Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fall Harvest

It has been snowing and raining today, so it feels like winter is upon us. Hidden on my camera, however, were some nice photos of the fall’s harvest.

This year’s garden was thrown together. We were in the middle of working on the house (which we’re still doing), and we planted late in mediocre soil. Still, we had a garden, and we did pretty well given our limitations. We got good produce from our 48 tomato plants, and we also had some summer and winter squash. Next year I plan to do considerably better.

By the way, the basil is from our wonderful indoor plant. Also by the way, today I turned a couple of butternut squash (one purchased, one from the garden) into a fabulous soup.

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Vampire Haiku

The Denver Post is running a weekly contest for writing haikus. This week the topic is vampires. The only rule is that the verse must follow the 5-7-5 syllable structure. Here’s my entry (which my wife, at least, thought was funny):

Vampires suck my blood?
No, they suck my wallet dry
at cheesy movies.

Here’s the rest of the entries, for those interested.

Ryan Frazier Appears Set to Switch Races

A few hours ago Ryan Frazier, candidate for U.S. Senate, commented on his Twitter feed: “Hi everyone, I’m going to be making a big announcement this week. Stay tuned for more details.”

Ben DeGrow writes: “My guess? Fundraising numbers for the third quarter were less than stellar, and higher-ups in the party finally had the leverage to persuade Frazier to take a stab at the 7th Congressional District instead.”

This is so obvious I’m stunned I didn’t think of it before. Last month I speculated that Frazier might jump races to lieutenant governor. But there’s one huge problem with that: Scott McInnis and Josh Penry are duking it out for the Republican nomination for governor. Plus, it’s sort of a lame position, especially for someone with Frazier’s political hunger.

Perhaps I didn’t think of congress because I think of the Seventh as Arvada, not Aurora. But look at the map. It is a strangely drawn district that goes right around Denver.

I personally like Brian Campbell, the guy currently in the race on the GOP side. But I never seriously thought Campbell had a chance to beat out Ed Perlmutter, who has walked over his opponents with ease.

A Frazier run against Perlmutter means that the Colorado GOP has a serious chance to pick off three big Democrats: Governor Bill Ritter (via Penry or McInnis), Senator Michael Bennet (via Jane Norton), and Perlmutter. Suddenly the best-case scenario for Republicans looks very good indeed.

Unfortunately, I know very little about Norton, except that she worked for Bill Owens, which means that she’s at least strongly associated with the tax-and-spend “Country Club” wing of the GOP. Apparently she’s against abortion.

I know a bit more about Frazier. He’s better than most Republicans on economic matters — which is sort of like saying he smells better than Roquefort. He supports domestic partnerships for gay couples. And he seems to personally oppose abortion without getting too excited about banning it.

Frazier’s socially moderate views will play much better in the metro ‘burbs than they would play in rural Weld County or in El Paso, home of Focus on the Family. And the House seems a much more plausible step up for a city councilor.

I suppose we will see very soon whether the official story matches the obvious scenario.

Frazier Favors Tax Cuts, ‘Stimulus,’ Public-Private Partnerships

Does Ryan Frazier support genuinely free markets or not? I had been under the vague impression that he does, but reports of a recent interview suggest that Frazier supports Keynesian “stimulus” spending and public-private partnerships, which violate economic liberty. So what is the straight scoop?

Ben DeGrow pointed out an article by David Thielen republished by the Huffington Post pointing out that Frazier favored “stimulus” spending for transportation and education in addition to public-private partnerships.

I was a little surprised by DeGrow’s kid-glove treatment of the candidate: “Solutions-oriented? Definitely. Committed to limited government principles? An opportunity for a clarifying follow-up discussion.”

If Frazier can’t clarify his basic views in an hour-long interview, I doubt a “follow-up discussion” will shed more light on the matter.

But is Thielen’s summary accurate? I was surprised that his “interview” contained not a single direct quote. Might “Liberal and Loving It” Thielen be skewing Frazier’s remarks? Thankfully, on his original post, Thielen offers a link to download the audio file of the interview.

After a discussion of food and personal background (and a telling remark from Thielen that he regards certain “libertarians” as to the right of Genghis Khan), Frazier at 17 minutes, 42 seconds into the recorded conversation discusses his general principles:

There were certain principles that attracted me to the Republican Party. … [Something] the free enterprise system. [There’s a lot of background noise with the recording, making parts of it difficult to understand.] … Fiscal responsibility. And protect the rights of the individual. And in doing so you protect the rights of the community.

Frazier discussed the “fiscal responsibility that I think will in the long term help create a better America for our children.”

At 19 minutes, 48 seconds, Frazier says:

For me, there are a couple things that are absolutely, I think critical to a stronger, better, safer America. Obviously it starts with the economy. At the end of the day, [if] a person can’t keep a roof over their head and lights on and provide clothes for their children’s back… Trust me, I know, I grew up in a difficult environment. And, for me, that ought to be the focus for all of us. That ought to be one of the primary things that any of us who seek to represent the people focus on. That is, how do we continue to enact policies, or restraining government, such that the economy, and the ability for it to flourish, is sustainable. …

I would look to leaders who have demonstrated the ability to do that. I think one of the Democrats’ very best… is JFK. … If you read some of his speeches, things he pushed for, I think a lot of those things are true today, as much as they were true then, in 1962. For instance… he gave an address to the economic club on New York in 1962. I thought it was one of the best addresses I’ve heard, period. And in effect what he says … [is] the single largest thing that the federal government can do to aid economic growth is to create an environment for private consumption and investment…

He goes on to say to cut the fetters of… [the] private sphere. And he goes on to make a case for the types of things, given the circumstances, given the environment — i.e., you have an economy that is trying to find it’s footing, that has a potential to grow much more — that can be done to assist in that effort. And he in this case advocates for tax relief for everyone, both personal and corporate income tax relief. …

If you want to truly, really stimulate your economy, one of the greatest ways is to reduce, even if it’s momentarily, reduce any barriers… to private consumption and investment. … So what does that look like? … You look at ways that you can reduce taxation on everyone. Not just one segment of society, but everyone, in order to stimulate private consumption, which ultimately leads to a growing economy. And you also incentivize… investment in additional equipment… and technology. …

Obviously I’m a Republican because I believe in a more limited government, which is not the same thing as no government. There is a role for government, and I’ll have that conversation with anybody who believes otherwise. … But the question is, what is that role, and what extent ought that role to be?

