12 May 2014

Two Kwik Krugman Kontradictions

Health Legislation, Krugman 75 Comments

Nothing earth-shattering, but if criticizing Krugman were an academic discipline, this post would be part of what Kuhn would describe as “normal science.”

==> Scott Sumner explains Krugman’s unfair blanket condemnation of “inflationistas” by reminding us that Krugman (famously) doesn’t read stuff by economists from the other side, but I point out to Scott that Krugman can’t actually rely on that excuse in this case.

==> In this post on US health care Krugman makes two specific claims:

(1) The “pre-ACA system drastically restricted many people’s freedom, because given the extreme dysfunctionality of the individual insurance market, they didn’t dare leave jobs (or in some cases marriages) that came with health insurance. Now that affordable insurance is available even if you don’t have a good job at a big company, many Americans will feel liberated — and this hugely outweighs the minor infringement on freedom caused by the requirement that people buy insurance.”

and

(2) “But no discussion of this latest argument should fail to mention the original insurance-is-slavery campaign — Operation Coffeecup, in which the AMA recruited doctors’ wives to gather their friends and listen to a recording of Ronald Reagan declaring that Medicare would destroy American liberty.”

Does anyone see why that’s at least a Kontradiction, if not an outright contradiction? (Here’s a hint: Medicare went into effect before the Affordable Care Act.)

75 Responses to “Two Kwik Krugman Kontradictions”

  1. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, I think Krugman just forgot about Laffer. I think he also forgot about Narayana Kocherlakota, who I think was another inflationista that Krugman praised for reevaluating his views.

    Concerning (2), I don’t see any contradiction at all. Krugman is saying that the ACA will do for non-elderly people what Medicare did for the elderly: liberate them in a way that vastly outweighs the minor extent to whih it infringes on liberty. And he’s saying that the people who are saying that the ACA will be devastating to human liberty are just as wrong-headed as the people who said the same kinds of things about Medicare when it was first passed. What’s the contradiction in that?

  2. Major-Freedom says:

    He was only attacking a straw man: “DESTROY American liberty.”

    That is how he gets out of this. He agrees that it is a “small” infringement on liberties, but not the “total destruction” of liberty…that nobody is claiming.

    This enables him to agree with the tea party to one extent, while chastising them to another extent.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      I agree he’s exaggerating the attack, but only slightly. People may not have said it’s a total destruction, of liberty, but they’ve come pretty close. I’ve heard people saying that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery, for instance.

      • J Mann says:

        Well, everybody can win an argument by picking a fight with the person farthest out on opposite side of the opinion bell curve.

        Surely, someone of Krugman’s intelligence can do better than that..

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Well, the recording of Reagan that Krugman’s referring to does end with the famous words “if you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

          • Major-Freedom says:

            You mean if day after day, just a little bit more liberty is taken away, where each bit is nothing to get riled up about, that oir children’s children’s children will eventually end up with something other than no liberty?

            See, this is why libertarians are vocal when there is just a tiny bit more liberty taken away. Fabian socialism gives the illusion, purposefully designed by the way, that because each infringement of liberty is only small, and thus nobody can say anything against it lest they exaggerate and claim the sky is falling. That all we ever have to deal with is a single bit of liberty taken away during our lifetimes. Frogs in a slowly heated pot of water…

            This is the modus operandi of socialists like Krugman. To welcome each tiny attack on liberty, then lump all criticisms of them into one box that just so happens to resemble the most extreme opposition at the end of the bell curve. To take all criticisms of say a 1% tax hike, and pretend that the only criticism from the opposition is one that blows it out of proportion with rhetoric like “We will lose our whole freedom if we agree to this tax hike to pay for blind children’s schooling.”

            SOMEBODY has to point out the sequence of liberty taken away bit by bit, and to stand up to the Fabian socialists who want to make it seem like any and all opposition is extremist exaggeration.

            You Keshav, are a part of the public discourse that encourages liberty to be taken away bit by bit. You are defending those who defend Fabian actions against extremist straw men.

            Reagan’s quote is accurate. If we don’t change course, then a process of liberties taken away bit by bit will necessarily end up with no liberty at all. Is that what you want your children’s children’ children to grow up in?

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              “You Keshav, are a part of the public discourse that encourages liberty to be taken away bit by bit.” Well, even if that’s the case, I’m not a libertarian, so the diminution of the Rothbardian conception of lliberty doesn’t really bother me.

              • Major-Freedom says:

                The “Rothbard conception” is what almost everyone is practising already, because almost everyone knows it is wrong to both steal from and physically harm innocent people.

