Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Christmas gift to you....3 letters by Don Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux of the Cafe Hayek blog has been typing a lot.  Think of this collection as my Christmas gift to you.    Sorry it is late. 

Here's a letter he wrote to The Boston Globe on your "right" to the services of doctors and nurses and pharmaceutical companies and hospitals....

Ronald Pies, MD, asserts that every individual has a “right” to “basic health care” – meaning, a right to receive such care without paying for it (Letters, Dec. 26).
The rights that Americans wisely cherish as being essential for a free society require only the refraining from action. Your right to speak freely requires me simply not to stop you from speaking; it does not require me to supply your megaphone.
Not so with a “right” to “basic health care.” Elevating free access to a scarce good into a “right” imposes on strangers all manner of ill-defined positive obligations – obligations that necessarily violate other, proper rights. For example, perhaps my “right” to basic health care means that I can force Dr. Pies away from his worship service in order that he attend (free of charge!) to my ruptured spleen. Or perhaps it means that I have the “right” to pay for my health care by confiscating part of his income. If so, how much of his income does my “right” entitle me to confiscate? Who knows?
And if Dr. Pies is planning to retire, do I have the “right” to force him to continue to work so that the supply of basic health care doesn’t shrink? If Dr. Pies should die, am I entitled – again, to keep the supply of basic health care from shrinking – to force his children to study and practice medicine?
Does my right to basic health care imply that I can force my neighbor to pay for my cross-country skiing vacation on grounds that keeping fit is part of basic health care?
Talking about “rights” to scarce goods and services sounds right only to persons who are economically illiterate, politically naive, and suffering the juvenile delusion that reality is optional.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Here's one written to the L.A. Times, on jury nullification in relation to the marijuana wars:

Reporting on the increasing number of jurors who refuse to return guilty verdicts against defendants charged with possessing marijuana, you quote a government prosecutor who tells jurors “We’re not here to debate the laws. We’re here to decide whether or not somebody broke the law” (“Juries are giving pot defendants a pass,” Dec. 25).
This prosecutor is mistaken to assume that the law is simply that which the state declares it to be. A great advantage of trial by jury – an advantage applauded by the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison – is to enable the community’s evolved sense of law and justice to moderate, or even to nullify, government’s criminal statutes. As Edward Gibbon observed, “Whenever the offense inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigor of penal law is obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind.”
Fortunately, more and more people understand that punishing a peaceful person simply for smoking pot is horrible.

Donald J. Boudreaux
And finally, here's an open letter/bitchslap to the president of the Sodexo Foundation:

Mr. Stephen J. Brady, President
Sodexo Foundation
Gaithersburg, MD

Dear Mr. Brady: 
Your foundation’s website says that “Forty-nine million people in the United States are at risk of hunger.” While this statement’s meaning is vague, I assume that you intend to suggest that 49 million people in America are so poor that they are at serious risk of suffering malnutrition.
Yet today’s New York Times reports on a recent poll by the Pew Research Center that finds that the number of Americans who consider themselves to be middle-class is nine in ten (“So You Think You’re Middle Class?” Dec. 23). That’s 277 million (out of a total of 308 million) Americans who don’t think of themselves as being poor. Even if we assume that every one of the 31 million other Americans thinks of himself or herself as being, not rich, but poor – and even if we further assume that every last one of those 31 million people is “at risk of hunger” – your figure of 49 million ‘at-risk-of-hunger’ Americans seems impossible to square with the Pew survey results.
Are there really 18 million people in America who are so unaware of their own circumstances that, even though you classify them as being “at risk of hunger,” they classify themselves, not as poor, but as middle-class? Seems dubious, to say the least.
While I applaud your efforts to extend a helping hand to needy Americans, you should do so honestly. In fact, hunger is not a problem in America – not for 49 million people; not even for 31 million people. In fact, no modern American this side of mental insanity or criminal captivity comes close to starving to death.
Our society’s elimination of one of history’s most consistent killers – starvation and malnutrition from too little food – is complete. This victory should be celebrated rather than obscured by claims, such as that which adorns your website, that are somewhere between inexcusably obscure and blatantly false.


Donald J. Boudreaux
Why does Dr. Boudreaux go to the trouble of writing all of these letters?  Why should he bother?  He has tenure.  He's got it made.  
He probably does it because he knows that we have a great system, and he doesn't want Messiahs, Nannies, Busybodies, Saviors, Prohibitionists and other pests to start jacking around with it.
He knows the cause of health, wealth, and having time to enjoy them.    
Is Free Market Capitalism perfect?  No. 
But Utopia is not an option.  Never has been, never will be.   

Teachers and writers like Don Boudreaux, Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek have done more for the good of humanity than all the government programs that have ever burdened the world.  


Anonymous said...

Dr. Boudreaux eloquently points out to the nanny statists their inability to realize such efforts are an attempt to produce a solution to a non-existent problem.

I applaud Dr. Boudreaux’s endeavors but his words fall on the deaf ears of liberals that insist on control of the people and their money.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Yeah, but if you grew up Baptist you are impressed with unmerited gifts, not earned, but given by Grace from a higher power.
That's how you have to look at the life and work of Don Boudreaux.

foxofbama said...

I came across your blog searching for Archie Manning and Drew Mississippi.
I read the Book on the Mannings couple years ago.
Was a fascinating portrait; your take on Drew.
Don't know if it crossed your radar or not but you will be fascinated by the ESPN 30/30 The Best That Never Was, about Marcus Dupree of Philadephia. Google up the background site and watch the repeat Dec 29 at Noon EST on ESPN Classic. Looking forward to seeing your review.

Dr Ralph said...

I know you would have Dr. Boudreaux's love child if you could (and I respect that!), but I have to say, even when I sorta/kinda agree with his underlying point, he comes off as a pompous, smug dick. I suppose having a classroom full of people writing down your every word will do that to you.

Which brings up another point - his apparent blindness to the hypocrisy of using his gig at a state-funded university as a soapbox for his pronouncements. Surely some private institution would have him. Yet he continues to force the taxpayers of the great state of Virginia pay for his tenured professorship.

Where's the gift return window?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

You probably have a point.
I'd be interested in knowing what he REALLY thinks of the tenure system, which is at odds with everything he teaches about The Way That The Real World Works.

I'm guessing that, in regards to burdening himself on top of the taxpayers of Virginia and Tarrant County, he would probably say that he works there because it offers the best use of his talents in exchange for the compensation. Like Ron Paul in Congress.

Just guessing.

Dr Ralph said...

I (probably) have a point? It's a Christmas Miracle!

Best use of his talents in exchange for the compensation? So it's okay to suckle at the state's teat if you are sufficiently awesome? Hmmm....

BTW...did I read correctly in your post that he's also suckling at the teat of Tarrant County as well?? WTF?

As to Ron Paul, I see no inherent hypocrisy in his being paid to serve as an elected official, since I think he'd acknowledge there is a place (albeit reduced) for the federal government.