At this point, I was thinking to myself, Jesus, Thielen; you wandered into a gold mine and came out with a few shiny lumps of coal. But I give him credit for conducting an interesting interview. At 24 minutes, 30 seconds, Thielen asked Frazier what positive role he sees for government in the economy. Frazier replied:

A limited government is not no government. So I think you have to articulate what are those limited roles, and what is it that government can or properly should be doing. I happen to be an advocate for public-private partnerships. I think that is a great solution for a lot of the challenges we face in this country. Whether it’s FasTracks here locally, and looking at public-private partnerships there, or other projects where the private sector and the public sector can come together to help further the improvement of our community. It makes a lot of sense to me. … I think transportation is one of the perhaps single largest areas for public-private partnerships in this country and right here in Colorado.

At 29 minutes, 32 seconds, Thielen asks, “Well let me ask you about the present downturn… There were a lot of things that fed into it. But the thing that made this thing just horrendous is credit disappeared. … Cutting taxes doesn’t do squat for getting the credit unstuck. … Do you think what they did up to now was a reasonably good attempt to address it?”

Frazier replied:

I’m not sure that tax relief doesn’t do squat. Because one of the reasons that credit markets are so tight… is there continues to be a lack of confidence in where the economy will go. Will we start to produce, will we start to flourish, or will we continue to… either stagnate or perhaps move in the south direction? That’s a factor in credit markets that perhaps is less tangible but exists…

Tax relief… is a part of the solution ultimately in getting the economy going. But what we’re able to achieve, if we’re able to stimulate the economy, is confidence. … What I’m advocating for is looking ways in which government perhaps can reduce… taxation on business and to the individual in order to incentivize private consumption and investment in industry.

At minute marker 33, Frazier discusses federal “stimulus” spending:

The results have not quite been what has been expected or touted. … I believe that that stimulus package would have been better suited had it focused more on infrastructure and development in this country. … Six percent actually went towards transportation infrastructure. … I believe that that was insufficient. If you want to do a stimulus package and you’re seeking to build longer-lasting jobs, it seemed to me that, if you’re not going to look at investment tax credits or, somehow, tax relief for everyone, that you ought to invest in infrastructure, in transportation. … The state of transportation in this country… is bad. … And so it seemed to me that a larger portion, a much larger portion, of the stimulus package, should have been directed toward infrastructure, which would have created a lot of jobs that I believe would have been around longer, had a much larger impact on the economy…

In response to Thielen’s comments about the usefulness of “stimulus” spending for things like education and national parks as well, Frazier responds, “That’s true. I think, when you look at the cost-benefit… transportation infrastructure and education would have probably made the most sense.”

At 38 minutes, 7 seconds, Frazier offers an interesting qualifier:

I agree with you, that productivity ultimately ultimately will increase the economy… That said, the question is how best do you achieve that… I think that’s the debate in the country, is, do you believe that more government spending will result in that? It possibly could. I’m sure you could point to points in our history where that had worked. … There are more instances in history where you could point to how you, not necessarily reduce government, but you reduce the perceived burden of government on individuals and on business, which ultimately leads to… private consumption and investment…

The upshot is that the initial reports were accurate: Frazier explicitly advocated “private-public partnerships” and “stimulus” spending for transportation and education. That Frazier used TaxTracks as his lead example of an allegedly successful public-private partnership did surprise me. (I stopped listening at about the forty minute marker, when Thielen strangely asked about the difference between a scientific fact and theory, so somebody else might want to listen to the rest of the recording for additional insights.)

Obviously Frazier is more enthusiastic about lowering taxes, and less enthusiastic about “stimulus” spending, than many Democrats. His view of “stimulus” spending during a recession is not that it’s always necessary, but that it’s sometimes useful. He showed serious interest in limiting federal spending to particular, widely popular sorts of projects. So Frazier is not as bad as Barack Obama or George W. Bush when it comes to violating economic liberty on the alter of Keynesian economics.

But Frazier still has some deep problems. I’ll discuss two of his problems briefly, one of economics and one of political philosophy.

“Stimulus” spending is on net destructive to the economy despite its prejudicial title. It is more accurately called welfare spending, and often it is corporate welfare. Candidates are less inclined to admit they endorse corporate welfare than they are to claim they favor “stimulus” spending.

Forced wealth transfers deprive the voluntary economy of critically needed resources. Frazier is right that lack of confidence is a big problem: and the biggest contributer to this lack of confidence is a federal government intent on imposing capricious and ever-changing controls on the economy. The economy still suffers under the looming threats of cap-and-trade and a political health takeover, to mention just two examples. So the federal government should get the hell out of the way of economic recovery, then it should give people the freedom to invest their own resources as they see fit. Tragically named “stimulus” spending only interferes with the recovery process. At best it creates less-productive make-work that contributes little to long-term recovery while squandering resources.

Then there is the Constitutional problem. If there is an argument for spending federal tax dollars on transportation and education, as Frazier advocates, it has nothing to do with “stimulating” the economy, for again the wealth is forcibly transfered away from voluntary exchanges. But Article I, Section 8 doesn’t even mention education as an approved federal function, and it mentions only “post roads” regarding transportation “infrastructure.” Apparently Frazier is of the “fluid Constitution” school.

The more fundamental issue is the basic one of political philosophy. DeGrow talks about “limited government.” Thielen discusses a “role for government” — without bothering to define what that role should be. Frazier combines the two vague phrases, apparently on the theory that the solution to ambiguity is to compound it.

What conservatives and “liberals” hardly ever discuss is what they think government is fundamentally for. Saying we need “more” or “less” government, robust or “limited” government, evades the central issue. Invoking vague phrases such as “the common welfare” begs the question of what constitutes welfare and when welfare is properly common. Everyone (save nihilists and self-refuting anarchists) wants both a robust and a limited government: a government that does very well whatever it is it should be doing and that doesn’t do whatever it should leave alone. The critical question is, what purposes does a government properly serve?