                It is funny that you have to put a name you know is considered obscure in the mainstream, so as to pretend that “Don’t steal, and don’t initiate physical force against people” is somehow also an obscure ethic.

                Also, if you act libertarian, which I am almost positive you do, then you are a libertarian. I don’t care as much about your prattle and rhetoric here on this board about how awesome and holy you believe government murderers and thieves are, so much as what you are doing with your body and property vis a vis other people and their property.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “The “Rothbard conception” is what almost everyone is practising already, because almost everyone knows it is wrong to both steal from and physically harm innocent people.” Yes, I too don’t find much objectionable in that statement. The problem comes with what counts as “stealing”. (And also what innocent means, although that’s a more nuanced issue.)

                “It is funny that you have to put a name you know is considered obscure in the mainstream, so as to pretend that “Don’t steal, and don’t initiate physical force against people” is somehow also an obscure ethic.” Well, it is an obscure ethic, insofar as you’re defining “stealing” and “initiating physical force” in terms of the Rothbardian theory of property rights, particularly the notion that you have an absolute right in perpetuity to any unowned natural resource as long as you homestead it.

                “Also, if you act libertarian, which I am almost positive you do, then you are a libertarian.” Well, that’s true but that’s only because we seldom encounter situations in our daily lives where libertarianism differs from the doctrines of other political philosophies. But if for instance I was a Native American a few hundred years ago, and some European settler came and used some very small amount of labor to homestead some large tract of land that me and my ancestors had inhabited for millennia but did not homestead, I might refuse to leave the land, even if the explorer threatened to kill me, if I found the land sacred from a religious perspective.

              • Major-Freedom says:

                What if the Natives threatened to kill the explorers, and what if the explorers viewed the land asd holy and should not be touched by the Natives?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                I wasn’t really using the holiness part as a moral justification, just as a motivation for why I’d be willing to die for my beliefs. In any case, the point I was making was simply this: if the European settler homesteaded the land which my ancestors and I lived in for millennia, I don’t see any reason why going onto the land would be trespassing. I just don’t see why homesteading leads to ownership rights.

              • Major-Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                So you’re saying the settlers would be trespassing on lands “used by the natives for millennia”?

              • Anonymous says:

                Well, I don’t have such a firm theory of property (although I do think there is such a thing as legitimate property), I’m just skeptical of yours. I just don’t see what moral justification the settler would have in stopping the Native Americans from going onto the land. The Native Americans have been living there for millennia. How does the act of homesteading, the act of mixing the tiniest amount of labor with the land, create an obligation for them to leave?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Well, I don’t really have such a firm theory of property (although I do believe that there is such a thing as legitimate property), I’m just skeptical of yours. I just don’t see what moral justification the settler would have in stopping the Native Americans from going onto the land. How does the act of homesteading, the act of mixing the tiniest amount of labor with the land, create an obligation for the Native Americans to not go onto the land?

              • K.P. says:

                “particularly the notion that you have an absolute right in perpetuity to any unowned natural resource as long as you homestead it.”

                ???

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              And by the way, you shouldn’t assume that all your opponents are trying to completely erode liberty. Lots of liberals, including Krugman, are Rawlsians, and Rawlsians do place quite a bit of value on freedom, albeit not total value as you do.

              • Major-Freedom says:

                He is ok with continual progressive erosions of liberty.

                The logical end point of progressivism is the end of liberty by the way. After all, that which is “progressing” in progressivism is the state, not individual liberty.

                If a person welcomes continual, bit by bit progressive inspired erosions of liberty, then sorry Keshav, but that person’s utopia is zero liberty.

              • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

                “The logical end point of progressivism is the end of liberty by the way.”

                Statists don’t believe this. They legitimately believe that as soon as the government attempts to “go too far” and erode a liberty they DON’T think is best to give up, they can simply yell “STOP” and the thugs in DC will stop and everything will be just peachy.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Well, progressives may want the state to infringe more on freedom than it currently does (at least soon some dimensions), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some margin at which they want to stop the expansion of the state. Government expansion isn’t viewed as an end in itself, but merely as a means to an end. As I said, a lot of them are Rawlsians, and Rawlsians would most definitely not favor a perpetual expansion of he state.

              • Major-Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Well, progressives may want the state to infringe more on freedom than it currently does”

                That is always the belief.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                So do you think any progressive who claims that he does not think that the state should always expand is a liar?

