FT198: “Obamacare will fail because you can’t incentivize people to make their lives worse.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 29th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Stores used the Incentives of Black Friday to get People to do what they Wanted

A belated happy Thanksgiving.  And a belated happy Black Friday.  We say belated because Black Friday was already here by the time Friday woke from its sleepy slumber.  No more waiting in line Friday morning for those stores to open.  No.  Today if you snooze (i.e., spend Thanksgiving with the family at home) you lose.  Because it’s first come first served.  Which means if you wanted to get some of those deep discounts before they run out you didn’t let anything silly like celebrating Thanksgiving with the family get in your way.

Now everyone loves a bargain.  It’s why we scan the Sunday sales papers.  And search online for the best price.  But in the Obama ‘recovery’ there isn’t a whole lot of spending going on.  As there isn’t a whole lot of employment going on.  Since President Obama assumed office his policies have destroyed some 10 million jobs.  And one thing about unemployed people.  They definitely want a bargain.  Especially if they want a good Christmas for their family during the dark times of the Obama presidency.

But there is a greater lesson Black Friday can tell us other than President Obama is a bad president.  Especially in things economic.  Why are stores opening on Thanksgiving?  Because they’re cruel and evil forcing their workers to slave away during a holiday?  No.  It’s not that.  In fact, some employees love working on a holiday.  For they get paid more working on a holiday than they normally would.  Allowing them to earn extra money to give their families a good Christmas during the dark times of the Obama presidency.  As it turns out shoppers and workers alike like Black Friday.  For it allows each to have more for less.  And that is the great lesson of Black Friday.  Getting people to do what you want by offering them something they want.  Or, in other words, offering them an incentive.

The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 pitted Northern Republicans against Slave-Owning Southern Democrats

Slaves working in the planter South had no desire to be slaves.  Yet they were slaves.  Why?  There weren’t slaves in the North.  Only in the South.  The blacks in the north chose not to be slaves.  While those in the South had no choice.  The planter elite in the South, the ‘Old World’ planter aristocracy, used force.  And having a larger force in Washington than they normally would have (thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation in Congress) they were able to use the force of government to continue to force blacks into slavery.  The Southern Democrats (i.e., the ‘Old World’ planter aristocracy) were able to keep the black man enslaved until the mid 19th century.  Even using the power of the federal government to override states’ rights in the North.  Using the Fugitive Slave Act to force northern states to return fugitive slaves to their Southern Democrat owners.  The ‘Old World’ planter aristocracy.

This is coercion.  This is how you get people to do what they don’t want to do.  Using the power of the federal government the Southern Democrats kept their slaves in bondage.  Also, using the power of the federal government they forced those in the North who wanted to help ‘fugitive’ slaves to stay free return their slaves or else.  That ‘or else’ being the full weight of the federal government coming down on them with extreme prejudice.  But when the North became more populated control of the House of Representatives favored the larger populated North.  Despite the Three-Fifths Compromise.  Which left the Senate.  And as each state got two senators how the new states entered the union mattered.  For the planter elite to hold their power over the United States.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was an early attempt to put slavery onto the path of oblivion.  Those in the North did not want it.  The planter elite in the South did.  So they compromised.  Slavery could remain in the South to appease the planter elite but the compromise prohibited slavery in the new Louisiana Territory that Thomas Jefferson purchased above the 36°30′ parallel (about the southern border of Missouri).  Except in the state of Missouri.  Then came the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 and the idea of popular sovereignty.  Throwing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 out the window.  These two states were both above the 36°30′ parallel.  The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 said the first people into the fledging states could choose for themselves if they would be a slave-state or a free-state.  Which led to a mad rush to Kansas.  And a bloody civil war there.  That eventually led to the American Civil War.  To settle once and for all the issue of slavery in America.  Would the Southern Democrats prevail and keep the black man in bondage?  Or would the Republicans free the slaves?

Obamacare is less like Black Friday and more like Slavery

Even if you flunked your history class you should know the answer to this.  Abraham Lincoln and his Republicans defeated the Southern Democrats and won the American Civil War.  Freeing the slaves.  Of course, the Southern Democrats were not good losers.  They gave us the KKK.  Then the Jim Crowe Laws.  The separate but equal nonsense that didn’t exist in the Republican North.  The old southern aristocracy were not huge fans of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.  All they wanted was privilege.  They wanted the Old World in the New World.  And the planter elite fought bitterly to keep that.  Well, not them as much as their fellow southerners they lied to about states’ rights.  Getting them (most of who were too poor to own a single slave) to fight and sacrifice their lives to maintain the institution of slavery.  To maintain the privilege of the southern aristocracy.

So there you have examples of incentive and coercion.  Black Friday incentivized people to hire in for seasonal jobs during the holiday season.  And brought people into stores with deep discounting.  Everyone got something they wanted.  And so they did what the store owners wanted.  People worked for them on Thanksgiving.  And people came into the stores on Thanksgiving.  Both of their own free will.  Now contrast that to slavery.  Where there was no free will.  Only the coercion of the federal government.  Where fear and intimidation compelled slaves to remain slaves.  And their only incentive was to obey their masters to avoid physical harm.