My view, rooted in classical liberal theory and the more recent ideas of Ayn Rand, is that the proper role of government is to protect individual rights, including those of property and voluntary association. Thus, so-called “stimulus” spending is not only economic folly but moral depravity. I want government to robustly protect individual rights, and I want government limited to that function.

Perhaps in some future interview Frazier will offer his answer to this fundamental question, then explain how that answer relates to his particular policy prescriptions.

James Warner Shares Light of Liberty

The following article originally was published October 12, 2009, by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

James Warner shares light of liberty

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The Hanoi Hilton. That’s what we called the Prisoners of War camps in Vietnam. Thankfully, though your elder author Linn served in that war, he never got room service at the Hilton.

James Warner was not so lucky. When helping to set up a talk Warner gave in town last month, Linn learned that during the war Warner was imprisoned 650 miles to the north.

Several years ago, Linn met Captain Gerald M. Coffee, who spent over seven years in solitary confinement, the second longest imprisonment in northern Vietnam. Linn asked Warner whether he knew Coffee.

“Of course I knew of him, we spent several years together at the Hilton,” Warner said. “You don’t know someone when your only communication is tap tap, tap tap.” The prisoners had developed a code to communicate with each other.

During the conversation Linn was taken back to thoughts of the great friends that he got to know, such as Tracy and Redman. Yes, a band of brothers.

Warner, former legal council to the National Rifle Association, spoke at the annual Informed Gun Owners conference last month, an event hosted by the Pro Second Amendment Committee.

He titled his talk, “From the Hanoi Hilton to the White House: How I learned the Value of Freedom in a Communist Prison.”

Warner was held by force. He held his audience captive for ninety minutes with the power of his life’s story. Warner showed little personal bitterness toward the pilot who, Warner believes, made a mistake that cost him his freedom and gave comfort to the enemy camp.

Warner has written, “I was put in a cement box with a steel door, which sat out in the tropical summer sun. There, I was put in leg irons which were then wired to a small stool. In this position I could neither sit nor stand comfortably. Within 10 days, every muscle in my body was in pain (here began a shoulder injury which is now inoperable). The heat was almost beyond bearing. My feet had swollen, literally, to the size of footballs. I cannot describe the pain. When they took the leg irons off, they had to actually dig them out of the swollen flesh.”

Warner and his fellow prisoners would remember each other’s names, so that if one got out he could inform the families of those still held. This was the first time that many would learn whether their loved one was still alive.

Some of the POWs would remember great works of literature, surprised by how much of a reading or poem they could recall. Some thought of philosophy, remembering the historical importance that the Greeks played in saving the idea of the individual.

Warner wrote a text on math. He had to steal empty cigarette containers from the guards, soak the containers in water until the sheets of paper separated, and then compress the sheets under his straw mat until dry. Several times guards confiscated the pages, and Warner had to start again. But Warner completed the work and brought it back. It now resides at the Marine POW museum.

Warner, commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1966, volunteered for duty in Vietnam the next year. He flew more than 100 missions before enemy fire shot down his VMFA-323 just north of the Demilitarized Zone on October 13. He spent five and a half years as a prisoner. His chest full of metals, including a Sliver Star and two Purple Hearts, only begin to reveal the heart inside the chest.

Warner continued to unfold his life’s story. One could see and feel the spirit of the old warrior as he leaned on his cane.

Warner served as Domestic Policy Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, focusing on economic and health policy issues. You can thank Warner every time you drive down I-70, as he helped repeal the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit. Warner has also won the H. L. Mencken award defending the First Amendment and gone to the Supreme Court defending the Second Amendment.

Warner joined a long line of great speakers brought to our community by the Pro Second Amendment Committee. Past speakers include David Kopel, lead scholar for the Independence Institute; Suzanna Gratia-Hupp, who advocated concealed carry after witnessing her parents’ murder in Texas; John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime; and former Sheriff Riecke Claussen.

After listening to Warner talk about his experiences and answer questions, the audience seemed emotionally drained, horrified by the details of Warner’s imprisonment and inspired by his continued resolve.

Warner said he has dedicated his life to the never-ending battle for freedom. Warner went through years of living hell, then went back to work defending freedom in America. Most of us have only to read about the issues and articulate the case for liberty. May we, like Warner, show the fortitude to overcome adversity and fight for our principles.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Health and the Empowerment of Payment

The following article originally was published October 1 by Colorado Daily and October 2 by the Denver Daily News.

What was the total cost of your last doctor’s visit? If you’re like most Americans, you have no idea, because somebody else is paying most of the bill.

Patients directly pay only about 14 percent of medical bills. The rest comes from insurance or government. This is the fundamental reason why health costs have skyrocketed. Patients have little incentive to monitor costs and look for good value, and sending routine expenses through third parties adds paperwork and administrative costs.

When somebody else pays the bill, many doctors think of their client as the insurer, not the patient. Likewise, insurers cater to employers, not you. The patient often gets cut out of the medical loop.

While Barack Obama pretends that insurance companies are at fault, the reality is that federal tax distortions drove insurance into the expensive, non-portable, employer-paid system. This tax distortion explains why Americans tend to use insurance as pre-paid health care, rather than to cover unexpected, high-cost treatments.

Even as Obama demonizes the insurance companies that federal policies have coddled and favored, his policies expand political favoritism. Obama wants to force you to buy politically-controlled insurance, on penalty of huge fines.

If you want to control your health care, you should advocate free-market reforms that expand medical competition, not more political controls. The experiences my wife and I have had with a Health Savings Account (HSA) and high-deductible insurance illustrate the benefits.

We pay $148 per month for high-deductible insurance. We buy it directly, not through an employer. It’s not ideal insurance, but it’s as good as we could find in today’s politically stifled market. We save money for routine care through our pre-tax HSA.

I select my doctor based on who best serves my needs, not who my insurance company happens to like.

My doctor, who came highly recommended by friends, gives me a 20 percent discount for paying at the time of service. I payed $128 for my recent physical, an outstanding value for her high level of care.

Not only does my doctor knowledgeably answer all my questions, she’s also sensitive to my budget. For example, she wanted to see blood tests for my cholesterol readings and glucose levels. Rather than order up expensive tests, she looked at my cholesterol readings I got at no cost at King Soopers just weeks ago. She suggested that I get follow-up blood work in three months.