              • skylien says:

                MF,

                Keshav (and Krugman etc) think you can take certain liberties away because they think it makes things better. At least those specific liberties they think that need to be taken away. They argue that of course that way of making things better is at some point exhausted, then of course they will stop arguing for taking liberty away. (Of course they would need to explain where are the limits, how do you recognize it etc, And I would like to know how can certain people have the liberty to take liberties of others away without essentially being tyrants)

                You (and Bob etc..) think that every bite of liberty taken away will NOT make things better but worse even from the viewpoint of (well meaning) progressives themselves, which would make them never stop with taking liberty away, because e.g. they always know one answer to “fight” poverty which in their view is bullet proof to work as long as there are rich people, that is just redistribute more wealth through government power (doesn’t matter if it is outright taxes, guaranteed loans, things like ACA etc).

                So you are talking past each other. Keshav doesn’t argue knowingly for a taking all liberties away (neither in one fell swoop nor bit by bit) because of what he thinks the results will be. MF, if you are right of course he does it unknowingly. However in no case can he admit that, because either he is actually right or if he isn’t then he wouldn’t be well meaning (but at least honest).. So it is useless to try to make him admit that his way will lead to total loss of liberty.

                The only thing you can do is, either proof that he isn’t well meaning (which seems to be ridiculous), or try convincing him that taking liberty away doesn’t make things better, in no case. I am sure Keshav agrees that if every bit of liberty taken away really makes things worse, then your right, and then he would be an anarchist and you wouldn’t have this discussion with him…

              • Major-Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “So do you think any progressive who claims that he does not think that the state should always expand is a liar?”

                Not necessarily lying, just unable or unwilling to critically analyze their own assumptions.

                Please note that by “expanding the state” I always mean it in reference to the particular ideology in context. So for progressives, there is no limit to how much they want the state to expand “progressively.” For if there was an opportunity to expand the state progressively, then the progressive would by definition have to support it, and since their is always always always an idea of how to expand the state progressively no matter how progressively expanded it gets, it means that the progressive must always welcome (progressive) expansions of the state, which I have already explained has the logical end point of totalitarianism. Tiny bit of liberty taken away, multiplied by infinity, is zero liberty.

                If the “progressive” claims to not want this, then they are saying there is a point at which they will cease grounding their desires for state expansion on progressive principles, which of course is tantamount to saying it isn’t progressive ideas that guides them, but a desire for state power. (Same thing is true for conservatives who want to increase the state bit by bit “conservatively”.

                Since there a practically infinite number of paths to expand the state, but only one way to reduce state aggresaion and increase individual liberty (the same way there is a practically infinite number of ways to be wrong and only one way to he right), both progressives and conservatives can claim to not be totalitarian minded by pointing to their disagreement with how the other side wants to expand the state.

    • Tel says:

      All destruction of liberty is little by little. They just make sure they always take a little and never give anything back.

      Mind you, in the particular case of Krugman, we have a guy who declares his political opponents insane, and also believes he should be calling the shots in the medical industry.

      • Major-Freedom says:

        Socialists can’t get along at the most fundamental level. With only room for one plan, and a million plannwr wannabes, conflict is inevitable.

  3. AC says:

    You’re starting to get as cryptic as Tyler Cowen. Just spit it out.

  4. Z says:

    Two Kwik Kwugman Kwontwadictions. Try saying that fast 10 times.

  5. Bob Murphy says:

    OK guys, suppose that instead of ridiculing Reagan for warning in the 1960s that the major new government intervention into health care would “would destroy American liberty,” Krugman had made fun of Reagan for warning in the 1960s that the major new government program would create “a system [that] drastically restricted many people’s freedom.” Would you then see why Krugman’s two whopping zingers actually weren’t as obviously decisive in his favor as he thinks?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Bob, you have to distinguish between the healthcare system for the elderly and the healthcare system for the non-elderly. Krugman doesn’t think Medicare created a system that drastically restricted freedom. He thinks Medicare was extremely beneficial and infringed on freedom in a very minor way. The part of the healthcare system that he thinks was drastically restricting freedom in pre-ACA times isn’t Medicare, but rather the healthcare system for non-elderly people.

      • Philippe says:

        “infringed on freedom in a very minor way”

        I guess you are defining “freedom” as the “freedom” to not have health care.

        • Major-Freedom says:

          Philippe:

          Freedom isn’t absence of scarcity. That is death.

          Freedom of life is absence of coercion.

  6. Bob Murphy says:

    Let me try it like this: Imagine a communist saying, “I really love the new initiative in Cuba to boost food production. They’ve really been suffering under the US embargo, but I expect this new effort at State take-over of food will really show the wonders of socialism. Now I know, I know, some people are warning that this new measure will actually hurt the Cuban economy, but then again they said the same thing when Castro first started nationalizing industries, but obviously those warnings decades ago were ridiculous.”

