saying stuff like that and using it as a justification for why the government has to perform some service, security in this case. That would be fine, except that government provision of the service does not fulfill the stated goal of the justification. Do you think the government currently provides equal protection of property rights for everyone?

I agree that those with more

I agree that those with more money will have better physical protection. What I am aiming for is that whether Bill Gates was murdered or some bum in the street was murdered, the killers in both cases will get the same punishment. I don't see how the Free-Market can provide that.

I agree that those with more

I agree that those with more money will have better physical protection. What I am aiming for is that whether Bill Gates was murdered or some bum in the street was murdered, the killers in both cases will get the same punishment. I don't see how the Free-Market can provide that.

Can the state provide that? Has the state ever provided equality?

Spoonie, Have you ever heard

Spoonie,

Have you ever heard of a guy named O.J. Simpson? He's a pretty good example of why the state does not provide the equality of justice you desire.

Micha Ghertner:

Micha Ghertner:

You can?t possible be that na?ve?

The government had nothing to do with O.J. Simpson?s acquittal.

That was the result of the actions of Individuals (namely the jury).

Of course my logic would also lead one to conclude that:

Hand guns don?t kill Individuals.
Individuals kill other Individuals.

And I realize that you have a problem with personal responsibility. It is far easier on the conscience to just blame the evil boogeyman of ?government? for all ones woes.