After my wife’s doctor’s office ordered expensive blood work for her and then, against my wife’s explicit directions, gave the lab our insurance information, I figured out how to get cheaper blood work directly. The King Soopers pharmacy normally charges $20 for a “finger prick” cholesterol test. Lab Corp draws blood for only $25.55 through PrePaidLab.com.

My doctor also recommended checking my fasting blood glucose levels a couple times with a home meter. I bought a meter at Walgreens on sale for $9.99, which was entirely discounted through a rebate. [Update: after submitting this article and neglecting to read the directions for the meter, I messed up the test and ended up spending another $9.99 for a new meter. I got the “no coding,” smaller meter from Walgreens that’s much easier to use.]

That is not to say that cheaper is always better. In 2006 I paid my Boulder dentist $925 for a gold onlay for a back molar. I could have paid somebody else less. But I love and trust my dentist, and his onlay is a work of art worth every penny.

In health care, as in much of life, you get what you pay for. If you advocate taxes and insurance premiums for politically-controlled medicine, don’t act surprised when politicians and their insurance stooges call the shots. If you want quality care from your doctor, then fight for your right to pay your doctor directly for the routine care you receive.

Ari Armstrong is a guest writer for the Independence Institute and the publisher of FreeColorado.com.

Fifty Ways to Leave Obama

The following article originally was published in the September 28, 2009, edition of Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Fifty Ways to Leave Obama

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

“I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free / There must be fifty ways to leave your lover.” — Paul Simon

If you’re a leftist Democrat, you may have started to question your love affair with Barack Obama.

Secularists of the left probably noticed that Obama has ramped up George W. Bush’s program of faith-based welfare, trampling the wall between church and state. Civil libertarians may scratch their heads at Obama’s fervor to extend the PATRIOT Act, and he has hardly been a friend to gay rights.

Pacifists can’t be happy that the military remains in Iraq while the war in Afghanistan flares. Anti-corporate Democrats may wonder why Obama advocates so many billions of dollars for corporate welfare and proposes that the federal government force citizens to buy (politically controlled) products from the insurance industry.

If you’re an honest leftie, Obama’s administration has got to seem in many ways like George W. Bush’s third term.

Obviously conservatives dislike Obama’s anti-energy policies and his plans to increase controls of medicine.

Thankfully, as Obama’s inaugural honeymoon comes to an end, there’s a new book out that offers fifty ways to leave Obama.

The book’s authors, however, are so codependent on the Chosen One that they write as though Obama walks on water — when he’s not changing it to wine. Thus, they titled their book, “50 Ways You Can Help Obama Change America.”

But if you get past the title, you will find that the book is mostly about civic participation. Thus, it might be moderately useful regardless of your political goals. Ironically, the book may prove most useful for those fighting Obama’s policies.

The book is written by Michael Huttner and Jason Salzman. Readers may recall that your younger author Ari and Huttner have had a couple of run-ins in the past. Last year, Huttner tried to go after the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara for saying “bitch slap” on the radio. Caldara was “demeaning women,” Huttner proclaimed. Unfortunately for Huttner, left-wing comments on his own web page used the same phrase, Ari pointed out.

Earlier this year, Huttner went after Michelle Malkin when some random yokel with a sign posed for a photo with Malkin at a rally. The sign inappropriately compared Obama with Nazis. Huttner also blasted gubernatorial hopeful Josh Penry for speaking at the rally, even though neither he nor Malkin had anything to do with the sign.

Again Ari pointed out that many leftists inappropriately compared Bush to Nazis, including posters to Huttner’s own web page.

The lesson in all of this is to adapt Huttner’s political advice with some common sense, lest, like Huttner, you end up looking like a mean-spirited hypocrite.

Though we often disagree with Salzman, we find him to be a more measured and thoughtful activist, and he graciously sent Ari a review copy of the book.

In its policy advice, the book is utterly worthless. For example, on medical policy, the book with apparently straight text cites union statistics on the uninsured and bankruptcy — figures that have been blown out of the water by serious analysts. So just skip the entire first part of the book.

We were initially fearful that you can “help Obama” if you “plant your own garden” or “quit smoking.” Neither of us smokes, and Ari and his wife planted 48 tomato plants this year.

But then we realized that Huttner and Salzman must be growing something special in their gardens if they take their own advice here seriously. “Eating food that’s grown nearby eliminates pollution,” these authors tell us. That’s nonsense: growing a garden requires production of soil, seeds, tools, etc.

Notably, production and distribution of the book also generates pollution, but strangely we found no advice for publishing only ebooks, not paper ones.

Huttner and Salzman also claim to endorse “supporting small farmers.” But doesn’t growing your own food mean you’re not supporting small farmers?

The key point the book misses is that, if you grow your own food, you don’t have to pay taxes on your labor or the produce, and that is surely not helping Obama’s (or Governor Ritter’s) tax-and-spend agenda.

So let’s move on to the serious advice. “Attend a leadership training.” We agree! Some of our friends attend Liberty Toastmasters, People’s Press Collective technology training, and the Leadership Program of the Rockies. Contact legislators and testify at hearings.

“Get news that’s truly fair and balanced.” For instance, read FreeColorado.com and PeoplesPressCollective.com, along with this column

“Stage or attend a rally, media event, or protest.” while the left obviously hates it when free-market advocates take to the streets, we fully endorse peaceful, civil protest.

We’ve followed a lot of the book’s advice in fighting Obama’s agenda of political controls. We urge you to do the same.

“Slip out the back, Jack / Make a new plan, Stan… Just drop off the key, Lee / And get yourself free.”

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

My Ideal Health Insurance Policy

Right now my wife and I pay $148 per month for high-deductible health insurance through Assurant. Our rate is locked in for three years.

I was just talking with an insurance broker in Boulder, and he mentioned that a three-year policy is actually unusually long. Usually one must renew every single year.

As my dad and I have discussed, various political controls have effectively outlawed long-term policies.

Of course it’s difficult to predict precisely what products and services would become available on a free market. However, I have a good idea of what sort of insurance policy I’d like to buy.

Let’s start with some basic facts.

1. Real insurance (as opposed to today’s politically mangled health insurance) covers unexpected, high-cost treatments, not routine or expected care.