    Would the problem with these confident claims then be more apparent?

    Note, I’m not saying Krugman’s post proves he’s wrong. Rather, I’m saying he’s pointing to Reagan’s warning about Medicare as if Reagan was obviously proven wrong. Right after Krugman just got through telling us how the pre-ACA system greatly restricted freedom and was defective.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      “Rather, I’m saying he’s pointing to Reagan’s warning about Medicare as if Reagan was obviously proven wrong. Right after Krugman just got through telling us how the pre-ACA system greatly restricted freedom and was defective.” Yes, he thinks the non-Medicare part of the system greatly restricted freedom and was defective, which is totally consistent with Reagan being proven wrong.

      • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

        Yeah, sorry Bob, but I think Keshav has a legitimate point here. Krugman’s criticism in this case would be that medicare greatly INCREASED freedom (in the typical socialist understanding that you can’t be free if there’s stuff out there you want but can’t afford), while non-seniors continued to suffer from the evils of market failure and thus had their freedom restricted.

        But now, thanks to Obamacare, the vast benefits of government-run health care can be enjoyed by the young and old alike!

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Yeah, sorry Bob, but I think Keshav has a legitimate point here. Krugman’s criticism in this case would be that medicare greatly INCREASED freedom

          You’re missing my point Matt M. Krugman in one paragraph says how awful the American health care system was in 2009, in that millions of Americans were trapped, and then the next paragraph he laughs at somebody who warned in the 1960s that a fundamental change to the system would restrict freedom.

          Krugman is taking it as self-evident that history proved Reagan’s warnings were wrong. No, history didn’t prove that. Only if Krugman’s theoretical economics is right, does “history” prove Reagan wrong.

          So Krugman is saying, “If we assume my economic model is correct, then my economic model is correct. Idiot conservatives.”

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            “You’re missing my point Matt M. Krugman in one paragraph says how awful the American health care system was in 2009, in that millions of Americans were trapped, and then the next paragraph he laughs at somebody who warned in the 1960s that a fundamental change to the system would restrict freedom.” Bob, I’m afraid I still don’t see your point. Krugman does think that in 2009 millions of Americans had their freedoms restricted by the private healthcare system, but that has nothing to do with Medicare.

            “Krugman is taking it as self-evident that history proved Reagan’s warnings were wrong. No, history didn’t prove that. Only if Krugman’s theoretical economics is right, does “history” prove Reagan wrong.” What does any of this have to do with theoretical economic models?

            • Richard Moss says:

              Bob, I’m afraid I still don’t see your point. Krugman does think that in 2009 millions of Americans had their freedoms restricted by the private healthcare system, but that has nothing to do with Medicare.

              What does any of this have to do with theoretical economic models?

              This is a joke, right?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                No, I wasn’t joking.

          • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

            “You’re missing my point Matt M. Krugman in one paragraph says how awful the American health care system was in 2009, in that millions of Americans were trapped, and then the next paragraph he laughs at somebody who warned in the 1960s that a fundamental change to the system would restrict freedom.”

            Krugman is obviously in favor of government intrusion into the health care market, for people of any age.

            In 2009, his position is that old people are generally good, because they have Medicare, but the young still suffer under the tyranny of the free market.

            Back in the 60s, Reagan’s predicted that Medicare would dramatically reduce freedom *for everyone*. Krugman can laugh at this, because he believes that Medicare *increased freedom* for seniors significantly, while it did nothing to the young but take away a few dollars per month that they probably didn’t need anyway.

            Krugman’s complaint in 2009 was that Medicare wasn’t universal. He’s not saying “If only we listened to Reagan and had no Medicare, everything would be better now,” quite the opposite. He’s saying “If people hadn’t been so scared because of Reagan, we might have gotten universal health care back in the 1960s and it would be all sunshine and rainbows today.”

    • Philippe says:

      “Imagine a communist saying, “I really love the new initiative in Cuba to boost food production.”

      Bob, I’m not sure what your argument is in this case.

      Food production and health services are different types of things, so it doesn’t make much sense to think about them in exactly the same way.

      • Tel says:

        It’s just like comparing red apples with those apples that are mostly red but with a bit of green on one side. Totally different things!

      • Cody S says:

        I have never met a socialist who treated deregulation and privatization in different industries or different sectors of the economy as wholly independent cases, completely incapable of inter-comparison.

        But, make a quick example comparing the socialization of one sector of the private economy and another, and ooooh, mystery!!!

