Herbert Sweet

Herbert Sweet

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Government Takes Control of GM

Well, now the government is going to own GM. First the government took control over the banks and now a good chunk of the auto industry. I’m sure that the conservatives will howl about this. We’ll hear a clamor about nationalization and socialism and all of that.

On the other side of the argument is the fact that both banking and automobiles are a very large part of the economy and are intertwined with just about everything. Let them fail, and, for sure, the country, and even the entire world, would be facing a depression or even worse.

IMHO, the solution is not a return to laissez-faire capitalism. Indeed, it is unrestricted capitalism that allowed these entities to grow to the point where their survival threatened the entire economy. These enterprises should have been downsized long ago to have kept this from happening.

In addition, medium size companies always have to be worried about their survival. Medium size companies provide an opportunity for ownership and management to be intertwined. For these companies there is less likelihood for their managements to rob the till for bonuses and golden parachutes and, instead, do what they are supposed to do – manage.

The lessons learned in the Teddy Roosevelt era and then again in the Franklin Roosevelt era have either been forgotten or seemed to belong to history and therefore not considered to be relevant. Beware of calls for ‘reform’.

It is government and only government that can control the economic environment so that individual decision making can produce thriving individual enterprises. Laissez-faire, after all, is just another word for anarchy.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Health Care -- Public or private is the wrong question

The country is now immersed in a great debate over the health care delivery system with the main focus being whether that system should be paid for through private insurance or through public insurance.

This is the wrong focus and, regardless of the outcome, health care cost will not be contained.

There are three fundamental health care cost factors that are not receiving the nation’s full attention.

The most important of these is in the area of terminal illnesses. Terminal illness, put bluntly, means death and very few are willing to come to terms with that. The basic reason is that, while most everyone believes in a life after death, few are really confident of that belief. This is well expressed by the old joke that everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to go now. The result is a desperate attempt to hold on to life.

That desperation turns to medical technology which merely prolongs the agony without curing the disease. This is extremely costly resulting in the consumption of a large percentage of the nations health care dollars.

The second most important factor is the population’s lack of control over weight. Today, two-thirds of all Americans are either obese or overweight and it is well known that this alone leads to costly chronic disease.

The final factor is that the age demographic is sliding upwards due to the aging of the baby boomers.

The end result is a nation of aged, overweight and desperate people focused solely on themselves unwilling to think in terms of the costs that others must incur. Few politicians are willing to buck this sentiment so the problem will likely worsen until rising health care costs produce a fiscal crisis. At this point health care costs will threaten the provision of Social Security and the rest of the entitlements, the functioning of government itself and even the provision of military security.