With the Supreme Court ruling the penalty of Obamacare became a tax.  Allowing the federal government to compel people to buy health insurance or suffer the consequences.  A ‘tax’ that will grow in time.  Buy insurance or else.  With that ‘or else’ being the full force and fury of the IRS.  Something most people would find more unpleasant than a colonoscopy.  Without any anesthetic.  No, a letter from the IRS is something no one wants to see in their mail.  For few things will fill you with fear and dread more.  This is the enforcement mechanism of Obamacare.  Which they need because people otherwise wouldn’t spend more for less.  Higher insurance premiums to cover things they will never need (a gay man will never need prenatal care).  And sky-high deductibles that will be like having no insurance.  As everything will be out of pocket until you reach that sky-high deductible.  Which few people will reach unless they have a catastrophic illness or accident.  This is why people are NOT signing up for Obamacare.  Because Obamacare ain’t no Black Friday.  Obamacare is offering nothing the people want.  At prices higher than they ever had to pay for health insurance before.  Leaving them with less to spend on their family.  Forcing them to cut out things they once enjoyed.  Which is why Obamacare will fail.  Because you can’t incentivize people to make their lives worse.  No, to do that you need the fearful power of the state.  Just like the Southern Democrats used to maintain the institution of slavery.

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LESSONS LEARNED #60: “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Fool me again shame on public education.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 8th, 2011

Slaves were Costly and Inefficient

George Washington made a profit on his plantation.  Better than some of his fellow Founding FathersThomas Jefferson couldn’t make a profit and was forever in debt.  But Washington could.  And did.  And would have been more profitable had he split up his slave families.  You see, he wanted to sell his slaves and use paid-laborers instead.  Why?  Because paid-labor was more profitable than slave-labor?  “What?!?” you ask.    Yes, that’s right.  Paid-labor was more profitable than slave-labor.  For a couple of reasons. 

First of all, slaves weren’t free.  People bought them at auction.  And anyone familiar with an auction knows that people sell to the highest bidder.  So there was an initial ‘investment’ in a slave that you didn’t have with a paid-laborer.  Think of this as the difference of buying or renting a house.  If you buy you pay a lot of money to own the house.  And you are responsible for all of the maintenance and upkeep on the house.  It’s different with renting.  You pay just a little bit each month for as long as you stay in the house.  It’s similar with paid-labor.  You rent people for the time they work.  Then they go home and feed and house themselves.  Slaves didn’t go home.  Because they were home.  And planters had to feed and house them.  And attend to their other needs.  These costs added up.  Especially if you had a lot of slaves out of their working prime (old men and young children) that you still had to feed and house.  And these are what Washington had a lot of.  Many generations of non-working slaves that he had to feed and house.  Which is why he wanted to sell them.  But people only wanted the workers.  Not the rest of the family.  But he refused to break up the slaves families.  So he kept them.  Even though it was a poor business decision.

Now Washington was no abolitionist, but he saw the conflict between the institution of slavery and the American ideal.  But his motives were financial at first.  His large crop of tobacco was not a money-maker.  So he wanted to diversify his crops.  And his risks.  Which meant different labor skills for different crops.  And this favored paid-labor.  Because you can always hire skilled laborers to grow these different crops.  Which was the great disadvantage of slave-labor.  Their advantage was in the large, single-crop plantation where a diverse skill-set was not required.  Trained in one skill, they kept repeating that single skill on a grand scale.  It was the best you could hope for from slave-labor.  Where people did the minimum to avoid punishment.  For that was their only incentive.  Paid-laborers, on the other hand, you can fire them.  Or reward them for bumper crops.  So they have an incentive to hone their skills and become the best at what they do.

King Cotton Abdicates

But Washington couldn’t break up the slave families.  And there was no way to give them the many years of farming skills overnight in these new skill areas and turn them into proper paid-laborers.  Who could take care of themselves and their families while integrating them into free society.  Unless he gave up his day job.  So he continued to use slave-labor.  However, his will freed his slaves after his wife passed away.  He and his wife were the last generation to live the old way of life.  His successors were to live the new way of life.  His will further instructed to teach the newly freed slaves trade skills and help them integrate into free society.

Many critics of the United States like to point to the institution of slavery and say that is why we became a great nation.  That we grew rich on slave-labor.  That we reaped huge profits because slaves were free.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  First of all, as noted above, slave-labor was not free labor.  It was costly.  And inefficient.  It was such a bad business model that it had almost died of its own accord.  As many of the Founding Fathers had earnestly wished.  But something happened.  Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.  Now machines could separate the seeds from the cotton faster than they could pick it.  All of a sudden the large, single-crop, cotton plantations in the south needed to plant, grow and pick more cotton than ever before.  To feed these new, hungry machines.  Cotton was the new high-demand fabric.  The textile markets in Great Britain couldn’t buy enough of it.  And the Southern economy flourished like it had never did before.  Southern planters grew rich.  As did the Southern economy.  King Cotton they called it.  Because cotton was king.