        “What are you talking about, Bob? People can’t eat hypodermic needles! You can’t treat cancer or deliver a baby with bread and eggs! So confusing!”

    • gienon says:

      Bob, I think what some people are pointing out is that it would have been an outright contradiction by Krugman if Reagan’s remarks had been directed at the employer-provided health insurance, not Medicare.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        gienon wrote:

        Bob, I think what some people are pointing out is that it would have been an outright contradiction by Krugman if Reagan’s remarks had been directed at the employer-provided health insurance, not Medicare.

        Right, and I’m saying it was at least a Kontradiction since part of the complaint against Medicare was that it would drive up prices and allow the government to set standards in health care delivery, driving out private sector innovation, pricing, discretion, etc.

        I’ll drop this now. I think part of what’s happening here is that even the free-market people don’t understand why the existence of Medicare screws up health care even for people who are 35.

        • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

          WE understand it, but Krugman does not. It’s not a Kontradiction if he simply doesn’t understand economics. As far as I know, Krugman’s position on health care has never been anything other than “government involvement = good, private sector = bad” and nothing in your first post seems to contradict that.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Bob, if Krugman were to say that the healthcare system in 2009 drastically restricted freedom, but in 1960 (before Medicare was passed) everything was hunky-dory, then you might have a point. But I think that Krugman would say that the healthcare system in 1960 was also drastically restricting people’s freedoms just as much.

  7. Bob Murphy says:

    Let me post one last time on this, since it seems even some of the people who are on “my side” don’t see why Krugman’s health care post was funny.

    Let’s switch contexts to right-wingers, so maybe the Krugman fans will finally see the problem.

    ===============
    GUEST ON HANNITY: You know Sean, I think Obama is right to be taking such a measured, diplomatic approach in Iraq. The chaos there right now is horrendous, with people dying in attacks daily. We need to turn that region back over to the Iraqis and pull out US forces. Our continued meddling only makes things worse.

    HANNITY: No way! We need to show those people we mean business. They only respond to a show of force, not limp-wristed treaties and speeches. I say we send in a full-scale invasion to bomb everybody into submission. That’ll stop those terrorist attacks real quick. You and I agree that the present situation is intolerable, but you’re totally wrong about how to fix it.

    GUEST: I disagree Sean. Further US attacks will only increase hatred and make the sectarian fighting even worse, as the US forces choose sides.

    HANNITY: Ha ha I can’t believe it. The same old warnings about US force increasing sectarian violence. You know, people like you made the exact same warnings back when Bush invaded Iraq originally.
    =============

    Now, did Sean Hannity above actually contradict himself, like saying 2 = 3? No, he didn’t. But it’s a bit weird of a rhetorical move to agree the current situation is awful, then make fun of the critic’s argument by saying a similar argument was made years ago to warn that today the situation would be awful.

    Yes, Hannity might be *right*, but he’s not adding any information to the debate by bringing up the past warnings. Either his theory is right now, in which case the people before were wrong in their warnings, or his theory is wrong now, in which case the people before were right in their warnings. But Hannity can’t point to their warnings as a feather in his cap, to make us think, “Hmm, Hannity’s theory is probably right, in light of those warnings and what happened since.”

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      I think the key question in your analogy is: Does Hannity believe that sectarian violence in Iraq got worse since the Bush invasion, or not?

      Although it isn’t explicitly stated in either piece you quote, I think it’s safe to assume that Krugman believes Medicare, on net, made the U.S. health care system better, and didn’t “reduce freedom” in any way that matters to him. Not AS better as he would like (because he wants a fully socialist system for everyone), but still better than it would have been had we never passed medicare and spent 1960 – 2009 with a “free market” in health care for the young and old alike. That is why he can dismiss Reagan’s past warnings as nonsense.

      If Hannity’s position is “Sure, there’s sectarian violence in Iraq now, but there would have been much more had we never invaded in the first place!” then he is not being inconsistent either. He advocates for “more intervention” all the time, just like Krugman does in the health care markets.

  8. Bob Murphy says:

    I know I said I was done, but I just thought of even a better one. Consider the following exchange:

    =======
    KRUGMAN: I think the government should run a $1 trillion deficit this year to boost employment.

    CRITIC: No, that will take money from the private sector and actually increase unemployment.

    KRUGMAN: Ha! No, you’re relying on a classical view and ignoring a century of economic theory. In any event, I remind my readers that people like you warned that the 2009 stimulus package would increase unemployment. Idiot scare mongers.
    ========

    Matt M (et al), would you see the problem there? If I mentioned that this was a ridiculous rhetorical move, would you say, “Well Bob, you and I agree that’s silly, but in Krugman’s model, unemployment really *was* helped by the Obama stimulus, so Krugman is making a defensible point in bringing up those past warnings.” ?