2. As one gets older, the risks of contracting a serious, high-cost disease approaches 100 percent, and this risk (on average) increases dramatically over the age of about 60. As one clever visual illustrates, one’s lifetime odds of dying of heart disease are one in five, and the odds of dying of cancer are one in seven. Stroke is the third greatest risk, and then risks splinter quickly into many competing factors. See also the charts (page 5) from National Vital Statistics showing “percent surviving by age.”

The upshot is that, in old age, the risk of high-cost care goes up dramatically. At that point, treatment is more or less expected, so medicine becomes increasingly less insurable. On the other hand, in one’s youth and middle age, routine care is the norm and high-cost emergencies are relatively rare, which is a great scenario for insurance.

What I’d like to do, then, is purchase a term health policy with a locked in rate till I’m about 60. I’d like the deductible to start high — around $10,000 annually — and increase every year until it reached about $50,000. The increasing deductible should enable rates to remain low even though health risks will increase somewhat over time.

So what happens when the term health policy ends? The point is to pay a low insurance premium and then save money to pay for care when I get old. Just to take an illustrative example, if you’re 35 years old and you buy term health until you’re 60, that gives you 25 years to save for old-age medical expenses. Let’s say a high-deductible premium costs $100 per month, whereas a “pre-paid health care” premium costs $500 per month. Let’s further say you pay $100 per month four routine care. That gives you $300 per month to save, which adds up to over $200,000 at 6.5 percent interest. I think it would make sense to save somewhat more than that.

If the sort of insurance I’m describing became widespread (as could only happen if politicians stopped completely mucking up the insurance market), one consequence would be that the large majority of health expenses would be paid directly by patients. This would put patients back in control of their medical care, and it would give patients the incentive to stay healthy and look for good value for their health-related dollars. This would keep health costs under control while achieving good quality. Which is why most politicians won’t even consider allowing it to happen.

Getting Things Done Faster

What’s amazing to me is that people spend so much time learning about “time management.” My attitude has always been that people should quit screwing around learning about “time management” and just spend their time doing stuff.

Nevertheless, I am currently reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done, as it comes highly recommended by various friends. My basic evaluation so far is positive, but I think most readers could save a lot of time by skipping much of the book.

Basically, the entire first part — the first 81 pages — boils down to two points.

1. To reach your goals, you need to define your goals and figure out effective ways to reach them.

2. You need a good way to process information related to your projects. You’re getting all sorts of ideas and information coming at you, all the time, from many directions. Moreover, you do a lot of good thinking at odd times. You need a good way to capture and organize all this information and all those ideas, so that you can effectively use them, and so that you can work in a more relaxed, enjoyable way.

Part 2, which I’ve just started, explains specifically how to accomplish the second point. I really don’t think I would have missed much if I had simply skipped the first part. It seems to me that much of effective time management is about figuring out what not to do.

Gazette: Obama’s Republican Health Plan

Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette published my op-ed, “Republican plans for health care reform similar to Obamacare.” (The print date is later than the online date of September 18).

I point out that the three core tenets of Obama’s plan — mandatory insurance, forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions (and meet other political demands), and expanded subsidies — have all been endorsed by Republicans.

Meanwhile, the “public option” isn’t a central element of Obama’s plan, as the other controls alone effectively nationalize the insurance industry. (And, as John Lott suggests via Brian Schwartz, something like the “public option” already dominates the insurance industry.)

Read the entire op-ed. And share it with your Republican friends!

Below is the complete text:

Republican plans for health care reform similar to Obamacare

Democrats pretend that Republicans are just a bunch of obstructionists when it comes to health proposals. Meanwhile, Republicans debate minor aspects of Barack Obama’s plan such as whether it subsidizes illegal immigrants and abortions.

The reality is that every key element of Obama’s plan either came from Republicans or arose with Republican support.

Obama underplays this fact because it is an embarrassment to his self-defined legendary status. This is the man who told Congress, “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” He wouldn’t have sounded as impressive had he admitted, “My plan cobbles together various Republican-endorsed policies.”

Republicans neglect their role in creating Obamacare because they like to pretend they support free markets and offer a real alternative to Democratic policies. More often than not, when Republicans are not “me tooing” the Democrats, they are taking the lead in expanding political controls of the economy.

The core of Obama’s plan is the mandate: he wants to force everyone to buy politically controlled insurance. But this has already been tried.

Mitt Romney, former Republican governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate, worked with Democrats to push through just such a plan. Obamacare is little more than warmed-over Romneycare.

What were the results? Last fall Paul Hsieh, a Colorado radiologist, wrote “Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America.” He found “the plan has increased costs for individuals and the state, reduced revenues for doctors and hospitals,” and fallen short of universal coverage.

Last month the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon checked in on Romneycare. He found higher taxes, exploding costs for insurance premiums, longer waits to see specialists, and “the groundwork for government rationing.”

Obama wants to replicate this failed Republican experiment on a national scale.

Another key part of Obama’s plan is to force insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions. This is again part of Romneycare, but other Republican leaders also endorse the idea.

Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman wrote for the July 30 Denver Post that he wants politicians to “require health insurers to cover those with pre- existing conditions.” In his tepid response to Obama, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana also praised the idea.

Of course, forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions incentivizes people to wait until they get sick to buy insurance, so the position amounts to an endorsement of the mandate, too.

What both Republicans and Democrats like to ignore is that politicians from both parties have created the problem of pre-existing conditions.

Tax distortions push people into non-portable, employer-paid insurance. Ever-changing controls outlaw some insurance options and make others impossible for insurers to offer.

Various federal and state controls undermine the competitiveness of insurance companies, making them largely unresponsive to the needs of consumers. And politicians price some out of the insurance market by forcing up premium costs with special-interest favoritism.

Rather than violate the right to contract for insurance, government should get back to the business of preventing fraud and enforcing contracts, preventing arbitrary denials of claims.

In addition to mandates and insurance controls, the third major aspect of Obama’s plan, expanded subsidies, also came from Republicans.

Obama told Congress, “For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need.” These “tax credits” in fact serve as outright handouts for some.

If Obama’s plan sounds familiar, it might be because you read the same proposal from Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. His “Health Care Freedom Plan” proposes the “tax credit” subsidies that Obama endorses.

