Tag Archives: free market

Why Market Solutions To Policy Problems Usually Don’t Work

Interesting piece from Governing magazine, which quotes the University of Michigan’s Barry Rabe, who looked at two market-based solutions to policy issues: the Affordable Care Act and cap-and-trade.

These, of course, were both solidly Republican ideas which Democrats signed on to. Once they did, however, these market-based solutions suddenly caught liberal cooties, and Republicans ran away from them screaming “socialism!” at the top of their lungs.

Rabe notes that by 2008, 23 states had signed on to cap-and-trade:

It seemed a perfect solution. New markets developed, and regional consortia planned to reduce greenhouse gases by 10 percent or more within a few years.

But that perfect solution didn’t last long. Rabe found that, within five years, more than half the states had walked away from their cap-and-trade commitment. The market-based alternative to command-and-control regulations evaporated as a state-based policy tool.

What happened between 2008 and 2013? Well, there was an economic meltdown. There was also a Republican meltdown. Any policy progress while a Democrat was in the White House ground to a halt. The Tea Party took over, state legislatures turned Red. Hyper-partisanship became the rule of the day.

Then there’s the Affordable Care Act, which was designed to dodge complaints of “big government” and encourage the states to create exchanges that would provide insurance policies to their uninsured.

State implementation proved wildly uneven. Federal policymakers found themselves without the results they sought. And everyone came away more convinced than ever that government couldn’t solve problems like this, even though many of the problems were rooted in private market failures.

By the end of 2015, 38 states had declined to set up health-care exchanges, leaving the federal government to step in and create them. Three states — Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon — tried the exchange approach and backed out when enrollment was lower and costs were higher than expected. Some states, like Maryland and Washington, enthusiastically embraced the exchanges but fumbled the launch. Pressed by angry Republicans, who criticized the states’ lack of accountability for federal funds, the Obama administration took back $200 million in grants it had made to states that had struggled to launch their exchanges.

Note: this wasn’t a failure of the policy. It was a failure of politics. Republicans love to talk about the need to “run government like a business,” but when a Democrat does it, they call it Socialism, Fascism, Big Government, etc. Hyper-partisanship has basically ruined our country’s ability to solve big problems, in my opinion. We’re seeing the predictable result of 30 years of “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” messaging.

The author notes:

The fundamental flaw lies in two assumptions: that markets always work better than governments and that markets will run themselves if government gets out of the way. The first assumption is the stuff of fierce ideological debate, but the second is really a settled question. Markets just don’t run themselves in delivering public goods, because most of the time they are being asked to do things they aren’t used to doing. And because policymakers tend to assume that the markets will take care of themselves, they often don’t build governmental capacity to steer the process. The reformers then end up running after problems as they develop down the line.

Indeed. Government exists for a reason. Government exists to do the things that the private sector can’t or won’t do.

I’m not going to agree that market-based solutions NEVER work. They can work — when accompanied by a strong government regulatory presence. What never works is all one or the other. You need both.

Truly no ideology has more consistently failed than the Libertarian one, or even worse, the Libertarian-lite “run government like a business,” “government needs to get out of the way,” “release the free hand of the market” one, which dominates today’s Republican Party. I really don’t understand why anyone who believes government is the problem would want to be in government. And I don’t understand why anyone votes for someone who believes government is the problem. It’s like going to a butcher shop run by PETA. You’re just asking for failure.

One thing Democrats have consistently failed at is defending their own positions. A Republican yells “BIG GOVERNMENT” and we wet our pants. Democrats need to learn how to defend their principles, instead of trying massage their positions into something Republicans will find palatable. As the past eight years show, Republicans will never find anything a Democrat does palatable. They will even turn on their own market-based policy solutions if a Democrat is the one selling it.

These are lessons we’ve learned during the Obama years. We’ve also seen markets fail the economy and the American people time and time again. We’ve seen bad actors like Turing Pharmaceuticals and Theranos, hell even Enron is still synonymous with “crooks.” The financial crisis of 2007-2008 ain’t exactly ancient history, not with movies like “The Big Short” reminding everyone about how the market failed the global economy.

We’ve seen deregulation in Texas end in an entire town exploding. And hello, Flint, Michigan, where Republican Gov. Snyder tried to “save money” because “government should be run like a business.” Meanwhile, an actual business — General Motors — refused to use Flint River water at its engine plant because chloride levels were too high.

