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Just sayin'

By Al Schumann on Monday August 17, 2009 12:44 AM

There is, actually, a libertarian solution to the health care crisis. I'm not sure how well it would work in practice, it's very much a Blue Sky kind of thing, but it does have solid provenance in libertarian thinking. The cornerstone is the universal Citizen's Basic Income, supplied by land use and resource extraction rents. In theory, most of the recipients would set up buyer's cooperatives -- on a completely voluntary basis, needless to say. The bigger the coop, the better the bargaining power. Some of the coops might wish to contract with existing medical service providers, or cut deals with aspiring practitioners and finance their own in-house medical service organizations. All very market-friendly, non-coercive and tuned to the reduction of both government power and the government-enabled parasitism of private power. Amongst other benefits, it takes care of the free rider problem in resource extraction and puts a steeply increasing price on extractive activities with environmental hazards.

It would be a hard sell, alas, to the rugged individualists whose free market solution to the problem of existence consists of engineering cozy little arrangements with the political class. I can't see anything like the CBI coming into broad practice short of a revolution.

Comments (11)


I've never met Owen, but the photo of Henry George is just what I think OP looks like.

And BTW, OP's absence concurrently with MJS has to be noticed by any undercover ants on this site. Come on, OP, throw us something!

Great job, Al, of filling in!


henry george ??

try bill george



i like cbi for tons of reasons
and as a source perhaps one among several
ground rents excell

all wind falls ought to be
"social appropriations" any way
and regulating extraction rates
is a prime reason
to socialize all "natural" rent sources

i like buying co ops too
sort of ...
i wouldn't want to join one however
any more then
i'd join most production co ops

i like hangin' loose too much

i prefer angelic third party regulation
--by jury of demon peers of course--

as to medical services
arriving at reasonable fees and rates
and pill prices etc
can be just a matter of
broad (national?)
--maybe again jury based--
swedish concertations

i suspect the myriad market failures
well established in
"the literature"
make provisioning
of catastrophic health care costs
the function of a state like system
with a genial capacity for automatic
universal "membership"

funded from a catch pool
set up for said social purposes
out of rent flows
in place prior to cbi allocations ???


okay so even in a big society
this pools out flow and inflow might vary
so cbi would have to have a fixed base
and a variable surplus channel as well

why ?

we won't ..i hope ...
--as anti gradgrindian "humanists" --
refuse to treat the uncovered ...even
for the greater good
of instructing
the shiftless preterites among us
in the grave hazards of grass hoper think

even if its
simply because
some one has failed to provide
for themselves
by joining a ..... wellness co op

Al Schumann:

I'm not actually filling in. Or, rather, I am filling in, but it's only because Owen has pictures of me in certain compromising... conditions, which he has temporarily agreed to leave unpublished.

It wasn't always like this in the Movement. O tempura, O morays. But things change, and I'd do the same to Owen if I had the chance.

As it happens, Owen looks exactly like Lysander Spooner.

Al Schumann:

Catastrophic needs, yeah, there's one big knock against it. I think there are some libertarians that could accept the rents pooling. That's still skating away from punitive or controlling taxation, on things like personal income.

"Libertarian thinking" -- I wasn't aware there was such a thing...

Al Schumann:

There is, MD! The CBI, extraction rents and land use rents are all products of it. I particularly like the basic income. It spares people the misery of applying for assistance when they're unable to work. No need to fill out a form. The check is always in the mail, whether it's needed or not. It would be a gift from heaven for parents who really, really need the eighteen year to take a year or so off in the world, for self-discovery and the sake of parental sanity.

I also love the basic income idea, but what makes it libertarian, rather than socialist? And collecting rents and extraction fees for the public isn't going to happen without a very large and powerful bureaucracy, right?

Maybe it's just my own mental limitataions, but I hold to a strong working thesis that libertarianism is simply a childish refusal to finish one's basic thinking, especially in a world with 7 billion humans.

Libertarian socialism is another story, though, so I suppose it's not necessarily smart to pee on the capitalist/individualist/immature form of libertarianism...

Matt Hardwick:

Here's something I've been wondering, ever since I got hipped to the fact that this might have been true previous to the Nixon Administration:

Why not just simply trick (for lack of a better term) all the health care corporations into being non-profit again? The Kltpzyxm Option, in other words, in honor of the malicious 5th dimension imp of Superman comics fame, spelled backwards.

