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Why ObamaCare Champions Disgust Me

By Sara Scarlett
October 2nd, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Comments Off on Why ObamaCare Champions Disgust Me | Posted in health, US Politics, Welfare State

One of the criticisms that was leveled against me on LDV recently was that I don’t support ObamaCare. No, I do not support ObamaCare. I am ferociously proud of the fact that I do not and have never supported ObamaCare. Here are two very good reasons reasons why:

ObamaCare in no way changed the structural problems inherent in the US Healthcare system. ObamaCare just involved more people in the system through the coercion of others. ObamaCare is legislation that forces people to buy a private product. That is quite possibly the most illiberal legislation that has been passed in recent years. Obama handed consumers to the Insurance Companies on a plate. There is now no escape from this sad, corporatist mess now the option of remaining consciously uninsured has gone.

ObamaCare does not extend health care to everyone. Not even close and we’re talking millions of people. ObamaCare has not meant Universal Coverage. There are now many, many Americans paying higher taxes who still don’t have health care.

The structural problems of the US health care system are still a long way off being dealt with and that’s a shame. A missed opportunity, even. The best health care models are those found on the Continent and that has remained true both before and after ObamaCare was passed.


Competing for a better Capitalism

By Sara Scarlett
May 3rd, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Comments Off on Competing for a better Capitalism | Posted in Economics, Poverty, Public Sector Reform, UK Politics, Welfare State

What do rich people have that poor people don’t? I imagine that ‘money’ is the first answer that comes into your mind. Well, yes, but let’s break this down. What does money give you? It gives you choice.

Farmers began co-ops in the mid-19th century because they were being sold expensive, rotten food by private food sellers. Because co-ops were providing better produce at cheaper rates, other private food sellers had to up their game. Farming co-ops weren’t non-profits; they were a different type of capitalism. The free-market doesn’t just mean the consumer wins because they have a choice of products to buy; they have a choice between outlets which are structured differently. Different forms of capitalism compete to create better capitalism.

At the time of the financial crisis, I remember seeing very little analysis about how the Co-operative Bank fared in comparison to it’s shareholder counterparts (although, to be fair, the Co-operative bank is not a true democratic co-operative).  If we had a greater mix of co-operative banks and shareheld banks, with co-operative banks being perceived as being more ethical – the theory goes that a greater amount of customers choosing to bank cooperatively would signal to the shareheld banks that they wanted more ethical banking. The shareheld banks would have to get more ethical in order to compete. On the other hand, if a greater number of consumers perceived the shareheld banks as more efficient/cheaper, the co-operative banks would have to get more efficient/cheaper in order to compete. Thus, the pendulum would swing, increasing the efficiency, cheapness and the ethical credentials of banking.

What I’m arguing for is a greater plurality in the structures we interact with. In order for this to come about the State must recede. The main argument against greater marketisation of public services is the perception of capitalism as being unethical. A greater plurality could mean adding a dimension to capitalism that means organisations/outlets have to compete with each other on grounds of their ethical credentials as well as with prices, quality and providing shareholders with dividends. Most people don’t think about this dynamic between capitalist organisations when they think of the free-market.

The sector I fear for most is education. Classrooms don’t look that much different than they did in the 1930s. Even though almost every other area of our lives have changed our schools still look the same. Children don’t all learn the same, but we teach them all the same. Education does not seem to be moving with the times at all. I know no one who makes their living as a fine artist. I know a great deal who make their living using Adobe Creative Suite. Yet, I was taught fine art in school and I was not taught how to work any part of the Adobe Creative Suite.

Ultimately this rot is due to a lack of plurality ergo a lack of incentive to change and innovate. In my ideal world there would be three different types of school structure – schools run by private shareholder capitalist companies, schools run by cooperatively owned capitalist companies and schools run by private charities/non-profits. There would also be three types of funding – private funds, charitable donation and government vouchers. Vouchers give poor people what rich have. Choice. Were this the case education would look different in a very short period of time and unrecognisable after a long period.

This lack of choice is precisely why social democracy sucks. It sucks flexibility and plurality out of the system. The NHS, state schools and other public services are as good as they’re going to get. If that’s good enough for you, fine. But it may not be good enough in 50 years time. Changes in structure and competition change the game for the better, both ethically and efficiently. Embrace it.