    The point here isn’t whether Krugman thinks more gov’t will bring health care freedom or not. The point is, he’s trying to *bolster* his position by referring to the past warnings. He thinks it’s self-evident that Reagan was wrong, that any honest person can see it. When no, prima facie Reagan’s warning was correct, as Krugman himself admits. Krugman has to do a counterfactual and explain that the pre-ACA system would be even *less* free had Medicare not been passed.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      When no, prima facie Reagan’s warning was correct, as Krugman himself admits. Krugman has to do a counterfactual and explain that the pre-ACA system would be even *less* free had Medicare not been passed. Bob, Krugman doesn’t have to do a counterfactual at all. He can say that the situation before Medicare was passed in 1965 was drastically restricting as well.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        drastically restricting freedom*

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Keshav wrote:

        Bob, Krugman doesn’t have to do a counterfactual at all. He can say that the situation before Medicare was passed in 1965 was drastically restricting as well.

        Yes, that’s fair enough Keshav. But as you can see, Matt M. isn’t going that route.

        • Mike T says:

          Bob,

          I still think it’s messy.

          Look at 3 distinct time periods: (x) pre-Medicare, (y) post-Medicare / pre-ACA, (z) post-ACA and 3 states of freedom (to tease out the logic): (a) No Freedom, (b) Some Freedom, (c) Total Freedom
          The assumption is that Medicare and ACA both move people along the freedom scale one way or the other.

          Possible scenarios:
          (1) x = a, y = b, z = c
          (2) x = c, y = b, z = a
          z necessarily must not equal x or y otherwise he’d have to argue one program enhances freedom and the other restricts it.

          Reagan warns of (2). Krugman confirms (2) in his first quote, then implies (1) is true in his second quote.

          How can one hold both (1) and (2) true if both Medicare and ACA are doing something to people’s degree of freedom?

          If it’s not a contradiction, it’s at the very least, very sloppy rhetoric. The only way to squirm out of it is to say Medicare only impacts the freedom of a subset of the population and ACA only impacts a completely different subset of the population and this distinction was implied in his two quotes, and of course, applying a very peculiar definition of freedom.

          • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

            I still don’t see where Krugman “confirms” 2. In his first quote, Krugman is saying that y = b, but he is NOT taking a position on x one way or the other.

            Based on everything we know about Krugman, including the context present in that very quote (Krugman thinks free market insurance restricts your freedom by causing you to stay with a job you’d rather quit), it still seems that Krugman supports 1.

            Pre-medicare, the notion of people having “less freedom” because they are slaves to evil free-market insurance would apply universally to everyone. Medicare exempted old people from that barbaric practice, but unfortunately (per Krugman), did NOT exempt everyone.

            • Mike T says:

              Matt M,

              I hear what you’re saying and I agree. It just comes across as a very awkward way of defending his position. At the same time Krugman is saying something like:
              We can’t go backward to that period pre-ACA where people’s freedoms were drastically reduced. We must go forward from that period post-Medicare where people’s freedoms were enhanced.

              We both know what he’s really saying and how he feels about government intervention. It’s just funny how he expresses it.

              My analogy isn’t really that good. Bob’s unemployment example is much better. Krugman is basically in a self-contained echo chamber of his own confirmation bias.

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Mike T,

            Don’t interpret my remarks as throwing in the towel. I regret nothing in this post. I’m just letting Keshav know that some of his objections are better than some of the others.

            If it’s not a contradiction, it’s at the very least, very sloppy rhetoric.

            Hmm, perhaps I should coin a term for such a thing?

            • Mike T says:

              Bob,

              “Hmm, perhaps I should coin a term for such a thing?”

              Krugman Komedy? I don’t know; the guy literally makes me laugh at this point the way he frames some of his arguments. Whatever the case, please never give up on the Krugman posts. What Krugman is to your blog, Fox News is to Jon Stewart. Your contributions are invaluable regardless, but man, the Krugman stuff is just fun to read and hard to resist.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      What Keshav said.

      “When no, prima facie Reagan’s warning was correct, as Krugman himself admits.”

      I don’t think Krugman admits this at all. Once again, my point here is that Krugman presumably believes that Medicare didn’t solve everything, but was a BETTER solution in 1960 than “doing nothing” would have been.