As this article notes, “government requires governing.” Republicans don’t seem to know how to do it. Democrats don’t seem to know how to be advocates for it. And I believe we will never have effective policies until we fix our politics.

10 Comments

Filed under free hand of the market, Housekeeping

Remind Me Why Private Contracting Is So Much Better Again?

Seven Florida lifeguards employed by a private “aquatic saftey contractor” have been fired after one, Tomas Lopez, left his station to save a man who was drowning outside the company’s contracted area. The other six were fired for supporting Lopez and saying they’d have done the same thing.

Perhaps the douchey private aquatic safety company could explain why demanding trained lifeguards ditch their moral code and watch people drown is a job requirement? Jeff Ellis and Associates, take it away:

A spokesman for Jeff Ellis and Associates, the aquatic safety contractor that fired Lopez, said in a statement that “We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area.”

Freedom! Yes, just watch the man die. Serves him right for swimming in an area not protected by Jeff Ellis and Associates! Personal responsibility, yada yada. The free hand of the market will solve this problem, amiright?

Somewhere, probably right here on this blog, a Teanut winger is nodding his head and saying, “Yes. This makes perfect sense to me.”

Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Enjoy your freedom to be fired for saving someone’s life because your asshole boss is more worried about their made-up liability issues.

11 Comments

Filed under fail, free hand of the market

Free Speech Or Free Hand?

I don’t know why conservatives are always confusing the two. Yet they do. Here’s Ben Stein, suing Kyocera for not signing him as a pitchman because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot:

According to the complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Kyocera approached Stein in December 2010 to inquire as to his availability to appear in TV advertisements for Kyocera printers. Stein agreed and they began negotiating a contract. Three months later, before the contract was executed, Kyocera learned that Ben Stein is an idiot who denies the reality of global climate change. So they changed their mind and withdrew the offer, because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot. That’s how capitalism works, right? Companies make decisions based on their interests, and contracts are the law of the land.

No! Capitalism works by suing people when you don’t get your way. To hear Stein tell it, even though they didn’t sign a contract, they still had a contract since Stein really, really, wanted the $300,000 Kyocera had offered contingent on signing the contract, which never happened.

Also, according to Stein, he has a right to the $300,000 under the Constitution, which guarantees him freedom of religion. See, Stein believes that global warming isn’t real because “God, and not man, control[s] the weather.” When Kyocera declined to pay Stein $300,000 to represent the corporation in part because it doesn’t want to be associated with that belief, it violated Stein’s constitutional right to $300,000. He also accuses Kyocera of violating his “freedom of speech” and “political freedom.” Stein has no political freedom, because Kyocera robbed him of the freedom when it refused to pay him $300,000.

No, you do not have a constitutional right to be a Kyocera pitchman.

News flash: Kyocera Corp. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar panels and other PV systems. While Stein would not have been hawking its solar products, I can see how having a vocal climate change denier pitching any of the company’s product lines would be a little awkward, to put it mildly. So a big boo to whatever genius suggested Ben Stein for this gig in the first place: advertising agency Seiter & Miller, I’m going to assume. That was just a dumbass move all around.

And I’m sorry, but Ben Stein? Hello? Try reading your own damn columns and books about the free hand of the market. Also, I haven’t had a chance to dig into the memory hole, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t find something in there from him decrying the burden of frivolous lawsuits and advocating tort reform and all that.

Pfft.

7 Comments

Filed under advertising, Ben Stein, free hand of the market, free speech

Free Hand Of The Market Bitchslaps Islamophobes

Sorry, Tennessee Islamophobes: you’re going to have to take your little Muslim hate-fest somewhere else! Nashville’s Hutton Hotel has told the anti-Sharia Preserving Freedom Conference to take a hike, rather than be associated with a bunch of nutballs and bigots. Ouch.

Predictably, chief hater Lou Ann Zelenik has started whining about censorship, because the conservative mind is too narrow to grasp the difference between free speech and the free market:

Zelenik said her group is being censored for opposing radical Islam, and the hotel’s action shows Shariah law is a threat to free speech.

No, honey. You don’t have a “right” to hold your merry little hate-fest wherever the fuck you please. It’s called the FREE MARKET. Something your side always yammers on about when it suits you.

You know what people do have a right to do? Practice whatever religion they want, in whatever church/house of worship they want. And that includes Islam, in a mosque in Murfreesboro that you’ve been trying so desperately to stop.

Get lost.

4 Comments

Filed under free hand of the market, free speech, Islam, Nashville, religion