No, seriously, though: As I kinda sorta understand it, in the era of the Non-Profit Option, the Health Care industry at least met the barest minimum standards of the definition of "something that works just fine". In return for never, ever paying taxes, Blue Cross Blue Shield and all the rest bothered to dole out pretty much decent, at-worst-not-too-pungent-bullshit health care. Then Nixon came along, the rest is history.

I understand why conservatives don't want to remember or rediscover this: It doesn't have any real incentive to do so. But what's keeping liberals from sending Dr. Mxyzptlk back to where he came from for a period of at least 90 days?

Al Schumann:

MD, as far as I know, the basic income is not exclusively libertarian in either provenance or championing. It does have, and has had, a lot of libertarian supporters. Within the USA, it's generated a lot of enthusiasm with the Georgists, who continue to promote it, and received an approving nod from that pinko commie supporter of Big Gubmint, Freddy Hayek. For them, it's an essential component of a decent society -- Hayek's more cretinous heirs notwithstanding. Mike Gravel, who joined the Libertarian Party, is the most recent high profile supporter. My attribution is therefore through association.

That said, there's no dearth of self-identifying libertarians who are simply Republicans that want to smoke pot and watch porn without dreading the cops. I'm confident that the system of torts and contracts proposed by the more socially alert libertarians, as a substitute for state power, would result in a coercive golem many times larger than the one we have now. So, yeah, there's plenty of support for your working thesis.

I think socialism would be unworkable without the CBI -- part of the idealized libertarian component. I think it would need to be substantial, sufficient to cover all basic needs, and irrevocable. Eccentric, heretical and curmudgeonly individuals need to be able to live without fear of being shunned into immiseration.

Matt, back in the days pre-Tricky, the worst part of health care still held. It was tied to employment. At least as many people fell through the cracks as now. Digressing, I recall a story of RFK traveling through Appalachia and discovering that there were poor people, poor white people to his surprise, suffering from dreadful malnutrition and a host of preventable illnesses. This Siddhartha Gautama moment endeared him to liberals, many of whom subsequently voted for Nixon when it became clear that sharing his 'enlightenment' meant those ghastly people could be moving to their neighborhoods. RFK's assassination spared them the pain of finding out whether or not his enlightenment was real, and was binding on them.


"RFK's assassination spared them the pain of finding out whether or not his enlightenment was real, and was binding on them."

and then came the budget cuts and markets porn and mistakes were made and that's how you got a little baby set of intractable mutually-reinforcing disasters, jenny!

JENNY: i wish i was adopted!!!!

UNCLE: awww. maybe you'll feel better if i touch you again in your secret place!

[JENNY wakes up screaming]

Peter Ward:

It depends one what means by libertarianism--to me, it means opposition to arbitrary power. Usually in the US it tends to mean the freedom of corporations (actually more or less totalitarian institutions) to wreak havoc on people, animals and the planet unfettered by regulation.* I think the traditional form, as rendered in, e.g., van Humboldt's writing, is anything but immature. The American conception, on the other hand, serves an ideological function but is, mature or immature, dependent on various absurdities that mean it can't be put into practice--i.e., it perverts people's rational mistrust of the Fed into a defense of "private" tyranny.

As to immature politicoeconomic organizations, surely capitalism, or whatever one wants to call what we have now, is about as infantile a system as can be imagined--and talk about "Blue Sky", not only is it nearly helpless to deal with major disasters, most of today's major disasters are actually created by it!

As to the vision "Rugged Individualist", who really suffers from this delusion today? Basically anyone with a job or trying to get a job knows from direct personal experience there's no such thing (you come in, take orders and help make some unknown others wealthy powerful). Even people in the professional/managerial or coordinator class are subject to periodic rude reminders who who's really in charge.* The problem is getting people to work together for their own sake rather than that of an arbitrary authority, such as an employer--and this is the form of libertarianism I advocate.

*I know the image of an entrepreneurial shopkeeper or small business owner is what's actually invoked, in much the way an image of class struggle is invoked by Obama's PR agents, but the actuall legislation that gets passed is such that it helps corporations to the detriment of the potential business owner and everyone else--e.g., enabling one of GHW Bush's favorites, Barrick Gold Strike, a gold mine located near my home town of Elko, NV, access to BLM land by making the BLM out to be an extension of the evil Feds in oder to win public support for the land theft.

**E.g., one of my cousins works is some kind of IT project manager for WSJ and was quite perturbed when the paper was bought out by Rupert Murdoch. She has expressed a desire for a new job ever since (not that doing so would actually do her any good). By the way, to my thinking she and people like her are getting what they deserve.

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