Many people write or speak to tell us what we should think. Some want to be believed because they are experts, or think they are. Some want to be believed because they claim to speak for us. Some have had revelations. Others want us to trust them because they communicate through prominent media outlets. Many tell us what we should think. I write to encourage my readers to think for themselves. I write to ask you to inquire. Question me. Have fun.

Comment of the Day
What is wrong with Russia?

Dec 22, 2015

It appears that Russian leaders cannot free themselves from the medieval concept of regional influence, where weaker neighbors were subdued into becoming serf states. Is anyone capable of explaining to them that in these times of a global economy, any influence comes from economic strength? Russia, thanks to its size, natural resources and well-educated labor force, has everything that it takes to maintain a dominant position in the region, just by maintaining free trade with all its neighbors. It can do so without military interventions in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia has everything that it takes to be a respected wealthier neighbor, to whom everyone in the region would turn for help when needed. Instead, it is a bully and a hooligan. It would take so little to change that. But it is so hard for Russia to do it. 

Closed mind for closed borders
Nov 19, 2015

Known to some as a libertarian, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. speaks against open borders. His argument is that it is an infraction against private property. He misses the point that most people migrate just because Mr. Rockwell’s neighbors want them on their private property – for picking apples, washing the dishes or writing a computer code. Then, Mr. Rockwell wrongly laments that those foreigners invited by his neighbors violate his private property rights by loitering in the public spaces that he frequents. He wants the government to deny the rights of his neighbors to do on their private property whatever they wish, so he will not need to face immigrants in the public spaces. Mr. Rockwell left the train called “liberty” at the station called “xenophobia.”    

They do not know…
Sep 14, 2015

Mr. Trump says: “A lot of what I’m doing is by instinct.” I prefer that our President would make decisions based on systematic due diligence. The instinct that guides Mr. Trump in his professional life arrives from his vast experience, starting when he was growing up under the mentoring of his successful father, followed by a solid education and years of practice. Mr. Trump's confidence is misguiding, as it gives his supporters the illusion that someone who mastered real estate dealing can be equally skillful as President. It is similar to the illusion surrounding Dr. Carson, that he can be as good a President as he is a brain surgeon. If both gentlemen were humbler, they would realize that they qualify to be President equally as much as Mr. Trump qualifies to conduct brain surgeries and Dr. Carson to run Mr. Trump’s real estate empire. The problem is not that they do not know many things they should; the problem is that they do not realize that.

Freedom cannot be legislated, its restriction can
Mar 31, 2015

Indiana voted in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In his WSJ piece, Gov. Mike Pence claims it was needed to protect the religious freedoms of Hoosiers. Every legislative act by its nature limits someone’s freedom. The only way of increasing freedom is by identifying existing laws that curb personal liberties and then eliminating them.  Hence, if Gov. Pence sees that under some circumstances, the religious freedoms of Hoosiers are not respected, he could correct the situation by eliminating laws causing this problem. We have the Bill of Rights, and it suffices. No “enhancements” are needed.

Greed-driven health care
Feb 27, 2015

The solution to our health care crisis is in the implementation of more market-driven mechanisms into our health care policy. This is the only way to give patients the freedom to make decisions regarding their care between them and their doctors; not having these decisions made by faceless bureaucrats. The biggest obstacle in implementing a change of this kind is in a deep public conviction that the introduction of the free market into health care will result in doctors, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry and everybody else involved being guided by their greed, not the best interests of sick people. The biggest challenge in overturning Obamacare is not in Washington. It is in winning the argument with Americans that free-market-driven health care can serve their needs much better than the government-distributed one.

Immigration inaction
Feb 17, 2015

Congress could not agree on the immigration reform. President Obama resorted to executive orders. Now he is stopped by a court order. It is sad to see that this legal wrangling substitutes for real discussion on why we have this immigration crisis and what we should do to get it resolved. Most Americans have strong, ideologically motivated views about immigration. If they were right, the policies implemented would work, and we would not have a problem anymore. We have an ongoing problem because most Americans are wrong in their understanding of what caused massive illegal immigration and what we should do to get it corrected. There will be no progress until someone  addresses this problem. For more about why we have this immigration mess go here.  