True, most Republicans don’t support Obama’s “public option.” However, Obama seemed willing to deal away his public option in the spirit of faux compromise. Moreover, between the mandate and other controls, all insurance will be controlled by the federal government, anyway, so the public option isn’t the central element of Obama’s plans.

To their credit, some Republicans, including DeMint and Coffman, do have some good ideas. They support rolling back some insurance controls to make premiums more affordable and expanding Health Savings Accounts to let people buy insurance directly with pre-tax money. Tort reform is less important but still a useful idea.

Unfortunately, many Republicans seem deathly afraid to say what millions of Americans long to hear: that people have the right to live their own lives and pursue their values by their own judgment. That government’s proper role is to protect individual rights. That people should interact through voluntary exchange, not force.

When elected officials are able to articulate the message of liberty, and mean it, we might have something better on the table than different flavors of political controls.

Armstrong publishes FreeColorado.com. He and his wife buy high-deductible insurance and pay for routine care with a Health Savings Account.

Tomatoes Yum

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Jennifer and I planted 48 tomato plants in the spring. I dried several batches of the produce in our handy Excalibur.

These dried tomatoes will be great in a variety of cooked dishes.

And we should do better next year, once we get the back yard in better shape.

The Big Korkowski

Dude. Can a bald, edgy lawyer from Crested Butte win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate? I wouldn’t bet the odds in Vegas. My early prediction is that Andrew Romanoff will take the Democratic nomination from Senator Bennet, then lose narrowly to Jane Norton in the general. But I’ve been wrong before with these predictions.

But at least Luke Korkowski is an interesting underdog. How many people running for Congress say they want to abolish the federal reserve and run “legislation that gradually brings Medicare and Medicaid to an end?” At least among major parties in Colorado, the answer is exactly one. But is Luke a force or a farce?

It’s no secret that I like Ryan Frazier. Unfortunately, he seems to think he can platitude his way through the nomination. I guarantee he will not be able to out-platitude Jane Norton. He might be able to express his platitudes more energetically, but that won’t get him very far. For example, what in the hell does it mean to “give people a hand up, not a handout?”

It would be pleasant if the various Republican candidates would actually spell out their positions at some point. For example, Frazier seems to be trying to ride the fence when it comes to abortion. According to a news story republished on Frazier’s web page, “Frazier is pro-life on abortion.” Yet Frazier told Westword, “I am not a fan of abortion, but I struggle with whether it is the appropriate role of the government to place itself there.” Still elsewhere, Frazier indicated that it’s a matter of state’s rights. So which is it, Ryan? Either you do, or you do not, wish to impose legal restrictions on abortion. I don’t want to hear about your struggles, I don’t want to hear empty code words, I want to hear what is your position on the issues.

At least I know, definitively, what Korkowski thinks about something.

I also wonder whether Frazier’s heart is really in the race. I saw him at the Denver 9/12 rally. He was speaking to a few people on the edge of the crowd. I talked to him for a while. But I wondered what he was doing there. Where were the college kids with “Frazier For Senate” T-shirts handing out flyers among the crowd? If you’re going to work a crowd, then for Reagan’s sake work the crowd! If you’re too worried about getting associated with cranks, then stay home or campaign elsewhere. But to go to a rally and chit-chat on the sidelines struck me as peculiar for somebody running for the U.S. Senate.

I had no idea who the bald guy standing on the chair was as he prepared to address Liberty On the Rocks Wednesday night. But then it struck me: “You’re the bike guy, right?” By coincidence, just that morning I had read Lynn Bartels’s article on the candidate’s upcoming bicycle trip from Salida to Keystone.

I noticed the article only because Korkowski called it his “Free Colorado” tour. (This struck me because, as the reader may have noticed, my web page is called FreeColorado.com. There is now also ColoradoFreedom.net and LiveFreeColorado.org. But there is only one, original FreeColorado.com.)

Of all the possible election scenarios, here’s one I consider particularly interesting. Josh Penry, desperate to overcome his “recognition gap” with Scott “His Wackiness” McInnis, successfully pleads with Frazier to run as his lieutenant governor — certainly a decent step up for a city councilman. This leaves open the Senate race for the establishment candidate to run against a scrappy underdog who doesn’t shy from principles. I’m not saying I’m for that, but I do think it would be an interesting scenario.

I’m still not quite sure why Korkowski is running for U.S. Senate. I’m definitely no fan of his national sales tax. But at least I know, specifically, what some of his positions are. And in today’s political climate of gloss and glamor, that’s worth a lot.

Muscle Versus Concrete

So I called the local machine rental shop and got a quote for $48 for four hours on the electric jackhammer.

But I drove down to the shop and found that $48 rents only the puny 35-pound machine. The big boy costs $60. Plus, I was annoyed that I had to rent the machine for a full four hours, when I only needed it for half an hour (plus commute, so still under two hours).

I figured, hell, for $48 I can do it myself with a sledge hammer. So I did.

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Was it worth it? Well, per swing I didn’t save too much money. (It took a lot of swings.) The middle was a lot thicker than I thought judging from the edges. But it’s not like running a jackhammer is easy work. Plus, I saved an extra forty minute commute back to the rental shop, plus gas.

And, of course, I can say I broke up a concrete pad with nothing but a sledge hammer.

Restore Free Market to Address Pre-existing Conditions

The following article originally was published September 14 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Restore free market to address pre-existing conditions

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Barack Obama’s most compelling examples of problems in health care involve insurers dropping coverage of people once they develop health problems. A related issue is the trouble some have in getting new insurance after they develop health conditions.

We agree that these problems of pre-existing conditions are serious and provide a compelling reason to reform health insurance.

However, Obama is totally wrong about the solution. The problem of pre-existing conditions is a consequence of decades of political controls of medicine. The solution is to roll back those controls and restore a free market, not introduce more controls and the worse consequences they will inevitably breed.

Obama and many others like to pretend that today’s health insurance operates in a free market. It does not. Federal and state politicians have seriously undermined the competitiveness of insurance through gross violations of the contract rights of insurers and their customers.

Through tax distortions, federal politicians have driven most Americans into expensive, non-portable insurance funded through employers. Lose your job, lose your insurance.

