Posts By: Michael Scott

Medicating and Educating – Does it Matter How Much it Costs?

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The year was 2003. My former wife and I were living in Nevada and expecting a child. Problem was, we were without health insurance and were faced with paying for the baby’s delivery and a subsequent hospital stay.

As a former health care senior administrator responsible for several medical centers in the Midwest, I figured I could exert influence to ensure that our bill was manageable. So a few days before my wife was admitted while in the throes of labor, I took the initiative and asked a Nurse Manager whether he could provide an itemized estimate of our hospital bill. Open-mouthed in disbelief at my question, he was clearly lost for words.

As an advocate for free market competition in the healthcare industry, I am astounded that a price list is not provided prior to medical services being rendered. Pricing is something that every consumer deserves to know in light of the fact that more than one-sixth of the U.S. economy is devoted to healthcare spending, a percentage that continues to rise every year. The ramifications of this are severe: higher costs for health insurance (even under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare), the perilous state of our nation’s flimsy safety net and our long-term fiscal woes.

Rand Paul, Republican Senator from Kentucky and a Presidential Candidate, says in his new book ‘Taking A Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America’, the problem with Obamacare, and even the old system, is that when insurance or government pays for the first dollar of healthcare, the consumer doesn’t care about the price and neither does the physician; without a market, the price keeps going up.

Paul, who is a board-certified Ophthalmologist, believes that consumer choice is the key to transforming today’s broken healthcare system into one that truly places the patient first. He bristles at the lack of thoughtful consideration on the part of political leaders with respect to a solution. He advocates a model that combines tax-free health savings for routine visits with a catastrophic insurance plan for serious health issues. Doing this, he says, would force healthcare providers to compete on price and quality care: two fundamental elements in a high-quality healthcare system. “

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The Hidden Economy of Hemp: Fueling its Emergence

Hemp…..Sure, knew a little about its nutritional repute. In fact, two women that I crossed paths recently at a social event were laudatory in their praise for this cannabis derivitive’s health qualities. But frankly, it wasn’t until picking up the book Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution that it’s stunning implications for the U.S. economy became apparent to me.

First, a little about the author Doug Fine. He’s an investigative journalist with credits at the Washington Post, Wired, The New York Times and National Public Radio, among many others. And he touts his pride at being a father, rancher, patriot and citizen of the planet. But what I found most intriguing is the signature job title he has anointed himself with:

Hemp Journalist

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So What’s All The Fuss About Hemp

Hum? Well let’s start with the fact that this variety of the cannabis plant possesses some of the strongest fibers on the planet. It’s seed oil is nutritious and has proven curative qualities. And it has demonstrated massive potential as an energy source and climate mitigation tool for the planet.

But, as Doug Fine points out…….

Federal law has effectively renedered it illegal to grow hemp (aka Industrial Cannabis) in the United States! Yes, you heard correct, it’s a federal felony to grow it in the U.S. even though Americans consume billions of dollars worth of hemp a year, mainly in the form of health products produced by our Canadian neighbors to the north. “

The Poverty of Marginalization: Can Free Market Capitalism Help?

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I have an embarassing confession to make……..

Due to my meager earnings these past three years, I officially meet the government’s threshold for poverty. Yep, you read that correctly: pure-on 100% original Made in America poverty.

Talk about being hard to swallow, after having been a middle-to-upper income earner almost all my life.

The main catalyst for my present circumstance was a divorce which left me with clothes and bare essentials. It’s been very humiliating at times because people do judge you. I never imagined waiting for a public bus while enduring weather extremes, couch surfing at the homes of strangers, or trolling networking events for free food.

For me, this face-plant-in-the-mud period of my life has delivered untold wisdom and perspective about the ugly financial truths that face so many Americans. I continue to be intrigued by the number of people I encounter daily who are deep in the trench of silent dispair, including small business owners, college students, baby boomers and even former top-level executives. In my opinion, none of this has to do with a lack of willingness to work hard or a desire to succeed. Rather, I believe it’s largely the result of systemic forces like unsustainable wages, public mandates, rising housing and food costs, and onerous government regulations that are quietly chipping away at our economic freedoms.

But despite my recent experiences, I remain an avowed advocate of free market capitalism. More on that in a bit. “

The Free Market Existentialist: Thoughts from Author William Irwin

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I ‘ve often regreted not having majored in philosophy as an undergraduate.

The courses I took in that field of study represented some of the most enriching intellectual experiences in my life. So now, at age 52, I cherish any chance to immerse myself in a great philosophy book, over a well-brewed cup of coffee. To me, this embodies the spirit and essence of a well-lived life!

So imagine my excitement at crossing Twitter paths with William Irwin, Professor & Chair of Philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Recognizing that philosophical insights can’t be restricted to 140 characters, we agreed to connect by phone.

Like a kid who finds himself wide-eyed at a fresh discovery, I was excited to learn that his new book, The Free Market Existentialist, is scheduled for release on October 20 ($21.95 in paperback, published by Wiley). Lucky for me, he sent me a draft manuscript to review. In his provocatively entitled book, Irwin incisively and engagingly argues that capitalism and existentialism are connected at the hip. He goes on to assert that the synthesis of these two doctrines offers a practical model for fostering a truly free-market minimal State that allows people to live how they please.

What makes this book particularly unique is its existentialist defense of libertarianism, bringing together two approaches that traditionally have been viewed as incompatible. Existentialists emphasize the importance of subjectively choosing one’s values and determining the meaning of one’s life. Libertarians champion strong property rights and the individual’s prerogative to live in any way that does not cause harm to others. Ultimately, individualism is the link between existentialism and libertarianism, producing a philosophy that values freedom and a corresponding responsibility.