Immigration comedy
Jan 26, 2015

The Republicans’ challenge to President Obama's executive orders on immigration is simply comic. We have a President who is clearly a socialist. We have a Republican Congress that declares it is for capitalism. However, on the immigration issue, Republicans are for the purely socialist immigration laws we have. At least on this issue, the President recognizes that socialism does not work, and his executive orders bring a more capitalistic approach. In our theoretically capitalistic country we have a socialist as President who acts to strengthen capitalism. At the same time, the pro-capitalistic majority of Congress acts to defend socialism.   

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The debate about health care reform is not about health care

In the report, that the President received from his Council of Economic Advisers, beginning on page 13 and following, we can read:

“At a fundamental level, the inefficiencies stem from the fact that health care is very different from conventional goods and services. The markets for health insurance and medical care are classic examples of markets in which asymmetric information is important—that is, where one party to a transaction is likely to have more information than another. In health insurance markets, asymmetric information can lead to adverse selection, whereby individuals who know they are likely to have high health care costs are more likely to seek health insurance. Information asymmetries also lead to moral hazard, where insurance coverage may insulate patients from cost consciousness and promote unnecessary care.”

For those who did not catch the ideological meaning behind this statement, let me explain that scientists noticed that the free markets are never perfectly free. Usually one party of a transaction has better information then the other one. For instance, a used car dealer can hide information about known defects. Car mechanics, plumbers, or physicians usually know better than their clients or patients what the best solution is. However, they might use this information for their financial benefit by recommending repairs or treatments more expensive than necessary. Similarly, a person buying health insurance may withhold information about existing illnesses. In extreme instances, there always will be people selling the Brooklyn Bridge, and they will find buyers. (Bernard Madoff almost literally sold the Brooklyn Bridge many times).

One can calmly look at this scientific observation, understanding that nothing is perfect on Earth. Ultimate perfection is in heaven, but aside from suicide bombers, no one is eager to go there voluntarily. Furthermore, one can see that in a small community the asymmetry of information is a lesser burden, as people learn fast about their dishonest neighbors. In a big city, one can endlessly prey on under-informed clients or patients. For this reason, we have many consumer protection laws. However, even the best legislation cannot protect people from their own negligence regarding getting information before entering into a contract. In the extreme, even if the government would take excessive measures to protect us from buying the Brooklyn Bridge, the con artists would prosper selling the Statue of Liberty.

One may notice as well, that with the internet, the customer or patient can easily find information about car mechanics, plumbers, or doctors. There is always a risk that in an emergency, we may have no chance to verify the information they feed us. However, this is only a small fraction of all consumer contracts, which include medical services as well. Nevertheless, we can complain afterwards, forming community pressure to discourage dishonest car mechanics, plumbers, or physicians from taking advantage of our misfortune.

There are people who do not believe in the free market. Some of them cling desperately to the information asymmetry that always exist in real life free market transactions, and consider this as an evidence of the systematic inefficiency of the free market system. For them it is scientific proof that the free market does not work and government involvement is necessary. At best, this is just a hypothesis that still needs to be verified in practice.

In practice, so far, the wealth and strength of America has been built on the concept of the free market. Hence, if someone wants to reform the U.S. on the opposite concept, that the free market does not work, that person has a lot of explaining to do. This seems not be of any concern of the Council of Economic Advisers. Without hesitation, they write:

“In considerable part because of these market failures, government programs and policies play a large role in health care. This means that in many cases incentives are not determined by market forces.”

This report is not about what is wrong with our health care system and how to reform it. It is about using our health care crisis as an opportunity for promoting increased government regulation that would replace the free market, or whatever is still left of it.

There is a whole chapter (beginning page 16) stating that market failures lead to high numbers of uninsured. We know the names of the members of the Council of Economic Advisers. However, none of them put her or his name on the report. None of them wanted their academic credentials tarnished with ignoring the big elephant in the room, by dismissing the opposite view that the free market in health care failed not because of some of its innate shortcomings, but because of immense government interventions. The free market in health care failed not due to information asymmetry or adverse selections but because – for all practical reasons – it does not exist.