Moreover, employer-paid insurance operates more like pre-paid health care than real insurance, again because of the tax distortion. Such “insurance” tends to cover routine, low-cost care but increasingly falls down when it comes to expensive emergencies.

By contrast, real insurance in a free market would tend to cover unexpected emergencies and leave routine care for direct payment, thereby keeping premiums much lower than what most pay now.

A major consequence of federally promoted, employer-paid insurance is to create problems of pre-existing conditions. If somebody gets sick and can no longer work, the person also loses health insurance and probably can’t find another provider.

Politicians continually subject health insurance to changing controls, different from state to state. This effectively prevents insurance companies from offering long-term contracts, because insurers cannot know what political controls they’ll have to deal with down the road. It also reduces insurance competitiveness, as a policy issued in one state is not valid in another.

Another way that politicians undermine competitive insurance is to outlaw insurance options that politicians and bureaucrats don’t happen to like. In his article “How Freedom to Contract Protects Insurability,” Dr. Paul Hsieh points out that political controls effectively prevent organizations such as church ministries from creating insurance.

“The only thing preventing individuals from creating their own contractually binding risk pools today is the government,” Hsieh writes.

Yet, ignoring all the ways that politicians harm those with pre-existing conditions, Obama pretends that the fundamental problem is insurance profits.

In a free market, profit means that customers happily pay for some good or service. It is only outside of that market context that profit is bad. For example, a Mafia boss might “profit” by killing people, or a politician might “profit” by doing favors for special interests.

The fundamental issue is not profit versus non-profit, but freedom versus force. The problem with insurance companies is not that they seek to make a profit, but that they must operate as de facto agents of political overseers who call the shots.

On a truly free market, in which insurers and their customers were free from today’s political controls, people would tend to buy insurance directly, rather than get stuck with the few non-portable plans their employer chooses for them.

In a free market, insurers would be free to offer more plans to more people, and consumers would be free to shop around, regardless of state boundaries. Politicians would no longer coddle insurers with protectionist controls and tax favoritism.

In a free market, insurers would compete on the basis of quality, security, and transparency of contract. Today, because of political controls, insurance companies face little real competition, and they would face even less under Obama’s policies.

In a free market, insurance companies would be able to offer long-term policies that today are politically impossible.

The proper role of government is to protect individual rights, including the right of businesses and their customers to freely contract. The government’s role in a free market is to prevent fraud and ensure fulfillment of contract. If government were doing its legitimate job, insurance companies could not arbitrarily drop people.

Almost the entire problem of pre-existing conditions was caused by political controls. Given that politicians have mucked things up so badly, the last thing in the world we need is for Obama to expand political controls of medicine.

We should instead fight for real freedom in medicine and health insurance, in which the problems of pre-existing conditions would be rare and easily handled through voluntary charity.

True, restoring a free market in the future will not solve all the problems of those who now have pre-existing conditions, no insurance, and ongoing, expensive medical care. Therefore, we support, as a transitional measure only, a tax-subsidized high-risk pool, such as Cover Colorado currently provides.

When it comes to problems of pre-existing conditions, the disease is political controls. The cure is more liberty.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Obama Was Against the Mandate Before He Was For It

Back on February 26, 2008, Barack Obama criticized Hillary Clinton for offering the same health insurance mandate that he endorsed just two days ago. (Thanks to Adam Eidelberg for looking up the transcript of the primary debate.)

Obama was right to question the mandate when Clinton proposed it. I’ve written more about the matter elsewhere (such as here.) For now, as a prelude to the before-and-after Obama quotes, I’ll summarize the main arguments against the mandate.

1. People have the right to choose which products to buy. It is immoral for politicians to force people to buy politically-controlled products.

2. The main reason some fraction of “the young and healthy” currently decide not to buy insurance is that politicians try to force the young and healthy to subsidize other people’s health care through jacked up insurance premiums. This is especially true in employer-paid insurance, and it is also true for directly purchased insurance due to state benefit mandates.

3. Obama’s pretense that the mandate solves the problem of forcing “the rest of us to pick up the tab” is laughable. The entire point of the mandate is to force some people to pick up the tab of other people’s health care through higher insurance premiums. That’s why Obama must force people to buy it. Without this coercion, Obama’s other insurance controls would dramatically increase costs of premiums and thus the numbers without insurance.

4. Real free-market reforms would lower the cost of insurance premiums so that more people could afford it. Roll back controls that jack up premiums. Expand Health Savings Accounts so that people can buy lower-cost insurance (as well as routine care) directly with pre-tax money.

5. The main reason why some people rely on expensive emergency room treatment, rather than seek out less costly alternatives, is that the federal government forces emergency rooms to offer care without compensation. That policy is wrong, and it predictably introduces perverse incentives.

6. People without insurance do not necessarily force others to fund their treatment. Many fund their treatment out of pocket. Again the solution is to legalize insurance they can afford and want to buy.

7. Mandated insurance is expensive insurance. Obama wants to force insurers to cover more routine care, continuing the federal push to pervert insurance into pre-paid medical care. When routine care is “free” (or nearly so) at the point of service, patients have practically no incentive to monitor costs. Also, under a mandate special interests continually try to get more services covered, jacking up premiums, as has happened in Massachusetts.

With that background, let us turn Obama’s position on mandates, then and now:

Obama then:

I have endured, over the course of this campaign, repeated negative mail from Senator Clinton in Iowa, in Nevada, and other places, suggesting that I want to leave 15 million people out.

According to Senator Clinton, that is accurate. I dispute it and I think it is inaccurate. On the other hand, I don’t fault Senator Clinton for wanting to point out what she thinks is an advantage to her plan.

The reason she thinks that there are more people covered under her plan than mine is because of a mandate. That is not a mandate for the government to provide coverage to everybody. It is a mandate that every individual purchase health care.

And the mailing that we put out accurately indicates that the main difference between Senator Clinton’s plan and mine is the fact that she would force, in some fashion, individuals to purchase health care.

If it was not affordable, she would still presumably force them to have it, unless there is a hardship exemption, as they’ve done in Massachusetts, which leaves 20 percent of the uninsured out. And if that’s the case, then, in fact, her claim that she covers everybody is not accurate.

Now, Senator Clinton has not indicated how she would enforce this mandate. She hasn’t indicated what level of subsidy she would provide to assure that it was, in fact, affordable. And so it is entirely legitimate for us to point out these differences.