The opportunity to converse with a leading thinker like William Irvin is one of the joys of my work as a journalist who examines the intersection between free markets and economic freedom. So I thought I’d share a few of his thoughts on the underpinnings of his own personal philosophy, his new book and his contributions to a fresh political world view.

On His Philosophical Leanings

As with most thinking individuals, Michael, that’s a long story! I would say that I, like a lot of libertarians, didn’t consider myself interested in politics at all until I was well into my 30s. To my mind, politics and political theory were a necessary evil, which I could happily ignore. But as I got older, I realized that I could no longer ignore that reality. So existentialist philosophy – along with social and economic philosophy – became the place to which I gravitated.

On How the Philosopher Sartre Informed his Thinking

The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre came from an atheistic perspective, which follows my own. And the importance he placed on individual freedom and individual responsibility all sounded great; that is until later on in his career when he embraced Marxism. While I have no issue with people changing their minds and viewpoints, the vexing thing about Sartre was the fact that he never acknowledged that he had changed his views. Oddly, he somehow thought that his previous philosophy of freedom and responsibility dove-tailed well with Marxism.

On Writing The Free Market Existentialist

In many ways, I’ve long admired Sartre’s existentialist philosophy. But frankly, his political turn towards Marxism has always rubbed me the wrong way because it just never seemed to fit in with the rest of his philosophy which emphasized freedom and responsibility. For quite some time, I had it in mind to try to reconcile existentialism with capitalism and free-market thinking. So during my sabbatical, three years ago, that was the project I set for myself, and this is the book that emerged.

On Connecting the Dots Between Existentialism, Amoralism and Libertarianism

Yes, those are the three controversial themes that I stake out in the book and that I then weave together….

The first is what you and I have been discussing today, making the case that Sartre’s existentialist philosophy is not actually a good fit with Marxism. In the book, I argue that his views are instead a good fit with capitalism; the idea being that if we are free and responsible, capitalism is the economic system best suited for that.

Amoralism – or what I call moral anti-realism – embodies the thinking we saw as a result of an atheistic turn in philosophy, starting with Nietzsche. With that shift came the belief that somehow the whole world would go to hell in a hand basket. But what we are discovering is that atheists are no better or worse than the average person in terms of how one might judge their actions or behavior.

And from a libertarian point of view, I argue that freedom and responsibility are actually a good thing; that they help the cause of capitalism by serving as a sort of a cure for the things that people tend to worry about in a capitalistic society. “

The Perils of Purchasing a Lottery Ticket in Illinois

 

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My former home state of Illinois is in awful shape. Known for it’s long history of corruption, cronyism, and fiscal irresponsibility the state is now billions in the hole. Perhaps the most tragic part of all of this is that of the state’s last 7 governors, 4 have served prison time for improprieties.

Not a pretty picture.

On the heels of this current financial armageddon, my friend John who lives in Chicago called me the other evening to deliver some shocking news that nearly sent me to the nearest bar for a stiff cocktail. His breaking news:

That Illinois is so far in the toilet fiscally that they are now unable to pay their state lottery winners.

That’s right. Disbursements of Illinois Lottery winnings of $25,000 or more have come to a screeching halt becuase the state is without a budget. Several winners have been issued IOUs in the interim with assurances that they eventually receive their money once a budget is in place.

Oh, what a joy!

This comes on heels of growing media buzz about the perilous state of the Chicago Public Schools–a school system that is on the edge of bankruptcy.

For more on the larger context of this issue, check out these two recent Anthem Vault articles about Chicago, arguably the epicenter of all of this fallout.

Chicago Schools Debt Crisis

City of Chicago Debt Crisis

In the meantime, if you’re pondering purchasing an Illinois lottery ticket, you might want to reconsider. Employing the power of delayed gratification through the purchase of gold is a far better investment in my estimation.

Michael Scott is a freelance journalist specializing  on the intersection between free markets and economic freedom.  His regualr updates can be found on Twitter @biz_michael

Women, Free Markets and Liberty: Hadley Manning

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As the director of health policy at the Independent Women’s Forum, Hadley Heath Manning is someone who is constantly in motion. I had the pleasure of meeting her, shortly after watching a panel she moderated early this year on emerging health care issues. As luck would have it, we recently reconnected at Denver Liberty On The Rocks discussion forum on Feminism and Liberty.

To say that Hadley is a busy professional is an understatement. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV outlets across the country, exploring the intersection between women, free markets, personal liberty and health care. She has appeared on Fox Business’ Cavuto on Business, The John Stossel Show and Fox News’ Hannity Show. In addition, her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, National Review Online and many others media.

Hadley was kind enough to slow down for 29 minutes for a few questions from me about the intersection between women, free markets and personal liberty. Here are some brief excerpts from our discussion:

On her interest in Free Enterprise

What a lot of people don’t know is that my grandfather was a big champion of the free enterprise system. He actually wrote five books about free enterprise and political philosophy. So no doubt I inherited some of his passion for these principles, even though he lived during a very different time.

These books talk a lot about how free enterprise allows all of us the dignity of working for ourselves; a key element to achieving an enhanced quality of life. Ronald Reagan once said something to the effect that “Freedom isn’t passed along in the blood stream. It has to be defended, generation by generation.” Yet I do think that some of my love for freedom was passed through to me via DNA.

On her Philosophy

While I was in college, I literally questioned everything. It led me to wonder whether my family somehow brainwashed me into believing certain things. So I really went through a hard time in terms of what I believed. A major turning point for me during college was a trip to India’s West Bengal where I witnessed poverty first-hand like I’d never seen before. It’s a region that had been burdened by socialist programs for quite some time. This trip made me really appreciate how free enterprise has benefitted the U.S. and allowed us to create so much wealth as a nation.