Our health care is heavily regulated, because our government cares about us. After all, health care is important. As a result, the health care industry became a quasi-monopoly, entangled with the government. Simultaneously, they enjoy both, the power of the wealth of private industry and the political strength of the government, as government is the largest client, paying for 46% of all health care in the country.

When complaining about the excessive profits of health insurance companies, about their greed, about denying service or dropping for pre-existing conditions, President Obama conveniently forgets that they do it because they can, as they have no competition offering better service. They do all these evil things because their lobbyists paid heavily for regulations allowing them to do so, free from competition. As government is the largest payer, the lion’s share of the money that lobbyists spend comes from overcharging the government at the first place. Just in the second quarter of this year, they spent $133,271,660.00 for lobbying. I did not spend a dime. How much did you spend? Our interests in Washington are represented according to these numbers. We can have our interests protected only by the free market, as the fewer government regulations we have, the less influence lobbyists can buy.

Alternatively to an increased government role in the health care industry, we may select the path similar to what we started in telecommunication in 1983 by breaking the monopoly of AT&T, and the deregulation of the industry that followed. With very limited government regulations, prices went down, quality improved, and affordability reached every nook of society. Should we at least consider using the same approach in addressing our health care crisis?

Just by reading the opinions presented at Huffington Post, one sees that many Americans distrust the free market and prefer more government intervention in the economy. In the health care reform debate, so-called liberals or progressives are for more government regulations, when the so-called conservatives are against it. However, in lingering around corner immigration reform, the many of the same conservatives are for more government involvement in controlling the labor market, which is clearly socialistic, when liberals are for less government control. This observation alone can raise suspicion that people voice their opinion for or against more government regulation not based on the good understanding how the free market operates, but based on ideological prejudices.

Observing people’s behavior, one can see that greed is a basic human trait. Most political systems around the world are built around a noble concept that greed of an individual should be circumvented for the good of the society as a whole. The American political system is an exception; it is built on the concept that the good of the society as a whole would be achieved the best when individuals have the freedom to pursue profits. This is how America became America. This is why our ancestors built such a powerful and rich country.

The debate about health care reform sometimes becomes so much irrational because it is not about health care at all. (Similarly, as the debate about immigration reform is not about immigration.) It is about the underlying concepts of our political system. Do we want to stick to the concepts that made America strong and rich? Or, do we want abandon them, and experiment with new political concepts? Do we want more of the free market or less of it? To the best of my reading of opinion polls, Americans are split half-and-half between these two options. This is our most important problem.

President Obama is right that the health care crisis can lead our nation to financial collapse. The bad news is that this is not the worst dilemma we face. Even worse is that no one is addressing our main problem directly.

A version of this text was published by Huffington Post

About me

I was born in 1951 in Gdansk, Poland.
Since my high school years, I have interest in politics and love for writing. During my college years, I started writing to student papers and soon became freelance author to major Polish political magazines.

In 1980 I wrote a book “Czy w Polsce może być lepiej?” (“Could it be better in Poland?” – this book is available only in Polish) analyzing major problems in Poland at the time and outlining possible solutions.

I was among those Polish political writers who by their writings contributed to the peaceful system transformation that finally took place in 1989. Since 1985, I live in the Chicago area. I went through the hard times typical of many immigrants. Working in service business, I have seen the best and the worst places, I met the poorest and the richest. I have seen and experienced America not known to most of politicians, business people, and other political writers. For eleven years, I ran my own company. Presently, I am an independent consultant.

My political writing comes out of necessity. I write when I see that the prevailing voices on the political arena are misleading or erroneous. Abstract mathematics and control theory (of complex technological processes) strongly influenced my understanding of social phenomena. In the past, my opponents rebuked my mathematical mind as cold, soulless, and inhuman. On a few occasions I was prized for my engineer’s precision and logic.

I have a master’s degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in mathematical machines from Politechnika Gdańska (Technical University of Gdansk).

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