The Democrats now have “indicated” how they would “enforce this mandate:” they would subject defectors to hefty fines.

While Obama claimed “the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years,” he wasn’t specific about how much he would subsidize individuals.

Obama now:

For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need… [F]or those Americans who can’t get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill…

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those — particularly the young and healthy — who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don’t sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people’s expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don’t provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek — especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions — just can’t be achieved.

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees.

As I have noted, it is the mandate (not the public option) that defines Obama’s current policy. Mandated insurance is morally wrong and destined to generate bad consequences. We do not need more mandates. We need more liberty.

Mandate, Not Public Option, Defines Obamacare

Rather than “hope and change,” Barack Obama offers a warmed-over Republican policy — Romneycare — that has already failed in Massachusetts. The core of Obama’s fake reform (described most recently in his address to Congress) is not, as many conservatives suggest, the “public option.” It is instead the proposal to force people to buy politically-controlled insurance. (For details on the Massachusetts fiasco, which Obama hopes to replicate on a national scale, see the articles by Paul Hsieh and Michael Cannon.)

It is the mandate that ties together the various tenets of Obamacare, particularly insurance controls (regarding coverage and pre-existing conditions) and expanded subsidies.

Regarding pre-existing conditions, I’ve pointed out, “Forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions means allowing consumers to wait until they get sick to buy insurance… The logical consequence of forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions is to force everyone to purchase insurance…”

Obama made the same point in his speech: “Unless everybody does their part [and purchases insurance under compulsion], many of the insurance reforms we seek — especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions — just can’t be achieved.” Just so.

Nevermind the fact that federal policies largely created the problems of uncovered pre-existing conditions.

Obama admits, “More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too.” But why is health insurance (and not any other sort of insurance) tied to employment for most Americans? It is because of federal tax distortions that drive expensive, non-portable, employer-paid insurance.

As I’ve noted (and again), the vast net of continuously changing insurance controls also helps to effectively outlaw stable, long-term policies that would remedy the problem of pre-existing conditions.

For more on this issue, please see Paul Hsieh’s outstanding article, “How the Freedom to Contract Protects Insurability.”

Obama wants to force insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions and also force insurers to cover preventative care (which would, incidentally, outlaw my high-deductible plan and force my wife and me to buy dramatically more costly insurance). The inevitable result of such controls is to jack up insurance premiums (leaving aside Obama’s fantasy that giving people more “free” health care will somehow curb costs).

Mandated insurance requires expanded subsidies. After all, you can’t force somebody to purchase a product that they literally cannot afford. If Obama follows the lead of Republicans, his “tax credits” will in many cases be direct subsidies.

Obama hopes to cheat a little on his mandate, claiming “there will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage.” (Whether you can “afford” this politically-manipulated “coverage” will be determined by the federal government.) Apparently Obama would subsidize these “hardship” cases through some combination of tax-funded welfare and tax-funded insurance.

With or without the “public option,” the core of Obamacare remains the same: force everyone (or nearly everyone) to buy insurance, federally control what insurance people can buy (making it more expensive), and forcibly transfer more wealth to pay for health.

NPR Gets Liberty On the Rocks Reaction to Obama’s Health Speech

NPR reporter Jeff Brady watched Barack Obama’s health address to Congress with members of the Denver Tech Liberty on the Rocks. He interviewed numerous participants and quoted three in his report.

Amanda Teresi, founder of Liberty On the Rocks, explained why forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions runs contrary to the basic purpose of insurance: “The idea is that it’s health insurance. And the whole concept of insurance is that you get it before you get sick, or before something happens to you. It would be the equivalent of not having any car insurance, hitting a tree, and then calling Geico and saying you want to sign up. It doesn’t make sense.”

(I’ve written a first and second article on the topic.)

T. L. James suggested that Obama’s comments about tort reform won’t amount to much. James told Brady, “Tort lawyers fund an important part of the Democratic power base, their funding base for their elections. There is no way that he’s going to do anything that’s going to turn them away from the Democratic party.”

Finally, Orin Ray said he didn’t think Obama’s speech really changed anybody’s mind.

Brady did a nice job with his brief report. However, I wish he had mentioned the more fundamental issues. The fact that Obama wants to force everybody to buy politically-controlled insurance is a huge deal, as is the fact that Obama wants to expand subsidies. Nor did Brady mention the political causes of today’s problems in medicine, or that Massachusetts has already tried — and failed — to successfully implement Obama’s key “reforms.” (I discussed all of these issues with Brady.) Yet Brady didn’t have much time for his portion of the report, and he was basically fair.

Obama Wrong About Mandatory Auto Insurance

I watched Barack Obama’s address on health policy tonight on television at Liberty On the Rocks at the Denver Tech Center. Both NPR and Fox 31 sent reporters to cover the speech and the free-market response to it. I’ll have more to say about the speech in coming days. For now, I want to correct but one of Obama’s remarks:

“That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.”

It is simply not true that states “require you to carry auto insurance.” Rather, you must buy auto insurance (or face fines) only if you drive an automobile on politically operated roads.

For example, Colorado’s statute 10-4-619 states that “compulsory coverage” applies to “every owner of a motor vehicle who operates the motor vehicle on the public highways of this state or who knowingly permits the operation of the motor vehicle on the public highways of this state.”

In other words, if you don’t own a motor vehicle, or you don’t drive your vehicle on “public highways,” you aren’t required to buy auto insurance.

It is indeed interesting that Obama sees a politically controlled industry as the model for health care.

Obama’s proposal to force everybody to buy politically controlled insurance is not like the requirement to buy auto insurance for public highways. Under Obama’s proposal, there is no escape and no exception. If you don’t buy insurance that politicians and their appointed bureaucrats approve for you, you face hefty fines. If you want to self-insure, or if you don’t like the politically-approved insurance, that’s tough. You will be forced to buy it. Because Obama is all about choice, competition, and freedom. And two plus two equals five.

September 10 Update: Wesword’s Michael Roberts picked up on the NPR coverage of Liberty On the Rocks and also quoted this blog post. As I pointed out in the comments, this post made a delimited point quickly. I’ve written much more about mandated insurance elsewhere.