      And yes, for your analogy, it would seem that Krugman IS in fact suggesting that the 2009 stimulus helped employment, under his classic reasoning of “well if we did nothing it would have been EVEN WORSE.” Regardless of whether he’s actually right or wrong, he’s not inconsistent.

      I’m not saying that Krugman is making a great and convincing argument here. Just that it’s not a contradiction. My overall point remains: Krugman has always argued for more government involvement. He would have done so in 1960, he did do so in 2009, and he’ll continue to do so tomorrow.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        And yes, for your analogy, it would seem that Krugman IS in fact suggesting that the 2009 stimulus helped employment, under his classic reasoning of “well if we did nothing it would have been EVEN WORSE.” Regardless of whether he’s actually right or wrong, he’s not inconsistent.

        OK obviously we can stop arguing then, Matt. If you don’t think it would be hilarious if Krugman said, “Those idiot conservatives were warning us in early 2009 that the stimulus would increase unemployment, ha ha” then I obviously have no chance to convince you that his health care post was funny.

        • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

          I think it would be dumb of him to say that, but not contradictory, because I know (and I suspect you do too) what he REALLY means there, which is “Sure unemployment went up after the stimulus, but only because we didn’t know how bad the depression (caused by the free market and evil George Bush repealing glass-steagall) really was! It’s obvious that unemployment would have gone up even more than it did had we not passed the stimulus!”

  9. Scott H. says:

    In the 1960′s medicare made a small subset of the medical health insurance industry better. Now we should make the rest of the system better. Also, the problem with the rest of the system (segun Krugman) is that you can’t leave your job and keep your insurance. Medicare isn’t the cause of that requirement.

    • Scott D says:

      “In the 1960′s medicare made a small subset of the medical health insurance industry better.”

      Hello, Scott H. What measure(s) would you use to determine that some people are better off today with Medicare than they were before Medicare?

      • Scott H. says:

        No. This is me explaining Krugman’s argument. I’ve got nothing interesting to say about before and after medicare.

        • Scott D says:

          Ah, okay. I’ll go ask Krugman, then. =)

          For the record, I’ve browsed some of the literature on the topic. The most glowing endorsement that I can find with any statistics to back it up (from a collection of NBER papers), is that, even though Medicare had little to no impact on health outcomes, at least it saved retirees some money. Oh, and it contributed something like 40% or more to the increase in health care costs since it was implemented.

          Can anyone spot the irony?

  10. John says:

    Iis there some serious doubt Medicare made health care more feasible for the elderly? I understand the argument that if you go back to first principles and redesign the society you might not want any health insurance or government, etc. But in the real world, before Medicare many elderly couldn’t afford to get insurance or treat their illnesses, and now they can. I mean, not to get personal about it, but my mom needed dialysis late in her life. Since, you know, it’s your mom, you don’t just not pay for dialysis. If I had had to pay for it, I would have no retirement savings left and would have had to sell my house. Medicare paid for it, my mom lived years longer, and I didn’t go bankrupt. I understand that taxpayers pay for Medicare and many here consider that my mom’s care was paid for using violence. I’m just saying in the world as it actually exists, I really do think Medicare helped an awful lot of people, which is why it remains kind of untouchable politically. I don’t actually see the contradiction in what Krugman was saying, but beyond that, I don’t really see a dispute that just in the world as we know it, it’s better for the elderly after Medicare than before.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Had you not been taxed your entire life to pay for medicare, you might have been able to save that money and invest it and have a much bigger retirement fund that might have feasibly been able to pay for dialysis without resorting to robbery. Just a thought.

  11. John says:

    I get the argument. It might be right when it comes to me. I make a decent living, and if I could have saved all my tax money over the years,maybe I could have paid for the dialysis, although presumably I’d have to pay somebody to do the things government does – police, fire, ambulance, schools, roads, infrastructure, armed forces, courts, etc., so I don’t know how big the savings would actually be, but I guess they might be significant.

    My question is, what about people who don’t make a decent living? People who are out of work, or just struggling to make ends meet, etc. Without Medicare, or some right to healthcare in old age, what do they do? Or is that simply not our problem? I could certainly see that argument, but I don’t find myself in sympathy with it exactly. How do we handle providing for the meeds of people in trouble who are without personal resources in a reliable way? (I realize this is probably an elementary question in libertarianism; at some point I have to read more about the philosophy so I don’t get stuck on the basics.)

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Well, first of all, I was only referring *specifically* to the medicare tax. I believe that’s like 2% of wages or something like that. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but compounded throughout your entire life, assuming you saved it (hint: most people won’t save it, more on this later), it could be a hefty chunk of change by the time you were old (and note: the idea wouldn’t be that you save up to pay for your parents health care, but rather, that you save up to pay for your own). Because I am referring to medicare taxes ONLY, you wouldn’t have to pay for police/fire/roads/etc.