And that is why the South lost the Civil War.  For if cotton was king that meant the South was a monarchy.  And for all intents and purposes, it was.  Most Southerners didn’t own slaves.  Most were poor.  Working on family farms.  The institution of slavery didn’t tarnish them.  No.  The rich planters owned the vast majority of the slaves.  The planter elite.  The planter aristocracy.  And it was an aristocracy in every sense of the word.  Just watch the classic Gone with the Wind and tell me what that world reminds you more of.  America?  Or European feudalism?  That wasn’t America.  America was the poor southerner working the family farm.  And the poor northerner working the family farm.  It was not inherited wealth passed from generation to generation.  Wealth created by labor bonded in servitude attached to the land (serfs in Europe, slaves in America).  No, this was not America.  It was a charmed life for the privileged few.  But only the privileged few.  Because it mattered what your last name was.

Laissez-Faire Capitalism wins the Civil War

The North won the Civil War because it was more laissez-faire capitalism.  The South had the better generals at the beginning of the war.  And the Southern soldier was a formidable foe in combat.  But factories in the North fed Northern shipyards.  Which built a navy that blockaded southern ports.  Making all that cotton worthless.  Great Britain would then turn to India for her cotton needs.  So much for King Cotton. 

The Southern economy was a cotton economy without a market.  They had factories and shipyards, too, buy not like the industrialized North.  The South never had a chance.  Unless she could strike a winning blow early.  Because they could not win a war of attrition.  Which is what the Civil War became.  Especially after the Confederate ‘high water’ mark.  Gettysburg.  The Confederacy shrank as the Union Army advanced.  Fed by a growing network of railroads.  This relentless advance of man and material made possible by the prudent investment of capital by savvy investors.  The genius of entrepreneurs.  And the drive of industrialists.

This miracle of capitalism would tip the scales again in World War I.  And in World War II.  The Arsenal of Democracy.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Paid-laborers.  Incentive.  And profit.  The best things in life.  They gave us the comforts we now take for granted.  And they took us from a new nation to a superpower in little over one hundred years.

Pliant, Subservient Students grow up to become good Democratic Voters

So that’s history.  But people today still think slavery made us great.  They attack capitalism.  Incentive.  Profits.  And just about everything else that built and made this country great.  Why?  Because they learned somewhere that slavery made us great.  That capitalism is bad and unfair.  That incentive and profits exploit the working class.  Where?  In our public schools.  And our public universities.  Kids in our public institutions learn these things.  Not the things that made us great.  Because these schools indoctrinate.  They don’t educate.  Why?  For the same reason the planter aristocracy fought in the Civil War.  To protect a privileged class.

Today, the liberal Democrats are the descendants of the planter aristocracy.  Not literally.  But figuratively.  Liberal Democrats are not capitalists.  Or industrialists.  They don’t like incentive or profit.  They prefer patronage.  They like rewarding their friends.  And punishing their enemies.  And to have this power they need to have the people vote for them.  So they come across as the champion of the poor and friend of the working man.  Or any other minority or class of people whose vote they need to buy.  But they’re anything but.  For an example just look at one of their favorite cause célèbre.  The black family.  These white liberals want to ease other whites’ guilt over slavery by doing as much as they can for the black family.  To make up for all those years of injustice.  And they dropped a neutron bomb.  Aid to Families with Dependent Children.  AFDC.  A real feel-good thing to do.  But it led to an explosion of single-mother families in the black community.  Because of the incentives of the program.  It encouraged women to have more children.  Stay unmarried.  And not work.  For a young woman with no working skill this was a godsend.  The state would replace the father and provide for her and her children.  But as it turned out, the state was a very poor father figure.  Children need fathers.  We all know this.  That’s why there are big brother programs.  To provide a father figure for these fatherless children.  For they will stray without this strong role model in the family.  And have.  Economist Thomas Sowell blames AFDC for greatly destroying the black family.

But the liberal Democrats don’t look at the destruction they cause.  They look at the political power they’ve gained.  Much like the planter elite.  So they need to tweak history a bit.  To mask their failures.  And accentuate the good they meant to do.  But never did.  And what better way to do that than in our public schools?  So they take care of our teachers.  Pull them into their aristocratic class.  Help them get favorable contracts without allowing the taxpayers a say.  Feed them big salaries.  Some of which is returned to them via their union dues.  Quid pro quo. They live the good life.  The politicians get ‘campaign’ contributions.  And pliant, subservient students grow up to become good Democratic voters.

And thus the lie is sustained.  Those who destroy are portrayed as nurturers.  And those who nurture are portrayed as destroyers.  A political sleight of hand.  That pays dividends in the voting booth.

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