After the Welfare State

By Sara Scarlett
September 19th, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Comments Off on After the Welfare State | Posted in Economics, Government, Opinion, Welfare State

Social democracy has failed. The fiscal excesses of Welfare States all over Europe have come home to haunt them. My generation has to pay for those excesses and face poorer services than our parents enjoyed. Cradle-to-grave welfare has been an unsuccessful experiment and very few have been brave enough to articulate an alternative vision. One of these brave men is Tom Palmer and his new book, a collaboration with Students for Liberty, entitled ‘After the Welfare State’ is a must read – your future depends on it.

In ‘After the Welfare State,’ Palmer provides a compelling case for a return to mutual aid.  Destroyed in the social upheaval of the two World Wars, mutual aid organisations, also known as friendly societies, thrived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The narrative some would like you to believe is that the poor were helpless and bereft of the means to better their lot before the advent of the Welfare State. This is one of the most damaging historical falsehoods ever told. Indeed, the story of America would not be the same were it not for mutual aid. It’s demise was engineered by motivations that were sometimes rascist deliberately seeking to inhibit the self-sufficiency of immigrant and ethnic groups.

These remarkable organisations were vital to communities and provided many different products such as sickness benefit, health care coverage and pensions. Far from being powerless, friendly societies were an efficient, localised and voluntary solution to the everyday challenges facing the working class without interference from a higher class or power seeking to control or engineer outcomes.

Localised solutions beat top-down solutions every time. Despite the best of intentions, modern politicians still fail to do right by the body public because they do not really know ‘what’s best’ and they exist in a system that makes poor short-term decisions the most attractive option. Politicians borrow money to provide services (not to mention bailouts and subsidies); they literally buy the votes of one generation with money that their children pay back with interest. They have a caricatured idea of what it is like to live on a council estate or claim job-seekers allowance because so few of them have lived that life themselves. Despite this detachment they still feel qualified to dictate what is wrong with our personal habits or tastes and wag their finger in judgement.

Some say that people should be forced to help others and some say that individuals should only help themselves. Both have got it wrong. Human beings are simultaneously selfish and altruistic and individuals are happiest when they are helping themselves and others at the same time. This is why trade works so well and is so conducive to the wellbeing of mankind. By trading with someone you help yourself and him or her. The same is true of mutual aid. They are structured in a way that provides a massive incentive for the organisation to make sound long-term decisions and to self-police.

To my generation, I say this – government is neither the cause of nor the solution to all our problems. Not only will government not help you; it can’t help you – but we can help each other.

If you want to learn more about the mutual aid you can download a free copy of ‘After the Welfare State’ here.


Cutting up the cake

By Simon Goldie
March 22nd, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Comments Off on Cutting up the cake | Posted in Economics, Welfare State

For better or ill, the political settlement that Western liberal democracies have means that the government of the day decides how to cut the cake. That cake is cut according to the size of government borrowing, what its spending priorities are and the demands of the public as voiced by pressure groups.

If the cake is reduced there is less to cut and hand around. If you wish to give out more but have a small cake you need to find ways of making it bigger. This is a continuous challenge and leads to fierce arguments about post code lotteries and fairness.

During the last 30 years we have seen some steps to alter this. While the government may make the cut someone else hands out the goodies or administers the transfer. There have been attempts at getting the recipients to make more decisions about the services they get. This trend is continuing and is likely to grow as successive governments face tough fiscal decisions.

There is another way of distributing products and services. One of the best devices at crowdsourcing public demand emerged centuries ago. But making the price signalling of the open market function within public services is not easy.

The coalition is clearly using that policy tool to reshape the relationship between the citizen and the State. It will take some time before we know if they have achieved  that aim.

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A voluntary support system vs the Welfare State

By Simon Goldie
January 30th, 2011 at 10:37 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics, Welfare State

Over at Lib Dem Voice, Mark Pack poses the question: Was Beveridge right to oppose the Welfare State?

This may seem an odd debating point as everyone credits William Beveridge with laying the foundation of the welfare system we currently have.

In fact, Beveridge laid out a liberal blueprint to tackle want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

The Labour Government under Clement Attlee took the report and responded by creating a centralised structure that became known as the Welfare State. The NHS, education system and social security system that many now see as representing all that is good about Britain was inspired by liberalism but built by Fabian social democracy.

It is impossible to know what would have happened if a Liberal Government had come to power in 1945 but it is likely that a support system would have been established that emphasised voluntary engagement and the decentralisation of decision-making.