      Without medicare, people would be expected to either save up the necessary amount of money to take care of themselves in the event of illness, or rely on the voluntary charity of others. That is “simply not our problem” because SOME of us DO in fact choose to save our money so that we might take care of ourselves rather than rob our neighbors to do it. You also must consider the unfortunate reality that desires are infinite, while resources are scarce. Every living person is not automatically entitled to the goods and services produced by others. Life saving drugs are expensive. You cannot just demand them by virtue of your existence. That is essentially slavery.

      You cannot have a “right” to someone else’s labor. Whether they’re a lawyer, a farmer, or yes, even a doctor. Once you have a “right” to health care, it means that doctors are no longer free, and that violence can be used to compel them to serve you.

      • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

        Quick excel calculation for a hypothetical scenario:

        Let’s say someone makes an average of 50,000 a year for a 45 year career in the work force (obviously you’d make less when younger and more when older, so that will make this calculation run a bit high, but bear with me for a second). To help balance that out, let’s pick a very conservative interest rate, say 5% per year.

        2% of 50,000 is 1,000, so that’s 1,000 a year you could save for medical expenses. Compounded at 5% over 45 years (say, you work from age 20 to age 65), you end up with $159,700 to cover your health care in old age.

        Now, maybe people decide NOT to save that 2% for medical expenses. Maybe they spend it on lottery tickets and whiskey. Do we need to feel sorry for them when they reach old age and cannot afford medical care? Maybe. Do we need to rob young people in order to pay for the medical care they “deserve?” No.

        • Peter says:

          Matt -
          Agree or not, the way a lot of people see it is that the Medicare tax is a kind of a forced “savings” for health care in later years. The retirees don’t think they are robbing the young, they believe “I paid into this @@### system my whole life, and now I’m entitled to take it back out”. And who can blame them? My mom worked from age 15 to 71, paid these taxes pretty much during that entire time, of course she feels entitled to medical care.

          • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom)) says:

            Right. More accurately, Medicare is generational theft in which the very first beneficiaries (those who received benefits but never paid into the system) are robbing the eventual generation that gets left holding the bag when either it is repealed, simply goes bankrupt, or the government as a whole collapses.

            At some point, Medicare benefits will stop paying out, one way or another, and SOME generation will be left holding the bag, having “paid in” to a system they will never then draw out from. In the meantime, a bunch of other generations in the middle (including ours) simply pass the buck from one to the next, hoping the music doesn’t stop on our turn.

  12. John says:

    This is the heart of my concern. Even assuming one could save $150,000 or even $200,000 for medical care (a big “if” for most people in this country), that likely wouldn’t pay for all the medical expenses and medicine you’d need if you got sick in old age. Indeed, today it probably wouldn’t come close, and you’d also have to have an awful lot saved up for retirement generally. In the same way I wouldn’t let my mother go without dialysis or do nothing if she were forced to the street, I hesitate to allow the same things to happen to other people’s moms. Now I realize that’s my choice. Nobody here has any objections if I want to give to charity, etc. I just don’t know if I can handle a world where dopes who don’t save, or people who are just plain unlucky, are left to get sick and die with no right to help at all from somewhere. This to me is the central moral question of libertarianism, and maybe in the end it’s an emotional question. By that I mean, how do you feel about it? It’s pretty hard to prove that the NAP is “right” in the same way that it’s pretty hard to prove that John Rawls is “right.” Some find one view persuasive and some find the other persuasive and maybe it’s hard to say why, exactly. I know I’m deeply troubled by the idea of letting the old and the sick perish on their own without aid, but I know others are as deeply troubled by the idea of using force to make citizens turn over money to the government. I suppose it depends on where you place your moral exclamation point, so to speak.

    • K.P. says:

      Does the long-term feasibility of the program itself get included in your moral calculus as well?

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Would you personally hold a gun to my head and rob me in order to pay for your mom’s dialysis?

      Or do you only tolerate such a system because it absolves you of the dirty work and allows you to pay a giant bureaucracy to rob me on your behalf?

      That’s where I draw the line, personally. Anything I am unwilling to do myself, I cannot endorse having the government do on my behalf. I would not steal from you to help the poor. Therefore, I cannot support the government stealing from you to help the poor.

  13. macsnafu says:

    Krugman also conveniently ignores why employer-provided health insurance became the norm in the first place.

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